Category Writing

The Longest Way Down: the process

November 24, 2016 Writing  One comment

Anthony's story had been percolating in the back of my mind ever since The Charm Necklace. 

I had some ideas. I knew that he would find a girl standing on the ledge of a building about to jump. That he would try to save her by taking her on a road trip. That he would try to save himself by saving her. I knew that he had issues. That she had issues. That they would go to the Grand Canyon. 

I totally had this plan where I was going to follow this writing process called The Snowflake Method. There's like twelve steps where you completely flesh everything out prior to writing a word. You know what's going to happen where, why, in detail. 

So I started by doing a month of research prior to writing. I wanted to do both character's mental states justice, aside from drawing

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The Longest Way Down: the inspiration

November 17, 2016 Writing  No comments

May 2013    I saw The Place Beyond the Pines. It's a mediocre indie film where Ryan Gosling plays this stunt motorcycle rider covered in tattoos (no, I didn't really buy it either). In the film, he has a teenage son. I don't remember the particulars, but I just remember being so struck by how lost this boy was. He looked so sad and broken, like he was just trying to find his way.

Would he find his way? What would that look like? Could another person, a girl, save him?

The spark was lit. 

December 2013    Started listening to Twenty One Pilots album Vessel. Fell in love with their song The Run and Go. I loved the lyrics, the tension, the angst. 

I can't take them on my own, my ownPa, I'm not the one you know, you knowI have

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They came alive again

November 10, 2016 psychologyWriting  No comments

SPOILER ALERT: from this point on, I will be examining Running to Stand Still in-depth. If you haven’t read it yet, and don’t want it spoiled for you, stop reading now.After trauma the world becomes sharply divided between those who know and those who don’t.

Whether the trauma had occurred ten years in the past or more than forty, my patients could not bridge the gap between their wartime experiences and their current lives. Somehow the very event that caused them so much pain had also become their sole source of meaning.

In the group they found resonance and meaning in what had previously been only sensations of terror and emptiness.

When you can’t be fully here, you go to the places where you did feel alive—even if

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From a song he’d once sung

November 3, 2016 psychologyWriting  No comments

SPOILER ALERT: from this point on, I will be examining Running to Stand Still in-depth. If you haven’t read it yet, and don’t want it spoiled for you, stop reading now.“Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into the deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.” – Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Charlie has been looking back at that note on the table for the past nine years. And just like Jamie, everything he does, everything he is, is marked by that moment. It is his most defining characteristic.

Now, being left by your wife and the mother of your children may or may not constitute a legitimate traumatic event. But it is the moment that has defined his life ever since she left. And so, just as people stay stuck in trauma, he is stuck in the

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Just let me hold you

October 27, 2016 psychologyWriting  No comments

SPOILER ALERT: from this point on, I will be examining Running to Stand Still in-depth. If you haven’t read it yet, and don’t want it spoiled for you, stop reading now.

Our capacity to destroy one another is matched by our capacity to heal one another… Language gives us the power to change ourselves and others by communicating our experiences, helping us to define what we know, and finding a common sense of meaning… We have the ability to regulate our own physiology, including some of the so-called involuntary functions of the body and brain, through such basic activities as breathing, moving, and touching… We can change social conditions to create environments in which children and adults can feel safe and where they can thrive.

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Lost in the playback loop of horror

October 20, 2016 psychologyWriting  No comments

SPOILER ALERT: from this point on, I will be examining Running to Stand Still in-depth. If you haven’t read it yet and don’t want it spoiled for you, stop reading now.

On top of how prolonged trauma marks and defines Jamie’s life, the effects of trauma are brought again into sharp focus when she is attacked in the parking lot.

Some effects of trauma:

Loss of Self

    

Numbing

 

The Reorganization of Perception

Easily triggered The stress hormones of traumatized people, in contrast, take much longer to return to baseline and spike quickly and disproportionately in response to mildly stressful stimuli.

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A truth as strong as gravity

October 13, 2016 psychologyWriting  2 comments

SPOILER ALERT: from this point on, I will be examining Running to Stand Still in-depth. If you haven’t read it yet and don’t want it spoiled for you, stop reading now.“The greatest sources of our suffering are the lies we tell ourselves.” Elvin Semrad

To understand Jamie is to understand that trauma marks every single part of her. Everything she does, the way she thinks, the way she perceives the world, are all systemic of the prolonged trauma inflicted on her by her mom leaving, and the consequences of her subsequent downward spiral into drinking and drugs.

But to understand trauma it to understand that, above all else, humans are wired to survive.

The most important job of the brain is to ensure our survival, even under

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The body does not lie

October 6, 2016 psychologyWriting  No comments

Working with trauma is as much about remembering how we survived as it is about what is broken.

I read The Body Keeps the Score before I started on the second draft of Running to Stand Still, partly out of personal curiosity, partly because I had every intention of going back to school for counseling or social work and I was trying to learn as much as I could in the time before I applied to graduate programs.

Turns out, I actually didn't want to go into counseling or social work (people are exhausting, I prefer books and characters). But reading TBKTS was not in vain. As fate would have it, TBKTS ended up having a huge impact not only on the story I was working on but on my very writing itself. I was able to draw bits and pieces of information

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The moments that stay with you

September 29, 2016 Writing  No comments

It’s funny, the moments that mark you, stay with you, without you even realizing it at the time.

And when you're a writer, those moments, often make it into your work. Mostly out of a need to understand them, form them into some kind of coherent meaning. Sometimes just to commemorate them, remember them, write them down. These are two of the moments from my life that made it into Running to Stand Still. 

 

The sky, an open wilderness above me, took my breath away.The scene where Collin takes Jamie out onto the ice in Chapter 16. 

I don’t remember at which point in the drafting process I added this scene—I think it was during the second draft. I know for sure it wasn’t there in the first—but I remember that when I wrote it,

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Tears in the writer

September 22, 2016 Writing  No comments

I’ve said before that this book will probably be the most emotional, autobiographical book I will ever write.

These are the scenes I cried through as I wrote them:

 

What are you running away from?Chapter 32

She looked down at me, and I asked the question that’d been burning a hole in me since I met her, “Why does staying here scare you so much?”        She closed her eyes, her face pulling together toward the center. Then she turned her head away from me.        I held on to her arm, moving my grasp from her elbow to her hand.        “What are you running away from?”        I felt a shudder work through her body.        “Everything,”

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