Addiction and the Soul-Hole

29 06 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

What is the cause of addiction? Bucket loads of research have been done to answer that question. Some think it’s genetic – alcoholism runs in families, for instance – but co-dependency and learned behavior happen in families as well. In many addictions there is a substance that ‘hooks’ the user: nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, while in others the ‘fix’ is a compulsive behavior: gambling addiction, binging/purging, sexual compulsion. In either case, it appears that there is a change in the function of the brain.

Some addictions have met with approval in some circles: workaholism, smoking in the 1950s (think of the Classic Movie channel), and sexual crimes (think the gang bang as a gang initiation). All that has changed in the past 50 or so years, with increasingly restrictive laws governing public smoking, DWI and DUI, and drug incarceration.

More interesting to me is the emerging brain science concerning behavioral addiction/compulsion. In an article posted on November 20, 2011, Hilarie Cash writes:

When we enjoy playing video games or get caught up in gambling, we experience a similar euphoria. These highs are not something to be worried about, in moderation. The addiction begins to take hold, however, when we do it too much. Then the brain is forced to withdraw neuro-receptors in an effort to restore balance. This is what we call tolerance, and we no longer get the high from the same level of activity or drug use. Now, we need more. And if we go without, we go into withdrawal. In the case of behavioral addictions, that withdrawal involves primarily psychological symptoms (irritability, restlessness, poor concentration, increased anxiety and depression, etc).

In this article from June 2011, Alexandra Katehakis writes:

Both Robert and Clarissa suffered emotional deprivation in childhood. Both have developed rituals to mask the wounds that never healed. While their motivation and end result–despair–are the same, their acting-out blueprints are different.

Clarissa’s compulsions are more indicative of a love addict. Her interactive style is labile, with a come-here/go-away emotional charge that is echoed in her chaotic relationships. Clarissa’s “drug” of choice is less about sex than about a particular romantic experience.

A classic sex addict, Robert is more attached to specific sex acts and sexual encounters than to people. His style of relating is detached, aloof, and avoidant–thus his preference for nameless, interchangeable sex partners.

 


I believe that one key to addictive behavior is childhood emotional deprivation. In my protagonist Steven’s case, a series of emotional wounds in childhood and again in later life led to a separation from his essential self. His addictive behaviors serve to mask a deep inner discomfort – he describes it as ‘an itch that can’t be scratched’ – and as long as he returns to his compulsive behavior, that itch will not be healed.

While he is truly addicted to nicotine (and later, alcohol), his sexual acting-out becomes a behavioral compulsion, in the same way that someone can be drawn into out of control gambling or video gaming. While there is societal approval in some circles for the kind of things he does, for the most part men like him are a father’s nightmare.

 

He is a typical liberal college prof, as well as a Cradle Catholic and feminist. If you think that adds to his ‘itchiness’, you’d be right! Even he has difficulty reconciling his beliefs with his behaviors; his logical scientist’s mind rationalizes what his soul cannot accept. This inner conflict further feeds his desire to do whatever he can to bury that primal wound, until he finds himself sucked into the maelstrom called ‘hitting bottom’.

 

And what happens next? It’s a twisty/turn-y story which I hope will keep Steven Canelli in your thoughts for some time to come.





The Darkness Within

26 06 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” – Carl Gustav Jung

Such is the theme of my WIP, His Original Sin. Steven Canelli, for all his good points, cannot – WILL not – face the pain that drives him. It’s easier to use – whether it is alcohol, nicotine, work, or women – and, in spite of his prodigious intelligence, he takes the ‘easier’ way out time after time, until he hits bottom. It isn’t that he doesn’t see the endpoint. He uses (that word, again!) his brilliance to rationalize his actions.

That’s the way it always is, isn’t it? People in general won’t face facts until they have to, until they have no other choice. I know that’s been true in my life. I refuse to enumerate the many times that I continued on a particular path in spite of that nagging ‘oh dear, this isn’t going to end well’ feeling, that inner warning system maxed out in the red. Usually when I’ve stayed with a course (never mind the looming brick wall) it’s been because I felt that I had no other options. The truth? I had no other easy options.

In Steven’s case, it’s easier to just pour another drink, light another cig, or chase another skirt. Easier, until it becomes impossible to overcome the consequences of his actions. Perhaps that’s why I adore this character, in spite of his behavior. He’s me, in a different body, making different choices, avoiding different pain… but still running, running, running, until he can’t run any longer.

(And what is he really running from? There’s a hint of it on this page.)

Thanks to my good friend Gayle Greenlea for posting the Jung quote to Facebook. I hadn’t intended this Tuesday Quotes blogpost to become copy about my book, but it fits so well!

What about you? What are you running from? What situations aren’t working in your life? Where could you make other, harder, choices, which might result in beauty? Where are you holding back out of fear of… success? failure? Let me know in the comments.

Oooh boy. I could go on and on with those questions, and probably will, in my journal!





Carte Blanche

22 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

I wish I could eat an unimaginable dessert in a strange new land. I wish I could breathe twice as deeply as I do now. I wish I could go all the way, never look back, have nothing to lose, feel no guilt, leap across the chasm, praise mysterious heroes, dance in the street after midnight, and worship a wildly responsive female deity.

I the above was written by Rob Brezsny, of Freewill Astrology fame. I remember when I found this quote many years ago, back when I was more bound up in parental, societal, religious, and personal expectations than I am now. Shortly after that time I discovered the phrase Carte Blanche. That phrase resonated with me as I struggled to free myself from the web of conditioning that was a large part of my familial inheritance. I was ‘domesticated’ by that upbringing in the way that women in the 1950s were.

 

In our household it was as though the 1960s never happened. Once I was on my own the discongruency between my domesticated character and my inner true self caused me no end of grief. I was like a time-traveler, vaulted into a future for which I was essentially unprepared.

I have made peace with my history; today the dissonance of my past finds its way into my writing. Steven Canelli lives a life very different from mine, yet with many of the same self-defeating beliefs. He’s as much a prisoner of his ruinous upbringing as I was… but with less psychological understanding of his own motivations. While I started out as a sheep among wolves, he is successful and self-satisfied, until his compulsive habits and addictions destroy everything he holds dear.





In Which I Become Productive: Row80 update

13 05 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

This has been a week. Well, yes, that’s true. More than that, it’s been a week that went from OMG to YESS!

Last Sunday I finally got on board with the whole Row80/blogging thing, and it solidified my Social Media preferences. That is, I’m a Blogger. Not a Tweeter, or a Facebooker. I went to the Row80 homepage, and took the time to actually read and comment on a good number of blogs, and while that could have deep-sixed my email (I subbed to all the comment threads!), I kept that window open and was diligent with scanning and deleting comment emails. I discovered that the blogging community means the most to me, and is more to my taste than Twitter. As far as Facebook, I’m keeping my personal FB for friends (including my writer friends, yay!), and eventually, when I get to the point of publishing something, I’ll go with an author fan page. Yes, I found Row80 and other writing friends on Twitter, and will still be there from time to time, but for now, I think that blogging is where it’s at for me.

So, on Sunday I was on the computer for hours – FUN hours. Then work started to intervene. Let’s just say that rehearsals this past week were pretty hellish, and though I played well (mostly), it was damned stressful. Beer helped, specifically the new Shiner brew: Wild Hare. I’ve been alcohol-free for months, but this brew made the week go better. Now that the 6-pack is gone, I’ll get back to my teetotaling days. My stomach acid is relieved (but wishes I’d also deep-six the coffee. Oy.)

Then came Friday, and my muse put her feet back on the ground and started running. 1,100 words, in a scene that I may use. Not sure yet. Because yesterday I fired up Scrivener (which I love with a mad, passionate, and completely inappropriate love) and printed out all my chapters and scene headings. While I’m still not convinced that my WIP is one novel (as opposed to, say, THREE), I went to Starbucks with the file, and organized it into three acts (including three intermezzos and two entr’actes). That took over two hours. When I got home I fired up Scrivener on the iMac once again, and re-arranged the file per my earlier work.

With that, I’ve taken my writing to another level. You see, it’s been driving me absolutely crazy that I hadn’t settled on the shape of the story. I’d written scenes from my protag’s entire life, and there was no way that anyone would buy a chronological book of that magnitude. I hadn’t determined where to begin, and how to incorporate some earlier scenes (if at all), and it had me in knots. I knew that I’d eventually figure it out – though I may not have it completely figured out just yet – and you cannot imagine the relief I feel.

Until last night.

I woke up several times, reminded of scenes that I’d intended to write, that seemed to be quite important to the novel, but wouldn’t fit into this structure. Ahem. But I’m not back to square one. Maybe square three. The important thing is that I have a huge smile on my face. This is such FUN!

Onward to my goals.

This week has been a bust in the Better Life Habits department. Too much stress, too little concentration. In addition to my work stress, my Mom had a lumpectomy on Thursday (she’s fine, just waiting on the final pathology report. Looks like Stage 1 and five days of radiation therapy), my Dad is having an angiogram on Monday (he had three stents in ’03, I’m hoping they’ll just put in a couple more, versus bypass surgery). They are 81 and 82, respectively, and in excellent health, except for the above. All this has affected my sleep – I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep. That’s very unusual for me. I’ve walked some, but I live in Texas, and the recent rain and storms put a dent in that (though we really need the rain!). The house is not spotless, and won’t be for a while. Oh. Well.

My Creativity is flourishing, as above. Too much music-making to do any knitting – it’s too hard on my hands. I’ll get back to that soon enough.

Social Media goals are working out well, as above, though I’m not going to meet with my writer friends this month. We are all too busy – or rather, when one of us is free, the other two are busy. June, for sure!

I’m adding a second blogpost series, Tuesdays will be for quotes that spark something in me. I inadvertently started that last week, with my post on the Cambrian Shoreline. I’ve got to get cracking on Tuesdays’ entry in the series, because I’ll be with my parents all day Monday… and Tuesday is full of (stressful) work.

Oh, and here’s a fabulous link for writers. Raelyn Barclay’s current Row80 update has a great link to Jami Gold’s post on Scenes and Sequels that you must read. Oh, and cute pics of Raelyn’s family’s three new members, Sonic, Neptune, and Poseidon. Squee! So cute!





Quit Resisting the Muse!

27 04 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

 

The past several weeks have been, for all practical purposes, novel-writing free. As you might remember, I received a sleep apnea diagnosis a while back, and have now completed two months of treatment using a CPAP machine. I’m finally feeling mostly better, having more energy. If I wasn’t superstitious I’d say that I’m over the hump.

:::knocks on wood:::

Most weeks I’d barely managed 1,000 words, and that mostly blogposts, some weeks were a big, fat zero. Then on April 22nd I knocked out over 2,100. What happened? I stopped trying to tell my muse what’s what, that’s what!

I have been trying to hog-tie my (now 116,000+ word) novel into something that made three-act sense. I was looking for that opening scene, that inciting incident which would hook the reader into reading something that I hoped would be around 85,000 words. And it wasn’t working. I was blocked up, unable to move until I figured out where the heck to begin.

Then on Sunday morning, in the shower, my muse hit me over the head. (She has a way of jumping me when I least expect it).

“Just write the damned thing! Tell this man’s story! Damn the word count! We’ll figure it out later!”

Um, yeah. By the time I had dried my hair, I had the beginnings of three new scenes begging to be put on paper, and was ENTHUSED about writing again.

Today? I’m all WTH if it turns into a 210,000 word-trilogy. I’m unblocked, and writing better than ever.

And… I found a website with a novel-writing system that really appeals to me: the Snowflake System.

 

I’m going to take that out for a walk today, going through the steps for this particular novel, and fitting in the scenes that I’ve already written as I find them. Then I’m going to finish this novel, and self-publish it.





Friday blog love

20 04 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

I confess: I’m not much of a blog reader. I have a double handful of writer blogs that I subscribe to, and I read them from my inbox. For someone who got her geek cred when she hackintoshed her Dell Mini netbook with OSX, you’d think I could figure out how to use an RSS feed. But no. They are opaque to me. I rarely comment. I know, horrible HORRIBLE blog etiquette! But I do read the blogs that I subscribe to, and one that I adore is Lani Wendt Young’s blog, Sleepless In Samoa. One of her recent posts is a fav of mine: A Piano Fell On My Head.

It was like a piano had fallen on my head. This is just not good enough.  I know I’m a hermit. I know I’m rather anti-social. I know that I have loser interpersonal skills. But after 52 weeks worth of Sundays with very welcoming, friendly, supportive and fun people – I should be better at this. But I’m not. Because I keep thinking that “I’m going home soon. I’m not going to be here for very long. This is not my REAL church/neighborhood/community. I don’t REALLY belong here. My REAL church/neighborhood/community is at home in Samoa.” So therefore I don’t REALLY need to make an effort. Because why bother?

I’m also a hermit, Lani. I need to put myself out there more, too. I can so identify with this! (and I did try to comment on that post, but the sign in was so frustrating that I gave up.)

Another blog that means a lot to me is Guinevere Gets Sober. Guinevere is in the UK, and her thoughts on addiction and sobriety and recovery are actually applicable to just about everyone, addicted or not, because recovery is about being human. And, as a bonus for me, her thoughts help me flesh out those of my alcoholic, sexually-addicted main character, Steven Canelli. More on him next week. Her post, Running With Athena (her friend, not the Goddess!) let’s everyone in on her insecurities… and how they are being healed.

Imagine, someone thanking me for running with her. Bloody hell.

My life is changing without my even trying.

And, if you want gorgeous pics to salivate over, try A Certain Slant of Light Photography. I have no idea how I found this blog, but I’m ooohing and aaaahing all the time there. Lovely stuff!

What blogs do you subscribe to, and why? What turns your crank?





It Builds Character

22 02 2012

By Julia Indigo/@juliaindigo

My initial inspiration for writing was character-based. I invented a man, gave him a name, a profession, and built his character from there. I thought you might be interested in how I did it… and, of course, there are gaping holes in my process that you might be interested in pointing out to me in the comments. How could it be otherwise? I’m a newly-minted writer. I don’t know much. I’m going on instinct.

Oddly enough, for a musician, I am a very visually-oriented person. The first thing I determine about a character is his appearance. What kind of physical impression does he make? How tall? What kind of physique? Is he athletic and muscular, or friendly and pudgy?

 

Superficial things like eye/hair color and hair style. How does he walk? Does she stride, or mince? Does she live in her head most of the time, or is this someone who is completely at home in her body? Yoga, or softball, or websurfing? Or regular surfing? Running? Couch potato? Golfer?

Then style of dress. Does she dress up all the time, fashion forward? Is this someone who pays attention to grooming, or has he given up on all that?

 

Canelli is (obviously) of Italian heritage, and wealthy. Of course he wears Italian leather shoes! How could he not?

And what does it feel like to be in her presence? Does he dominate a room? Or is she a wallflower? What kind of conversationalist? Listener? Does he give you his entire attention, or is this person constantly scanning the room, in case there’s someone else they’d rather be seen with/ needs to talk to/ wants to seduce/ is dying to meet?

Is the individual an optimist or a pessimist? Do they kvetch? Constantly? Frequently? Rarely? Never? A joiner, or a loner? A thinker? A feeler? A sensualist? A judgmental S.O.B. or an airy-fairy ‘all is forgiven’ type? Oooh. I could see this turning into one of those online personality sorter questionnaires! There’s a thought! Go take the MBTI/enneagram tests AS THE CHARACTER!

What is his family history? I found this to be indispensable! In the case of Steven Canelli, he’s the youngest of seven, the only boy. The Canellis are a very wealthy Italian-American family. His father established their highly-successful family-owned ethnic foods company. They are Catholic, and live in Lake Forest, an upper-crust community north of Chicago, IL.

 

I don’t know about you, but when the above came to me, I knew bucketloads about this guy. Adding in that he is the product of his mother’s love affair, and as such his very existence is a constant (unpleasant) reminder to his (also unpleasant) ‘father’ that he’s a cuckold… well, you have the recipe for difficulties later in Steven’s life: addictions, problems with women, overachievement/workaholism, etc… and the story flows from these difficulties.

 

Then there’s history. I already know where he grew up. If he went to college, where did he go? What was his major? What did he like to do for fun back then? What is his work history? What is his relationship history? Did he break someone’ heart? Was his heart broken? And… How has that history molded him into the man he is today?

 

One method I use to construct temperament is to visualize/fantasize being the character. What does it feel like to be in his body? What is her point of view? This works well when I’m stuck, particularly when writing dialogue. I imagine myself as one of the characters, and physically move the way they might, if they were responding to what someone said. Do his eyes harden in response to someone’s comment, or do they soften? Does he glance away? Does she take a deliberate breath, or sigh, or pretend to cough? Is he cocksure, smirking and coming on to her? Does she meet his eyes, then roll hers dismissively?

 

And finally, what is the character’s reaction to the shit that I sling at them? As Chuck Wendig says, ‘Torture your characters! Throw them against the wall! Kill their kittens/puppies! etc…’ That isn’t a direct quote from Chuck, but you get the idea. Yes, I love Steven Canelli… but the dude’s got issues! The whole point is whether or not he can overcome them, and what craziness it takes to eventually get his attention. Hint: it isn’t called ‘hitting bottom’ for nothing! Oh wait! That sounds kinky, and I didn’t mean it that way! Let’s just say that the guy has a lot to lose, and yes, he loses it.

How do imagine your characters? Do you base them on people that you know? Do you interview them, or write their histories (as I have learned to do)? Let me know in the comments. And thank you for reading!








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