Hey there rebel!
OMG, it's been an amazing couple of weeks...
You know how sometimes you get stuck in your craft? Like you've fallen into a really bad pattern or habit that prevents you from enjoying it? Or one that prevents you from even doing what you love the most?
Yeah... I fell into a bad pattern with my writing, so my solution was to start writing every morning, just 500 words, with a writer friend of mine.
We meet, we encourage each other, and sometimes it's more than 500 words, but the point of this exercise is not to write the best thing or the most words, but to show up and relax into it. To get into flow without caring so much about the outcome, as we so often do when we blog and write for money.
My goal was to stop caring so much about how good or bad my writing is.
Truth is, I want to write with joy and abandon...
If you're a writer, you probably know that Julia Cameron's morning pages and Natalie Goldberg's writing practice are similar in theory, but different in practice. That's because I believe that each one of us has a different writing practice, with its own challenges, and we each need to meet those challenges head on, in our own way, so that we can overcome and be even more in flow.
For me, the results from a daily writing practice have been amazing: a) I don't care how something sounds or whether I can use it, and b) more stories flow out of me, the process itself becomes easier, and I become a better writer for it. It also led to a crazy night of writing 11,000 words in one sitting...
If you want to find a writing practice that fits YOU, ask:
What is my biggest challenge right now and how can I meet it head on?
I'm looking forward to hearing about how you improve your creative process, and until then, I thought it would be fun to give you something I wrote during one of my writing sessions. It's not even edited, you get to see it raw.
I'll also include comments at the end, if you want to let me know what you think or tell me about your own unique writing practice.
“It was Jon Wayne, he did it.”
The same story over and over again, came out of mouths of children all over the hospital. But it wasn’t the fact that it was the same story that made detective Wiles all tingly, it was the fact it was the same words.
The children would open their eyes and say the words, first thing, they would not ask where they were or cry out in pain and ask for their parents. They would first utter the words with unfaltering focus, and after a few seconds, they would blink it out and go back to being children.
It seemed very suspicious to Miranda, and very robotic.
There could be two reasons for children to behave this way – they were either coached or conditioned to utter the exact same words right after they regained consciousness, and judging by the way they would forget they even uttered them in the first place, she guessed they were conditioned, which was much more sinister than coaching.
To coach a child, you needed to offer bribes and rewards, but t condition a child, you needed to punish the child until they knew exactly what to say and do, and the physical trauma was the reason why most people would forget the conditioning even occurred in the first place, it would be instant, automatic, and forgettable. It made sense that the perp chose the second option. He had been consistently organized so far, bordering on obsessive compulsive, which meant he couldn’t allow for any mistakes, and the flighty nature of children was a great risk.
“Excuse me, doctor,” she asked the chief doctor assigned to the case, “are there are any signs of torture on the children?” She was careful to ask in a place where they wouldn’t be overheard.
“Yes, there are ligature marks and flesh wounds over half of their bodies,” the doctor said, pausing. She seemed rather shaken to Miranda, even though she must have seen some horrors in her career. “The children were tied, whipped, and tortured for days, maybe weeks. There are fresh wounds covering older ones, so it might have been months in some of their cases, like Bobby. He could hardly say his name, all he does is stare out the window from the window sill. He even ignored the arrival of his parents, who are currently in the lobby, crushed their child wouldn’t look at them.” Then Miranda did something she doesn’t usually – she touched the doctor’s forearm in a soothing manner, trying to do the impossible – heal the both of them of the horror of this case. It partly worked, for Miranda.
But who was going to heal the children? Who was going to help Bobby remember who he was and how to love his parents?
That night, Miranda went to bed, convinced that she would not sleep or eat until that monster is apprehended. Whoever he was, he deserved the death penalty for the trauma he had caused so many people.
The next day she was groggy at the precinct. He colleague, Lester, joked that she should have bad nights more often because it did wonders for her hair. She shoved him playfully and got some more coffee. There was a woman waiting at her desk, probably a social worker from the looks of her. It turned out she was a psychiatrist, which was close enough.
“Doctor Barnes, PhD,” she said. “I’ve some information for you, regarding the children in the St. Mary’s hospital.”
Miranda frowned. There was no press release, no details given to the media, and the woman had not been at the hospital the previous day, so how could she possibly know anything about it? “How do you--”
“I know what you’re thinking, but please hear me out,” the woman said, making herself comfortable, placing a hefty pile of files on Miranda’s already overflowing desk. “This is all I have from 1999. There was a similar case back then, twelve children found in the woods in different locations, all with signs of torture over half of their bodies, and all uttering the same words when awake in the hospital. Back then, I thought it was some kind of sick bastard who conditioned the poor kids into compliance. Does any of this sound familiar so far, detective Wiles?” she asked and waited, dispassionately looking at Miranda to reply.
“Madam… Dr. Barnes, I can’t release any information to the public,” was all Miranda said, startled by the doctor’s information.
“Detective, I know that the information we have is the same, I was simply being polite. You see, I still have friends at the hospital, where my own child had awakened in a stupor and later, taken her own life.”
Miranda was speechless. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
The fact that she was involved in a case similar to this one meant that she could at least let her in on some of the information, but not before she got more information from the doctor. After all, she could have been a ruthless reporter particularly gifted at acting and deceit.
“Can you tell me more about the 1999 case?” she asked, to which the doctor responded with handing her one of her files. It was heavy, filled with photos of scars and notes from therapy sessions. There were a couple of CD’s as well, possibly recorded sessions with the patients.
“Where did you acquire this?”
“I was only an intern back then, working on my PhD, but I did help with counseling the families, particularly the traumatized children, and I have express permission – from the therapist and the patients – to be sharing this with you. It’s not all the patients, but enough.”
Miranda was impressed with the doctor’s professionalism. Perhaps this grief-stricken woman could help her, even though she didn’t seem to be grief-stricken at all. Could she be needing therapy herself?
“I know what you’re thinking…” the woman said for the second time. “You wonder how a mother could be objective about this case, but detective, I assure you, everything is in those folders.”
Miranda had made up her mind. If she were going to put the bastard behind bars, she needed all the help she could get. “Thank you, doctor, for stepping forward, I will review the files and get back to you.”
She got up and shook the doctor’s hand, who for the first time betrayed emotion similar to fear. “Please be open-minded about what you see, and when you do reach out to me again, I will give you more. This has not been an isolated case, not even just two cases from 1999 and now, but an actual occurrence from all around the world.” When she started to leave, Miranda remembered her voice after the shock of what she’d just heard. “Wait, Dr. Barnes? What do you mean all over the world?”
“There have been similar cases from Michigan, Ohio, Texas, the Philippines, Eastern Europe, and Russia. Always the same thing, twice. At least, that the ones we know about. I have been trying to see if it goes further back than 1999, but the research is taking time, you see, because of the whole digital revolution. I’m flying to Madrid tomorrow to talk to people who have relatives with similar stories. I even met a girl in Paris, who found her great grandmother’s diary, where she described what happened to her sister. I don’t want to alarm you detective, but this goes back to the 1800s, and God knows whether it happened before that.”
Miranda was looking at the doctor, stricken with shock and then, doubt. “You’re saying that this is not one person, but a… group of them?”
The doctor looked at Miranda and sighed. “I’m saying we don’t know yet,” but it was clear she had a theory, she just didn’t want to share it with Miranda yet. “Thank you, detective, for your time.” And she left, leaving her pile of horror files on the desk. Miranda looked at it, stomaching all the information she’d just gotten and went to the Chief, to warn him she would be unavailable that day. She was going to review everything.
That day, her entire world turned upside down.
I wrote this after a particularly vivid dream last week. I always love it when dreams bring stories because dreams are so weird that whatever story comes out of there, is guaranteed to be a little weird, too.