It has taken years for me to grow this thick skin. Insults and rude remarks would cut like a knife years ago and I would mull them over and over as the night went on, sinking deeper into despair. “Do I really look like that?” “Did she really mean that?”
But now, I have found a way to live with insults and even benefit from them. I use them. I write them down and I use them in my writing. Truth is stranger than fiction, in so many ways. Right? So every insult is a scene opportunity. I’ve worked two scenes around off-hand insults I’ve heard. One was thrown at me, the other was tossed at someone sitting near me.
Eavesdropping for insults is just as effective if you’re lucky enough to be loved by everyone and never have any lobbed in your direction. I’m lucky enough to surround myself with people who have no problem dropping insults like German bombs on England in WWII. Most of the time I have to keep from getting blasted before I remind myself that I can use them. I may even set myself up as a target just to get a good one now and then. Don’t judge me silently whatever you do, I need the material.
A recent conversation at my favorite local coffee bar:
Me: That music playing sounds just like something out of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Barista (about 35-40-yr-old woman): What is that?
Me: It’s a movie with Audrey Hepburn. You’ve never seen it?
Barista: Audrey who? I never watch old stuff.
Me: Hepburn. A famous actress… The movie is a classic. Don’t you ever watch old black-and-white movies?
Barista, looking at me as if I’ve grown horns: No….did you want something?
This encounter made me rethink something I’ve been working around lately in my WIP. How do you put cultural references in your book without losing your reader? What’s acceptable, what’s a big no-no? I would have thought references to old movies or Hollywood legends would be OK, but present-day movies would be verboten. Now, I’m thinking even old movies may be a bad idea. Or perhaps this woman needs to come out from under her coffee rock once in a while. Even if she’s never seen it, how could she get away with never even hearing about it?
With regard to cultural references in your work…on the one hand, you date your material. This can be a bad thing. Books should be timeless, transport the reader to another world, be forever available.
On the other hand, references to movies, movie stars, etc. can be a great way to make a point. Or is it just a lazy way to make a point? Perhaps working around this restriction is an important exercise in stretching my writing muscles. Or perhaps that woman was just an idiot.
Wow, taking care of someone who had surgery can take more time than I imagined. Couple that with a homeschooled teenager and you’ve got a recipe for stress. I hadn’t realized that it had been this long since I posted.
What makes me even more sad is that I’ve done very little editing and writing in that time. I keep saying I’ll get to it tomorrow when I have time…you know the drill. Then tomorrow comes and I’ve got more responsibilities. This means I haven’t gotten much done and only managed to grab about 30 minutes or so, which doesn’t really help much. That’s just enough time to find out just where I was the last time I sat here. My tea doesn’t even get cold!
What are your strategies for keeping connected and not losing track? I know I can make the time with more effort, but I lose my connection to the story and the work. That means I need even more effort to kick my own ass back in there. Any suggestions aside from, “Just do it, you idiot!”