Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Pattern Wars

And no, I’m not sewing. Really. I don’t need another goal. Seriously, all full here. Move it right along. In lieu of clothing patterns, I’ve been thinking about the patterns that form the blueprints of our lives. Patterns. Rituals. Habits. Are they all the same, or are there subtle differences? Are they positive or negative? Or both?

People have questioned my daily writing habit, and, as much as I love it, I wonder if it is merely my pattern and therefore uncomfortable to break. And yet so much of the past two years of my writing life has been solidly about breaking patterns. Previous to writing, I would have to say I was decidedly stuck. Living in the dreams I’d never chased, wounds I’d never allowed to heal, and disappointments that overwhelmed every part of me. I’d endured the most difficult year of my life, moving away from my family and friends to a place where I knew no one. For a while there, I was Eeyore, a drama-filled cloud following me everywhere I went so that I never caught any sunshine (not that it’s plentiful around these parts anyway).

All my life, stories had chased me (and sometimes haunted me) and there was never a time I didn’t believe that writing was what I was supposed to be doing. But there were other things I was meant to do as well, teaching being the most important one.

A strong part of my writing rehabilitation program began a few years before I found the nerve to dedicate myself to writing. I called it my Proverb/Quote Project. Every day, or every couple days, I would find a proverb or quotation and use it to spur a story. Any story. For three pages, sometimes more and sometimes less, I would write without judgment, anything that came to mind. Talk about a talisman against blank page anxiety. Just write. That was my motto. I have a couple hundred different story ideas from that project, and, interestingly enough, the YA fantasy I’m marketing right now was inspired by a Shelley poem that fueled a three-page story years ago.

It is clear to me now that I was unprepared for a full novel, which felt overwhelming back then (which feels really silly now), but that writing project connected me with the writing habit.

Writing is a deliberate pattern I accepted, and, somehow, that positive pattern caused me to question the other patterns in my life and some of the people in my life. I believe in patterns, discipline, and rituals (and I have plenty), but I now equally believe that patterns can be the blueprints for lives made of castles or prisons. Sometimes the distinctions between the two are a little too subtle, but the aftertaste always tells the truth. Before writing built me up, I didn’t know I was worth protecting from the negative patterns in my life, some self-inflicted and others direct hits from others. Writing, fingers clicking along a keyboard, gave me the courage to face up to the truth: the blueprints of my life were murky at best. Two years of construction/deconstruction later and I overlook a lovely framework, but not a solid structure, because I don’t want for patterns to root themselves in my life without being questioned. There is tremendous power in awareness, and leave it to writing to have woken me up—or possibly it wasn’t writing at all, just doing what I was supposed to be doing instead of fighting against the fears of failure that choked out all possibility.

Maybe we all want to believe (very Frodo-esque) that we have a purpose, a quest that only we can fulfill. Not only do I want to believe that, I do believe that. The connections I formed when teaching were unique to my students and me. No one anywhere could form those exact connections. That is not to say that they were better or worse than any other teacher’s connections to his or her students, just unique. For every person driven to the fictional plane, there is a solitary quest, a unique and never to be repeated connection. Sure, the big themes have been used and will be reused, but they are not at the heart of the words, the characters are, the connections are—connections formed between the author and her imagination; the readers, the very fount of all that is unique; and the mysterious, and maybe fickle, spark that connects us all.

So, the moral of the story, the thing I wish I’d learned much sooner, is to believe in the purpose you know in your heart, to not allow the bad patterns to diminish a single moment of this beautiful life, and to share with all of us that which is only within you to share.

And, in the spirit of the unique, I’m making up my own quote today.

Quote for the Day by Me.

“People are really marvelous, with the choices to be both ugly and beautiful in every moment, willingly empowered and imprisoned by each other, by faith, by hope, by dreams... it’s no wonder we write about them.”


Thrive said...

"There is tremendous power in awareness"& "Choice" Amazingly powerful statements that we all need to teach the younger generation so that they can learn by our words and experiences and not have to miss out on so much! Thanks Jules! Love you!

Debra L. Schubert said...

Wonderful post, so full of important insights. And, I think this is the best Quote for the Day so far! ;-) #amtweeting

Jemi Fraser said...

I absolutely love that quote - so true and so very powerful!

I love quotes!!

Kasie West said...

You have so much depth, Julie. Your posts feel like an insight straight into your thoughts. And more often then not, I completely relate to them. I think I need to look at some patterns I've created in life and see if they are keeping me prisoner or building a framework for my future. You're awesome.

Julie said...


Thanks for the comment. And I agree. Only those pesky kids won't hear us, just like we refused to hear the oldies when we were young. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight the good fight and teach empowerment and awareness, that happiness isn't a gift, but rather something we chose. :)

Julie said...


Wow! You mean I can make up my own quotes and get extra points? You rock! And thanks for tweeting cause you know... I'm a #tweeterfailure.

Love ya!

Julie said...


Thanks for the quote support. That one just blurted out and I figured, it's my blog, I'll quote if I want to. ;)

Thanks for the comment!

Julie said...


Back at you with the awesome. I love your blog and you always make me smile, even when you are sharing pity-party-worthy news (not that I'm snickering at your hurdles of course, just that you see the world through the window of lightness, and I love that). I feel honored to have the chance to get to know you. :)

Laura Marcella said...

Hi Julie,

I love the name of your blog! This is a poignant post and reminds me to look at the patterns in my writing life. Thanks for this!