The Writer’s Game – Sample 2

Shooting Off-Script

(1st chapter of a mystery by TA Sullivan)


“I’m gonna count to three, and then I start shooting!” the gunman shouted as he pointed his weapon at the hostages.

Hunkered behind a desk about four cubes away, my partner and I exchanged worried looks.

My partner’s face was drawn as she whispered, “What do we do?”

I opened my mouth to answer, and burst out laughing. A moment later, my partner, joined in.

“Cut…cut,” the director turned to us. “Really?”

“I’m sorry,” I muttered as we continued laughing. “But you have to admit, it’s a bit cliché.” The writing for this show had been getting so insipid lately; not that the show had ever been more than your basic cop drama. I played the rugged, rumpled, and slightly jaded cop, whose instincts were nearly always right; while up-and-coming actress, Pam Brewer, played my over-eager, naïve, rookie partner. As I said, very typical. Still, the writing had never been this hackneyed.

The director gave us several minutes to pull ourselves together, and we set up to do the scene again.

“I’m gonna count to three, and then I start shooting!” The actor playing this week’s crook waved his gun menacingly at the cowering hostages.

I exchanged looks with Pam and we managed to hold it together this time. However, when she opened her mouth to utter her line, it was drowned out by the crack of gun fire. This time when we looked at each other, the confusion and worry were genuine. We were definitely not acting.

I heard a scream echo from across the sound stage, and I jumped to my feet. A moment later, Pam and I joined the rest of cast and crew as they rushed toward the apartment set. At least a dozen members of the cast and crew of “Police Beat” were ringed around the bloody body. I could hear the pounding of racing feet coming up behind me as the rest of the staff came to see what had happened. Pam gagged and turned away, and somewhere behind the apartment set wall I heard someone getting sick. At least they hadn’t vomited all over the crime scene, I thought. Yeah, call me Mr. Sensitive.



Following the spiral staircase of my mind

What is death? Is it a cessation of life, or simply a reality I will no longer visit? Even now I do not spend 100% of my time in this reality; so perhaps death is simply moving on to those other realities completely never to visit this one at all.

But what realities do you move on to? Some people call these other realities other planes of existence, such as the astral plane or the causal plane. Other people portray these other realities as dreamscapes created in our own minds. Some of these portrayals leave us wondering if the dreamscapes are real at all. After all, if our minds are part of our brains and our brains die, then do those other realities actually even exist past death?

I believe they do (exist). I also believe that we catch glimpses of these other worlds, these different realities in our dreams. Not that every dreamscape we see is real enough to actually exist within, but where else could reality come from if not from within us, from within our own ideas and concepts? If what I surmise is true, then I cannot wait for the opportunity to spend even more time in these worlds; time I can spend exploring and continuing my search for the reasons for our very existence.

This is what drives me…not money, glory, or personal possessions, but the real reason for our being here in this reality. Are we here because we thought ourselves into being, or are we merely figments of someone/something else’s imagination? And if this is real, then what is death? Is it just another reality? But what if this is someone else’s dream; then what is death…a nightmare?

If we are all players in each others dramas, then who is the playwright? And if we are each our own playwrights, then how many plays are we each participating in, and congratulations to us for learning all those scripts.

Life, and death, are intriguing mysteries; but death is the most intriguing (to me) simply because we have so little information available to us. Death is not a frightening thing to me, but rather is it a wonderous and mystical concept that calls to me. It offers new opportunities, as yet unknown concepts, and whole new worlds just waiting for me to explore.

Who are you…really

With all the CSI programs on TV, I’ve started wondering what people would say about me if some investigator came around and began asking questions. How would they describe me or my relationship with them. Would I be perceived as helpful, bitchy, sweet, reclusive, friendly, gabby, close-mouthed, bossy, wimpy, inept, fastidious, unorganized, klutzy, shy, outgoing? What?

Sometimes I wonder what other people see when they see me or speak to me. After all, they’re only seeing the part of me I’m letting them see. And most of them have no idea what has gone on in my life just prior to their seeing or speaking with me. Maybe our conversation is a one-time occurrence, so they think I’m always bitchy or grumpy because they don’t know that perhaps my car just broke down, I lost my job, and my dog recently died. Or maybe they think I’m rather empty-headed because my answers are slow and not always coherent, but again, they have no way of knowing that I may have been up all night, or might have taken a strong pain reliever for an aching back or severe sinus attack. All they know is what they can observe and hear, and that may leave them shaking their heads in bewilderment.

Perhaps they heard from someone else that I’m the foremost expert on herbal medicine in the area, but the day they contact me I can’t seem to concentrate on what they’re asking me, let alone give them a coherent answer. All they’re going to think is that I must indulge in some pretty funky herbs.

What about the people we only see at work? What do they know about us? If you like your job, then they might see you as fun, happy, ready to share a laugh, a steady worker who’s good at their job. What if you don’t like your job, though? Then what type of person do they see?

So the perception someone has of you depends on what aspects they see of you, and what discernment they glean from that interaction. Because not only do you control what others see and experience in regards to yourself, but so do they. After all, you might be having a great day, feeling very expansive and helpful, but the person you’re with is having a horrible day and so they prefer to take everything you say and do as an insult, so they presume that you are smart-alecky or rude.

Therefore, if asked by an investigator what you were like, they might say that you got what deserved, because you were always rude and smart-mouthed. And who’s to dispute them? They’re not really lying, because it is, after all, only their perception of you, isn’t it? As one-sided as it may be, it’s still accurate, that is if everyone takes into account the person giving the opinion and the circumstances under which they formed that opinion.

Now, while the first part of that is usually noted (the who), the second part (the circumstances) isn’t. So, you’re stuck with the one-sided view of you that they have given to the investigator. (Of course, being dead, you probably don’t care.;-)

When you think about it though, most people really only know one or two facets of anyone else (excluding spouses and children—although in some cases, people have been shown to know little or nothing about their own spouses and children). “Ahhh,” you’re thinking, “but I’ve known Tommy Jones for years, even decades. In fact we grew up in the same neighborhood.”

Of course that helps, but unless you were best friends, or even better—living together—then I’d guess your true knowledge of Tommy Jones is still pretty incomplete. After all, you probably interacted on a limited basis—shared some classes in school, maybe were on the same sports teams (little league, track, whatever), or maybe you hung out together for awhile. And while that means that you probably saw Tommy from several angles, there are still a lot of sides to Tommy Jones that you have never guessed existed.

Don’t we all keep parts of ourselves hidden? Not necessarily because these parts are bad or “evil”, but because we fear being ridiculed, being thought that we’re not “normal” (whatever that may be). Think about it. If you’ve spent most of your life making sure that everyone perceives you as being extremely cautious and caring about your health—always exercising and eating balanced meals—would you want them to know that secretly you love to veg out on the couch in front of the TV and drink beer? Of course not, because it might ruin your “image”, the perception you have worked so hard at cultivating with them.

Perhaps you enjoy the fact that most of the people you know see you as an intellectual—always reading thick tomes, attending lectures, and when you deign to watch TV it’s only those more esoteric programs on the Discovery or History channels. So what would people think if they found out that you secretly owned and often watched the complete DVD set of the 3 Stooges?

Most of us hide facets of ourselves from others because we want to fit in with some particular part of society or group, but the trouble is when we start hiding facets of ourselves from others, we soon begin hiding things from ourselves, too. Then we begin telling ourselves lies to help us cover up these facets of ourselves that we no longer want to remember exist. We’ll tell ourselves that we love the opera, because all our friends love the opera, but secretly we know we’d rather be at a rock concert. Or we tell ourselves that we really are enjoying the lecture on Ignatius rocks, but we can feel a tug deep inside. If we were to investigate that tug, we’d find that it’s the hidden part of us wanting to come back out, the part of us that says “What I’d really rather be doing is knitting.”

We get so good at ignoring those tugs and pangs, though, that after awhile we don’t even notice them anymore. Soon we believe the perception of ourselves that we have created and are presenting to everyone else and we think of it as the real us. In fact, we believe in it so much that when it implodes and we find ourselves suddenly chucking our jobs on Wall Street (or wherever) to become pottery makers or piano tuners we and everyone else we know is absolutely flabbergasted. Yet if we were honest with ourselves, we’d see that that aspect of ourselves was always there, we simply kept it hidden—from others and ourself.

Of course, some never do release those hidden aspects of themselves. Instead, they manage to keep that skewed perspective of themselves, the false face, in place their whole life. But most of us will eventually have to face up to the truth—whatever that may be. Because eventually we’re going to find out what other people really think of us, what their perceptions of us are. And eventually we’re going to see all the hidden aspects of ourselves and realize that our own perspective of us was just as skewed as everyone else’s.

So, what would the people around me tell investigators if I died unexpectedly? I’m not sure, but I know I’d be surprised if, by some chance, I could hear them. Because I’m sure that whatever facets I think I’m showing to the world are not necessarily the ones that the world is really seeing.

Every path is right; Every choice is right

There is no wrong or right path, because they all lead to the same destination—who and what you are right now. Some paths may be longer or shorter, but no matter the length, and no matter how many twists or turns, they still always lead to who and what you are. You may think you took a wrong turning, but that only means you misunderstood the destination. You may think that the destination was getting married and having a family, but you find that by making the choices you did, by following the paths that you did, you have gotten married but had no children, or perhaps you haven’t gotten married at all.

But are you happy with and accepting of who you are? Did you enjoy getting to where you are now? And who’s to say where your next set of choices might lead—after all, is it ever really too late to get married? And does every family have to include children?

If you regret what you did or choices you made, then you can’t fully accept who you are, because you are a composite of your choices. If someone tells you that you’ve made poor, bad, or wrong choices, then you have to decide whether to accept or ignore their judgment. However, if you’re happy with who you are, and accepting of who and what you are, then their judgment shouldn’t matter. After all, they never walked in your shoes along your path, so how can they possibly know what led you to the choices you made?

Most people who would criticize another’s path, do so either because they see everyone as being copies of themselves and so everyone should make the same choices and take the same paths they would in the given set of circumstances, or because they wish they had the other person’s life with the other person’s choices. In other words, they dislike their own life, but rather than change it, they would live your life for you.

Every choice you make is a valid choice. Even those that create karmic bonds are valid choices. Some people need to color outside the lines to see the true image, while others only want to paint the images they see in the coloring book, staying within the lines and coloring very precisely. Either way is fine. Taking the path of creating karmic bonds may take you a bit longer to get to a “final” destination, but that’s okay, too, because in truth, the destination is in the journey.

Each of us makes choices, travels down our selected paths, and creates a person that is different every minute, every hour, and every day. And if we ever decide we don’t like who we are, we don’t want to be what we are, well…then make different choices, select another path.

We’ve all seen the person who makes the same choice day after day, and when the same response occurs to their choice they act surprised, maybe even angry. It’s as if they’re expecting something else to happen and can’t understand why it isn’t. But give them the same situation a week later, and watch as they again choose to respond in the same way, ending up with the same result. (Picture a head being repeatedly banged against a wall.) And you have to ask yourself, why don’t they make another choice; why don’t they try something else?

But while to us watching that person making the same choices over and over may seem foolish, it’s their choice; and it may just be that making that same choice over and over is a way for them to learn whatever it is they’re not quite grasping. Kids do it all the time, it’s called trial and error. Sometimes it takes more than one trial to convince someone that if they want a different response, they need to make a different choice.

Once they get it, though, they can now make a more aware choice when deciding whether to keep traveling the same path, or to try something different. Every path is a valid path. Every path leads to the same destination. And every path is great experience, for all of us.

Life Interrupted

“…but you’re too young to have that…” “They were so young…” “It’s such a pity; he/she was so young…”

I’ve never really understood what age has to do with how shocking, sad, or devastating it is to find out someone has died, is dying, or has a deadly disease or illness. Yet, you hear it all the time on the news, in person, in movies.

But why is it any more devastating for someone who is 4 to die than someone who is 44? Or 15 versus 76? Doesn’t everyone have something to contribute to the world no matter whether they’re 1 or 100?

Why do we believe that someone who is 90 is ready to ease out of life, while someone who is 4 is just getting going? Have you ever considered that the person who is 4 might actually be finishing up a previous life? It just might be that they had done a life where they accidentally died at 66, so they didn’t get to finish all the things they needed to. Therefore, they decided to come back just for those few years that it would take to do those things. Hence, for them, 4 years is more than enough time and they’re ready to move on and live a new life with different circumstances, different people, and a whole new set of lessons. While the 90 year old may feel as if they’re just getting started and the last thing on their mind is moving on from this life.

I’m one of those who’s completing a life interrupted. The last time I made it to age 18, but then circumstances that I didn’t foresee intervened and the life ended. This life has let me pick up where that one left off, so in my mind, I’m not so young. Add the two lives together and I’m really quite the senior citizen. So, I understand some of these “children” who came just to complete things carried over from the last life and who are ready to move on to something new.

That doesn’t mean that they (or I) have any less impact or importance in this world. I think every life and every person is extremely important. I believe everyone makes a difference in our lives; even those people we barely acknowledge or know, such as clerks at the store, or the neighbor 5 doors down that you only nod to when you see them out and about.

Maybe you’ve never met Sue Smith, but when you read about her in the paper or on the web, her story affects you emotionally. That’s because everyone matters; everyone has an impact on everyone else. Yet, does it really matter whether Sue is 14 or 40? It’s still the same struggle; it’s still the same pathos; and it’s still the same ending.

I think the real reason we say things like “…but they were so young…” is because of our own fear. We’re all so afraid of death and dying, that when we’re confronted with these types of situations, we try to push the reality of it away; we try to find ways of separating ourselves from the person who is ill or dead. However, a part of us recognizes that it could be us who is sick, dying, or dead, and so we blurt out what we fear. We’re not really saying that the other person is too young; we’re actually saying we are.

I don’t want us to become a society where life is taken lightly, but I think we need to lighten up a little and recognize that death, dying, and illnesses (severe, life-threatening illnesses) are part of life, too. And instead of trying to hide ourselves from this reality, we need to take another look, understand it, and embrace it as the opportunity it is—an opportunity to do and have all those things that you may not get to in this life.

Is it real?

I’ve gotten a number of comments regarding my postings of my planing activities suggesting that I’m either crazy or simply having very vivid dreams (since most of my planing does take place during my sleep periods). Others have asked me how I can be so positive that these activities are real and not just dreams, nightmares, or figment of my imagination—something happening simply in my mind (see It’s All in My Head).

My best response is simply, “because these incidents are much more real than this world in which I’m posting my blog.”

Think about your dreams for a moment, or can you even remember any of them. Maybe a snippet here or a fragment there, right? Dreams usually fade quickly, although sometimes it can take almost a day for some of the really vivid ones. You might be left with a few vestiges, maybe a memory of an emotion, but that, too, usually fades within a couple of days.

Dreams don’t linger for very long once you awaken, and nightmares are no different. Turn on a light, and nightmares inevitably run away, much preferring the dark recesses of your mind than the bright lights of activity.

These incidents of mine that I write about don’t fade once I awaken. They don’t scatter like rose petals from a dying bouquet. Instead, they’re more like memories, which do fade, yes, but only after weeks, months, or years, not moments or hours. And like memories, some of my experiences of planing can be retriggered by a smell, a word or phrase, or even by a color or image.

Dreams don’t do that, not even memories of dream can do that. There’s a certain musical phrase from Rhapsody in Blue that gives me a “flashback” to a jazz club and the pianist there who died while playing that tune for himself and the remaining wait staff way past closing time. There is the smell of jasmine that brings to mind the memory of a young lady murdered outside her apartment down in North Carolina.

These sounds, these smells trigger an emotional response, an emotional response that I associate with these incidents, these people and places. That’s what memories are—triggers to emotional incidents that we catalog and store. And when I’m acting as a planer, my emotional chakra is more open than when I’m functioning as a “normal” physical being. Emotions make very strong memories, stronger than anything else.

Think about it for a moment. Bring up any memory—happy or sad, good or bad—and you’ll find that the main thing you remember is the emotions of those involved. Perhaps you had an argument with your lover. You may not remember what was said, or even who started it, but what you remember is how you felt and how your lover felt, and how what they were feeling made you feel.

Maybe you remember the first time you saw an infant or a puppy. But again, what do you really remember? Do you remember exactly what the infant or puppy looked like? No, but you remember how you felt…you remember the gooey, oh-so-loving, just-wanna-cuddle-you-to-death feelings that threatened to overflow your whole being.

So, while I may not be able to bring back something tangible that I can point to and say “There, see I was really there. It really happened.” I do have memories.

I may not be able to “prove” to the skeptics that what I do is real, but when it’s their time to leave, I’m sure they’ll be glad to see me, or someone like me—even if we’re not real 😉

The book that wasn’t there…

Everyone has an Aha moment, that moment when they finally understand something. Mine came in two steps. When I was about 18 my mother gave me a book that she thought I might find interesting. It didn’t look like anything special—just a simple paperback book with a blue cover. The front had drawings of different people’s faces dressed from different time periods and a picture of a Ouija board on it.

Normally a fast reader, this book actually took me about a week to get through. It was filled with new concepts and ideas that somehow also felt familiar. It was a very interesting read, and I knew I would want to read it again. I felt the truth of the information, although I didn’t fully comprehend everything.

I set the book aside, and life went on. Meanwhile, the concepts and ideas percolated at the back of my mind. I never really consciously thought about the book until years later, when I hit an emotional crossroads. At that point, I thought that something in that book just might help me with my choices.

I searched high and low for the book, sure that I had placed it in one of the many bookcases in the house, but couldn’t find it anywhere. Unable to locate it, and not remembering if I or my mother had lent it to someone else, I went to the bookstore and got a new copy.

This time it only took a couple of days to read through it, and I had the biggest Aha moment of my life when I finished. While the first time I had read it had been like going into a dark house with a couple of lit candles that illuminated just a few of the dark rooms, this time it was as if I had found the main fuse box and so lit up the whole house. I not only understood everything the book was saying, but I recognized the truth of the concepts the next time I looked at someone’s aura.

All my life I had seen auras, and I had taught myself what the different layers were and what the colors and shapes meant. However, it always felt as is some of the pieces weren’t there, like there was some information I should be understanding but wasn’t. Now, all the pieces fell together.

As I continued to travel my life’s path, I had many occasions to give away copies of this book. Some of those I shared the book with also had Aha moments, and others didn’t. Some got the same reaction I had the first time I read it—that there’s something very true in this material, but never fully understanding all of the concepts and ideas. No matter how much, if any, of the information people got from the book, I was happy just to share it with others.

Several weeks ago, I had the chance to again share the book with several people. This time as I handed them each a copy of the book, the copyright date caught my attention. Something about it seemed off, but other things took my focus and I let it go. As the week continued, though, the date continued to niggle at my mind, and I finally went in search of my own copy of the book. I checked the copyright date, and then after several calculations I finally realized why it bothered me so. According to the copyright date, my mother gave me the book before it was published.

Convinced there had to be some mistake, I actually contacted the publishers and asked for the first release date. They quoted the same date as in my copy of the book. So, somehow, some way, in some alternate reality, I read that book, the book that awakened my mind and released my soul years before it became available in our world.