Archive for 2011
<----See? Awesome cover, huh?
This is the best thing about hanging out with a bunch of writers, besides their unending support and fabulous charm--every once in a while one of them gets published, and I get to vicariously share in his success. It’s doubly satisfying when I’ve had a hand in the process. I saw this manuscript in an earlier form and have been able to see it develop into the fantastic read it is today.
Go check out this awesome interview Allison Dickson did with Ian, and then go order the book!
I’ve been on fire lately. Very motivated and confident and self-sufficient. It’s a weird feeling, and I realize that in the past when I felt this way it was so uncomfortable for that that I’d squash it in some way. I’m trying not to do that this time, and maybe it’s working. I feel capable of moving on from things that have stagnated.
So I finally got the book edited and sent off. A few weeks ago I had compiled a list of a few small publishers, but after the edit was done and I began to write my query letter, I realized there was only one I felt comfortable submitting to. First I eliminated any that had a book too similar to mine, and then my main criteria was professional-looking covers and website. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but people do. I do. If I see an amateurish cover, I might assume the book inside has been amateurishly written and edited. It’s about quality standards. And no, it’s not foolproof, but if the only publisher I can snag is one who can’t make my book look professional, well then I can do that myself.
Anyway, the single publisher I chose to submit BVA to is Carina Press, the digital-first arm of Harlequin. They accept non-romance genres, and since they publish digitally, they’re not so sticky about word count—at 72k words, BVA is a little shorter than expected in the fantasy genre. It’ll take a couple of months to hear back from them, and once they reject it (*snort* pessimism, anyone?) I’ll publish on Smashwords, I guess.
I must say that if I do self-pub it, it will be only for my peace of mind. With “Mon Petit Ami,” I got the most wonderful feeling of closure on a piece that I’d anguished over for years. It was done a long time ago, but I seemed to get stuck on it, unable to put it down for good. I’ve got over a hundred downloads on it, which is pretty cool, even though I sold only one copy to a friend. But the point is, it feels done now that it has an ISBN. And hopefully this will also work for Ea’s Gift and Black Veil Angel, if it comes down to that.
Apparently the only thing keeping me from blogging is Facebook. I suspected as much. I’ve had spotty Internet since dinnertime yesterday, and since it is an area-wide problem, all I can do is wait. I’ve been doing maintenance on my computer instead, cleaning out email and such.
So this Facebook thing is something I’ve struggled with for a while. FB is almost meaningless if you don’t keep up with it every day. If people know you’re on there but you don’t respond to their very important news (not being sarcastic, lots of people announce things this way), they forget about you, or worse, assume you’ve hidden them when you simply missed their post. And so I’ve been trying to stay active on there, because that’s where everyone is.
The result of this is feeling like I’ve already said all I have to say, leaving nothing for the blog. This is not a bad thing in itself, but when so much so much of my life is online—banking, journaling, socializing, job search—all there is left to do when I’m forced to be offline is to clean house, bake, and write. I could have showered at 7:30, but my body doesn’t want to be wet till nine o’clock. I could have made myself breakfast, but I’m never hungry till ten. So my morning schedule is all messed up, and I find myself blogg—
Dammit! I was connected for about two minutes, but it’s gone now.
I grow bored with this. I still have a half hour before my bod will want a shower, so maybe I’ll do a little editing. And maybe this will publish, and maybe it won’t.
Still looking for a job, but I think I might be sabotaging myself just a little bit. The days have been flying by, and I’ve gotten distracted.
For instance, suddenly it’s very important to get this book edited and submitted, when years have gone by with little thought to it. And it’s going quite well, I must say. This might not be what you want to hear, and you might not believe me, but…I’ve had a job and written, and I’ve had no job and written, and it’s easier with a job. Obviously your time will be limited, but that seems to be an important element for me. Once I had all the time in the world writing became less of a priority. And it was a lot of pressure, because it was the MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD. In fact, it was the only other thing I had to do besides housework and kid stuff. I think that’s probably why it’s suddenly easier to get back into it, because I’m busier now. I don’t have so much time to think about how important it is, or to feel guilty for not doing it.
The housework has also become important. The holidays are coming up, you know.
And so has Mad Men. Again. I’ve seen every episode at least twice, and most of them three times. It depresses me, though, the darkness of it. Even the happy people in that show are unhappy. But I love it anyway.
But I guess I do need to make the job hunt important again. It just seems like there’s nothing for me. Maybe I should make my own job. Queen. I’ll be Queen of America. Somebody pay me.
Now I have another gas problem, this time with the furnace. It’s not a constant leak but appears to be related to the operation, like maybe the gas stays on after the fire goes out, or something like that. So the heat was right there, but I couldn’t risk it. We spent a chilly night under extra covers, and the kids sure did complain getting ready for school this morning.
So I have to call the furnace guy here in a few minutes. And I have to go to Walmart in Shawnee. And I have to drop off my resume at the college in Seminole, which means I want to look nice when I do. But if I have to wait for the furnace guy all day, I don’t know how I’m going to do that other stuff. I have to decide pretty quick if I want to just mail my resume, but I’m afraid it won’t get there by Monday, the cutoff date. It should, but it is the United States Postal Service, so, you know.
Still, not dying from a gas leak is priority one, so I’ll work it out somehow. Meanwhile, feel free to make your gas jokes. You know you want to go there. The ONG guy eyed my kittens and asked if I was sure it wasn’t cat gas I was smelling. There’s your bar.
Update: The furnace guys have come and gone and found no reason for the gas smell. They did find why it was running weirdly, and that's because of high gas line pressure. So now I have to call ONG to have them check the pressure, yada yada yada. Anyhoo, after lunch I'm going to get pretty and go drop off my resume and then to Walmart, even though I don't want to. It won't be long before won't get to decide how I spend my days, so I have to get used to it.
The job search continues…slowly. I’m taking it slow on purpose, because my tendency is to go 24/7 on a project till I collapse, and after that collapse it takes a lot of time to get back into it. I saw the pattern emerging with the job search, too, working in spurts and ignoring between. I’m also trying to mix it up a little bit, spending a day on one or two tasks, like resume writing, and the next something else, like searching the Internet job boards and narrowing down the field, then the next day maybe following up on those. As a result, this week was more productive. I didn’t get burned out on any one thing.
Yesterday was feet-on-pavement day. I had leads on two jobs I thought worth pursuing. My expectations were low already, looking at the jobs available for someone of my education and needs. Most positions have seemed like settling; these seemed like a good fit. Since air freshener is a concern, I want to check out the workplaces before I apply, if possible.
The first job was doing land and title research for the Seminole Nation. The place I applied is 23 minutes from my house (I timed it). Just on the edge of my ideal commute and pay, but an interesting job worth checking out.
I think it was doomed from the start. They made me fill out an application, and some of the information they wanted I didn’t have with me. I kept making mistakes on the app, so it looked sloppy by the time I was finished. Then after I finally handed it back, the lady said I’d be doing most of my work in another town a full 15 minutes further down the road. The commute would eat up too much of the already-low wage. Also, they don’t withhold taxes, so that’s a hassle. My first visit to a potential workplace turned out to be a bust.
The second place was on the way back from the first place. It was sort of a whim to stop there, because I figured it would be too smelly, but I also thought, it’s right there, so why not? Seminole State College is 13 minutes from my house, so that’s a plus. It’s a college office, a pleasant, clean workplace—plus. It’s a college, so smelly, Axe-wearing young adults—minus. Pay is good enough, but the benefits are like a dream. I’d overlooked the fact that it’s a state agency with state benefits. PLUS.
The lady in charge was so nice. She took ten minutes out of her day just to tell me all about the benefits of working in her office, and I hadn’t even applied yet. She seemed very open to me as a person. I’m really glad I needed college transcripts and a cover letter to apply, otherwise I’d have given her this resume that isn’t tailored to the job. Just thinking about working there gives me shivers, makes me want to cry, and sends me into spontaneous prayer. Please let the smells be okay, please don’t let me sound stupid in my resume, please don’t let those couple of failing semesters put her off, please oh please oh please.
One note about the fragrance issue: I didn’t feel bothered while in the office, even though I could smell something, the source wasn’t clear. I think it might have been the people, and not air freshener, which, while still not ideal, gives me great hope I can tolerate it. One test of whether or not I’ve been exposed to copious amounts of fragrance is to smell the clothes I wore the next day. Your nose shuts down after a while, so it’s hard to assess it that way. So I smelled my clothes this morning, and … nothing. No smell, except for my own nervous sweat.
I’m afraid to hope, but I’m moving forward on this today. I have until October 24 to assemble all the documents, improve my resume, and write my cover letter—and of course I don’t want to cut it too close.
Getting a job is a lot of work.
Whew. The resume is finito. Finally! Well, I still have to write a skills page, because I’ve gained a lot of undocumented experience from my prolonged attempt to be a writer. Or wait. Maybe I should make that an entry in my employment history…? What do you think?
It’s amazing, the things you learn when you look at your history in the space of a couple pages. For instance, with the exception of one, all my jobs have been two years or less. The exception was five years, and I probably would have stayed there unhappily forever, if a Venezuelan hadn’t apparently needed the job more than I did.
There’s only one job I needed a resume to get, and that one lasted 3-4 months. The work was wonderful, but my boss was crazy. Looking back I can see she was probably an alcoholic, but I didn’t know what to call it back then. I still have dreams about working for her, in which I walk on eggshells and feel stupid all the time.
The work I enjoyed the most, regardless of environment, involved some kind of organization. The crazy lady job was office manager of a photography studio, before digital photography had completely taken over. That was my favorite work, cropping photos, collaborating with customers on extras, keeping records out the wazoo. My sewing factory job, the five-year one, was acceptable. I detested the environment, but with piecework you’re always trying to figure out a more efficient way to do it and then implementing it. The repetition was soothing. My wrists are shot now because of it, but it satisfied the (literally) OCD part of my brain.
Another really cool job was merchandising at a retail store, which I did on top of other, not-so-fun duties. Using my creativity to come up with displays and ads, using my hands to put those together, collaborating with different areas to make a cohesive plan that benefitted everyone—that was fun. If it weren’t for the extreme smells of the retail environment, that’s the one I’d go for. That or office manager. If I had a good boss, that might work.
I have trouble picking a direction. Too many variables. I’m still confident the right job is out there, but soon I might have to settle for the right-now job.
The past couple of days have been pretty cool. Since I put my short story on Smashwords, it’s been downloaded over 60 times. I find it unbearable not knowing how many are friends and family, and how many are strangers. So far I’ve had a review on Smashwords from Allie, and several have supported me by sharing my link on Facebook and writing short reviews to go along with it. Thank you all! In a few days it’ll go into Smashwords’ Premium Catalog, which means it will be distributed to online retailers. It’s been a fun experiment.
So the next step is to get it on Kindle Direct. I uploaded it yesterday, but it’s still under review so it’s not available yet. While I’ve put it on Smashwords for free, Amazon makes you charge a dollar minimum. I’ve got to figure out if I want to charge for the Smashwords version as well, but I don’t think I want to do that yet--I might have to charge and then give a coupon to make it free, because of Amazon’s terms of service.
Even if I don’t make a dime from online publishing, I’m glad I did it once. I’m now more secure in my knowledge of how publishing works, and the thrill of having work out there has erased most of my concerns about imperfection. And the thing is, I’ve found you can’t truly understand epublishing from just studying it or reading blogs—you have to dig in. I’m surprised at how not scary it is on this side of clicking “publish,” and while I thought I would feel more pressure afterwards, it’s actually been quite freeing.
I have a couple of books that couldn’t find homes with traditional big publishers (and a couple of small presses), so I’d been considering going with a small-but-successful online publisher like Damnation Books and others.(You might remember I edited for DB’s sister company, Eternal Press.) After all, they have a customer base all ready, free editing and cover design (free for me), and they pay for the ISBN. On the other side, self-publishing lets me keep a bigger chunk of the profits, and while I can’t afford to buy ISBNs right now, I could probably trade editing services with some trusted friends. And after making the cover for Mon Petit Ami myself, I think I might enjoy making others.
But I don’t have to decide right now. I’m not very good at taking incremental steps—a stumbling block to my writing career up to this point—so it’s time I learned. I’m slowly making a plan.
So what’s your experience with self-publishing?
Or possibly just dipping a toe. I took one of my old, beloved stories and published it on Smashwords. For those who've never heard of it, Smashwords is a website that automates the self-epublishing process. You upload your story, and their machine converts your file into all the popular e-reading formats. Very easy.
I have lots of friends who’ve published with Smashwords, but I haven’t been interested in doing it. My writing career was up in the air, so far that I didn’t know where it would come down, or even if it would. I needed things to settle--in particular, my feelings about writing. I’ve been hiding from the world while I sort things out.
Then a lot of things happened all at once. I had a birthday (41). We ran out of money and had to eat beans and hamburger stew for a week, which put me in action mode real quick as I started looking for a job. Putting myself out there flipped the switch, and suddenly I’m ready to start blogging again, Facebooking with purpose, discussing writing and publishing.
Now as this switch was being flipped, my friend Allie had a pretty awesome experience. She’s been self-epublishing on Smashwords and Kindle, and I don’t know where else, and she’s much more prolific than I, so she has lots of titles available. One day, Amazon started offering one of her titles for free and downloads went through the roof--like, 10,000 in a couple of days. She didn’t get a penny for these downloads, but thousands of people were reading her work.
It was eye-opening for me, watching this unfold. I had thought of epublishing as another career direction, with all that entailed: marketing and money and business and blah, blah, blah. I knew I didn’t want to do all that stuff myself. Allie’s exhilarating experience reminded me that writing is also fun, with an element of chance. The wheel of fortune can’t turn if you’ve stuck a stick in the spokes. The past couple of weeks has unstuck the wheel.
So. The story’s not perfect, but I’ve been waiting for perfection to grace me and I can’t wait any longer. The story’s good; some have told me it’s funny and/or creepy. It’s also free, so you don’t have to have a Smashwords account to read it. If you do read it, I’d appreciate a short and honest review. I promise I’ll still love ya.
Anyway, Sunday night three of them escaped, only these were more dangerous than the normal escapee. All night and half of Monday the cops sat on my corner with their lights on. We're at the last intersection before country roads begin, so anytime something happens in town the police set up a roadblock in front of my house. (Like this incident.) I'm thinking of investing in a police scanner, because it's a bit disconcerting to have 11 cop cars converging in my yard unannounced. They don't like questions, either.
At one point, the Channel 9 van was also parked on the shoulder in front of my house. I hid in case they came knocking before I showered. They didn't come. Later I saw my neighborhood on the news, but since they were shooting from my yard they got my neighbor's house but not mine. They did get the corner of my yard when they shot the intersection. This is more than fine.
And everything's back to normal again.
Let's see, what else is going on... Well, I've had a cold for a couple of weeks now. I'm tired of coughing, mostly because coughing makes me pee my pants. (TMI?) Such is the lot of the middle-aged mother. Still looking for a job, but it sure makes my brain hurt.
I can only do job search activities for a couple of hours each day, so I have time to ready a short story for Smashwords. Yesterday I made a cover for it, and that was the hard part. I think I might be ready to put it in the queue later today. I don't know if self-epublishing will be something I use regularly, but I thought it would be prudent to familiarize myself with the process. Times, they are a-changin'.
Have a great Tuesday.
Hey look, I’m posting! This was my longest hiatus yet, almost three months. I don’t know if I’ll begin regular postings again, but I have some things to work out that might benefit from the attention of the world outside my house.
Namely, getting a job.
I’ve been planning to work for about two years now, but it’s never seemed like the right time. The threat of your kids going hungry combined with marital instability has a way of making any time the right time. It’s time to be reborn into a person of the world again. Long overdue, in a way, but I wasn’t ready. I am now.
I’ve made large strides on my resume, but it sucks. My biggest problem is narrowing down the field. My experience thus far has been too varied to focus my efforts in a single direction. Previous jobs have been in retail and manufacturing. Retail is categorically out, and the manufacturing jobs around here don’t pay much.
So this leaves me floating in space, trying to figure out where I fit in. What field would least aggravate my fragrance sensitivity, pay enough to live on comfortably (probably less than you’d think), and incorporate my skills and preferences.
I’d like to focus on writing, but there are a few problems with that. I tried writing novels and I still want to, but obviously I won’t be getting money from it for a long while. I tried freelance writing and found that the topics I know something about aren’t really in demand for paying jobs. Plus I don’t really like freelancing. That constant chasing down of work is too much mental strain. Technical writing sounds extremely satisfying, collaborating with others to produce a useful document. Most of those jobs require either a buttload of experience or a degree of some kind, of which I have neither.
I put my first application in yesterday for a manufacturing-type position. The pay is low, but the hours and location are perfect. There’s no way I could live on that income alone if it came to that, but it might be a good way to get my feet wet while supplementing our current income.
I’ve been disappointed to find that the more interesting jobs so far are all an hour’s commute from here. I have faith the perfect job will show up at the perfect time. Hopefully that perfect time is NOW.
I wrote today. Fiction.
You know how big a deal that is. Or maybe you don’t, because I’m not sure how much of that angst came through in my sporadic posting. But let me tell you, it’s a big deal.
It is Independence Day weekend—could this event signal new creative independence? Freedom from fear, from stagnation, from oppression?
I don’t know, but it feels good. Give me a flag to wave.
Thank you sincerely for all your declarations of support after yesterday’s confession. I want to assure you that I’m fine, even better than fine because I finally have some movement on this issue that’s been dogging me for a long time. My feeling is that everything will work out for the best, and however that manifests is good with me. How very zen of me.
I’ve found an online support group for wives of alcoholics, so I have somewhere to go for advice. I’ll be getting a job of some kind when the kids go back to school so I won’t feel so helpless.
I’ve worked really hard not to talk him down to the kids, to keep his image good in their eyes, to focus on his strengths, but now I’m thinking it’s time to acknowledge to them his drinking is not normal. They don’t like his drinking or smoking, but I didn’t want to contaminate their feelings with my own frustrations. Now I can see that he would never have a frank discussion with them about it, and if they are enlightened it will be me doing it. Still haven’t decided how to handle that, and I guess that’s where my support group will come in.
I wondered if I would regret posting about this issue after a good night’s sleep, and I don’t. I’m glad I got it off my chest. I’m owning my problems and mistakes instead of running from them, and that’s empowering. Scary, but empowering.
There is a secret I carry, and I’ve decided to remove this secret of its power over my life by bringing it into the light. I’ve told myself over the years that it’s not my secret to tell, and telling would be disloyal to my husband. I accepted his denial as my own, and looking back I think I was actually brainwashed in a way, as substance abuse distorts everything through a lens of deception and insanity and makes you doubt your own observations and wisdom.
So that’s my secret, sneaked into that previous sentence because I’m too much of a coward to say it outright. It still feels disloyal to say my husband is an alcoholic, even though I realized a couple of days ago that it is every bit as much my problem as it is his—and probably even more so, since I’m left scrambling to pick up the pieces of our life together as he lets them slip through his fingers. I’m no different than any other woman married to a substance abuser. I’m trying to keep the problems from touching my kids, and trying to love and support him into getting help, just trying to do the right thing in general.
This secret peeks out every now and then in my writings, like when I allude to my challenging marriage or problems I can’t talk about. But I can talk about them, and I think I need to talk about them. But of course the substance abuse is a much greedier and needier animal than I, and I catered to it for far too long. I don’t have to talk about the substance abuse itself because that actually is my husband’s domain, but I can talk about the way this substance abuse has affected me. And so I shall.
I might start a new blog for this topic, if I find I have a lot to say about it. Or I might use one of my old wordpress URLs for it. I might chicken out and delete this post and never speak of it again. But if I do that, I think the act of writing it down and putting it out there will still be beneficial. And at least the people who care about me most, my regular readers, will know what’s going on.
So here’s where I am right now. Since the beginning of May I’ve been camped out on the futon in the den, which contains the washer and dryer, our second (and awful) tv, and the kids’ computer. There’s no door to this space, and the futon is so hard it takes an hour to work out the morning stiffness in my joints. I’ve given up on convincing him to go for treatment, or even the simple hope for a meaningful conversation about it. The only thing left to do is withdraw from the source and save myself. I fear the changes this will undoubtedly bring, yet I’m convinced the fear of the unknown was what kept me here all this time--15 years, total. I can’t afford to be afraid anymore. It killed my spirit a long time ago, and now it’s causing physical problems.
My feelings are all in a jumble, but one thought has carried me onward, and it’s this one: Shouldn’t I care for myself at least as much as I have cared for this illness? For that’s what I’ve been doing, caring for the illness, catering to it and enabling it so that we can seem “normal” and give my kids a chance. Divorce ripped me apart as a child, so I’ve seen it as the thing to avoid at all cost. I just don’t know what to do. So I wait until it becomes clear, as I feel it will soon.
I think if I just started typing every day, whether or not I have a topic in mind, I’d post a lot more often. Nothing seems important enough to write down, except for some stuff I can’t really talk about. But today I decided to take the plunge and just write anything. Just communicate.
I haven’t been writing fiction at all for a long while, so long that I don’t even feel guilty anymore. Letting my agent go let me go. I felt like the band of a slingshot must feel right after it releases its missile, flaccidly bouncing with the force of the release. I’m not ready to load another stone, but I am finally still enough to begin hunting for the perfect one. The hunt might take a while, and apparently I’m fine with that.
As I’m opening files and emails I haven’t looked at in months, I’ve found something disturbing. I’d thought Black Veil Angel, what I consider my better book, had been barely subbed, maybe to ten or so smaller publishers, while Ea’s Gift had been subbed to the death. Now I see it’s the other way around. My agent had abandoned EG in favor of BVA (apparently it was the better book), and I was so deep in my helplessness that I’d never laid the subs out side by side.
The reason this is disturbing is that BVA was going to get me another agent, if I ever decided to try that route again, and EG was self-pub fodder, something that didn’t have a life in traditional publishing but was good enough to experiment with. I thought my future was in contemporary fantasy anyway, so it would be fine. But the most likely next project, the one that captures my imagination, is another traditional fantasy like EG, complete with a dragon.
So all this means is that I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing. This whole time I’ve been trying to balance what I want to write with what I think others want me to write, which is impossible. I bought into the advice that it’s best to have a whole bunch of people read your stuff and tell you how to fix it, no matter what. I’m starting to think this is a big reason my creativity died.
Other people, those who don’t have a people-pleasing gene as dominant as mine, might do well with this advice. For me, it’s just managed to confuse me enough that I freeze up. I haven’t had a vision for my projects, I see in hindsight, except to write what pleases others. And not in an attagirl way, an ego puffing way, but that if other people don’t like my work, then my work isn’t valid.
What I see now is, if others don’t like my work it might not get published, but that doesn’t make it less valid. And once I understood that, it was easy to see that somebody is going to like my work, if I am authentic and true. Some people know this and apply it instinctively. I never did.
- Brand-new car—My Saturn’s not brand new, but a perfectly wonderful substitute
- Brand-new house—I no longer feel desperate for this like I used to.
- Happy relationship—we’ve always had a rocky relationship, and I’m not seeing that change anytime soon.
- Nicer clothes—Somewhat, because I’m working at it
- off foodstamps—it was scary, but we are now government assistance-free
- good health—The health problems I had then are still with me, but I’m learning to manage them. Also, I’m working on solutions now.
- book published—grumble grumble
- BVA finished—Done!
- new recliner—Got one for my husband, and a futon for me.
- home repairs--That’s happening next week.
- bicycle—Got this before I had a car to take Maggie Rose to school
tighter skin—probably wishful thinking, at my age. :)
- new laptop, lightweight, fast, pretty. Plenty of memory, comfy keyboard. Strong but light. GREAT BATTERY! –Got this one for Christmas last year
- cell phone—It’s been a life saver
- I want to feel free to be myself.—Might never stop working on this one, but I feel more myself than ever
- iPod—We have 3! Hand-me-downs from my mom, but perfectly usable.
That’s 12 out of 16! And while at the beginning, three years seems like forever, it’s really not long in the scheme of things. So maybe I need to make another list. It’ll be a lot shorter now that I’ve received so many of the things I needed. And you know what? There’s still time to receive the other things on my list.
Those things did enrich my life. They helped me feel more independent, more relevant, more connected—and most importantly they brought joy to me when I needed it.
Have you received anything you’ve asked for lately?
Can’t sleep. The moon is so bright, and this futon is so uncomfortable, and lately my mind just races if the tv’s not on. Last night I was up till three. The night before that, one.
What I’d really like to do is go outside and talk to the moon, but the creaking door would wake the hubs, and we have neighbors who would hear me. The moon the way it is tonight, it makes me want things. Like love letters, really steamy, handwritten ones with a wax seal, or maybe tied with a ribbon. Or to sit by the fire, listening to someone play an acoustic guitar. To lie on the grass, holding hands and just looking at the stars. Things like that. But with my laptop on, I can’t even see the moonlight.
This is the last week of school, so soon it won’t matter how late I stay up, because I’ll be able to sleep till a more Godly hour. Six is too early.
I have so much energy right now it’s hard to make myself sit still. But what am I going to do with this new energy, vacuum? I think not! Instead, I post.
Over the weekend I attended a banquet at the OWFI writer’s conference. The Saturday night banquet ends the conference, and that is also the night they announce the winners in the annual contest. The last time I won anything was 1st Honorable Mention for a confession story, of all things, in 2000, and I wasn’t even there to receive my certificate. I don’t enter every year—I’d say I’ve entered maybe three times since. No winners.
The good thing about entering the contest is getting feedback from the professionals who volunteer to judge. I’d forgotten to put postage on the return envelopes, so that meant I’d have to pick up my entries in person. Which meant I might as well lay down $40 for the banquet.
Well, I’m glad I went, because I actually won something. My first novel, Ea’s Gift—the one that landed my former agent—took 3rd place in the fantasy novel category!
I’d entered it five years ago, before it was completely finished (they only need the synopsis and 1st 30 pages) and the judge slammed it, but apparently he slammed all of them, because on his blog he lamented the terribleness of the entries. Yes. Publicly. He’s a fairly well-known writer now, of novels and screenplays, though he wasn’t big then.
So anyway, a finished, polished Ea’s Gift got much more helpful comments. I think it helps when the judge enjoys your sub-genre, too, since Fantasy is such a large umbrella with too many different styles under it. Go visit Ty Drago. He’s got taste. Also, he’s a Quaker. I like Quakers.
I got good comments on Black Veil Angel as well, but the judge felt it shouldn’t have been entered in the YA category. That hurt the score. You know what’s funny? I had just put this judge at the top of my new agent query list for BVA, but I didn’t realize she was the judge for my category. I guess I don’t need to bother now.
My short story, Mon Petit Ami, didn’t get any comments but the score was in the 80-89 range, out of a hundred. She had a huge number of entries, so I don’t hold it against her.
I feel validated, which I really needed, but I still don’t know what to do with these stories. I’ve been looking at small presses and at self e-publishing and at agents. I’m feeling pretty creative, so maybe I’ll just write for a while.
The hubs and I make a good team, some days. A lot of the time we are at odds, but when I’m flexible and he’s engaged I get a glimpse of the fully functional, tag-teaming couple we can be.
Yesterday was one of these days. He volunteered to stop by the grocery store after work, because he apparently saw how stressed I’ve been. Maybe he got a clue when I started ruminating aloud about running off with the circus. Anyway, he pretty much took care of dinner while I finished changing the water pump in my little car.
I’ve been feeling more tired than usual for a couple of days, but I started feeling really bad last night, around the time I put the tire back on the car. I celebrated the job’s completion till I sat back and looked around. Tools and trash everywhere. I knew I couldn’t leave it all out overnight so I pushed myself to put it into some semblance of order. By the end I couldn’t enjoy my success as my dragging ass was distracting me. Plus I knew I was going to have to clean up the kitchen later.
When I got into the house the hubs had already put all the food away, and all I had to do was put the last few dishes into the dishwasher. That is love to me. It’s not a feeling, it’s noticing when I need help and then helping me. Nothing gives me the warm-and-fuzzies more than when my husband volunteers to take some of the responsibility off my shoulders.
And I’ve yet to lose a pound.
The past few weeks have been emotional, frustrating, joyous:
- My stepdaughter had her second child, and my stepson’s wife had their first baby a week later.
- Found out my stepson will be stationed in frickin’ Washington state when he gets out of boot camp in a month, and of course his wife and baby will go along. Not that I’d get to see them much if they stayed here, but dang.
- What should have been a relatively simple job of changing out the water pump has become an exercise in futility, with one impossible bolt and wet, chilly weather.
- I’m not a happy person right now, and I don’t know how to get happy. I feel stifled and trapped and lonely, not to mention off-balance and unsure. And at this point I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it.
- Home repairs might help. I had a meeting with the insurance adjuster about some hail damage to the roof and siding, and it looks like I’ll be able to get new shingles and new paint. That’s nice.
- I’m enjoying getting to know my cousin during the process, since he’s also my contractor. My dad pretty much raised him, and it’s interesting to hear what life was like with that side of the family, since I wasn’t part of it. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.
Something I have learned about myself this week is that I need tidy, beautiful, calm surroundings. My home doesn’t reflect that and it’s something I need to change.
I do my own car repairs when I can, which is most of the time. My current project is replacing the water pump on my tiny Saturn. I didn’t get done yesterday, so with all my tools and parts spread over the ground, of course it decided to rain this morning. I covered everything with a tarp. Hopefully that will be sufficient, and I can get back to work this afternoon.
This skill came from necessity, not from any burning desire to be a mechanic. I learned from my resourceful single mother. My earliest memory of working on a car is when I was about 11, lying under our old Ford and helping her hold the transmission in place while we took turns inserting the bolts. The satisfaction of finishing that job made me a do-it-yourselfer for life. My mom and I were an unstoppable team, in my mind at least. I was a powerful problem-solver.
When I was 18 or 19 I bought a ‘67 Firebird from a friend for $700. I named it Jack. It was primer orange with spots of black, and had no muffler and no power steering. The interior was black leather, though, and the profile was mean. My boyfriend’s dad was a mechanic and he put the muffler in for me, but I never did get power steering. Instead I got muscles, and a broken finger when I hit the curb at the Taco Mayo drive-thru and the steering wheel snapped back. A war wound. I was proud.
Something that’s always given me a mixture of pride and exasperation is how a lot of men react to a lady mechanic, especially a young, hot, teenaged one. “What, you’re fixing it yourself? Well good for you!” I always internally roll my eyes, while at the same time thinking, “Damn straight!” And then I smile and thank the man, because I know they mean it as a genuine compliment.
It’s been a long time since I got that one, since I guess it’s more common for sisters to do it for themselves nowadays, and also because I’m older. But I got it last night. At Lowe’s, of all places, where I see sisters doing it for themselves all the time.
I’d stripped the corners of the head of one of the bolts, so I had to find a wrench that would grip a rounded head. I found one I thought would work, but I wanted to double check with the tool guy since he was standing right there, Paul Giamatti without the polish. I explained what I was trying to do, and after a couple of minutes of discussion he said, “Wait, you’re doing this yourself?”
I held up my hand and grinned. “Yeah, I’ve got the grease under my fingernails to prove it.”
He laughed. “Well that’s great. I love seeing girls do stuff like that.” And then he told me a story about his daughter being mad at him because he insisted she check her own oil. I don’t even know what that would feel like.
The older I get, the more I wish I didn’t know how to work on cars. Bending and squatting and twisting is harder to recover from, plus I think I’ve reached an age where knuckle scrapes and greasy nails are undignified. Not to mention it’s a little sad that the reason I know how is because I’ve been poor most of my life, without a protective papa to spoil me.
Paying someone to do this stuff is out of the question, and I want a car. Doing it sucks, but having done it is great. The knuckle scrapes heal, the grease eventually wears off, and I can relax until the next problem arises.
I’ve come here to post so many times over the past couple of weeks, but I always go blank and give up.
My mental state hasn’t been the best, so maybe it’s best I keep quiet during those times. It’s not just that I let my agent go, but a lot of other stuff that I don’t feel comfortable talking about publicly. And it’s getting harder to separate the happy from the sad. Most of it has to do with identifying my needs and balancing them against duty, and separating perceived needs/duty from actual needs/duty. Tough for a person who can endure almost anything, no matter the toll on her own health and well-being, in the name of duty to others.
The number I was so happy to see at my last birthday has become a stone around my neck. Forty years old, and I’m dealing with the same issues I had at 30. I feel broken and used up. Trapped. Ungrateful.
But I’m starting to feel better. Depression still dogs me, and probably will until this handful of chronic issues is solved, but meanwhile I‘m looking for purpose. I’m thinking seriously about web design, which I can do almost exclusively from home, so I started the free online classes at w3schools.com. I’m already comfortable with HTML, so I’m starting with CSS. I don’t know if it’ll stick, but it feels good to learn. Don’t be surprised if I totally eff up this site with my experimentation. :)
I think I might be around more in the coming weeks.
Sometimes it feels like agent Rachelle Gardner is direct-wired to my life, and posts just for me. Get out of my head, Rachelle! No, on second thought I need you to keep me on track, however accidentally. Today her guest poster Catherine West talks about when a good project is too different to find a home right away. She had to shelve her quirky baby for a while, but ultimately was able to find just the right home for it.
I find myself somehow surrounded by self-pub advocates, so I might toss something out there and see what happens. If I do, it won’t be the quirky baby, who still has some traditional pub life in her. I’m convinced there is an editor who loves quirky babies and is willing to pay for them. But I am considering doing the Kindle thing with my traditional fantasy. It will be at least a trilogy. Thing is, it’s completely different in voice and content from the quirky one, so I might use a different pseudonym so as not to confuse people. Not sure.
So everybody’s wondering what happened, or more specifically, what went wrong. Well the biggest thing is that the response my books were getting from editors indicated they wouldn’t be selling anytime soon. The second one got high interest from a few places, but they ultimately passed. I got the feeling from their comments that even though they liked the book, it didn’t fit into a mold they thought they could sell. (Which I’m sure will send a particular friend into a conniption of righteousness. ;)
The other big thing is that my agent’s communication style wasn’t really a good fit for me. Of course, it being my first time having an agent, I didn’t know what to expect, so it took me a while to figure out what kind of communication I prefer. Once I figured it out, it seemed hopeless. One book had already been sucked in by the black hole of publishing, and a second was circling it. I’d known for a while I was going to have to leave the agency, but I wanted to wait for the right time. I wanted to give her the chance to be compensated for the work she’d done, and I didn’t want to interrupt submissions.
Well, let me tell you, there is no right time. After four years it finally became clear. I just woke up one morning--March 29, to be exact--ready to pull the trigger. As I composed the letter, I looked over my contract to make sure everything was in order, and I saw the date next to my signature. March 29.
I’m sorry my story isn’t juicy with snarky dialog and tears, but it just wasn’t that way. I expressed my gratitude and regret, and she was incredibly understanding and supportive.
And now? I feel free. I feel lighter. I’ve learned a ton about how to deal with business and people in general. I don’t consider my time with her wasted, but I doubt I will wait so long to pull the trigger on a frustrating situation again.
Is there anything specific you’d like to know? I’ll be glad to answer any of your questions.
Okay, so I've been (almost) completely Facebook-free for two days now. I did sneak back to see if anyone commented on my post that I was leaving. No one did. Not that I care, you know, I was just wondering. I don't care that nobody cares.*
Anyhoo, there was a suggestion that I might be suffering from withdrawals. I don't miss it, per se, but I am having to get used to it.
The best way I can explain it is like everytime FB refreshes there's a click in your brain. So about every 30 seconds your brain expects new information. The first day I stayed away, those clicks came every 30 seconds, just like I was still staring at my news feed, waiting for someone to entertain me. Now the clicks are slowing down.
While I was way better informed on FB, I didn't have the space to process all the information. Maybe it's a middle-age thing, or a pre-Internet brain thing, or just a Sherri thing, but I'm finding I work best with chunks of input, rather than a stream.
I'm pretty sure that while there are some people who work well this way, most are like me. It's not the ideal way to operate, and yet we flock in droves to crowd our brains with information, the way we cram Twinkies into our mouths despite knowing we're contributing to the obesity epidemic. I see a divide in our future, a movement to withdraw from social media at the same time others are wet-wiring their brains to broadcast their thoughts to Twitter. Might this be the next great social conflict? Something to think about.
*While my forebrain asserts that no one would comment on a post that I'm not likely to see, my amygdala is telling me nobody loves me.
You know I’ve been staying away from Facebook, and my life is simpler for it. Still, there’s a certain urge to post that I might never get over. Here are some status updates I wanted to post but didn’t.
- Gosh, my computer is so dusty!
- Called my mom. She said she learned how to tickle her amygdala. Then she told me how. Hm.
- Bad tummy. :(
- Soooooo booooooorrrrrrrred. ZZZZZ
As you can see, Facebook is really missing out. I hope this urge stops soon.
It’s that time of year, the time where I delete most of the blogs from my reader and turn off Facebook notifications. I thought about doing it the other way and deleting this blog and making FB my main place, but I realized how very tired I am of the fast-paced conversation and the constant intrusion of FB into my day. To say it’s addictive is an understatement. It’s just such an uncanny replica of the fantasy life in my head, with total control of my interactions and utter immersion in Other People.
It loses something when I’m only reading and not interacting, and that’s what I find myself doing lately.
Especially since launching You Are the Muse, which showed me I’m undeniably tired. I thought it would inject some new life into my online persona, but what it actually did was show me my muse had better things to worry about. ‘Course, it seems like I’m not really interested in much of anything nowadays, except what you’re saying on Facebook. My brain is tired from processing all that info, so I think I’m going to give it a rest. I might even start commenting on your blogs more if I don’t use up all my brain power on FB—won’t that be nice? I might start posting more, writing more, fill-in-the-blank more…
It just occurred to me that I probably melded my life essence with Facebook long ago, and if I’m disconnected too long I’ll start to fade.
Greedy, soul-sucking monster.
But don’t you worry your pretty little head about that. It’s probably too late for you, too. Have fun!
Remember when life sucked because the van died and the hubs had to take my car to work, leaving me stuck at home all day and forcing me to run errands in the evening’s cold darkness? Remember?
Well thanks to that truck you see up there, I have my freedom back. It’s a 2000 Silverado with a back seat big enough for the kids and enough cool features to satisfy the testosterone coursing through my husband and a bed for me to haul my building materials home from the lumber yard.
Two problems I can see are the lower gas mileage of a V6 combined with high gas prices, and the front seats have apparently been sprayed with the devil, AKA Febreze. I can’t do much about the first thing, but the second thing I’ve already started combating with a Bissell Little Green Machine. And of course the solution the Bissell came with stinks to high heaven, so I had to make my own with vinegar and dish soap. I cleaned the passenger seat yesterday, and it seems to be working.
My ‘97 Saturn is the latest model we’ve ever owned, believe it or not, so we’ve been joking about finally coming into the 21st century. The hubs has been so happy to finally have a decent vehicle to drive. It makes me happy to see him happy.
And it makes me happy to have my freedom back.
It was a beautiful weekend here in Blossomland. Perfect church-going weather. That’s right, CHURCH. My brother Wopsle, in a move to be closer to home, took a job as youth pastor at Westmoore Community Church, and I went to check out his new digs and have lunch with the family. (Not linking because I don’t want to embarrass him, but you can google it.)
It’s the coolest church I’ve ever been to, with its sneaker dress code and live rock band. One of their worship songs is “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran, tweaked just a little to make it relevant. So, yeah. It’s a cool church. Wopsle will fit in well there.
And I’d love to be a part of that community, except I’m more of a Buddhist than a Christian, viewing Jesus as a great and enlightened teacher rather than a solitary savior of mankind. So I don’t know how genuine it would be of me to go to church and have no interest in the doctrine, even though I have no doubt they would accept me.
After church we went to Mazzio’s, Wopsle and his wife, my mom and her passel, and me. I’m so excited that my brother will be a regular part of my life again.
I’ll end with a shout-out to my SIL Amy, even though she probably won’t see it. Happy birthday, Amy!
- Much stuff happened this weekend, but none of it involved getting a new vehicle. Looks like I’m homebound for another week.
- If you haven’t been over to my new blog lately, you should go by and check it out. The latest post is a guest article from my blog buddy (and published author) Sarah Stockton, who gives advice on how to work through negative messages.
- My oldest went to her first school dance. 6th grade seems a little young, but they treated it as a sort of masquerade, with prizes for the best costumes. She wore a fancy dress and a boa and big, blingy sunglasses and went as a starlet. I made her hair into a Veronica Lake and let her wear eyeliner and red lipstick. She got so many compliments that now she expects to be able to wear eyeliner every day. Um, no.
- Our kitty cat disappeared Thursday, and we found her on Saturday—in a hollow log where she had died. Getting her out of the log took some doing, but finally we buried her in the pet cemetery with Marmalade and Slippers. I was glad we at least knew what had happened to her, but I’m sad that we put her at risk by adopting her as a kitten. I thought the curse of the Yard of Death was over, but apparently not.
- My latest obsession is personality typing.
- I haven’t felt much like Internetting, but a lot like writing. All my creative energy is going to the new blog and the new novel, and I have very little to spend on others’ blogs, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m a little spare in my commenting.
If you follow me on Facebook you probably already know this, but the biggest good thing that happened is I got my first Valentine's Day gift in I don't know how long. Ten years, maybe? And it was a biggie. My wonderful husband outdid himself by surprising me with tickets to the ballet. (The link is to a snippet of one of the short modern ballets we saw.) Since we never go to fancy places we had to buy new clothes, but with the snow we ended up having to do it all at the last minute. It was worth the inconvenience, though, as it was the first time we'd been out on a date in no telling how long. Stimulated my need for artistic pursuits, and my need for my husband. He enjoyed it, too.
The biggest bad big thing that happened is...
...my van finally died. I was given this Voyager by my generous mother when I really needed a vehicle 9 years ago. For three or four years now, we've thought it was about to die, but it just kept on going. It even started right up on that final, frigid morning, but died before the hubs got two miles from the house. The old girl did her best; she was a good and faithful servant. I'm pretty sure the timing belt broke, and with all the other major repairs needed, it didn't make sense to spend the money to fix it. Instead, we sold her to a salvage so her organs could save other vans.
The snow really made things difficult for a couple of weeks. We had record low temperatures, but this week it'll be warm enough to challenge the record high temps. Unsettling, but at least we're in the good weather phase of the craziness.
Since the van died, I've been home without a car for a week. It didn't take long to get depressed and bored. I miss being able to do my shopping in the daytime, or take a short drive if it's a beautiful day, and even if I didn't do those things I'd at least get out to pick up the kids from school--something I was scared to do until a couple of months ago, but now I miss it.
So the snow combined with the no-car thing has given me cabin fever pretty bad. Night before last I made an after-dinner run to the dollar store, and just drove around for a while with the windows down and Rock You Like a Hurricane blaring. The night wind on my face was like salve on my heart.
So like I said, things haven't been terrible, just different. Lots of little strange things happening on a daily basis. I'm hoping the hubs will take pity on me and not drag his feet getting another vehicle. Then I'll be able to handle anything.
My little experiment with You Are the Muse on Thursdays hasn’t really worked. Originally I thought YAtM needed its own space, but I was too afraid to give that level of commitment when I didn’t even know if I could sustain it for a long period of time, so I left it here to see how I would do. Several weeks later, YAtM grew legs and walked out into the world.
I’m happy to announce my new blog, You Are the Muse. I’ve moved the YAtM posts from here to there and added a couple since, while I waited for the right time to tell you about it. Everything about this is different from anything I’ve ever tried before. It might not be an original concept, might not even be very important in the grand scheme of things. It might not turn into anything at all, ever, just me pissin’ in the wind here. (Hard for a lady, but not impossible. ;) I might not ever finish, but it’s asking me to begin.
I tried to box it in here where I’m comfortable but it never felt right, so now I’m trying to let it go where it wants, without a plan or even a destination. There may be many changes in the early days while I adjust course. I have a feeling I won’t be able to see the turns until I’m right upon them.
It’s funny how a blog about finding the muse within oneself seems to be coming from the outside. It might be the only way my subconscious can get around my inability to promote myself. I mean, who am I to tell other people what they should value? Am I really so audacious as to think I might make something out of this? Really? I can only do it if it’s not me doing it, that’s what I think.
And so I ask for your help on behalf of this-thing-that-is-not-me.
Here’s what I need, and you may do any of these or all, whatever you feel comfortable with. I understand you might not be interested in the subject of the new blog, but your friends might be. Anything will help.
- On Twitter: Follow YAtM on Twitter, and if you feel so moved, give a #FF shout-out
- On Facebook: “Like” the new YAtM Facebook page and share with your friends. I’ll be suggesting the page to my friends, to make it easier. Subscribe to YAtM with a FB app called Networked Blogs. It’s a safe subscription service, with no spam whatsoever. Very unobtrusive. I’ll also be sending invites for that.
- On your blog: If you think your readers will be interested, give YAtM a mention and/or put it in your blogroll. I’ll return the favor. I invite you to write your own post about creativity or the muse and tag it with You Are the Muse, or send it to me as a guest post, or both. I have two lined up, but would love more.
I think that’s a good start.
I imagine I will still post here with news of my life, but I might be a bit busy with YAtM for a little while. I would be EXTRASPECIALLY HAPPY, NO LIE, to hear your suggestions for features or improvements. This is a project for all, not just for me.
Thanks for all your support.
I sit in a quiet house for the first time in a week. A crazy blizzard plus several atypical days of subzero temperatures kept the entire family huddling in a thankfully barely-warm-enough house, but today, finally, our routine is back to normal. Finally, I get some alone time.
Until Mother Nature puts a stop to that nonsense on Tuesday night.
That’s right, we’re getting another (possibly crazy) blizzard which will lock us all in together for at least another couple of days, and possibly for the remainder of the week.
My children will have forgotten how to add and subtract by the time they get back to school on a permanent basis, but at least they’ll get their Little Big Planet pods just the way they want them.
Thank God for video games. And electricity, and heat, and snacks. And running water. Three days, I melted snow for washing. I don’t recommend it. The ratio of frozen pounds to melted gallons doesn’t work in our favor.
Anyway, the family will have a much-needed return to normal before we are hit once again. I have to go to Wal-Mart and elbow my way through the panicking hoards in order to restock my dwindling supplies; get all the laundry finished by tomorrow night in case the drain freezes again; gas up the car—and I hope I’m not forgetting anything.
Wish me luck.
Some think of the muse as a pet who will come if you train it with treats, while others see it as a lover you must coax with candlelight and soft words. I have a friend (though I can’t for the life of me remember which) who calls the muse “that elusive little bitch.” Mine is the Great Seventeen-Toed Hairy Prairie Hidebehind from a book I read in 2nd grade.
But in all seriousness, I see the muse as the connection we all have to a collective well of creativity. How do you define your muse?
The snow doesn't look that deep, but that's because the land's been scoured. The drifts are waist-high.
As crappy as it is here, I know it's going to be worse as the system travels toward New England. Y'all stay safe.
I know how my childhood affected my behavior as an adult. I've seen the same path in others who were raised in very similar circumstances, and in those who were not. I'm wondering if anyone in the world actually grows up to be a healthy, well-adjusted adult, because I don't know many, and the ones I do know are in middle age and have worked through most of their issues. So what are the chances my kids will grow up healthy? Right now it seems like nothing I do will prevent teen pregnancy, alcoholism/drug abuse, and depression. It's all around me.
Right now the problems are manageable, but how do I know which grain of dysfunction will grow into the pearl of self-destruction?
At times the kids seem to doubt my love. (Well, the older two. The 7-year-old has confidence like I've never seen. So far.) On one level I don't understand how this is possible, with all the sacrifices I've made to be a SAHM and to keep the family together, though logically I know they don't see it because they are children. I try for just the right blend of understanding and stern, make every effort to let them be independent while still being involved, demonstrate that I'm a person of worth and so are they.
But some days it appears I've had that balance wrong this whole time. Or, more likely, there is no ideal balance and the whole thing is hopeless. They are children of the world, and the world chews up children and spits them out all the time. And there's nothing I can do about it.
Reading back over this, I sound a bit manic and controlling. That's not how I feel, I just feel frustrated and a bit lost. Another way to look at this whole situation is that I am doing a good job, and since I can't control how my kids see me, I can just relax.
Anyway, that's what's on my mind today. Anybody got any stories in this vein they'd like to share?
Another thing that helped my creativity was rejection, believe it or not. I had two, one for a short story and one for a novel. They were both good rejections as far as rejections go, because they said what they liked about the manuscripts and what they didn’t, and both said they’d like to see something else from me. Often for writers, especially in the beginning stages, rejection is the only contact we have with publishers, so even a “no” can prod us into action and make us feel like part of the process. These reaffirmed my desire to write stories for others’ enjoyment, so I bought MS Word 2010 for my new computer as a symbol of my commitment.
The third thing was finding a folder full of old ideas I forgot about, probably twenty of them. Plot notes, beginnings, characters, scenes…lots of stuff. As I went through them I pulled out the ones that caught my interest. It’s a nebulous thing, interest, because I couldn’t tell you why I left the post-apocalyptic human “canary” in the pile but pulled out the futuristic dreamless society. I think it’s because the second one fermented better. Who knows, maybe the first one will be the one I pull out the next time I find my idea folder.
And finally, I think I realized the real reason I’ve resisted writing in the past. Fear of failure, scattered focus, indecisiveness—all of these can be overcome since I know they’re there. But while those are the branches of the tree, there seems to be a trunk holding all those up. It’s something I’ve never explored logically, because it’s almost impossible to explain in a simple sentence.
I might call it fear of being alone, except when my family’s gone all day I love the solitude. Perhaps it’s a compulsion to be connected, because when the family’s home I find it hard to shut the door and do my own thing. But wait a minute, I don’t really disconnect during the day either, thanks to the Internet. I’m physically alone but I have conversations all day. Maybe I really am afraid of being alone! See my problem? Whatever it is, it makes me feel like I can’t work on something unless it includes someone else. And it’s not only writing, either. I think the items I listed last week are subconscious ways of taking the attention off the real problem.
What do you think? Have you figured out anything about your hidden motivations recently?
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And the biggest question of all: Why am I surprised?
I’ve been calling myself middle aged for a couple of years. The main thing I’ve noticed is I don’t get as many appreciative looks as I used to, but somehow the age thing never played a part in my understanding. I thought it was just because I don’t take care of myself, and that’s part of it of course, but also it’s because my place in society is shifting.* And I didn’t ask it to! I’m still talking to people the same way, but more and more I find myself confused by their responses. People of all ages seem to be connecting with me differently, and I’m just now putting two and two together.
People seem less interested in what I say, but more obliged to listen; the folks who are dismissive and those who are intimidated seem to have switched places; I'm surprised when others seem to be put off by my enthusiastic manner. I fear it makes me seem unstable and/or on drugs. Being compared to a puppy was cute when I was 16, but now it seems weird. However, I think I still look good in a ponytail, but who knows?
Like I said, I’m wondering how I got here without noticing things were changing. But it’s pretty clear now that I’ve arrived at a destination. When I figure out where that is, I’ll let you know. It just struck me, is all.
Oh, I just realized the biggest question of all: Why don’t I know what I’m doing by now? Sheesh.
*I first typed “shitting”, which is also fitting. My place in society is shitting. Indeed.
So I thought I would examine that this week. And maybe next week. Possibly until I figure it out.
I know some of my online friends have a similar problem. Lots of ideas, great ideas, scenes written in the safe space between the ears, characters developed as if we remember them from another life. I'm sure every one of us has different reasons for the disconnect between thinking and doing, and here's my list (which assumes a natural talent for putting words on the page, because if that's not there then none of these will matter):
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Fear of exposure
- Scattered focus
- Personal subject matter
- Physical distractions
- Feeling undeserving
- Uncertainty of purpose
I could probably go on, but already a pattern has emerged. All of these things indicate an imbalance in the writer. And as I look at the list it seems very familiar, so I'm sure there is some internal reason these things came up. The fear of failure is probably universal, and there's tons of advice on how to overcome that particular fear. Fear of success might be more subtle, and in my case probably has to do with not knowing if I can sustain any success that comes my way. After all, I had what most would consider a huge success when I landed my agent, but the failure to get that first book published put me at my lowest point as a writer. Maybe that's something I can explore in the next post.
What would you add to this list? What holds you back?
Or maybe you haven’t noticed that my schedule is now Mondays and Thursdays and so you weren’t waiting for my post. In that case, disregard the first paragraph. And this one. Oh hell, just stop reading right here.
Please don't go.
I’m still getting used to my new laptop. It’s a teensy bit annoying that the keyboard and mousepad are squished over to the left to make room for the 10-key pad, but it’s a small price to pay to have that. Plus when I had to get something off my old laptop, whose mousepad is firmly centered, I kept having to correct the alignment of my hands, so I guess I’m assimilating the new layout. I’m still having trouble with the ancillary keys like delete and pg up/down, and it looks like I’ll have to make a concerted effort to memorize those.
Like I said, people, small price to pay. Can I get an amen?
I bought this laptop for greater portability, as my old one is made for viewing movies and not for carrying. The inconvenience of the keyboard is worth the 4-lb difference in weight, especially since I have a fantastic wireless keyboard for any serious writing sessions. Which is ironic, since I think I may be done with the path of career novelist.
So that brings me to the topic of the first real You Are the Muse post planned for Thursday, and questions for you. No matter how we plan, there’s so much we can’t control anytime we reach for a goal. What if we’re so obsessed with that goal we refuse to see our true calling? How can we tell when we need to change paths? What would it take for you to abandon your current guiding star and navigate by another?
I often don’t start ambitious projects because I’m afraid to fail, as many of us are, but also because I know how likely it is that I will lose interest in the project before it really takes off. I have huge temporary ambitions every day. Usually, if I ignore the urge to declare one, it will fade after only a day or two.
One idea has returned many times over the past year, when I declared it and then ran out of steam. My idea was to start a new blog focused on the spiritual side of writing, and I decided to call it You Are the Muse. I reserved the Wordpress address and made lists of possible topics…and then it faded away as I focused on casting off the stone around my neck—I mean, finishing my second book.
This was a good thing, as I needed to become more zen about the whole process. When I wrote the original post one year ago, I hadn’t finished the growth I felt was in play. Of course, one usually can’t tell when one is finished with a stage of life until one can look back on it and see the lines of demarcation. And I’m not finished with the big picture lesson of this time, but I think I’ve crossed one important line.
So here’s the deal. I don’t want to start a new blog, as I’d originally decided would be prudent. I know I won’t keep up with it if I do that, so what I’ll do is just start posting these things in a (hopefully) regular feature.
What I hope to do with these posts is to speak the truth of my heart as it pertains to writing, and to encourage others to do the same, regardless of what we think we “should” do. I’d love it to be a collaborative effort, starting with stories of personal processes—long or short, rambling or on point, any form you choose—so send me yours.
While inspiration can come from anywhere, I believe what we call the muse is actually the connection to the things which inspire us. I’d like to explore that with you.
Also, I want to learn new things so I’ll have something to talk about at parties.
I’ve been closed off, physically, for some time because of marital dynamics and health issues, but I’m tired of it, darn it! I’m a social creature despite my sometimes crippling uncertainty, and I do my best work when helping others to do their best work. It’s something I’ve known about myself for a while, but I never knew what to do with it. Heck, I guess I still don’t. Listen, there’s a lot of information in my brain. Maybe too much, so I can’t sort it out into something useful. A jack of all trades, a master of none. Or mistress.
What I need is an experience that gives me some idea of how to use my accumulated information, something that boosts my confidence and gives me a direction. My first thought is that it should be a paying job, but I’m in a unique position where the money isn’t necessary right now. The experience alone might be worth it.
Now if I knew where to find such an experience, I’d be good to go. Universe? Any ideas?
The kids and husband are firmly back in the outside world, post-holidays, and I am still ensconced at home, relieved to have my quiet days back, but missing the family at the same time.
I’m learning just how hard it is to pick up a long-abandoned manuscript and care about it again. The synopsis I was supposed to do for the middle grade reader? Well it just isn’t coming along like I’d hoped, which is to say, at all. It’s about halfway done, and I think it’s a viable story and the writing isn’t bad at all, but I always feel faintly embarrassed reading my own writing, whether it’s good or not. Knowing I’ll have to read the book again to write the synopsis has caused me to put it off.
Plus, there’s a lot of pressure in being a hausfrau. And before you working women get all up in my face, let me say I’ve done that, too. I’ve worked all day long, picked up the kids from daycare, fixed dinner, and been so busy with kids and so tired from work that I didn’t lift a finger all week on the house, doing the bulk of the cleaning in a Saturday marathon, with little to no help. That was my life.
Here’s the difference: If I walked into the house above, I’d think, man, this lady is busy. If I walked into my house today, I’d think, man, this lady is lazy.
After all, a housewife with no kids during the day should have no problem keeping the house spotless and the kitchen stocked; a writer with all day to write should have no problem pounding out the pages; a handywoman with tools and time should have no problem fixing the leaky pipe in the wall/rotted siding/holes in the porch room walls; a woman with hours to care only for herself should have no problem exercising and exfoliating.
And each one of those on its own would be true. I feel like if I could focus on one thing I could do it really well. I’d be the best at *insert activity*. But that’s the track my mind goes through, and so though I still hit the high spots, I never feel I’ve done enough. I have so much time, you know? “I really should write today, but it can wait till the kids have something to wear. And what’s that? The toilet’s running again? Damn it, I fixed that already! I guess I could shower first, but I’ve already started this blog post…”
And so now I have one more thing to do, and that is to list my priorities. I’ll do it right after I load the dishwasher.
We ham it up:
And then fate conspires to capture us in all our exaggerated ugliness, such as when we are goofing off at Christmas, and we say to our mothers, “Don’t take a picture of me like this,” whereupon we slouch and pooch and make ourselves as hideous as possible for the sole purpose of humor, and then we see the flashes go off out of the corners of our eyes, and hear previously mentioned mothers say, “Oops, sorry, I got you anyway. I was trying to get Richard.” And of course it becomes the most hilarious thing ever, and how could we keep these ugly photos to ourselves?
And you know what? I think we should all show more of our warts/bellies/neckfat. It makes other people feel better about themselves.