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Posts tagged ‘creative life’

Mid Summer Update 2020 – I’m Okay and I Hope You are Too

It has been a while since I posted here. To be honest, I did feel like posting much. This year has been tough for so many and the last thing I felt like doing was adding to the noise. I felt like being quiet, still, and reflective. I live alone, which is great for the most part in a non-pandemic, but it can be problematic. By living alone, I am the one be to seek out human interaction. I make the effort to call, drive, fly, or any other kind of interaction with the world outside. The pandemic has severely curbed that. Six months ago, I saw my co-workers, family, and friends on a regular basis. Now, mostly Zoom, or email has been the norm. I have gone to see my parents and a few other family members. I am sure to mask up and stay a safe distance away. (Side note: My mom had a tested negative a few weeks ago. She had no symptoms, but needed to get one before she could go to the doctor. So, it seems following the rules of masks in public and social distancing have kept her and by default, my dad, safe. Yay!) But it’s not the same.

Back in March, I couldn’t write. Fiction was a luxury. I recorded no fiction writing that month. The guilt for wanting to do something so frivolous made me freeze in my tracks. Everything kind of stood still. I was aware the seasons were changing. I stopped wearing my winter coat and broke out my spring one. The cherry blossoms appeared. The days got longer.

It wasn’t until April 4th, the day before my birthday, that I really woke up. It was Saturday and I had plans to dash out to the grocery store early. I reached for a tea cup and my back seized up on me. I was bent over in agony, my back spasming several times, trying to reach for the pain killers. A few hours later, after the drugs had kicked in and had a ice pack on my back, I vowed to myself that I needed to take better care of myself.

First better physical care. I never really healed all the way from my surgery in 2019. I dropped a lot of weight, but it came back due to stress, new medication, and a job where I sit all day long. I may not have been able to get to a gym, but I certainly had more time (no two hour commutes anymore) to do something at home. Also, no more stress eating. I tried to clean up my diet, drink more water, and figure out how many calories I should be eating. Things are not perfect (when is it ever), but I’ve lost weight, sleep better, and no back pain.

Second better mental health. I realized that my feelings toward fiction writing were my ego talking. Not writing depressed me. I beat myself up for not writing. Then I asked myself, what good does that do? How does my guilt make anything better. So I started to write again… and I haven’t stopped. Lately it has been everyday, but I started with just a few times a week. At least this way I feel productive, hopeful about the future. I believe my better attitude helps others. Now when people ask how I am, I can say I’m pretty good. And by me talking about how I stay sane and strong, other people start to think about what they can do. My mom has taken up weaving. My brother is going back to school (on-line). Maybe folks are realizing that life is short. Time to start exploring interests and aiming for life goals.

I also started to mediate daily. A few minutes a day to remind myself what/who I am grateful for has done wonders. Like most people, I had been focusing on what I don’t have in life. Now l still have goals, but I also take a time out to remind myself, that I do have a lot that some people don’t have. I still have a regular paycheck, a place to live, people that care about me, my health, and a thousand other things that I take for granted. That daily reminder keeps my ego in check. No guilt anymore.

The novel progresses. I’m deep into it now. Dare I say more than half-way? It feels like a real story now, with multiple characters, setting, dialogue, etc. Moments that were only in my head are now on paper. I hoped to be done by the end of the summer and that is possible. For reference, I haven’t written anything over five thousand words in over a decade. This is the biggest project I have worked on since GW Bush was in office! Yep, it’s been a while. I didn’t even know if I had another novel in me, but here it comes. Flowing out everyday like a steady stream.

I’m doing my best, and I hope you are too. I hope you are taking care of yourself in every way. Even after this pandemic ends, I hope you continue to live your best life. Times are hard right now for many and there is a lot of fear. I don’t have the answers, but I do know, for me, that making my little corner of the world the best it can be makes all the difference.

I’ll write another post sooner than 6 months — I promise.

How Important is Your Time?

I’ve come across a few articles in the last few weeks about managing your time better. Most talk about how we waste time on unimportant tasks and not enough on what we care about. For example, I watched Avengers Endgame again last night instead of, say, writing more of my novel. I had a busy day doing all the adulting things we need to do and when I got home, I just couldn’t muster the energy to focus and write. It happens. I let it go and this morning I was back at it searching for markets to submit to and writing more.

But it also go me thinking about how much time I waste submitting to literary journals. Most doing respond quickly and a story can sit for months, if not years, with no response. Yes I’ve done the simultaneous submission route, but still I feel like my time is being wasted.

To be honest – I’m tired of the treadmill.

Round and round my stories go. Sometimes they find a great place, but most have been sitting waiting for (more than likely) a rejection. I don’t blame the journals. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions to comb through and little time and man power to do it. That’s is the nature of the business. There is a lot of competition. I know this and accepted it.

Maybe this is a repercussion from my layoff, but I’ve been taking a hard look at my career (both of them) and asking myself, “What do I want?” Is this part of the dream to keep submitting, or do I want to move forward in a different way? Like limiting the number of submissions and then, self-publishing them myself. Or should I let go of stories and lean harder into my novel? I love short story writing, but sometimes I think I use it as an excuse not to take on an ambitious work. I shy away from something longer, because I have other stories that I can finish and submit right away.

Something has to change. I’m unhappy with my progress as a writer and I want to shake things up. Focusing on my novel, would consume more of my time, but I would have something BIG at the end. Over a decade ago, I wrote a novel and it never went anywhere. I’m glad it didn’t get published, because I’m a better writer today. Through the practice of craft and classes I’ve taken, I’ve grown into a better writer than my twenty-something self could ever imagine. I think it is time to go all in.

As for my short stories, I like the idea of a limited submissions. Maybe 5-10. If nothing happens, I’m going to self-publishing them and call it a day. All I really want is for people to read and enjoy my stuff. Having journals and magazines publish me is always a treat, but I am not going to chase this need to be a worthy writer. That’s for others, who want it more than me.

I’m going to spend my time in better ways.

Chapter 5 and Beyond

I’ve moved on to chapter 5 of the novel. I wish I could say that this book is flowing easily, but I think I’m a bit rusty when it comes to longer pieces. It has been so long since I’ve passed the 10K mark with a story that it feels like foreign soil to me. The last time I wrote this much on one story, I was in my twenties.

But I like the story I’m writing. I’m still interested. My main character is a complex guy and I’m enjoying spending time with him. So more words get written on the page and I am not ready to stop.

Sometimes I think getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to my writing career.

Yes I’m still applying for jobs and going to interviews, but I also have the fill the other hours of the day. Writing my fiction has been a good way to occupy my time and thoughts. I can always keep busy with a writing project. Also, it’s supposed to be around 100 degrees this weekend! It’s like the universe is forcing me to stay home, in the AC, and write. It’s too hot to go anywhere.

Seriously though, all writers know how hard it is to get time to write. In between jobs, families, and sleep, long chunks of writing time can be a luxury. So this is an opportunity that I’m not going to waste. Soon enough, I’ll be back in the grind. For now, I’m going to write my brains out and enjoy it.

On Why My Fiction Writing is Necessary

To date, I haven’t earned more than $20 from my writing. To be a full time fiction writer is a dream come true, but the reality is that even if you have multiple books published, you still might have to do something else to support yourself (and your family). More practical people would see my work in the past years as a failure.

“Whaaa? You still haven’t published a novel?” they say.

It’s hard for me to explain to someone, who isn’t a writer, why I continue to write. There’s no money coming in from it, so why bother? It’s a hobby — a pastime, that I tinker with but don’t ever seem to get any traction on. At best, I’m an undiscovered genius. At worst, I’m a hack that is deluding herself.

Neither one of these is true for me.

I think I’m a good writer. I’m good enough to be on the shelf with my peers, but I’m not Margaret Atwood, or Octavia Butler. My ego tells me I’ve got something special and my common sense reels me back and says I need to work on that specialness. That sounds pretty healthy to me. You have to have some sort of ego to be any artist. You have to believe people will care about what you create. Otherwise why bother putting it out into the world? Just write your stuff in journals and stuff them under the bed.

As I look for new employment, I ask myself what made me stay at my previous job so long? I was there for almost eleven years. Not only that, but the job I had before, I was there for six and a half years. Clearly, I wasn’t there only for money. What were the traits of that job that made me stay so long and how can I find to same qualities in my next job? That’s the questions I ask myself as I comb through job announcements and email my resumes.

The first time I decided I wanted to write, I was twelve years old. That was thirty years ago! This is a hobby/hopefully second career that I’ve stuck with for more than half my life. So why have I done it?

First off, I’m an introvert. I’m not good at parties and I don’t want to be around people all the time. Even as I type this, I’m alone in my place with no plans to meet up with anyone today. That sounds great to me. Yep, I’m in the yoga pants, t-shirt, and house shoes.

Yet, I don’t want to cut myself off from the world all the time. Writing helps me connect because I can do it in the comfort of my house, but then share with all of you. I can be vulnerable and still feel protected at the same time.

Second, I do love stories. Not even kidding when I say that I can watch the same movies and TV shows multiple times, even if I enjoyed the story the first time around. (And let’s not forget I have a pretty good memory, so even if I remember the story-line, I’ll still watch it.) I just recently found the reruns of Monk on Hallmark’s Mysteries channel. They are still funny, wonderful stories. Also, I will reread some of my all time favorite short stories again and again. Recently, perused through Ted Chaing’s “Story of Your Life” again. (The movie came on Syfy.)

So I write stories that I really enjoy and want to read over and over. It’s a challenge and exhilarating. I love to push myself to go outside of the box and really write a story that is unique, but familiar. Odd, but comforting. I love the challenge and when I feel like I’ve written something good, oh my it is a happy day in my house.

Lastly, I do write stories for you the reader. I love to brighten someone’s day. Make them laugh and forget the crap they are dealing with. Make them say “Wow, what fun!” Making someone else feel better, have empathy, see through fresh eyes, or simple helping them escape for a few minutes is the best job in the world.

I’ve been fiction writing for thirty years, and I plan to do it for at least thirty more.

Don’t Wait For Permission

When I was in my twenties, I was an insecure writer. Just starting to form my voice and style, I wasn’t sure people would get me. I wasted a lot of time wondering what people would say about my writing. Whether I was good enough.

The thing is, everyone around me was encouraging. My parents, my friends, and others were nothing but kind when I would mention that I wanted to write fiction. Still there was a voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough. Instead of plowing ahead towards my goal of getting published. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote my stories. They were never finished.

I would go to work shops to get critiques and even there, with people saying I how talented I was, or how unique the story was, I still shied away from putting myself out there.

I was waiting for permission.

Permission to be a writer, even though I already was one.

I was waiting on the writing gods to bestow upon me some benevolent sign that I was ready to be published. I did submit here and there, but not with any gusto. Basically, I was sitting on the couch waiting for life to happen to me. I was waiting to be discovered, instead of trying to make my voice heard.

It took me a while to realize that I didn’t (and shouldn’t) need anyone to tell me that I was a writer. I had to get over the self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety, in order to get to the place I am now.

What’s the saying?¬†Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Once I moved past the doubts and started to re-imagine myself as a writer, I realized I no longer needed anyone’s permission to be the person I wanted to be. I didn’t wait any longer for someone (like a famous writer) to put their arms around me and say, “Hey I think your talented. Let me show you the ropes.” I was too busy¬†doing to wait for that conversation.

If you are someone who is waiting for that permission (whether you are a writer or not), I’m giving it to you now. Be that person you want to be. Go after that dream. It’s not silly. It’s not wasteful.

Do It.

Now.

I Did It! 30 Straight Days of Posting!

Hearts stand for the days I wrote.

Here we are at the end of the month. It was either March 30 or 31 when I decided to embark on this expirement. I figured I shouldn’t think about it too hard. I would go for it and see what happened.

For the first few days I didn’t even want to say publicly what I was doing. Many times I say I will do something and then life happens and I don’t get to it. So I thought I would post for a while and, if I made it to day ten, then I would say something. Not only did I make it to April 10, but all the way to day 30.

So what did learn by doing this?

First, as I said earlier, I do have the time to write. This month I had a birthday, worked full-time, had some personal and professional bad news, and had all the everyday pressures we all have. Also this month was arguably the biggest month for pop culture. Through all of this, I managed to post everyday. Sometimes it was late at night, but I posted.

Second, my fiction writing fell way behind. Although I wrote everyday, I didn’t write much fiction. Easter was the big fiction writing day, because that post was very short. I figured most people would be busy. This is partly why the posting will scale back to one a week. (I’m thinking Wednesday.) I want to keep up the daily habit, but apply it more to fiction.

I have a big goal this year to write 100K. Plus I want to fix this problem with my novel and finally finish it. Also, I have 5 more short stories to write this year. Clearly, I have no shortage of projects that need my attention.

Thanks to everyone who read and shared these posts. It was fun. Maybe I’ll do it every year in April.

And a big HELLO to all the new people who are following!