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Posts tagged ‘Frustration’

100K By September 1st!

We’re well into summer and half the year is almost gone. I’ve been so unproductive this year that I’m a bit frustrated with myself. But I keep telling myself that what gets done gets done. I just wish I could get more done.

Don’t we all wish that?

My home search is on hold right now. Here in the DC area, home prices are so competitive that it is really hard to get a place. Plus I still have some debt from JHU. So my plan is to pay off the debt, then look into buying something. In this market, every thousand dollars makes a difference. On one hand I’m sad I won’t be able to own something now.

But I also started thinking about other expenses coming in the near future. The last thing I want is to have a mortgage, school debt, and other stuff like a car, etc. No thank you. I’d rather pay off the school debt, save for the house, and then save for the car. No more debt.

Seven years ago, I was debt free as I paid off the last of my undergrad loan. That was such a freeing moment and I want to have that feeling again. It’s addictive to have no obligation to anyone.

When I was 16, I took the “Strong Interest” test in high school. Number one career recommendation? Author. Annual salary? $16K.

Yep. I knew I was in a low paying career from the beginning.

But when you don’t have debt, a small salary will allow you to be very comfortable. I just slipped up and made some no so great decisions. Still, I got an MA out of it and over all I still think it was a good decision.

So, yes, my financial life takes up all my thoughts. Writing has fallen by the way side. It’s a three day weekend here in the US. I hope to get something done. I am still submitting. A story I submitted a year ago finally came back rejected and a few others are still in the que.

Can’t say I’m not persistent or patient.

I need to attack my writing goals like I attack my debt. So I’m making a goal right now that I will write 100K in the next two months. That is my writing goal. It’s a big one, but hey, aim high right?

I think I can do it.

Grown-Up Decision for 2016

At my last writing, I bemoaned my slow writing pace and that hasn’t changed much. I’m still squeezing it in when I can, trying to write every day. But other life things have sometimes pushed it to the back. Some I will discuss here. So if you just want to read about writing stuff, I’ll write about that first. And then get into the other pressing life stuff.

On the plus side, I have gotten some writing in and managed to submit a few more stories out into the world. On May 1st, I got my #50 rejection. Not bad. Not bad. I still wish I had more submitted, but I’m still trying.

I also finished a few books, so I’m reading too. I never understand why some writers aren’t reading books. It sounds crazy, like a musician that doesn’t listen to music, or  an actor that doesn’t watch TV, film, or plays.

Make time to read. Make time to write.

But sometimes life just has a way of wiping out those goals.

For me, it started last winter. I focused on writing, submitting, and getting my chapbook together. I renewed my lease on my apartment and didn’t think too much about it. After all, my rent only went up sixteen dollars. Not much. Not enough to worry about.

And then all of my other bills started to got up. Not huge amounts, but enough that I felt the squeeze. Twenty dollars here. Ten dollars there. I’ve always been a very careful, budget conscious person. Working in publishing will never net me riches, but I always did the best I could. I worked through grad school and did my best to be frugal.

But when I sat down and did the math, I was shocked. My rent and utilities were sixty-percent of my take home pay! No wonder I was feeling the squeeze.

I’m just one of the many people who are stuck in this economy. My salary has flat-lined, but my expenses keep going up and up. I decided that if I was paying this much in rent, I damn well better own something. I want to buy a house.

And the thought of owning a home scares me. It’s a big, grown-up, adult decision that I have managed to avoid. Renting allowed me to cut and run, if things got hard. Don’t like the neighbors? Move! Sick of the area? Move! Not so easy when you own the home. No leaving when things get hard. You have to stay and fix the problem (or I guess you could abandon the home, but that never ends well).

But I am also excited by this decision. For the first time, I will be in control of my living situation. All the decisions will be my own. I don’t have a husband, or family help (in terms of money) to make this purchase. I will be doing this all on my own. Already, I have met with a realtor and mortgage broker, seen my finances laid bare, and taken the plunge to -GASP- go to open houses.

(Side note: I find open houses weird. Some people I know love them, but I guess I’m not that curious about how others live. )

You know what? Buying a house is exhausting! I understand now why people say, “It took me a year to find a house.” or “I looked at a hundred houses.” You really do have to look at a HUGE amount of homes. For like months and months. I’ve only been doing this a month and already my weekends are booked up and I find myself watching Youtube videos entitled “House Hunting tips” and “5 Mistakes home buyers are making.” Are we in a housing bubble now? Should I buy in an established area, or up and coming? Condo or single family? Wishlist? Dealbreakers?

So yeah, I’m tired. I still have a day job to do, regular errands to finish, and find time to write, read, and look for a new home. That’s all. Simple, but never easy.

I hope I hit this 500K goal of writing for the year, but I can already tell that I’ll be lucky if I hit 100K. Not matter, what gets done, gets done. I’d take a baby step forward rather than stand in place. 2016 is going to have some major shifts for me, more than I thought.
Now excuse me while I search for some more videos on finding a dream home on a writer’s budget.

Up For Air

Long, cold winters and I don’t mix.  It signals hibernation mode and all I want to do is curl up, bury my head, and wake when the cherry blossoms bloom.  Even then, I didn’t feel much like writing.  Instead, I buried myself in the vast storages of Youtube videos about everything from couponing to how to apply the perfect winged liner.  Somehow seeing someone get $100 worth of stuff from CVS for $2 just captures my attention.  I like a good bargain, so somehow this stuff just sucks me into the void.

This semester kept me quite busy too. (Don’t they all?)  The name of the class was Advanced Revision, so I worked on improving everything I wrote last year. My goal was to write one short story a month, but I didn’t even come close.  In fact, reading over all my lovely goals for this year, I realized that I haven’t achieved any of them.  The year is not over yet, but so far I am off to a supremely crappy start.

Please note: If you’re goal is to not buy any books, DO NOT SIGN UP FOR A READING CLASS.  That’s like swearing off sweets and then signing up for a desert making class.

What the heck was I thinking?

I’m in between semesters now, so I am bound and determined to finish something in these few short weeks.  I only have two more classes to go before thesis, so I have to start getting my work together.  Before I know it, it will be December.  I’d better be ready WAY before that.  Thesis is no joke.  Everyone I know says that it is the hardest class, and I just want it to go smoothly.  So planning, planning, and more planning.  Then writing, writing, and more writing.  Thank goodness my favorite TV shows will be in reruns.  I know that is a distraction, but damn, I love THE GOOD WIFE.  My Sunday is not complete without that show.

I also have to find some time to submit my stories.  I got so wrapped up in the revision, I forgot to keep submitting.  Constantly revising is such a temptation.  But I need to force myself to keep going.

I want to bury my head, but I need to come up for air.

So my tiny, baby goals for this in-between-semester period will be finish one story, revise one story, and submit one story.  If I do more, great, but I’m aiming low.  Keep it simple and maybe I will move forward.

Swimming in the Sea of Literary Writers: Reflections about 2013

Happy New Year!

It’s my first post for 2014!  It’s also my last day of vacation. (BOO!)

Here are some of the highlights of 2013 for me:

1.  Made it half way through my master’s degree.  I need 9 classes and I have completed 5.
2.  Got Margaret Atwood to sign my book.
3.  Wrote more then I ever have in previous years.
4.  Finally went to the dentist and ended up getting a root canal. (Please note — Do not put off going to the dentist.  It is worth it to go regualarly.)
5.  Kept one of my previous resolutions and lost 27lbs.

There are a few other moments, but those are the best.  Even the root canal, which was expensive and painful, counts as a good one, because now I am pain free.  No more chewing on the other side of my mouth.

I would like to talk a bit about the first point.  Getting halfway to my master’s degree is exciting, but it is also draining too.  Quite a few people I came into the program with graduated this sememster.  They opted to take a faster track than myself and are now out the the wide world, master’s degree in hand.  A few are even published. (I’ll put links to some of their work at the end.)  I’m very happy for them and wish them well.

I wonder if they had any of the odd experiences I am having.

I’m speaking of those moments when you realize you are a speculative writer in a sea of literary writers.  There are a handful of others in the program, that I have run into, but mostly we are the strange ones that stand out in the class.  Not necessarily because we are the best writers, but usually because are stories aren’t like anyone elses.  I remember an interview I read about Stephen Graham Jones.  In it, he said that he wrote a story about a guy, who shot invisilble holes in the earth with his invisible gun.  When it came time to workshop it, none of his classmates said anything.  Finally the professor told the class they had to say something and one guy finally spoke up and said, “I don’t know man.  This story was just really weird.”

Yep.  That’s what it’s like.  I should know. 2013 was my year of workshops.  For three straight semesters, I submitted pieces and braved the criticism of my fellow students.  Reactions ranged from flattering, to tough, but fair, to funny, and even the random WTF?.  I am grateful to any thoughtful opinion, even if I didn’t feel it was right for the story.  But I feel self-conscious that my stories aren’t the same.  Sometimes it’s good.  They are memorable and designed to be read multiple times.  Other times, my stories feel like freaks.  They look like strange, ill-formed things that stand out in a sea of perfection.  Hear my inward grown when a really good fellow classmate signs up for the same critique day as me.  I could almost hear the sighs as they read their story first and then my story and mutter, “Why can’t she just write something simple?”

I know some of this is in my head.  In truth, I love my stories and accepted a long time ago that if I wanted to be a good writer I needed to look to Bradbury, Atwood, Bender, and Butler.  Philip Roth and Ernest Hemingway just weren’t going to cut it.  I suppose this is the price I pay.  On the one side, my literary tendencies can come forth and play in the specualtive world.  I get the criticism of those who read and write literary fiction and can analyze those moments.  But the other side is that few of writers read speculative fiction, so when I write about virtual reality, or aliens, the newness can take centerstage.  It helps that a few of us had that same class together and became used to my style, but still the oddness can be a hinderance.

I honestly don’t know if this is something that should change.  I am sure I am gulity of it too.  Since my workshop requirements are over, standard critiquing is over too.  What 2014 will offer in my writing education? I can’t see yet.  I’m sure it will be good, but now it is time for me to work on my own.  Classes might now focus more on analyzing other writers and applying the techniques to my own.  Hopefully this will deepen and improve my writing.
One of my resolutions for 2013 was to get published.  It didn’t happen, but I will keep trying and maybe 2014 will be the year.  I just have to keep submitting.

Here’s to 2014!  Hope your year is full of wonderful moments and interesting stories!

Here are a few of my classmate’s websites —

Like beer?  Like literature?  Head on over to Oliver Grey’s site.
Kelly Ann Jacobson will have not one, but two books out this year!  Check out her site to read excerpts and find links to her short stories and essays.
Want to read more about writer’s lives?  Check out Mike Chin’s blog.  He’s a born storyteller.

Cats and Frogs


I Feel So Stupid Right Now

I have finished another night of class and I feel as if I have hit an emotional wall. Right now, I am asking myself why I bother to get this degree. Everything I like, the professor pointed out as a problem. Parts that I saw as a problem were highlighted as effective. Do I read my classmates work with another brain? Am I so underdeveloped as a writer that I am starting to see bad as good and vice versa?  Somedays (days like today) I just want to quit. No one is forcing me to get this degree. No one forced me to apply to this program. And yet, I take a step back as think, Well, if you knew all this stuff you wouldn’t need to pay all this money.

I want to blame this disconnect on my genre style writing. I am not a literary writer, although I like to think that I straddle the line between genre and literary. Even so, most literary journals, editor, and readers will look at my writing and firmly declare me a fantasy writer. I can wear that label. It suits me and my bookshelves are filled with science fiction/fantasy. I am what I read.

Being a genre writer in a traditional program makes me have a crisis moment at least once a semester. I feel it more tonight, because said crisis had happened several times in previous classes this semester. My process was wrong. My words were shallow repeats of my classmates. Over and over, I feel myself not seeing what everyone else sees. It makes me close my mouth and not open it again, convinced that my words are so empty, how could I ever think they would matter?

I know on some rational level this is not true. When we read a work, we bring our own personal thoughts and experiences. How can your opinion be wrong?

And I still leave class feeling like crap…

I think my real fear stems from not seeing what others see. It is like everyone stares at a cloud and sees a frog. But I don’t see a frog! I see a cat. Damn, where is the frog??? It is insecurity that only I feel and not necessarily present. I don’t know if I will ever get over it. My writer’s neurosis may always be there. The pressure to conform, whether real or imagined, will always be on me in this program, because I don’t see frogs. I see cats.

Sometimes I wish I could be like everyone else. To write a close character study story with an intimate setting and snappy dialogue would be so normal. A story where nothing “weird” happens and plot is not a driving force would fly out of my head and onto the page.

Once in a while, I do write the straight forward literary story, but those moments are rare. My stories (and my voice as a writer) are strange, beautifully strange to me, and haunt me. I write the work that I just can’t get out of my head. And those stories are not going to be found in the literary section.

In fairness my classmates and professors have always been respectful of my work. I’ve never been offended by anything anyone has ever said or written. I am lucky. I had heard horror stories about genre writers being torn apart by literary people. The idea that genre writers somehow don’t work as hard as a literary writer does permeate some programs. I did have a moment about 10 years ago in a community writing session when one woman suggest that I “get rid of all the supernatural stuff and write a real story.” Ouch! Lucky for me there was another reader in that group who told me to ignore her.

*12 Hours Later*

I ran out of steam earlier. Last night I felt so drained and I just wanted to get the thoughts out before they faded. My feelings haven’t changed. I’m still feeling stupid and lost, but I also recognize that this may never change. I enrolled in this program to learn and grow as a writer. If I can’t be challenged, why am I here? To carry on my metaphor, I need to see cats and frogs.

And I realize that this won’t happen overnight.

So I’m going to be frustrated and lost during my pursuit of a master’s degree. I could quit, but what good would that do me? How will that make me better as a writer? Instead of quitting, I need to dig in and do the work. I need to develop bifocals to see both as a literary writer and a genre writer. I have a feeling I’m going to be messing up a lot. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed at times. I still have over a year of classes to take and plenty of assignments and discussions. I do feel like I am growing as a writer. It is just that growing pains hurt!

Hopefully, at the end of this, I will be a better writer. That is my goal after all. I can’t be passive about it. I have to actively work on pushing my old habits aside and trying to learn new ones. I can’t be afraid of the different.

Wish me luck!