Author: nr lines

Unpublished author, devoted Browncoat, fan of Rush, the Vancouver Canucks, & happy endings. And unabashed fangirl.

Dancing in the Rain

Sometimes my life feeds something within the story I’m writing.

I don’t try to put snippets of my life in my stories. I write fiction, not memoirs. But as my writing is an extension of who I am, my life and my experiences feed the fiction.

An example. Today was cold and windy and the air felt like a storm was brewing. I looked out the picture window in my kitchen searching the sky for any signs of impending rain. I had a dog to walk and errands to run and both of these activities would be easier to do when it wasn’t raining.

And it struck me, as I searched the sky, that once upon a time I used to love storms. I would stand on the hill of our former house, the hill that looked out over the western skies, and would dance in the rain. Wild dances, with my head faced up to receive the rain and it poured down. I especially loved thunderstorms, the way the electricity in the air would dance across my skin as I in turn danced beneath the lightening and the thunder.

I  haven’t done that in a very long time, and today as I looked out my picture window, cursing the thought of rain, I wondered why. Why don’t I dance beneath the rain any more? Is it because I’m 46 instead of 26? Because I’m more self conscious? Or is it because as my health has become a slave to weather patterns I no longer feel affinity with the coming storms?

Whatever the reason, I no longer dance in the rain. And neither does Hope, the heroine of my current story. She, like me, used to dance in the rain. She used to live for the feeling of electricity skimming across her skin. Used to life her face to the rain. Used to be the raging storm.  But she isn’t any more. Her life is more…complicated.

And it’s important for the story that she realize this about herself. Realize that she no longer dances in the rain. I didn’t know this until I had my own melancholy realization. My life fed my story. My subconscious worked out a story problem and used my own life to do so.

Introducing My Good Friend Fear

Haunted Trees

As I have stated in an earlier post, I am a writing course junky. I have taken far too many writing courses, actually.

I’m trying to get my writing groove back after the world altering events of the last four months and I’m proud of myself. I haven’t purchased another writing course! Instead I’m procrastinating filling the well by revisiting some meaningful courses I’ve taken in the past.

Years and years ago I took a course from author and teacher Bob Mayer titled Warrior-Writer Overview: How to Go from Writer to Author, Creatively and in Business. Bob is a former military man with a long and varied career that includes time in Special Forces. He has more than 40 books published and teaches novel writing. I don’t know if he teaches this course anymore. I do know that the course kicked my ass when I first took it. And it’s kicking my ass again.

I’m revisiting the second lesson and the thing that has struck me most so far is fear. Right now I’m supposed to be writing out goals. Instead, I’m circling the exercise, an oily feeling deep in my gut. Bob states that anything that causes anger or causes us to be upset is something that we need to look at because anger is a sign that change is needed. That oily feeling, it’s not anger, but it is upsetting. I thought I had banished this fear to the ends of the earth. Instead, it crawled out of the ooze and is attempting to freak me out. All it took was one little exercise to resurrect it.

I talked to a friend last night and we talked about fear. Fear can be a good thing. Fear can keep you from injury or from doing something stupid. Fear can also keep you from doing something risky that will benefit you in the end. Fear can be your ally or it can be your enemy. Today, fear is the enemy. I’m learning, again, to push through it. To identify it and to see it for what it is – a stumbling block that will keep me from truly attempting my dreams.

A few years ago I was part of a writer’s loop where we had little exercises where we were to write about something that was going on in the moment. I was going through some soul searching about my life, my job, my career, my goals and I was honest about where I was at in that particular moment. Funny, eleven years later and I’m struggling with some of the same fear.

In this moment I am surround by my demons. A gut-wrenching, stomach-twisting, brain-paralyzing fear that I will never write. That I will never finish. That I will never accomplish my dream. That my passion is misplaced. That it’s all an illusion created by a dissatisfied soul. That I am lazy. That I am rebelling against the better angels of my nature. That 9-to-5 is what I am born to do. All I am born to do. Nothing more. Nothing less.

In this moment I stare at the sunflowers I have positioned to the right of my computer at work. In this shades-of-grey cubicle, they offer sunshine and whisper to me incoherent words of hope. I stare at them and I am grounded, if only for a little while. Until the demons start to seduce me again.

In this moment I crave silence in my soul. So I can hear my thoughts. So I can find my voice again and speak. So I can have peace. So I can know that peace does exist and isn’t a wistful wish tossed up to a falling star.

In this moment I hear the clack of keyboards, of good, dutiful worker drones pushing through their call lists, connecting with applicants who desire higher education. I hear muted conversations and nasal cackles. I feel alone in the middle of business and not a little lost. I want to jump up from my cubicle and yell and convince someone that there’s more than these glass walls and shades-of-grey cubes and pointless conversations trying to sell the idea of knowledge. I want to toss my project lists to the four winds and dance on my manager’s grave. I want to shuck this life of expectations and conformity and politics and perceptions.

At the same time, i feel naive in this want because no matter where I go or what I do, the world is made up of shades of grey and politics and perceptions. Visionaries are lost by those who are afraid of different. 9-to-5 means shackles but it also means regular pay. Security in exchange for freedom. I’m torn. I’m tired. I’m afraid.

So where do we go from here? I stop talking about change and I start enacting change, that’s what. The next exercise I have in this course is to create and claim some goals. I’m going to do that. And post them here. Fear has a way of keeping us from making time to pursue our dreams. Goals have a way of creating concrete ways to move through the fear and toward our dreams. So even though I’m torn, tired and afraid with my writing I’m not going to let fear win. Not this time.

Thanks, Bob, for this course. And to think I almost didn’t sign up. That would have been a tragedy!

Photo by Dan Zen via Flickr (cc by 2.0)

Self-Care While The World Burns

Sunset

The title sounds a bit melodramatic. For some the past election and current political environment is invigorating. Self-affirming even. For others, such as myself, it feels as though we have entered an alternate reality where the world is burning all around us.

It’s no secret that I have chronic health issues. I deal with pain. Every. Damn. Day. I am also am prone to depression. Both of these health conditions become worse with stress, especially stressful situations that do not seem to have an end in sight. With a POTUS , Cabinet, and Congress who appear to be hell-bent on destroying every civil liberty we the people enjoy in this country, life is beyond stressful.

I’ll be honest, I have had to up all my meds just to deal with the increases in pain AND depressive symptomatology. I’m not alone. All over Twitter and blogs I hear other people stating the same thing. And it feels like it’s going to get worse long before it gets better.

So how do we take care of ourselves when the world is burning?

  • Surround yourself every day with beauty. For me that’s flowers and art and good quality yarn and tea. And stories.
  • Spend some time in nature. In Japan there is a practice called shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Studies in Japan and elsewhere have shown that spending regular time in nature actually boosts the immune system.
  • Find your safe people. Safe people are the people we can turn to when we need to just be. Or need to rant. Or need to be vulnerable. They love and support us free of judgement or recrimination.
  • Listen to your body. There will be days you need to turn off social media and the news and huddle away from the world. There will be days you  need to allow yourself extra rest. There will be days you need to up your meds or see your doctor or therapist. It’s okay. Listen to your body so you can give it what it needs.
  • Move your body. This sort of goes with spending time in nature. Our bodies are meant to move, so every day try to do some movement. Walk, yoga, Pilates, cardio, dancing. It’s all good. Do what works for you and your body today.
  • Drink your water. Hydration is another necessity for our bodies. I tend to trigger migraines if I’m low on hydration so I carry around a water bottle where ever I go.
  • Eat healthy food. I’m not going to tell you what is healthy. We all have different dietary constraints and requirements. Just please, make sure you eat something. Please, for me.
  • Volunteer. I have volunteered my time at many places and I always leave with a change in perspective. Volunteering can help us explore our empathy and compassion in a controlled environment. And giving back helps to ground us.
  • Say no. Oh, this is a difficult one. I’ve had to learn to say no to things that are going to trigger me, or to things that will overload my day. Or things that I would only do because I feel obligated. Saying no has been so very important for the management of my health and well-being.
  • Say yes. Saying yes to things that will bring me joy and create wonder in my life has been equally as difficult, but just as rewarding.

The list could go on. You will need to fill in the blanks with those things that bring you joy and nurture your soul. Maybe it’s traveling, or going to a museum. Maybe it’s eating amazing food while surrounded by good friends. Maybe it’s watching the sun as it starts its low descent in the evening.

This is the joy of self-care. We are all unique individuals and aside from keeping our bodies moving and nourished, we all get to define what self care looks like.

Photo by Sunny  (cc by 2.0)

NaNoWriMo 2016

NaNoWriMo Story Prep

I figured since I’m not currently working, and since I have a story burning up my neurons, I’m going to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this year. I came late to this decision so I had to get my ass going on character interviews and plot points and all those pesky things. And…this will be my first year attempting to plot before writing word one.

I’m a bit of a pantser. No, I’m most comfortable pantsing my way through a story. Which makes revisions hellish. And finishing a story sometimes impossible without going back to the beginning and throwing most of what I’ve written away. I want to build a career out of novel writing so this year I decided to try a plotting method. I’ve done a lot of reading on   various types of novel writing techniques. I’ve taken courses. Lots of courses. Or I’ve purchased and started them. I don’t finish because something inside me rebels at the thought of plotting.

This goes back to the first story I tried to write. Emphasis on the try as it was a hot mess for many reasons. I was so excited to try my hand at writing that I told EVERYONE about it. I basically plotted it during impromptu conversations and at a point I knew all the nuances that made the story. And then didn’t have any drive to actually finish writing it.

At that point I figured that the first draft of a story must be about discovery. It was like I needed to discover the story as I wrote it or all motivation was gone. So I would write that shitty first draft and have a story that needed help. Lots of help. Sometimes total rewriting from the ground up. I tried plotting in different ways several times after that first story, but nothing clicked with me. It was like my brain shut down and my ability to actually apply anything about plotting I had learned didn’t exist.

About five years ago I learned about Candace Haven’s FAST DRAFT technique. It was a revelation that allowed me to write without a lot of pre-plotting. And made me get out of my own head. In fact, I’ll be using the fast draft technique during NaNoWriMo to get this story idea out of my head and onto the page. I’m also loosely using Susan Bischoff’s plotting techniques from her new book The Story Toolkit.

I’ve taken a lot of writing courses over the years. Some I’ve even applied. I figure life is all about learning and growing. And in order to grow as a writer, I need to spend time learning more about the craft of writing. NaNoWriMo offers me a chance to try a new technique. It’s only for thirty days. The pressure is off. And right now I’m not writing for contract so my deadlines are my own. Having the structure of NaNo helps me build my internal motivation muscles.

This story is for me. And I’m going to share my journey online, another thing I’ve never done before. I’m going to try to post an update every day. They may be brief, but it’s important to me to be active here.

I’m also active on Twitter, and will be tweeting about my progress, among other things!

Let NaNoWriMo 2016 commence! And happy writing!

Climbing the Mountain

It’s been difficult for me to accomplish any writing as of late. My languishing blog included. I even thought about discontinuing my blog a time or ten. Why pay for a domain name when I’m no closer to being published than I was 16 years ago when I started writing?

mt-hood

It’s beautiful, but still one helluva mountain to climb

I have felt like this dream of being a multi-published author and actually making a living from the sales of my craft is like climbing Mount Doom. Or driving up to see Mount Hood in a car with no gas. The raw majestic beauty is there, right in front of me, but I don’t seem to be making any progress toward the summit.

In the middle of my writing crisis (pity party), after consuming much chocolate and wine, I came to the realization that I have a blog now because writing is a journey. Why not use my blog to share that journey in all its messy glory?

The blog has been dusted off and while I’m looking into template and web hosting options, I’ve decided to use my blog not to try to inspire others, but to inspire myself. And to share my journey. And to keeping myself honest.

To that end, I’ll be posting some of the exercises I’m doing for a writing course. And I’ll be rejoining Kait Nolan’s Round of Words in 80 Days. Which requires posting here. Which builds in a small level of accountability.

Writing is hard. Learning craft is hard. Finding the motivation in the face of that damn mountain is…so incredibly difficult. And exhilarating. And terrifying. And rewarding. And that’s what keeps me going on this crazy journey.

I have written my way through depression, job loss, health issues, chronic pain, creative drought, self-doubt. I’ve climbed my way out of a hole of writer’s block. I’ve written THE END. I’ve stared at the blank page and made it my bitch.

I am a writer.

No apologies. No justification. I just am.

J. R. Ward, Writing Courses, and Mentorship

First, I must have a total fangirl moment. The incomparable J. R. Ward responded to one of my tweets with just the words I needed to hear to pull myself off the brink of panic and despair. Like, seriously. I’m printing these out and putting them on my laptop so I can remember this always. Because one of the things that makes writing difficult for me is that sense that I’m not good enough. Yes, it’s all tied to my inner demon bitch. But it can be paralyzing and cause anxiety attacks.

JRWARD tweets

J. R. Ward is one of my writing heroes. While I don’t want to be her, because I want to be myself, I would love to be able to write stories that are as emotionally compelling as her stories. And I get there’s no magic bullet or formula for writing. It’s hard work, y’all. Beautiful and sweaty and challenging and rewarding and soul crushing and spirit filling work. But it’s still work. And sometimes it’s lonely and more soul crushing than it is spirit filling. In those moments, words like J. R.’s, they matter. They matter a lot.

And it makes me want to be the kind of writer who is willing to pass on the love, you know? Even if I never publish. Even if my writing becomes something that is just for me. I want to be able to pass on hope and encouragement. And where it’s valid, my writing journey. You never know who may need that kind word while they are in their own dark place.

Speaking of writing journeys, I did something I told myself I wasn’t going to do. I purchased yet another writing course. I say “yet another” because I have purchased probably thousands of dollars worth of courses, books, conferences, etc., over the years. And most of the things I buy, except for the conferences, sit on my shelf or my computer and languish. It’s not that I don’t want to learn, I do. It’s that, well, let me start with the first course I purchased.

In 2008 I purchased the beta version of Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways writing course. It’s an excellent course that I never made past the first four months because my life imploded. Then I lost my job in a company downsize. Then I found a new job almost right away. Well, the why’s aren’t important, but this started a trend of purchasing writing courses and not actually finishing them.

I finally realized I’m a knowledge junky and use the act of learning and acquiring knowledge to procrastinate. I procrastinate because I’m afraid my writing will never measure up. Or that I can’t really spin a tale. My dream is safe as long as it’s simply a dream. It all comes back to that inner demon bitch, doesn’t it?

Last year a thread of an idea wove its way through my mind. It’s a good idea. There’s merit to the story, on the surface a simple story, but depths that round everything out and make it interesting. Life is full of deceptively simple stories. I think that’s why this one grabbed at me like it did. But I couldn’t write. I had snippets of scenes, a story idea, but nothing deeper. Nothing more. So I did what I never do. I grabbed a journal and starting writing all the information as it came to be. Nothing is ordered. The journal is a mess. But there are the bones of something there. I just need to excavate and put them together.

How does this lead back to purchasing another writing course? Well, this mad and haphazard way I have of slapping the story ideas together showed me I needed to try something new to capture the gist of the story while it’s in that embryonic stage. Pantsing things completely isn’t working for me anymore. But what to do? And where would I find the “expert” advice I felt I needed?

Enter the advertisement that has been hounding me online for the last six months. James Patterson is teaching his brand of writing over at www.masterclass.com. I’ve seen the ad on Facebook and popping up every damn where for a while. It looked interesting, but Mr. Patterson doesn’t write in the genre I write, and he’s like uber successful. What could I learn from him? Plus, yet ANOTHER course on writing.

Well, I caved. Why? Writing and social media for authors guru Kristen Lamb took his class and blogged about it. And I read and reread her post. Then went to check out the course information. And finally decided, what the hell. He’s uber successful. And success isn’t out of my reach. And mentorship comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Which brings me back full circle to my fangirl tweet to J. R. Ward. Did her tweet promise me mentorship? No, lord no!  We are so not BFFs because she took the time to reply. And only in my dreams will we sit over coffee and talk about the craft and business of writing amazing stories. However, her general encouragement is a form a mentorship. As is her willingness to share some of her process and journey with authors. If you don’t believe me, go get a copy of her The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide and read it. She is one generous lady.

In addition, I get to read her books both as entertainment and to see what works for me as a writer, what sings. And maybe I can apply what I find to my own writing. If it fits. I may never sit down and have a serious discussion with Ms. Ward regarding writing. I may never meet her in person outside of book signings and writing conferences. And I highly doubt I will ever meet James Patterson at either. Though never say never.

That doesn’t mean I can’t count these two others, along with a plethora of others (I’m looking at you, Patti O’Shea) , as sort of mentors. As guides along my journey. Their guidance is indirect. Subtle. Definitely not a formal mentorship affair. And 100% on me. I have to do the work. I have to apply what I learn to my own writing. I have to find what works for me. I have to apply that guidance to my writing, while keeping my writing something completely my own.

 

 

When Health Fights the Story

What it's like to walk around in a fibro fog. Barely able to see ahead of me.

Original image via Flickr WANA Commons courtesy of Celine Jeanjean

The writing, she is not going well.

I know why. The weather is changing and my fibromyalgia is fighting me every step of the way. How do I cope? Honestly, there are days I don’t cope. On those days I can be found curled up in ball either reading books or watching movies in an effort to forget the pain. Or my mind is so fogged that I can’t remember what I did a minute ago let alone where the story is currently going.

I’m pulled so far out of the story that it takes me rereading my notes and what I’ve previously written in order to jump-start my writing momentum. And this happens more often than I wish.

This last week has been full of bad fibro days. My hands hurt so badly I can’t type. My body aches worse than the flu, with sharp knife like pains stabbing at the base of my neck. My vision is our of focus and my brain; forget any help from that corner. My brain is so wrapped in cotton balls that it’s amazing I can tease out enough brain power to get Velcro Dog to the dog park for his daily jaunt.

It’s days and weeks like this that can plunge me into a grey funk where I question whether I’m ever going to be able to do any productive ever again.

In the past, when I worked a day job as a project manager, I would fight the fibromyalgia. I had deadlines and people depending on me. The projects I was assigned to were important for the company. I couldn’t be the squeaky wheel. Or worse, the locked wheel that could turn no longer. So I pushed and I did half-assed work (that, incidentally, others thought was great. I wonder what the learning here is?). I would come home so exhausted and in such pain that I would collapse on the couch or on the bed and not move again for hours. Weekends were about allowing myself to sink into fatigue. I was no use, no help. At work, I was productive, but just barely. At home, I was a paralyzed zombie.

This is why I quit the day job a year ago. And why the writing has only been barely productive. I’ve also been in creative recovery. I had to find the joy in the story once again. And I found it. It’s a good story, if a basic one. But there is beauty in simplicity, and this story, she is beautiful.

If only I could write it. Every day. Stay connected to the rhythm and the prose. I do so much better when I’m able to remain rooted to my story. So much better.

What’s a girl to do when she really can’t sit, or lay, down to write? She beats herself up. Which is the opposite of productive. It’s so destructive, it can destroy that fragile bud of confidence that’s growing out of repaired and replenished soil. Negativity is the salt that destroys the earth. I refuse to be my own salt.

Last night I had insomnia, another symptom of fibromyalgia. I wrote for a bit, because I was up and the computer was on. The words were a hot mess, but they were on the page. And this is the shitty first draft so get over it already, girl. Just get over it.

After I wrote my hot mess, I started sorting through a box of old papers from college. I’m attempting to declutter the house so it’s less of a giant to clean and organize. This box has been sitting in the office for years, just gathering dust. I was almost manic in glancing through the notes and tossing. Glance and toss. Glance and toss. Glance and, whoa, now this is interesting. I found some notes from a psych course I had taken to earn my M.A. in Psychology. The notes were around self-care. I had written in big bold letters, “BE KIND TO YOURSELF!” Even then I knew I was my own worst enemy.

What does it mean to be kind to myself AND still be a productive writer, keeper of the house, and slave to the dog? Especially on the not so great days.

I don’t know. Not 100%. I know attitude is key. And that there must be tools out there that will help me write when my arms and hands just won’t cooperate. I know that I can research on those days, or read and edit. I can email or message friends and let them know what’s going on. I can look for something joyous to bring me laughter. I can fill the well instead of depleting it.

I don’t have a solid plan other than to make a list of things to try, and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Experimentation, life at it’s best.

And I know that I need to incorporate mindfulness now more than ever. Acknowledge what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling without judgement. And just let the thoughts go. Or counter the negative thoughts with the truth. Which means knowing what is true. Living in the moment. Just. This. Moment. The past is done. The future, it’s not written and definitely not guaranteed. Now is what I have. So take things one moment at a time.

Today may not be a great day to contribute to the story. That doesn’t mean I’m a failure. Or that this story will never be written. It means I accept today for what it is and fill it with things that I can accomplish. That I enjoy. That will make tomorrow’s return to the story all the better.

The story, she may not be going so well. But I am.

The Mystery of Voice

Once upon a time I attempted to figure out the mystery of voice. I had been in and out of writer’s groups and conferences and reference materials and I stumbled on the notion of voice. My writing voice. What was it? What genre did it fit best within? How could I be true to my voice while continuing to grow as a writer?

I turned to an author and teacher who I admired and enrolled in a six week online course on discovering voice. A friend had previously taken this course and raved at how it helped her determine her voice, which helped to determine the direction her writing would take. I wanted that confidence so I signed up for the next offering and learned…not a lot.

That’s not quite true. I learned that my voice has a poetic cadence. I learned that I cannot mimic someone else’s writing voice to save my life. Which is probably a good thing. I learned that I was confused about voice and how several of the exercises related to a writer’s storytelling voice. I felt rather slow. I hate feeling like I just can’t get something.

Upon finishing the course, all the attendees were invited to a private email loop for all the writers who had ever taken the course. There were continuing exercises and discussion related to writing voice. I participated in several. It wasn’t earth shattering, but it was nice to have little exercises where I could write and be myself. It was also a great place for some ego boosting. Come on, you all know that there are points in time when we need a good ego boost. We are feeling low and discouraged and we need a reminder of what is true. This group did that. The author/teacher disbanded the group a year later. I miss it every day.

I was cleaning up email the other day and I found all the emails I had kept from both the course and the group. I read through them all, wondering if years later I could finally grasp that elusive concept of voice. I know I don’t have it all, but right now, voice is the feel of the writing. The word choices. The cadence. The rhythm. It’s how we tell our stories. I’m an intuitive person. I intuitively make my word choices. I can’t tell you why I make any one choice over another. I just…do.

Below are two exercises from this exploration of voice experience. The first is a timed writing about the topic of a first kiss.  I had five minutes to write, and I fictionalized my very first kiss experience. I wrote it more like an memoir than a story.

Todd was tall and gangly, with a greasy face, an eager smile and a shock of red hair that amused me. I was sixteen when we met at my cousin’s house, visiting my relatives in Victoria, and Todd intrigued me. I had not had a boyfriend. I was blissfully unencumbered and loving life as a woman who did what she pleased when she pleased. Okay, as a teen who finally had the keys to her father’s car.
Over dinner, Todd shyly flirted. His attempts were almost laughable, but I was feeling generous and he was trying. He listened to my young feminist self talk about why it was stupid for women to shave and why we were the smarter, more intelligent sex. He laughed at my jokes and he wasn’t scared away when I announced that I was going to run the country some day. Looking back, I think he was either in shell shock or saw me for the mark I was. I was so sure of myself, so certain that I could control any male who came near me. I knew they all wanted one thing. sex, and I was in control now of when and how I would give that. Or if I would. I was sixteen and I was free. Or so I thought.
We went walking after dinner, down the dark, treelined road. The moon wasn’t up and the stars were wild pin pricks in the sky. Todd’s arm settled on my shoulders and I felt powerful. So I stopped and looked at him and asked him if he wanted to kiss me. Like an eager puppy, his eyes widened and his hand shook, almost violently. I walked my fingers up his chest in the way I had seen the Femme Fatals in the movies dance their hands across the chest of the man they were about to ensnare. My hand curved around his neck, tugged at the hair at his nape and my smile deepened as his breathing caught. On tiptoe, I settled my lips on his and kissed him, my tongue gently caressing his lips, my mouth exerting a little pressure. I thought I was working magic. The rise in his jeans told me I was working something.
Then, before his arms could come to life and touch me, before he could use his mouth on mine, I pulled away and started walking again.

There is more to that story. Pieces of the tale colored with anger, violence, and shame. Still, as I read this snippet, I see my earnest, over-confident self. I can feel that night. I can also sense that things are about to turn very, very wrong. I don’t know what the writing of this says about my voice.

This second exercise was one of the impromptu ones that were tossed out on the voice class alumni loop. It’s a timed writing, again. I don’t remember how long we were to write. We were to answer the questions “What in this moment what frightens you?” and “What in this moment excites you?” I remember at the time of the writing that there was nothing that excited me. I was plagued with doubt. When it comes to my passions, I’m often plagued with doubt. It’s a theme in my life I’m working on. I want to change my narrative and live in hope and joy. But on this day I didn’t feel like it was ever going to happen. I was never going to be big enough to live my big dreams.

When I shared my fears I wasn’t expecting feedback. I wasn’t expecting anything. In fact, I regretted hitting send once I wrote it.

What happened was something that spoke to that terrified writer within me. I have these snippets printed out and pasted them by my computer. These have pulled me through whenever I’m too much in my head. The last one, that’s the one I read to myself most often.
I can’t help with the security angle, but I can assure you that you are most certainly a writer, and all you have to do is let it fly. Wonderful post.
I echo Barbara’s sentiment — you are a writer! Reading your post, I heard the keys click beneath fingers, the low conversational buzz. You brought me into your world which is the hallmark of a writer, isn’t it?
What a cool post you did on Barbara’s loop!  I just read it.  With every word you used to question whether you’re a writer, you actually *proved* you’re a writer.  Powerful stuff.  Way to go!
Whoo-wee, girl!  That’s a lowdown secret sly and fancy voice thang you got goin’ on!  That’s one of my rewards! Your voice — I want more of that! I often think others can describe our voice(s) more accurately than we do ourselves.  So sure, use my description as you see fit!  I’d love to know I helped you get a deal, sell a mss., launch a career.  Or just blather.  Not that I believe you blather.  You got that lowdown secret sly and fancy voice thang!
I agree. I think we need to rely on others to describe our voices more accurately than we can ourselves. Lowdown secret sly and fancy voice thang. Never in a million years would have used those words to describe my writing voice. But dayum! I read those words and something inside me loosens and I know with everything that is within me that I can be big enough to live me dreams. Hell, I AM big enough. So what if I can’t pinpoint my writing voice. The point is that I write. And that I’m true to myself. Isn’t that the point for all of us?

When Books Attack

I was procrastinating purging my bookshelves this weekend, in an attempt to make room for new books. Unlike the TARDIS, my bookshelves are not bigger on the inside. I wish I had infinite space for books. I kinda do on my e-reader, and ebooks are one of the sweetest inventions of mankind. But sometimes I want to hold a book in my hands, feel the heft, smell the pages, pet the cover. Sometimes only a paper book will do. And sometimes in my quest to support my fellow writers, I end up buying the Kindle version, the epub version, and all that is left is to purchase the paper version. (I’m looking at you, Carolyn Crane,  Patti O’Shea, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jill Barnett,  Susan Kay Law, Jill Shalvis, Kristin Hannah, the late Vince Flynn, Seanan McGuire, Marjorie M. Liu, just to name a few).

I don’t live in the TARDIS, or in a library, and my husband refuses to add more bookshelves to the house so I can live in a library. This means finite space. And finite space means difficult choices about which books to keep and which books I need to let back into the wild, trusting they will find their way to kind and loving homes. And I put off making these decisions until my husband bitches about the piles of books around the house I absolutely must.

When Hubs brings up the piles of books I know he’s quickly reaching a breaking point. He has a desire for order and items out of place are not, ahem, order. No matter how artistically I arrange these piles, to him the books are not in their right place. The right place would be neatly placed on a bookshelf. A bookshelf that is not stuffed for overflowing with the written word, mind you. A neat and tidy and aesthetically pleasing bookshelf.

I have a lot going against me here. I’m tidy, but I’m okay with some clutter. I like a home that is lived in and cozy, and horizontal surfaces that are completely free and clear from stuff makes me shudder. A minimalist I am not. I have made peace with this. Hubs is trying to make peace with this. It’s actually cute to watch him try. And because he tries so hard, I try to meet him halfway. When he tells me he notices the clutter, I try to do something about said clutter. In this case, organize and purge some books.

I had a system where if I had purchased a book and hadn’t read it come book purge time, the book would automatically go to GoodWill or be gifted to a friend who might enjoy it. Then I started collecting auto buy authors like my nephews collect Pokémon cards and the one year rule no longer fit. While I try to read books as soon as I get them, sometimes I purchase a crap ton of books at one time. Sometimes I purchase a book on release day to give the author that NYT bestseller list boost, but I’m not in the mood to read the book immediately. So the book sits and I may not pick it up for some time. Then there are the books where I read the ebook but didn’t read the paper book but want to keep the paper book because what if my Nook breaks and I’m unable to get a new one and I want to reread the book? Or the zombie apocalypse is upon us and I can no longer charge my Nook? Or I just want to hold a paper book and read for no reason other than just because?

Can you tell I’m excellent at justifying book purchases? Yeah, Hubs noticed this as well.

With books reproducing at a significant rate, I had to do something drastic. First, I had to admit I have a wee bit of a problem when it comes to the compulsive need to own books, sometimes multiple copies of a book. Bookaholics Anonymous may be in my future. In the mean time, I decided to get real and hold an intervention for myself and asked myself the following questions about each of the over 1500 fiction novels I own:

  1. What were the chances I would read the book for the first time (if never read) or reread the book in the future?
  2. If chances were slim, I asked the following to ensure I wasn’t going to do something I would regret:
    • Would the library have the book if I had the yen to read it in the future?
    • Was the book autographed to me by the author?
    • Was the book part of a series where I was keeping the rest of the books?
    • Did I already own the electronic version of the book?

Books that fell into the very slim chance of reading/rereading categories were set aside. Books that were set aside were reviewed against the additional criteria. Simply by purging the books that weren’t part of a series that I wasn’t likely to read/reread in the future, I was able to minimize the piles so there was only one by my nightstand AND clear a shelf for future purchases. Of course, some of the books I purged were hardcovers where I plan to replace with paperbacks because everyone knows paperbacks take up less room. There are only ten in this category, thank goodness!

I have a problem. I love books. I collect them like other women collect shoes. Or how my nephews collect Pokémon cards. I’m okay with that.

I Have Art Inside Me, Dammit!

I have wanted to be many things in my life. A songstress, a teacher, a psychologist, a life coach, a surgeon, an anthropologist, a writer (published and making more money than Nora Roberts. Dream big, right?), a trainer, a photographer, an artist. I became a few of these and other things along the way. Things I fell into rather than made conscious career choices regarding. I rather let life happen to me. And fear. This post is as much about fear as it is art.

When I was a young girl I had a fascination with photography. I watched my dad lug around his huge ass camera and flash set up and saw his face as he framed those perfect-to-him shots. He was rather good. This was long before digital photography and photoshop and I listened to him talk about shutter speed and f-stops and many other things that my younger mind didn’t completely take in. But I knew, I knew in my bones I wanted to be a photographer. So he gave me an old point and shoot and let me go at it. And many rolls of film later I realized I needed to learn more about what made a good shot and how to actually frame up a picture. And maybe how to process my own film. Which would take money we didn’t have. So I set my inner photographer aside until I was older and had money.

I did the same thing with other forms of artistic expression. There was only so far I could go on my own with how to books, and later the internet. I’m an experiential learner who requires a bit of a hands on approach. I’m also afraid of failing. Put these two things together and you get the perfect formula for procrastination.

I do the same thing with writing. I have books in me, but all the online courses on writing and all the how to books don’t make a lick of sense to me when I actually proceed to write. I don’t know if it’s the fear of failing or if it’s how I’m wired or something else. I suspect it’s a combination of things.

For a long time I wrote and never showed a soul. Not even my good friend and amazing author Farrah Rochon. We were both writing and trying to figure out the path to publication and when we both had day jobs we would email all day long about writing. Even have writing challenges. It was the most fun. I miss those days. Farrah went on to become published and is no longer working that day job. My hat is ever off to you, my friend.

Farrah eventually did see a few chapters of a novel I wrote. But never an entire novel. And nothing in recent years. I haven’t had it in me to allow anyone to read what I’ve written. Why? Failure. Perfectionism. Because if it remains unread on my laptop then it’s forever art at it’s purest and not something someone can smash away at with their verbal hammers.

This is not a new sentiment. I was bullied a lot from grade three until I graduated high school for being weird. I was the poor kid in an upwardly mobile neighborhood. I lived in my head and was awkward socially. My favorite pastimes were reading, making shit up, and wandering around in the woods looking for enchantments I knew weren’t real. I knew I was weird. I didn’t need people helpfully pointing that out all the time.

Of all my favorite things, I was acknowledged the most for making shit up. I won awards for my creative writing and just when I started to feel really good about myself and my strangeness, someone would say or do something that sent the very clear message that I was never ever going to fit in. I lived on this crazy precipice of giving all my detractors the finger and giving up pieces of myself in order to fit in. I sometimes wonder if I did give up my love to create and is there a way I can ever get that back.

There is art in me. There are stories. I see them sometimes bubbling below the surface of my consciousness. I have actually completed projects so that should tell me something, right? Yet every time I sit down to write I feel like a fraud and I question my right to create. Who am I to think I could ever tell a story that others would want to read and would actually resonate with them?

Then I remind myself of the single word of advice someone ever gave me: write the story of your heart. Figure the rest out later.

This may not be the best path to a career in commercial fiction, but it is the mantra of my soul when I sit down to write. Someday I’ll be brave enough to share my words with the world. Just not today.