Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Hello Darkness My Old Friend… And Good Riddance for Now.

Guys… Just ahead of time, my words are going to be a bit sparing today. The explanation will be forthcoming in a second.

But yeah.

I know that this is somewhere that people don’t want to go all that often, but I felt this is the best place to put this because today is time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and this is basically the mother of all of my insecurities, and I feel we have to go there. Even if it probably won’t be that well-written.

Even as I’m writing this, I’m feeling a certain level of self-censoring, because man, people do not like to talk about this… thing. This shadow of darkness that, whether we like to admit it or not, follows us all.

The world puts such a premium on everything being awesome that they don’t even like to hear when something isn’t. Unless, of course, it feeds their biases.

Think I’m lying? Next time in a social situation, if someone asks you how you’re doing, tell them you’re not doing well. I kid you not. Recently, I had a situation like this in church. Which… if you go, you know this is not the way things are supposed to go.

Other person: “How are things going? Did you get good news yet?”
Me: “Nope.”
Other person: “Oh, that’s awesome. Do you want earl gray or rooibos tea?”

But I digress.

We’re not all awesome all of the time, and sometimes, that darkness waiting in all of us wakes up to say hi. For some of us, it’s addiction, for others, rage issues or depression, for others (me included), it’s anxiety. Everyone has something. But no one really likes to talk about it because good God we can’t let others realize we’re not infallible!

The truth is, though, that we are not infallible. We’re all vulnerable to the dark corners of our mind. Most of the time, we just don’t let that side of us win. The thing is that sometimes, we’re just not on favorable grounds to win a battle against the darkness.

Take me. 90% of the time, I manage my anxiety and I do so without medication for a variety of private reasons. Which isn’t to say that I’m saying everyone should manage their issues without pills. (That would be irresponsible.) I’m just blessed in that I can.

But then my dark side shows up like an unwelcome guest and it feels like my world gets turned upside down. For me, it’s like trying to write/work/do anything with a 100-pound toddler throwing a tantrum right next to me all day long. I can (and do) still get stuff done, but I feel dulled down and less effective than I want to be and it drives me mad. And I know that if I pay too much attention to it, I’ll be useless.

At the same time, I have to process all that input and remember to put things into context. Like remembering that it’s almost certainly a neurochemical response to my environment. And remembering that it’s as much a case of my drive feeding my anxieties as it is my anxieties feeding my drive.

What do I mean by this? Part of why I’m good at the things I do is because I have anxiety (albeit in lesser concentrations) around achieving something to a certain standard. I hate failing and I hate being out of control. So my anxiety around both makes me take measures to ensure my success at the thing I’m doing as far as possible. So really, anxiety in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The issue is that I’m not perfect, and some things are not and will not ever be in my control. And its those imperfections and situations that make my dark side throw tantrums. And when that happens, my self-censoring and/or self-criticism is at its most destructive.

I was there from Sunday until last night. And honestly, it was the worst case that I ever experienced. But as bad as it was, I still feel proud because I feel like I won something. Because I fought back. Did I do so perfectly? No.

But did I let it make me miss an important deadline? No. Did it make me back out of any of my commitments? No. It was harder for me than usual, much much harder, but I made allowances the same way I make allowances for deviations from my normal expectations when I have house guests. And then I took steps to get back to normal.

Am I completely normal? Nope. I’m a bit tired. But I’m here, and I know that if I keep doing all the things that are in my control, things will keep improving and my dark side will remain in its own little corner, waiting for me to maybe do something positive with it like write.

How do you deal with your dark side?

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Update Day: Mad Month

Since today is the last Friday of the month, it’s time for another GotGoals Bloghop update. If you’re also chasing down goals and want a healthy dose of monthly accountability, please click here to join in.

Well. August was a bit nuts.

Not counting the trip to France (which was awesome, by the way), some crazy stuff is happening, including, but not limited to:

1) The farm we’re living on being sold and us needing to find a new house. This is actually an old development, but I didn’t mention it before because… well… how hard could it be? The answer is… very. Long story as to how or why, involving politics which I’m contractually obligated to refrain from discussing in public (yes, really)… but right now, everyone is trying to sell their property and no one’s buying. But it also means that no one is renting out.
2) A business idea I’ve had that has been languishing on the back burner for almost two years suddenly came back to life after a few things simply fell into place.
3) My ganglion cyst basically requiring me to learn to type again so I would stop flexing my wrist.

Despite this, I didn’t do too bad with the goals I set for August:

1) Prepare for my upcoming trip to France.
Obviously done.
2) Find enough CPs for Book 3.
Done for now. Got four CPs, which I think will be enough for this revision round.
3) Start working on another manuscript while I rest Book 3/wait for CPs.
Not done for two reasons. 1) I simply didn’t have time. 2) I couldn’t type for most of early September, which means I was behind on everything when I came back. (See point #1)
4) Clear as much as possible from my contract work to-do list before I leave for France on August 9th.
The ganglion shot this one clear to hell. Along with the fact that prepping to go to France was a lot more involved than anticipated.
5) Finish two more bookmarks before I leave.
Didn’t do this. Same reasons.
6) Have a great time in France.
Done. It was amazing.

What I want to do in September:

This is tricky for me. I thought things would be calmer once I returned from France, but instead it feels like my mind is being torn in twenty directions at the same time.

1) Sort out my schedule so I don’t fall behind on my contract work again this month.
2) Complete the tasks required of me for the above-mentioned business.
3) Move house.
4) Critique the manuscript I received from one of my CPs.
5) Workshop a story idea that I created with a buddy years ago.
6) Continue to actively change my lifestyle to be healthier.

Yeah. That last one needs some explanation. The one less than awesome thing about my France trip was when I noticed that I no longer look like myself in my photos. I was bloated, mostly ashen despite makeup (Not pale. I’m always pale because I have a very fair skin. No… I’m talking about the fact that I look slightly gray.) And… well. Let’s just say it. I’m overweight. Dangerously. Class II obese.

So yeah. Last time I talked about this, I got more than a few well-meaning comments that I’m not fat and I shouldn’t call myself that. But.

At 29, I shouldn’t be thinking that at the rate I’m going, I won’t be able to move. Also. I have heart disease, diabetes, and cancer risks as well as back and hip problems because of my family history. In short, I’ve ignored my weight issues for as long as I possibly can.

I’m approaching the whole thing a bit differently, though, since the other times I tried to lose weight obviously don’t work. The main thing that this is going to rely on is self-awareness and accountability. To maintain both, I’m using a dedicated tumblr blog to keep track of my goals and progress. If you want to follow the process, you can check out the tumblr here.

One More Thing!

I almost forgot to mention this, because I keep forgetting. But September 6th is the two year anniversary of my five-year goal reset, and my decision to throw everything into the writing/publishing/freelancing thing.

So for the purposes of my record-keeping, today is also the end of Year 2 for me.

And you know what? All the crap going on in my life aside, it’s going swimmingly. In year 1, I basically made the same amount of money as I now make in a month and a half. So… yeah. It’s almost staggering to think how much my business has grown (and how much God has blessed me in this business, because I wouldn’t have landed the contract I did without some miraculous intervention.)

How did your August go?

IWSG: Learning to Write Again

It’s the first day of the week, so time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Friday, sometime after my rather victorious Update Day post, I felt a sudden pinch on my left wrist and noticed that the small bump I had, had swollen and was now bigger and aching.

I went to my doctor and… yeah. As I suspected but didn’t want to really admit, I have a ganglion. Which is… annoying to say the least when you literally cannot afford the eight-week recovery time to cut it out. (And have a needle phobia. It’s enough to stand still to be injected. But to let someone put a needle into this thing to pull the fluid out–NOPE.)

That means one thing: Changing my habits to make things easier on my wrist.

And a big one is in the way I type.

See… I’m a self-taught typist, which means I’ve learned all sorts of bad habits over the years that pretty much came back to bite me in the ass seventeen years later. Because while doctors don’t know what causes these little buggers, hurting muscles does contribute, and… well… I’ve been straining my wrists for weeks, spending anything between twelve and fourteen hours per day on writing. The one that had the lump already was just the one that said “ENOUGH!!!” and called it a night.

And here’s the thing, for as long as my wrist is inflamed and the ganglion is being a pain, touch typing, as in that skill I never learned, is probably going to be the safest way for me to write. And I know it will be good for me. But damn it all if learning touch typing while suffering from a ganglion and with work needing to be done doesn’t make me feel stupid. 

Why? Well. I’ve been working on a computer for years. Years. I’ve been writing novels for seventeen, but I’ve been typing… well since I’ve learned to write. So we’re talking about 22 years’ worth of muscle memory I’m retraining on short notice… without being able to really practice for prolonged periods of time and OH BLOODY HELL I’M USING THE OLD WAY AGAIN.

Ahem. 

Yeah. It’s really irritating, but I’m hoping the ganglion will go down ASAP. If the touch typing doesn’t do it… I guess I’ll finally be caving and getting dictation software.

Anyone else get ganglions? Any tips for me? Anyone else think it’s stupid of a country’s curriculum to not make typing compulsory when most employment requires typing for long periods of time? 

Update Day: Still Hectic, but Getting Stuff Done.

This is the last Friday of the month, which means it’s time for another GotGoals? Bloghop update post.

Sorry if I’m keeping this a bit short, but like the title says, it’s hectic here at the moment.

At least I can say I got some important stuff done in July: 

1) I finished my own revisions to Book 3.

2) I got my visum.

3) I’m at a level with my French where I think I can call myself conversant again. (How’s that for a crash course of two months?)

Also, I won Camp NaNo with more than a week to spare.

What I want to do in August:

1) Prepare for my upcoming trip to France.

2) Find enough CPs for Book 3.

3) Start working on another manuscript while I rest Book 3/wait for CPs.

4) Clear as much as possible from my contract work to-do list before I leave for France on August 9th.

5) Finish two more bookmarks before I leave.

6) Have a great time in France.

That’s going to be it for me for today! I’m most likely going to be back for IWSG, but if not, I’ll see you guys when I come back on the 20th. How did your July go? What are your plans for August?

Update Day: Gosh I’m Busy

Last Friday of the month means it’s time for another update day. In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, a group of us have set some crazy/very important goals. Then on the last Friday of the month, we post updates on our progress. You’re welcome to join, if you want. All you have to do is click here for more details.

 

 

As you guys might remember from last month, I got a major contract that’s really a massive jump forward for me. This was the first full month I did this, and guys… I just really love it. More than that, though, I’m proving myself to be more and more inexpendable by being able to understand economics, write articles, and read French. That last one seems to be especially handy, since the company I’m writing for is active in Africa, which has large francophone portions. As a result, the source documents I have to use in creating my articles are all French, and it looks like no one in the comms department (which is what I’m contracted to) can read it.

At any rate, this job has proven to be basically the only one I’ve ever done that has my brain firing both hemispheres. So yeah, it’s awesome. Also awesome is that it totally does count as using my writing skills, which means that as of this month, I’m just under halfway to my five-year monthly earnings goal.

Overall, though, I can say that my life is the best it’s been in… about four years. Although there are some major unresolved issues, it just becomes so much easier to cope when you’re making decent money.

But there’s a bit of a storm brewing, namely a massive and growing frustration at the fact that I’m not able to work on my own stuff as much as I want. See, when I was beyond stressed out 90% of the time, a lot of my creativity just… vanished. Now I’m unstressing and it wants to play. Don’t get me wrong, it’s loving the day-job right now. But let’s just say my muse is a bit pissed that I’m not making massive progress on my own books.

For this, though, I can’t blame the job. I’m just super busy all of a sudden. A lot of new opportunities are opening up for my family so, as the only one who’s “accounting literate” (as in able to tell the difference between debits and credits), I have to pitch in a lot and help. On top of this, I’m making a seriously concerted effort to brush up on my French.

One reason for this is the French reports I have to read. The other is that I got sponsored by someone to go to France for ten days in August. (!!!) We’re going to a rural area up north, though, and will be living with people who really aren’t all that good at English, so I’m doing as much as I can to be conversant in French. I’ve kept up my vocab for years by reading French, but because I don’t have a lot of access to French speakers, I’m seriously rusty on the speaking part. You know… just having the ability to spontaneously convert your thoughts into speech that the other guy understands.

This meant that I had to put even more of an effort into immersing myself, so more reading French, more French TV series (thanks, Netflix!) and just practicing on Duolingo. Oh and narrating almost everything I do to myself in French so I can get used to verbalizing thoughts. Most of this takes up a chunk of time, though.

The French trip also meant that I had to renew my passport (because of course it would expire the one time I really don’t have time to renew it), and will mean that I have to get my visum. Sigh.

So all in all, my life is still getting in the way of my writing, but just in a good way. This month, though, I really really want to finish revisions to Book 3. It’s been languishing long enough. I’m just going to make that my goal for July.

What about you guys? How are you doing? Any goals achieved, since we’re at the halfway mark?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Rolling Back the Hours

On the first Wednesday of every month, a sizable group of us writers take part in the Insecure Writer’s Support group. We share our insecurities, because in the end, it helps us to realize that we’re not the only ones feeling the way we do. If you want to check out the bloghop or sign up, you can find information here.

As I mentioned on my Update Day post, I actually had an amazing month in May, and although there are still quite a few things up in the air, I think June might end up being a big one too.

One of the major highlights of May was that I signed a contract with a major company to help create their content. It actually suits me perfectly because I’m using my degree and my writing skills together.

For now, the contract is basically a test run until December, but given how happy the lady in charge of my work is, I’m starting to feel secure in the fact that an extension past that is probable, even likely. It’s really strange to think that I’m this excited about the job, because it was so not what I had in mind when I started freelancing, but my brain is really enjoying the chance to use both hemispheres at the same time, since I have to be both analytical and creative, reading reams of reports and pulling all that information together into articles that people that haven’t read those reports can understand.

Best of all, assuming this is a long-term kind of gig, it actually gives me the level of financial security I need to allow me more writing hours.

So where’s the insecurity?

Well. In the fact that for the past two weeks, I’ve been sleeping through those writing hours, which means I’m still struggling to fit everything into my schedule.

See, when I was working fixed price gigs instead of hourly like I do now, my hours drifted. It didn’t matter what time of the day I did something as long as it got done before deadline. And I was “filling” my writing hours with freelance work because for the past few months, I was in no shape to be creative. The stress and anxiety from my life exhausted me emotionally, and since freelance was paying my way, I put the emotional reserves I had into that so I can keep racking up the good ratings. (A strategy that paid off in a big way because it directly led to this contract.)

The overall result was that my sleeping patterns shifted to hours inoptimal to my writing. I went to bed at 2 a.m. and woke up at 8, maybe 9. Then I’d work from about 10 a.m. to as late as 11 p.m., and veg out until 2 a.m.

Bad bad Misha.

Because a lot of the stress points in my life have lifted, which leaves me wanting to work on my own stuff. Thing is, if I want uninterrupted writing hours, and I do, I need to wake up at 6 a.m. It’s a simple thing, really. In theory, I should get to bed at around midnight and set my alarm.

Phht. Uh huh.

I did that.

Now I have the lovely sounds of my alarm as backdrop to my dreams.

As I sleep right through it to 8, maybe 9.

So now I’m going to move my hours some more and get to bed by 10 p.m. but it remains to be seen how that works out.

How do you guys on Daylight Savings Time manage to shift your sleeping patterns? It shouldn’t be that different from what I’m trying to do. 

Update Day: Boy Do I Have Good News!

It’s hard to imagine, but this is the last Friday of May, which means, for those of you who don’t know, it’s time for me to share my update for the GotGoals? Bloghop.

Cohosted by me and JEN Garrett, this bloghop has its participants set some crazy or just crazy important goals, and then update on the last Friday of every month. If you want to join in the fun, please click here.

So how did May go? You’d think from my prolonged silence this month that it went horribly, but actually, something happened this month that was nothing short of a miracle. One day, I will be able to publicly talk about it, but because of the nature of my original problem that this miracle solved, I can’t really give too much detail.

But yeah. On 3 May, someone basically walked in out of the blue and offered to solve one of the biggest problems that was threatening us. Just like that.

And then, something else amazing happened. So late last month, someone wanted to hire me as one of five people who would write articles for a project she was working on. Since the project deals with female entrepreneurship (a subject dear to my heart), I accepted the offer and started work.

It’s only a short-term job, of the kind I usually do, so I thought nothing more of it, but then when I started submitting my articles, the lady let me know that I was the only one of the five people who wrote the articles the way she wanted. (She wanted stories, which worked for me. ^_^) So awesome. I’m basically going to write all those articles now.

But then last week or the end of the week about that, she said she’d referred me to the company she works for as a communications consultant, and they wanted to hire me as a contract worker, because they needed someone who could do the work I’d proved to her I could do.

So I said yes, because yay extra work.

And then I got the contract.

Guys… It’s flexible and dependent on how much work they send me. But… We’re talking about jumping to almost halfway to my monthly earning goal, assuming I fill the allowed hours.

And having started this week, I have to say I love the work.

So yeah. I had a super exciting month.

It’s really great to be able to share some good news, I have to say.

Does that mean I’m going to set myself short term goals for June?

Not quite. See, because this is a major and new job for me, I want to keep everything as open as possible and settle into a routine. And once I do that, I’ll be able to turn up the throttle on my personal goals again.

How are you guys doing? Anyone else have good news?