IWSG: A Fresh Start

More information here.

After about three months of drama around finding a house, we’re finally moving to a new place. In fact, I’m writing this on Monday because I know that I’ll be about knee deep into packing, loading, and moving things by the time this post comes live.

Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but it’s really feeling like this move will mostly bring to an end five years of chaos that I’ve had to cope with every day. To that end, I’m really excited to get moving, even if the amount of stuff that needs to be dealt with would have other people pulling out their hair.

But at the same time, this new start also involves a ton of processing of another sort. Emotional. If this move is to be the first day of the rest of my life, I have to cut some stuff out and leave it right here in this house.

I’ve been so locked in survival/defense/fight/flight mode that it’s become my go to. The thing is… it’s exhausting. Except for hopeful, my other single-word emotional status is currently drained. So in a lot of ways, I haven’t felt like myself for at least three years… which is also why my fiction-writing productivity took a massive hit.

I’m not a person hoping for a certain set of perfect circumstances, but when negativity and the accompanying anxiety hits often and at random, making you lose any small amount of momentum you might have gained literally the day before… It’s heartbreaking.

So the fact that I managed to get Book 3 of War of Six Crowns to any stage of completion despite this is something for me to be proud of.

But despite this and despite my growing success as a full-time writer… I’m feeling a growing sense of discontent. In a sense this is a good thing. I’m actually calm enough and able to not be at panic stations for long enough to allow me time to miss certain things I had left by the way-side to just allow me to get through.

See, I’ve been cutting back to the bare minimum so that I could keep going while dragging such a huge amount of drama with me. But now I’m very much to offload the drama right here. Which should really leave a lot of space for other things. And right now, that space feels like a void. A void of writing where I took over two years to finish a rewrite and revision because I hadn’t been able to write consecutively for more than two days in a row in over two years. A void of art because I never felt secure enough to actually commit to an art project.

Here’s the thing though, I’ve been so used to… not… fitting everything in that the thought of moving furniture around in my head is pretty daunting. It feels almost like too much of a challenge to work and write and focus on my health and do more art (other than writing) and read more and resume my French practice so I don’t lose it again and be more active on social media and… and… and… 

But the thing is that I just have to find a way. My thinking is to spend maybe the rest of the month evaluating my life and everything I want to do, and then decide how I’m going to start bringing those things in.

Do you also find it daunting to make things fit into your life? How do you approach it?

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Update Day: Celebration Time

Today is the last Friday of the month, so it’s time for another Update Day for the Got Goals? Bloghop, where a few of us writerly bloggers share updates on our (lack of) progress towards our big and very important goals. If you’re curious or want to join in, click here.

September was a hectic month for me. The first few days was filled with panic and anxiety. The few weeks after that were filled with good times because one of my oldest writing buddies came all the way from Seattle to visit. At the same time, I had a major work function, major work deadlines, and… just general chaos around moving house. And I haven’t even physically moved house yet. Long story.

In short, most of my goals for this month fell by the way-side. But on the positive side, I had another record earning month despite all the chaos and I missed one of my major stepping stone goals by a relatively tiny amount. I was a bit peeved when I realized how close I got. But then I had a bit of a think and realized: Bloody hell. Two years ago, I started with starry eyes and an impossible goal. People told me not to even try this full-time writer thing. But here I am.

Full. 
Time. 
Writer.

Was it easy? No.

Was it fun all the time? Hell no.

Yet, despite all the challenges and the impossibility of what I was doing, I managed to build a thing. So yeah, a lot of other things took a knock so I could get here. This includes my writing and blogging, etc. But once we’re settled in our new house, I’ll be in a better place to actually write my own stuff than I’ve been in five years.

So all in all… Not bad.

I’m going to celebrate this month. And uh… move. Wish me luck.

How did your September go? Anything you’re celebrating?

While we’re on the subject of celebrating, an anthology I’m part of is now available for preorder. 

Enter our mysterious realms where the stories are as varied and rich as the types of soil on this and other planets. Enchanted forests are knotted with roots and vines. Dreaded paths take us through strange, unexplored places.

Investigate new worlds and houses frequented by ghosts. Come across witches and wizards and an assassin tasked to kill Death.

Meet hot robots, hungry winds, and the goddess of chaos. Explore alien lands, purgatorial realms, and a shocking place where people bury the living with their dead.

Encounter paranormal detectives, imprisoned dragons, dark demons, cursed jewels, and handsome prophets. Search shifting worlds trapped in mirrors and a disturbing future where a president aims to rid the world of Otherkind.

Experience a haunted journey on a riverboat, water sprites borne of pennies, preternatural creatures, ancient serpents, and the Lady of the Lake who lurks in dark waters.

From USA Today bestselling and popular science fiction and fantasy authors comes Elements of Untethered Realms, a supernatural compilation of the anthologies Twisted Earths, Mayhem in the Air, Ghosts of Fire, and Spirits in the Water. These forty thrilling tales feature authors Angela Brown, Jeff Chapman, Cathrina Constantine, Julie Flanders, River Fairchild, Gwen Gardner, Misha/M. Gerrick, Meradeth Houston, Graeme Ing, Simon Kewin, M. Pax, Christine Rains, Cherie Reich, and Catherine Stine.

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?

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?