Writer’s Regimen

For a while, almost a year, I had formed a good routine. I was putting several hours a day into my career as a writer. That is not to say I wrote fiction every day. Some days were spent searching for markets, some days doing blog posts, interacting with other writers or possible readers, or working on my webpage. Mondays I wrote a short story from a prompt; most other days I did a mixture of editing and marketing. And then I stopped.
It was a few months ago. And now I can’t even remember why I stopped. I have some issues with mania and depression. Maybe I found something better to do, or maybe I thought writing was pointless. Whatever the reason, one day I decided not to write. The days turned to weeks, the weeks to months. The longer I went without working, the scarier it became to go back to it. I started to not feel like a writer at all anymore.

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep. I thought of all the work I had done, and how no one was ever going to read it if I could not make myself get back in the saddle and finish it. I put “Writing, 1 hour” on my task list. This is not the first time I have done it, but I guess it was the first time I meant it, because here I am, writing. Editing my novel might be the most important thing I could be doing, because I can’t have a career as a writer without a product for people to buy. However, that seemed much too hard to jump right back into. I don’t have any short story ideas and I don’t know if I am up to writing something fresh from a prompt right now.

A blog post about my life, thoughts and feelings is always pretty easy, as I love talking about myself. I know very few people will read this today, or maybe ever. But that is not the point. The point is that the clock is ticking down an hour and my fingers are clicking on the keys. It feels good, still a bit scary, but good.

Maybe I will finish this post in less than an hour. Then what? There are so many things I could do, so many paths I could choose to take back up Awesome Author Mountain. Maybe I could go read and comment on some of my favorite blogs (which I have also been neglecting). Maybe I could at least open my novel and read a bit. Maybe I could organize all my finished and ready to publish stories and start looking for people to buy them. Maybe I could start on another blog post or order business cards. Perhaps making a list is in order. Today it does not matter what I do, as long as I am doing something. Today is one day, but the days will turn into weeks, and the weeks will turn into months, and soon I will feel like a writer again.

I love reading about other writers’ routines; some of them are so strange, with weird superstitions, ticks and habits. Daily Routines is a great blog to check out if you are interested in that sort of thing.

Other than a timer, I don’t have anything that always happens. Some days I feel the need to write with paper and pen, some days I light a candle, burn incense, or turn on the salt lamp. A few days I got really drunk first, which worked out better than I want to admit, but I don’t plan to make a habit of it. I keep a keyboard (the musical type) beside my computer, and I have found that playing a song or two when I am frustrated with something I am failing to write correctly is helpful. If a certain food, action, time of day, or weird habit forms I will let you know here.

Please tell me about your writing routines in the comments.

Fuck Facebook

I have been back on facebook for a week now.

I feel horrible. Maybe it is not related, maybe it is. I slept until 11am today and yet I feel exhausted right now. I have a social event to go tonight and it feels huge and scary. I just want to go back to bed. It is pretty and sunny outside, I should be out there planting seeds, transplanting seedling and making my world beautiful. But I am in here beating myself up for how little I have gotten done this week.

As of last Thursday the house looked great, so clean. Now it is starting to be a bit of a mess. I have not edited my novel at all this week. I wrote a new story for Trifecta, but have not be able to motivate myself to read the other submission yet, which sucks because I know for a fact that I love some of these people writing. I would get enjoyment out of reading them, but the commenting seems so hard. I have not painted, but I have played the piano a little.

My task list started to take the place of facebook. I would come look at my tasks, pick one and do it. When checked it off I got a little dose of pleasure and pride. Now all my tasks look pointless or else overly difficult.

I found myself getting mad about people on social media again last night. People say stupid things, rude things, mean things and I get so mad. I want to punish strangers and I find myself hating people I have been “friends” with for years. Even people I am friends with in real life, who I actually like are so stupid on social media, so empty headed, judgmental and cruel. I know I am a bit of a troll. But I can’t seem to help it, when people’s words hurt me I find myself wanting to hurt them. In real life when people say things that upset me I normally just walk about, but on social media I can’t. Because unlike spoken words which break apart and float away as soon as they are said the status stay, and I can read the mean and stupid words over and over and over. And I do.

I have facebook closed right now, but I want to open it back up so badly. Has anyone commented? Are there any cute pictures? Can it fix me, can it take away the pain I feel right now?

Why does this have to be the way we communicate? Was a born in the wrong time? Will I always feel this disconnected and alone?

I am sure this post has lots of typos and mistakes. I don’t care. Editing it seems pointless, because odds are no one is going to read it anyway. I just write this shit for myself, because I can’t afford therapy. Which is for the best, because I find other people’s public displays of weakness appalling.

A Fortnight without Facebook – Complete

Normally I write fiction for the Trifecta prompt. That was on the to-do list for later today, but then I found that the word “juggle” being on my mind jumped into this piece of personal blogging. Enjoy a bit of my less-exciting real life:

I went two weeks without Facebook or Google+. In one hour I go back. I feel apprehensive. Aside from a little loneliness, it’s been a great two weeks. I’ve done editing, dancing, art, cleaned house, and gardened. My anxiety decreased, and overall I’m happier.

However, my stress now is high, just thinking about Facebook. It’s too much, which sounds silly, as it’s just a big page of people saying little things, but it’s so much pressure for me. I can’t juggle real life and virtual existence. The constant urge to check it, looking every five minutes for fear of missing something. I went two weeks without it. Obviously there was nothing important. The pressure to say something witty. When I comment on a status, I’m an insecure person at a party, desperately trying to seem relevant. When I post something, I’m a yippy dog barking for attention.

I’m not a one-sentence person, nor should I need other people’s approval. The last few weeks I mostly didn’t. I felt good because of what I accomplished and created, not for how many likes I got. What social media gives is not what I need. I want friends to work on hobbies, do activities, and actually care about each other’s lives. I don’t want hundreds of acquaintances, all barking simultaneously.

I need a plan. I have to keep my author page, because someday I will have fans. As for my personal page, I don’t know. I’ve tried time limits and schedules but it never worked. I don’t think it will work now. Once I start reading I can’t stop; once I post I become tethered. Maybe I could cut my friends list, but I don’t know who to cut. Should I delete it? If I do, I will never hear about social events, as I will not be invited directly. Will I become a social hermit? If two weeks without Facebook is a cabin vacation, deleting it is going to live alone in a cave.

Fortnight without Facebook – Day 8

I will risk the cliché and say that time has slowed down. It is 9:01 am, and it feels around lunch time already. There is more time to do things, and nothing feels as hurried. My house is cleaner than it has been for a while, and I am thinking about reorganizing and taking some extra things to Goodwill. I have been working in the garden, editing my novel, writing short stories, and playing the piano. I have a stack of books I have been wanting to read, and I think I might actually start on them today instead of reading Terry Pratchett’s Nightwatch books over and over (I have comfort books. It’s a thing). I went to belly dance drills on Tuesday and I have a yoga class tonight. I got out a half-finished sock I gave up knitting several years ago which I plan to figure out.

The days are open.

My stress is so much lower that I am even thinking about getting a job outside of the home, which normally would put me into a panic. It is strange how in the center of a stressful situation, even if you know the things that would help fix it, the idea of doing them seems impossible. Money has been a big point of stress for me for a little while now. We were doing great while I had an accounting job, and even great while I was on unemployment. I had enough saved up that for a few months after the unemployment stopped we were fine. This has been a wonderful year for working on my writing, and I firmly believe that someday I will make at least a minimum wage income off of my overactive imagination. I am so frugal that it would be plenty. Right now I am making an average of $10 a month, which is a good start. I am not complaining; to be making anything at all in an artistic career should be counted as success. I have enough confidence in my writing that I think even with a job I would still write; not as much, but I would keep doing it.

I plan to do a very small Kickstarter once I finish editing my Young Adult novel. Not money to pay me for the writing of it or anything. I want to have a professional editor look at it, which I think will run me about $250. And I would like to pay the cover artist, Jamie Moore, who did the cover of Treacherous Nature for free earlier this year. It would also be nice to get a few physical copies of the book to start with and maybe a box of business cards for it. I think I could do all that for about $350. If Amanda Palmer, who is already rich, can get $600,000, then I should be able to get $350. But I am getting off topic. That is at least a month away.

I have enjoyed not having social media and I am starting to not even miss it. I’m still afraid that important things are going on without me, but not as much as a few days ago. I’m reaching out more, intentionally connecting with people I care about instead of throwing out word-nets and hoping to catch someone.

A Fortnight without Facebook

Day 1

I have a social media addiction. I love the little happy burst I get when someone replies to my posts. It is a sweet cyber-hug that tingles my whole body with joy. Sounds great. But when I am sad, I try to make myself feel loved by posting on a social media sites and them obsessively staring at it all day. If I don’t get the right number or type of responses, I get sadder. Sometimes I will be having a great day and then not getting enough Facebook or Google+ love can ruin it. This often happens on story posting days. I will post a story on here and then push it to my social media. None of my friends read the story, which is fine of course; no one has to read my stories. And yet, I get so sad. I feel like that lonely little kid I used to be, sitting behind a tree listening to the other children play, wishing they liked me.

I can get the same happy brain chemicals by completing chores and tasks, by writing stories, working in my garden, actually talking to a friend. But once I get stuck in the “no one loves me” zone, I can’t seem to do anything but beg for social media attention.

This is not healthy for me. This is repeating old patterns that I felt I had long since moved past.

So starting today I am on a 2-week social media fast. I wish it could be more, but as an indie author, social media is important to letting people know about my books. I am still going to blog, which is in my opinion a higher-value use of my time.

Right now I feel panicky. Sick to my stomach. Before I closed Facebook and Google+ I posted a status update about this. Are people replying to it? Are they asking me questions? How many likes do I have? It has only been 30 minutes, and I want to go check it.

The important thing for me to keep in mind is the time I am getting back. These are a few of the things I can do with my extra 4 hours every day:

Write more stories
Read a few books
Practice the piano more
Get the house really clean
Work on my garden
Take a walk
Paint
Bake
Talk one-on-one with friends
Plan a party
Exercise
Scrapbook
Knit
Take naps
I will post here from time to time about how life is different without social media.

Wish me luck.

Crunchies in the Fridge

Or Tales of the Crazy Cat Lady – The Turkey Trap

I made a mistake.

Mookie my oldest cat who will turn 15 in two months has always shared food with me.  She mostly eats cat food, but she likes to have a few bites of whatever I am eating at meals.  This has never been a problem so we went with it.  One of her favorite foods is roasted turkey.  Turkey, as long as it is not salty and over processed is good for cats, better than most of the grainy cat foods.  For Thanksgiving I always make a big turkey and the cats eat as much as they want and then have little snacks everyday as long as the turkey lasts.

This year after Thanksgiving dinner I took all the meat and put it in a zip lock bag, then into the fridge (the bones became stock).  Problem was the fridge was as stuffed as the turkey had been, so the bags of turkey got put in the bottom drawer.  Mookie, follows me around most days, so every time when I went to the fridge, even for a glass of water, she was near by.   She could smell the turkey, and the bottom drawer is not very tight, so she would reach out and pull it open.

Once she saw the turkey, she would turn her beautiful big sad eyes to me, pleading “May I haz some more plez?”.  I could not deny her food once she had seen it, so I would open the bag and give her a few bites, which of course chummed the water so all the other sharks would come running. Mookie in Fridge

Soon she realized the best food is in the fridge.  The turkey is of course long gone.  But there is always something in there she wants to eat. Soon I realized she was getting a snack every time I went to the fridge.  Then she started meowing and standing on her hind legs against the fridge every time I went to the kitchen.  She has special crunches upstairs for old ladies, before now when I went upstairs she would follow me and eat some of her crunchies.  At night she would sleep up there with me and eat her crunches during the night.

For the last few nights after I carry her to bed she runs back downstairs and sit in front of the fridge.  Then I have to bring her upstairs and give her guilt until she eats some of the crunchies.  Yes, guilt is a two way street with my cats.  Crazy cat lady remember.  I can also make that face ————>

A few days ago when I was cleaning the fridge she even jumped inside of it.  Cats don’t go in the fridge!!!  They are not nom!

That is why there is now a bowl of crunchies for mature cats in my fridge.  I will start handing her the bowl every time she says “Give me foodz!”.

Don’t judge me!  At least I don’t have children I am going to fuck up and then release onto the world.  My cats stays in my house and in the front yard during walkies.

Writing Inspiration – The Places I Go

There are lots of different ways you can be inspired.  Sometimes I get ideas from dreams, books I read, movies I watch, conversations with friends, art, gardening, or watching strangers in public places.  Inspiration can come from just about any place, so you have to be open to it all the time.  Keep a notebook handy and write ideas down, or take a picture of things that you might need to look at later.

Today I want to talk about travel.   As you might know from reading my blog or if you know me in person, I am an introvert with some social anxiety and a fear of leaving my house.  There are days when it is so bad I can’t even work in my gardens.  I sometimes don’t leave my house for weeks.  Given this, the fact that I love to travel might seem a bit of a contradiction.  And I guess it is.  When I am traveling I am at a higher level of anxiety than at home, and sometimes I have to hide someplace quiet and take deep breaths.  While traveling I call my housesitter often (normally Jeff, one of my best friends) and make him send me pictures of my cats.

Traveling is hard for me.  Very hard.  I cry when I leave the house and have all sorts of horrible thoughts.  I sometimes will be in a wonderful place and be wishing I was in my cluttered office like I am now.  But all the same, I try to travel some place new every year, because the value of travel is worth the price of being a little scared and homesick.  My husband travels a lot with his job, so I normally just go to a city he will be working in so I have a place to stay without spending money, because this being a writer thing does not pay well.  He works and I get to have adventures on my own.  Exploring a new place alone is my favorite way to do it, because I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s timetable or interests.  I once sat in the beaver room at the Biodome in Montreal for nearly an hour because it was what I wanted to do at the time; with another person that could not have happened.   I also like cemeteries, old ones.  There are not many people who are good companions in a cemetery.

I like seeing some places with other people too.  There are some experiences that are best shared, some best alone.  So if there are other people who want to do stuff with me I try to find a balance, spending time with them doing something, alone for others.

The value of travel is many faceted.  Seeing new places, trying new foods, smelling different air, and meeting new people are all part of the package.  When traveling to a new place, even just a state away, you can see the world in a different wayand learn skills you might not have learned at home.  One of the most important things for me is the inspiration, the ideas that can be sparked when you see or experience something new. Those images and sensations get filed away until sometime I am writing and all of a sudden a place comes back to me and it is the perfect place. It is where this story has to happen.

There are two scenes in my novel “Lost in Reflection” that are based on real places I have been.  Places that I would not have been able to see or experience if I was home.

SAM_0790

One of them is Muir Woods near San Francisco.  I had seen pictures of redwoods, and I knew the general idea of a rain forest.  But understanding and experiencing are two very different things.  The smell of this place is something so hard to describe, as well as the how wet and cold the air was.  Being from the south I know hot air is humid, and cold air is dry; that is just the way it is.  But this place was as wet as the hottest Georgia day, but so very cold.  When writing the book I remembered this place and it was perfect.

Here are some excerpts from “Lost in Reflection”.  Keep in mind that this is still in the editing phase, so it could change a lot.

“Once my eyes adjusted to the light I found that I was in a forest, old growth from the look of it.  There were some big evergreens, sort of like pictures I had seen from the Pacific Northwest, not like the spindly pines of home. The ground was a spongy bed of brown and green needles and the air was wet and heavy with the pleasing smells of clean dirt and fresh compost, mixed with the less pleasant odors of mold and rot.”

“It only took a few minutes for me to find a good game trail, cutting through the ferns and emerald green moss that covered everything .  It was sure to lead to water eventually, and it might not just be a trail used by animals. It was old and wide, not as wide as a road, but it looked easier to follow than the paths through the woods around my grandparents’ house that I walked every time I visited them.”

“At some points the trees were so thick that I couldn’t see the sun, just light glowing around the leaves.   This place would have been peaceful in another situation.  I loved being in the woods; the sounds, the smells, and the fresh new feeling of the air.  The place we used to live had a lot of woods around it, but not like these.   At home, even in the woods, the air was still normal and dry.  Here the air was very wet, and I don’t mean humid, at least not the hot southeast humid I was used to.  I mean the air was actually wet.  So wet that in few places it was raining without clouds, little drops of water falling from the trees.  Each drop catching the sunlight and turning to molten gold.”

SAM_0783Another place that shows up in the novel is a hallway from the hotel I stayed in while I was writing a large part of the book — just the hallway, not the hotel itself.   I am not going to put in any excerpts from that part in because it would be hard to do so without giving anything away, and I have not edited it at all yet.  But when you read the book you can come back here and see a picture of the place I wrote about.  Mirrors are creepy, that is all I am saying.

Traveling and seeing these places in real life makes the stories more real for me, and hopefully helps me write them in a way that is more real for you.   There are lots of places I would love to go that I likely never will, because travel is so expensive.  But maybe someday I will get lucky and have the chance to see China, Romania, or England.  I bet there is a story idea waiting around every corner and behind every door in all of those places.

I went to Hawaii a few months ago (lots of kindness got me there), which was an amazing experience, and will show up in my stories for years to come.  I have been meaning to post some pictures and tell you about it. I will do that soon.

My Life Rocks Game

My blog is called weaving reality, because it is about the things I put my determination and energy into making.  Up until now it has mostly been about tangible  holdable, viewable things.   Like pictures of my garden and the food I cook from it,  directions on how to make a rainbow skirt, or my musing on writing, publishing and marketing my work.

But things you can hold are not the only things I make.  I have a vision of the world I want to live in, and I do things all the time to make that world happen.   I can’t change it alone of course, but I can make a little change here and another one there and weave in little threads of my reality into yours and everyone else’s.

Part of the way I can do this is to talk about what I want to change and how.  I can talk about the sort of social system I would like to live in, the sort of government that would make me happy.  I can tell you when I see injustice and how best to combat it.  I can talk about fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia,  fat-hate, poverty, and meanness.

I don’t want to do it in a “this things sucks” sort of way and leave it at that.  I want to tell you how I deal with a situation and try to make my world a little better.

Today I want to talk about something I am calling “the tragedy game” or the “my life sucks game”.    This is where one person says something bad that happened or is happening to them and then you have to one-up it, then someone else has to one-up you, and so on.   This game works on the principle that in our society it is OK to talk about things that are bad in our lives.  It is OK to reach out and try to get support and sympathy.  And it is. I 100% agree that if you are having a problem or you need help, you should reach out to a friend or family member.  As humans we are social creatures; we form tribes and we help each other.   But this game sometimes goes too far, because we all want attention.  If one person is always getting attention by being hurt, sad or broken, then I think we tend to rummage around until we can throw something into the pot.

For example, I had a rough childhood.  But I have dealt with the bad things that have happened really well.  I don’t often think about it; I talk about it even less.  It is depressing, it is in the past, and I am mostly healed emotional and physically.  Talking about it has no profit for me.  Until we start playing “the tragedy game”.  I have found myself in groups of people I hardly know telling them very personal things, just because “my horrible abusive childhood” somehow became the topic of the game.     By the same token, I have found myself telling people about my illnesses or emotional problems, just because that is what we were doing.   This is especially bad when the person who starts the game does so with something that is way less horrible than something that has happened to me or is happening.

And that is the problem with this game. The very first rule is that we have to rank other people’s suffering.  For example, I once had a woman tell me this story about why she does not wear shorts.  Once when she was young, her father hit her with a belt so hard on the back of her legs that it left huge red marks for a few days.  To me, to the person I was then (about 10 years ago) this seemed so little.  Compared to some of the things that have happened to me, her experience was cotton candy.  But now I get it.  I get what she was saying.  She was trying to tell me about the lack of control she felt, about the humiliation, about how someone else took her body and hurt it and marked it. She was telling me that even years later as an adult, in some way her legs still did not belong to her.   So I said, “well, you think that is bad? Once my mom….” or whatever I said I don’t remember now.   But I one-upped.  I tried to get social points by having been abused.

People play this game with all sorts of things.  Mental illness,  physical illness,  discrimination, lack of money, bad relationships, abuse, etc.

I don’t want to play this game anymore.  I want to be the sort of person, who when someone tells me something bad I want to just listen and be supportive.  I will give them attention, and then when I can, change the subject to something more cheery.  I don’t want to sit around talking about all the horrible things in a person’s life or mine, unless we are looking for solutions. I very much don’t want to listen to people tell me all the things they can’t do because of their problems.  This does not make their lives better and it does not make me happy.

At the same time, while it is acceptable to talk about how hard something is, or how broken and substandard you are,  it is not OK to brag.  Sitting around talking about how great your life is, how wonderful you are, how hard you work to get great things in your life, or just how naturally amazing you are is not OK.  We are supposed to be modest.

Fuck that!  I don’t want to be modest.  I am fabulous.  I don’t want to talk about the bad things that have held me down.  I want to talk about how I kicked those bad things’ asses and climbed over them to reach my goals.  I want to talk about how my experiences have made me strong, smart, or creative.    I want to talk about all the great things I am going to do.   I have problems, sure, but I can work through or around all of them to do what I want.  And that is what I want to talk about.   I want to brag, and I want you to brag.   I want you to tell me something amazing about you.

My first brag in this round – I am so confident.  My life experiences have led me to be the sort of person who thinks she can do anything she sets her mind to.  I often think things I do are great and I love showing them to people.

Please, one up me!  Tell me something amazing about you.  Tell me why you are worth knowing and worth having my attention. Tell me how you have overcome something or your plans for overcoming something now.