Chasing Inspiration

Thursday, November 01, 2012

NaNo or Go Home

It's that time of year again. National November Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.

I have attempted to complete a novel during NaNo. I've also finished some projects during the November writing marathons. And I've completely ignored NaNo knowing I didn't have the time to do the job well. If at all.

This year I have been struggling to connect with my next story. I've started a few, attempted to plot another and nothing is grabbing my attention. Until last month when I was journaling and suddenly I was writing this scene about a woman who died and is being brought back to life by a man who should be dead. Very supernatural. Very dark. And it wouldn't let me go.

I rushed the scene off to a friend this week asking her if she thought there was anything there. I don't know who the narrator is. I don't know anything more than that scene and the sense it wasn't time for her to die, but other forces wanted her out of the way. Desperately.

Oh, color me intrigued! And a little disappointed. I was hoping to get back into contemporary romance mode. I have nothing against paranormal romance or urban fantasy. I love the stuff! But I have been wanting to write a contemp romance for a long time. Have a few roughly etched out. I love a good relationship story and long to tell one. My muse has other ideas.

I'm getting over my disappointment. It will only kill the kernel of the story I do have. And I'm reminded that character and relationship is story in genre fiction. Yeah, I can do this and tell a relationship story. It may not be that contemporary romance I was longing for, but it will be the story that has me by the throat. And in the end, isn't that better?

So watch out NaNo, I'm coming at you with nothing more than a scene and a desire to see what happens next.  It's time to throw caution to the wind and write!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Friends and Gentle Reminders

I was out with a friend for lunch and we got to talking, as we do, about marriage. Our conversation moved into the territory of leaving and cleaving, needs and choices.

A healthy marriage consists of communication, positive conflict management and each partner having their needs met.  This is where I'm selfish. I want my needs met but I don't always see my husband's. We have lived in the chaos of renovations and higher education and work and life for so long, I think I've forgotten to really see him and his needs. And I interpret how he makes "requests" of me as attacks, as judgement or as a need to control his world. I forget that he needs structure and a certain level of order to the chaos. Me, I don't see the mess around me. I'm learning this is a coping mechanism and not how I actually function best, but I don't see the chaos. I survive despite it. 

So as my friend and I were talking and I shared with her a story about lemons, a kitchen sink and my husband, she gently but firmly showed me that my reaction to the situation was rather passive aggressive and that my husband likely needs some structure that I haven't been providing for him. She shared with me a different way I could have responded that would have met my need and given my husband what he needed. Instead of the push me pull you of relationship dynamics, I could have responded in a way that would have acknowledged we both have needs and we both know how to compromise in order for those needs to be fulfilled. 

We have a relatively healthy marriage, but even in good marriages there are things that need to be addressed and areas we can improve. Some behaviors that are getting in our way. Every marriage needs check-ups once in a while. A good physical where we can see potential issues or warning signs and head them off before they can take root and eat away at the foundation. 

I was reminded I need to really see my husband. To voice my needs instead of fuming at the status quo, and be willing to have some give and take that isn't all or nothing. That is, instead, partnering. These are not new concepts to me. There have been times I've been very good at these things. And times like now when I choose to act in a less than partnering manner. 

To change the patterns we are forming requires a willingness to change  behavior, and the willingness to have some difficult conversations instead of letting things slide. I can't change my husband's behavior, but I can change mine. I can't change his perspective, but I can work on mine. I can't make him share with me, but I can choose to share my needs, wants, thoughts with him. 

There are choices in every situation. They may not always be great choices, but there are choices. Letting things slide can lead to victim thinking (I had no choice, I can't change things, there's no point), or anger and resentment. Change which choice we make and we can instead work to build a stronger relationship. 

Lunch was good. The firm and gentle reminder was what I needed. I'm very grateful for friends who are willing to speak the truth. It helps me grow. And in turn, I hope it will help me as I continue to nurture and grow my marriage and my other relationships.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just Ducky

My FIL's house may have just sold. After spending practically every weekend over there since Labour Day, it's nice to know our blood, sweat and tears are paying off. We hauled out so much crap and recycling from the basement and second floor it's not funny. I think the recycling dumpster at my husband's office has had more play in the last two months than it has ever in it's life. Yes, that is how much crap we hauled out. Most of it paper or electronics in nature.

We sorted. We tossed. We brought home little treasures and items to be sorted through later. We cleaned, we tossed some more. Hubby and his brother fixed miscellaneous items. The house never looked this good inside in the entire time I have been a member of this family. I almost wanted to make a bid on it myself!

We're going to miss the place. We haven't spent much time there over the last five years. My FIL and his wife became snowbirds and spent the winters out of state. Which meant they weren't around for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But after spending two months of weekends over there, I was reminded of why this is such a great house and just how unique it is, in this tiny micro-neighborhood where everyone has a huge wooded lot and houses built in a 70's modern style. It's like an oasis inside the city. You can't really hear a highway or traffic. You can't see your neighbors so you feel like you are out in the country. Wildlife is plentiful so if you're into birding or watching deer meander through your yard, this house would be the place for you.

While it hasn't quite hit my husband yet, this is going to be another good-bye. I know he's been saying good-bye to the house he grew up in for years. Life transitions have continued to remove him further and further from the home of his formative years - moving out, rooms being repurposed, renovations, and his father spending less and less time there.  Even cleaning through the house has been an exercise in saying good-bye. But the final farewell was just a theory. Something that was going to happen in the ambiguous future. Until that day, the house - and all it's memories - were still part of the family.

After December 7th, he'll only be able to lay claim to the memories.

I know how that goes. My grandmother's house on Vancouver Island was a place of joy for me. Every summer I would spend weeks there, exploring the house, the fields, the surrounding area. It was always filled with love and acceptance and my grandma's amazing pies. I loved this house and what it represented to me so much I felt I was going to die when both my grandparents passed away and the family sold the remaining property, including the house.

I would go out of my way and drive by the old farmstead every time I would visit, catching glimpses of changes to the house and the property. Once I even went to the door and asked if I could walk around the property. I never asked to step inside the house. Even if they hadn't changed a thing, it wouldn't be grandma's house anymore. And that I couldn't bear. I would take my memories, wrap them tightly about my shoulders and comfort myself with them.

My husband isn't as sentimental as I am, so I don't think he's going to break down in tears over the sale of his family home. I do know when the documents are signed and we have to hand over our keys, he's going to have a moment or two. Just like he did when we closed the cabin for the first time without his dad. Just like he will when a significant date comes and goes and his dad isn't there to share it with him.

Grief is like that. One day we can feel just ducky, life is fine. We have a handle on things. Then WHAM! out of now where we are hit with a memory, a thought, a niggle that reminds us that things have changed, that we have lost something. And that even though we are managing to move forward, there will always be a hole in our lives from our loss. And that's okay. Better than okay. Without his dad, my husband wouldn't be the man he is today. It's okay to ride the waves and ripples of grief and to acknowledge that this hole is never going to be filled. The hole represents his dad. A man who cannot be replaced. The pain associated with that hole will grow fainter. It will always be there in some way, but he will go days, months, years without it's acute ache.

Grief is necessary. And it's okay. I wish our culture was more comfortable with grief and loss. And the need to express the emotions surrounding both. Without grief, we can't fully taste joy. Without joy, we aren't fully alive.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Laughter: The Great Stress Reliever

This past weekend is the first weekend since we got the call that my FIL was dying that we didn't have any obligations. Okay, my husband had homework and we still had to take care of the dog, but we didn't have to be anywhere or do anything.

I did what I always do when I have a moment to relax. I ended up getting sick. I wasn't feeling that terrific all week and I don't get a lot of time off at work so because I wasn't contagious I Ididn't take any time off. Then I got good and achy and feverish on Saturday. Blessing in disguise because I ended up spending the day in bed watching Netflix and Hulu on my nook tablet, catching up on some shows and generally getting in some laughter therapy.

My husband spent Saturday taking care of some of the outdoor things - raking and bagging the copious amount of leaves blowing around the yard, fertilizing the lawn before winter sets in. You know, those adult-like things that must be done, but I prefer to believe the home maintenance fairies take care of while I sleep. For hubby, these things are therapeutic. I don't get it myself but I don't argue with the results. He's more relaxed, more centered and grounded. Now, if I could convince him that I'm more relaxed and centered when someone else takes care of these items on my behalf.

We ordered in pizza for dinner and spent some highly needed time just being with each other. We've been in one problem solving mode after another for the past three months that it was nice to just be. To breathe. To laugh. Was it ever good to laugh.

We release stress in a few different ways: crying, laughing, sweating. I haven't spent much time crying (I'm sure there's going to be a crying jag in my future). I sweat a bit at Pilates but am not really a fan - even during good sex. So we laughed. So hard my belly hurt and I was actually reduced to tears because I was laughing. So. Darn. Hard. I have no idea what I was laughing at, but man, did that release some of the pent up stress I have been experiencing.

A nice side effect was that my rolling-on-the-floor-dying-from-laughter episode was highly entertaining to hubby. Cuz, I live to entertain. *snort*

Laughter therapy. I highly recommend it. I also recommend going out for dinner with a good friend and laughing uproariously when it becomes apparent that the waiter is giving you special attention due to that shirt you wore that shows off your assets quite nicely. Anywhere you can find it, laughter can be great therapy.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I haven't been on my blog much in the last two months. I have many draft posts but nothing has felt right. Everything I have started to write is off, like I have been off.

My life has been in this state of limbo ever since my husband received a call from his step mom that his dad's cancer treatment was no longer working. Not only was his dad dying in that eventual sense, the cancer was winning and his body wasn't going to hold out against it much longer.

That was in the middle of July. Less than three weeks later, my father-in-law was gone.

Your perception on life changes when you are touched by loss or death.  Mine changed when someone I love was impacted deeply by such a loss. In addition to the grief my husband experiences, there are the complications of family, the practical matters that continue to need to be addressed, the mundane day-to-day obligations that do not stop just because we wish them to.

Life is in a state of limbo because we are on hold. We ride the waves of grief and loss, paddling as hard as we can against currents and rip tides. We try to stay out of the emotional drama of others, but find ourselves getting sucked into these tricky vortexes while we attempt to support others while we cling to each other. Our energy is not there for the mundane tasks - it is devoured by simply being.

A good friend calls this survival mode. And it is. We are not thriving during this time of loss. We are not to the point of rebuilding our lives in a world without my husband's father. We are dealing with crises of varying degrees of urgency and we are giving what little empathy we have left to others. In a sense, we feel bankrupt. Empty. Slogging through the mire with one foot in front of the other because if we stop we will lay down. If we lay down we will be stuck.

Limbo is not a restful place. It is a place of not quite being. Of survival. Of needing to be alert for the danger at our back so we can run at a moment's notice. Hypervigilance partnered with a soul deep exhaustion.  I don't want to live here any more. I want my life back. We want our lives back. And slowly, we chip away at the mountain before us, knowing that even when the crises have passed, life will never return to what we once knew. We will be forever altered. We will have to figure out a new normal.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

He's Just Not That Into You

First, Google what the flying frak have you done with the interface? Seriously, Blogger wasn't broken so what did you hope to accomplish? I swear if Chasing Inspiration wasn't already taken over at Wordpress I would defect immediately. What a pain.

Okay, onward.

Mountain Man and I were recently discussing a conference I attended a couple of months ago and I shared with him a revelation I had about my faith and some insights the speaker shared around growth and joy and God. I don't know what I was expecting from MM. Perhaps I was hoping he would grasp the concepts I was starting to embrace. Or maybe I was hoping he would smile and tell me what a wonderful experience this must have been for me.

Neither happened. Instead he said he was glad I had a good time and started in on some task or another. I was deflated.

I'm often deflated when it comes to Mountain Man and my hopes or expectations that he will be just as excited as I am about something. Or want to listen to me expound on something I find utterly fascinating. The simple truth is - he's just not that into the things that make my belly flip and my soul sing.

I love Mountain Man. He's an amazing man with a wonderful heart. When we were first dating he would hang on my every word, just as I would hang on his. Somewhere in the last 20 years we've stopped hanging on each other's words. Somewhere along the way we stopped trying to see and explore the hidden depths within each other.

My experience made me wonder, do I smile and nod and send MM on his way when he tries to share with me something new and exciting in his life? While I hope not, I'm sure I do. We're busy people with task lists ten miles long. Most of our days are spent away from each other, ensconced in our places of work. When we get home, we're attacking those task lists or tired or both.

I realized that MM just wasn't that into what was important to me in that moment. And maybe I wasn't that into what was important to him. It happened slowly, this relationship apathy. So slowly, we both saw the changes as part of our normal.

One of the things this spiritual leader and mentor said that struck me was that what if all that was wrong with the world wasn't all that was bad in our eyes. What if it was a lack of kindness and soul connection. What if that is part of what is going on in my marriage? A lack of kindness and soul connection. What if I'm part of the problem? If I don't want this new normal, I need to do something to change it. I need to stop and listen with joy and anticipation. No, I choose to stop and listen with joy and anticipation. I choose to connect with MM, to learn anew what inspires him, what worries him. Free of assumptions. Without judgement.

It's not going to be easy, shifting gears away from the task lists and the picture I have in my head of who my husband is. But I think it will be worth it. He may not be that into some of these things that make my heart flutter and my soul sing, but I'm going to be that into him. Because I love him.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

When It's Almost Too Much to Bare

My father-in-law is dying.

This is the first time I have put these words in print. It's one of the few times I have allowed myself to think these words. There's this sense of relief that comes with the admission, as well as a sense of dread.

We're not close, my father-in-law and I. I respect him and the person he has become over the 20 years I've known him. I admire the positivity he displays with his children regarding the cancer that is doing its best to eat away his life from the inside. I grieve for the pain he is experiencing and I wish he was closer so his family could be with him.

Even more than my feelings for my father-in-law, I hurt for my husband. He is not a stranger to loss. He lost a dear friend a few weeks after our wedding. We lost our first dog about five years ago (he was a special dog and we both mourned his passing deeply). He lost his sense of family when his parents divorced but learned to redefine family as people started to heal and move forward. Other family members have been lost - grandparents, his step-father. In all of these situations he has grieved.

He is preparing for a loss unlike any other. The loss of a parent. I do believe the loss of a child can eclipse the loss of a parent, but let's not split hairs. Loss is loss and when someone you love and have relationship with is suddenly missing form your life, you feel the pain. It can be as though someone severed a limb from your body and your told you must continue on, living life the way you did before. Only now, ha ha, without that limb. But don't complain. Don't argue. Don't give the appearance that you even notice the limb is missing.

Loss in our society is a sucky business. But I digress. This post isn't about my opinions on grief and how to handle loss. It's about the fact my father-in-law is dying and I can do nothing for him or for my husband or his family during this time. Except be. And pray.

I am learning once again how important it is to be and to give space when someone is either in the grieving process or preparing to be. He does not grieve in the same way I do. He's an introvert and internal processor. This means he likes his alone time and is more apt to think about things than talk about them. I'm an introvert and a verbal processor. While I like my alone time, I need to talk things through in order to truly understand them. The best thing I can do for my husband as he prepares to say good-bye to his father in little, painful steps is to give him his space, to let him experience this process in his way, and to be there for him to remind him that he's not alone.

I can also pray for him. And with him. We both believe in a kind and loving God. I am not a theological expert, but I can say I believe that God has given all of man free will and with free will choices. He has allowed life on this planet to progress naturally. Yes, I do belive in evolution. I don't necessarily buy into the fact we come from apes or something that climbed out the sea. That smacks of fantasy to me.

But I believe that this earth is progressing under the natural consequences of choices every living thing makes. And that with the evolution of all good things, there are what we consider the not so good things. I don't believe God will just wipe everything out and make it so bad things don't happen. To do that, he would have to revoke free will. Anyway, this is my long way of saying, I believe there can be horrible things like cancer and death and a kind and loving God. I believe there are mysteries that I am not meant to solve and questions bigger than I can answer. That sometimes have no answer.

I believe God wants to share in our grief. He wants to be present in our day-to-day. He wants to be invited in. So I pray. I do pray for healing, that by a miracle my father-in-law would be cured of cancer. I also pray for peace and joy. Yes, joy. Joy in a life well lived. Joy in knowing we are blessed to be a part of each other's lives. Joy in knowing death is not the end but another transition in our journey.

I also pray that my husband allows himself to grieve. That his family allows themselves to go through the emotions and stages of loss. Yes, even being angry at the cancer, at their father. At God. I pray for reconciliation. God has laid that on my heart since last year and while I'm not sure what I'm praying for here, I still pray it. God is good. He has a reason.

My father-in-law is dying. There is nothing humanly possible I can do to spare him the journey he is on. I wish I could. So I pray. And I grieve. And I give my husband the space and love and understanding he needs to play his part in my father-in-law's journey.

Monday, May 21, 2012

She Who Writes, Wins!

I am a writer.

It took me a long time to accept this truth. If you've reading my blog, you have seen this journey. I used to say I want to write. That I was going to write a book some day (even though I was in the process of writing it even then). That I want to be an author and be published. But I would never admit outloud or on paper that I am a writer.

What makes a writer? It's not publication. And if we're going to talk about publication, I need to remind myself that this blog is a form of publication.

Being a writer isn't about passion or desire. Sure, those are components but they aren't what makes a person a writer.

What I have learned through time, and the patient reminders of my good friends, is that a writer is a person who wakes up in the morning and must write. Where writing is like breathing, you just cannot survive without writing something. Anything. Whether it be a journal entry, a letter, a poem, a story, you must write.

If you don't write, the days are dark and something is missing. Something vital to your being. If you don't write, it's as though the joy is being slowly sucked from your soul.

But when you do write, oh, the sun shines anew! The world lights with color and texture and sound like never before. And that secret part of you is blessed and filled to overflowing.

These things hold true for me. I am a writer. And every day I write even a sentance I win because I am being true to who I am and who God has made me to be.

I am a writer. Are you?

This post was entered in the You Are a Writer contest by Jeff Goins.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

7 Lines from the 7th Page

 A little fun from Kait Nolan's blog. The perfect fun for a day when I'm feeling anything like fun and games. Ha!

  1. Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  2. Go to line 7
  3. Copy down the next seven lines as they are – no cheating
  4. Tag 7 other authors

From page 7 of TIW (yes, it's a little more than 7 lines):
When I was a little girl I thought I could see fairies. Ethereal and menacingly beautiful creatures with feathery wings and shining auras. I would never engage them, never talk to them or attempt to play with them. But I could see them out of the corner of my eye. Waiting, watching. 

My mother saw me once, softening my gaze as I looked out over a fountain in the middle of the town we called home at the time. The fear on her face was enough to keep me from ever speaking about what I saw. My gaze has been clear and crisp ever since. 
I don't know enough people who will want to participate to tag anyone, so if you're reading this and you would like to play along, please do! And let me know in the comments so I can support you in reading your 7 lines on page 7. :) 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Who Says You Can't Go Home

Writing is going well. I have a lot of short vignettes that have nothing to do with any of my works in progress. They are part of my writing recovery. And they are slowly sparking the inspiration deep within me.

I'm also journaling. I used to journal all the time. I always had some type of paper journal, something with unlined pages and a soft, leather cover. Something I could slip into my bag or backpack and write in anywhere. I would work out my fears and anxieties within those pages, knowing that they were for me and me alone. It was safe. It didn't judge, nor did it try to offer ill timed advice.

I stopped journaling a few years into marriage once I started working full time. I was in full time school for my master's degree, working full time and was utterly exhausted every step of the way. I had no time to think, let alone journal. Funny, it was during this time I found myself writing fiction. Apparently I didn't want to deal with my own life so I made up fictional lives I could torture instead.

Writing fiction became my journal. At first, what I wrote had autobiographical qualities loosely disguised in a thin veneer of fiction. I worked through some deeply hurtful issues within those first stories. I was able to address certain things while still remaining slightly apart from them.  It was a balm and it helped me keep my sanity through a very chaotic time in my life.

I think a part of me missed my journal. Writing fiction instead of journaling was like moving away from my home town to the big city. It was exciting, different and yet had some of the same qualities I loved about that home town.  But even in the big city a girl can long for home.

Fiction is wonderful, but sometimes you need to focus on your life in this precise moment. Sometimes you need to chronicle events and decisions so you can look back at them and remember. And grow.

I'm writing fiction again. Some of it is still somewhat autobiographical in nature. Most of it is wonderful fantastical. I'm not trying to live my life and my issues on those pages. What a relief. That is for my journal. I haven't found that wonderful leather bound book to write in...yet, but I'm not letting that be an excuse. Last year, it would have been. I have an old notebook, worn and plain, but it's got paper and I have a pen and as soon as I start writing the pages become filled with my every thought. It's a little like coming home.

Friday, March 09, 2012

To Have Joy or to Write, That is the Question

I think someone up there is trying to tell me something.

Everywhere I have turned in the last few weeks, the same message has been occurring. It's about passion. It's about joy. And it's starting to impact my writing.

I've been challenged to let go of writing for the sake of publication. To let go of the drive to have my words in the hands of the masses. To stop focusing on pleasing the reader and to write to please myself. To find joy in writing again by writing only for me. Writing because without spending time writing, I am lost.

With my current work in progress, I have been trying hard to apply all the lessons I have learned on craft and to change how I write so I can write a story that is marketable. Many of the people I look up to as successful authors talk about writing to the market, writing to an audience and how that works for them. And it obviously works for them, so I decided to see if it could work for me. My end goal is to be published. Why not test out the process of those who are successful at what they do?

Sounds good on paper, but in reality it's caused me no end of self doubt and brain freeze. Am I doing things right? Will my concept even appeal to anyone? Who the hell do I think I am that I could ever be published? Why is this so hard?

I keep hearing that writing is hard. I won't lie, the initial draft for me is easy. The story just comes. It's not completely fleshed out. It has no end of flaws. But actually getting words on the page is easy. Revisions are hard. Revisions are hell. I'm learning to do some things differently so I can embrace the process of reshaping my story into something more cohesive and polished. But it is hell.

Recently, the entire process of getting words on the page has been hellish. After getting hit over the head with some blog posts and writerly advice from writers I had never even heard of before this week, I know why. I stopped writing for the sake of writing. I stopped writing for the joy of seeing words form sentences, sentences forming paragraphs, paragraphs forming scenes and scenes forming stories.

I stopped finding joy in creating.

There, I said it. It has shamed me for a long time that I didn't have the rush, the joy of writing anymore. It's chased me for years. I stopped writing for a while because of it. I started writing for fun instead of profit for a while and thought I was on the road to recovery.

That ended the minute I started trying to write something that is publishable. My joy fizzled out until I became a dry husk and the words no longer flowed freely. I had to fight for every last one of them.

You know what? I'm done. I'm writing for me again. I still want to publish, but I'm going to go about it differently. I'm going back to the beginning and doing two things. I'm going to take my current wip and keep everything that sings to me and scrap the rest. Then I'm going to start writing again, just to let the words flow and to make my heart burst with joy. I'm not going to put the pressure on this story to be THE story. I'm just going to let it be story. Just story.

I'm also going to focus on craft. Not publishing. Craft. There's a course I really want to take that has been recommended for years by Marjorie Liu - Clarion. It sounds amazing. While I wish I could go to Clarion this year and immerse myself into a writing community for six weeks, I can't afford the time off of life right now to do so.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself because I can't go to Clarion, I'm going to go back to a writing course I took by Holly Lisle back in 2007, or was it 2008? Anyway, I took How to Think Sideways by Holly and am a life time member of her novel writer boot camp. I have all the lessons and am going to start at the beginning. Not with my current WIP. I'm instead going to create a new story through the process. Just for fun and for knowledge.

Some day I will be a published author. For now I need to write for me or I'm going to lose writing altogether and that, I just cannot do. It would be like cutting out part of my soul, and who can live with only half a soul? Hmm, maybe there's a story idea there...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When It Gets Scary

 I'm a writer. I'm not published but I do write. And I've reached something of an impasse with my self-esteem. I'll be brutally honest - this story scares me.

I know why. I don't think I'm a talented enough writer to pull this story off. The complexity of this story shakes me to my core. It always has. I've attempted to write in various incarnations. In one I had the motivation wrong and threw in characters who didn't need to be there. In another draft, I attempted to downplay the portions of the story that truly frighten me. In a fast draft, I actually hit The End only to realize the story doesn't really end at this point and is likely a trilogy, I'm still not clear on motivation and my characterization falls flat.

I am now taking Discovering Story Magic with Laura Baker and wish the class was longer or my work life was less busy or I could be on vacation while attempting to get to the heart of this story. I went into the class willing to change everything. Every. Last. Word. Heck, I was willing to change my characters as well. Which is a good thing, because things, they are a changing. I'm still scared. Scared shitless that I will never be the skilled author I need to be to tell this story. But I'm working through the fear and not letting it get to me.

It would be really easy to walk away from this story and move on to something else. In fact, I may write another story while I continue to work on this one. I may have skills I need to develop before I can truly tell this tale. That's okay. I want to identify those skills and work on them. I think about authors I admire and I have to remember they all had a learning curve. Heck, Nora Roberts wrote shorter category romance before tackling Eve and Roarke or her more complex single titles. JR Ward started in single title and category romance before she started writing her Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Jill Shalvis wrote for many, many years before her latest series (which I love with a capital L).

What I'm trying to remind myself is this - writing is a learned skill. Every mistake, every misstep, every solid plot line and every completed book allows me to learn more about the craft and what it takes for me to write a book. I'm not my favorite authors. And I'm not where they are on their writing journeys. I'm me and I am where I am.

Yes, this story scares me. Does that make me a horrible writer? Only if I let the fear win.

I haven't forgotten to think about what I'm grateful for. This week, it's easy.
  1. Laura Baker for her insight in plotting and brainstorming and her ability to understand what's in my head and verbalize it in a way that makes sense
  2. Farrah Rochon and Cynthia Justlin for their enouragement as we all walk this road called writing
  3. My favorite authors who continue to show me it can be done 
  4. My mom, who has a birthday today! I'm so thankful she's a reader and taught me to love stories

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Of Mice and Migraines

I'm not sure what triggered it, but I was down for the count Tuesday with a migraine. I can't take medication to help assuage the pain and suffering that comes on with a migraine. All I can do is lay still in a room devoid of stimuli and pray for the pain the stop. Fortunately, I don't get these very often.

As I was coming out of my migraine hell I was suddenly grateful for the pain. yes, this sounds really masochistic, but the pain in my head and the inability to do anything, anything at all, reminded me how blessed I am to be a relatively healthy human being. It also reminded my how thankful I am that I work somewhere that won't fire me for a periodic unplanned absence. And that I have the sick/vacation time to cover such incidents without financial implications. I have a quiet dog that will sleep through the day when he senses I'm in pain. I have a husband who encourages me to take care of myself.

I didn't feel so grateful while under the influence of the knife digging it's way through my eye or the searing pain that occurred whenever I moved my head. It was after the experience that I was able to look back and be thankful.

This got me thinking a little about failure and gratitude and how some of the most impactful lessons I've learned have been spawned from failure. How I wouldn't be the person I am today without those experiences. I would rather not have to go through the pain to find the gift, but I have a feeling that's part of the human experience. So after I'm through the pain of failure, I can be thankful. Not for the pain, that's crazy talk. No, thankful for the gift I found on the other side.

Which brings me to the mice. No, they don't really have anything to do with my migraines but they did offer me another opportunity to find a gift in a shitty situation. We had mice in our house years ago and would not have been aware of their presence if one of them hadn't decided to nest in my make-up bag. I'm not the most fashionable of women and I rarely wear make-up on a daily basis. One this morning, I had decided some of my feminine armor was imperative and I opened the drawer in the vanity only to find my make-up brushes had been desecrated and my make-up was now the foundation for some rodent's defecation. Disgusting did not cover it.

We cleaned out the drawer, set traps and Mountain Man searched the foundation for cracks or holes to plug. We eradicated the mutant rodent threat within the week, but that didn't fix the fact that on a day I felt I had needed it most, my urban camouflage had been gunned down by the enemy.

It took me a couple of weeks to figure out the gift in the situation. It wasn't the trip to MAC for the first time in my life to get big girl cosmetics. It wasn't the fact Mountain Man figured out how to keep malevolent mutant rodents from entering our house ever again. It was how I handled myself in the situation I thought I had needed my cosmetic armor for in the first place.

Without going into detail, I had a meeting with a woman who always looked chic and pulled together where I always felt dumpy. I was going to at least try to play to her level in an attempt to even out the field, but the mutant mice thwarted my plans. I was an emotional mess as I anticipated this meeting, angry at the mice, angry at the timing, angry, anxious, frustrated in general that it had to all coalesce on this one day where I desperately wanted everything to go right.

The meeting was about to start when I decided it wasn't worth it. If I couldn't persuade this woman that my ideas to more efficiently organize the volunteer program were brilliant, then she was just to narrow minded to see good ideas that weren't dressed up in designer clothing , expensive make-up and perfect hair. I pulled on my big girl panties and walked into that meeting with my charts and outlines and presentation. And she took one look at me with my pasty face, Target dress, and sneered. I pushed through, knowing I was right and I had a good idea and attempted to persuade her with reason.

My documentation was fantastic and when she stopped looking at me and looked at the numbers, she started to listen. Sure, she offered me the same snide comments about my appearance as she usually did, but she actually took me seriously and allowed me to implement some of my ideas.

Those mice, they started off the perfect storm that led to my realization that good ideas should, and can stand on their own. Would I want to live through the emotional roller coaster again? Hell, no! But what I learned after that experience has been invaluable to me.

Gratitude is easy when you're grateful for things that bring you joy or feed your passion. Gratitude amid the shit storms that occur in life is so much more difficult but is often even more powerful.

Monday, February 13, 2012

2012 In A Word

In January, a couple of fellow bloggers posted theme words for 2012. I loved the idea and set out on a month long journey to find my word for 2012. I wanted a word that would sum up what I want to focus on this year. A word that would both challenge and inspire me.

After much thought and reflection, my word for 2012 found me. It felt like this word, gratitude, was chasing me around the internet, popping up in blog posts, on websites, in the news. Gratitude even had the audacity to show up in books I was reading and be the topic of a podcast or two. I was looking for something flashier, something that appeared more of a challenge, so I ignored gratitude. It's concept is deceptively simple, surely this wasn't the word for me.

But gratitude would not be ignored. I did what I usually do when a concept niggles at me long enough - I take a good, hard look at it. And at myself.

I was challenged several times in 2011 to remember all the things in my life that I am truly grateful for instead of focusing on the things in my life that aren't quite so...wonderful. It's not that I lived under a dismal cloud or was faced with overwhelming hardships. It's more that over the year sI tend to find that negative headspace, hang pictures on the walls, dust off the furniture , and move on in.

It's one thing to be realistic. It's another to focus so completely on the thorns you forget the beauty of the rose. That was me - focusing so intently on each individual thorn and how I was going to attack it that I forgot just how amazing the roses of my life really are. Yes, as corny as it sounds, I stopped smelling the roses.

This weekend I stopped fighting it. Gratitude is my word for 2012. Gratitude is as much a discipline as it is a mindset. I'm not all that great with discipline (if you work with me, ignore that sentence. I'm wonderful with discipline at work!). As gratitude was pursuing me, I ran across this blog post  and zeroed in on the happiness equation.

Chip Conley encourages readers to do two key things:
  • show your gratitude daily in a manner that is meaningful to the recipeint
  • write a gratitude journal and/or have a gratitude buddy and answer thse two questions: "What gifts do you have in your life that are easy to take for granted?" "What was a recent gift that may have been wrapped up as a pain or punishment?"
I don't know if I'll go so far as to answer those questions every day on my blog, but my blog is a quasi-public way for me to chronicle my journey toward gratitude. My goal, since I need goals to keep focused, is to blog daily for the remainder of February if for no other reason than to record my gratitudes. I did this a little last year, but I wasn't committed to the journey. This time, I am.

Gratitude is my word for 2012. I wonder what changes I'll see when 2013 arrives.