Category Archives: Real Life

22May/14

Another Comment I Need to Save

This one comes from a friend, who wrote this to me after I shared some feelings about feeling like a failure on my 35th birthday (which came and went last month). I appreciate her wisdom in writing this, and have decided that “Nothing is closing” is going to become one of my tattoos — along with “Trust the Process” and the pi symbol.

Don’t panic. Age is just a number. You have a whole year to be 35. You have a whole 5 years before you’re 40. Then another half a lifetime and most likely more to do the things on your todo list before you even sit your butt down in a grammy-gaming rocking chair (I assume you will have a grammy-gaming rocking chair for playing Playstation 16 games on) in front of a bookshelf of ALL the freaking books you’ve written and challenge your grandbabies to a game they will certainly lose because of your mad skillz. Please remember to trash-talk them, for me. 

The Germans have a word for this feeling…torschluspanic (which I am not spelling correctly). The word literally means “gate closing panic” it’s the feeling we get when we think our opportunities are diminishing with age, or that we haven’t achieved our goals. Nothing is closing. Birthdays make some of us weird and introspective and then the self-judgement starts flying. This is why I dislike birthdays. 

Instead of berating yourself. Add up all the things in the plus column. I have seen a lot of things in your life this year that are movements forward, onward, upward, coolward, whateverward to greatness. We all get weird about stuff. We’re all weirdos. Happy almost birthday, birthday twin!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And do you get weird about birthdays?

21May/14

Something I Wrote that I Want to Read Later

I was having a conversation with an online friend yesterday. He was in another of his drunken philosophical moods, and was lamenting the fact that he couldn’t spend a day in Hemingway’s shoes. Hemingway is always the guy writers think of as the successful one — the super manly man they all want to be. Why? I don’t understand it. Every time I read Hemingway or something about him, I feel a sense of relief that I never had to live his terrible life or have any sort of interaction with him.

I commented on my friend’s post, and realized that some of the advice I was writing there was to myself. So, lest it get swept away in the ocean that is the comments section on social media, I’m putting it here for posterity.

It’s always nice to think of the “success” of someone like Hemingway, until you realize that he had electro-shock therapy to try to cure his crippling depression, ended up losing all his memories, and then killed himself by putting a gun in his mouth.

Maybe that’s something you have in common — that you have to deal with the way mental illness affects you and your writing (Hemingway’s father committed suicide, as did his brother and his sister). And maybe you even medicate in the same way, with alcohol. So the question is, are you going to let it destroy you the same way it destroyed him?

To be honest, I think your decision to care for your son is better than the legacy of brokenness Hemingway left for his descendents.

And yes, fate is cruel and defies even our most passionate attempts to get out of its entanglements. The greatest power we have against it is to make peace within our own lives.

01Jan/13

Obligatory New Year Post

Hello to my handful of readers out there! I hope you are all feeling happy and healthy on this fine day. My entire family is sick at the moment – the kids with the flu, the adults with colds – so we have been watching movies and cuddling together on the couch for the last few days. I think it’s the quietest New Year I’ve ever had.

I spent the morning going through my writing journals and seeing how I did in 2012, and despite a whole lot of real life and death getting in the way, I see there were a lot of awesome things about 2012. Here are a few highlights:

*I got my first story published!

*I wrote over 200,000 words while participating in #WIP500

*I completed a rough draft of a script during Script Frenzy and a novel during NaNoWriMo

*I taught 6 piano students, ranging in age from 5 to 30.

*I read 46 books (68 if you count the entire Fruits Basket series)

*I made a lot of new friends on Google+ and became a mod for one of the biggest Writers Communities there.

*I started running with a friend and training for an upcoming Spartan Race. I’m still a weakly loser, but I’m getting stronger and feel much healthier.

When I started the WIP500 challenge last year, I wasn’t sure how it would go. It was kind of insane to see the numbers piling up over the months. Now that I know what it feels like to write 200,000 words over the course of a year, I know that it’s a manageable goal. So here’s what I’d like to do in 2013, if all goes well:

*Get a draft of my novel Illuminated out to beta-readers.

*Write 200,000 words again.

*Write at least one short story a month for publication. Write flash fiction often.

*Continue submitting finished stories until they get picked up, or until I have a decent collection to self-publish.

*Read 50 books.

*Blog more often. This year, in addition to flash fiction and writerly updates, you might see me post some of my collage art, since I’m joining a Mixed Media challenge. I love having a lot of creative things to do, since it seems to help when the writing gets stuck.

So what about you? What did you do in 2012, and what do you hope to do in 2013? If you wrote a new year’s blog post, feel free to link me up in the comments and I’ll come check it out. I hope you all have a very happy 2013!

19Dec/12

Post-Operative Impressions

I could swear the last few weeks have been trying to break me. There has been a sudden downpour of conflict from all sides. In my real life, it’s painful and hard. In my writing life, I’m learning some excellent things about how to better develop a character (hint: make the sky fall down on them when they least expect it).

One of the less pleasant things I had to do was get oral surgery to remove my wisdom teeth. The teeth in question had decided to make pain for me in my old age. I kid, I’m only in my thirties, but that seems to be old for these kinds of things. Recovery took me longer than I expected and it was a good 6 days later that I finally felt human again.

And somewhere in the middle of that recovery, I scribbled down the following lines, trying to grasp what I’d been through. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as my bizarre recollections make me laugh now. And no, I never did figure out who zipped my hoodie on me.

image by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Jascha400d

image by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Jascha400d

Post-Operative Impressions

I remember they took my glasses. Maybe that’s why I never got a good look at the doctor’s face. They took my glasses and tied down my hands.

I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt, and wires, and tubes.

Now I’m in my hoodie, my jacket, my scarf. I notice a hot tear running down my cheek.

“Who put my clothes on?” I ask. He seems to think it a funny question but I don’t recall his answer.

There was a wheelchair I was expected to get into. I can see the blur of it, off to my right.

“I could hear them,” I say. “I could hear the beeping. I could hear them talking.” He tells me it must have been when I was waking up. It must have been.

My hoodie is zipped up. It’s not easy to zip. I was in a short-sleeve shirt. Who put it on me?

“Did you come get me?” I ask. He is amused that I don’t remember.

I remember there was a wheelchair I was expected to get out of. I remember the feel of it under my hands.

I can see my jacket and scarf in a pile across the room. My hoodie is still zipped snuggly on me where I lay on the couch.

“Who put my clothes on?” I ask. He says I was dressed when they brought me out.

I remember the wheelchair, but not the time I spent in it.

“I could hear them,” I say.

“You told me,” he says.

I was in a short-sleeve shirt. My hands were tied down. The doctor asked me a question. I slurred out half an answer and faded.

I am fully dressed now, my mouth full of gauze, missing my teeth

and my memories.

16Oct/12

To Lose is to Learn

My almost 9-yr old boy joined a new Chess Club last night. As part of a talk on sportsmanship, the head teacher shared the Chess Club motto: To Lose is to Learn.

That little line resonated with me in a big way last night. Earlier in the day, the kids had asked, “Mom, did people call you a nerd in high school and college?” I’ve told the kids how I was teased in school for being smart, and how they might be teased for the same thing and how to deal with it. But we had talked mostly about elementary school.

It took me a minute to think of the answer. I was teased in high school, but not in college. College was a different place, where most people attended because they were smart and where they wanted to learn things. In fact, I was not a nerd in college. In college, I wasn’t even that smart. And that was one of the hardest things I had to experience in my life.

See, everything was easy for me growing up. I was that kid who helped the teacher grade papers for extra credit because I finished my work so early. School was a breeze. I understood everything. I got As on all my papers. I was in the top percentile for everything. And I thought it would always be that way.

Then I got to college, and I was a nobody. All the great things I had done, people there had done better. I wanted to be a piano major, but since I’d only had lessons for six years, they wouldn’t let me. I was last chair in the university Symphonic Winds, despite filling the first chair and winning state festivals every year in high school. In the 80-member Honors Program I was in, I was probably the least accomplished of the entire bunch. Others had already read all the great books, they understood the great philosophical ideas, they could put together a presentation and speak to a group. Not me. I still don’t even know how I managed it all most of the time.

In all my years of “gifted” programs, I had never learned how to study and work. I had never learned what it meant to be a beginner at something. I was always the best. So when my big fishy self was taken out of my small pond and tossed into the ocean of real life, I was absolutely lost.

It still frustrates me to this day. Now I want to be a writer, and I’ve poured a couple of years into studying the craft. Still, I’m a beginner. My stories keep getting rejected. I still don’t have a body of work I can self-publish. There are other writers out there who seem to be magically great at it, but it’s hard work for me. And some days I just want to call it quits.

So I was really thankful to hear that wonderful motto last night.

To lose is to learn.

I’m glad my son is learning that now. I’m glad I’m learning that now. It means I can’t quit. I have to keep trying and keep learning and keep practicing until it becomes easy for me.

And in case you’re curious, those piano professors couldn’t keep me down. I didn’t get my degree in piano, or even music, but I still teach piano lessons to several fantastic students in my home these days. And that’s another thing I’ve realized. There are people who will think you’re not good enough, but there are others who will find you amazing. I think half of success is learning not to listen to either of them.

03Feb/12

The Month in Review

Stuff I did in January:

1. Wrote 17516 words as part of WIP500. My goal is to write 500 words each and every day. I missed 7 days in January, but still kept my average above 500 words. The challenge has been perfect so far, and my novel continues to look like a terrible first draft of a novel. I’ve also scribbled out a few short stories that might get more development in the future.

2. Took a trip with the man and the kids across the state to bury the man’s grandfather. It was hard. It wasn’t the first funeral the kids had attended, but it was their first open casket experience. Normally, I would shy away from stuff like that, but the kids wanted to be there. I also don’t want them to think that death is some strange and terrifying thing. So it took a lot of bravery to do the good and important thing, but I think we all came away better for the experience.

3. Watched Season 1 of the BBC’s Sherlock. If you haven’t watched it yet and you’re even slightly interested in brilliant deductions, it’s worth watching.

4. Spent an exorbitant number of hours on Google Plus. I deleted my facebook account last year, thinking that I would save time and energy by having just one social network to manage. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) G+ is full of so many interesting and intelligent writers and homeschoolers and foodies and other randomly creative people that I can barely drag myself away from it most days.

5. Played hours of Skyrim. Because it’s quite possibly the best video game I have ever played. It also has a brilliant soundtrack.

And that’s about all for here. How’s your year going so far?

17Jul/11

The Study of Humans

My dad picked up a funny habit after watching the movie Men in Black. When we went to public places together, he would always point out the people he thought might be aliens. “What about that one?” he’d ask. “Not quite right, don’t you think?”

We’ve always been people watchers, my dad and I. The irony is that I usually consider myself to be the alien. It’s always been that way. I’m fascinated by human nature and all the twists and turns that make people do things the way they do. I think it’s part of being a writer, or it somehow feeds into that writing part of me. If I were part of an alien race, I would be the one pretending to be human in order to observe and collect as much information as possible.

It can be difficult for an introvert like myself to be in these public places often. Which is why I have a favorite form of people watching: Public forums.

I love forums. I have been forum-hopping for years. Forums are fascinating places. They bring together thousands of people with a common interest: pregancy and childbirth, hobbies and interests, education, diseases, technology. Think of a topic, and there’s probably a forum somewhere with people talking about it. But it doesn’t end there. Find a forum big enough and active enough, and you’ll suddenly have a diverse group of people with fascinating opinions on just about every controversial topic there is. Religion? They’re on it. Just be quick – those threads get locked fast. Politics? Check. Mothers-in-law? Of course. Put together a few strong minds, some ill-formed opinions, sprinkle in a dose of sarcasm, and you have a recipe for explosive people-watching that is unmatched in history.

Why am I telling you all this? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m rationalizing my forum addiction as a form of story research. I have been addicted to forums for all these years, spending hours pouring over ridiculous threads that really have no bearing on my life (the woman who feared her husband had died on a fishing trip when he had really lied about the trip, the boy who was kicked out of school because of his parents’ religious beliefs, the disastrous Chuck E. Cheese trip that ruined a friendship). While I have met some of my best friends in forums, these are strangers for the most part. And it’s not just their stories that are so fascinating. It’s also the opinions of others who chime in to tell them that everything they do is Right On or everything is Absolutely Wrong. I love it. Please keep posting your life’s troubles in forums, people! It allows this introvert to go people watching in the comfort of my own home.

And lest you think I’m just a lurker, I believe in forum participation. I’m usually the one popping the popcorn. 😉

06May/10

On Competition

For a long time, a film-making friend of mine had an online bio that read, “In 2 years, I will be an absolute failure.” At that time, he was nearing 30. Many of the filmmakers he admired had been in their 20s when they first met with success. He constantly compared himself to Orson Welles, who made Citizen Kane when he was 25 years old. As you can imagine, this friend was also constantly (and clinically) depressed.

The creative life is difficult to navigate. There are always stories of those striking gold in their youth. And there are also the stories of creatives who died penniless, never seeing their work admired by anyone.

I’ve come to realize 2 things over the last week. First, we need competition. And second, creativity is not a competitive sport.

They sound contradictory, but let me explain.

Last week, my son entered his art into a local fair. He was excited but nervous. We had told him that the art would be judged, and perhaps he might win a ribbon. He only wanted to put in his very best art in that case.

When we went to the fair to see if he had won, we noticed that every single piece of art had a ribbon. They had awarded prizes to all of them. The boy was still excited that he had won a ribbon, but the prize lost value in his eyes because everyone won. What did it matter that he put in his best possible work when others put in scribbles and still won?

I think competition is good. It makes us work harder and strive for excellence. Whatever our craft, that desire to be recognized for quality work is in all of us. In that way, I don’t necessarily think competition is bad.

On the other hand, creativity is not a competitive sport. There are no bench-warmers in the creative world. You’re either making art in some form, or you’re not.

There is no limit to the number of creative people in the world. There’s no one out there saying, “We’re sorry, the quota for creatives is filled. You can’t write that novel/paint that painting/take that photograph/sing that song.” The beginning of all art happens inside. Just because someone out there, with an entirely different background and set of circumstances from you, is successful at one form of creativity, it does not exclude you from expressing yourself also.

Yes, there are highly successful artists out there. Some are household names. Don’t compare yourself to them. Compare yourself to you. Are you getting better at your craft? Are you doing quality work? Are you challenging yourself?

Here’s an idea: Is there an online or local contest you’ve seen lately? Submit your work. If you don’t have a piece ready, get out there and create, so you’ll be prepared for the next one. Let me know what you plan to do, so I can cheer you on!