It’s been a while since I had news to share in the publishing realm. Which makes it that much more exciting to share that I have two short stories poised for publication in the coming weeks. Both are stories that I wrote a while ago and were either super weird or not quite ready for a home without some rewriting. It’s amazing how you can think your story is overworked, and as good as you can ever possibly make it, but still be completely wrong.
I’ll share details when I have them, including when and where you can order a copy – which would thrill me immensely if you did.
I have struggled for a long while with the clashing of two very strong ideals I have for myself, long instilled in me and dating back to childhood, which actually contradict themselves once life becomes super complex and full of competing priorities. (If you are not an overachiever, this may never get to be a problem for you.)
I am an overachiever, motivated by achievement and driven to high performance. Meaning I take pride in the mere accomplishment of something. I am also a perfectionist – not in the sense that I can only do a thing if I do it perfectly, but rather in the sense that I have to strive for perfection in all I do. Short version: Half-ass is not acceptable, and neither is saying no to things.
What I’ve come to know about myself in the last three years of being stretched to the max in all arenas of life is: I can do anything I want, but I can’t do everything.
These are pretty words… truly meant for a needlepoint to hang on a wall or an inspirational poster. But if you’re like me, how the HELL do you reconcile this idea with the reality of being driven to do it all and kill yourself trying to to it all well all while not disappointing those around you?
Here’s what works for me:
Give yourself permission to pick the things that are most important
Manage expectations of others to eliminate guilt and resentment
These are two sides of the same coin. First the mind shift inside yourself, and then the external manifestation that others will see. For me, the internal shift took the longest – all wrapped up in the struggle of saying No when faced with new things or making commitments.
Here’s my secret weapon…
I only say yes IF:
No one else can do it
The consequences of not doing it means derailing my goals
It means saying no to things I’m okay not doing
The first one is a serious game changer. I never thought I would be so efficient at delegating but there are so many things that I now can say no to automatically if someone else could do what is being asked. I also realized that I was saying yes to things that were inherently someone else’s responsibility if I feared that they wouldn’t do something the way I would, or I feared their dependability was lacking. Guess what, turns out that neither of those things reflects on me ever except in the arena of me being stressed and overworked doing things other people should be doing.
The second two are where it gets down to nitty gritty, when it is serious-level prioritization. They also help to clearly articulate for myself what my priorities are. Which is super important for the other side of the coin… other people’s expectations.
I learned the last couple of years that as long as you are up front and honest about your intentions, and what you are and aren’t committing to do with the people in your life, even saying no can work. It much easier to let someone down by saying straight out that you can’t do something. When the commitments you make are so closely aligned with your intentions or what your own success looks like, it is much easier to lay it out straight.
I am living proof. No rolls off the tongue as effortlessly as Yes once did. It is often easier if you can articulate the why behind your no if it is particularly sensitive, but in the end you don’t owe that to anyone either.
If you are steering your ship toward what you want for your life, no one else’s disappointments need to weigh on you enough to change course. Your goals… your dreams… your intentions for what a successful and fulfilled life looks like… are all up to you and no one else. Don’t feel guilt for having dreams and goals and doing (or not doing) whatever it takes to get them. You are worth it and you deserve to make those dreams and goals come true.
It’s officially 2020. A new year. A new decade. A new chapter. The past week has been full of those end-of-year, search-the-soul, write-something-witty-and-inspiring (or gritty and real) to share online from seemingly everyone.
Not me. I’m still not someone who does resolutions. Plus the last half of 2019 was one of the hardest six months I’ve ever endured and I’m not sure I really want to do anything but celebrate that I survived with my family and my sanity intact. You know, put the whole last half of 2019 in the rear view and never look back.
That’s what I I told myself anyway. I wasn’t going to be just another end of the year looking to the future blah blah blah among the masses. Turns out I can’t help myself. Although I am going to be real. Vulnerable even. So bear with me…
There was a little re-vitalizing of this site midyear 2019 – you might have noticed (if any of my readers are still with me after the recent neglect of my website) but appearances can be deceiving. The reality is that was part of a class at school – one of the last of my degree program. Which means I wasn’t slaying anything, just scraping by with what I hoped was at least a passing grade that term. It is an apt metaphor for my year…
Here’s the biggest thing I want to take away from 2019, and why I can’t help myself from this post. I am a college graduate – with a Bachelor of Art in Creative Writing and English and a minor in Communications. I never want to look back. Further, I want everyone reading this to stay in school and understand the importance of an education. I’m glad I did it. Even more glad that I did it on my terms and got a degree I wanted rather than the easy one building on my IT experience.
Truth is, I almost immediately am reaping the rewards with a shiny new promotion at work, managing a technical support team, which was the exact reason behind my doing it in the first place. Everything works out for a reason. I just wish I didn’t have to go through such a shitty three years because I had better things to do thirty years ago when I graduated high school. But I digress.
What also happened – the flip side of the shiny degree coin – is that I didn’t write anything of substance for the past year while I was working on reading and analyzing/deconstructing literature others have written. I am publishing two stories in 2020 but both are stories I wrote originally more than two years ago before college consumed me. Worse, it feels like I am starting over since I’m so damn rusty. My daily writing habits? They are as good as gone. Most days I waffle between the urge to give in and veg on the couch in front of whatever show my family is currently binge watching and the self-doubt and imposter syndrome telling me why bother.
The two extremes – successfully finishing my degree but also losing so much ground with my writing efforts – are currently at war within my psyche. 2020, I’m looking at you and am vowing to end said war.
It isn’t all sadness and despair, though. We took an island vacation and for two glorious weeks I read for leisure and slowly regained both connections to my family (it’s hard to maintain deep relationships even with those you live with when you’re as consumed as I’ve been trying to finish as quickly as possible) and myself. Specifically that piece of myself that creates something from nothing when I nurture it.
Suffice it to say that I was successful in comparing less last year as I set out to do and I finished what I started. As for the rest of the shit show that can be chalked up to 2019 (including the torn meniscus I suffered with for most of the year), I say good riddance. 2019 will always live in my memory as the year I hit the bottom while achieving my greatest measurable accomplishment – all at the same time. Here’s to the future – may it be brighter than last year!
Time once again for an old favorite… the recap of what I read last year so I can look back on it with satisfaction and celebration. And what is this? Also within the first week of January? Yes, life is slowly getting back to normal in every area of my life. As always, this list is mostly for myself but if you’re looking for recommendations or get ideas of what to put of your list, then I’ve paid it forward for a fellow author, too. This year in books in chronological order looks like this:
Where Should We Begin: The Arc of Love, Esther Perel – an Audible Original that I found fascinating.
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1), Patrick Ness – a YA read that Big Sister (who’s an actual adult now) recommended. It was entertaining but not enough to read more.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee – assigned reading for my Lit class. I’m sure I read this as a kid (also as assigned reading then) and it was interesting to have an adult perspective this time. A classic, but I’m not sure why it is still held up as the best example of literature when so many other books have been written on the topic more recently.
Power Moves: Lessons from Davos, Adam M. Grant – another Audible Original that was very political and fascinating. A very quick read.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer – a book club pick that at first I didn’t think I would like but which grew on me and stuck with me after I finished. Recommended read.
Rule of the Bone, Russell Banks – requiired read for Lit class. This one I really liked. Gritty, real, relevant. Highly recommended.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson – I thought this was the book by an author I saw on a TED talk but wasn’t. It was still a good book, but not the one I was looking for. A great topic for anyone – especially if you suffer with the “what will other people think” syndrome.
Brave, Rose McGowan – I devoured this book and found it a fascinating look into all the things in our society that came to a head with the #metoo movement. If you’re political and a feminist, this is a must read. If you’re not, why not start your journey with this book?
The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, Lex Williford (editor) – required reading for Lit class. I didn’t read the entire thing but liked what I read.
Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane, Brett King – for the tech geeks and the futurists among us. This was a recommendation from one of the ladies in my book club and it was a very eye opening look at the technologies that exist today and how they are predicted to change our experience of the world in the future. Highly recommended.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford – book club read that was not especially noteworthy. Another wartime novel if you’re into that genre.
The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides – one of the best books I read this year. The structure and pacing added depth to a fascinating premise and left me completely satisfied. I couldn’t put it down.
McGraw-Hill’s Proofreading Handbook, Laura Killen Anderson – textbook for my Copy Editing class. The logical and detail oriented part of me actually really loved this class even though it is a LOT of work. Not that I ever have, but I will definitely never take a copyeditor for granted!
This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations, Doug Newsom – textbook, obviously. For a class I ended up getting a ton of relatable information out of. I have zero regrets about my Communications minor.
Out of My Mind, Alan Arkin – an Audible Original that I thought was going to be about mental health but turned out to be new age meditation nonsense that didn’t resonate with me.
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – book club pick that I would not have read otherwise. I had tried to read it before unsuccessfully. While I don’t regret having read it, I can’t say I totally enjoyed it. There’s something about irony and British humor that just doesn’t resonate with me.
The Last Days of August, Jon Ronson – Audible Original that was like a train wreck you just can’t look away from. Don’t waste your time.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley – book club pick. It was my first cozy mystery and I can safely say that I’m not a fan of the genre. I need my murder on the page and bloody or I am not satisfied, I guess.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Dr. Brene’ Brown – I love everything Brene’ Brown. Each book builds on each other as her research grows and evolves. If you haven’t read anything by her, start with this one. It is amazing. Big Sister had to read it for her English class and she loved it, too.
Sometimes I Lie, Alice Feeney – a book club pick and a great thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Lucky Suit, Lauren Blakely – a romance novella that was a quick and satisfying read. Pretty sure this was also an Audible Original.
Educated, Tara Westover – I’m not always a fan of the memoir but this one was fascinating about a woman who was home schooled by a conspiracy theorist and religious extremist. Highly recommended read!
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., Dr. Brené Brown – another great one with the focus on working relationships and leading effectively while being vulnerable from my favorite shame researcher. Seriously, if you haven’t read Brene’ Brown you really need to fix that.
The 3-Day Effect, Florence Williams – a quick psychology-based study about how getting into nature and away from constant connection to the world can affect us.
Profit First, Mike Michalowicz – a fantastic business book for entrepreneurs who want a way to be profitable in their business from the beginning.
Mala, Melinda Lopez – another Audible Original that I think was actually a screenplay that was acted out.
I, Jedi, Michael Stackpole – a Star Wars book not based on any of the movies. I’m a Star Wars movie fan but had never read any of the tie-in books. This was one of our keynotes at Quills and is said to be one of the best. It felt to me like what fan fiction must be like – a story that feels familiar because the world is familiar but it isn’t any of the characters you know.
Social Media for Writers, Tee Morris & Pip Ballantine – assigned reading for my New Media class and a great reference book for writers. I’m distilling this down to key takeaways for a class I want to teach to other writers because it was invaluable.
Create Your Writer Platform, Chuck Sambuchino – also assigned reading for my New Media class and a great book to establish what people actually mean when they talk about having a platform as an author.
Social Media Communication, Jeremy H. Lipschultz – textbook for class of the same title
Becoming, Michelle Obama – I admit, I had no real opinion (good, bad or indifferent) about our former First Lady. After reading this, I am a huge fan. Highly recommended especially for working moms. I loved this book. It was also a book club pick after I read it on my own.
Eat Fat, Get Thin, Mark Hyman – my new healthy lifestyle approach grew from the basics of this book that did an amazing job explaining why American’s are more obese and sicker than any other time, and how to correct it. At the risk of sounding like a keto-obsessed freak, everyone should read at least the first half of this book for all the science.
The Murder House, James Patterson – book club pick that was a very satisfying thriller.
It’s Not What It Looks Like, Molly Burke – an Audible Original that I can’t even remember much about.
The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders, Michael D. Watkins – nothing earth-shattering about this book except that it takes concepts you can get by reading several other business leadership books and boils them down into an easy to consume summary. Truth: I saw the senior leadership team reading it while I was going through the manager interviewing process and wanted a leg up in speaking their language. Maybe it helped?
Skyward, Brandon Sanderson – a surprisingly good YA book that the whole family loved – listened to on our summer vacation road trip.
The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides – re-read when it was picked for book club. Even better the second time!
I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney – I picked this one up because I liked the first book by this author. It was a pretty good thriller but not as good as the first I read by her.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert – recommended to me by a coworker. One of the best books about effective approaches to nurturing creativity. If you’re a writer, this is a highly recommended read!
Three-Fifths, John Vercher – I loved this book and the ending still stays with me. Highly recommended contemporary drama #ownvoices read.
Organizational Behavior, Talya Bauer – the last textbook I will every read for my undergraduate degree!!! Surprising timing: getting to take away HR concepts to apply immediately as a new manager.
Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, Lisa Cron – a craft book for writers. One of the better ones that started very strong and resonated with great ideas and approaches to story but which then derailed (for me anyway) when the author tried to then tell me how exactly I had to execute said ideas. I loved the first half and skimmed the second half at best. Still a great read for writers.
We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver – book club pick that was extremely difficult to get into but which finished amazingly.
Stillhouse Lake, Rachel Caine – a great strong female character thriller that came highly recommended by a friend. I loved it and will definitely read more in this series.
The Luminous Dead, Caitlin Starling – a great mix of horror, science fiction and thriller that I picked up at a writers conference and loved.
The Ninja Daughter, Tori Eldridge – the first book I’ve read specifically because of who the editor was so I can decide if my books would be a fit for them. It was good!
The Man Who Knew The Way to the Moon, Todd Zwillich – very cool insider NASA story for the space geeks among us which sadly took a turn in the middle. The ending made up for the whiny middle section and I am overall glad I read it.
Polaris Rising, Jessie Mihalik – holy shit this one was good!! The best of so many things that I love all rolled into one: space-based science fiction with a strong female lead and a steamy romance that was well done and didn’t detract from the fact that this is first and foremost a scifi action story. I can’t recommend this one enough. Another of my top reads for the year.
Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn – an okay book but which I thought was going to be about something that it wasn’t (based on the cover blurb). Kind of disappointed by the ending but overall not sad I read it.
Sleeping Beauties, Stephen King & Owen King – so long but reminiscent of the old Stephen King with a giant cast of characters that all contribute to the story in meaningful ways.
You might remember that I almost broke myself–mentally–last year trying to do everything and that I started getting real with myself in order to deal with it. None of it is easy, the work of self-healing or self-reflection, but I found a little secret that grounds me when I’m struggling.
Every year, I start off not with resolutions but with intentions. This year, a late entry to the list was something I heard from a wise friend.
Two little words. A ton of power.
No one gets from point A to point B in exactly the same way. No one.
One example for context. I have a friend who lost over 80 pounds in 2018 and is super happy–feeling better than ever as she heads into her 50th year. It was a lifestyle change that I followed along with but had zero time for even the super simple “rules” for success: drink a gallon of water a day, sleep 8 hours a night, and eat a high fat-low carb diet of real food. The realities of my life, where I’m working full time, have a stake in running a small business, plan conferences, AND am finishing my degree, has no room for “sleep 7-8 hours every night.” And by “has no room”, I mean it is not something that’s even remotely possible. Nor is “eat dinner before 6:30pm” when I’m not even home by 6:30 from my day job.
Of course I can do my best. But that doesn’t yield amazing results in my health. Logically, I know this. But when my efforts yield very slow and small results in comparison to my friend who doesn’t have the same lifestyle or challenges I do, I feel like I’m not doing enough. Which leads to feeling inadequate. Then spirals quickly downward to feeling like a failure.
Comparison is an evil thing.
Here’s where the intention of Compare Less comes into play.
When I’m wallowing in the abyss of comparison – whether it’s my friends who are changing their health and their overall wellness, or my friends who are writing and publishing more than I am and finding success – I have to stop myself and be objective without comparison. And make no mistake, it is an abyss!
Tell that voice inside my head – the one who’s telling me shit like “you’re not good enough” and “you’ll never be as [blank] as them” – to shut the fuck up.
That voice is an asshole. It never shuts up and is like a broken record. But once you hear it and can call it on it’s bullshit, sometimes it quiets down long enough for me to get clear on the fact that its message is just that: bullshit.
Look critically at the facts.
Facts are logical and ordered. They are not emotional. They don’t compare. They just are. Facts are the opposite of the bullshit asshole voice. Reminding myself that I am productive every waking hour of every day (no Netflix bingeing for me!), that I’m making the best food choices at every meal, that I have well-rounded children who don’t think I’m failing them when I don’t bring cupcakes to school every week, all keep me grounded in what I’m actually doing. My goals, my measurements, no comparisons.
Make positive and productive statements grounded in facts.
These are the antidotes of comparison for me. The moments that keep me grounded in the non-comparison zone.
If I’m wallowing in the “I’m a terrible mother” moments, I state the facts that both my children are well-rounded, healthy and happy. They know I love them and we have great relationship. If they see me struggling, they are the first to remind me about how great I’m doing at all the things, because they are my biggest cheerleaders. If I’m struggling with the FOMO (fear of missing out) moments when others are having launch parties or presenting at conferences, I state the facts that I’m getting an education that will aid my ability to do these things, but not right now. Right now my focus is on the right thing and for every thing there is a season. When I see friends on deadline because they have a publisher who wants the next project and I start to fear that those things might never happen for me, I remind myself that even if that had been offered to me, I don’t have the time to actually make a deadline with all the other things currently prioritized in my life. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future, but right now isn’t the time. Frankly, I’m a better writer because of my Creative Writing and English degree and once I have the time to devote to writing fully when I graduate in October, I’ll have just as many opportunities. The time spent on my education IS WORTH IT. When I fear that I’m a shitty friend/sister/daughter because I’m so busy with school the last three years, I remind myself that my friends and family love me and as long as I reconnect with them, and do the best I can to stay connected during this finite time of finish-your-degree, the relationships will remain intact.
This intentional way of not comparing myself to others has so far made a world of difference in my 2019. It’s only half of the equation I’ve found the most successful, but it is sometimes the hardest part to master. Next time I’ll tell you all about how I manage expectations. These two activities make me a super woman.
Do you struggle with comparing yourself to others? If so, what strategies do you have that work which I might not have considered and could add to my arsenal? Drop a comment so I can steal your secrets, too!
Being a part of The Manuscript Dr has fulfilled me in ways I never expected. I get to exercise my brain doing things I am the best at as I build operational systems and grow our business. So when my business partner and founder asked if I wanted to help with building content for the company blog, I immediately said yes! I reviewed one of my favorite books, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, talking about one of the most impactful things my Creative Writing degree coursework at SNHU has taught me: theme. If you’re interested, check it out HERE.
This was a recent “reality” post on my social media:
I’m sleep deprived, overworked, full on failing both of my classes unless I can pull off a miracle and get everything done on my list this week and still have time to finish my final projects by Sunday. I live in constant fear that my children are neglected because I am failing as a mother with all the things that seem to come before them. I rarely have time for selfies anymore and I feel disconnected from all my friends because I have no time for social media. Luckily, I am self-aware enough to know that most of those fears are unfounded and that I’m doing my best. I am a perfectionist and have crazy high expectations of myself. Every once in a while I have to let myself off the hook and congratulate myself for keeping my sanity and killing it even if I am not perfect. So I leave you with this unfiltered and imperfect selfie. This is a portrait of a woman who wants it all and is enough. Keep your heads up my friends – you are enough, too!
Vulnerable, important and real. This is the kind of post that resonates better with me when I read them and what I will strive to share more. In a world driven by perceptions, full of the pressures of perfection, and life constantly on display as if the best of the scripted action is the everyday, I dare to be real. My website has evolved over the years and I lost sight that this was always intended to be my space to either be looking in or looking out-always meshing the two together so it was unclear if I was reflecting on outward things or projecting inward things. If I never look in, never show the imperfections, never share it with you out there who happen to stumble in and stay a while, then what’s the point?
Life is messy. Life is not always perfect. Share it anyway. Celebrate it. This is my re-commitment.
I feel like the last six months have been me figuratively stumbling around in the dark, wondering how I got so lost. Now I’ve found the light. I can see it at the end of the tunnel. I may have found my breaking point and kept rushing headlong into all the “YES, I can do that” things I got excited about. I’ve got healthy boundaries for myself now and am figuring out how to juggle the really heavy things – like imposter syndrome, fear of failure, fear of success – that are what make up my life. If you’ve stuck with me or have just found me, know that this is the slice of real you can continue to expect. I hope it resonates with you and that you’ll keep sharing this journey with me.
Yes, I know it is already well into 2019. As with most things in my life, I’m behind a bit. Maybe I could count the first quarter of 2019 as a trial period and we just pick up as if nothing left off from here? I like it. Pretend it is early January if that doesn’t work for you.
At any rate, here’s my recap of last year’s reading. It is a very long list (in the order read because OCD planning last year prevailed). It’s also more for my own look back for future reference. But if you see something you like here and pick it up because of my brief recommendation then I’ve done something good to pay things forward for the authors.
I’m proud of myself for reading as much for leisure as assigned and textbooks in 2018. A win if any I’ve heard for last year! Here’s to keeping that trend up in 2019.
It Came From the Great Salt Lake: A Collection of Utah Horror, K. Scott Forman (editor) – I have a story in this one so it was very cool to read. Many of the authors are friends and it was a pleasure reading such great stories. Not sure you love horror or want short bedtime stories, pick this one up!
Monster Hunter Alpha (Monster Hunter International #3), Larry Correia – I wanted to like this more but maybe if you’ve read one you’ve read them all?
Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty – this was a book club pick and what a great little gem it was! Great characters and great story.
Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Malone Scott – this was an amazing read for anyone in management or leadership especially. It is good for anyone in the business world – more so if you work in a culture full of passive-aggressive folk. Highly recommended!
Artemis, Andy Weir – almost as good as his first one and very entertaining.
Personality: Theory and Research, Cervone – textbook!
Henry V, William Shakespeare
Sonnets, William Shakespeare
Macbeth, William Shakespeare
A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini – book club pick
The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare – can you tell I took a Shakespeare class? Sigh… at least it is behind me now!
Flipped, Wendelin Van Draanen – book club pick
What Immortal Hand, Johnny Worthen – this one started out a little slow but SO worth the build up. By the end I couldn’t put it down.
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov – a classic but I’m not sure how I feel about it after having read it.
Hamlet, William Shakespear
Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal – the latest buzz book at work. It was just meh for me.
Rot & Ruin, Jonathon Maberry – I heard lots of great things about this one and I had to pick it up after I met the author in person. No disappointment here! There are lots more in the series which I will likely return to when I have more time.
Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy #1), Leigh Bardugo – another one with super hype. It didn’t suck but it is clearly written for a young-adult audience and I didn’t love it enough to read more in the trilogy.
Red Clocks, Leni Zumas – amazing book that an agent who I pitched my own novel to said it sounded like. Sure enough, this is very similar to the world my own novel is set in. Both awesome and a let down at the same time. To make myself feel better, I made my book club read it, too. They loved it, which was very cool.
Wonder, R.J. Palacio – book club pick
Feed, Mira Grant – pretty interesting new take on zombies.
Love on Location, September Roberts – written by a friend and such a fun read (romance erotica genre)
American War, Omar El Akkad – read more because it is a comparable title to the novel I wrote last year. It was interesting but took a while to really get good.
Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture, Stanley J. Baran – you guessed it, text book!
Criminal Behavior: A Psychological Approach, Curt R. Bartol, Anne M Barton – love me some psychology textbook (seriously, though. Don’t judge me!)
The Code Red Revolution: How Thousands of People are Losing Weight and Keeping it off Without Pills, Shakes, Diet Foods, or Exercise, Cristy Code Red Nikel – my new lifestyle starting point. If you want easy to follow Keto-based life, this is very easy to follow with clear and simple “rules” to live by. If you want just the details and don’t need all the inspirational stories, I recommend the actual book (or Kindle version) because the audible you can’t skip around as easily.
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant – book club pick
Human Evolution and Culture: Highlights of Anthropology, Carol R. Ember, Melvin Ember, Peter N. Peregrine – turns out I really love anthropology!
Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction, Kristin Denham, Ann Lobeck – textbook!
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas – one seriously amazing book that everyone in America should read. No, really. Go read this book. (The movie was not as good!)
The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah – book club pick. Kristin Hannah never disappoints and this one was great.
Playing Big: The Unsexy Truth About How to Succeed in Business, Kim Flynn – very fluffy entrepreneur book for people who may have never worked in the business world. Maybe I’m just far more well-rounded than most but I found not much new or noteworthy in this one.
Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer
Authority, Jeff Vandermeer
Acceptance, Jeff Vandermeer – I read this entire trilogy back to back as if it were one big book. Because of that, I had a complete story and was not disappointed. Had I waited in between (or read them at the rate they were being published) I would have been pissed. Overall a cool story. The movie sucked in comparison.
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stievater – book club pick. Another interesting YA that I probably won’t continue. If I didn’t have to read so many textbooks, I might have read more.
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – finally got around to reading this one. I think I liked it more than I would have because I watched the first season of the Hulu series based on the book. Overall, pretty disturbing and fantastic all at the same time.
Design Solutions – Robin Landa – textbook (I kind of hate graphic design, for the record)
The Dream Thieves, Maggie Stievater – okay, I lied. I found time for the second one of this series after my oldest read it.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson – I thought I would like this one more than I did. It was fascinating but not always the easiest to follow.
The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gillman – school assigned
The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker – fabulous read of the Trojan War from the women taken as slaves in the Greek camp. I made the book club read this one, too.
Tear Me Apart, J.T.Ellison – a quick and satisfying mystery.
The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1), Mary Robinette Kowal – I love this author and follow her podcast but this was the first book that struck me as something I would like to read. Alas, I was pretty disappointed. It was interesting but not compelling.
Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi – one of the best reads of the year. Interesting and full of diverse characters and cool magic.
The Devil’s Only Friend (John Cleaver #4), Dan Wells – I keep coming back to this series but I’m not sure where it is headed. I had limited time between classes and wanted something I could read quickly.
Literary Theory: The Basics, Hans Bertens – one of the most dreaded classes that ended up being one of my favorites. Who knew!
A Cold and Lonely Place, Sara J. Henry – probably shouldn’t start with book two in a series even if it is a stand-alone story. I just couldn’t get into the character who I assume readers knew more to keep them reading from the first book.
Midnight Riot, Ben Aaronovitch – just meh for me – British police who also hunts ghosts story.
New Family Values, Andrew Solomon – one of Audible’s free reads that was very compelling and made me think about how we define family in our current culture.
Time to come clean. To weigh in on where the hell I’ve been the last few months. To get really and truly real. So many times I’ve sat down and thought “I need to blog, it’s been forever”, yet everything feels trite or boring when I start to write a post.
On one hand, there are SO many things that have been happening… I started my senior year of college and I’m getting a minor now, too without adding any additional time to finish. Classes are getting more difficult and taxing, and I’m seriously burned out by all of it. Trudging along and barely mustering B-average work. But Cs get degrees so I’m still doing fine. My work as the Conference Committee Chair of the League of Utah Writers almost broke me between July and August preparing for our annual event, but it was an amazing conference and we are already planning for the next one. I’m also preparing for someone to take over because it’s too much time and effort to volunteer in the role forever. We are going through yet another reorganization at the corporate job – this makes two in under a year. Oh, and I was offered a position as an Operations Manager (and partner) in a new company. A role I could do in a handful of hours a week without having to give up my corporate job. Yes, I took it. So far I just had to give up staying in touch with people on social media to find the time.
But none of that really matters when talking about unapologetic confessions.
You see, on the writing front, I’ve had a hell of a year. I killed myself trying to finish drafting my last novel in order to pitch it to agents. Which I did. But it ended in rejection. I know I’m not alone in this outcome. Countless authors pitch novels that never get picked up or which take years and endless revisions until they are successful. But this was the first time I’d put myself out there with a novel. The first one I thought was good enough to sell. I’m not going to lie, it fucking hurt. Maybe even more so than I originally knew because the effects were felt months later when I couldn’t write a short story for my advanced creative writing class.
That’s when I got really worried. My creativity felt all dried up. Like I didn’t even know how to come up with a story anymore. Worse, the characters I always had whispering through my mind were silent. Dead. Maybe gone.
I had all these other things to fill my time and allow me to hide away from the pain of this rejection. Excuses I could make. Reasons I could use to explain away what was happening. That only worked for so long… I couldn’t hide from my self-awareness or my analytical nature.
I took stock. I made assessments. I started troubleshooting. Problem-solving.
In the last week of November, at the end of NaNoWriMo, I’d written a total of 252 words outside of academic assignments for the whole month. No revisions. Not even pretending to write. I’ve fallen so far from my creative writing that I struggle knowing where to begin to get it back. A few weeks ago I would have said I was completely broken.
But that isn’t true either. Not entirely.
What’s true is that I have broken my habit of daily writing, which I had fostered and committed to for several years thanks to the magic of NaNoWriMo. That does not mean I can’t get it back. But it does feel like I’m starting all over again from the beginning.
What’s also true is that I need to figure out what comes next for me. The novel I just finished drafting, while timely and full of potential, is also very political and similar to at least one that has already been published. I know because I read it. That doesn’t mean that I need to dwell on that project and obsess about it. What I can do is start another project or pick up one of the previous three others I’ve put down after initially drafting them. Maybe there’s still a story to be told hiding in the shell of the current project waiting to be found. Whatever the answer, start I must.
While I work through all the layers of how deeply the last few months have affected me, I am clear on one thing: I must be real and unapologetic with myself. It’s okay to be selfish – both with my time and the things I choose to fill it with. It’s okay to take time for my own self-care, otherwise, I can’t care for others. Above all else, I must stop hiding from myself and the fear of failure that has settled into me. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is acting in spite of it.
It’s the eve of the most ambitious undertaking I’ve ever embarked on. Incidentally, it’s also the most ambitious conference ever put on by The League of Utah Writers. We have amazing guests, an amazing venue, and a weekend full of fantastic things for writers regardless of what you write. If you’re anywhere near Utah and can attend, you totally should. The networking opportunities with industry professionals is worth it alone.
This is also mostly why I’m more sleep deprived than normal and less than prolific here with updates on all things Terra. Forgive me. The dust will settle next week and I’ll be back to regular updates.
I wrote a couple of vignettes at a workshop I taught last week. Mostly to prove that I was willing to do what I was making those in attendance do. The prompts were to describe a scene without telling the reader a specific detail about the character or the situation they were in. I wrote these longhand, which took me longer and filled an entire notebook page, and yet look so small here when I type them out.
The party poppers still haunted him where he’d retreated to the far corner of the house. Now they sounded like mortars across the city: far away enough not to hurt but still a danger to his brothers. New Year’s Eve and he had no excuse to leave. Instead he smiled and pretended and waited for it to be tomorrow so he could leave these civilians who knew nothing of what life was really about, with their champagne and glitter, ringing in another year.
Can you guess who the character is?
My fingers shook in rhythm with my racing heart. Is this what they meant when they said your life flashes before your eyes? The sounds around me were missing, but somehow I wasn’t worried about it. The reflections on the sidewalk alternated red then blue while I sat, watching the people crowded frantically around Noah. All I could see of him was one perfect foot. Where was his shoe? He had been wearing shoes when we left the party. The beautiful, unmarred foot. It already haunted me.
Can you guess where the character is and what had just happened in this one?
I’m still buried with a swamp of school work and a more-than-normally oppressive day job with little time to work on the current revisions of my novel. Yes, I’m frustrated by those facts, but as one of my writing group members said to me this week, everything has a season. Right now I’m in the “finish your degree” season which is winding down even though it doesn’t feel like it is. Finding time and opportunities like these little snippets to keep writing makes me happy while I wait for the seasons to turn again.
Being an artist is hard. Banish the self-doubt and self-sabotage inherent in all of us and you still have subjective judgments that rule the arts. This past month felt like someone holding a giant magnifying glass above me, concentrating the rays of sunlight into a laser beam of backyard destruction on a pitiful and insignificant ant, me. Of course there are reasons for this that I could go into and bore you with the details of.
I could. But I won’t.
That kind of dwelling on the details doesn’t allow for the wide-angle lens of life I glimpsed because of them. Which is the point.
The basics are: I went to a writer’s conference that showed me exactly where I am within the professional realm of writing and publishing. It isn’t where I want to be. I learned a lot. I was mostly happy, but also sad at the end of the trip. Objectively, nothing earth-shattering was uncovered while there. I’m in school still, I have to split what free time I have with my writing, and because of that, my writing is progressing at a fucking snail’s pace. Nothing I can do with that but be patient and persevere, knowing all the time I devote to finishing my degree I will get to spend writing when it’s over. Think of the solid habits I’ll have, too!
Big Sister is a beautiful almost-adult now. She auditioned for a dance company that she wanted so badly. Surviving the first cut – further than she’d come last year – bittersweet when she got cut in the second round. Lots of tears and self-doubt at our place and this mom feeling helpless to take the pain and disappointment from her.
Here’s where that wide-angle lens comes in.
I know exactly how she feels. Putting yourself and your work out in the world. Judges (agents, editors, readers in my case) making assessments on what feels like your personal worth based on your artistic expression and execution. Feeling like you’re not good enough in the face of apparent failure. Wanting to quit.
I found myself telling her she should not quit dance unless she felt in her soul that she didn’t want to dance anymore. Because wanting to dance, and the joy it brings her, is the only thing that matters. Not whether or not she got cut from the company. Not that someone else subjectively didn’t think she fit. Her technique was judged and found wanting, but only in someone else’s opinion. She is still a beautiful dancer. Dance makes her happy. It’s all that matters.
As I talked to her, my own words echoed back at me about my writing. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t got anyone to represent me. Nor that I found holes in my plot the size of Texas. That my technique is different than others does not invalidate it. The ridiculous amount of time it’s taking me to finish this latest novel. In the end, those things are all subjective measures. What matters is the joy writing brings to me when I’m doing it.
That is enough.
It is all that matters.
In life, in love, in dance… in writing… the only thing that matters is the joy it brings you. If it doesn’t then, by all means, quit. But if quitting will kill the joy that set you on the path in the first place, ask yourself why you and that nugget of joy that sings to your soul is not enough to sustain you.
Consider that it IS enough. Everything else is subjective and doesn’t have to define you, or your joy. What you and your situation look like through the lens of society is not the truth for you. Persist. Find and then cling to the joy. Let it sustain you through the darkness and the doubt.
I attended The League of Utah Writers Spring Conference this past weekend where I participated in another flash fiction workshop. This was a five minute prompt using elements of style (this one the idea of repeating consonant sounds) to show a tie between nature and a human relationship. Five minutes to write something is not a lot of time (and comes with some major pressure I found.) But I am very pleased with myself for this one. Maybe someday I’ll string all of these adventures together into a marketable collection… but I digress. Here’s something to enjoy while I continue the latest revisions on my novel.
The rain dripped on dying leaves. The temporary thawing only delaying the inevitable, like the tears shed over the freshly dug graveside where I stood. Goodbye, Mother.