Fear of Success

On the surface it sounds ridiculous. Why would anyone fear success? Isn’t that what we strive for our whole lives? What else are we doing if not trying to succeed at something?

These days we are told from birth (thanks in no small part to the Disney empire) to believe in our dreams and make them reality. No one ever tells us what happens after we achieve our biggest goals. That special place on the timeline of our lives is the “Happily Ever After” zone. We aren’t supposed to think about what happens after because there will be no more problems at the end of our journey. Once we get “there,” wherever “there” is, we will be happy forever.

Life is a constant search for this fantasy state of being. As soon as we solve one problem, everything else falls apart around us. It’s a law of nature. Either that, or when we do get there, our dream changes and the search continues.

This in mind, “fear of success” could stem from not believing in “Happily Ever After.” Us cynics might think about it every once in a while, and fantasizing about it gets us through the day. Deep down though, we acknowledge that our lives will never be problem-free. There will always be stress and obstacles until the very end. “Life sucks and then you die” has become a common phrase.

Sadly enough, I think “fear of success” ties with “fear of the unknown.” What would happen if the universe defied the odds and granted a non-Happily Ever After person everything they wished for? I worry about this unlikely version of the future because I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for it. What will I do with myself when my knees heal and I can go wherever I want? What if I’m not happy with the dream job I thought I wanted? What if I eventually publish a book and no one cares?

Or – and this is the really neurotic or that drove me to write this post – another area of my life could crumble, taking away any enjoyment from the achieved goal. I have this annoying fear that as soon as my knees heal, there will be another medical issue that needs to be addressed. Bad knees have been such a big part of my life that it’s hard to imagine being “normal.” I’m still doing everything I can to get better, because I realize it’s an irrational fear, but sometimes I worry about the next problem that will come along. It could be even worse and I’ll wish I only had to cope with bad knees.

I think I’m just a worrier who doesn’t know how to envision an anxiety-free future. Maybe I should take some comfort in that. I’ve always worried, I worry now, and future me will deal with irrational fears the same as I do today. Maybe “Happily Ever After” is more of a metaphor for inner peace. Success in a general sense can be intimidating, but isn’t it just another big change in life’s sequence of events? If we’ve managed to get this far without losing our minds, maybe it’s true that the only real fear is fear itself.

This Week’s Theme is “Perseverance”

I’ve had a rough week. It started with frustrated tears after my doctor’s appointment, continued with more frustrated tears due to my sudden inability to use crutches, then ended with overwhelming relief when I realized I could get around fine on a walker. Several days of my body rebelling against this new work-out schedule  put me through the emotional wringer. As someone who had no muscles at all pre-surgery, I faced the conclusion that using crutches for more than a few steps requires strength and coordination I don’t yet possess. Switching to the walker seemed like a failure at first, but now all I care about is being able to get around my house on my own.

Meanwhile, I finished my novella this week. I’m in that weird limbo where I’ve finished a project and don’t know what to do next, despite my earlier post about entering contests. Believe it or not I feel like editing my novella. In the past I would always write, but then never look at the project again because it would never be good enough for anyone else to read. I would move on to my next creation instead of editing a story I worked on for months. Now, I miss projects and want to go back. A writing career encompasses more than churning out a first draft, so maybe this is a sign that I’m finally ready for one.

Recovery is Fun and All…

…but I’m ready to make some money now. While it’s great that I’ve been saving for years, I still cringe at every new medical expense. Not to mention, once this is over, I get to do it again with the next knee. (…if the surgeon agrees to do a second surgery with this complication I’ve been having. I don’t want to talk about it.) A few weeks ago I looked into freelancing and I got nowhere because I couldn’t make a single decision. Do I go with this website, that website, maybe write a post with a bigger blog in mind? Never had a clue. There were so many potential pitfalls that I let it go until after surgery.

Well, surgery was about three weeks ago. I’m sick of spending money that I won’t be able to replace in the near future. Personally I love working on my creative writing projects, like the novella I just finished, but that’s not going to help any time soon either. I want to write and see results now, preferably in my bank account.

I know. Don’t we all?

When tweeting today I came across this beautiful list of writing contests. They even list the contests according to the nearest due date! There’s no guarantee, but it’s something. I plan to fire up the ‘ole imagination and churn out as many short stories as possible, maybe even fix up the only novel I’ve managed to finish. At least it’s something to focus on besides physical therapy.

Book Review: “A Gift of Ghosts” by Sarah Wynde

Akira Malone is a physicist. Her ability to communicate with ghosts is a “quirk,” a nuisance she does her best to avoid. She doesn’t even believe that ghosts are souls. They’re probably leftover energy, she reasons, and she can’t help them anyway. Not one has ever mentioned a “bright light.” Most she’s encountered just disappear without explanation, possibly converted into another form of energy.

Her instinct is to run when Zane Latimer hires her because of her quirk. In the end though, she can’t resist the top-of-the-line lab and intriguing research. She accepts the offer and moves to Tassamara, Florida, a town where hiding her quirk might not be an issue anymore. Apparently they’ve seen stranger things.

The book shines when focused on the author’s version of the spirit world. Ghosts Dillon and Rose are two of the most entertaining characters. It’s interesting that ghosts are not all good or all bad, but depend on individual’s energy. Akira’s scientific viewpoint creates a mystery that carries the story – what are ghosts, and where do they go when they disappear forever?

You can download the first Tassamara novel for free here.

Knee-jerk Reactions

This week has taught me the true meaning of “mind over matter.”

I’ve been given a new physical therapy regimen. The first week I had no idea how far I was supposed to progress, so I took it easy and didn’t move that much. Big mistake apparently. Now the doctor’s office is worried about knee stiffness, so they’re sending me to my local physical therapist every day this week. If I’m not there, I’m on my rented Continuous Passive Motion machine 4.5 hours a day (three sessions, 1.5 hours). If I’m not on the machine or at therapy, I’m doing exercises or putting ice on my knee.

Ice is on my knee right now. Frankly, I’m not sure I’ll have time to finish this post before my next CPM session.

While it’s easy to complain about this intense schedule, I don’t because I see the difference every day. I’ve been nervous about my knees my whole life. Preventing my kneecap from dislocating was on my mind constantly, and it still is because I haven’t done my right knee yet. My insecurity runs so deep that my knees have developed actual “knee-jerk reactions” to various movements. I’m so afraid my kneecap will move that my knee automatically jerks or tenses if the physical therapist stretches it in a way that would have caused pain in the past. The doctor, nurse and therapist think it’s because of the pain, but I have a high tolerance for that. It’s strictly because my subconscious is holding me back.

I wish there was a way for me to put my knee in phsyco-therapy, because that’s what it needs. It doesn’t believe yet that everything is okay now.

Then I discovered there is a way to talk to my knee. Whenever I feel a jump or instinctive tension, I take deep breaths, remind myself to be calm. It stopped jumping. I was so shocked today when I could actually straighten my knee out while sitting. I’d never done that fully before.

I’m not a competitive person, but this week, I’ve become competitive with myself. This progress makes me want to test my limits and see what “new tricks” I can learn. When I get my second knee done, I can imagine working out regularly.

After all, an hour at the gym every day would be nothing compared to my current schedule.

Writing Tips from an Unpublished Writer

Title says it all. If it helps, I started writing almost twenty years ago.

Yeah, that doesn’t help.

We won’t talk about the numerous commitment and confidence issues preventing me from querying agents. Instead, I’d like to mention something else: I give good advice. This talent doesn’t usually work on my own life, but I’ve helped countless others over the years. I’m like those psychics who can’t predict lottery numbers. If I wanted to take out more student loans, or listen to people talk about their problems all day long, I could easily be a therapist. I’d rather be an unpublished writer.

Anyway, you clicked on this post for the potentially-helpful advice that you might remember five minutes from now. F-Y-I, this is all from trial and error. If I went to college for writing or joined groups, maybe I would have learned this sooner or drawn different conclusions. All I know is that they’ve helped me…not get published. You’ve been warned.

  1. Write. I know, every advice article tells you this, but it’s for a reason. You won’t get better unless you write a whole lot of crap first. Thousands and thousands of words of pure, glorious crap. Oh sure, some of it might be grammatically correct, and your mom-teacher-friend-random person online might think you’re a natural. I’ve been there. Keep going. There is no conclusion to this point because the process doesn’t end. Your writing style has a life of its own. The way you write will develop five, ten, fifteen years from now. It’s an incremental change that results from individual decisions. You’ll get what I mean the first time you notice sentence length, or how often you use adverbs.
  2. Read. It took me a long time to get this. Logically you’d think writing and reading are inseparable, but sometimes, they drift apart. You get so wrapped up in producing that you forget how important it is to consume. Picking up a paperback, losing yourself in the story for hours, not stopping until the next chapter break…all of it reminds you why you write. I’m a firm believer that it doesn’t matter what you read. Read an interesting book/article/comic/etc., and you’ll want to write.
  3. Have a reason. This is another one that eluded me for years. A key element missing from my writing was emotion, and I could never figure out why. Why did all my original stories fall flat? Why was it so much easier to write fanfiction? I  couldn’t tell you my exact light-bulb moment, but in the last few years it finally clicked. The way I created stories needed adjustment. Characters and plot are important, but I should spend an equal amount of time on the message, the purpose. Why do I want to write this story? What do I want to tell readers? A story doesn’t have to be preachy, but it should have a theme. It will help when you lose interest in the middle and don’t know where to go next. This brings up my next point…
  4. Write however you want. I prefer to start at the beginning, but you don’t have to. Are there scenes you can’t wait to write? Write them first. For one novel (the only draft I actually finished), I skipped ahead to a collection of scenes between two of the main characters, which ended up in the middle of the story. That reminds me…
  5. Not everything will be usable. I’ve abandoned countless stories, written dozens of pages no one else will ever read. It’s okay. Sometimes you need to write scenes to get them out of your system.
  6. Shake up your routine. If you haven’t worked on your Super Important Manuscript in weeks, work on something else for a while. The novel that’s going to make you famous will be there when you’re ready for it. Sometimes, the new project you start becomes Super Important too. On the other hand…
  7. Don’t give in to “Writer’s Block.” Raise your right hand and say it with me: “Writer’s Block is an excuse. I could write if I really, really wanted to.” If it’s a schedule thing, make time. Wake up earlier or go to bed later. If it’s a story thing, ask yourself why. Are you dreading the next scene? Write another one (see Tip #4). Is the next scene necessary? Should you write it from a different POV? Turn the story around in your mind until something works. If you don’t have a story, then…
  8. Brainstorm. This is different for everyone, but it works best for me when I branch off from a topic (see Tip #3). Other pieces fall into place after that. What plot would best relate to this topic? What characters would this plot have? Eventually you zoom in on a main character.

 

Book Review: “Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper” by JL Bryan

Ellie Jordan is an expert at removing ghosts from haunted houses, and she prefers to work alone. She’s not happy when her long-time mentor/parental figure, former detective Calvin Eckhart, forces her to pair up with trust-funder college graduate Stacey Ray Tolbert. Newbie Stacey doesn’t understand yet that ghost trapping is serious business, so she gets an education real quick when their next case is a very haunted mansion owned by the Treadwell family.

The reluctant friendship between Ellie and Stacey is a highlight of the book. It’s not the fast BFF-ship a reader might expect but they’re not enemies either. Lighthearted jokester Stacey is a contrast to Ellie’s strict professionalism, and slowly wins Ellie over by not running away from the scary ghosts. They both need this courage as they run into all kinds of harmful spirits, particularly those related to the mansion’s long, scandalous history. The creepy horror-movie factor increases the more Ellie and Stacey investigate.

This story does feel like it’s divided in two because of the multiple hauntings, but I didn’t mind as much since the dark, spooky ending satisfied. All the characters’ interactions, particularly those of the resourceful protagonist, make the book an enjoyable read. You can download the first installment of the series for free here.

Fresh Air

The crankiness has passed. My birthday was a surprisingly good day even though I never left the house (and I’m 28 now…). This morning I woke up wanting to move, so I walked with my crutches on my own and even sat outside for a few minutes. It was my first time out of the house since getting home from the hospital last Friday.

I’m also writing. For the past few months I’ve been working on a novella, but it’s really the current incarnation of a concept that’s existed for two years already. (I don’t want to admit that, but yeah, the earliest document was from 2014. I wrote it as a script then but put the idea on the back burner for a year while I wrote my first novel. Yes, the completed first draft of a novel written by me exists, but I doubt it will ever see the light of day again.) I went back to this concept since I was looking for a “new” project. My original goal was to turn it into a series of short stories, but that didn’t work so I landed on the novella format.

So I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with this. I love the characters and this particular world I’ve created, but I don’t love the idea of stretching this into a novel. It works just fine as a novella based on the script I wrote two years ago. I also have more ideas for these characters that would work perfectly as novellas. (Since it started as a drama pilot I’m still thinking in “episodes.”) I plan to put each novella on Wattpad, but I’m not sure what to do beyond that. Individual ebooks seem like a logical choice if I want to publish them separately.

Another option is to consider each story part of a larger novel. Authors divide novels into Part I, Part II, etc. all the time. If I want to go the route of traditional publishing, this might be the best tactic.

I am fine. I really don’t have a right to complain, because the surgery couldn’t have gone better. The pain is minimal – like now, I’m fine with a few doses of Tylenol per day. I’ve got my Continuous Passive Motion machine to move my knee up and down. Family members and friends have been checking up on me regularly.

So why am I so freaking cranky? This is not good when my birthday’s in two days. The same people will be calling, texting, visiting, so I’ll smile and say how amazing it is that I feel so good when I had surgery less than week ago.

I think that’s the problem. Except for this big brace on my left leg and some fatigue, I don’t feel like I should be sitting in the house doing nothing all day. My mind is clear enough that cabin fever is making me irritable, especially because it’s summer and I could be doing fun summer things. Well, the whole point of these surgeries is so I can walk without the constant fear of my kneecaps popping out, so it’s not like I would be running along the beach or anything. Still though, I’d like to go places. Hell, I’d like to go to the bathroom without needing help getting there.

…yes, TMI. Deal. You’re not the one who needs to send out an alert every time you have to do Number One. (By the way, I also might be cranky because I haven’t done Number Two since Friday morning. What’s that about?) Another cause could be the sleep issue. I don’t have as much energy, but at the same time, it’s difficult to get comfortable when I want to sleep at night.

Speaking of, my mood also might be in part due to my monthly visitor. Yes, I’m going to talk about that too. The world needs to know that there are surprising upsides to having your period while getting surgery. Firstly, with the pain meds, you don’t feel the cramps when you wake up. It’s a beautiful thing. Even better, you don’t have trouble going to the bathroom (Number One at least) in the hospital. I highly recommend coordinating your schedule if it doesn’t affect the procedure.

So that is what’s on my mind post-surgery. Other than numerous bathroom dilemmas, there’s really nothing to report. Hopefully I’ll calm down the more I get used to my new condition. If not, it’s going to be a very long summer.

Blogging and The Importance of Relatability

Reactions are sometimes unpredictable. Typically, I can write essays about the most random, pointless topics just from the jumble of thoughts in my head, no prompting necessary. Many have been posted on this blog. I ramble about any topic that crosses my mind on an average day.

So you’d think, when something big happens in my life, the first thing I’d want to do is write a blog post about it. Instead, my surgery is tomorrow and I almost didn’t post anything. This is why I never kept a diary. I don’t enjoy rattling off daily events. To me, there’s no point unless I put thought behind it, or tie multiple events together to see how they fit. I’d rather post my insights or my view of how something should be. No matter how exciting events might be to the person living them, people on the outside won’t get it unless they relate to it. Unless this person is a relevant celebrity – then everyone cares about everything, no matter how minor the event.

Anyway, that’s part of my hesitation. The other, much bigger part is how I react to major events. I don’t like to examine them. Once my nerves have settled down to a resting state, I’d rather not stir them up again. I’m glad the clearance went through and I’m good to go for tomorrow, but at the same time, I don’t want to think about surgery tomorrow. All anyone’s been saying is that I’ve been through worse. This is true, but this surgery is tomorrow while “worse” is in the distant past. I can’t help the irrational fears and exaggerated “what ifs” that make me forget why I wanted this surgery in the first place.

At least I go to the hospital in the morning tomorrow, so I’ll have a little less time to freak myself out. I might start posting again as early as next week if I have enough energy for it.