In Transition

For someone who hasn’t had a full-time job since May 2016, I’ve been awfully busy these last few weeks. And more than a little spoiled. This year my paternal relatives (Family 1) and my stepfather’s relatives (Family 2) both decided to go on vacation in late July. As of right now I’m back in my aunt’s house after a week in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida with Family 1. It mostly consisted of sitting by a glorious heated pool with a Rum Runner in my hand (either that or a Flying Fish, which was basically an alcoholic Arnold Palmer). Tomorrow my immediate family will pick me up on their way to North Carolina, where my stepfather’s sister rented a house by a lake.

I know – such a tough life for the partially unemployed. I didn’t even have to pay anything since my two aunts covered the Florida trip for the whole family. (At least I’m not the only spoiled one?) My main hardship these days is getting from Point A to Pont B. Both knees are fully healed, but I discovered that my quad muscles are nowhere near where they should be. The long walks and unfamiliar terrains wore me out, so by the third day I had to take a nap and borrow my aunt’s Aspercreme. It taught me a big lesson about staying in my comfort zone. For the past few months I’ve been getting around my house and other common places fine. If I want to go out into the real world, aka take the train to a job interview, I’ll need to push myself harder when my whirwind double vacation ends.

Vacation also made me a little frustrated with my “real life.” I mean, most people go on vacation to escape their daily stresses, which I don’t really have. While my general current situation stressses me out, it’s all self-inflicted. I don’t actually have anything to escape from. It made me feel stuck even though, IMO, finally addressing my knees after 29 years crossed a major life goal off my list. I will end up working full-time somewhere, but having no idea where freaks me out. My cousin who works for a college is trying to convince me to get my master’s degree. I’m still not convinced, and a master’s requires commitment. I can’t just say “oh, this sounds sort of interesting, I’ll take out a loan for that.” All I know is that I want to write for a living – maybe create web content or written communication for a major company. I’ll always write stories,but I can’t count on producing a bestseller. Right now I’m crossing my fingers the right job pops up when I search Indeed.com.

Oh well, I’ll worry about that next week. This week I’m going on vacation again. 

Now Posting Some Content on Medium.com

My writerly self has been all over the place for a long while. I don’t know if I want to work on fan fiction, original work, even personal essays. Plus The Holidays are distracting so when I’m not with family I’m watching Christmas movies on Netflix or Youtube. Maybe it’s time I read an actual book again rather than online articles about how much the Gilmore Girls revival sucked.

Anyway, while rambling on tumblr about how much I can’t stand Rory Gilmore, I remembered a website I bookmarked a while back. Medium.com is basically a social network for the types of posts I like to write, aka, long-winded editorials that make the author sound smart when we’re really just ranting about the world. Any posts related to media and pop culture – mostly TV shows – will be posted here. I might move my baking posts there depending on how it goes.

Thanks for reading! Happy Holidays everyone!

Frozen

Don’t worry, I don’t mean the Disney movie, and I’m not about to sing “Let It Go.”

…well, now I am since watching the music video, but that’s entirely irrelevant.

Anyway, by “frozen,” I mean those times we are frozen with fear and unable to take the next step. This has always been very literal for me, especially now that I’m recovering from knee surgery. You’d think I’d be back to normal after three months, but the thing is, much of the time I didn’t walk “normally” pre-surgery. I could walk on my own when I felt steady enough, but when I didn’t, I leaned on my stronger knee (ironically, the one operated on first) or reached for something to hold on to. I’ve been holding myself back the last few weeks because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t gaining any balance. So what if I leaned on my other knee instead of the post-op one? I did that in the past and managed well enough.

I’d gotten frustrated to the point of tears (again) because I couldn’t use my shiny new cane that I ordered from Amazon. It seemed bizarre that I couldn’t use it because I barely needed the walker anymore. If I shouldn’t use the walker, and I couldn’t use the cane, how the hell was I supposed to get around?

So, with that realization, I resigned myself to practicing with the cane and only using the walker if absolutely necessary. Not very encouraging three months after surgery.

Then a few days ago I used the treadmill for the first time in weeks, as part of my plan to walk more in addition to physical therapy exercises. I’d been making excuses because we have a foundation leak in our basement, and our treadmill is in the basement, so how can I possibly use it with all the furniture crowding it? Finally I asked Mom about moving things around so I could practice walking (as in heel-toe with equal weight distribution) on the treadmill. I didn’t think much of it but figured it could only help.

“Help” was an understatement. My mental state improves every day by walking with confidence on the treadmill, even if it’s at a snail’s pace and I lightly hold on to the railings for safety. I understand now that, hey, what do you know, maybe leaning on one knee more than the other does have something to do with balance. I also realize that my post-op knee is capable of supporting more weight than I’d thought, that I won’t fall as soon as I rely on it. Even if I do feel like I might fall, I’m capable of righting myself without frantically grabbing for the nearest sturdy piece of furniture.

I feel much more optimistic now. It wasn’t a miracle of course, as I still have plenty unsure moments and reach for furniture on occasion, even when using the cane. Now I try to thaw when I freeze up, and not allow my fear of falling to get the best of me. These days I’d rather risk falling than hold myself back from moving forward.

 

I feel like I’ve been on a mental vacation for the last week or so. After not seeing some relatives since before the surgery, I finally stayed with my aunt and cousin for the weekend. I looked forward to it like I was going to Florida or something because I’m not going on any “real” vacations this year (they live in Staten Island, an hour away for me). Then I had a follow-up with my surgeon on Tuesday. All good news and I don’t have to go back for three months, but still no writing Tuesday night.

This is partly because of Scribophile. While grateful for feedback on Define Reality (and a short story I posted), it made me realize how much writing and editing I still have to do. Readers enjoyed the characters and had some encouraging words, but underneath that, they helped me realize the story structure needs a lot of work. I have ideas on how to fix it but I also want to finish the entire anthology first. So my plan right now is to write the rest of the novellas in the anthology, figure out how I want to fix the story line, then edit thoroughly (or possibly rewrite).

Writing and editing the first draft will take months, maybe over a year. And that’s if I don’t get sidetracked. Acknowledging this made me…frustrated, to say the least. I’ve been writing since middle school, and after more than fifteen years of this, I still have a long way to go.

My past lack of – or misguided – ambition is the main cause of this, I think. It goes back to high school when I didn’t take creative writing seriously and signed up for the newspaper because “it’s writing.” I carried that philosophy into college, where I majored in journalism even though I had no intention of being a real reporter. “It’s writing so I’ll like it,” I convinced myself. “You can be an editor while working on your own stories.” After The Intro to Creative Writing Class Incident, I gave up on original work for years and played around with fanfiction. Then after college I wasted a few years thinking I could actually become a TV writer. I even wrote specs and entered contests/fellowships. Does it surprise anyone that I never won anything?

I finally found my stride a few years ago when I finished the first draft of a novel. It all clicked for the first time ever, and I saw why I could never finish past stories. Unfortunately this only happened after wasting years in between on projects that weren’t going to lead anywhere. I guess you could say The Lost Years led to this point, but I would be much further ahead if I just took some helpful creative writing courses in college or even high school. These days I’m too jaded to listen to one random novelist/”professor” who may or may not know how to teach.

So while Scribophile will be beneficial to my writing, I’ve realized once again that publication is much further away than I thought. Maybe I’ll find a job related to editing/media/communications and only write stories for myself.

This tweet I retweeted a while back sums it up nicely:

 

I’ve Discovered a New Obsession

For the record, this is not an advertisement for Scribophile.com. I’m just having so much fun with it that I had to share.

So, a few days ago I was driving myself crazy (as usual) trying to decide what to do with my writing next. I’m still going to enter contests. After some web surfing, I actually found two novella contests with upcoming deadlines. The entry fee will probably be wasted money, but considering I can’t think of other options, this seems like the most accessible way to gain recognition for my work.

Then I thought about online writing classes. I still don’t want to take one. A Facebook group had a list of recommendations, but I don’t want to deal with one professor who might not be a good fit for me or my work. I’m no longer in a mindset where I can take one person’s opinion as gospel. If anything I would consider a knowledgeable critique group that can offer different but equally respectable opinions.

This was my train of thought when I randomly came across the link to Scribophile. I’ve tried other critique websites before. Writing.com was fun once upon a time, but after taking a break from it for a few years, I couldn’t get the hang of it again. No one bothered with my posts and I couldn’t find anything interesting to read. I did have my full novella on Wattpad just recently, but I decided to take it down because a) I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep it posted when I entered contests, and b) I barely got any views. Same as Writing.com, I never got too involved with the community, so my work sat there unread.

Scribophile feels like a brand new world for me. First of all, I like that members have to be 18 or older. There’s a distinct difference in the quality level of critiques and even forum posts. Second, the reward system is much stricter. You actually can’t post work until you’ve earned enough “karma points” by reviewing other people. So unlike other websites, I can’t “put off” finding a story to read after posting my own. The site practically forces you to get involved by reviewing and posting in the forums. I can’t say I mind this because I’ve already found some nice people and interesting stories.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to the last week. If anyone wants to look me up on Scribophile, here’s my profile. (Yes I used my real name. I thought it was like Facebook that way and didn’t realize many people made up fake ones.)

 

The Sweet Spot

Usually I get post ideas by overthinking everything. Over the last few weeks, life has become so boring that I’m trying not to overthink everything because it drives me crazy (in a bad way). Seriously people – all I do is go to physical therapy or do my exercises. I socialize a bit but not enough to take up most of my week. So in my effort to not obsess, I’ve deprived myself of my main source for blog post ideas.

This isn’t all bad though. Boring can be positive, just like “exciting” can be negative.

Focus on my writing projects has drastically improved. I actually finished the first novella in my series and started the next one. Define Reality 2 is going well thanks to my outline. Meanwhile, a random burst of inspiration led to the outline for a short story. I’m going to enter it in contests when it’s written. I’ve said this before, but when my Define Reality series is complete, I also plan to query agents for the first time ever. This is the first project I’ve felt comfortable enough to send into the world (as in the world of publishing, instead of just posting online).

Recently, I wrote a post listing all the writing techniques I’ve accumulated over the years. I think it’s finally blended together to form a sustainable writing practice. The ideas I build on lead to full outlines, and I spend more time worrying about character voices or themes. I finish first drafts then still want to edit them. I’m still not comfortable volunteering details about my work “IRL” (because who honestly cares?) but I would send it to people if they asked to read it.

I’m ready to query agents. I’m ready to consider criticism and edit a piece until it works. Maybe, when my knees are taken care of, I might look into writing classes with the intention of actually taking them. Hell, maybe I should look into online programs now. (Though I can’t help feeling creative writing courses are a waste of time at this point – I’d rather just write.) This might be the boredom talking, but I’m ready for the next step – whatever it turns out to be.

 

A Pantser Who Plans

“Pantser” and “Planner” are terms I picked up from then NaNoWriMo community. While I gave up on ever writing 50K words in a month (I prefer my own pace because forcing a story never works for me), I still support those who take on the challenge and adopt some of their philosophies. A Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of one’s pants, meaning without an outline to guide them, while a Planner…well, plans. Neither label is better than the other  – in my opinion – and the choice completely depends on the individual.

Until recently I was a Pantser. Whenever I got inspiration for a new idea, I’d be so excited about it and start the first chapter right away. Then I would hit a wall by the second chapter. At most I made up scenes as I went. This alone made me abandon many stories because I never bothered to chip away at said wall. I’d lose interest in the idea, conclude it wasn’t as great as I thought it was, and move on to the next Great Idea. I never wanted to stop and re-examine the characters, plot or potential themes. My inspiration moved on so I went right along with it.

Inspiration is a tricky devil. It makes mediocre ideas THE BEST THING EVER and distracts me from investing in my current work. Before the story had any depth, I’d get distracted by the shiny new idea waiting to be developed. Without an outline or any idea of how the middle will flow into the conclusion, I had difficulty committing to the story. Why bother when a dozen other ideas sound much better than the one right in front of me?

My novella series “Define Reality” turned me into a Planner. It originally started as a television script, so for once I already had every single plot point mapped out. This made a huge difference when I finally wrote the novella version. I could focus on characters and theme instead of worrying about where the hell I was going with all this. Oh sure, I still had to figure out a bunch of stuff along the way, but the basics were there. I also felt comfortable adding things knowing how they fit into the overall picture. Even though I didn’t write the novella in a thirty days, I finished in less than six months and was happy with the results.

I think I will always “pants” a little bit. There will be times when I’ll go totally off-outline and add in scenes I concoct during the writing process. Going forward though, I want to put more effort into outlining the whole story. If nothing else, it’s a relief to know I won’t end up in the Middle of Nowhere without map.

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.

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.