Trimming the Sails

Happy New Year! The new year is always a time for reflection, and sitting at home, waiting for the results of a covid test to see if I had a cold or omicron, gave me even more time to reflect and think about where I’m going. So let me post about what I’ve reflected on. Perhaps you can find some parallels to your struggles.

Last year everyone was so happy to put 2020 behind them. I kept wondering why they thought 2021 would be different. It wasn’t. More masks. More misinformation creating more division. More financial struggles. 

My personal year was a mixed bag. I started out with the high of planning to self-publish my first novel. I hired an editor and went back to work on the manuscript. Just as I finished that, I was suddenly forced to look for housing in the worst market in decades. I got lucky and found a place not yet listed, but because of the rushed need for a place to live, I didn’t look into things as well as I should have, and am stuck with a house which I love, but has some real problems that will cost me a great deal of money down the road. Money I don’t really have. It was an emotional blow.

The pandemic began to take its toll. I wanted to reconnect socially – have some fun and rediscover the joy of living. But every time I considered a solution, because of my work with vulnerable people, covid seemed to stop me. The desire to write seemed to fade away for the first time in my life and I decided to let it go.

A slide into depression followed. I felt disconnected, distrustful, defeated, exhausted, and hopeless. Little slights were magnified. I lost all confidence in myself. It isn’t the first time I’ve struggled with depression (I am Scandinavian after all), and thankfully I’ve developed tools to recognize and deal with it. It took time and there were more lessons learned from this battle. Even after the depression faded, I found it almost impossible to write, though ideas kept forming… niggling… speaking quietly that my calling hadn’t left me.

On the first day of 2022, the test came back negative. Despite my sniffles, I am once again free to move about without worrying about the consequences for others. I am now poised for action and while I can’t say I make resolutions, my time of reflection made me realize I do want to trim the sails on my boat and capture the wind to move in a different direction. 

One priority is my health. I’m starting out with a reset for my liver and taste buds with a cleanse. (I hate the click bait title, but the cleanse is great.) I want to eventually get the pandemic stress weight off and go back to where I feel good in my body. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with the end goal. I want to think about today and what needs to be done today.

Another priority is my writing. Yesterday I pulled up my first book and looked at the editor’s notes. There was so much positive. I started to edit again and felt the embers flicker into a small flame. The love is still there. There are several ideas I’d like to flesh out a little more and perhaps get started on them as well. I’ve realized that self-publishing is the way to go. I want two things. I want to write. And I want my stories to be read. Self-publishing accomplishes that, without the stupidity of the publishing industry.

And my last priority for 2022 is social. I have to find a way to reconnect. One barrier to that is the very, very thick walls I’ve constructed after years and years of hurt. This last depression revealed how easy it is to reopen old wounds and those walls do nothing to prevent that. I need to figure out how to take the walls down and find a way to trust, and I believe forgiveness is the key to that so that I can form closer bonds. I’m hoping that omicron will bring the end of the pandemic and make it an endemic disease that isn’t nearly so serious for so many. I want to get out there and have fun with people. Find joy, fun, spontaneity. 

With the sails trimmed, I hope my boat sails through whatever 2022 throws at me.

That’s my year in review and what I’m looking forward to. What have you learned from 2021? What do you hope to do in 2022? Leave me a comment and share your experience. 

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Starting Again

This blog has been abandoned for far too long. There was the turmoil of the election and the never-ending pandemic, and for some time my little writing endeavors felt so unimportant. I reached the decision to self-publish my first novel, FEAR UNLEASHED, and kept meaning to blog about that, but never did. I hired an editor and delved back into the book that had been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years.

And just as I neared the end of the editing process, my landlord sent me a text telling me someone had offered him money for the house, and he was going to take it. I ended up having about 45 days to find a new place to live. I abandoned editing and publishing in order to deal with the immediate crisis.

As in so many cities and towns, we are in the midst of a housing crisis, with investors who have more money than sense, buying up every house available for more than it’s worth, driving up prices and rents. With a great deal of luck, and the blessing of being so well connected in this town, I secured financing and got a house before it went on the market, so no bidding war ensued. It’s an old house, so it will require a lot of upkeep and there are some pretty major projects in my future, but it feels like home, and I look forward to years and years spent here.

Now that I’m settled, it’s time to get back to the work of writing. There was a summer writing contest, and despite all the uproar in my life, I worked on a story. However, it was not up to my standards, and I could never get it where I wanted, so that was abandoned. It was still a worthwhile project to get me back into the writing frame of mind. And if I ever finish it, I will add it to my short story site. Today I returned to editing my novel and working towards self-publishing it.

So, after a long fallow period where I began to wonder if I would ever get back to writing, I am starting again… again.

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Don’t Quit… Rest

In my last post, I was feeling hopeful. Not long after, that feeling faded. I decided to take the month of December off. A quiet little nudge inside me seemed to make it clear that it was the right thing to do. As the month went by, the voices that had been nagging at me and bringing me down, got louder. You’re not a real writer. A real writer doesn’t take breaks. A real writer lives to write. You’re a hack. Your writing is always missing something essential.  You are, and always have been, a failure. Just quit. Face the fact that the best you can hope for is to be scraping by the rest of your life, and working until you die. 

Even when I tried to turn my thoughts to the hope of publishing, the voice got even louder. The publishing world is no different than the film and TV world. You don’t fit their mold. They want young, pretty women with lovely writery pictures on the back cover that they can trot out on stage to sell books. You are not that. Once again, you have to jump through their hoops, play their games, all with the understanding that in the end, you just won’t cut it. Why bother. Just self-publish and let the public decide, except they likely will never get that chance, because of the sheer volume of self-published books and your lack of experience with marketing. So really, Just quit. Face the truth. Quit, already, and end the embarrassment of trying.

After weathering the onslaught of negative voices in my head, I woke up in the middle of the night a few nights ago and gave myself a talking to.

Look, you chose this. This is what you wanted. You put everything at risk to do this. You could have chosen an easier path, the kind most everyone else takes, but you didn’t. Is it fair that your work will somewhat be judged on your appearance and age? No, it isn’t. But for many agents and publishers, that’s what’s happening. But, there will always be some who are simply looking for a good story, and  you have to go through the effort to find them. Again, this is what you chose. Put on your big girl pants and see it through. Pending any disasters, you’re aren’t going to be homeless for another 2 years, and maybe even longer, so stop stressing, do the work that needs to be done, and have some fun with the process.

The spring unwound and I came to realize that during the fallow period, even as I fell into an anxious depression, my batteries were actually recharging. I came up with two short story ideas, which is important, because my query letter is woefully short of credits. Winning a contest or two could help with that. During December, I read more from agents on what they do and don’t want and came to a conclusion my instincts were actually right for a change. Chapter one, as is, is the way to go. I’m eager to give

book one another pass to make sure my edits are consistent. I’m eager to hire a junior agent to help me with my query letter. Eager to get short stories out there. Eager to then get back to book two, do a rewrite on that, and then begin to move forward. All that anxiety and fear is gone. I’m ready to work.

I think I got the lesson loud and clear this time. When I feel defeated, anxious and all the voices in my head are telling me to quit, what I really need to do is rest.

Are you tired and ready to give up, especially after a stressful holiday season? Can you take a break from at least one thing that is causing stress and draining your time and resources? Find a way to take time off. Get your balance back. Your feet underneath you. Take a deep breath. Then when you’re rested, ask yourself if you still want to quit. I bet you won’t. I bet you’ll be ready to go at it even harder.

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Hiring an Editor – Check

A little over a week ago I contacted an editor and sent him my manuscript. I’m studying quantum physics for the next book, and so for the past week it’s felt like my manuscript has been like Shrodinger’s cat… neither alive nor dead, nothing but waves of potentiality. Surprisingly, rather than feeling frustrated by the wait, the anticipation and possibility of anything happening was lovely.

Tonight the wave became a solid particle, and I now have a highly-experienced  professional’s opinion about my book. As expected, there is good and bad. Some of the bad can easily be fixed. Some of it may have deep roots that will be difficult to untangle… not impossible, just difficult.

He pointed out bad habits that I have developed – some are remnants of my screenwriting days, one is the very common bad habit of writing in the passive voice, and the rest are just personal weaknesses. Hopefully the more I am aware of my flaws, the harder I can work to fix them in my future writing.

There were also compliments, which provided some encouragement to keep trying. It’s very nice having a professional in the publishing world describe your manuscript as enjoyable and entertaining. So, as I watch my savings dwindle, I feel encouraged that it’s not time to go to plan B just yet.

What’s next? I don’t know. I am a babe in the woods when it comes to the publshing world. My guess – I go back to work with the guidance of my editor, and when we have something polished I start writing query letters to agents and publishers. Will that lead to a publishing house? It’s a roll of the dice, but at least in today’s world, there is the option to self-publish. One way or another, I will have a published book, what is in question is what reach it will have.

I just have to keep checking things off the list. Step by step. Bit by bit. It’s how every dream becomes a reality.

What’s the next thing on your dream’s checklist?Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather