On Fear

spiders-close-up_2160071kFear. It sucks. There’s no more accurate way to say it. I don’t think we’re born to fear most of the things we do. I really believe in my heart that many, if not most, fears are acquired rather than innate. For example, I grew up on a farm, and as a child, I was never afraid of spiders. We weren’t ever going to be BFFs or anything, but they didn’t terrify me—yet.

Fast forward to Girl Scout Summer Camp, circa 1978 or so. I bounced up the steps into my platform-and-canvas tent to find I was the last of the four girls to arrive. My tentmates had thoughtfully saved my very special cot just for me—the one with the live wasp and spider nests tucked in the corner above my head.

I turned to the junior counselor, Woodstock (names have not been changed to protect the innocent; these were their actual camp nicknames), and asked if we couldn’t knock the nests down. The spider nest didn’t faze me, it looked sort of like a big, fluffy cotton ball, but I was worried about all those wasps buzzing threateningly at their new, delicious neighbor.

“Sure, let me go ask if K-2 [the head counselor] has some bug spray,” she said, smiling reassuringly.

I started to unpack, keeping one eye on those nests the whole time. After a few minutes, Woodstock returned, an unhappy frown marring her very young face.

“I’m sorry, but K-2 said we can’t kill them. They’re part of nature, she said, so you’ll just have to try not to disturb them.”

WTF?

I’m sure I didn’t actually say that—I don’t think I even knew the F-bomb back then—but I’m also sure my face expressed that thought pretty clearly.

“It’ll be okay,” Woodstock cooed soothingly. “You’re not going to spend much time in here anyway, and they won’t bother you while you’re sleeping. They get pretty quiet at night.”

I took her, skeptically, at her word, and the day did pass quickly, full of fun, sun, games, and activities. Before I knew it, it was time for bed. I stood for a long time beside the metal-framed cot, my flashlight shining directly at the two nests. I thought Woodstock might just have been right; there was not a wasp in sight, and the cotton ball nest was still just a cotton ball. I crawled into my sleeping bag on top of the lumpy cot mattress and drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

As I tossed and turned, my dreams turned darker, and I soon began to see shadowy figures scrabbling all around me. One parted from the rest, growing bigger and darker as it began to chase me, faster and faster. My heart pounded as I raced through the darkened campground trying to outrun it, even as it grew ever bigger, ever swifter.

I glanced over my shoulder—big mistake—and froze at what I saw: an enormous, greasy-furred, blacker-than-hell’s-deepest-pit spider. Terror, futile and unreasoning, cut my legs out from beneath me as the monster reared up over me, fangs bared and dripping down onto me with the vilest of poisons.

I screamed. I screamed and I screamed and I screamed and I screamed and I screamed.

Hands, young and strong, grabbed my shoulders and shook me awake.

“It’s okay! It’s okay! It’s just a nightmare!” I finally stopped screaming and, shaking and sobbing, slowly became aware of Woodstock, my tentmates, and virtually every other girl in camp, crowded into our tiny tent. “It was just a dream, honey. It’s okay,” Woodstock was murmuring, full-out hugging and rocking my shaking body back and forth. “What a bad one. What was it? Do you want to talk about it?”

Haltingly, I explained what I had seen. When I had finished, Woodstock stood up straight, her face grim in the circle of flashlights surrounding her.

“That’s it. This is ridiculous. You shouldn’t have to put up with this.” Without another word, she marched out of the tent. Moments later, she returned, bearing a can of Off bug spray and a long, red broom.

“I don’t care what K-2 says, we’re getting rid of these. Now.” Woodstock hopped onto my cot and, brandishing the broom over her head, she took aim with the Off at the harmless-looking nests above my bed.

Now—up until this next moment, my fears weren’t real. They were dreams, things my subconscious had cooked up to freak me out. They simply weren’t real. But the moment that the bug spray hit, not the wasp nest, but the cotton ball spider nest—the nest became transparent.

Suddenly, what had looked so harmless, so innocent, so fluffy and so clean, turned into a wriggling, writhing, skittering mass of EWWWWWW. There were thousands of them, twisting and squirming. As their squirming became more aggressive, the nest tore open, and the spiders began dropping from the ceiling, a creepy-crawly shower straight from hell. I began screaming again (all the girls did, frankly) and ran from the tent. From the safety of the far side of the fire pit, we watched as Woodstock, Off in one hand and broom in the other, valiantly knocked both of those nests to the wooden floor and stomped on them, over and over and over again, until there was nothing left but a dark stain. In retrospect, I don’t think Woodstock was afraid of anything.

That, my friends, is how I acquired my fear of spiders.

I wish I could say that they’re the only things I have come to fear in my lifetime, but they’re not. Flying, meeting new people, being home alone at night, getting lost—I’m afraid of so many things, it’s a wonder I even get out of bed in the morning. (But I’m also afraid of muscle atrophy, so I do.)

That’s what I really want to say to you about fear, in the end. It’s that we’re all afraid of something, acquired or innate, but fear or not, we still have to DO—or we die.

When I first started writing, I was terrified to show it anyone. Once I did, I found it wasn’t so bad—most of the time. Fear conquered.

When I decided to try to enter grad school, I was scared they wouldn’t accept me. Guess what? It happened—I didn’t make it. But I didn’t die. I tried again. This year, I finally made it. Fear conquered.

When we first talked about relocating again after six years in Minnesota, I couldn’t sleep for fear of what the future would bring. But we did it, and while it has been tough at times, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Fear conquered.

Today, as I write this, I’m taking another leap that scares me to death. For over a year now, I’ve been complaining about my crummy website, but I lack the budget to hire a professional and the technical expertise to do it myself. So for the last three months, I’ve been teaching myself, step by step, and just this afternoon, I finally made the call to “point the name servers for my domain” (thank you, Technical Support Dudes, for the proper jargon and patiently answering my 122 support calls) to my new website.

Having said that, I confess: I’m in an agony of fear at the moment. They said it could take anywhere from 5 minutes to 48 hours before it will be live. I’ve already checked 22 times in the last 30 minutes—it’s not up yet.

Will it suck? Will it even work? Will it be completely screwed up? Will people know where to find me? And how do I do this whole redirect thing anyway? What if it accidentally redirects to a porn site? Well, some folks might actually like that better, but Argh! Hyperventilating! Fear not conquered, not at all. But at least I’m engaging it.

The thing about fear is that, if you let it, it can stop you from living the life you want to live. But if you face it head-on, with a can of Off and a broom, you can kick its ass. Afraid of something? Ask yourself: what’s the best outcome if I try? What’s the worst outcome if I try and I fail? Then, and this is the most important step, remember this: IF YOU DON’T AT LEAST TRY, YOU ARE GUARANTEED TO FAIL. I know, I went all shouty caps there, but this is important–I didn’t want you to miss it.

That not-even trying thing? That, right there, that’s the worst thing that can happen.

So—hopefully, as you’re reading this, you’re reading it on the New-and-Improved Justscribbling.com and it looks great! And you love it! (And you’ll tell me, so I know.) But, if you’re reading this on my normal WordPress blog site—well, then you know it didn’t go as planned. Or that it’s taking a lot longer than I hoped to find out. But at least I tried, and I will try again.

What fears are stopping you from doing the same?

 

 

The Write Before Christmas, 2013

What a year it’s been! A cross-country move, new home, new friends, and in a late 2013 development, my long-awaited acceptance to grad school to finish my M.A. in Writing. Throw in some diverting parenting moments since Thanksgiving (broken bones, broken glasses, and bouts of stomach flu; Spew-nami 2013 has now surpassed The Night of the Green Spaghetti for grossest experience as a parent EVER) and it’s perhaps a bit more forgivable that instead of an original post, I’m reposting Christmas 2012. Oh, well, maybe it’ll become an annual tradition (the reposting, not the spewing). Wishing you and yours a blessed and happy holiday season, everyone!

A little holiday cheer, for all you writers out there:

664413_letter_to_santa

The Write Before Christmas

‘Twas the cusp of the holidays

And all through the house

Not a creature was stirring

Not even her mouse

Her fingers hovered over the keyboard with care

Desperately seeking a masterpiece there

Her children all finally upstairs in bed,

The Writer tried to set free the dreams in her head

With her coffee grown cold

And a quilt on her lap,

She wrestled in vain

With a writer’s great trap

For from her stilled keyboard

Came no further clatter

Writer’s block, she knew,

Was the heart of the matter

Distraught, to the window she flew like a flash

Tossing another page into the trash

The glow from her monitor lit up the room

Imparting a sheen of frustration and gloom

When what to her wondering eyes should appear

But a miniature sleigh, all laden with gear

With a spry little driver, so lively and quick

Great Heavens, she thought, could this be St. Nick?

Swifter than rejection letters his reindeer they came

And the dapper little man called each one by name

“Now, Character Development! Now, Tone, Voice, and Diction!

On Dialogue, Plot, Word-Choice, and Flash Fiction!

To this stumped writer’s keyboard at the end of the hall!

Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!”

As writing professors with their red pens do fly

When they tear through an essay offending the eye,

So straight to her manuscript the proofers they flew

With their sleigh full of gear and St. Nicholas, too

Nitpicky hooves clattering, Dialogue muttered “Oof,

If I’d written this tripe, I’d throw myself off the roof!”

Nick smiled at the Writer, joined his proofers at work.

“Don’t mind Dialogue,” he whispered, “Sometimes he’s a jerk.”

The Writer withdrew to a spot in the back

Watching the reindeers clackety-clack

Nick wore a tweed sportcoat, with natty, patched elbows

Enormous bifocals perched atop his snub nose

His fingers were tarnished with toner and ink

He turned with a smile, gave the Writer a wink

His eyes, how they raced through her work at top speed

His fingers so dexterous, doing their deed

His brow, how it furrowed at each pesky ‘graf

“I’m sorry, “ the Writer said. “It’s just my first draft.”

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave her to know she had nothing to dread

“All that this manuscript needs, my poor dear,

Is a bit more attention here, here, and here.”

He polished each page, worked the point of view over

While his cloven-hoofed proofers munched on some clover

Nick checked both thesaurus and worn dictionary

When at last he was done, his face looked quite merry

“There, now! Just read the feedback I’ve left.

You’ll find the suggestions I’ve made are quite deft.

You’ve got potential, tho’ I’d watch out for trope

Keep up the good work, and don’t ever lose hope.

Like really good stews, manuscripts need to simmer.

So dump that stale coffee, go heat up your dinner.

The more you stare at it, the harder it is:

Sometimes writer’s block is just part of our biz.”

And handing her the new Chicago Manual of Style,

He chortled and winked and turned with a smile.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle

And they left her small office with the speed of a missile.

But she heard Nick exclaim, ere they drove out of sight

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good write!”

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Who needs traditions? We all do.

holiday confusion courtesy of whistleblower-newswireFor most of my adult life, I’ve been a stickler for the strict separation of one holiday season from another. Jack-o-lanterns next to bathing suits, cornucopias and turkeys next to witches, Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving—all that seasonal blending normally makes me want to puke.

For years now, I’ve fought the good fight, holding off on listening to Christmas music or putting up any decorations until the day after Thanksgiving (except for outdoor lights; when you live in Minnesota, if you get a nice day in October, put them up, calendar be damned, just don’t turn them on).

But this year, I don’t know what’s gotten into me: I’ve been humming Christmas songs for the last week, with three days still to go before Thanksgiving. I’ve started pulling decorations out of their boxes and even buying a few new ones. We’ve already watched The Grinch, A Christmas Story, and Elf (though I’m not sure that one counts, since I’m sure we’ll all agree that movie’s a year-round gem). Last night, I saw a commercial for a local production of The Nutcracker and squealed like I had a sugarplum jammed up my—well, you get the picture, and it’s a disturbingly jolly one.

Even as I write this paragraph, I’m listening to Christmas music on my phone, having spent the last hour creating my holiday playlist (now playing: “White Christmas” by The Drifters) instead of working. Yep, it’s a red-and-green, holly-jolly nightmare the sane, rational me would never have condoned in the past.

So what gives? This deep philosophical question has been snowballing around my brain for days (thankfully, not twelve of them yet), consuming more of my mental energy than I care to admit. It’s not just me, either—even my kids, who are old enough to be blasé about anything Santa-related, are suddenly acting merry and gay. (Yes, I said gay. Take that, Hallmark.)

But—after days of ruminating over multiple mugs of cinnamon-spiced hot chocolate and getting high off the endless bayberry candles I’ve been burning, I think I’ve finally figured it out. (No, you can’t really get high from bayberry candles. At least…I don’t think so. Joking, people, joking.) The problem is, in a word: tradition. (Cue Topol. Yes, I know, Fiddler on the Roof is not technically a Christmas movie, but maybe it should be.) Where was I? Ah, yes. Tradition. Tradition is, I believe, the root cause of my Christmas mania, or rather, to be more precise, a craving for tradition is at the heart of it all.

For those of you who’ve been following my blog this year, you may remember that my family and I just experienced an out-of-state relocation. While things went about as smoothly as can be expected with a cross-country move involving a three-day car ride, three kids, and one crazy Weimaraner, the adventure (yes, that’s meant ironically) left us starting so many things over from scratch, including many traditions, that I think we’ve been feeling a bit out to sea, more perhaps than we realized until now. With Thanksgiving arriving this week, we’re staring our first real holiday in our new home straight in the face (I’m sorry, but Halloween, Labor Day, and the 4th of July don’t really count), and that’s what I think is really behind my seasonal lunacy.

After all, what is it that makes a house more than just a home, if not the traditions and memories you create there? And those rituals, those decorations, they do more than just make a place feel homey; they’re a real, tangible link to your past, to family and friends who may be far away, or even gone. So even though I’m not hosting Thanksgiving this year, I pulled out a few decorations (only a few because, and let’s be honest here: in terms of decorating, Thanksgiving is Christmas’ ugly stepsister. How many turkeys do you really need to put up?).

candlesThe candles pictured here, for example, were my mother’s, and I’ve put them out every Thanksgiving since she died. If you look too closely at the faces of the Indian and pilgrim girls, you can see they’re a bit melted away (it got too hot in her storage area one year). But when I hold them to my nose, I can still smell their faint fragrance. With that comes a host of memories of Thanksgivings past—the house filling with the heavenly aroma of Mom’s roast turkey; complaining about having to watch the football games she and my brother loved so much; fighting over the wishbone with my sisters; enjoying the bizarre but delicious turkey/Miracle Whip/canned cranberry sauce/white bread sandwiches for lunch the day after; and above all, the love and laughter filling our family’s tiny house then, and my heart today. And you know what? Those memories, triggered by the simple act of bringing out my mother’s candles, made me smile, and it felt so good.

Traditions are reliable. They’re a comforting constant in a life that so often seems so uncertain. We may be in a different house in a different part of the country, celebrating with different members of our family than we have in the past, but those familiar decorations, those traditions, those happy feelings of love and laughter—these are all the things that will make us feel at home, no matter where we are and no matter what else has happened, and I’m craving more.

This year (in a break with one longstanding tradition), instead of resisting the urge to leap into the holiday season (and grousing about those Christmas crazies who do), I’m giving myself permission to join them, to dance merrily into this noisy, festive month a few days earlier than usual. So if you’re looking for me, you can find me unapologetically chugging eggnog, sucking on candy canes, hanging mistletoe, blasting Christmas songs in my car, cuddling up on the couch with my kids watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas (and maybe after they’ve gone to bed, Bad Santa with my hubby). And for all of those traditions our family will celebrate this week and in the month ahead, the old cherished ones as well as the new and unfamiliar, I know one tradition will continue that is the same no matter where I am: I’ll be giving thanks for all of them.

Wishing all of you a safe and joyful holiday celebrating, and creating, beautiful traditions of your own!

Thanksgiving_Wallpaper

Eleanor & Park: My Take

Beware of the Book Photo by florian.b

Photo via florian.b [flickr]

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post on Facebook about the cancellation of author Rainbow Rowell’s appearance at a Minnesota library, due to parent objections over some language and issues contained in her novel, Eleanor & Park, selected by local librarians for their high school’s summer reading program. The group of parent protesters also called for the librarians to pull the book from library shelves, and for those same librarians to be “punished.” (What form the punishment for those librarians would actually take remains a mystery, though I can’t imagine there’s anything worse you could do to a librarian than banning books).

Well, that’s all this writer/freedom fighter needed to hear. I added that book to my Goodreads To-Read list faster than you can say “Censorship Sucks.” It’s taken me a little while to get to Eleanor & Park, because I usually only read one book at a time and I was finishing up Atlas Shrugged (thank you, Jen Lancaster), but when I did, I was a goner. I tore through it in less than a day.

As a writer, I love the way Rowell burrows so deeply inside her characters’ heads and souls–I felt like I was walking around in their very skins. Sometimes, that walk was painful and humiliating, sometimes it was sublime, but it was unflinchingly intimate. Though I thought she took a bit of a risk, switching back and forth from Park’s to Eleanor’s perspectives, it worked, and added a layer of believability that would’ve been sorely missed without those switches. Oh, and a word about Park’s mom? So funny, so complicated, so much deeper than I initially thought–like all human beings.

But no matter how much I loved it and wanted to stick to my Book Banners Suck platform, I’m not just a writer: I’m also a parent, and even though my knee-jerk and visceral reaction to any form of attempted censorship by any group, no matter how well-intentioned, will always drive me straight to those censored works, when I started reading the book, and tried looking at it strictly as a parent, I could (grudgingly) see the censors’ point of view.

Yes, there is offensive language (including the c-word, which I personally find abhorrent). Yes, there is teen drug and alcohol use. There is teen sex. There is abuse. As a parent, heck, yeah, I want to find it shocking that my children’s tender sensibilities would be exposed to such language and such themes.

But folks, in addition to being a writer and a parent, I used to be a high school teacher, so I bring an added perspective to this with which some parents-in-denial may disagree; they’ll certainly not be happy to hear it. For better or for worse, here it is:

censor1-600x400By the time the vast majority of kids enter high school, they’ve likely heard most, if not all of those offensive words, if not used them themselves out of their parents’ hearing. If they watch television or go to the movies or play video games, they’ve already been exposed to sexually-charged content. Think they haven’t yet encountered alcohol or drugs? The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that alcohol and drug use among teens is on the rise, with the average age of first use now between 12 and 14 years of age.

This is not fiction. This is the reality that our kids are surrounded by every day, despite our best attempts to shelter them. These things are not happening because of this book or any other book (my thoughts about that would be a separate post completely). They’ve been happening for years. Removing this book from their libraries, forbidding the author to come and speak to them about why she wrote the book and the important positive messages it contains for teens–that’s not going to prevent our babies from coming into contact with those negative experiences. By the time most kids have reached high school, that ship’s probably already sailed.

What pulling this book from libraries will accomplish is preventing teens from experiencing Rowell’s very powerful good messages, about things like standing up for what’s right; not judging people by what they wear or how they look but by who they are inside; acceptance of “otherness”; tolerance; anti-bullying; love. It’s not easy to be a teen today, any more than it was easy to be a teen back in the 80s, when Eleanor & Park is set. Trying to block teen reality today by pulling books like this from library shelves is not only ineffective, but if you know anything about teen psychology at all, for them, forbidden fruit is the absolute tastiest fruit of all. (And sometimes, banned books go on to become the very “classics” your grandchildren wind up studying later. I’m just sayin’.)

Eleanor & ParkI suggest that a better approach than straying into censorship, no matter how well intentioned,  would be for parents to read this book with their teens, to let it open a dialogue about what their lives are really like, about the very real, very intense feelings they’re experiencing, the difficult choices they’re making on a daily basis. I think many parents would be surprised by what they’d learn about them and their world.

The reality is that many teens, even those whose parents have managed to successfully shelter them all these years, are probably going to hear those awful words during their high school years. They’ll feel those terrible feelings, make those difficult choices, maybe even experience some of these agonizing events, whether this book is banned or not. But if, instead of banning, parents make the brave choice to share this book with their teens, it could serve as a tool for honest, positive discussions about some very real, very tough things in their lives.

Bottom line: Give it a chance, parents; it’s beautifully written, devastatingly poignant, and keenly insightful. I can’t imagine denying this to anyone.

My two cents, for whatever you think they’re worth.

This Will Only Hurt For A Little While

busyGood grief, what’s that woman up to now? It’s something I imagine people thinking about me on a fairly regular basis, but I guess I just can’t help it–gotta stay busy. I know, that whole “Stop Glorifying Busy” meme is floating around (and I’ve actually posted it and meant it sincerely myself a couple of times) but busy works for me (except for last week, when only loafing worked).

So, my new project, getting under way this week (while I keep whittling away at The Water Bearers), is the complete overhaul of my website.

I created that from a template, in a complete state of panic, because I was launching Widow Woman in a few short weeks and my old website needed a massive update. Well, it’s been over a year now, and I hate my website.

Not dislike, not ho, hum, I’m bored–nope, this is an active, visceral loathing. I’m sure it could be worse (check out these bad boys–I actually held my breath when I visited this site, in case mine was #4), but as I’m sure you’ll agree, it could also be so much better. I can’t wait to fix this thing. But I am facing two daunting problems: 1) budget–hey, I’m an indie author! I don’t have the budget to blow everything on a website design. 2) I’m a technological moron.

moron[Warning courtesy of Fugly.com. I shall ignore.] Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead because I’m happy to say, I think (Lord, I hope) I have found a solution. Checked out a bunch of different options, including staying with my current hosting service, to see if they had any better templates to offer (they don’t) or if they’d finally be able to fix the blog feed problems on my existing site (they couldn’t), and decided that after several years, it’s time for me to jump ship.

I found a new, well-received hosting service that works with WordPress templates and technological morons alike–plus, they offer the best (and when I say best, I mean BEST) customer support, 24/7, I’ve ever encountered. I wasn’t even a client yet today, and TJ, super-supporter extraordinaire, spent almost an hour on the phone with me, answering every stupid question I could possibly ask (“Where do I find this thingie?” “How do I install this whatchimacallit to my doohickey?”) with extraordinary patience, courtesy, and an utter lack of condescension. It was amazing, and the best part is, he promised to do it again, if I need him.

So I leaped today, signed up with them. As soon as they send me my activation email, I can start working on my new design. It may take me a couple of months, but hey, if I can go through the whole process of self-publishing a book, I’m not going to let a little thing like a plug-in stop me from having a new, fresh website.

Oh, wait. What’s a plug-in again? TJ! Help! Stay tuned; it’s always an adventure.

[OHMYGOSH! Update: While I was proofreading this post, the new hosting service called me to make sure I’d received my activation e-mail, ask me if I had any questions, and personally welcome me to the family! I love these people!]

 

Loafing with the Devil

25cfab14a0876544_lazylionMotivation. Some days you have it, some days you don’t.

I would say that today is a don’t, except that, before beginning this post, I looked up the definition of motivation:

 n. the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.

Aha! That’s when I realized that my problem today is not a lack of motivation, desire, or willingness. On the contrary, I’m positively bursting at the seams with that. The problem, my friends, is with the “something” I have a general desire or willingness to do. Because today, instead of feeling motivated to put my butt-in-chair and write, I have an irresistible motivation to put ass-on-couch and watch reruns of Sons of Anarchy or The Voice until naptime rolls around. Surf, snooze, repeat as needed.  

I’ll say it again: Just because I’m not motivated to do anything productive today does not mean I’m unmotivated.

What’s that face for?

All right. You caught me. To be perfectly frank, I’m not exactly sure what that means, other than that I probably won’t be very productive, but it certainly does make me wonder what’s happened with my focus since my last post. (Obviously, I’m having no problem with my motivation to italicize today. Go figure.)

photo-75It could be lack of coffee, though I am, in fact, on cup #2. Hmm. Just looked at my cup, and noticed it has a really bad attitude problem. Could my cup be the culprit? Hold on; I’m going to go pour the dregs into my I Love Mondays cup and drink the rest of it ironically.

It could be that I’ve had another contractor in the house all week (This one’s ridiculously chatty and chipper; are you seriously whistling while you work? Who does that outside of Disney movies? How do you expect me to pretend you’re not here with all this friendliness?), one that, while still preventing me from doing laundry, has left my kitchen accessible, full of dirty dishes yet compellingly inviting.

Maybe it’s that, after weeks of sweating it, my grad school application was finally marked “Complete” this morning, and this is just the post-sweat cool-down. (Yes, folks, here we go again: 6 weeks of angsty waiting for the verdict of the review board. And yes, I will post about it. Again. Apologizing in advance.) Like how you need to rest after running a marathon? I wouldn’t know what that feels like, personally, but I’m guessing it’s similar enough to work metaphorically.

Writer’s block? Headache? Post-government shutdown hangover? Barometric pressure changes? Demonic—or angelic—possession? (My daughter did make me watch an episode of Supernatural with her yesterday when she was home sick…

SPN-Castiel-supernatural-8177301-500-313Castiel? Is that you? Are you sending out a message on angel radio that yes, yes, YES! I should just lie down on that couch and loaf all day, doing absolutely nothing productive, not just for my own good but for the good of all mankind? Hmph. You almost had me, but I’m guessing that’s more likely Satan, talking—you know, idle hands and all. But I digress. Plenty of motivation for that, apparently; hell, my whole day so far has been one big digression.)

Ugh. I got nuthin’. Not one single good reason for being motivated to do less than my best. Yeah, that’s right, you heard me: I have no excuse. (And this is what I looked like when I said that, too. We could be twins, I’m so NO-EXCUSEY. Whoa, all caps! Maybe there’s hope for today after all.)

Well, she sighed, I think we all know the best, perhaps the only cure for a lack of, or the wrong type of, motivation: Brute force—and more coffee. Hello, cup #3, help me get my butt back into my chair. Maybe I’ll catch a nap this afternoon? Shut up, Satan.

Too Busy to Blog?

I learned a valuable lesson this week: I should have painters come to my house every day, like I did this week. It’s been the best thing that could’ve happened for my writing (and this in a week that includes a 3-hour coffee date with a new friend and an early school dismissal for my kids). Seriously, not being able to access the kitchen or the laundry room (you know I’m sobbing about that last bit) has forced me to practice the Butt-in-Chair philosophy I admire so much in more disciplined (and less frenetic) writers.

I whipped through several article drafts; completed two audio transcriptions; finished polishing my Purpose Letter for my grad school application; hammered out the rough draft of another post; and selected and collated the writing samples I need to submit along with my application. (I laughed out loud when I saw that the samples I had chosen added up to precisely the 40-page submission limit. Whee! I love it when things end up like that!)

Lesson learned: If you stop eating and worrying about wearing clean clothes, you can sure accomplish a lot in a day. Here endeth the lesson.

The cool part about pulling those writing samples is that some of them are things I haven’t looked back at for a while. After living and breathing Widow Woman, sitting down to try to narrow down a few key pages for my sample felt surreal. I mean, I know I wrote the darned thing, but when you don’t look at something for a long time, it no longer feels like it’s yours.

I included a short story I wrote, along with excerpts from my two novels-in-progress. The YA novel, The Water Bearers, is one I’m working on all the time, and it’s the one I just submitted to my new writers’ group for (a very helpful and insightful) critique, so I didn’t experience any out-of-body experiences looking that one over again. I’ve got some work to do to polish the sample, so it feels very now, very present. But my second novel, well, I haven’t looked at that one in almost six months, and I’d sort of forgotten how much I loved where it was going–I felt giddy going back to it, and can’t wait to get both my writing application and my first (technically, second) novel completed so I can get back to it again.

Oh, well–looks like I’d better find something else for my painter to work on–maybe he can paint my office door shut.

Love being back to work. :)

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