Monday, October 14, 2013

Supporting Her Writing Habit

Looking for a perfect gift to give to a pair of besties, or a unique treat to hand out to your girlfriends at your halloween party?  Right now these beautiful wraps are on sale, two for $12.98 with coupon code INTRODUCTORYBOGO. 

I'm taking a moment to share the link to my Etsy shop with you.  These bracelets are an item that Daisy, the main character in my book, makes as a way of supporting herself while she is writing her first novel.  Daisy may be fictitious but her items for sale are real.

Stop by DaisyzShop today for a special introductory price on these beautiful wraps or buy two for $12.98 with coupon code INTRODUCTORYBOGO. But hurry!  This coupon is only good for the fall season and ends November 30, 2013.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Perseverance and Napping Go Hand in Hand

I'm serious about this title.  You think it's sarcasm.  Mm-hm.  I know what you're thinking.  But it's ok.  As you probably read in my first post (Is Writing from the Heart Really Worth It?), people will think what they're gonna think.  So go ahead.  Think it.  It's a free country.  But let me also tell you what I'm thinking.  It may change your life--maybe even your entire world.  

It was 1pm today and I had just about completed the first thing on my list.  Yay, that sounds good, right?  No, it doesn't.  Usually I get all three of my major writing projects for the day finished before noon, often before 10am.  But here it was 1:00 already and I had three short paragraphs to go before I would be done with only the first part of my first project.  (Yeah, don't ask where the time went.  Between laundry, checking on my gay social networks, not literally; I'm just mad at them right now, and deleting worthless emails I was now at 1pm.  Can't cry over spilled milk.  Just have to suck it up the best you can with a straw.  No pun intended.)  

As I pushed myself toward those remaining paragraphs I knew they would take me way longer than the three minutes they should take, so I did the persevering thing…and laid down for a nap.  I promised myself one hour.  

Ok, now say what you want to say.  "You should have just finished then you could have marked one thing off your list and at least felt a little successful, if rather behind on time still."  But my mind doesn't work that way.  I would have been pissed to take 20 minutes on a 3-minute job.  That would have opened the door to The Downward Spiral.  Does anyone know what I mean when I say that?  An hour later you find yourself hating life, hating yourself, hating those you love and hating what you love to do.  So you sit for another hour and analyze what made you start feeling this way.  And you track the whole pile of crap back to one tiny thought you let in, now two hours ago.  Yeah, for me that thought woulda been "You took 20 minutes to do a 3-minute job??'  You could have been taking a nap for Christ's sake!  Literally, for HIS sake because he works through your rest.  He knows your body has limitations so that's why he gave you the ability to SLEEP.  Quickly assessing my situation, I knew the only thing that would help me feel successful was to get an hour's rest then hit my work refreshed and able to work quickly.  

Anyone ever played The Sims?  It's a game on PC and Playstation 2 (and maybe other systems, I don't know).  Sounds funny, but that game taught me something.  It's a game that simulates real life.  You create a character, choose their outfit (they can change outfits too!), choose their hairstyle, skin color, etc.  Then they live in a house and you move them around and have them eat, sleep, hang out with friends, choose a job, get raises.  Even if you're not into game systems anymore, you would still enjoy this one.  I started playing it at age 31 after I already thought game systems were extremely childish.  (Yay younger boyfriends that make you young again!)  Anyhow, your "Sim" has bars that say how low they are on sleep, nourishment, comfort, socializing and so on.  Until this point, life had been difficult for me to figure out.  I thought everything had to be spiritual.  You know, read your Bible when you'd rather be reading the latest bestseller.  Pray when you'd rather be watching a movie.  Don't go to the movies because someone might think you're watching an R-rated one.  (But watch the R-rated ones at home where no one knows you're not forwarding any sex scenes or muting the cuss words?? I know, doesn't make sense.  But I fell for it too, for THIRTY YEARS!  Guess the joke's partially on me.  Lol)  And there's the ever-famous one, DON'T SLEEP, cause lack of sleep is somehow spiritual.  I don't know who came up with this shit but it's pretty hilarious.  Like those random state laws like "No one will hereby carry a duck on top of a refrigerator across the road."  I don't know that this one is actually a law but it's a very close example of ones I've read about.  

So there I was playing with my Sim (sounds kinda perverted, huh?  Haha.  Just kidding.) and I was trying to get her dishes washed, make some phone calls to friends, run her to the toilet before she peed herself, then suddenly, she just crumpled to the floor.  I hadn't been watching my sleep meter.  When it reached zero, my Sim shut down, just like that, snoring loudly.  No matter what I had been doing with her, she could no longer go on.  Her body took over and shut her down.  That's what happens to your real body when you don't get proper sleep and rest (yes, they are two different things).  

I read that 10-minute naps help, 30 helps more, 1 hr is great, 90 minutes lets you complete the sleep cycle and is the most beneficial.  I may not have gotten the medical explanations quite right, but it's what you believe that changes your life, right?  (Placebos anyone?)  So if you believe it the way I wrote it and it improves your life, to heck with correct terminology.  People want words they can understand, not a book they have to read that's joined at the hip with the dictionary. 
After my hour nap, I hit the computer again, got my three paragraphs done and the other stuff on my list.  That nap was the only way I could go on--could persevere and see my projects through.  It gave me the power I needed to get more done in less time.  Sometimes the greatest act of perseverance is lying down and taking a nap so you CAN persevere.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Want to Get My Hands in There and Change People

Did you ever meet someone who needed help, you talked to them, were understanding with them, encouraged them, but nothing ever changed?  They just kept being the same person.  And you reach a point where you scream and clench your fists and say, "Damn, if I could just get my hands into their life and just change all the stupid things they're doing!"  You see them pitying themselves in their sad situation that they're stuck in, but you see so many ways out for them.  Whenever you mention one of these ways, they gently shut the gate you've slung wide open and remind you with sad eyes that this potential freedom cannot be.  They reinforce their thinking at every chance that they are helpless, that there is no way to change their situation.  But you see the truth!  You know something can be done.  You can plainly see the way to a better life for them.  But they have their eyes half closed as they exist day after day.  Why they do that?!  To heck if I know!  But I remember doing it myself.  I would have to say that it is a mindset they get trapped in.  Whatever the reason, whatever its beginning, it's there.  So, what do you do with it?    

Today I was feeling frustrated as I saw a loved one's life so clearly:  the steps they needed to take to strengthen themselves, the steps to change their stale, restricting situation.  And I wanted to just get my hands in there, to make them do what needed done to bring change and a better life.  But at the very same time, I knew that would never work.  Well, it might work in a temporary, dictatorial type of way, but I knew it was not the right way.  If they were going to change, it would have to be their decision.  The only thing I could change was myself.  

Well, that sounds stupid.  They are the one that needs changing, right?  How is changing one of my flaws ever going to help them see what they need to change in their lives?  The truth of it is, if I try to change them, I will frustrate myself to the point of hating them, being rude to them, definitely not helping them in their situation.  The only way to keep my attitude and perspective about them correct is to just change things I actually have the power to change, such as myself.  And amazingly enough, this has often gotten the ball rolling for someone else to start change in their lives.  Maybe them seeing me happy and unafraid of change gives them the courage they need.  Maybe my complete acceptance of them exactly the way they are gives them that loving comfort zone that makes them dare to step out.  Whatever it is that does it, it works.    

So when I start to get all torqued up, I try to remember that I'm just building a useless frustration if my focus is to try to make them change.  Instead, I remind myself to shift my focus onto something I can do in my own life, a project I've been meaning to finish, a tantalizing story idea to work on.  And before I know it, I'm happier, they're happier and we're both working together to make our lives better.  It works so much better than pointing out their faults in an accusing sort of way, as if I don't have any of my own.  

As I was writing this post, I found a quote on the Facebook page of a writer friend of mine, Liz Hamm.  It says:   "If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.  As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change toward him….We need not wait to see what others do."  --Mahatma Gandhi  

One of the secrets to helping other people to change is to change yourself.  You are the influence that evokes change in others.  

My friend has a blog as well.  Go check it out at  She writes excellent poetry that will make you feel magic again.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What Makes Them Change?

Yesterday a woman was telling me how her husband used to make her breakfast when they were still dating. After they were married, he would clean the floors, wash the dishes and help keep things clean. Now he doesn't even close his own chip bag. He throws his things on the floor or jams his ironed shirts in closets undoing all her careful ironing. And in the past he was even blatantly unfaithful to her.

How did that happen? How can a person go from being sweetly in love to cheating on the person he loves--or loved?

This question haunts me. It makes me feel insecure, like the best of men can turn into monsters. But what triggers their actions? Or were they always that way and the truth is finally coming out?

I don't know what causes such a change of heart. I imagine it's different for every relationship and is never wholly due to one party. But there is no need for blame, just analyzing to get to the root of the problems that cause such disarray in the family unit. Perhaps the couple will seek a deeper relationship again one day. Or if they move on to other partners, at least they can have a successful relationship the next time.

I do know that every day we must work on our relationships to keep them special and sweet, respectful and loving, and truly passionate. Nothing must stay in between us and the ones we love for long, or years later in a psychiatrist's office we may find it is that very thing that is the root of our crumbled relationship.

Be on your guard. Welcome God's arms around your relationship. The curse of sin makes misunderstanding so easy. You are opening your heart in the most vulnerable of ways with your partner. Anything can be taken as an intentional hurt. God's love is the only protection. And it is the only way to keep the monster in either of you from being born.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why Do Good Memories Sometimes Feel Sad?

Do you ever think of a good memory and then feel like crying?  I saw a picture of my sister when she was probably 16.  She had a straw hat on a was giving some kind of glamour smile for the picture--something stupid we used to do back in the day.  I remembered messing around with my sister like that and having lots of fun, but every time I think of those memories now, there is some kind of sadness along with it.  

My solution is to not think about them very much.  I want to think about the future and what's going to happen today and tomorrow instead of thinking about even the good times in my past.  

I really don't know yet why good memories make me want to cry.  Maybe it's because I live in NC and most of my family live in PA or Canada.  Perhaps seeing those good memories reminds me how much I miss them right now, something I try not to focus on since I have to make a life here with my new family.  But at times I feel like they will never replace my real family.  I know.  They're not supposed to, but you know what I mean.  I guess I'm afraid I'll never have as good a time as I had with my own brothers and sisters growing up, and it makes me really sad not to be able to keep making daily memories with them now.  

But I wouldn't change my decision.  Starting a new life here in a small town was what I needed.  And I'm overlooking the fights I used to have with my brothers and sisters when we were all growing up, the lack of emotional control I had (lol, well, ok, I guess that one's still with me at times…don't act like you never do that as a grown woman!  PMS week?  Hmmm???).    

What I do get to look forward to everyday is being with my wonderful Jorge (my boyfriend…heck, no, that's not the name of my favorite teddy bear.  I don't have stuffed animals on my bed anymore, not that there's anything wrong with that.  But let me just say, ladies, that if you do, give your man a break about his "childish" video games then alright?).  And I get to work on my dream of writing and publishing.    

So while dwelling on family memories brings me to tears and does not accomplish anything more that calling the day a "no work zone" so I can deal with the depression, I choose to dwell on my future, meet the people of this rinky-dink town and learn how to live as a strong woman with the love of a truly good man, and write!  My goal is to be a best selling author, so keep your eyes on those New York Times lists.  I know, it might seem a long way off.  You might say, "You don't even have your first novel published!"  But that doesn't change anything in my mind.  In the future my books are already on that list and I keep living each day with these thoughts as my focus.  I hold the memories with my family in my pictures and in thoughts I keep locked in a back room of my mind.  The day will come when it's time to pull them out and write a bestseller about growing up in a place so small it couldn't even be called a town, in the Appalachians.  "Some day I may teach you how to sing, Georgie.  But today is not that day."  (For those of you who've seen Rigoletto.)  

Today it's time to focus on the now so when I stand looking at that bestsellers list, I will have a pocketful of good memories about my new life, my new life that is happening today.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Do You Feel Good About Yourself?

This morning I was reading a strengths finder book. There were thirty-five strengths listed, anything from Activator to Wooing. Each strength had a description then three comments from three different people describing themselves with that particular strength. Of course I found several that pertained to me just in browsing through the book. When I had first started reading, I was feeling down. I had started feeling this way very noticeably yesterday but there was no logical reason for it other than being a bit tired. I was starting to feel like no one loved me, like the day was dull and depressing, like I didn't feel like doing anything, not even eating. What an odd feeling to have when your life is going so well. Do any of you know what I mean?

As I browsed the strengths finder this morning I started to feel better. The book was listing some of my quirks as strengths. I started feeling like somebody somewhere who had written this book realized I was a special person. My quirks did not make me crazy. They were my strengths. And they weren't quirks! They were strengths that made me a valuable person.

I put the book down after almost an hour (certainly didn't feel that long) and thought, "All I wanted was to feel good about myself, to be accepted just the way I am." I can't explain why illogical feelings of depression try to haunt me at times. But at those times I do know I just want someone to come hug me and start telling me what a great person I am. My family and boyfriend cannot always do that for me because they may be down and tired too. But that does not mean they do not love me. And that does NOT mean I have to give in to depression. As long as there is a Higher Power, a God in the heavens, or whatever you may call him, there are 1,000 ways in which I can be reminded I'm loved and that I'm a great person with great strengths.

Resource: Strengths Finder 2.0 by bestselling author Tom Rath
This book is an upgraded edition of the online test from The Gallup Organization and is based on more than 40 years of research. Find and develop your natural talents.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Is Writing from the Heart Really Worth It?

  Sometimes it's beneficial to remove the other flaws and worries so you can find the one that is causing all the other worries.  I was recently worried about my monthly bill payments.  Since I am not making enough as a writer yet to cover all my bills, every time bill due dates came up, I went into an inner panic.  Several weeks ago, seeing my tense fright, my wonderful boyfriend offered to cover the bills I couldn't handle and told me to keep working on my writing and helping out the best I could with expenses.  I must tell you, that was a huge weight off my shoulders.  But what I came to find out is that what was disguised as financial worries (and I had no way of knowing until those worries were taken away) was something far deeper that plagued me.  I felt this growing trouble and was finally able to tell myself that it was not my bills.  With my financial worries pushed aside, I found there was indeed something else that had me trapped in its clutches.  But what could be more worrisome than not knowing if you could make your next car payment?  I dove into my mind to investigate.  

It turns out I've gotten stuck on my first book, my first full-length novel.  (It's kind of a big deal.)  I wasn't sure how this could have happened since I had a plot, characters, and knew the outcome of the story, heck, even the plots of the two books to follow.  But there I was.  Sitting down every morning feeling this same sense of not knowing what to write as the day before.  I thought all it took was the simple act of making myself write, of writing the next logical thing that should happen in the book.  I had read writer after writer's advice on writing and they all spoke of having a time to write and often of having to make themselves write for an hour before anything truly worthwhile came out.  But they looked at this as success because now they had something to work with, something to edit and mold.  

Now, hang on a second.  When I wrote as a child and early teenager, I was sure my writing could use some work, but I also believed that I could write my first novel and have someone accept it on my first submission.  Simple youth, you say.  Yes, part of it.  But I also believe that I had something so essential to success besides the curse of hard work that everyone spoke of.  And now as an adult, I wanted that thing back.  However, everywhere I turned everyone told me I just had to do the fucking hard work.  Something deep inside really did not sit well with that cursed idea.  But I didn't listen to my heart.  I listened to them.  I tried their ridiculous methods of hard work.    

Now hold on a second here.  I'm not saying hard work doesn't produce results.  There are several New York Times bestselling authors that sound like they have a "hard work" schedule and they have results.  I see their names time after time as they produce a new book yearly, if not more often.  They have made millions already with their writing.  I'm happy for them.  The success of another author is my success.  But I had to face it, I'm no Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts.  I've heard one such author writes ten pages a day without fail.  But for me, there's a let down to having written ten pages only to take those ten pages out in the editing phase.  Perhaps it's my personality.  For the life of me I can't fathom why someone would want to dive into a task then fix it so much it's like they're doing the thing twice, when they could have just taken a little more time and done it right the first time.  Kind of like assembling a piece of DIY furniture.  You have the directions right there.  Why would you not follow them and have a successfully assembled piece of furniture the first time rather than try to put it together on your own only to have to tear the whole thing apart because there was a vital piece that should have been put in on step two?  This is just the way I think.  And now we're getting to the root of my dilemma.  

For six years I taught high school English in a private school in Pennsylvania.  Teaching required certain things out of me that my personality doesn't possess, such as the ability to quickly identify important details from unimportant details.  As a writer, every detail is important to me.  Also, a teacher has to accept that there are some A, B students and so on.  I believed that every student was meant to be an A student if they just had the right attention and teaching.  However, this goal required a whole lot more than I could give as one person and I would have been less frustrated and felt more successful when my B students made a B.  

I struggled the first year, like most teachers do.  My principal told me that it takes new teachers three or more years to adjust and become good at what they're doing.  So I taught another year, then another, and another.  I was there for five and three quarters of a year before I finally realized I was trying to make myself be good at something my personality would never naturally do.  The result?  Feeling like a failure pretty nearly every single day.  No matter how great or comfortable a job situation you have, if you feel like a failure nearly every day, you will come away from the job acting like a failure.  Deeply wounded on so many levels (part of the story not included here is the most horrendous one-sided romance story that is far too long to put into one blog post), I took myself to North Carolina, a state where I had met a guy that opened up the possibility of a different life.  He was not the person for me, but through meeting him I did realize there was so much more in life than what I had been living.  And I was going to find it!  

Now here I am.  Some days I think my world's problems should be all solved by now.  I've been here almost two years.  But I find days where I cannot follow my dreams.  Something is still holding me back.  I also find that ignoring those things or pushing against them blindly only tires me out.  Joseph Prince talks about working in rest.  (Google him.  He's easy to find.  You can't miss his great hair.)  That may sound like the strangest viewpoint on work you've ever heard.  But it's making more and more sense to me.  Sometimes you literally have to rest.  Take the day off.  Get extra sleep.  Relax.  Watch movies, do something you enjoy.  Other times it means working in a spirit of rest, which I can best explain as working with the confidence that even your mistakes will be turned into successes.  An example from my childhood explains what this means for me and my writing.  

As a child I had a secret hiding spot that no one knew about, not even my brothers or sisters.  If they were coming close and I was afraid they would find me, I crept out of my spot before they could see where I was coming from and pretended I was just walking casually along.  I would do anything to protect the secret of my sanctuary.  Oddly enough, we would play in this very spot together at times and that didn't bother me.  It was the knowledge that this was my place of refuge, of conjuring up magical stories that must always be kept secret from them.  They must never know the depth of what this spot meant to me.  I would go to this spot to write.  In my childhood and teenage years I could never write out in the open.  I could jot down ideas of which I never let people read over my shoulder.  But writing the actual story had to be done in secret.  That's when my best writing was done.  My stories were very personal to me.  You could not see a correlation between them and my life, nor were they a diary of events turned into a fiction piece.  They were something so much more.  They were a reflection of my hopes and dreams for the future.  I loved when people read my stories.  I was never too shy for others to see them, often in their incompleteness.  But the creation of the stories had to happen in private, just as my life dreams did.  

As an adult I noticed I don't require this same secrecy.  And just yesterday I found out why.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped putting my heart into my writing.  I felt the desire but no longer knew how to do it.  I thought I lacked discipline or commitment.  So I set some goals and decided I was going to push myself through no matter what: this, from the advice of other writers.  My result:  unmet deadlines and the uninspiring feeling of being a fraud, being so juvenile I couldn't even keep my word.  However, I was writing as others advised, not as was natural to me.  Even though I was in my proper field, writing instead of teaching, I was still feeling like a failure because I was still trying to do things the way others did instead of the way that works for me.  That's when I remembered the joy of writing during my childhood.  I never made myself write.  I wrote because I wanted to.  I was driven to write because I felt an excitement for what I was writing.  Sometimes I wrote much, sometimes little.  I always worked on several stories at a time.    

As a creative person I loved variety.  The freedom of writing several stories at once satisfied the need for variety and always kept me moving forward on my stories.  So different from these recent feelings of frustration from boxing myself in to one idea and forcing myself to write on it till it's finished without even the freedom to jot down any new ideas that come to me.  I don't know why multiple ideas come to a writer.  I just choose to believe that if new ideas come to me, even when I'm committed to one project, I would be better off to ride out the creative wave when it comes and write about that new idea rather than to block it.    

From experience I have found that the only result of trying to block specific thoughts or feelings is emotional and spiritual constipation.  I used to block myself from the pain of rejection.  Along with that I ended up blocking creativity.  When trying to block yourself from pain and hurt, you also keep love from coming in.  So I believe if you try to block random creative ideas, you will also block yourself from useful creative ideas that pertain to the project you're working on.  The result is tons of uninspired, hard work now necessary to complete your project by deadline.  I totally believe there are different types of creative people, and some of you may not identify with anything I'm saying.  But I also believe there are so many like me, hiding their real selves in the shadows because we don't match up to other people's ideas of how writing or creating should be done.  I've tried their methods, and they just don't work for me.  I want to live my real life, not some pretend life just so I'll be accepted by those who are so bossy that telling themselves what to do is not enough.  Our journey in life should never take us to that wicked place of making a person feel bad for who they are and how they naturally do things.    

As I look back on my childhood methods of writing, I realize a good dose of discipline would have helped me finish many more stories than the few that had to be completed because they were English writing assignments.  However, as an adult, I've realized discipline can never replace true inspiration that comes from writing the way I was truly meant to write.  I've felt guilty for a long time just for the fact that writing is now my chosen profession.  After all, how can you call it a job if you're at home all day and not doing work for someone else?  But I have learned better.  People will think what they're going to think.  My wonderful boyfriend has taught me that.  (Yes, I met him when I moved to North Carolina.  Just another reason why I know I'm in the right place.  Our dating story is a completely different blog post for another day.)  I moved away to start living my life, not continue living my life as other people see it.  Writing with emptiness because I'm forcing myself to keep a schedule or "working hard" so I have a comeback for people's questions of "What are you doing with your time?" is not enough.  All along, my heart has yearned for something more.  Something I was denying myself until now.    

So today I face the question placed as the title of this post.  Is writing from the heart really worth it?  My answer:  I know I couldn't live any other way.