Tag Archives: stress

Whole lotta nuthin’ goin’ on

Geez. Apparently I haven’t had anything to say in recent months and some of you are about to demand proof of life. This tends to happen when there’s either too much or not enough happening in my life. Oddly, this time, it’s both. I’m not sure how to explain that. Not sure it would matter to anyone if I could.

Yes, I’ve been writing. In a distracted-by-interruptions sort of way. Like tonight (Friday), for instance. My daughter is on her way from Boston to the Cape for a long weekend, as her husband is doing a two-week stint there to finish up his residency. My son and his wife are out of town for a wedding. So I figure this is a good time to get some writing done. Right?

Then I get a text:

DD: On the ferry on way to the Cape.
Me: Great! Have fun!
DD: Well, IT got a little wet in my backpack walking to the wharf. Sorry ☹
[I’m not sure what she’s talking about, but I reply . . . ]
Me: Uh oh
DD: It’s just around the edges of the first 100 pages
DD: Gives it character? I hate messing up books

OK, typing this out is too time-consuming. Here, have some screen shots:

And we go on like that with silly word-play for a while. As you do. And then a little bit later, she sends this:

Why yes, I DO use up my annual quota of exclamation marks in text messages. And now I’ve got that creepy song about the Edmund Fitzgerald stuck in my head. Not helpful, brain.

Obviously, some of these distractions are unavoidable. I’m never going to ignore my kids when they text or call me. (She texted a few minutes later to say they were docking, in case you were worried.)

In related news, and speaking of distractions, after seven years of living in other states, my daughter and her husband are finally moving back to THIS state. I am absolutely thrilled and can’t wait for them to get here. In two weeks! *GASP* How did time fly so quickly? It seems like just last week instead of last summer that this decision became official.

Anyway, they’re coming home and then, two days later, as an interlude before starting new jobs . . . they’re leaving Jenny the dog here with her BFF, The White Ninja (and me), and going on an epic three-week road trip. To Points Unknown. Or so they say.

Given their history, I assume they know exactly where they’re going and that it involves proximity to BEARS, and they decided not to tell me their plans so I won’t worry. Please. Like that’s going to stop me.

Provided they survive close encounters of the BEAR kind, upon their return they’ll be living with me until they find a house to either rent or buy. This wasn’t their original plan, but the housing market here is insane. To say it’s a “seller’s market” is a vast understatement, especially in the area they want to live. It might take a while to find something.

This will be interesting. In a good way! Probably. I hope.

So I’ve been preparing for long-term houseguests. Little things like cleaning out the fridge and freezer and pantry, throwing away things that are expired or unidentifiable or inexplicable, so no one dies of food poisoning. Or shame.

I’m also clearing out some closet/cupboard space so they have room to put stuff that isn’t going into storage. When my daughter was here for a quick weekend visit toward the end of April, I convinced her to help me clear off a shelf in the under-stair closet since it held a few things of hers.

Although mostly it was my detritus, like this, which I thought some of you might find amusing:

Yes, that’s a bottle of Crème de Menthe. See the little Georgia liquor tax stamp? I’m not even going to tell you how long ago it was that I lived in Georgia. Suffice it to say, it’s so old it turned blue.

And then there was this little gem that I didn’t even know was IN that closet, shoved way in the back.

Not only do I not know how old it is or where it came from (I’ve never been to Puerto Vallarta), I have no explanation for why no one ever drank it. Too late now.

This is what happens when you have too much room for storage. Things just expand to fill all the available space and then “out of sight, out of mind” takes over until you need that space for something else. Or until you’re in the mood, as I have been lately, to purge all the “crap” from your life and simplify.

What else has been going on . . . Oh, my son-in-law was here for a long weekend in early May for job-related doings, and I made two big pans of lasagna (Ed Giobbi’s recipe, which is a ton of work but so worth it). Doesn’t it look good? It was.

 

My daughter was not happy to miss out and wanted her husband to bring some back on the plane. Yeah, right. I sent her the recipe.

Oh, here’s another distraction, even as I write this: My Bossy Older Sister just texted to tell me her son, who lives in NYC, was texting her about the free ebola on the subway.

Me: WHAT?!

Oh, turns out she meant free ebooks (thanks auto-correct) courtesy of the NYPL, celebrating the new free wi-fi on trains. Here’s a pic of the “book train” my nephew was on, which is pretty cool:

Are you starting to see why I haven’t posted for a while? There’s a lot going on but none of it is particularly interesting, let alone blog-worthy.

But I’m plugging along with the current story, in spite of having NO IDEA what I’m going to do with it once I’m done. I suspect that’s part of why it’s taking so long to finish. I’m dragging my feet — er, fingers? — and putting off that decision.

There’s so much uncertainty hovering over this particular project and it has me feeling all ambivalent and lacking momentum and at the same time completely stressed out.

One of my writer friends summed it up well a week or so ago in a group forum when she said she felt stuck because she couldn’t decide what to do with her story once she was done– whether to query agents or self-pub. In my mind I was all, “YES, EXACTLY.” But I didn’t say anything because I have no advice for her. It’s the kind of decision a writer has to make for herself. I know all the options, all the pros and cons of each, have read ALL the facts and opinions out there. And I can’t fucking make up my mind. Or rather, I make up my mind only to change it the next day, or the next hour, each time absolutely convinced I’ve finally made the best choice for this story. And then change my mind again.

I can’t adequately describe how frustrating this is. I’ve faced decisions in my life that were difficult, or that made me uncomfortable even when I knew what was for the best. I’ve honestly never encountered a decision like this where the sides are so evenly balanced that I don’t know what to do. Yeah, I’m a mess.

I know, I know. Cue the tiny first-world-problem violins. I need to just finish the story and THEN decide what to do. I’m trying. Actually, I’m very near to being done enough for delta readers.

And really, I need to hurry up and finish before my distractions manifest in physical form.

In two weeks.

I’m just glad they’re not arriving via ferry.

 

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Filed under blogging, just for fun, parenting, writing

Once more unto the breach

Well, it’s the end of October and time to answer the question we all ask ourselves this time of year: How many “extra” bags of chocolate Halloween candy should I buy?

No, wait. Not that question.

This one: Should I participate In NaNoWriMo this year?nano_logo-830912ef5e38104709bcc38f44d20a0d

That is, if you’re a writer, probably you ask yourself that question. I’ve been going back and forth about this for a week or so, given that I’ve had mixed results with NaNo in the past. Setting a marathon goal of writing 50,000 words in a month — and not just any month, but November — seems a bit unreasonable. Like, stupidly masochistic. Kill-me-now foolish.

But then I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll become even more of a hermit? Give up planning nutritious meals, abandon personal hygiene, ignore the menacing accumulation of dust bunnies, forego sleep, snarl vaguely at the cat’s demands for attention . . .

. . . and maybe write a bunch of words?

I’m not normally a “write every day” kind of writer. So I’m not the best fit for NaNo, where the usual reassuring advice is to write 1,667 words a day, consistently, and you’ll be just fine. I tend to do a lot of intense thinking, composing and moving words and ideas around in my head before I commit them to paper, er, the screen. Then, when I do write, words pour out in the thousands. And then I pause again to refill the well.

Except that’s not really working for me right now. And if a thing no longer works, it’s time to try something else.

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I’ve been thinking back to April and the A to Z Challenge, and how surprisingly productive I was, writing to a deadline every day like that. There wasn’t a word count requirement, but I wrote roughly 43,000 words in April. It was insane. Although, that was very different from NaNo in the respect that I also had to edit and polish and post those words every day. I won’t be doing that during NaNo, so in theory should be able to write MOAR WERDZ without the editing slowing me down. In theory.

So anyway, I bookmarked the NaNo site and made a wild guess as to what my user name was four years ago and got a new password and I’m all set to go.

STAND BACK, Y’ALL. WATCH THIS.

Ahem. Actually, there won’t be much to see. I’ll try to post a few word count updates during the month (not daily, that’s ridiculous) in an attempt to make myself accountable over here. Wish me luck?

If any of you writers out there want to . . . follow me? . . . friend me? Huh, looks like the correct term is “be my buddy,” my user name is KD James. I’ll kick your butt be all supportive, if I can figure out how to do that without breaking anything.

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What about you non-writers? Is there anything you want to accomplish in November? Some momentous task you’ve been putting off and need a little push of inspiration to get going? Let me know and I’ll cheer you on in the comments.

Oh, and the answer to that first question? Two, of course. Unless you’re doing NaNo. Then probably the answer is four. Yes, four sounds right. Four family-size bags of chocolate.

 

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Filed under goals, writing

It always matters to someone. Always.

I just heard that today, April 27, is Tell a Story Day. So, in honour of that, here’s a little story-within-a-story.

Some of you reading this blog are writers and know how it feels to tell a story. For those of you who are not writers, this is a pretty accurate representation:

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It’s difficult to know, when you’re in the process of writing, whether a story is any good. It’s actually pretty easy to believe that no one will want to read it, or that people who do read it will wonder what you were even thinking when you decided you could do that. And sometimes, all that self-doubt becomes overwhelming and you begin to suspect you’ve lost the ability to tell a story at all. If you ever had it.

When I started writing this A to Z Challenge story, I said I was doing it to kick-start myself out of a creative slump. And that’s true. But the full truth is that I’d managed to convince myself I couldn’t write fiction. That any ability I had to tell a story had disappeared. It’s a scary feeling.

So I decided to write something this month that “didn’t matter.” Something completely outrageous and ridiculous and out of the ordinary, something I’d never done before. So, if I failed, I could shrug and say, “Oh well, it was ridiculous anyway.” My expectations for it to even make sense were very low.

I didn’t expect it to be so much fun. And I certainly didn’t expect all the lovely comments or the “likes” or the new blog followers I’ve gathered along the way. Every single one has been a delightful gift.

So, while I still have your attention, I wanted to say thank you. I’ve had a blast rediscovering my ability to tell a story, and it has been a privilege to have you all along for the ride on this unlikely adventure.

Several people have encouraged me to publish this story (someplace other than my blog) once it’s done. And probably I will. I can’t imagine this story is the kind of thing an agent or publisher would be interested in taking on, so most likely I’ll go the self-pub route again. [Did you know I have other books? They’re listed here.]

That will only happen after I complete the edit/re-write process, during which the story will no doubt get longer. Maybe even more ridiculous. Who knows.

If any of you are interested in hearing that news — and I totally understand if you’re not — I’ll announce it first via my mailing list. You should sign up! My intention is to only send out notices when new fiction is available, so you won’t be signing up for spammy ramblings of what I ate for breakfast or how the cat is doing. I limit that kind of stuff to my blog.

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Okay, so that’s it for my small contribution on Tell a Story Day. Now on to the bigger task of telling a story during the month of April.

I think I’ve almost decided on a word for the letter X and probably should start writing that post. I wonder what’s going to happen next . . .

 

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Filed under A to Z Challenge, creativity, writing

Sometimes, you are the problem

I’ve been having a tough time trying to re-focus and get back into writing since the holiday break. It has been incredibly frustrating.

I knew I wouldn’t be writing during the two weeks my daughter and her fiancé (and their dog and cat) were here, and I was fine with that. Time with them is rare and precious. I planned for that. I worked damned hard during the weeks leading up to their visit in an effort to make up for that.

And I really wasn’t surprised when I was too sad in the days after they left to get much done. That’s familiar territory, missing them and the commotion and noise and energy they bring with them. Although it did seem to last longer this time, and to feel more like depression than just sadness, than it has in the past. But still. An entire third week of not writing. At all.

During this past week, the fourth full week of not writing, I still couldn’t seem to focus and get on with it. Every day I woke up with a vague feeling of something hanging over me. Almost a feeling of dread. Like there was some unnamed threatening thing out there, only I had no idea what it might be. I was lethargic and unmotivated. Exhausted, even though I’d pretty much done nothing at all, certainly nothing tiring.

And I felt guilty as hell, because I NEEDED to be writing. I just couldn’t.

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And then I had a dream in which my former employer called, saying what an awful mistake they’d made and begging me to come back to work. In January. The most stressful and demanding time of year, dealing with year-end financial reporting. And in my dream I couldn’t speak, couldn’t answer. The damned thing just kept repeating, over and over, him begging me to come back, until I woke up in an absolute panic. I wanted to go back to sleep so I could tell him, “HELL NO.”

Mind you, in real life, this is just not going to happen. Not even a slim chance. It’s not something I’m even remotely worried about. Besides, I’d just say no. Nicely.

But I finally realized what has been wrong with me. I’ve been conditioned to dread this time of year. It has never been a time for writing. This is the time of year to be overworked and underappreciated and exhausted and stressed to the max. A time when life narrows down to the overtime demands of the job at the expense of everything else. And I’ve been feeling that way even though there’s no longer anything causing those feelings.

What an idiot. I’d like to believe I have more self-control than one of the subjects of Pavlov’s experiments. Geez.

My initial reaction was to have harsh words with myself and tell myself to suck it up and get over it, dammit, and just do what needed to be done. Regardless of how I felt. Except, you know, I’m really sort of fed up with sacrificing my sanity for the “greater good” at this time of year.

So rather than beat myself up about it and add more stress to my life, I decided that this might just be the time of year when I need to be kinder to myself. To give myself a break and lower my expectations. A time to relax and slow down and breathe deeply and let go of all stress. To be accepting of decreased productivity.

So that’s what I resolved to do, this year and every year from now on. Well, at least until I stop foaming at the mouth every time I hear that damned bell tolling its less than dulcet tones of “year-end tax reports” in my head.

That was Friday. I decided to take the rest of the month off. An extended vacation, no pressure. I’m telling you, I woke up Saturday feeling so relaxed and calm. Refreshed. Energized. Optimistic. Like it wasn’t even January any more.

And then . . . somehow . . . I, um, spent the next two days writing. Thousands of words.

I am so contrary. Maybe I don’t need that extended break after all. We’ll see.

Do any of you have a time of year like this that just destroys you? I hope you don’t. But if you do, maybe consider finding a way to be kinder to yourself until you get past it.

Oh, I almost forgot. I did try again before Christmas to write that sweet short story. Sigh. The characters were insipid and boring and so incredibly sweet — really, you would have hated them too — and I decided to consign them to the unremarked obscurity of the happily-ever-after they so richly deserved and never write about them, ever. Be patient, there are far more interesting people on the way. Now that I’m writing again.

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Filed under health and well-being, writing

Turning it off

I’ve written and deleted this post several times now, because it keeps emitting these irritating high-pitched noises that sound a lot like whining. Well, damnit, I’m in the mood to whine. Here, I’ve filled a glass just for you. Help yourself to the cheese and crackers.

This summer has been difficult on all fronts and has left me feeling depressed and discouraged and fatigued and, yes, whiny. The unrelenting excessive heat and humidity have made everything that much more miserable, and combined with increased stress at the day job and the looming possibility of unemployment, the decision not to attend conferences and feeling left out of meet-ups, the inability to travel to faraway gatherings of imaginary friends, trying (and mostly failing) to concentrate on writing, watching the slow implosion of traditional publishing, worrying about BEARS . . . and attempting to be outwardly cheerful and upbeat and entertaining through all that has taken a toll on my optimism and ability to concentrate.

I need a break. I need “a piece of quiet” as my daughter used to say when she was little. I need to reduce the distractions that are sapping my energy and cluttering up my brain. At least for a while. Hell, I need to pretend I live in Europe, where August is optional.

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.  ~Albert Camus

The coming month will see some big changes in my life. More specifically, in the lives of my children. After two years of job demands keeping them in different cities, my son and his girlfriend are now employed in the same city (my city, yay!) and will be moving into an apartment together next weekend. I’m delighted for them, especially since they’ve said I’m not allowed to lift any of the heavy boxes.

My daughter will be coming home that same weekend, after an exhausting but exhilarating summer spent taunting BEARS, to pack up the rest of her belongings (and The Intruder Cat) and will spend a couple weeks here before relocating to New Orleans, where her boyfriend is starting med school and where she will (we hope) find a job in her career field. I’m delighted for her too, even though I hate that she’ll be so far away. I figure if I tell her BEARS have been sighted in the wilds of the back yard, she’ll visit often.

Also during the next month or so, I suspect the economic fate of my employer will be determined, for better or worse. And during this same month, I hope to finish the final draft of my manuscript so I can send it to beta readers. Yeah, I’m not holding my breath on that one, but it’s a goal. Putting it in writing here makes it seem like it might even happen.

That’s a lot of stuff. It’s going to require, and it deserves, my attention and energy. Quite honestly, to retain what’s left of my sanity, I need to stop doing the things that are not strictly required of me. And most of those things involve the internet.

Escaping the Web*

I’ve already told people on Twitter not to expect to hear from me for a while. In fact, I’ve shut down TweetDeck and don’t plan to re-open it anytime soon. I’m also going to stop reading blogs. All of them. Yes, even the CB blog. For now, anyway. If anyone really truly desperately needs me, the form on the contact page goes straight to my email inbox. Use it wisely.

I don’t know whether I’ll continue to write posts over here in August. Most of my blogging “breaks” have been unintentional — every time I say I’m going to take a break, I find fifteen things I just have to write about. We’ll see how that goes. Probably I’ll post more of Aunt Mabel’s letters. Meant to do that earlier this summer and . . . got distracted.

So that’s the plan. I don’t expect it to be easy. The thought of closing my browser and not opening it except to check email and the weather is, well, scary. Plus, I’ll miss everyone. But right now the internet is not my friend. I’m sure I’ll resume the addiction relationship once life calms down. Believe me, you all will know it when I come back.

In the meantime, behave. Badly or well, I’ll leave up to you.

*Isn’t this cute? (well, for a spider) For more fun badges (and to see which ones you might have “earned”), visit the Merit Badger blog.

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Filed under blogging, creativity, goals, health and well-being