Why, How, What.

I feel lost. Not just normal lost. Lost in a pitch-black chasm with schisms in the walls. I feel like I’m supposed to know exactly which schism leads to a path upwards; a path that will lead me out of this darkness, but I keep stumbling in the blackness regardless of my best efforts. I’m not afraid of the dark. I’m frustrated by it.

Mom and I watched a couple of TED talks by Simon Sinek. In the second one, he discussed what makes “authorities” (people with a plan) versus people/corporations who “lead” (people with a passion). The difference between the two came down one simple idea: do people know why you do what you do? Don’t tell them what you do. Tell them why you do it.

The discussion got me thinking, of course. I’ve been massively dissatisfied with the trajectory of my life for some time now, so I started examining my motives. Why am I in this job? Why am I writing? Do I have a sense of purpose anymore? Where did my passion go?

Mr. Sinek showed a three-step circular model. The outer shell of the model was What. The middle ring was How. The bulls-eye was Why.

Let’s apply that to my job. What I do: I work in IT, monitoring printer software and configuring applications. How I do it: I answer emails and mess around with a couple of computer programs. Why I do it: Because it’s my job and I’d like to be debt free by the time I’m 28.

Not a whole lot of passion there, and money has always been my least favorite motivator. I swore to myself I would never keep a job just for the money, but here I am. I’m not seeing many options, though.

Let’s look at my last job. What I did: I worked in customer service, helping airport agents get you on the plane. How I did it: answering phone calls, engaging with airport agents, and puzzling my way through a quirky reservations system. Why I did it: Because I love customer service and figuring out the ins and outs of SABRE was a blast.

The “whats” and “hows” aren’t all that different in practice, but the “whys” are eons apart.

Finally, let’s look at writing. What I do: I write new adult fiction. How I do it: By sitting down at a computer every day and fighting to put the scenes in my head into words. Why I do it: Because in the end, I want to create a world that inspires people to write, a world that inspires imaginations.

LoveInspire. Those are passionate words. So how do I find passion in where I am currently? I don’t know yet. I’m switching shifts in about a week. Maybe I’ll find a new answer to why I do what I do. If not, here’s to hoping that my writing will become something I can do to sustain myself, both mentally and financially.

I highly recommend you click the link above and watch Mr. Sinek’s TED talks, particularly if you’re any sort of leadership role. His perspective has sent me into meditation-mode for a couple of days now.

But in the end, for me it all circles back to one thing: I’m tired of feeling lost.

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Giving Up

Well, that hiatus was unintentional.

Thank you to those who stuck with me through my silence. I have an issue with perseverance from time to time, it seems. The funny thing is, when I suddenly stopped writing, I actually had a complete draft ready to go about just that: perseverance. Oh, the irony.

Today, though, I want to address the opposite side of perseverance. I’m dealing with it in every aspect of my life right now, especially in my health.

If you’ve been reading for the last few months, you know that my psychiatrist put me on Abilify to bring down my manic episodes. Once I quit drinking and put my medication on a schedule, the Abilify started to work wonders. The downside is the lovely side effect of putting on weight.

Yaaaaay.

I did CrossFit a couple of years ago and completely fell in love, but got sick and stopped going. If you don’t know anything about CrossFit (or have only heard horror stories), here’s the gist: your start with simple warm ups like running 400m, doing squat jumps, inchworms, and other such things that would have normally been my entire workout. Then you move into the high intensity stuff, like burpee bar hops, box jumps, pull ups, various Olympic weightlifting techniques, and you do them all in prescribed reps or for time.

I went home hurting every day and it was the greatest feeling.

Now I’m trying to push myself on my own. No coaches, no cheerleaders, no partners. It’s me against me and I’m telling you it’s a hundred times harder than CrossFit ever was. All I want to do is give up, but I know I can’t. I have to beat this medication and shed the weight before I hit another all-time high. I got on the scales the other day: 228. I was at 195 in October before I started.

This reminds me a lot of writing my novel, because there have been times when I’ve wanted to give up. I can’t. The reward is too great. The same principle applies here, but I’ve never really achieved success through exercise before. I’ve had 13 years of pushing myself to write a novel. I’ve had comparatively no time to push through my mental barriers here. I find myself stopping when I know a coach would be pushing me on. This is bordering on being the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

What about you guys? Is there anything that you have to really push yourself so that you don’t give up?

Again, sorry for the hiatus and the semi-rambling post. I’ll do better this next month.

Reading Comprehension

One of the most frustrating things about writing is dealing with readers. We writers love our audiences, otherwise there’s a solid chance that most of us wouldn’t write. However, there are some readers who religiously miss the point.

As a novelist, I had one beta reader who focused so much on the grammar and punctuation in my story that she missed several key plot points. I’d like to point out that my grammar and punctuation are damn near perfect, so that made me think I didn’t clarify my plot enough. On the flip side, another of my beta readers caught on everything immediately. My duty as an author became finding a way to split the difference–how could I make my writing clearer without beating my readers over the head with obvious details?

As a corporate employee, I’ve had several colleagues who fail to grasp the gist of an email. I make a point to keep my emails short and sweet. They’re under 250 words 99% of the time, and if I can manage, they’re under 150. I don’t like to draw things out. You’ll notice my newer blog posts are significantly shorter than my old ones because there’s no need to be long-winded. People have things to do, places to go, people to see.

Back to the emails.

I sent an email which contained all of 20 words, and it was completely misinterpreted. I read it. I re-read it. I re-read it a third time just to see if maybe I said something out of place that could have been read incorrectly. There wasn’t. 20 words, for God’s sake. Even my attention span isn’t that short.

That brings me back to my work as a novelist. I’ve gone through the book again and again, looking for places where I maybe was too vague about the plot, but I’m not finding them. Maybe the plot needs to be adjusted, but that’s not the same as the details being absent. There is no reason someone should have missed that Character A has a sinister side when there’s an entire scene dedicated the woman breaking into someone’s house.

The moral of the story is this: writers, sometimes readers just don’t read. Remember those reading comprehension tests in school? These are not the people who scored high, and a lot of times, poor reading comprehension goes with poor listening skills. If you have to explain yourself in painstaking detail when speaking to someone, this is someone who is going to read a sentence, jump to conclusions, and disregard the rest of your carefully crafted world. This is not your fault, but it’s a reminder to be wise in choosing how you communicate and with whom you share something as important as your work.

Have you encountered any particularly frustrating moments when someone has misinterpreted you, either personally or in the work environment? How did you handle it?

Hello 2017

Another year, another New Year’s post. I made a number of goals (not resolutions) last year. Let us see how those worked out:

  • Gotten all 12 years of my notes organized – done
  • Hired a literary agent – looooool, still working on this one.
  •  Leveled out on my meds – mostly
  • Changed jobs, whether that be via “demotion,” change of departments, or taking leave to finish my degree. – done
  •  Dated at least one person – we’re going to call this done, even though no official dates were had. It’s complicated.
  • Learned how to control my awful spending habits so that I have enough to hire a maid. – still working toward this
  • Received my phoenix and compass tattoos – nope

Not too shabby. This means it’s time to set up seven new goals for 2017. Let’s start with the ones I didn’t complete in 2016 and fill in the rest.

By the end of 2017, I will have:

  • Signed with a fabulous literary agent of awesome
  • Learned how to control my spending habits, which includes paying off at least 2 of my school loans and paying off my remaining credit balance. (I’m bound and determined to be debt free by the age of 30. I want to buy a house, dammit.)
  • Received my phoenix and compass tattoos
  • Completed two of my seven remaining college classes
  • Gotten my passport and Canadian visa
  • Become fluent in Spanish
  • Gotten involved in a serious relationship with someone who complements my brand of crazy

I think that sums up my plans for 2017 pretty well. It’s going to be a busy year. A good friend and I have resolved to be more involved in each other’s lives, so I’m excited for that. I’m still struggling a little with my mood and medication, but it’s so much better than it used to be (anxiety is currently high but manageable).

We’re gearing up for an interesting year, that’s for certain. Have you made any goals/resolutions for 2017? Not screaming in frustration at Trump’s Twitter feed, for instance? Let me know in the comments, and happy New Year.

Smile!

smileI read a blog a few weeks ago over at Anonymously Autistic about remembering the rules of social interaction. The author, Anna, has a written list of rules she follows to make sure she’s interacting with people correctly. Say hi. Smile. Talk a little, listen a lot.

I can relate to a number of things she listed, but the one that stood out to me was “Smile.” I smile a lot. I laugh a lot. Smiling when I first make eye contact with someone? That’s difficult, especially on a bad day.

My mom was shocked to learn that I struggle with smiling at people. I was raised to make eye contact, be polite, etc. I think my mother’s insistence that I make eye contact is the only reason I manage to do it now. So what about smiling? That comes with practice–practice I can do every day, a few times a day, even if I’m 100% alone.

A few years ago, probably around the time I started working at Denny’s, I made it a habit to smile whenever I saw a face. It did not have to be a real face. I have a pillow of Mitt Romney’s head (which I adoringly call Romney-Face), and even though it’s definitely cartoon-y, I still smile at it. That habit expanded to . . . the bathroom; specifically, the mirror. I made it a habit to smile any time I looked at myself in the mirror, which did great things for my self-esteem and for my ability to smile at people when I make eye contact.

What about on bad days? Same thing. It’s a legitimate habit. If I make eye contact with someone, I smile just as bright as I would on a good day. I still smile at the mirror. It helps a little. I do still have really bad days, on which I will actually avoid looking in the mirror because I don’t feel like smiling. Weird, right?

What about you? Any social rules you have to consciously follow? Do you do well with making eye contact and smiling at people?