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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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?

New Doctor, New Meds

Holy hell, the cost of aripiprazole (generic Abilify) is RIDICULOUS.

Here’s the rundown (fair warning, I’ve been up for 24 hours, so some of the following may be nonsensical rambling):

  • Had first meeting with new shrink. We’ll call him Man-Doctor. Felt like I was walking into rehab: had to take a drug test, all the normal blood pressure/height/weight crap, and then shuffled to a back office to be grilled by the doc.
  • Immediately felt like he didn’t believe a word I said.
  • When we talked about meds, he said the Dr. D already had me on twice the recommended dosage for bipolar disorder, so no increase. 
  • Man-Doctor informed me that lamotrigine (Lamictal) only treats bipolar depression, not bipolar mania. That revelation honestly explains a lot. This is where $$$Abilify$$$ enters the picture.
  • Foot fell asleep during the interrogation, so when I stood to leave I just about fell over. I told pseudo-concerned Man-Doctor, “I’m good. I’m just going to walk like an idiot for a minute.” The doc in the next office over laughed; Man-Doctor looked at me like I was nuts (or maybe I had somehow made an offensive comment?).

Oy. So that’s where I’m at on my road to mood management. I’ve not been too bad–my mania isn’t nearly as debilitating as my depression, so as long as the latter is at bay, I generally manage alright.

Work is a constantly moving target. As soon as I think I finally understand something a new facet appears. Universe: “You’re starting to understand printers? Let’s see how well you understand them in conjunction with this random-ass error.” I’m taking a couple of programming classes which will help a little, but I think my next class has to be network basics of some sort. Welcome to IT.

Pimping out my book is another semi-frustrating task. I’m gearing up to send another round of queries. I missed a super-awesome agent in my last go-around so I plan to remedy that error. The only thing holding me back right now is a piece of feedback I got from a trusted colleague, so I’m debating on making two small edits before sending it into more slush piles. 

Oh, and I’m going to overhaul the query letter. Writing a query letter is like writing a cover letter for a job you know you’re qualified for but have no evidence to prove it unless you get an interview. Writing a query and having to say, “I have no previous writing credits” is utterly terrifying. Somehow “Please read my blog that was supposed to be about writing but turned into a conversation about mental health” doesn’t have the desired effect.

Anyway. I’m probably going on too much about this, but it’s stressful. I know other writers feel the same way.

Thanks for hanging in with me and indulging my brand of crazy, guys. You’re amazing people. Keep at it.

Laid Flat

Remember the pneumonia thing? Well, I wasn’t having any sort of real issue with it until Saturday night when my body said, “Nope, we’re going to spike another fever, go dizzy and nauseous, and feel all around completely miserable.” I keep spiking fevers in the evening, getting hella dizzy and nauseous overnight, and being somewhat okay during the day.

This, of course, means that I’m calling in sick to work, which has led to a whole other sort of stress. As with most companies, we get a set number of paid sick days and everything after that is unpaid. I have no idea how unpaid sick days work for people on salary, but I don’t want to find out. At the same time, my body isn’t going to say, “Oh, been sick for X days, time to be well again!” Then there’s the notion of sick days being counted as “occurrences,” also known as “things which could be used against you if we decide to be picky about your attendance.” That’s yet another stressor on top of trying to work through the actual illness.

Good thing about writing — the sick days may not be paid, but no one’s going to use them against you.

My good friend has demanded I stay in bed and not move, which is fine except the water is downstairs and I’m upstairs. I’m a terrible patient, because as soon as I feel better, I want to be doing things. There’s a good chance I won’t settle down unless hospitalized, and even then, I’d say it’s 50/50.

That’s where I am today. Writing is sluggish, breathing still hurts, but other than that, I’m alive. My attitude’s been pretty good, I think. I’ve made sure to stay on top of my lamotrigine alongside the rest of the crap I’m taking. (I might stay still better if I let myself fall into catatonic depression.) (<—That’s a terrible idea.)

I might find sleeping meds, or I might continue writing for awhile. Patrick just broke into a house and he’s rather beside himself over the whole thing.

March Recap

Can’t believe I haven’t written in a month! Holy crap! I thought it’d been maybe two weeks, but no. A month. Wow.

The last few weeks have been kind of bizarre. I interviewed for two positions within the company. I completely bombed the one interview (it’s okay; I think we were equally disillusioned with one another). The second interview went well enough that they offered me the job. It’s an actual IT position, and they want to take one of my projects from my current job and expand it. I, of course, accepted without a second thought.

Beyond that, I’ve done sort of well with my writing. Devin and Patrick are both annoying me, so I keep revisiting old manuscripts to figure out what’s going on. I think I need to do a short time jump because Devin’s currently having the most mundane conversation with her mother. I have to remind myself again and again that I’m not actually starting this story over, that I’ve actually completed it a few times and there are things from previous manuscripts that should be saved.

Most of my journaling has been in a paper journal or in my head. I’ve not reflected much of my life in the last month just because I want nothing to do with most of it. I’m sincerely trying to do this one-day-at-a-time thing, but it’s hard. I’m programmed to focus on the future.

Currently, I’m in Dallas with my mom and a good friend I haven’t seen in years. I’m learning a lot from him that I can use toward my writing. In fact, this entire trip has been filled with things I can use toward my writing, including a fortuitous seating assignment on the plane ride over. A deep conversation with my neighbor taught me a lot about being a good leader, a good supervisor. Again, I may never use these things in my life off the page, but I can certainly apply them to my stories.

That’s the nutshell of this last month. I’m waiting on a start date for the new position. I’m excited to be starting the next phase of my accidental career. I also have an impending deadline to complete my manuscript. Wherever I happen to be by that date is where the story will stop. I have a goal in mind and it’s going to take some considerable sticktoitiveness to get there.

I hope you’re all having wonderful Aprils. We’ll talk again soon.