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.

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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?

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.

Hair

We’re going to pretend I got this post up earlier in the day. I definitely did not spend the last (*cough*27*cough*) hours sleeping. Look, I wasn’t feeling so hot and I was tired. Apparently like Rip van Winkle tired. And I’m still tired, so apologies for anything that doesn’t make sense.

So hair.

One of the bizarre things about writing a blog like mine is trying to find ways to tie together writing and mental health. If it sounds easy to you, then good on you; it’s not easy for me. However, hair ties into both rather nicely.

Me!

March 2014

Back in March of 2014, I cut my hair all the way off. Like, all the way. The next shortest I could have gone was a buzz cut, and I was tempted. The whole purpose of cutting it off was to get rid of everything–the dead ends, the hair color, the bad memories, and the temptation to keep cutting it shorter inch by inch.

Hair is a sign of power to me. Maybe it’s because my mom has always kept her hair long. Maybe the story of Samson really struck a chord with my childhood imagination.  Either way, hair and power are two things I cannot separate from one another. I think that’s part of the reason I kept cutting my hair when I felt stressed out. I felt powerless.

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March 2015

I made a commitment to myself that I would never cut my hair again . . . until I got married. That vow lasted longer than anticipated since my engagement broke off about six months later.

The picture to the left shows a few things:

  • My hair grew a full six inches in the first year [insert “Why the long face” jokes here];
  • I felt dead inside through most of 2015
  • This is roughly the length my male characters wear their hair at minimum.

Characterization-wise, I personally prefer to identify my characters’ perceived power with the length of their hair. In my first book, Devin’s hair is in a pixie cut (think the length of my first picture, but styled like someone actually wanted her to look cute). She’s timid, young, and naïve. By the last book, her hair is waist-length and she is among the most powerful women in the province. Similarly, one of my characters starts the series with waist-length black hair and by God she is possibly the most terrifying female in the books thus far.

The same thing goes for my men, but with the added complexity of how they wear their hair, i.e. a ponytail = restrained power. My leading man, Patrick, always wears his hair tied back because he thinks he is completely powerless in the real world. He has to hide the power and influence he has over people and it’s one of the biggest stressors in his life.

As for me, I’ve managed to keep the scissors away from my hair for nearly three years. I’m pulling a Samson: my hair has not seen so much as a trim since March 2014, and it really does feel empowering to know that I have been able to grow my hair out so long. I took a ruler to it the other day — it’s 18 inches long now. The weird thing is that I wear my hair back often because I don’t want people to see how long it’s gotten, like they don’t deserve that part of me. Bizarre, right?

What about you guys? Does hair make you feel powerful/powerless? If you don’t have or can’t grow hair, I definitely want to know your thoughts on the whole hair/power dynamic.

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November 2016

Mental Health Monday

I’m playing around with the idea of having themed days of the week: Mental Health Monday, Writer Wednesday, Physical Friday; you know, basic catchy alliterative crap. It would mean I have to commit to a dedicated schedule again, which would be great for my personal growth as a writer and for my readers. I always feel awkward when someone comes here expecting a mental health conversation and they get inundated with information about my novel characters. Likewise, people who read me for my writerly stuff generally don’t seem to care for my mental health posts. Separating those might be a good idea. We’ll see what happens.

Onto the mental health updates. As many of you know, I’m Bipolar II. I’m on Lamictal and Abilify. Something you may not know is that I’ve scored extremely high on autism questionnaires in the past, but have not been diagnosed as autistic since my social skills tend to be top notch (it depends on the day). I’m hardly a fount of scientific information relating to mental health issues, so I can only speak, and often do, from personal experiences.

I recently had to stop drinking in order to allow the Abilify to work. I’m bummed because I’m actually a bit of a beer snob and love trying new ones when I go to dinner. I might also be the kind of person who has a few gin and tonics on board game night. However, all of those things were impeding the Abilify, so I had to cut back. So lame.

Roses

Everything’s coming up roses.

On the positive side of things, I can see where it’s starting to kick in again. I had to call a customer three times, which would normally send waves of anxiety rolling through my body. Not today. Without even thinking, I picked up the phone and called. No anxiety, no qualms, no anything. It was freeing.

If this is what it takes to become okay, here’s to not drinking.