Thursday, May 30, 2013

Snoopy's Writing Life

I know exactly how Snoopy feels. I have several abandoned files on my computer of stories started and never finished.

You?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Days Like This...

First, I want to clarify something. This post is about my struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. It's not a "poor me" post. I'm not asking for sympathy. I'm really not. My blog is just a way to document and deal with what I'm going through, whether that's my health or my writing or what-have-you. I don't view these posts as complaining, per se, but as a way to somehow help other people. How, you may ask? Well, if I'm going through it, chances are good that someone else is, too. And believe me when I say, it's important to know you're not alone in dealing with things.

So. With that out of the way, let's continue...

The weather changed here. For Nebraska, this is not unusual. But we went from temps in the high 90s (we actually hit 100 degrees one day) to the mid 50s and 60s within the span of a week.

My body is rebelling. I am having a flare-up and I'm so exhausted that I can barely sit up straight. But I'm at work because I have precious little paid time off left, and also because staying busy can keep my mind off the pain and on the task at hand.

In other words, I'm distracting myself.

My ankles hurt. My hands hurt. My head hurts. And now I can add my knees to the list. That was a new one that came up at my last appointment with my rheumatologist. While overall I am doing better in managing my RA, these flare-ups can kick my tush big time.

On days like this, I tend to crave sweets. I'm not sure what the connection is, but I usually don't argue. I'll eat a little more than my three pieces of Dove Dark Chocolate and maybe cheat a little bit in other ways, too. But I try to stick to my healthy eating as much as possible because let's face it - I don't need to make myself feel worse by downing bad-for-me food.

I've been distracting myself with Twitter, which I'm starting to like a bit more now that I'm getting the hang of it, but I still feel as though it's filled with too much promotional crap like, "Buy my book! Look at my first chapter! BUY MY BOOK!!!" That gets annoying after awhile. But I've been able to connect with some terrific people out there, including some major World War II historians and authors.

I've also been meandering through my novel's first chapter, trying to tweak it to my satisfaction since I'm in "revision mode." Being ruthless in cutting words and getting to the heart of what I'm trying to say is important at this point. Not easy, but important.

And it's at moments like these when I truly thank God for my writing. It's a welcome escape from the pain - my refuge. I honestly don't know what I'd do without it. In fact, this quote below represents how I feel about writing when I'm in the midst of dealing with the pain and cannot write at that precise moment (because of work or whatever). A warm glow spreads through me and blots out my misery.

So, on days like this, when the brain receptors are on overtime sending me pain signals from my feet and ankles and wrists, I close my eyes, take another bite of chocolate, and think about my fingers tapping across the keys...




Friday, May 17, 2013

Staying True to Yourself

Sometimes, I'm a very spontaneous person. I make snap decisions without really thinking them through. Thankfully, this is becoming rare. I attribute that to wisdom, I suppose, which comes with age (one of the good things).

I recently made one of those snap decisions. In this day and age of instant communication, it's easy to fire off an email without thinking too much, and that's exactly what I did when I decided to inquire about a possible freelance gig.

Here's the thing, though. I don't really have time to do anymore freelance work. But since my husband is graduating from college next month and already has a job lined up (hurrah! Two incomes!), I was playing with the idea of working from home, and wanted to see if I could make a go of it. So, off I went, searching the Internet for freelance gigs in my area of expertise. I came across one with a former contact and immediately shot off an email, despite a little voice telling me, "Don't do it."

I blithely ignored it, of course, and when I got his response that yes, indeed, they could use my help, and that the amount they paid for the service was X amount of dollars (VERY good pay for this work, I might add) I charged ahead. I read through all the documents he sent, further bypassing the little voice (and the growing pit in my stomach) that said, "No, no, no," focused instead on the dollar signs, and sent back an email, saying, "Of course I could do this!"

The next day, he sent me a sample to do to see if my work was up to snuff. By that time, however, a knot had settled in my chest as well as a slight feeling of panic. I had so much to do already. How could I possibly add one more thing to the pile? But then I thought that if this led to me being able to work from home, which is what I really aspire to do someday, it would be worth it, right?

Not so fast. 

I'd overlooked two very crucial elements in all of this. First, I've been doing the freelance work I specialize in  for more than eight years. I'm burned out. The thought of doing yet more of this type of work wasn't appealing, but the money was. I didn't heed my subconscious' whispers of warning.

Burn out was one thing. But then something else even more alarming roared to the forefront.

When would I have time to work on my novel?

It would get shoved even further behind my other commitments. I've already neglected it far too much. This would seal the deal. My dream of being a published novelist, the one I've held for so long, would be that much further out of reach.

I talked to my mom. I talked to my husband. I talked to my daughter. I emailed a few writing friends and asked for advice.In the end, though, the answer came to me loud and clear.

Just say no.

I sent the email to my contact this morning and apologized profusely for wasting his time.

The lesson learned is multi-faceted. One, money isn't everything. Yes, the pay was fantastic, but at what cost to my emotional (and physical considering all my health issues) health and happiness? At what cost to pursuing my passions? I'm trying to make a conscious effort to focus on those passions, not shove them in the closet. Two, it's best to listen to that small voice inside of us. Three, waiting a few days before sending off an impetuous email won't hurt a thing. In fact, it will help you save face later so you don't have to write an awkward apology email.

The bottom line...

Staying true to yourself is the best route to take. I can't tell you the relief I feel at having made this decision. There's a twinge of regret in there, too, because I keep thinking about that money I'm missing out on, and there's also guilt for having put my contact through the whole rigmarole of explaining their process to me. I hate inconveniencing people.

On the positive side, I am super excited to dive into my manuscript edits without this hanging over me. I have another article for America in WWII magazine that I can't wait to research, and a book under contract to write.

My blessings are absolutely bountiful. I'm so thankful to God for giving me all of these opportunities, and I thank Him for pulling me back when I was about ready to stretch myself too thin.

Wisdom. It is a good thing.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Milestones

It was a very, very, very busy weekend.

Two graduations. One hour apart. Different towns. (I only made it to one).

Two receptions, different locations. (I made it to both).

One birthday.

Mother's Day.

And 10 total hours spent in the car driving.

On top of it all, my spring allergies kicked into high gear.

I'm worn out.

Milestones this weekend:

  • My stepson graduated from high school. (I feel old).
  • My niece graduated from high school. (Really old.)
  • My daughter is officially a teenager. (Really, really old).

Things I learned this weekend:

  • Even though you tell yourself you won't cry at the graduation ceremony, when your son comes to give you a rose and hugs you, you'll cry. Guaranteed.
  • It's impossible to eat healthy as there are no healthy food choices offered. I ate pizza and a hot dog and cupcakes and cookies and pasta salad and then birthday cake last night!
  • Sleeping in the car is incredibly difficult if you do not have a proper pillow.
  • Letting hubby drive ensures you will get home faster (but will not always ensure the lack of a speeding ticket...).
  • Too many events in one weekend makes for utter exhaustion 

I survived, though, and all in all, it was a good weekend.


My stepson and I at his graduation. There were only 10 people in his senior class!
Now I need a nap...

Monday, May 06, 2013

It's Done

I spent most of yesterday afternoon writing and I did something I've only done four other times in my life.

I wrote THE END.

Yes, novel #5 is done. Well...let me clarify. The rough draft is done. This baby needs to be edited! But I'm going to let it sit for awhile before I tackle it. Besides, I have that other book I need to get cracking on.

I wrote over 3,700 words yesterday and my shoulders are feeling it today. But it took my mind off the flare-up I'm currently experiencing, one that is attacking my knees (this is a first!), my ankles, wrists, fingers, and feet.

Funny that I don't feel this huge sense of accomplishment over typing THE END. Why? I suppose it's because I know it's far from being finished.

Still.

It is no longer a blank page. And that's what counts.




Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Blog Carnival: 2013 "Where I Write"

It's the place where you create. Maybe it's a lumpy couch with giant, overstuffed pillows. Maybe it's an old table pushed against the dining room wall. Or perhaps it's a grand room with wall-to-wall windows overlooking a lake.

It's where we write.

Staking out a place in which to compose our poetry and prose that is all ours can be difficult. I set up my first office when I was in the sixth grade. I had an old wooden school desk, a plastic yellow table, and my mom's manual typewriter. Some of my fondest writing memories come from the time I spent there.

In high school, my parents gave me a student desk as a gift. I set it up in my room and spent hours writing longhand, foregoing high school sports activities and partying for making up stories.

As an adult, I've had a variety of offices. I had a room of my own for a short time in our first house, but it didn't last long when we found out we were expecting our daughter, and we had to change it into a baby's room.

Often, I've had to cram my desk into a bedroom. But that was always okay - just as long as I had a space that I could claim.

Now, I have a gorgeous room all to myself. It's the top floor of our Cape Cod house.  Since I'm a World War II historian and I also write historical fiction set during this time period, my decorating style naturally gravitated to vintage 1940s.

I have curtains from the 1940s in one window...


...and an authentic 1940s Royal Typewriter next to an old fan on this 1920s radio stand. Beside it are, of course, two iconic posters representing World War II.
I also have a cozy reading spot next to my retro-looking stereo...

...and then, of course, the desk.
I bought the flag from a World War II veteran at an estate sale. He served in the Pacific and the Atlantic.

When I go to this room, put on my vinyl big band records, and look around at all the posters and relics from the 1940s, I feel completely immersed in the time period. It offers inspiration everywhere I turn.

Sadly, we are renting this house and I won't be able to have this room for long. Hubby is about ready to graduate from college and we will turn our eyes toward a new place within the next year. But I am excited for the possibilities!

Now, without further ado, let's check out some of your writing spots!

American storyteller Paul W. Papa loves to tell true tales about America, especially Las Vegas. He's a fellow history lover and we can always use more of those! Check out where he spins his tales here.

Memoir writer Jeanne Lombardo loves her writing space so much that she uses a photo of it to illustrate her blog. And I have to say that it is, indeed, a lovely spot! See it here.

Martin Lake currently pens his historical novels from the South of France, and instead of just one spot, he has several! That'll keep the creative juices flowing. You can see all of his spots here.

Prolific author Mandy Eve-Barnett has a well-lit area to call her own - and a letter from Stephen King to encourage her when those words just refuse to flow. Take a look at her cozy corner here.

Eclectic and inspiring describes where Jillian writes. She has truly carved out the perfect corner for herself to create, and there's lots of terrific photos of her most excellent writing space here.

Jenn, a.k.a. The Engineer's Wife, could use our help! She and her husband recently moved to tropical Brunei in Southwest Asia, and her writing space needs some inspiration. Check it out here and let Jenn know your suggestions!

My dear friend and fellow vintage-lover, Valerie, writes wonderful short vignettes and stories on her blog that never fail to make me smile. Now I know why - she has the perfect writing spot to pen her tales! Check it out here.

Can I just thank each and every one of you who participated in this Blog Carnival? I've loved checking out where everyone writes. I hope you have, too!

Keep on writing...

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance! www.melissamarsh.net