Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Some Excitement...Finally

Writing has been the proverbial roller coaster lately. Lots of ups and downs, though the last few months have been a LOT of downs.

I knew when I finished writing my fifth novel that it would need major revisions. Little did I know just how major - we're talking ripping out most of the last half of the book. But my brain worked slowly and steadily toward a solution. I took notes, wrote down ideas, and did a lot of thinking.

Last night, all of it finally made sense.

And I'm excited for this novel again.

This is a very, very good thing. I can't wait to dive in and do the work. It's going to be a long haul, but the finished product will be worth it.

What has excited you in your writing world lately?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pardon the Mess

I'm fiddling with my blog. I am one of those people who can never keep the same design or background for the entirety of my blog's life. That would just be boring. So I've switched up my template and am in the process of creating a new header.

I've been hit with another flare up of my RA, which doesn't surprise me as I've been going strong for the past month without any problems. But I was laid up all weekend. I pretty much slept and watched t.v. and read. My daughter and I even watched the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton movie, Cleopatra, a four-hour odyssey that my daughter actually wanted to watch. She, like me, is a sucker for a love story.

That means, however, that I didn't get any writing done on the POW book or the novel, and I am anxious to remedy that except that I'm still not feeling good, but am at work instead of at home (and I'm not sure this was the best idea...).

But you know what? That's life. Gotta roll with the punches. Mourning the loss of this weekend isn't going to get me any closer to achieving my goals, and neither is pushing myself to work when I know my body will only rebel and force me to take it easy. I'm learning to listen to my body because if I don't...oh boy. The consequences are quite ruthless.

That's the update from this end. Not much, I know.

Oh! And our temperatures are in the high 90s all week long. Those who have been reading this blog for awhile know well my hatred for heat - and the fact that it's officially fall according to the school calendar if not the regular calendar just makes it that much worse that I have to endure heat now when the blasted weather had all summer to get up to its scorching temps.

I digress.

At any rate, it's gonna be a hot one, which means I won't be doing anything that requires me to be outside. In short, I'm retreating into hibernate mode.

And I'm okay with that.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

It's Not Always About the Writing

There was an interesting post the other day over at Writer Unboxed on "The Dreaded Solitude of Writing" by Porter Anderson. I found it fascinating how some writers are so consumed by writing that even if they wanted to take a walk while in the midst of creating, they can't because it would interrupt the work. They are so disciplined that the writing comes first. Self-isolation and solitude are necessarily a part of such a committed writing life.

But when I read this writer's quote, about not being able to take a walk even if they wanted to, it made me feel, well...rather sad.

Now understand that I know how important discipline is to the writing life. Writers are world-class procrastinators, and if we let ourselves do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to, we'd never get anything done.

But there's discipline, and then there's...dare I say it...selfishness.

We writers are really good at not writing. That's why there are endless books, internet memes, and articles on how we should just write, darn it, and quit messing around. The writing is the be all, end all of our lives and we need to start ignoring those dirty dishes in the sink and the piles of laundry and just get the words down.

Yes, we need those books, internet memes, and articles to help us put aside our procrastinating ways and get to work. But I also think we're in need of something to balance things out a little more, something to show us that while writing is important, there are other things that sometimes should come first.

Here's an example.

My daughter is in her last year of middle school (which means high school is next year...gulp.). As a teenager, she's going through an absolute mishmash of changes - emotionally, physically, socially, etc. She has questions and concerns. And, thank the Lord above, we have the type of relationship where she comes and talks to me about them.

(As a slight tangent, I would say that teenagers need their parents more now than they do at any other age. They need us to be there for them in every way imaginable to help them navigate this confusing obstacle course of adolescence. But that's another topic for another post.)

I've noticed that she wants to hang out with me more now than she did a few years ago. This would seem to be the opposite of the typical teenage view that all parents are dorks and dumb and can't possibly understand what they're going through and should be avoided at all costs. So I'm rather glad that she enjoys spending time with me.

But sometimes, this cuts into the writing time. There are evenings where I'll be working away and she'll come up to my office with something that's bothering her and wants to talk. Or she just wants to hang out. And even though I have a deadline that I'm trying to meet, I put aside the writing and I listen to her.

Because the writing, though important, is nowhere near as important as my daughter.

The same goes for the rest of my family. If I haven't had a chance to catch up with my husband all day and I have to choose between either an hour of writing time or an hour with him, what do you think I'm going to pick? My husband. Every. Time.

Does this mean I'm not committed enough to the writing craft? Some might say yes. They are perfectly entitled to those beliefs. I don't share them, however.

But here is what I wrote in my comment over at Writer Unboxed: "I could have ten New York Times bestsellers to my name, but if I don’t have my family to share in my success, it will mean exactly nothing."

I firmly believe that.

We can become too obsessed with the writing, to the detriment of all else. We can become so obsessed that we forget to take a walk and see the beauty of God's creation, that we can forget to enjoy time with our family, that we can forget to experience life.

Because if you don't experience life, how in the heck are you going to write about it?

I propose a balance, a sort of triage system.

Each situation is unique; each moment is unique. If you're writing, or you need to write, and something else is competing for your time, evaluate which is more important at that moment. Sometimes it really is the dishes (especially if they have started to spill over onto the counter). Sometimes it really is taking a walk. Sometimes it really is listening to your daughter share a problem from school.

And sometimes, it's the writing. The dishes don't need to be done because, well, there's only a bowl in the sink and you're just procrastinating. And you don't need to take a walk because you've got to submit your freelance article in exactly one hour and you're not finished yet. And your daughter isn't sharing a problem at all, but has determined to tell you every last detail about the new rock band she likes and won't you just listen to their song and watch this video, and then maybe go to their website and see this cute picture of the bass player and....(look, it's always good to take an interest in what our children are involved in, but if this is the same rock band she told you all about last week, you have my permission to smile and nod and say, "honey, I would love to talk to you about the bass player's latest tweet about his love for peanut butter and how you love peanut butter and wouldn't the two of you make a perfect couple, but I need to get this finished up, okay?")


So. What say you? How do you balance life with writing?

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Price of Love

My weekends are my rest and recuperate time.

I am not one of those people that tries to cram every last activity into two days only to end up exhausted and spent (but happy) on Sunday night. Instead, I work on my writing, putter around the house doing housework, watch some movies with my husband and daughter, and take naps.

Yeah, really exciting.

Occasionally, we will take a weekend trip, but I can't do too many of those. Traveling has become increasingly harder on my body ever since the rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis last year. In short, I have to be very careful to conserve energy. I use too much of it, I pay for it.

This last Saturday, something unusual happened. I did not sleep in. I was up at 8:30 a.m. and stranger still, I actually had energy to stay up instead of eating breakfast and then falling back asleep for another hour. So I went upstairs to my office, booted up the computer, and got to work on that history book I'm writing. I also did some housework, swept the driveway, and made a grocery list. Then my daughter and I headed out to finish getting her school supplies and also to get groceries.

I am a classic introvert, but I am also a pro procrastinator, which means I should have known better than to put myself in a situation where I would be surrounded by parents with children, all of them doing the same thing I was doing - waiting until the last minute to get school supplies. Suffice to say, by the end of the shopping session, I was ready to scream, and my body was aching.

After unloading groceries and decompressing for awhile, it was time for date night, and even though I was exhausted, I wanted to go. Both hubby and I started new jobs this year and our schedules have been somewhat erratic. A happy marriage is a marriage where you take the time - and make the time - to connect with each other. I was quite happy to go, and quite insistent.

A movie was out of the question since hubby wouldn't have stayed awake long enough to watch it, so we settled on bowling. We got to the bowling alley, paid for our games and shoes, then went to our lane only to discover...

...that we were surrounded by parents and young, screaming children.

Well. When you already pay for something, no use wasting that money, right? So we made the best of it. We bowled two games before my tolerance for noise and rambunctious children hit its threshold. And, dare I say it, my body hit that threshold at the same time.

When you have a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis, deviating off of a schedule can wreak havoc on your body. For me, the entire day had been a deviation.

And on Sunday morning, oh boy, did I pay for it.

I didn't crawl out of bed until noon. Still, I was bound and determined to work on that book (when you have a deadline with an actual, real publisher, it has a way of overriding your excuses), and I headed back to my office. I kept at it all afternoon, and also managed to try a new recipe - sloppy joe stuffed peppers - before ten p.m. rolled around and it was bedtime.

Funny thing, though, is that I was on a role with writing the book and didn't want to stop, even though my body was saying, "Go to bed, you daft woman!"

This morning, I woke up discombobulated (I love that word). Everything moved in slow motion - especially my body. My mind wasn't sharp (an unfortunate side effect of the medication I take) and I felt like I was wrapped in cobwebs.

It's early afternoon now and that discombobulation has progressed to an urgent need to crawl into bed and take a nap. Alas, I must keep working at the day job.

This, then, is the price of love.

I love to write, so I did.

I love my husband, so I went bowling.

Caveat - Before anyone thinks that my husband is a big ol' meanie who drags me out of the house despite how I feel, I can assure you that is not the case. He is my warrior, and my biggest supporter. He understands what I'm going through and tries to reduce my discomfort and pain as much as he can. He will be the last person to insist on me doing something if it's going to make my health worse. But in this case, I was insistent.

The thing is, when my RA flares up, I can forget my symptoms by diving into my writing or by reading a really good book. That's my escape.

And when I'm with my husband, who is my best friend, I am surrounded in a cocoon of unconditional love.

So really, a tired body on a Monday morning (and afternoon!) isn't such a big price to pay for love.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Friday Is Dessert Day

Since I changed my eating habits to lose weight back in January, the most anticipated day of the week for me is Friday. Why, you ask? Because I allow myself one delectable dessert a week - and Friday is the designated day.

This has worked very well for me. I eat my regular meals - minus any cakes, cookies, pie - during the week (my nutritionist built in my 3 squares a day of Dove Dark chocolate into my meal plan). Then on Friday, I allow myself an indulgent treat. If I were not addicted to sweets, then I'd pick some other indulgence - say a huge portion of Doritos or a mall pretzel. But my mother and my grandmother's penchant for being terrific bakers when I was growing up made me develop a very sharp sweet tooth. I'm not a big candy lover, but give me homemade chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, apple pie, cinnamon rolls...yeah. I'm a happy gal.

Except you can't eat that stuff and expect to lose weight.

Thus, the "once a week" idea was born because you have to reward yourself for all that hard work, correct?

And guess what today is? Friday. Which means it's Dessert Day.

Waiting for me is a cookie called the OD. We have a fabulous place in town that makes these oh-so-delectable homemade cookies, and the OD is a chocolate cookie with chocolate chips and chocolate frosting. OD'ing on chocolate is never a bad thing.

Here's to Friday - and here's to Dessert Day!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

I'm Back

Here's the thing about blogging. You can use it however you want to use it. Want to establish a platform to sell your book/invention/greatest spaghetti sauce ever made? Blogging is one way to do it. Want to connect with other people with the same interests? It's good for that, too.

It can be full of your boring thoughts and bad jokes and cute, winsome photos that no one will care about reading. It can be rich, evocative posts about writing or raising children or cooking or life - and you can garner a readership of thousands. You can build a community and interact with others as little or as much as you want to.

The bottom line is, it's yours to do with as you want. But if it gets to the point where it's a chore, then it's time to step back.

So that's what I did.

But now I'm back. It's time. I want to reconnect with all of you and share thoughts on writing and parenting and books and movies and life. I want to visit your blogs and see what you've been up to, I want to encourage you and support you, laugh and cry with you, celebrate, grieve, whatever the case may be.

In short, I want to connect.

I blogged awhile ago about the possibility of blogging being a dying social media form. After containing most of my online presence these past few months to Twitter and Facebook (yes, I caved and joined Twitter), I haven't changed my mind about what makes blogging such an incredible way to connect with others. In short, if blogging is dying, it's a shame. But I don't think it is dying - at all.

Don't get me wrong - Twitter and FB have advantages. I've Tweeted history questions to noted WW2 professors on Twitter and received an answer. I've connected with other WW2 enthusiasts and had a great time discussing various aspects of the war. But those are more real-time conversations. They're not the type of conversation where you can take the time to read and re-read, and really absorb what it is that you're reading. If you do that on Twitter, the conversation passes you by, not to mention the fact that you have to limit your responses to 140 characters or less.

With blogging, it's more personal. And I think in this day and age, with rapid response being the go-to function for most of us, we need that personal touch. Blogging provides that.

In the past few days, I've noticed how much I've missed the sense of community I have with my blog. When I'm actively blogging and reading and commenting on other people's blogs, I don't feel so alone in this writing business. I don't feel like I'm in a cave in Antartica. I feel like I'm part of something.

For a long time, I always felt like my blog posts had to be deep, meaningful posts that conveyed some great truth (or attempted to) about writing or life or parenting or whatever. While I *hope* I've had those types of posts in the past, I realize now that I can blog about whatever the heck I want to. My blog, my rules, right? Well, to a certain extent. I'm not in the business of offending people, so I'll continue to keep politics and religion out of my posts unless I feel in the mood to vent/whine/celebrate. Ha!

Right now, I want to just blog just for the sake of blogging, just for the sake of putting my writing out there again. I've suffered a relatively significant blow to my confidence where my writing is concerned, and I've been mentally crippled for the past month or so. I have some good days, but the majority of the time, it's been a non-stop, "I don't have what it takes anymore" repeating in my head.

Not good.

Part of the reason this happened is because I put myself into isolation mode from those who I realize I've grown to treasure a lot - all my blog readers.

So it's time for the walls to come down. Of course, if I'm honest, I have to admit that summer does this to me. I go into isolation mode, rarely venture from the house (too hot) and generally have a foul attitude. But this summer, we've been rather fortunate to escape the really hot temps (in the past, we have clocked in near 110 sometimes) and we've enjoyed a relatively mild summer.

Still, I just don't like summer. I am not a camping/sun bathing/beach/swimming person. Give me the choice between a tropical island and a cottage in Scotland and you know which one I'm going to go for - the cottage every single time.

All this rambling is to say - I'm back to blogging. I plan to post whenever I want on whatever I want. And there's freedom in that. I think I'm going to embrace the freedom.

Autumn is just on the horizon, and I'm looking forward to all that it brings - but most especially, I'm looking forward to the time when my brain decides to turn the mood from "snarky and lazy" to "content and productive."

I can't wait to connect with all of you again.

I'll leave you with this:

Write (and live) with joy, with passion, with intent.

New Digs

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