Saturday, October 26, 2013

Succumbed

I'm always behind the curve on the latest trends. It's rare that I jump on the bandwagon as soon as something becomes popular. I'm not quite sure why, but maybe it's my natural reticence to like anything in popular culture because I much prefer the culture of yesteryear.

I was late to the Downton Abbey party - I didn't start watching it until Season 2 started.

I was late to the Stieg Larsson books, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.

I was late to the Twilight series - I never read the books and didn't start watching the movies until the third one was out simply because my daughter took an interest.

I was late to Twitter, but now I thoroughly enjoy this social media.

I was late to the Big Bang Theory show, and now it's one of  my favorites.

It took me forever to read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and it was an incredible novel.

I was late to Mad Men and didn't start watching until the third season began.

I didn't get texting on my phone until a few years ago. Now it's an essential tool.

And now comes my latest obsession: The Walking Dead.

I actively avoided watching this show because I'm not a fan of zombies and I really have no interest in a zombie apocalypse. Plus I hate gore. But then my daughter and my husband started watching it on Netflix, and I happened to watch a few episodes. Yeah, there's a lot of gore, but I tend to ignore it because the human drama in this series is so compelling. As a writer, it's fascinating to watch the characters grow and change in lots of different ways.

I am now totally hooked on this AMC original show - and very late to the party, seeing as how Season 4 just started a few weeks ago. Thanks to Netflix, I've been able to get caught up. It's an addictive show and it's very hard to only watch one episode and then wait until the next night to watch another one. No, we watch two or three in a row.

This means, of course, that I've hardly gotten any writing done. But seeing as how I haven't been feeling the best this week, perhaps vegging in front of the t.v. is the best thing for me.

Have you ever been late to the party on something that's very popular in culture?


Monday, October 21, 2013

Writing Problems: #1 and #2

I've got two big writing projects at the moment. One is my novel, which, despite my poor health lately (stupid mono!) I've managed to make some terrific progress on. Unfortunately, I've felt this overwhelming feeling of dread whenever I think about the other project - my World War II book on the POW camps of Nebraska. It's a BIG project and one I'm not quite sure I can pull off.

I've struggled to understand why I feel this fear in particular. Yes, it's a project I've never undertaken before, but there must be a first for everything. Yes, it's a nonfiction book which means I better get my facts right. And I also have a master's degree in history so I really better know what the heck I'm doing.
But what is it about this book that so terrifies me?

I've had to stop and examine this out of sheer necessity. When you are paralyzed on a writing project that has a deadline, you better get it figured out so you don't miss that deadline.

So here's what I came up with.

I'm struggling with 1) information overload and 2) the fear of disappointing others.

First, let's go with the information overload. When I was researching my thesis and copying file after file of documents, a museum curator told me, "The historian with the most stuff wins." Basically, I want all the files. I never know what I might need, what might be a key component of the narrative I'm trying to tell. Some of it (perhaps most of it) won't be used. But I still need all the stuff because there's that one chance that the file I didn't copy is exactly the one I need.

So now I'm faced with a plethora of documents and a word count that I have to meet. And here's the problem: I have enough material for twice or perhaps even three times the word limit my publisher has given me.

Therein is Problem #1: figuring out what information to include, what to condense, what to delete altogether, and how to organize it all. It's incredibly challenging. Getting over this hurdle isn't easy, and I've had to tell myself to just get it all down now, then go back and edit later which is exactly the same way I approach my fiction writing. I'm slowly, slowly getting through it.

Which brings us to Problem #2: the fear of disappointing others.

Let me explain.

Since I started writing way back in the sixth grade, I have made no secret of it. Everyone, from friends to family to teachers to people in the small town where I grew up, knew I was a writer. They have supported me through it all. I don't have any stories about "discouragers." No one ever told me to put this foolish writing dream behind me and get a "real" job. My parents never tried to steer me in a different direction. My husband hasn't rolled his eyes at my writing dream then handed me a basket of laundry to fold. Everyone has always encouraged me and supported me in my writing, and for that, I know I am incredibly, unbelievably blessed.

But all that support and encouragement has had a very weird effect in making me worry that my first published book will disappoint all of those people who've been there for me, that it won't be good enough, that it won't live up to their expectations.

And everyone knows about that book contract because I told them (and yes, even announced it on my blog). Why wouldn't I? I am excited as heck about it and wanted to share my good news. The response was incredible - more support, more encouragement. And no, I am not complaining. At all.

But because I'm a writer who thinks too much to the point of paralyzing myself from actually getting any writing done, this has been quite a big hurdle for me to overcome.

I don't have the motivation of, 'I'm going to write this stellar book and I'll show them that they were wrong about me!' Instead, I have this running through my head: 'They encouraged and supported me and this awful book will show them they were wrong to do so. I am a fraud and a failure.'

Heavy stuff.

How, I ask, does a person overcome those feelings?

By doing precisely what I'm doing: writing about it. That's how I process the world and understand it, through the written word. I can do no less on this particular subject.

I don't have it figured out yet. I still have that little troll sitting on my shoulder and telling me I'm going to take a giant nosedive into the dirt on this book and prove to the world that for all my bravado, I'm a big, fat failure. I hate that little troll. If I could kick him off the roof, I would, but he has sort of taken permanent residence here (I spotted his unpacked suitcase the other day). I'm trying to shut him up as much as possible and just do the work, but it isn't easy.

So that's where I'm at.

What's remarkable about all of this is that I know I'll get through it. I know I'll finish the book and that while it will certainly not be a New York Times bestseller, it will be a good book because I will do my best to make it so. That is a comfort.

But it's when those moments of panic descend and the troll starts yammering that I tend to wonder why in the world I wanted to do this project in the first place.

The obvious answer is because I love to write and I love history. I'm combining both of those passions with this project. But those reasons are getting lost in all of this ridiculous self-doubt.

One day at a time. One word at a time, one paragraph, one page.

Do the work.

Monday, October 14, 2013

On the Incongruity of Time and Other Thoughts

It's the middle of October. How did that happen? The days just seem to flit by, the weeks disappear, and suddenly, Christmas is only a few months away. Terrifying.

Yet as I sit here at my desk at the day job, the minutes are going by excruciatingly slow. I want to tear my hair out. Part of the problem is I'm not super busy, and that always makes the time inch by at the pace of a slug.

Why is that?

And tonight, when I go home, I'll have exactly five hours before I have to go to bed. That time will whiz by, of course, because I'll be busy working on my writing projects, hanging out with my daughter and my husband, and doing housework.

Time, you are incongruous.

Other Thoughts...

1) I'm going to attempt a full day at work today. We'll see how it goes. It's 10:49 a.m. and I'm sleepy. That could be due to a rather uneven night's sleep, though, and not necessarily the mono recovery.

2) Today, I'm also going to attempt to wean myself off of my outrageous chocolate fix. I normally have three squares of Dove Dark Chocolate every day. Since I got sick, that portion control has been shoved into a deep, dark corner, and I've been devouring as much as I've wanted. That needs to stop. So today is the day. I doubt I'll stick to my three squares, but the least I can do is limit myself.



3) Last night, since I had taken a long afternoon nap and wasn't at all tired, I decided to clean up my office in preparation for tonight's writing session. I haven't looked at the history book I'm writing in weeks, and my office was a travesty of scattered papers and piles of stuff. So I got to work last night and tidied it up. Now I don't have any excuses for not getting to work.

4) Unlike seemingly the rest of the world's population, I did not watch the season premier of The Walking Dead last night. I don't like zombies. I do, however, enjoy the Crawley family of Downton Abbey and their posh British accents, so I watched the newest episode of Downton Abbey last night instead. (Yes, I'm in the U.S. and yes, Downton Abbey doesn't air here until January, but I use a delightful LEGAL program called www.tunnelbear.com which allows me to watch British videos on British websites!).

There you have it. Monday ramblings. I wish I could offer something of more substance, but the brain has refused to go any deeper than what I've already put on the page.

Be that as it may, I hope you all have a fantastic Monday.

Friday, October 11, 2013

News Round Up

A few odd tidbits from my life...

On Writing...

I've been fighting with my novel's beginning for over a month now. I will work on other parts of the story and then always return to it with a new idea. Unfortunately, those new ideas never quite work.

Finally, I hit upon a solution the evening before last and got to work. I'm pleased with it and I think it's "the one." In fact, I was so happy with it that I wanted to keep writing last night despite the lateness of the hour and the fact that I had to go to work in the morning. My weekend starts in a little less than 15 minutes, so I'm looking forward to getting back to it.

On Recovery...

Slowly but surely, I'm making progress. I've been working mornings only at the day job, then I go home and sleep all afternoon. I'm hoping to go back to full-time next week but we'll see what my body says. I'm a little concerned about a slight wheezing in my chest. All that laying around has probably not been good for my lungs, and the last thing I need is a bout with pneumonia! Never fear - I'm keeping a close watch on myself.

On Chocolate...

I've been throwing caution to the winds when it comes to my chocolate consumption. I've been eating a lot of the dark stuff lately and can hardly get enough of it. But if I'm going to indulge, I might as well do it when I'm sick, right?

On the Blog...

As you can see, I've been faffing about with the header and the background of my blog again. Still not one hundred percent happy with it, but I'm getting there.

On Autumn...

The leaves are beginning to change colors and it's so gorgeous right now! The air is crisp and invigorating today, and I'm so glad I have the afternoon off. I'm hoping to enjoy this gorgeous autumn day.




Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Blessings

Counting my blessings today. Here are just a few:

1) My husband. He has done the laundry, cooked meals, and kept the house running while I've been sick. He's also made sure I have plenty of chocolate. Love that man.

2) My daughter. She has hung out with me while I've been sick, talked to me about problems she's having with the plot of her current story (yes, she is a writer, too!), and been such a breath of light and love for me.

3) My cats. These two right here have rarely strayed from my side while I've been sick. I affectionately refer to them as my "slugs" because they tend to stay in one spot and barely move.

4) Social media. When you are stuck in bed, social media can be an absolute lifesaver. I've been able to stay connected with friends and family and it has helped tremendously.

5) My writing. I've actually been able to get some work done on the novel and it's been the best kind of therapy there is. To lose myself in that world, to forget reality for awhile, helps so much.

6) My faith. There have been many times during this illness that I could do nothing but pray. God hears my prayers, I know.

7) Chocolate. There's something very comforting about chocolate, and I have definitely indulged in a lot of it lately. 

8) Books. How can one be an invalid and not read to pass the time? Thank goodness I've been able to read some great fiction.

9) Frank Sinatra's album, In the Wee Small Hours. I first bought this album when I graduated from college, and it has a way of transporting me to a safe, comforting place. 

10) Comfy clothes. It really is a blessing to lounge in my pajama pants and be a lazy bum. I confess that I haven't missed putting on makeup one bit in the past two weeks.

What are some of your blessings?

Friday, October 04, 2013

Rambling

I feel the need to write, to get down some words, no matter how badly, and just feel my fingers move on the keyboard. The recovery process has been agonizingly slow and frustrating. One day I feel decent - the next, not so much. Or I'll feel good for a few hours and then the next three are bad. I suppose it's the nature of recovering from mono, but it does get tiresome.

The worst is not having the motivation to do much of anything - watch movies, read books, write, or even journal. I surf the Internet only because a person needs to do something to keep from going crazy, but I'm even bored with the Internet now.

My cats, thank goodness, accept me and my moods and generally have made this whole process a lot more bearable. There's something about a pet who accepts you unconditionally (well, as long as you feed them!) that makes everything easier.

My eating habits are atrocious, but I've been eating what sounds good and not what is necessarily good for me, leading me to fear that I'm going to gain weight since I've been off my regular eating plan. But the scale keeps going down and this must mean that instead of converting calories to fat, I'm still using all my energy to fight off the mono virus. Despite the weight loss, I still don't think that's a good thing.

We had a terrific rainstorm last night as well as a tornado south of us. Today, it snowed in the western part of Nebraska, but here, in the eastern portion, we had another tornado. It's very odd weather, but not so odd when you consider that Nebraska has always been like that when it comes to weather. But the colder temps are moving in the joints in my body are definitely feeling it.

If this post sounds like it's all a bunch of rambling, well, that's because it is. I've been dealing with this illness for two weeks now, and I still do not feel like I'm anywhere near being over it. I need to get back to work. I need to get back to my life. Yet if I push myself, I will only prolong the recovery process.

Patience. Patience. Patience.





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