Thursday, July 20, 2017

Potential

A few days ago I wrote about having a very productive day followed by a day where I did almost nothing at all. The difference for the most part was my to do list. When I got up on Friday I have well over a dozen things to accomplish but on Saturday it was down to only two. For some reason having that larger list of things to complete made the sense of urgency rise and I was able to get myself up and start crossing things off.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the all powerful To Do list would have that effect one me. I changed a few years ago from making New Year's resolutions to setting goals for the upcoming year and started getting a lot more done. Even this morning I saw a friend posted on Facebook about a few things she had gotten checked off her list and was moving on to the next item before settling down to finish the last task. It immediately made me want to check things off a To Do List of my own.

I have attempted schedules in the past, hoping they would get me on track. However, because I work part time and therefore have varying times I have to be at my day job, that set schedule does not work well. Instead I think I am going to try something different. I will be on vacation for the week starting tomorrow because I have family visiting but during that time I am going to make a list of goals to achieve for the following week and then I will be breaking dow the list to daily check lists according to the days I work and the days I am off. I am also setting deadlines for myself to see how much I can truly accomplish and if my will power is strong enough to get things done.

I have always been a person of ambition that fails on the follow through. It has only been in the last few years that I have found ways past that to complete a portion of the goals I set out to achieve. I battle the insecurities, the lack of knowledge, and the fear of asking for help for fear of looking incompetent. I am saying now that I am sick of it. I love the feeling of crossing things off my to do list and knowing I accomplished something. Whether it is something as simple as vacuuming my house or as big as publishing my next book, it doesn't matter. I have the power to be more successful and productive. Now is the time to see if I have the will power to live up to my potential.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Making Characters Human

Yesterday I saw an author asking for help with their novel. The main character experienced a painful divorce but it was never stated why the divorce happened. The author was looking for something other than infidelity that the female reporter would have gone through the divorce and everyone that commented suggested things the husband could have done to cause a lack of trust. Ideas such as him being upset because she was having money trouble and not getting work or him keeping secrets from her. I was the only one to suggest that perhaps something she did caused him to not trust her and even if it wasn't true the riff between them was too difficult to over come.

The pain in the divorce, in my eyes, was that it was a misunderstanding but even though she tried to explain and he still loved her it was something they never were able to get past. I was the only one to make it not one hundred percent on the husband. The author messaged me personally to ask later where I had come up with my idea. I said after I read through all of the others targeting the husband and making everything his fault I felt compelled to come to his defense. I knew it wasn't my story and that I didn't know back story but it struck me how one sided everyone else's ideas seemed to be. A lot of divorces are caused by issues on both sides.

We have a tendency to see our characters as perfect and therefore when it comes to there being problems in the story we want to protect them and make it someone else's fault. The problem is that by making them a victim and completely perfect it makes them less than believable. It feels hard to relate to someone without flaws so it can hold back your book from reaching the readers the way you had intended. We chatted for awhile, the other author and I, about my gut reaction to defend someone I knew nothing about. While I have no idea if my reason for the divorce is something that will be used I know they are going to incorporate flaws into the main character to make her more human.

It was an eye opener to me even to have such a reaction. That humanity element is something that seems so simple yet gets overlooked in a number of books I have read. I am adding it to my ever growing list of things to look for when I write and edit so I can make sure my characters aren't too one dimensional. Perfection is good in many things in life but when it comes to writing characters I think it is more important to be relatable than perfect.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Motivating Factors

One of the writing groups I a member of had a question posted to it today about making the most out of available time. It is a recurring topic not only on social media groups but also in my everyday life in general. For me, even though I could definitely improve in this category, it isn;t the main focus. Yes, it would be incredible to get up everyday with my to do list and go to sleep every night knowing I crossed off all of the tasks. Of course, I would love to say I am a living model of efficiency and management. Neither of those things is close to happening at the moment.

Last Thursday as I sat at work on one of my breaks making a To Do list that was quickly mounting to the unachievable level. At the end of the day I had managed to remember seventeen tasks that needed to be completed. Granted, five of them were things to do around the house and two of them were writing in each of my current projects, but there were still a number of things I had to get done. They included having work done on my car, closing an account at the bank, running a few errands, grocery shopping, working out and that was just the top of the list.

I got up at six Friday morning and headed to get my car worked on. I even took my computer with me to start working on the writing aspect of my day. I ended up only getting a blog post published before they were done with my service appointment but that meant I could go to Zumba in the morning instead of Yoga in the afternoon. I ran home to get my gym clothes and went to workout. Next came all the errands including the bank and grocery shopping. When I got home I made lunch and set to work on the cleaning. Then I sat down. My biggest mistake was thinking I could rest for just a few minutes while watching some tv.

I never wrote another word that day. I got up Saturday morning feeling every second of my Zumba class. I planned to go to the gym that afternoon but first I wanted to watch something I had recorded and have some breakfast. What ended up starting with good intentions resulted in lying on the love seat watching eleven hours of shows on my DVR plus a nap. I never touched my computer or wrote at all. I went from the most productive day in months to the laziest one all year.

For me it isn't about managing my time; it is about keeping my motivation. I get distracted to a level most would find frightening. I have a tremendous amount of ambition but I veer off course like it is my job. I keep hoping if I set a schedule it will help but so far that hasn't been the case. Instead I think I am going to try making a weekly list of goals so I can cross things off. I love that feeling so maybe it will help motivate me to keep on track better. Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Thank You

Almost two weeks ago I lost my sweet kitty Puppy. She was my PTSD therapy animal as well as my fur baby and best animal friend. I have been struggling severely to feel anything other than her loss since that day. I had one day, this past Monday, the I felt somewhat productive as I added just under 4700 words to my two current books. That feeling of accomplishment was short lived but it was an amazing refresher from the incredible sadness that has dominated me for over ten days.

I have a number of bad habits that without constant watching I fall into. Most of them are emotionally driven so dealing with this pain has caused them to surface with force. The two most easily recognized is my lack of activity and my emotional eating. I don't have great eating habits to begin with and when I am feeling anything (I mean anything from intense joy to devastating sorrow) I tend to eat. This usually results in large amounts of chips, cookies, ice cream, cake and a personal favorite, cheese. There is no such thing as moderation for me when I am consuming for the sake of drowning feelings. Food is my version of alcohol abuse.

Just as that brief moment of productivity fueled a desire to do more leading to me cleaning my house and making a delicious and healthy dinner, my frustrations have a tendency to compound dragging me further down day after day. If I spend a day getting nothing finished I will feel more overwhelmed the next day causing me to have less energy and motivation. Things truly can spiral out of control so quickly that I feel like I am drowning without realizing I was even getting wet. 

Life in general I believe is a mind over matter situation. The problem is I am so rarely in control of my mind. I fight with my depression and stress. I get bogged down trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel and feel like I will never escape the darkness. I am fortunate that I do not make the journey alone anymore. I opened up about my problems a few years ago and have found a support system that has been invaluable. Without them I would have fallen long ago and never recovered. Through my friends and family I have learned to celebrate any victory and use that to push me forward for more. I have also learned to make small changes slowly instead of trying to tackle every issue at once.

Something as simple as eating better for one week and only focusing on that can make a dramatic difference. When I see those couple pounds come off and feel the energy that comes from eating fruit instead of candy it makes me want to be more active. I take that small win and add a class or two at the gym that I enjoy such as Zumba, yoga or water aerobics. The sense of accomplishment there gives me the boost to go home and quickly do some chores around the house and then I sit down to write just 500 or 1000 words. I reward myself with being able to sit and play games on my phone or watch some episodes of a show on my DVR guilt free because of everything I was able to do. 

The next day when I get up I remind myself of everything I was able to complete the day before. This is used to help me push forward and have another good day. When the good things become habit and replace the bad ones things are much easier but it can take weeks or months to truly program yourself to reach that point. With my health issues and dealing with emotional setbacks I find I fall down way before I get to the habit stage. It can seem impossible to fight back from that and it is so easy to just give up.

That is the other part I have worked to handle better on this path, setbacks. My insecurities and a large part of the conditioning I went through in my previous relationship make me feel that any small slip is a total failure. That stops all of my productivity immediately. It has taken over a decade of my life to acknowledge and accept that it is ok to fall. It is important to get back up and not let a bend become a break. Life is hard but if you can embrace the good times and use them to support you when the hard times bear down you can find that mind over matter I struggle so much with. 

Writing has been a huge joy in my life and having that outlet has saved me one numerous occasions. I cannot begin to explain just how much I appreciate the support of everyone around me. When I opened up with Survivor I received more understanding and help than I ever expected. It is still hard for me to admit when I am struggling but I am reminded day in and day out that there are others out there just like me. Together we are stronger than we are alone and we can accomplish anything.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Writing To Be Funny

Last night I was talking to my co-author for an upcoming book. We were discussing an entertaining story we had seen shared online in an occupational forum. We both work in the casino world as dealers for a day job and a dealer from another casino had shared a great come back line they had witnessed. It is often a subject among dealers on breaks as to what the best way to handle particular players / bosses / other dealers would be.

As we read through the story, laughing the entire time, it struck us that we may have a problem with the book we are writing. Our's is supposed to be a funny, snarky, sarcastic book but we aren't sure if it will come across that way or as a lecture which not only could but probably would be quite off-putting to those venturing into its pages. The problem is, after a great deal of discussion, we have no idea how to fix it. We don't even know if it needs to be fixed or not.

Humor writing is an art. Technically all writing is an art but there is a subtlety to the nuances of humor writing that can easily be lost for someone unfamiliar with the style. I have been told in person I can be very funny. In person however, it is a performance piece. I am a perform by nature and can use pauses, facial expressions and gestures to help the story along. Writing to make people laugh is much more difficult.

Many of the stories I share in the book I have told to friends and family. They have all laughed and ad follow up conversations but again, inflection can go a long way. Currently I am reading books in the genre of humor / satire in order to try and find some ways to help my own work along. Sometimes there are just parts of the process that are harder than others.

People believe that writing comes naturally for authors, and in many ways it does. Most of us see stories playing out in our minds, hear characters talking to us and have that nagging need to get words on paper before they drive us crazy. What may not come naturally is writing in a particular genre. I write drama. I have serious books covering serious and sometimes difficult topics. Writing to make people laugh is not a task I have ever tried before. I know the subject matter works from the in person deliveries I have attempted, now I just need to find out if it will translate to the written form as well.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Why Don't I Fit In?

On Saturday I joined a group of other authors at a local indie book store for a signing. When I arrived I saw the author that invited me but I didn't know any of the other authors in attendance. Because of the layout of the store we were not all sitting together so part of the event was spent walking around to the different tables in corners of the store to talk about our work and meet one another more formally.

I never mentioned it out loud, though a couple others did, but I was the youngest author there but close to twenty years. It is strange because when I am chatting in groups online there is a range of ages. Because social media was developed in the last decade the younger generation tends to have a larger presence online. In fact I tend to feel far too old and out of my element when conversing online.

In person seems to be different though. When I go to events like Authorpalooza or Vegas Valley Book Festival there are authors there of all ages. Some older than me, some younger but all there for the same reason. At writer's groups I stand out as one of the younger attendees and at all of these events I am noticeable because I am usually more social than most. It seems no matter where I go I don't fit in. That used to bother me but I have found it can be helpful if used in the right way.

When I went to the conference in January it was remarked upon everyday that I was the social butterfly. I talked to almost everyone, I listened to stories, shared experiences and ate meals at a different table every chance I got. I networked with every group there and volunteered for the game night event. I wanted to interact and be seen. That is where I shine. It also is a trait that doesn't have an age attached to it.

There are so many author stereotypes but I somehow don't seem to fit enough for most people to believe I fall into the author category. It can be frustrating to be seen as an outcast in a group of outcasts. I don't dye my hair pink or blue or purple, I am not prolific with photoshop and understand the nuances of social media. I am a performer at heart and an extreme extrovert to my core. I don't fit in. But maybe that means someday I will truly be meant to stand out.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fighting Fear

I have discussed many times all the symptoms and effects of my PTSD. I still deal with several of them on a weekly, if not daily, basis with the biggest one being fear. I still get nightmares. I occasionally have flashbacks. Those aren't the problems I usually need help with though. It is the constant insecurity. I am terrified of rejection, of not being good enough. In fact one of my trademark moves was to snuggle with my cat before a book signing to calm the nerves then come home and cuddle with her again, either to cry about the failure or celebrate an unexpectedly good day.

That fear follows me everywhere and has the ability to halt progress on my work without me even realizing it. I watch other authors as they sit and write daily. They promote like crazy and attend signings all over the country. It seems they are releasing a book every six months if not more while I sit back and observe. Why not me? I have been known to whine. Why can't I do that? Why don't I have more books out? The answer is simple; I'm afraid.

Not counting the close to two dozen book ideas I have files for stacked up in my office, not counting the two I am currently writing side by side, just the books that are finished and only need to be edited and published, I am sitting on six books ready to go. They have been written, in some cases they have even had a quick run through for major editing concerns and a few have had a beta reader or two go through them. They just never moved beyond that stage.

I'm afraid. I have these big ideas of how things are going to go when I publish the next one. I can picture how I would incorporate another book into my display at shows and I have a list of nearly one hundred places to promote my books. I have excerpt ideas to use as promos and teasers. I even picked out tagline for some. I have ideas for covers. Some books have special swag that would be fun to hand out. All of these plans fall short though because I don't complete the process.

Every time I start to go through a book I get overwhelmed. Just as I have ideas filling my head with ambition while I am writing, I get bogged down in the possibilities of failure when I try to move forward. That frozen feeling at one point stopped even the writing part of the process. I am thankful I have gotten past that but now when I finish the drafts of the books I am working on there will be eight, yes eight, full books ready to be edited and published.

I make excuses such as I don't know how to make promos and teasers because I don't have photoshop. I am still very new at the publishing thing and I don't know how to format. I don't have the money to order swag anyway so why bother creating any? I can't afford a good editor and I don't want to put out junk so I should wait.  All reasons I have used in the past. The are excuses and nothing more. I didn't know how to create a website but through trial and error I have learned. I don't know how to make a newsletter but I subscribed to several so I can learn to do that too. I can learn to edit better myself to save money and just have someone go through to fine tune. I can barter with people to share our talents. It is all possible if I can just find a way to get through the fear.