The start of school this year as been harder than usual. I haven’t gotten much writing done in the last five weeks.
I haven’t gotten much done at all.
No going to the gym, keeping up with family or working around the house. I go in early and I leave late and nothing seems to get better.
And then there is the manuscript sitting on my desk. It is a sad and lonely thing waiting on its author to return. I can hear it crying at night; begging me for attention.
The stress monster took me down hard these last couple of weeks. My body clasping on the bed so many times with sheer exhaustion pushing me down. It creeps up and steals time and energy away from things I love and want to spend time on.
Friday was by far the worse. Friday, I cried at work. Friday, I came home and put myself to bed with a stress induced migraine. I had to cancel plans with old friends.
It is in ways a never ending battle between the stress monster and myself. I try to be proactive and plan, but if you have ever been in a classroom or even step outside your door in the morning, you know that planning doesn’t always workout. You also know that going without a plan also doesn’t work.
Planning helps keep down on the stress monster attacks and if you like my godfather has contingency plans which have contingency plans. This won’t stop the attacks, but it will lessen their power.
This weekend, I rested, did lots of self-care and was able to get my mind back in thinking order. Self-care is important. You need to keep taking care of yourself before and after attacks. Routines like walking the dogs and eating dinner with my family are all forms of self-care. They are like taking vitamins. Life is full of stress and if you think the only way to succeed is to never take care of yourself and just go go go, you might be superhuman or headed for burn out.
Push yourself, yes, but also take care of yourself. Mediate or pray, whichever feeds your soul daily. Yoga and going to the gym on a regular basis. Talk to and take part in the lives of your friends and family. My family life is incredible important to me. I make time for it as well as for my writing.
Last week, I didn’t make writing goal. This week, it is tempting to double the goal in order to catch up. Some sage writing advice from years ago warns against this and over the years, I have come to value it. Doubling the goal isn’t going to get me to a finished draft faster, it will just make me a little crazier and invite the stress monster. However, if I set a reasonable goal for the week ahead and I surpass it then I feel more accomplished.
You can’t get rid of stress or how much is piled on to you from day to day. You can change your reaction to it and take better care of yourself.
This week, my writing goal is to write five pages a day or 2,000 words. My fitness goal is to make it to the gym at least once and my work goal is to leave at 4:30 everyday if I don’t have a meeting planned.
As for the stress monster, I plan to combat him by getting a little more rest, drinking plenty of fluids and leaving my superhero cape in the closet.
Tomorrow, I will go back to the day job for the first time in sixty-four days. Summer is over for me in less than twelve hours. Nearly half that time traveling and writing; it has been wonderful. Next Spring if the editing gods are kind I will have two new pieces ready for publication.
But, my wonderful summer is not what this post is about. It is about balancing work, life and the pursue of my writing dreams or as I like to call them goals.
Education does allow me to have time off even if it doesn’t pay well. It does allow me to have that sweet, sweet health insurance and believe it or not, a lot of job satisfaction. I love my daily interactions with students and staff. There is, however, no denying that it is a hard job and balancing it with a healthy home life is hard. Trying to figure out how to balance all three is more than a little challenge.
This past year, I have gotten much better at it than I have since I started teaching thirteen years ago. The biggest thing I did was move away from a life that wasn’t working for me.
The life that I have built in the last year contains a lot more boundaries than the one I had. I don’t let things bleed into one another. Work, even as a teacher, stays in the building with a few rare exceptions. I can do this because I get to work early and organize myself. I keep a calendar that has both writing and work commitments on it so I know ahead of time when things are going to get tight.
This also includes scheduling time to write, date nights and chore days. Chore days are days that I set aside to work with my godfathers on big household tasks like fixing the barn roof or putting the pool together. Come to think of it, I schedule a lot of things.
And it works for me.
Why? Because as much as I schedule myself, I also forgive myself if writing doesn’t happen or if the dust bunnies start creeping out from the corners.
I forgive myself if having dinner with my family means that I don’t have time to write before bed. I forgive myself if I get into the flow of writing and three or four other things on the to-do list don’t get done or I stay up a little too late. Or when I get sick and the only thing I can do is take care of myself.
Balancing things can at times mean letting some things have more time as they need. The beginning of the school year means that for the next month, I am going to be more tired than usual. It happens to me every year. I will write about half as much as I normally do. Any writing deadlines that I have must be adjusted.
Balance isn’t giving equal time to everything, but giving things the time they need and letting go of things you can’t tend to.
What works for you to maintain work-life-dream balance?
Two weeks in France and I was writing everyday. I am twenty pages and a few plot wholes away from a finished draft of The Devil’s Due.
I wrote well when I was away from my writing desk.
Back at my writing desk for two weeks and I have two pages. Not so good when I was averaging a page a day and a blog a week.
Travel is good for me or at least getting away from my house where I intend to write and settling in to some place I do write. Next Spring, I plan on spending a week in Richmond researching and writing a new book.
Do your thing.
If you write best at 4:30 am when everyone else is asleep in your house, then get up and write. Or maybe you work best at the local cafe. Where ever you work best, go there and do the work. Neil Gaiman wrote parts of American Gods on a train going across the country.
Some people have writer’s rooms or corners in their house. Others go to work early and write in their offices before the hustle and bustle of the day.
I wrote parts of Blood Child on the sofa of a friend’s house. Whole chapters were composed sitting at the bar of a friend’s restaurant. They gave me wine and food, in return when things got busy, I ran food and drinks for them. I miss that place and the friends who tended me to while I worked on my dream.
I’ve written on my front porch and in airports. Sometimes a new place to write is perfect because it gets you out of your head and lets your creative brain free.
Write where you are inspired or in my case where you aren’t distracted.
Actions are votes for the type of person that you want to be. I heard this on a newscast on New Year’s Day. The brief interview was about how to make your resolutions a reality.
Small actions leading to better habits was the gist of the conversation.
If you want to lose weight don’t think about the weight but what a person who loses weight does and then do that. Think about what a person who has achieved that goal has done and basically what would they do.
What do you want to do? What does a person who does that thing do? And then do it?
Hard at the same time.
What if you don’t know what the person you want to be does? You have an idea, but so much of it is still a mystery. You see the outer shell of that world not knowing of what is underneath. Social media is great for giving us peeks into other people’s lives. Those peeks however are cultivated ones designed to let us see more often than not the best parts of their lives.
The lense of social media can be deceiving. Everyone else seems like they seem like they have so much confidence. You might be afraid to even try. Mistakes are going to happen and very few actually completely stop you unless you allow them to do.
You might ask questions or advice from experts and be disappoint when the advice is vague or seems just out of reach.
What if you are already doing it, just not at the level you want to? What if it still all seems overwhelming?
My advice pick somewhere and start. The TV expert d’jour stressed making small changes first before trying bigger things. And he isn’t wrong. You still need a place to begin.
When I was a young, I would often clean by piling everything on the bed and putting things away from there. The mound of stuff was always overwhelming. The idea in my young mind was that I couldn’t go to bed until such time as everything was off the bed. Often because I was not a neat child it would be over my head. I would scan the mound for the easiest thing to put away. Dishes to the kitchen, laundry into the hamper, toys and books arranged as I went. It got better. The mess would return, but I had a strategy to get take care of it. My teenage-self just learned to either make a nest out of the junk or push the mess on to the floor on the opposite side of the bed from the door so my folks won’t see.
I want to be a better writer. I want to write more constantly, publish multiple times a year and have writing expenses match with writing income. Currently, those two figures do not agree. And, yes, there are expenses that however is another post.
Writers have to hustle. They have to generate multiple streams of income. One thing I learned early on from selling my book on Amazon, was that you don’t get paid right away. I knew this from other author friends, but the reality selling a few dozen books and not seeing the money for three months was eye-opening. A couple of times, I was surprised when there would be extra money in my account.
So small habits will I be incorporating into my life to learn that hustle?
Learn the business side of writing – the small thing I can do with this is keep track of how many books I’ve sold and where I’ve sold them. In the beginning, I was great at this until it came to the point where I was selling physical copies on my own. I lost track there.
Write on a schedule. Set a schedule and stick to it. This takes a lot more planning than you would think. Wednesday, it meant writing right after coffee since I made plans to spend the day with my sweetheart. Today, it meant craving space out either before or right after work. Maybe both depending on the goals.
Examining what my goals are and defining success. How will I know if I am a success if I don’t define it for myself.
Where are you going to start on your goals? What little habits are you going to incorporate to make things happen in your world? Please share your thoughts below in the comments.
My heart broke recently. If my life was a book, the reader would have seen it coming before me. They might have been screaming at me to see what was a happening. Cursing at me for seeing it myself. Most of my friends did. They saw the doom on the horizon and braced themselves. But, I am stubborn and kept sailing toward it; right off the edge.
Once I love someone I don’t know how to stop loving them.
So I cry. I write. I cry. I plot and I write. I’ve done a lot of writing in the past week. Last night is the first night since it happened that I got any sleep.
In years past, I would have pour everything into expressing that heartbreak as if that is all I am a broken, tangled heart. There would have been lots and lots of bad poetry. Some drunken texts and heartfelt emails. Tears in the grocery store and at red lights. Days and weeks where I would gave shut down. My work would have been suffering.
Whether it is an increase in maturity, a lack of fucks to give or the way it ended, I am not a hot mess. I am still a mess. You don’t love someone for over a decade to be over it in a week. We first got together when I was twenty-eight. A year out from a devesting heartbreak and I fell completely and utterly in his thrall.
Maybe he is fine, right now. I don’t know. He had been pulling back over the last couple of months. He would say he has just been busy and this is true. As a writer and director, he has a ton of work obligations on top of other things.
From his perspective, I am the one to blame. I see it as both of us, but ya mostly him. I didn’t speak up when things bothered me. He keep putting off phone calls and visits. I looked for and saw reasons to explain his behavior. A recent health crisis only added to the list of reasons. But the postponing of things I needed to stay health in the relationship was a constant. Samantha on Sex in the City might just have turned to me and said “Honey, he just isn’t that into you.”
And she would have been right.
It is also true that I set the pattern where that behavior was acceptable. I was always waiting for him. I wanted to do it. I believe that by doing so I was being supportive. I own my own behavior. I own it so I can forward.
Asking some of my friends, why I got so much venom tossed my way at the end? Why did his last message not only kill our relationship but scorch the earth. It didn’t make sense. I wasn’t asking for much. I wasn’t trying to put anything on him. I just wanted to see him. Yes, I am just as naive and innocent as they statement sounds. That really was the intent of my last communication. I just wanted to see him.
I have waited for the time to be right and finally I got tired of always waiting. I have been supportive over the years to his career. If a job meant that our time together had to be rearranged, I was ok with it. I helped in any way I could. He did support me just not to the same extent. Truthfully, that bothered me.
The physical distance didn’t do communication any favors.
I accepted a smaller place in his world just to stay in it. A place I now realize means that many of the people who call him friend, don’t know about us. So why when I asked so little did I get so much venom.
The answer is simple. It makes this whole thing easier for him. If I am the villain or at least trying to make him one then it is easier to move on. He doesn’t need that negativity. He really doesn’t. If I am crazy and obsessed then he doesn’t owe me anything. It is in his best interest to get the hell away from me. People will congratulate him on getting away from me. If I was cheating on him, something he insinuated more than once over the last couple of months then even more reason to do the hell away.
I am not any of those things. I didn’t cheat on him. If I was approached by someone, I told them I told them I had a boyfriend. I didn’t make a big deal of it. Still I would get text implying that I was?
I did distanced myself as soon as realized what was happening. When I realize that this was the end. I didn’t wait. Weeks ago, I had decided that if we broke again I would do what I needed to make sure this break was for good. I only begged a little and tried my best not to demand answers. Mostly I was in shock.
Would I like those answers? Yes and no.
Yes, because my heart wants to understand. No, because the mind knows that even with the answers the likelihood that I am going to be comforted by them is slim.
Heartbreak gives me insight into my own character as well as how to write characters. Fear has ruled me for most of my life. I could have moved to New York, I was willing to move, I just needed a word from him. I was afraid. Afraid that he didn’t really love me. Afraid I won’t be able to find a job. Afraid I couldn’t deal with being up close to his other partner. Fear of rejection was a big part of the decisions I made. Some of which he didn’t ask me to make. I did it because I thought it would help. I was wrong. Hear that I was wrong.
While he has been in New York for the last couple of years, I dreamed of seeing New York with him. I wanted to go to shows and see the Met. It is one of my favorite museums on the planet. I daydreamed about the changes that live in one of the greatest cities in the world. I didn’t voice those desires to him. I didn’t say that I wanted more than to visit. When he mentioned me being there as an aside. I jumped on it. I didn’t discuss it. I was too afraid. I kept waiting for him to say more.
My own motivations are messy. How could I think that my ex or my characters motivations would be simple?
Sometimes they need to be messy. If they are too straight forward then they are boring. They need have layers just a like an onion and they don’t alway smell pretty. (Thanks Shrek) They have to have that human quality of relatablity.
Recently, I finished reading the Prisoner in his Palace by Will Bardenwerper. It is the story of “Saddam Hussein, his American guards and what history leaves unsaid.” History leaves a lot unsaid.
Saddam Hussein was sadist, a tyrant and a whole lot of evil things. He had two of his son in-laws gunned down after convincing them to return to Iraq. He was also an affable old man who expressed concern for the soldiers guarding him. He even gave one of them his watch before being excuted. He is a villain, but he was also a husband, grandfather and friend. Although, the latter provide to be quite dangerous to many Iraqis.
The book showed the complexity of Saddam’s character and how even knowing the evil that he did, it was hard not to like the guy. Reading it was eye-openoing in a lot of ways. Saddam was a villian, but his motivations were complex. He did awlful things because he thought they were the good things. He wanted the best for his people. His methods were evil. His intents according to him were only good.
Thank you, my love, my characters have just gotten a whole lot more interesting. The character that I patterned after you will still continue to make appearances in my work. I know you were pissed when Anthony was created. You thought people would judge you because of him. You didn’t see that Anthony was one of the heroes. I promise not to take my heartache out on him.
And thank you for all the things that you did to help me on my journey as a writer. This blog is here because you encouraged me. You gave me advice when I needed it. You are an amazing man, writer and friend. I miss you, but I get it.
If you’d like more information on Lucinda’s work subscribe to this blog, follow her on Twitter or like her page on Facebook. Her novella, Blood Child is available on Amazon. You can also find her on Instagram where she posts pictures of foster critters and other adorably evil things.
For the last four weeks, I have been the type of sick that people dread. The kind that makes your whole life slow to a crawl. There is nothing you can do but rest, drink lots and lots of fluids and hope that people don’t get tired of you asking for help. Help getting groceries, driving and doing laundry. My body didn’t have the energy to stand or sit long enough to fold my own laundry. I had to ask for a lot of help. Bronchitis turned into pnenomina. My body forced me to rest. It is still forcing me to rest. While drafting this post, I took an hour nap.
I am on the mend. I am off the antibodies and codiene laced cough syrup and back to my morning coffee. I’m back writing in my office under the watchful eye of my Ghostbuster figures. All good things.
If I take things slowly, I can get back to a normal pace of life.
The problem is I am not sure I want to go back to the way things were. To be blunt, my life is comfortable and there are a lot of awesome things in it,but it isn’t working. I am not happy. I am lost. I’ve been this way for a while.
It is the combination of a lot of things. Things I am willing to talk about and things that I am not sure how to talk about.
Twleve years into teaching and I am not inspired to be creative anymore. What is the point when I am never going to be really recognized for the work I do or paid fairly for it? It isn’t about being Teacher of the Year or anything life that. It is about not having to worry constantly about money or what deeming thing is going to said to myself or collegues next.
I tried unsuccessfully to exit teaching this year. I figured that it was time. My resume was met with an understandable silence. I didn’t have on paper what they were looking for. I would have loved the job, been good at the job but I have no one but myself to blame for not landing an interview. I didn’t do everything I needed with my resume to show them.
I have tried and failed to develop a consistent writing routine. I have also failed to complete any of the projects that I have going. The list of unfinished work gets longers and longer.
The sequel to Blood Child remains unfinished as does my first novel. Everything in my life is in the works.
I have craft and art projects that are collecting dust.
I am lost. Lost in my work life, in my personal life and pretty much everywhere. I feel like if I really let someone know what is going on then I am going to break down the cry. And the tears won’t stop.
Because not only am I a mess, I am also deemed to be broken one. Broken because I am over weight and depressed. Lossing weight isn’t going to cure my mental health issues. And curing my curing my mental health issues isn’t going to fix my weight.
I am lost because I want to move and at the same time I am terrified of it.
Leaving teaching means leaving job security and my health insurance. It means abandonning the known.
My folks are fine with me moving if it is for a better position and place in life, but I don’t know that it will be. I can’t guarantee that I will be making a move that is going to make everything better.
If I roll the dice and pack up my life, I fear that went the dice land they are going to come up snake eyes.
There is more.
I have a serious case of imposter syndrome. I feel like I am a huge fraud.
I am a poet who can’t snap her fingers.
I am lost.
Here is the point in writing that I would normally write something hopeful and inspiring. It is tempting to end that way once again. We all like stories of redemption. Stories where the underdog makes it to the end, finds their ray of sunshine and lives their dream. I think in always trying to be the protagonist in that kind of story, by forcing life into that mold, I have lost myself. I have lost the ability to admit mistakes, short comings and given into the notion that I must always put a positive face forward.
I crave being seen yet, I have been trained to hide myself and not be trouble. Not to worry others.
When I talk about depression some well meaning friends are always concerned that I have gone to that dark place again. The one where sucide is the only exit to freedrom. I am not there, trust me. I was never really there. I saw the other exits can clawed my way to them, sometimes figuratively some times literally.
I am in a different place, where there are a thousand doors and the reality of happily ever after has forever been shattered.
Writing was slow this weekend. Not because Captain A returned, but thanks to a lovely winter cold.
I spent most of Saturday in a hazy followed by a nap. Then another nap. I did make it in to the land of the cognizant for a couple of hours to watch Deadpool with a friend. (Great movie, but please don’t take your kids. Seriously, don’t do it!) I thought about writing, even opened the notebook to begin writing. It was a fail. I ended up crawling into bed and staying there.
Sunday wasn’t much better. Although I did watch two more movies while I was at my sister’s house enjoying some homemade treats and doing pretty much nothing. (Thanks, Zee-Mama) I came home and went straight to bed.
This writer has been laying in bed all morning trying to summon the energy to get into gear. And you know what it isn’t happening.
The dishes aren’t going to get done. The laundry will stay slightly stinky and I will spend most of the day drifting in and out of napping.
And that’s alright. It is ok, to take care of myself and not to push myself. It is ok to let my house get a little messy.
It isn’t a permanent state.
What I can do right now is get some rest and take care of myself. Burning the candle at both ends won’t help the next book get written or grade the student papers. All it will help do is give my cold a lease to stay longer.
Taking care of yourself isn’t a waste of time. It is necessary.
So, it is back to bed for me.
Love and Sneezes,
P.S. Check out my book, Blood Child, on Amazon. It is only .99 cents for the month of February.