The Autumn of My Discontent, Revised

Autumn Leaves

Addendum: For the first time, I’m revising one of my blog posts. It struck me a few hours after writing this post (now cut drastically) that I’ve had a tough year. If I’m a little down, well, okay. Well, not really okay, but all-righty then. I do know that I haven’t accomplished much fiction this year. I’m heartsick about this, true, and I’ve been up-and-down all year, but am I certifiably depressed? Maybe not. Maybe it’s just a mid-life crisis. I can live with that. For now.

I’m here, but not here. Writing, but not really. Keeping it together, but barely. Fighting off the gray weight takes a lot of energy. I only have so much energy to go around, so when I’m struggling mightily on that front, I, simply put, write less.

Excess brain noise fouls me up at times like this. So, when I’m sitting at my computer, page open, character ready to do her thing, somehow…I’m not sure. I have a harder time sinking into the fictional world. Each. Word. Is. Like. This. In the background, my brain-gears grind in an endless, annoying, disillusioned mutter. You know when your computer churns away on a task (you know what I’m talking about if you own a PC that’s got a virus or two or two dozen lurking within it) and slows way down? It’s like that. Kind of.

So what do I do? I keep up with as many of my writing habits as possible while dropping tasks such as housecleaning. I turn on the computer first thing in the morning. I take my laptop to coffeehouses. I think about the current project as I’m drifting to sleep and when I wake up. I remind myself that I’m a good writer and that whatever problems I’m encountering with plot or characterization or internal logic or point of view is as normal as can be, not a sign that I’m never going to get published.

(Okay, that’s more like it. Pisser of a life juncture — especially with regards to my writing progress — but I’ll hold off announcing that I’m certifiably depressed until some other time.)

Rethinking This Blog

After another fun day.
After another fun day.

Current status: After a week’s vacation visiting nephews, relaxed for the moment.

I may not be here on the page, but I ponder my blog often. I think to myself: Ah, I should write about that. Or: That would be a good blog post. But then, I don’t get around to writing the new posts. Instead, I jot a list of the posts I will write. Something like this:

Cultivating creativity
Taking stock

Fledgling Jedi masters
Fledgling Jedi masters

Hmm…Now I don’t remember what I was going to write. I’ve led myself into a blog-tangle, as if my posts need to be deep or significant — and include an appropriate photo, too. I’ve complicated the process.


So, I’m going to try a new blogging method: Shorter posts (hear these are better anyhow, for readability), not necessarily with an image. Reminder to self: This blog is about the trials and tribulations of my writing life. Most of the time, these trials and these tribulations aren’t deep or significant. They’re the daily blips that I imagine are typical of most fictionistas.

But hey, look what I just did–wrote a mini-essay about shortening my posts…And, included photos, too!

Life’s Progress — Or Not

Eighteen months ago
Eighteen months ago

Can someone tell me what’s going on with me, myself, and my life? The chaos has been piling up — that slow python-like coiling that you don’t notice until, well, you suddenly do. This morning I had to laugh when I took stock of my nightstand situation. How did that happen? And this tells you what a lousy housekeeper I am, too, vacuuming around the piles without thought. At least I’ve been reading, right? And reading does the fiction-writing brain good, right?

This morning
This morning

River Life


And I’m back from the McKenzie River, and I most emphatically did not bring work with me. No laptop. No manuscript that I’m reading for a friend. No notebooks. Just a library book, the latest Laura Lippman.

I did drink red wine. I did eat too much yummy camp food. I did read and nap. I did get on the river. I did socialize with my hosts and their river friends. That’s about it. These images say it all, don’t they?

Three thoughts:

First, old friends are comfortable like p.j.s. I hadn’t seen much of my hostess in 15 years, yet when I arrived it was like old times. No big deal. We’re both a little wider, with a few wrinkles around the eyes, and we lead very different lives, but, as the saying goes: Whatever.

Second, I need more breaks like this, because even though I came back to a work-grind, I feel semi-detached from it, as if my brain regained some of its space — room for creative thoughts to slip in and stick.


Speaking of which, third, an idea did occur to me while in the woods, and it hasn’t fallen into the nothing-hood void that I mentioned in my last post.

Day-job tasks beckon, but first I’m going on a dog-walk, then hitting a coffeehouse, then fooling around on Facebook because I haven’t visited that virtual realm in awhile, and THEN blasting through a little work. That’s my kind of prioritizing!


And Luna settled right in too!
And Luna settled right in too!

Bark of a Pine

Tree Bark 2In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation…even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.            Great Law of the Iroquois

This morning a dear friend called me. She was concerned because yesterday I’d e-mailed her in angry, ventful fashion. I’m fine today — well, not fine, but okay, rallying, that kind of thing — but yesterday I was  bummed out but forced to set the emotions aside because of  j.o.b. deadlines.

This post isn’t actually about the rejection I received.

This post is about how funny life is sometimes.

The reason I vented in that particular moment was because my friend had sent me an e-mail first. I might not have vented at all, otherwise. In her e-mail she’d written,

Nice, eh?


That’s it. I had no clue what she was referring to, except I noticed the Iroquois quote at the bottom of the message, and having never noticed this quote before, or maybe having noticed but forgotten it so that it was new all over again, I thought she was making a point about the bark of a pine and being a writer.

Seemed logical to me, given my mood.  And apt, the thick-skinned thing, of which I need to grow me some, and what with the perfect timing of the message, reading it right after the rejection…You can see why I replied back in a verbal purge.

Okay, that was that. I went back to work. Then, this morning my friend called partially to check on me, partially to verify: Hadn’t I received a royalty check for my Elizabeth George anthology story? (My friend also wrote a story for the anthology.)


I was so preoccupied, I’d forgotten to fetch the mail! And indeed, the check awaited me. Yesterday, receiving the check might have balanced out my mood. Receiving the check today, I laughed.

While I Wasn’t Looking

Spring happened while I wasn’t looking. All of sudden daffodils are blooming and trees are frothing. I vaguely recall a check-out clerk lauding the first day of spring (finally! but when was that?) and a sign-up for spring softball/baseball sign-ups. Our days sprang forward and I’m still catching up.


Yesterday, a good friend sent me this note: You’ve been MIA. Everything okay with you? That was enough to stop me in my tracks for an internal check. Am I okay?

Sure, I’m okay, but I’m not thriving to go along with this season of blooms. I’ve been too busy and anxious throughout March. So, I thought I’d take a TIME OUT (yes, capped) to blog after my unintentional blog-pause.

1. Gray roots. I’m prematurely gray (since my early 20s, in fact) and my gray roots are an inch-and-a-half long at the moment. Those are the kind of roots I’d prefer not to see, especially when they’re practically yelling at me to stop with the crazy obsessiveness and pay attention to myself already.

2. Earning the moulah. Thought I had this handled, but then the project I’m on took a turn for the outrageous. I’m talking rolling deadlines and unanticipated extra requirements and, oh I don’t know. Not worth describing the details. I suppose I’m still getting used to this gig, is all, and the high-learning curve adds stress to any already hectic deadline schedule.

3. Finishing the manuscript. But maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have stressed out about the project if I hadn’t first obsessed about sending the completed manuscript to Nice Agent before the outrageous turn occured. (I knew it was due — the project is that schedule-ized.) So I worked night-and-day, even procrastinated the project by a few days, which meant that I then I had to switch over night-and-day for that, and I didn’t get the manuscript finished anyhow, and I was disappointed, and then I got so exhausted that I cried, threw a tantrum, and gave myself an almost-migraine earlier this week.

4. Submitting a short story. And then on top of it all, just to add to the grinding pressure, I’d so wanted to revise the bench short story, really shine it up, for a March 31st submission deadline. Hah! I say double Hah! to that. Yet, I tried to squeeze it in, and then other night I was awake at 3:00 a.m. with a Lisa-freak-out. So, no go with the story for now, and I’m disappointed yet again. I’d so wanted, longed, to submit a short story to an annual anthology called Voicecatcher, which is a local women writer’s community effort — to be part of a community, you know? Now I have to wait a year.

The upshot of all this, the reason I’m only “okay” is that I don’t feel like much of a fictionista right now — I let myself down in that department. I feel like a work-drone, is all. This will pass, I know, but you might be wondering why I haven’t blogged much. When I’m in happy-fiction-land, I tend to blog more often, it seems.


Just paused within my blogger TIME OUT to coat my gray roots with Preference dark brown hair dye. This is a step in the right direction, anyhow. Taking care of the small stuff leads to taking care of the big stuff. And, I’ll just feel better without my Cruella deVille gray streak.

End of an Era

threefriends11I’m coming at you live from a cafe called Three Friends. As a sign of my mood, sitting around a coffee house rates as positive.

Yesterday I received my first paycheck in a long while. Thus, my writing grant time-off officially ends.

It was great while it lasted. Too bad I had preposterous hopes during that time, namely that I wouldn’t have to work a day-job ever again, that I’d land that publishing deal, that yadda yadda yadda…

threefriends3I won’t dwell on the only-ifs like I won’t dwell on the fact that my time-off was supposed to last until July, 2009. Bloody economy.

Officially, I’m now an Instructional Designer. A fancy term for writing training material. I found an ongoing contracting gig with a family-run company that manages outsourced documentation projects for a certain gynormous software corporation.

I made it out the other end of my turmoil, and I’m no longer depressed or panicked. In fact, in the spirit of positivism for 2009, let me count all the ways my new gig is good:

1. First and foremost, I’ll still have time for fiction. I’m predicting that the new gig will be part-time with full-time spurts, and I’m predicting that because of its deadlines, I’ll become more efficient all around.

2. I’m astounded at how well it pays. (Thanks to bottomless gynormous-corporation coffers.)

threefriends23. This is a better fit for me than the salaried job I left behind, which enervated me in the biggest way even though it, too, was part-time, from home. (Key word: “salaried.” Meaning: still enmeshed in a corporate culture with its 1-on-1s, meetings, boss politics, and performance reviews.)

4. I can take on as much or as little work as I want, which means that I can still take writing sabbaticals and travel if I want. (In fact, I might have to go on another mini-writing retreat here soon!)

5. This is going to sound backwards but finding this gig halted my desperation to land that publishing contract now. I can go back to taking my sweet time, concentrating on craft and my next story.

6. I’m used to living lean — I’m pretty simple anyhow — but a little leeway will be nice. I love summer sandals! And a pedicure now and then? Heaven!

Simple Discoveries

snackWe talk about simple pleasures for better lives — actually, I don’t; the mysterious “they” do — but what about simple discoveries?

Just now, I discovered that a munchilicious snack next to my computer helps me stay seated during the afternoons. (Mornings, I’m fine.) Apparently, shoving food into my mouth waylays restlessness and distractibility.

Obviously, I’m using food as an emotional Band-Aid, but who cares? I’m here, I’m writing, I’m content. (And carrots and hummus are healthy.)

I don’t know why I only discovered this now, years later. I suppose because I’m turning over a New Year’s leaf in one small way: weekly grocery shopping rather than winging it day-to-day. In other words, I actually have decent food in the fridge!

Who knew weekly grocery shopping would improve my writing habits?

What about you, any surprisingly simple discoveries?

Disco into the New Year

newyearseveLast night I danced and drank my way into the New Year with good friends. Today, I’m sore and tired, but feeling pretty darned good, especially because I’ve decided to keep my resolutions simple.

This afternoon I came upon a Day-Timer organizer from a decade ago. This was back when I thought a Day-Timer could help, and I worked a salaried job that paid for it anyhow. Talk about a time capsule! And the interesting thing is that in essentials, I haven’t changed. At all.

At first, I didn’t know whether to be distressed or relieved. Distressed because I haven’t grown out my bad habits, because I’m still obsessing about the same old three issues, because I’m stuck? Or relieved because I’m a stable person with my stable set of self-improvement goals?

Many years ago, a good friend, B–,  didn’t know if she should marry her boyfriend because they always seemed to be arguing about one thing or the other. She was distressed. Then, she told me, she had a realization: What appeared to be all-encompassing turmoil and incompatibility were really only issues around three topics. Three.

When she quantified and listed these clashes, she saw that they weren’t deal-breakers. She could work with them. Most of all, she accepted them. And then she was relieved.

I remembered B– as I read through my Day-Timer, and I decided that I, too, can work with my threesome. In fact, no need to write them down because this is who I am, apparently: a person who’s concerned about her health, concerned about her writing, and concerned about using her time more efficiently.

I’m hopeful for 2009 because I begin it in a state of acceptance rather than conflict with myself.  Are you hopeful as you start your new year?