Better Together

I had never been one to believe in writers’ groups. The couple times I had attempted they were too awkward and uncomfortable for me to do on a regular basis and I always ended up leaving them for one reason or another. Little did I know that it was because of passing on these opportunities that I ultimately floundered.

I completed my first real novel length work of fiction in 2009. Since then I have attempted multiple times to edit the beast, but with no success. I would get to a certain point and stop because I would listen to the inner critic telling myself “this is terrible” and “I’m a horrible writer.” When you’re working on art with an analytical approach the artist gets upset. And when you’re more of a creator than an editor it gets overwhelming.

What I have since discovered is that having someone or a community to bounce your art off of really helps with the process.

I met my buddy Matt through a former friend of ours. This previous friend used to be Matt’s writing partner but for reasons they have since parted ways. Luckily for Matt and I, we have since gotten together to talk about our projects.

Matt’s passion for the written word is contagious. The past few times we’ve met up to discuss the craft I have left our sessions feeling so energized and overwhelmed with confidence. He and I wax poetic about the other’s pieces, but also offer advice and critique when needed. He is stronger in some aspects that I still need a little polish and vice versa. Together we are helping the other through it. Plus having him (other than myself) excited about my ideas is the best high. (I’ve never done a single drug though, for any kind of comparison.)

From these get-togethers I finally understand why so many books on writing recommend participating in a writers’ group. Working alone gets exhausting, and when it’s just you and your own viewpoint on your manuscript it can get incredibly negative very fast. And I should know, it’s been that way every time I’ve worked on my book before.

When one has a supportive place to share his techniques and ideas it really keeps the fire burning. And my fire can only stay burning for so long without adding some potent fuel.

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The “Shut the Hell Up” Two-Step

It’s truly astounding how much I want to see myself fail. Whenever I gather up my will to accomplish something and make even just the tiny bit of headway in regards to my novel, my inner critic pipes in and likes to remind me how “shit” I am at writing. It happens without fail. Every time.

In the past I would inevitably listen and give up. The proof is in the fact that the last time I attempted to edit my book was 5/28/2014 (28/05/2014 for those abroad). At the very least that was the last time I opened the word documents. What’s even more excruciating is that I completed this novel length work of fiction in 2009. This December the 6th will be 10 years. That’s insane. But the delay has all been due to my submission to my self-hatred.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to be relatively confident in my ability. It wasn’t until I went to work for an office that treated me like I was a fucking moron that I started to cave so easily. “What’s the point?” Became my mantra. When those around you talk down to you, in the voice of your inner critic, you start to listen.

As of late, it usually gets the loudest after my initial read through of a chapter in “rough” condition. But I tell myself to ignore it and just keep reading. I start at the top and work my way down, and when I come across something that gives me pause I fix it immediately. The voice will chime in and I “talk over it” to myself “You can do this.” Even if I am mid-paragraph, that doesn’t need any real change, and he decides to tell me how horrible my writing is I restart at the beginning. It’s almost like learning a dance routine. If I miss a step, back to the top.

This time I absolutely refuse to give up or give in. Whenever the fucker pokes his head into my thoughts I knock him square across the jaw and then kick his dazed ass to the curb. In the words of Ms. Bianca Del Rio “Not today, Satan.”

#WriterProblems

I am almost certain I have come to this fork in the road once before, when I attempted to edit my novel in the past. Evidently though I chose not to do anything about it and keep it the way it was, for whatever reason. Maybe I thought, “Well I’ll just fix it after I revise the whole thing.” Which is downright ridiculous because the changes required ripple through the rest of the story. Jesus, I really hate myself sometimes. Past Josh was an idiot, to be quite frank.

Here is my dilemma, my novel takes place in the mountains northeast of Boise, Idaho on New Year’s Eve and there is absolutely no snow.  The things that occur very much show no snow and adding it would make things difficult for both me and my protagonists.

When I was editing my Chapter 9 (‘yay’ for making headway) the question that came to mind is, “Wait, could this actually happen?” In this chapter I describe a broad green valley cut in two by a stream. Green… In January… In the mountains. Naw, girl. That doesn’t sound possible. So I did a quick google search and discovered that snow covered 99.5% of the landscape. So, you’re telling me that there is chance of snow. Then that information made me wonder if there would even be a stream.

Luckily I have a buddy who moved from my hometown to a town in Idaho. So I started asking him these very questions. And that kicked me back to the beginning.

When I originally wrote this book I did not have this particular plot point about an alcoholic father and it being New Year’s Eve.  I added that AFTER the fact to answer another couple questions that arose that needed clarification. However, because of them, this has created quite the conundrum.

How do I solve this issue? Do I go back and add in the snow and change the action to handle the new dilemma OOOOR do I just move the date of the story to a spring month? My one hang up is that it would seem too forced for the alcoholic father to have a HUGE change of heart in regards to his substance abuse. With the “New year, new you” mentality it fits better, in my mind.

The other option I had was maybe move it up to May, and make it a birthday thing. Like “Now that I’m 40…” And it could work but AGAIN another plot point comes under attack in the forms of a character that HAS TO put on a jacket. (That is 100% non-negotiable.) Is she still going to ask for a jacket?

Oh, writer problems.

My husband is such a dick. He’s making fun of me by saying that I’m going to be eighty years old still working on this book. “I just need to add one more thing.”

Anyway, I’m probably just going to go back and put a winter layover. I just don’t want to do it.

The Writer’s Loop

One of the best feelings in the world, for me at least, is reading a chapter from my book and being utterly convinced it wasn’t me who wrote it. Not saying that I am THAT amazing, but more that I am astounded by its prose and tone and have zero memory of ever writing it. Additionally, it gives me an example to encourage myself whenever I start to doubt my ability to get it done. I can remind myself “hey, remember that time?”

I hope I’m not jinxing myself by writing this blog, but I haven’t written in some time and it was on my mind. Lately I have been pleasantly enveloped in the process of editing my book. The fire for such an endeavor has been sparked by 3 specific matches. The first being my overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment from passing my appraiser license exam (thank you, thank you). With that out of the way I am free to do whatever I choose!

The second is because I have found myself a writing buddy who inspires me to get busy doing the thing that brings me joy. His enthusiasm for the premise of my “finished” novel encouraged me to get back at it. Also, his own passion for the craft is incredible.

The third reason, and the one I find very strange, has been a particular song from the musical “The Greatest Showman.” Whenever I listen to “A Million Dreams” I am filled to the brim with excitement for my book and the prospect of finishing it. (The song also has this nasty habit of bringing about these overwhelming emotions that, for some reason, make me sob uncontrollably. So. There is that.)

Currently I am in the middle of Chapter 6 of 31 and I couldn’t be more energized. I still have my moments of doubt but thankfully because of my “forgotten ability” I can remind myself I in fact can.

As the Gays Say, “Thank U, Next.”

I did it. I fucking did it. I passed my Real Estate Appraiser’s License Exam.

For the past three years I have been in an apprenticeship with my boss and taking the online classes required to be an appraiser. Once I completed my 2,000 hours of experience, my courses, and the application the state accepted those and ushered me to the next step, which was to take an exam. (My approval came last June, to give you some idea.) They give you 6 attempts or a year to complete it for a reason. It is fucking tough.

This success was my third attempt. Even now, after passing, I still don’t think I studied enough. Regardless I completed the second to last hurdle. The next is a review of my work completed and after that I should receive a license.

When I got my results I literally almost broke into tears. But the two testing center clerks were right there, and a middle-aged man bawling over a score wouldn’t have been attractive. So instead I jumped up and down, while I clutched that paper with my grainy photo and the word “Passed.” My husband told me after that he wished he had filmed it because he had never seen me so happy. (“You weren’t even that happy when we got married!”)

For so long this has hung around my neck dragging me down. I was beyond stressed because for once in my life I was expected to actually complete something. My boss took me on with the understanding that I would get my license and be one of his residential appraisers. That was/is going to happen. I didn’t want to fail him and betray the trust he had bestowed on me. (Again, another first.)

In the beginning the pressure drove me nuts. I ended up diving headfirst into one of my addictions that pushed my relationship to the brink of collapse. Luckily I survived that and I found ways to numb the burden of responsibility in other things going forward.

The other dark side of this journey was that it kept me from working on my book. In my mind there was a level of tasks that had to be completed before one could begin. Whenever I sat down to work on it I would think to myself “you should be studying for your exam.” My favorite was “this isn’t as important as your license.” The “frivolous” venture of trying to be a published author was always back burner.

Now, I have no other responsibilities other than finishing up my AA and editing my book. I can return to the things that, for me, matter immensely. Not saying that the thing that is my livelihood didn’t matter. It was merely a means to an end.

So, tonight I got to sit down with my chapters and feel the creative freedom to work without guilt or anxiety. It was heaven.

Oh, insanity.

I am moody as fuck and I cannot place the source as there is so much going on right now. All I want to do is disappear. My logical mind says it’s my depression flaring up but then the other part of myself thinks it’s all due to my weird sleep pattern, the over-abundance of sugary foods (and little to no protein), and my low water intake. All of this has put me off balance.

The other part of me thinks it’s situational. All for the new factors in my life and the absolute stress of having to retake my appraisal exam. I’m emotionally overwhelmed. All at once I want to scream, cry, and laugh. It is in that where I feel broken and insane.

I attribute most of these feelings to the test. This is the third time I will take it. I need a 75 to pass and in my previous attempts I earned a 71 and then a 72. Respectively. I’m very nearly there. My entire career hinges on this. It will provide me with more money and freedom for my boss’s wife where right now she’s limited because I haven’t gotten my license to provide an additional MLS access.

I am also someone who takes pride in my intelligence. I have an inflated ego when it comes to that and when I fail from my lack of knowledge I have an identity crisis. My want is to further separate myself from the situation because I can’t take another blow.

The proactive thing to do would be to study my ass off to avoid further failings. However my self-doubt makes me repeatedly tell myself that I am an idiot who can’t do it. It’s all self sabotage. (Aka I am a mess.)

My moodiness only arose when I set my exam date and paid another additional exam fee ($88). But additional factors came into play…

Today I started studying. At the completion of the exam the participant is given a print-out of their score which is broken down into sub-categories, and I began with my weakest subjects. It felt okay but staring my failure in the face sent me into overdrive and I “ran away” by turning off my phone. That provided some comfort from further interruption and ease from my own psychosis, however it caused panic to my husband (as I didn’t divulge what it was I was doing before I did it.) Now I feel even worse.

All of this could be further soothed if I was taking my anti-depressants, I imagine. Though the fact remains that every time I take them I turn into a zombie. I feel like I’m walking around in a daze and then lack any kind of passion for the things I enjoy. I medicate to basically exist. Yet it is in these erratic moments that I wish I maintained a constant dosage. I don’t want to be insane and in turn drive those around me crazy with my mood swings and irrational behavior. It is here where I sometimes think I should be alone. All I do is cause people stress and that’s not fair to them.

Writing Through the Depression

Writing has always been my outlet, ever since I was a kid. Primarily because I am (what I have been described as) a very cerebral person. Living in my head is a dark and dangerous place and putting it into written words always gives me some sense of peace I could otherwise not find elsewhere. I typically don’t speak my thoughts because they are random and I easily get lost trying to find the right word, especially if I am speaking to someone (I talk a lot to myself). I have discovered that most take what I say as gospel and that is not how my mind works. I’m constantly working things out. Which is why I choose writing more than anything else.

The only problem with my writing is that it gets me into trouble sometimes. I always assume whatever I write on my blogs will be lost to the depths of the internet, but sometimes it finds its way into the hands of others. It’s irritating but the nature of the beast, and more often than not it doesn’t ever get discovered. I find that comical for a few reasons but the number one being I have shared my site with others in the past but no one can be bothered to ever look. Unless of course they’re mentioned in the thing and then all of a sudden it’s a hot commodity. Otherwise no one gives two shits. It’s like inviting a friend to the play you’re in, or the stand-up show you’re doing at the local open mic, or if you’re performing anywhere. People can’t be bothered. In my younger days I would let it bother me, but now I just shrug and realize that’s the gamble no matter what.

Yesterday I was feeling way down. I got to the point that I wanted to isolate from my entire life. I liken it to “running away.” The very thought of just leaving everything behind and hitting the open road crossed my mind but unless I’m carrying cash that isn’t going to happen. Plus, how would my sudden disappearance affect those in my life? It’s always that thought that keeps me grounded.  It’s hard pushing against the current of my depression but I know I have to make an effort or suffer the consequences of severe depression.

Last night I returned to my “finished” novel to restart the process of editing. For once in a great long while I did not get upset. When I found myself spinning my wheels, I told myself to just start back at the beginning and re-read again. It was nice. Then whenever the voice of my inner critic attempted to creep in, I ignored it and thought “I can do this.” Even this morning I told myself (as I doubted my efforts) that I am just out of practice. To get to a better place I have to keep trying. It’s like that lawn mower that’s been sitting in the garage for months. It takes a couple pulls to get it going, and even when you do get it started you have to let it run for a bit to get it to where it’s able to do the job it was designed to do.

For my own sanity I am not going to make any grand pronouncements of finishing my novel by a certain time-frame or even at all. It always ends in misery and self-loathing. Instead what I will do is feel proud that I got to the task and am content with the results.