Inner Worries of a Novelist

Nearly ten weeks have been spent on lockdown for self quarantine of the Covid-19 virus for Washington state. The lockdown began for us in Washington state on March 17th, if my memory serves me correct. (The next day my 40th birthday celebrated as best I could) Before then, about early January 2020 I was already watching and learning of the virus online through creditable YouTube channels. Following practicing and licensed doctors that understood how pathology of viruses works. I enjoy studying and keeping up on scientific changes as things like Covid-19 progress. This also made me hyper-focus on nothing but the ever changing findings of the virus as I watched my boyfriend worry about finances in late March as his job slowly closed up shop. This meant he would be in the house every single day starting in late March, early April.

As the changes to the lockdown continued of what we could do to keep active and what we could only do in keeping safe as time passed. Wearing masks and gloves became the norm for us. As the weather got better, with a few days to a full week of sunshine and clear night skies, I was able to take my nightly walks. The walks I call: Writing Walkies. A priceless and cherished time to let my mind focus on the stories I’m writing or trying to write.

With my boyfriend at home all the time, taking his time to be in his office to play video games mostly Sims 4 and at times coming to sit together watching YouTube videos and our favorite shows on Hulu…it has now come to my attention (now that Phase 2 of reopening Washington state begins), I have not had a full comfortable mental process of focuses on Soul’s Little Lie book 1. The times I took to write when my boyfriend would be at work were perfect for me. I was able to think clearly without the mental pull to talk with him, sit next to him on the couch or to do yard work together. (We were able, with help from our neighbor, to attack and kill off the blackberries for seven days worth of hard labor. We are not done by far to make the backyard the way we want it, but those seven days saved us a comparable month or two worth. Thank you Shane!)

Since this revelation has come to the forefront of my mind, this got me to thinking of the psychological aspects to myself of what makes me truly focus as a writer in a healthy way.

First and foremost, growing up in a household that constantly kept me on edge due to my narcissistic, mentally ill abusive mother and the chaos my mentally ill brother brought into our lives and coupled with the few to hardly no friends throughout most of my school years, it was difficult to concentrate on any writing or painting at all. It was only once my mother went to work or when my brother was away from family for monthly stretches or a few years at a time for countless reasons, was I able to do the work I wanted that made me happy. As for my father, who enforced the rules of the house with threat of a belt across my ass (yet mom was the one who beat me) and following the whims of my abusive mother, his wife, I didn’t have much stress over him fogging up my mind.

Once they were all out of the house, even for a weekend trip for themselves when I was old enough to be left alone in the apartment, it would take me a day or two to reset my mind to focus on my arts. This focus would continue for days or weeks until the chaos of the house of my mother’s ravings and gaslighting would flare up again. Then the cycle would continue. I would have to wait until it was safe to concentrate on my work.

The process continued again when I was married to a mentally ill abuser who gaslighted me at every turn. Even when I worked a retail job I wouldn’t calm down to focus until I had a day or two to decompress. Once the husband (now ex-husband for eight years), would be off to work, while I did not work, I was able to focus at will. I would paint, draw, dance or write to my hearts content. It was after all what spawned the first manuscript for Soul’s Little Lie that later was published for a time in 2015.

Now, here it is nearly ten weeks of lockdown quarantine for Washington state and my boyfriend of four years has been in the house constantly cause he can not work at the ice rink until the coast is clear. I’m not pulling my hair out or throwing fits over it. I’m calm and busy studying about the virus and the political changes in the world. Off and on I have been watching YouTube videos about writing, querying, publishing, etc to keep up, but the mental focus to work on rewriting/editing process for book one has slipped away.

All I have to do is type up a new chapter 2 and rewrite from scratch chapter 18 to possibly chapter 20, all these chapters are strictly the point of view of my Frankie Bellington character. Frankie has been difficult to talk to though. It is almost as though my subconscious does not want to see what he has to offer to the story of Soul’s Little Lie of the heartache he feels of what happened. I understand it’s a part of me that’s afraid of failure in a way, but it is also a personification of my inner lack of focus that stems from the past of abusive family and ex-husband’s abuses.

My boyfriend has never been abusive toward me in any fashion, so why am I not able to focus? The full truth could be that – the uncertainty of the future scares me to the core. I’m not alone in these uncertain times of fear and worry. Though, in a way this fear is unfounded. The great saying, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”, comes to mind easily to me, but that inner part of me has been through so much, it makes me hunker down to survival mode.

And yet, the true survival mode that got me through all the years of abuse was directly connected to writing and painting. Writing more helped me flesh out my feelings; my thoughts to the full ability of the English language in which I speak. Though, still, why am I not able to focus on the few chapters I have left in book one during editing draft 3?

Am I yet still afraid of critique partners and new beta readers to come after this? Do I fear what they will say about my work since I was so terribly burned out by my first publisher of the editor they gave me did not help worth a bit.

I linger so in my goals to become the future published novelist I’ve always wanted to be. Even still, Frankie Bellington’s words must be heard, must be spoken at all costs.

Here I am, seated at my computer and I have typed at least this on my author site for all to read. A feeling of relief escapes my lips as I end this entry.

Humble Before My Creation

There is something I came to understand when I was seventeen. Something that myself as an artist and possible many other artists out there, came to understand about their creative works.

This world is full of stories. The world thrives on stories of all kinds – may the stories be of gossip, news of the day by the strumming bard’s lute and song, or by stories to teach from teacher to student. A whole countless collection of fictions and real life tales of days gone by.

Each of these stories, told by many over the centuries, may take on a unique quality of existence. A life of their own far away into the universe. In an alternate universe maybe, just maybe, the stories we create to share with one another, the storyteller’s world becomes flesh; real with time in an alternate universe and world.

If this be true, the storyteller would never know of their creation being flesh. The physics of our world forbids us passage to such worlds, at least for now. The only way close enough for the storyteller to touch their creation is through television shows and movies and plays on a stage.

This is where the storyteller who created their fictional world cries; weeps for joy seeing their world made flesh. A happiness that no other artist, save for the team that helps put the fictional world into flesh, could understand what that feels like inside the heart.

Having come to realize this so long ago and revisiting it now, knowing the hard work it takes to edit a manuscript to full polished beauty for agents and publishers, I feel humble and grounded. With the hope of a final product waiting in the wings of my mind and on the page…I am more humble before my creation than ever for whatever it may become.

Acknowledge & Ignore Procrastination

I got the idea for this article of my procrastination process to work for me by listening to  The Writer Files Podcast – titled The Writer’s Brain on Procrastination Part One and Two. I had realized something about the information Kelton Reid and his guests had not quite expressed. This reminded me of what I’ve done most of my life while working on my novels Soul’s Little Lie. I thought, maybe someone might find this list useful.

Don’t get me wrong, Kelton Reid’s podcast on procrastination was helpful as a simple review for myself in which I had previously studied for the past few years. Its good to be reminded of the process of procrastination and now here’s how you can use procrastination to your benefit.

I know what procrastination is and I ignore its existence. This is how I transform the potential for procrastination into working for me.

  1. Ignoring the mental aspect – I see that I am ignoring the writing work in front of me, but I also see that it is a perfect time to breath and rest. Acknowledging that this is only a momentary time of resting my mind, allows my mind to go idle so not to stress myself into over thinking the work ahead or in front of me in that moment. – Take some time for yourself to get up from the computer, typewriter or collection of notes of your prose or article. Just as much as your body needs to stretch from sitting so long, so does your brain.
  2. Not binge watching tv shows – When there is a massive writing project that must get done and I acknowledge the possibility of procrastination that may come about, I don’t give into binge watching tv shows. If I do allow myself to take thirty minutes to three hours or more of time to binge tv shows, this opens up a plethora of creative problems. The tv show stories invade my mind to hijack my already incubating prose. I then find myself thinking of the visual and audio ques of that show feeding into more procrastination. – Once I’ve found myself not watching tv shows for weeks on end (not feeding into procrastination) my prose flow smoother and the chapters start coming along with ease. Even my note taking is fuller for that future chapter. Also, my editing sessions are finished up that much quicker.
  3. Writing Walkies – It takes me thirty minutes to an hour to walk from my house into town and through town. I’ll take these ‘Writing Walkies’ in the evening hours and be out there in the small town for an hour to four hours at a time. I’ll have my IPod with me to listen to my music that pertains to the manuscript project at hand or I won’t listen to the music, it all depends on how I want to think the current chapter or scene through. Writing Walkies may seem like procrastination, but it is more atune with making the brain go idle, to make it be at rest to allow intrusive thoughts to flow to the way side without full acknowledgement. – Once this has been achieved, of the scene flowing as I talk to myself (finding no traffic on the streets and hardly anyone outdoors at night) I’ll walk faster and feel an excitement in me to get back home to flesh out the scene notes by hand or type.
  4. Work Log – Sometimes I’ll look through my Work Log to see how far I’ve come in the progress of my manuscript. The Work Log is put into two visual places – a dry erase board calendar and a book planner calendar. I’ll do my work for a few hours, starting at 6pm (or a little later) up until 2am. On the dry erase board write down the book number, chapter number, sometimes even the amount of pages written or the time in which I’ve worked. Then I’ll transfer that log into the paper edition of the day planner in red pen. Sometimes adding side notes to what else I did in my writing or not writing. – Looking through my Work Logs for a few minutes every few days may seem like procrastination, but it is more akin to juicing myself up for the next day of work.
  5. ‘Soul Team’ Waiting – While I wait for any one of my ‘Soul Team’ in replying back to the pieces of material I sent them for edits or beta reading, I’ll just sit back and do other things. I’ll do basic chores around the house, which coincides with Cleaning Up The Stage process. I’ll do some reading to pick up where I left off, which usually I’ll read a chapter or two. I’ll even go about analyzing my Work Log or go over my notes. Sometimes, depending on the weather, I’ll do some Writing Walkies. To mix it up while I wait, I’ll play some video games and yes, I’ll watch YouTube videos in the morning but only about subjects I’m passionate about: sciences, psychology, nature, art, history or politics. Currently though, no working on artwork since my mind hasn’t flipped that switch cause of the manuscript being the main focus.
  6. Concept Illustrations – Some people would call this part a ‘side hustle’. My Concept Illustrations are far, far away from anything resembling a ‘side job that makes money’. It’s not even a ‘side project’ to me. Reason being – a small 5×7 or a large 24×18 watercolor or basic pencil and ink sketch for my novels is just for me to get a concept idea out of my head. A short fling to amuse my mind to take a break from writing. A healthy procrastination by far. However, if I’m working on my manuscripts heavily for weeks or months on end, Concept Illustration pieces don’t dare come up in my mind. I’ve even forced it, but that painter’s switch won’t click. That’s a good thing. Once my writing binge is over, which can take up to 9 months or less, only then will that painter’s switch get flicked. Then it becomes a short burst of creative juices flowing for a few days to a month at most. Then, it’s back to manuscript studies and writing for another 9 months.
  7. Prep Talk – Not at all to be confused with – Pep Talk, but close. If I feel that procrastination is making its way into a longer period of annoyance, I’ll stab it out by acknowledging it as fear. Once I’ve done that, talking to myself of how I’m feeling of a writing situation I’m in creatively, I’ll pretend those fear elements are people around me that I’ve known or have yet to know or meet. I’ll talk back to the ‘visual hallucination‘ (that I’m conscious of making in my mind) and I’ll act out that situation in the room. I’ll do this when its just me in the house alone, so no interruptions by anyone else crossing my path so I can concentrate. Subjects I’ll confront of this fear induced procrastination are – a) having an argument with an editor. b) reminding myself how much passion I’m backing this writing project. c) the main reasons for wanting to become a published author with a book or two on shelves. The costs I’m willing to make to make my dream come true and how much all of this means to me. – Once this Prep Talk is finished, the lingering leftovers of that possible procrastination has faded and I jump back on board to working on the edits or current chapters of the current or next manuscript. (To add, this Prep Talk also helps me get out some of my PTSD from my past. The coupling of my ‘publishing fears’ and PTSD, talking it out in an empty room in front of imagined people that I confront, helps me acknowledge that I’m still alive and my passions to be a writer keep me going in a healthy direction)
  8. The Process Starts Again at #1 – Then I go back to the top of this list and I find I’ve done more progress in my writing each and every day or week or months worth of material.

I hope this article helps you or someone you know that is having a hard time with procrastination. Show them these helpful tips in taking control of procrastination to work for them. You’ll be surprised how far you’ve come in your writing.

Happy Little Accidents: Lost Chapters

For those who watch Bob Ross’ show – The Joy of Painting on PBS and YouTube, you know his signature saying – “Happy little accidents.” Such a thing happens to me a lot, but in my novel writing.

Currently, I’ve gone through a bout of happy little accidents since 1996 and just late last night I stumbled upon another. Happy little accidents for me as a writer can work like this –

  • Not saving the file I’m working on and the computer glitches to where that section is gone.
  • The whole manuscript (my very first manuscript actually) saved on an old hard floppy disc from 1996 and the whole file is corrupted and disappears cause of technology upgrades or that it’s pointless to try retrieving the file. (Side note: the original first manuscript was printed before it died in hard disc)
  • The printed prologue rewrite is missing some pages and I can’t reprint the missing 5 pages cause the original file is gone due to a virus that also killed the computer.
  • Your favorite laptop dies, but you were lucky to transfer everything over onto thumb drives three months in advance, but you may have still lost some original chapters, but that’s okay because….Happy little accidents.
  • Brooding about the chapter I wrote for weeks and then wanting to rewrite, but that file isn’t on the main computer cause I forgot to transfer it from the laptop so I have to start from scratch.

Now, once I’ve realized that chapter is gone I happily start from scratch, believe it or not. I don’t brood about it any further like I had before when working on that chapter. I lose precious time if I fuss over a lost file that is only 5 to 15 pages long. Don’t get me wrong though, if I’ve lost a total 300pg manuscript, oh you bet I’d be upset.

When I originally lost my first manuscript of 370 pages from the hard disc floppy and then the continuation of it on the desktop computer years ago, I was in such a panic that I had a hard time sleeping. It would usually take me a few weeks to almost a month to get over the shock, but I got over it in good time. Thankfully, I still have the printed version in a red hard bound binder, including half of the prologue pages.

What did I learn from these happy accidents exactly? I learned that starting over is a blessing. That there are reasons to the world that if something is not meant to be, it is not mean to be, period. Writers, just like painters and other artists out there, we are creators. If we lose a creation, that does not mean we’ve lost the ability to create. Therefore we can continue to create even if we start from scratch.

To close, sorry for the long winded time of not posting anything on my journal. The hot summer has kept me from wanting to do much of anything. I’ve barely worked on my third manuscript and once this entry is done, I’m back in the saddle again to start chapter 12 over from scratch.

Thanks for reading. Hope this helps anyone.