Tag Archives: unhappiness

Do You Believe?

My mother is an intuitive. I would stop short of psychic, but she’s in touch with parts of the psyche the rest of us don’t normally tap. A totally creepy incident in my childhood that saved the lives of my brother and I convinced me she had one of those extra senses people talk about. But she doesn’t see the future or talk to dead people. Yet, with someone like her in the family, I grew up with a sense that there is much that we do not know or understand in this realm we exist in.

Last Wednesday my friend Shelly’s daughter, Kelsey, lost her battle with brain cancer. She was a daughter to me, and I have struggled with the loss. She even called me Mom #2, an honor I cherished. Through the months before her passing we talked about death, with me attempting to answer and allay her fears. I’ve never felt so inferior as during those discussions. While I have never questioned my faith, these last months have been difficult for me to understand or explain. How could God take away everyone in Shelly’s world? Her husband, then her son, and then her daughter? With those doubts, who was I to answer Kelsey’s questions?

Still, with prayer I muddled through. One of her biggest concerns at the end was for those she was leaving behind. I believe this is because she had experienced it so much in her young life. In just a few years, she had buried her dad, her brother, her uncle, her cousin, and her grandma. She wanted to know if I thought she could let everyone know she was “happy” when she got there, that she was with family and loved ones. What could I say? I told her I believed she would be with loved ones, and I hoped she could let us know. She told me then, and it was the first of several times, “Mom, if it’s at all possible, I’ll send you all a message letting you know.”

Fast forward to a week after Kelsey passed, and my phone buzzed. It was a text from her. I did a double take. Shelly had canceled Kelsey’s phone the day after she passed. So many horrors stories these days of technology being hacked upon the death of someone, it’s best to take care of those things immediately. Her number had already been reassigned. Still, how would that person have my number? The message had said, “who is this. sorry. new phone.” I replied by saying who I was and asking who she was. She didn’t answer that question. “I’m sorry. I don’t know you.” It didn’t make sense to me since she contacted me so I told her so. Her words set me back. “You sent me two texts, blank ones.”

I’m thinking my stupid phone is acting up when she says, “do you know anyone with the prefix ___” and my stomach drops two feet. It’s the prefix for Kelsey’s life long best friend. Seems she got two blank texts from her as well. Okay, one time? I can explain away. Twice, at the same time, exactly one week after her passing, is not a coincidence for me. It’s a message from another realm. Goosebumps erupted on my arms, and the ache in my heart eased at the thought that Kelsey, who lived to text and I think communicated this way 24/7, had found the best possible way to send us the message she promised. She had arrive safely in the arms of her loved ones.

What does this have to do with writing? Sometimes as writers, we allow the world we live in to limit our writing. We question whether a reader will believe this or that is “realistic”. What we need to worry about is whether it is organic. Did it naturally arise from the story? If it did, the reader will accept it as I did that message from Kelsey. I don’t need scientific proof. I merely needed what happened to have been the direct result of everything that came before. It did.

Kelsey was one of my beta readers. I’ll miss her thoughts, but I can get other beta readers. I can’t replace my daughter. She was one of a kind. Rest well, baby girl. Love you much!

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Grief

Trouble always comes ‘in a crowd’, and my week was evidence of that. Multiple family members were sick, and my father after many weeks of tests got bad news. Helping he and my mother adjust to a new reality was hard on all of us. Then, Wednesday night our sweet dog, Moses, became ill. We rushed him to the vet, but the news was horrid. A massive stroke had paralyzed him. At two in the morning we said our final good-byes and let him go.

When I called our boys (they live in another state) to deliver the latest round of bad news, it was too much for all of us. We sat and cried together over the phone.

Not to mention a host of smaller bits of life’s down turns, it was a week we all wanted to see end. 

When it comes to human emotions, there are certain ones that we all understand, we all GET. Grief is one of those universal emotions that transcends race, faith, culture, borders, boundaries, or anything else that separates us. It is a common theme in literature, film, and art. As I experienced last week, with all its upheaval, one tiny rainbow appeared. A short story written second semester of my grad program – which I was never able to finish – suddenly became clear. I’d halted on it because I couldn’t “find” the core of it. In my week of grief, it found me. Now, I can finish it. Grief has written it for me.

Has life ever helped you finish a piece you were stuck on? How did it work for you?

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Blog Chain – Facing the Keyboard After Rejection

Like all writers I face rejection constantly. It’s as consistent as the bills. The question for those of us who do this is: How do you stay motivated at your most unmotivated?

For me rejection brings to mind torture devices from the darker paths of history. Put me in stocks. Pull out the thumbscrews. Chain me in the tower. Stretch me on the rack. Just don’t make me write when it feels like my dog writes better prose than I do. No offense, Moses.

Motivating myself to write when things are as dark as they can get is beyond difficult. It’s like hunting for a man after a painful divorce. Demeaning, devastating, deplorable. How do you force yourself to sit down to the keyboard after someone rips your work to shreds? The obvious answer is you sit your butt in the chair, and you do it because as a writer you have no other option. For most of us that’s true but it’s also true that each rejection makes it harder to repeat the process. .

It’s not like I enjoy being eviscerated. (And no matter how many times I tell myself it’s not personal, those words are mine and therefore, it’s very personal.) However, I can’t stop the voices in my head, and I can’t stop telling stories just because they aren’t perfect on the page yet or because I haven’t found the right editor or agent to read them yet.

In all honesty, sometimes the blistering criticism is accurate. My work is not done. And I’m not totally surprised by the criticism as some place deep down, I knew something wasn’t working. I wasn’t sure what, but I knew something was wrong. However, some of it is BUNK. A reviewer rushed, skimming rather than reading.  Or makes suggestions that aren’t helpful or fitting to the work at hand.

The issue for a writer before they pull out the thumbscrews is to figure out which criticism is worth pursuing and which can be burned in effigy or placed on the rack and stretched until shredded.

Unfortunately, you have to let go of the pain of the rejection first. Having a support system can help. My critique group provides that. They provide a balance for me. Honestly agreeing with the reviewer when the advice is right and telling me to ignore it when it’s off the mark. But mostly, by acknowledging that this is part of the process, and we all go through it as writers. A form of hazing to find who has the wherewithal to keep going in the face of constant rejection. That is what gets me back behind the keyboard and willing to keep trying.

What keeps you in the game? Check out Natasha’s blog to see what she has to say about rejection.

 

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Unhappiness

Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott

A hero of mine, Nancy Pickard, co-authored a book called Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path. I’m reading it for the second time because like most writers I’ve hit a rock in the path, and I need guidance. According to the book, I’m at the unhappiness stage. Little overachiever that I am, I’m taking this one over the top.

I’m not unhappy; I’m flat-out miserable. No good reasons. Unless you count, multiple rejections balanced against only a second place win in a query contest, or my inability in the face of teaching six days a week to produce even the most mundane of drivel. Be thankful, I tell myself that you’re producing anything at all. At least you’re not blocked. Really? The only difference between a blocked writer and me is that they’ve acknowledged it. I’m in full denial and thus, keep plugging away at my drivel.

It’s been several years since I read it so it’s like reading it for the first time. The chapter threw me an epiphany with one line: “Unhappiness, to one degree or another, is where all creativity begins.” My YA novel is in revisions and by that I mean constant revisions, and I’m sick and tired of it. So, I’m taking a break while it is making the rounds and decided to start another one.

Unhappiness and creativity. I’m not quite to the newlywed phase of a work. Currently, it’s just scattered scenes with the characters as I get to know them. Which is why I’m still unhappy. I could stop. Quit. I tell myself that every day. Yet, I don’t. And I don’t perceive a time when I will. Because writing and the misery that accompanies it are as essential to me as eating right and exercising. Of course, when I’m in the zone, I don’t eat right or eat period sometimes. And my exercising becomes manic. I pound the treadmill because it opens up the doors of my creativity.

I highly recommend this book to every writer. Not only because it will validate every stage of the creative process but because it will remind you that for the pain and agony of the hard times, there is a wonderful place you will eventually arrive at. In that place, rejections are just slips of paper, and every word you write is a win.

Are you “unhappy” in your writing?

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