Edits in Progress

I have been rewriting a book for a while now. I thought I would get it done last fall/winter, but then I found out my ankle was broken. (That’s a longer story, so we won’t get into that.) Somewhere along the road of surgery and physical therapy, the draft ended up on one side of the room, and I sat on the other, unable to walk.

Summer I pulled it out again, and then I got stuck on chapter 4 when my husband went to Mexico for work. (Travel happens, and while I’m stuck inside my house when kids are sleeping, there’s some magical time for writing.)

When I finally put myself back on the schedule at my writer’s group, I hadn’t really gotten back to it. Yet when the deadline came, I forced myself through the chapter that had me stranded for a couple months.

The most amazing part there, is I didn’t stop. I’ve worked through 15k words in 11 days, and the 11th day isn’t over yet. I’m juggling time with some other deadlines, but it’s going well.

For those of you who’ve met me, you know I’m an extrovert. But the weirdest thing happened this week – I want to go home and work on my book. I don’t want to go out for coffee or lunch; I’d really rather be home working on my story. I had to grocery shopping today and half of me wanted to just get enough stuff not to leave for a month, but that never works.

If you remember my road woes, they’ve finally patched the blacktop… ish. And they’ve cut off the road going the other way out of my house so I drive by this a lot more. Whee! 0921180813a.jpg

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Writer’s Group and a Water Main Break

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Water everywhere isn’t beautiful in the neighborhood.

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Six hours of work and a road crew plus an extra load of gravel three days later. We’ve had a lot of rain.

What’s that got to do with a writer’s group? I’ve been running one this year. I didn’t think that was on my list of things to do, but… when a lack of leadership wasn’t working, I stepped up. I made rules. I propose all kinds of things that might be good ideas and might not.

I’m not making it up as I go along. It isn’t quite writing.

Back to that novel. I hear it calling. I also know someone’s waiting to read it.

Running in April

Seventeen weeks post-surgery today. It feels like forever. There have been many challenges and even new appreciation of the five stages of grief.

My treatment plan said things that seemed impossible at the beginning – like that I would be running in April. It’s April, and I have jogged at a pace only slightly faster than walking exactly three times. I can jump without that agonizing pain through my foot and ankle now, though that’s a fairly recent development. I still have to work to keep the plantar fasciitis under control – something I never had before but is a new side effect of wearing the split and cast and boot for a combined 8 weeks.

I have two friends who have seen me through all of this, plus my family (parents, husband, and children). Even those who weren’t physically present every week still cheered me on when they saw me, commented on my progress, and asked when I’d be fully recovered.

I’m still figuring out how to answer that question. The end of PT is not a full recovery, but I’m allowed to do what I had before within the limits of the pain. That’s an interesting distinction that I hadn’t paid attention to in previous injuries. But none of those really prepared me for an ankle break like the one I did last summer, the way it could get better but not fully heal, and the surgery that followed.

I’m allowed to go back to the martial arts – and I’m can go until the edge of the pain. I did fairly well for my first attempt; I’m proud that I only once kicked the bag too hard for my ankle. One of the other women who goes said I didn’t lose anything being gone. It’s nice to hear, but she wasn’t my partner so she didn’t see me do most of those really easy kicks.

It’s taken a long time to see that I’m really going to achieve this goal.

Back to the writing goals, then, right? I never would have believed that it took so much from my head to have surgery on my ankle. That just being in so much pain – I was in a lot of pain before, the surgery, too – could disrupt so many creative processes that I simply think are part of who I am.

This week I took a story to my writing group, and two of them said they cried. It’s taken six weeks to refine that story to a point where I really found that point I wanted to make, and it’ll take one or two more to polish it up.

I’ve pulled up that novel I really keep thinking I’m going to get together, and it’s coming apart at the seams. I like to whisper to myself that I’ll have more hours once I’m recovered, that I’ll be able to spend that PT time doing edits, and that once I have more brain space because I’m not dealing with all of that pain it’ll come together.

I’m not sure how much of that is simply wishful thinking and how much I’m just going to fatigue my arms dragging that binder around. My yoga teaching has changed when it comes to balance and footwork, so that we’re strengthening these parts, too, and I’m targeting other body parts to learn more about in my spare time.

Spare time? I don’t know why we even label it spare time, since it’s that few moments that we carve out from doing all the other things that are clamoring for our attention. Reading has been easiest during recovery, and I finally picked up sewing until my hand cramped, and I might have even decided to become a dungeon master in D&D. If that seems like an odd jump, it is. We’re really not sure how we started a game that way, and neither are any of the rest of them.

I feel accomplished. I have done everything asked of me, and then some. I have been patient and I have slowly increased my activities until I could do it. I won’t have it all in there until about next week, but it’s pretty exciting to be at this place. I have noticed I feel better this week.

The Big Updates – How is it already February?

So, last summer I broke my ankle. It’s a terrible excuse for not getting things done, but that’s a real thing. So I had a struggle where I thought it would heal on its own as a sprain, and then I found out the ankle was really broken.

I have spent the past four months (October, November, December, January) in a cycle of finding the break, looking at the options, having surgery (28 December) and recovering. I’m not all the way there yet. I was allowed to weight-bear as tolerated this week, to wean off crutches, and to actually teach yoga with this tank-boot they gave me.

Before this, I’ve been teaching from the chair. It’s nice to have a reason to get out of the house and interact with adults. Sitting alone in the house, even with the husband nearby, isn’t enough to engage my brain. I took naps, too, at first. It’s amazing how refreshing a nap is while healing.

It’s good to note that I’m not fully recovered. The PT regimen I received after surgery details 16 weeks of therapy before I’m ready to run again, and that won’t be until late April. I did tell my classes this week I’m so excited to be able to stand and walk – even limited walking with a crutch that I did for most of the week.

This is the second time in my life I’ve had issues standing and walking. The first happened in my early 20s, and I haven’t forgotten the pain and struggle I had to be upright and mobile. It’s one reason I have been so dedicated to yoga for such a long time, because that is part of what helped me heal. However, nothing else stands still just because you can’t get up and move.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve seen Shohola Press‘s new anthology Abandoned Places which will contain my story, “Two Tails”. Mermaids ahead! I’ve read a couple other stories contained within the book, and it’ll promise a lot of wonderful reading material. I can’t wait to get my copy.

Also, I’ve been interviewed as a fitness expert on the Unreliable Narrators podcast. It’s my first time on a podcast! It’s a little less scary since I know most of them in person. Click Here to listen.

Last ICON, Jim C. Hines was kind enough to take new headshots for me, and I’m ever so slowly updating my images. If you ever get the chance, he’s an amazing individual, sometime photographer, and a terrific writer. Always room for him when I’m at BarCon. (I promised. I hope he never regrets it.)

Finally, the rights for The Art of Science have reverted back to me. Funny, I’d asked if it was out of contract but I did have it in my email that it was finished last March. That was confirmed in the last week, though it is still available at Amazon (1 copy left) last I checked. It’ll catch up eventually.

Some years I like to look forward around December and January, but most of this has been obscured by surgery and the fog that comes with recovery. What day is it? What date? No one knows. My phone buzzes with Physical Therapy and Doctor Appointment at intervals, and I find myself rides to get there. I’m allowed to drive, but no one wants to let me do that on my own yet. I get it. Don’t rush it. Take time to heal. The platitudes are ever-present.

I run into a possibly surprising number of people who have had similar enough injuries to require the tank-boot on my foot. I have to wear a shoe on my other foot, even in the house, to even out my gait for walking – which is torture in and of itself. I hate wearing “real” shoes.

So this year’s planning session ends up the end of January and into February. I know I’ll be at ICON. Thinking ahead to the yoga festival and possibly a few other trips. WorldCon is on my radar but I’m still figuring out logistics. I’m working on a couple short stories and trying to find the brainspace to go back to that novel editing. I’ll also be running my local writer’s group this year.

I am amazed how much space healing takes up. Some of my reading time has been spent trying to understand the role pain plays in the body, how it’s all in my head, and how to overcome it. Yes, that might be working its way through my head to not only help me with yoga teaching but also in some coming stories. It might be more than one now. I’ve had a lot of time to just sit and think and at some point the characters in my head will start demanding their stories be told.

Photo Commentary: X-ray for interest, taken in October. The bone fragment at the bottom of my fibula was removed, about the size of my thumb to the first knuckle. A ligament had to be reattached.

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Day 1672

Before I had my daughter, I wrote most days. I had inspiration or I didn’t, and sometimes that dictated whether or not I wrote. When I was pregnant, I wasn’t active enough but I still practiced yoga on my own every day. When she was born, everything changed. I had a book to promote (technically the book was 11 days older), I lacked sleep, and I slowly adjusted to life with a newborn. (March 2009) My days of writing for long periods disappeared nearly overnight.

May of 2011 I joined the site 750words.com. I had read about morning pages from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and I felt I needed something to tell me that I should go write something. Even if it was junk or just stream of consciousness or something that didn’t make sense. The point was to write every day*. I thought that was important to being a real writer.

The cool thing about 750 words was that they sent me an email about whether I’d done my words or not, and they allow me to choose the time. It was an adjustment. I was also pregnant again by the time I joined, and teaching yoga, and my daughter had grown into an active toddler. I wrote during naptime, mostly.

So it’s been a little over six years since I joined. Both my children are in school full-time (Kindergarten and 3rd grade), and it’s been a big change. It might not surprise you that the first year was hardest. I would fight that streak up and then miss a day. I was so upset one day in 2012 when I had written for over a year (384 days) even through moving twice and having a baby, but some random day in July was when I forgot.

Today marks 1672 days in a row, writing at least 750 words a day. Why do I write all the time, even when writers will tell you they take vacations? Partly it’s therapy. Writing out the junk in a place where I don’t have to look at it again (if I don’t want to) has allowed me to take pressure off. It’s writing as therapy, and it works for me. Sometimes I feel bad that it’s been stream of consciousness of whatever I’ve been thinking for days, but I learn to accept that and move on.

The interesting bits that 750words keeps track of so I don’t have to:
I’ve written over 2.4 million words since May 2011.
I’ve written 2290 days out of 2347.
My quickest entry was 7 minutes (to get to 750 words) – I don’t remember much about that day except I was truly mad about something.
My largest word count was 15,596 words. I remember I was trying to outwrite my friend Michelle that day, and I’m still writing off some of the brainstorming that happened from that.

Each of these milestones changes me as a writer. I feel like I can learn what works for me and what doesn’t, and also the yoga part will tell me to simply accept when I’m not writing fiction. These “throwaway” pages are also wonderful for planning out a plot or describing something that has to get into my pages.

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What else 750words shows me is whether I’ve been distracted, how many words i type per minute, and a whole bunch of stats that I sometimes ignore. Yesterday the weather was 62 degrees where I was, and partly sunny (and it is recorded forever on the stats page). My words are rated G which pretty much means safe for all audiences. It thinks I was affectionate and that I was thinking about religion.

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The sense most used was touch and I wrote in first person and the future tense. I have a feeling that the ‘affectionate’ and ‘touch’ sense both reflect that i wrote that I felt something. I could be mistaken. Sometimes these give insight into my character that I wouldn’t have connected, but not always.

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My mindset listed on the page is Introvert, Positive, Certain, Thinking. And all of those are given little visuals so you can check what 750 words is rating. At the bottom of the page, there are many frequently used words from that day.

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There’s also a search function. So I use # and a subject. It’s not the most efficient, but it does help me find what I wrote and follow that through to the pieces I need to save. It’s all downloadable and it’s sortable, but it can be difficult to find a common word through as many days as I now have.

I also configured sharing my progress, which shares not my words but all the stats that I listed here.

Thanks, Chris Cornell, for asking and reminding me that I hadn’t shared these things in a while!

Sometimes It Feels Like Cheating

I haven’t given up on The Next Jane. But I did put it aside, again. When I pull out this manuscript to edit it, I feel like I need a serotonin by direct IV infusion. It’s a struggle, every single time. I know it’s a good story, but I can’t help how I feel.

So imagine my surprise when I pulled out a different project, and I edited an entire section, wrote notes about it, and was eager to dive into the next one in the morning… It’s only three days in (a friend dragged me into Camp NaNo) and I’m tackling that third section before it’s dark enough for fireworks.

I still don’t have a title for this thing, but it’ll come.

Remember all of that advice that writers share with each other? Show, don’t tell. Can’t edit a blank page. Write what you know. Write what you’re ready for.

I’m writing what I’m ready to write, maybe. I wonder if I’m ever going to be ready to finish Jane. I’ll worry about that in a month or two, perhaps. Right now I’m going to write what’s coming, and it’s easy enough that it feels like cheating. Except for the jokes. There’s one character who keeps trying to tell jokes, and that’s a struggle.

Wish me luck.

Interviewed by My Daughter

My daughter came home with the homework to interview a service worker. And she mentioned the author gig, and I didn’t think about that first. I think someone like a nurse or a waitress, and that’s probably because I often don’t deal directly with the people that I serve.

My customers, usually known as readers, are often removed from the process when I’m doing this. Publishers think of that, right? Self-publishers more than me, because I’m thinking about the stories.

Then she asked me something else- if I wrote stories to help people (especially Kindergarteners) learn to read. But I don’t write for Kindergarteners. I don’t even write for kids her age (2nd grade). I’m not sure anyone in my writer’s groups would say they started writing stories to help anyone learn to read. Reading isn’t the purpose, and I’m not sure I conveyed that.

However, for my author job, she asked the general questions listed on her sheet:
How does your job help others? I give people a different view of the world.

What do you like about your job? I love writing stories.

Then she needed to think up two specific questions about my job, and I’m sure that’s not easy for her. She doesn’t really see what I do. What she sees is her mother, sitting in front of a computer to do a bunch of daily words – and most of the time I do it when she’s at school. She usually doesn’t see me doing editing work, because I do that when she’s asleep or at school. Here are hers:

How did you get your job? I kept doing it until I was good enough to be published.

Why do you like stories so much? Because anything can happen in a book.

It’s the last part that always gets me. Anything can happen. I have a different point of view in a book. It’s not about gender or race or even species. Stories can be an escape to take you away from today and they can also be a refuge full of friends where different things happen.

This weekend, my daughter and I finished reading Charlotte’s Web. Reading about Wilbur and Charlotte wasn’t about learning to read, because I read most of the book. It was all about the story. I’m neither a pig nor a spider, but the story resonates with me.

I also think of my mother, the poet. She sees the world differently, and she uses so few words to create an image. We use words differently, but our service is similar. We want to share with people, whether it is out loud or in digital form or on a physical object.

Except I keep thinking about how I got this job. I don’t know that I chose it, because I’m pretty certain it chose me. I’ve always been telling stories. It’s just part of who I am, and when I don’t do it I don’t feel like myself. Some hobbies I pursue to give me background and research into other stories, other perspectives. I read about how to be a better writer, have discussions with other writers, and constantly work on all of these items. I’m not someone who talks about all of my stories so much before they’re written, because I need to have that pressure to keep the momentum going on my work-in-progress.

What has your child taught you about your job?

Must Be About the Weather

I live in the Midwest. The weather is often a topic of conversation, and it’s also an excuse.

Today was an unexpected day in February if we were talking about previous years. Another day above 50 degF with a little bit of rain. No winter coats in sight and I’m not even sure where the mittens and warm hats have gone.

So when fewer people were at the gym for a class today, we blamed the weather. We’d have blamed it if more showed up, too. We look around quizzically and everything is always about the weather.

Everyone has to get out and enjoy the good weather while it lasts, and the coming snow is always hanging over our heads.

So I haven’t been blogging because of the weather. I’ve been writing (and editing) and that’s been taking up my time. It’s hard to hope for snow when the kids will want to go play in it and it’s hard to hope for warm days when we want to play at the park. Does anyone ever hope for a good old-fashioned rainstorm that doesn’t include a tornado warning?

Also, randomly, I think I need a pet. Suggestions in comments, please. I’d have a cat already if the husband weren’t allergic.

Being Bipolar #inHonorofCarrie

I wonder what normal feels like.

That may seem odd, but I was diagnosed as bipolar just over ten (maybe eleven) years ago. In that first year I went through three psychiatrists and held on to the one therapist who seemed to have my best interests at heart. I didn’t understand the weight of the change that it would bring to me, to go from a label of major depression and something else to bipolar disorder.

I understand depression. Depression is the one who wraps its arms around you like an old friend and reminds you of all the things that you absolutely deserve. These are the things you don’t whisper to others, the ideas that wiggle deeper each time depression comes to visit you. You both know there’s only one way out, and that’s feet first. Which is exactly the point of depression. At some point I welcome it, because I do know that it’s there to keep me company when everyone else has deserted me.

The flip side is scarier. I don’t know what to do when I don’t sleep and I don’t need sleep and I keep moving and I’m not tired and I don’t need to rest and there’s still more things to do and yet the clock has flipped around again to morning and it is time to go to work and do things. And the things keep moving, but not as fast as my brain. I would keep doing things and it isn’t at all how I would normally think about the world. Connections make themselves in ways I can’t explain and only make sense at the time.

Lucky, then, that the depression visits me more often.

Those commercials on TV never seem to fit. It’s something you learn on your own what your symptoms are, what your triggers are, and what you can do to manage.

Survival is about learning to deal with the changes.

Then you dump in the medications. I went through three psychiatrists the first year because they kept telling me things I couldn’t accept – and like that meme running around due to the political climate, I try to change the things I cannot accept.

The first doctor had been treating me for a few years, and he told me that because I was bipolar I should never have children. I don’t know how a ‘normal’ person decodes this, but I take that to mean my life isn’t worth living because of this life-threatening illness – my label is unacceptable to him, and the probability that i might pass it to my children is too high.

I cried. I was so wiped out on medicine I didn’t know what I was feeling. I sobbed onto my steering wheel and I couldn’t explain at all the turmoil that kept running down my face. I stopped the medicine. Three days later I realized I was angry. Because he didn’t think my label was something that should ever be passed on to another generation – and that meant I shouldn’t have children. Having children was that dream I always cherished. And that wasn’t acceptable.

The second doctor tried several different medications. She gave me sleeping medicine and she kept me off the other one that had been plaguing me so much I felt like a zombie- no emotional reactions to anything. Not anything I could understand. But in the course of the different medications I learned one thing: She treated me like many bipolar people are accused of- that I simply didn’t want to take my medication. She wrote in my file that I had psychosomatic symptoms to one medicine. A few years ago, I saw that medicine advertised on TV and it had the warning that the symptom I had was a side effect and could become permanent if not discontinued immediately. So I’m glad I quit her and the medicine.

Then the third doctor sat down with me and looked for my pedigree. Because bipolar disorder runs in families, so I ought to figure out the connections in my family who also have bipolar disorder. I don’t know of anyone else in my family with bipolar disorder. Depression, yes. I’m not very close with the extended family, and so many of them only speak of depression in whispers when the subject isn’t around, and not about bipolar at all.

Now I try to talk about it. I try not to be the silent one about mental illness, and it feels like every time I say, hey, I’m bipolar – someone who thinks they know me will respond, but you don’t seem bipolar.

So tell me, people. what does it take to seem bipolar?

I also managed a paranoid diagnosis while I was working full time. Then one of the managers explained how he did see that the guys worked against me. So now I don’t trust that I’m not paranoid, I don’t trust my own opinions about these things, because for years I worked against this paranoia diagnosis. That I’m not supposed to treat all these events as if they’re centered around me. And yet they’re all there to be my own standing of what is and what is not, of what I think and what I believe.

Truth and reality never do seem so set in stone. They’re liquid like the water or the glass that can shift, sometimes a little and other times all at once. It’s no wonder I ask an outsider for an opinion, as if a third party has the ability to sort through the pieces that can’t be reconciled in my head. As if a friend will be able to bring an absolute to the mess.

Yoga brings me calm. Writing draws off the excess emotions when I can wrap them in a story. Is it any wonder that these two things I try to do daily? Some days I fail, but the effort is there.

I am thankful for the close friends and family who support me when I need it and push me to do more when I can. I’ll never be consistent from day to day or year to year. I share this label with many amazing people, and occasionally someone will label me like that, too. My old boss called me brilliant. I can only tell you my brain works differently, and that this label of bipolar isn’t wrong.

No-Forget November?

On one hand, it is NaNoWriMo, and as any good writer I am writing. On the other hand, I had decided early this month that I wouldn’t just write something new, I would commit to editing a project that I’ve been working on a long time but I just haven’t really finished yet.

In creating time to edit, I made myself limit my writing time. Not figuring, of course, about the distractions that abound between my birthday and Thanksgiving and other commitments.

I have learned quite a bit, and while I know there is another five days to write and edit, I am thankful that I set myself on this course. I’m not exactly where I’d like to be, but I have made progress toward both projects.

Also in both cases, the events of this month have intruded. It’s a curse of a writer, that all the things that I come in contact with will be reflected somewhere in my art. I’ll be in a different place when I finish, and so will these books. I hope for the better.

So many of the creative people around me have been derailed one way or another from the election. I know my struggle is echoed by many. But something I didn’t expect was how much the world looked differently between one day and the next. Perhaps you didn’t expect that, either.

I remember in my senior year of high school there was a boy who wondered if our kids would ask us where we were when they read the OJ verdict. That seems so long ago, and his worry so misplaced, that our kids would have nothing else to ask us about our witnessed history. My kids haven’t asked me these big historical questions yet, though occasionally I’ll tell her in relation to a book or some talk about an event that I was alive for it- or not. I’ll drag in her teachers and her grandparents and whomever else I can remember close to her in relation to those things, too. (My son is 4 and doesn’t ask these questions yet. I still involved him in the conversation.)

One day my kids might ask me about what happened during my lifetime. One day I hope to have answers. If you need me, I’ll be writing, editing, and otherwise staying busy. What will you do?

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