If a Character Shouts

If a character shouts in a forest, but there’s no one there to hear them, do they make a sound?

I’ve been absent lately, I know. For a long time. I haven’t touched any form of writing, or even had it cross my mind for more than a minute. But life has been full.

I’m working two jobs while going to school full-time, doing honors and being involved with two organizations on campus. Not to mention being an aunt to my baby niece, and trying to fit in both a social life and something resembling a love life. There just hasn’t been room for writing in my crazy, hectic, but wonderful life. And I’m okay with that right now.

It took a while, but eventually my characters fell silent. I stopped having the urge to write. I stopped feeling bad about not writing. I put my publishing dreams on hold.

Some people think that if we’re writers, we should be writing all the time. That somehow, if we’re not writing, we’re not “real” writers anymore. But honestly, if you’re a “real” writer, writing will always be a part of you. There’s ink in your blood, and it will be there whether you write everyday or don’t touch a pen for months.

I’ve been content without writing, and even without being a part of the writing community, as much as I love it. Lately, my characters have started whispering to me again. A line in a song will trigger a scene, or a snippet of dialogue will pop into my mind. I’m not sure where I stand on my manuscripts. I don’t know if I’m ready to dive back into edits, but I don’t feel strongly enough about anything new to start from scratch.

So I’m here in limbo, standing at the edge of the forest. I can hear my characters in the distance, but not enough to make me go in. I’m not ready to write yet, but I’m getting closer.

In the mean time, I’ll try to be as active as I can, and I appreciate your continued support. Y’all really are the best. Hope everything is well, writing and otherwise ❤

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Why You Shouldn’t Be Writing

We are constantly told: “You should be writing.” Especially from our fellow writer friends. It’s meant as a sort of tough love encouragement, a call to action, or push to get us going. Which is great, if the only thing stopping you is your own procrastination, or the ever-present self-doubt.

But sometimes, all this does is add to guilt us writers already struggle with every day. Every free moment we get, a little voice in our head is taunting, “You can’t relax. You’re being lazy. You should be writing.”

I’m here to tell you that little voice is wrong.

As far as little voices go, they’re usually wrong, and it’s a good idea not to listen to them anyways. But that one I am sure you are familiar with that constantly nags at the back of your mind with guilt the longer you go between words, is hard not to listen to. Especially when our fellow comrades in writing are saying the same thing.

Yes, sometimes we just need a little push. But sometimes, there is more than that going on. Maybe you’re a parent (a full-time job) or have a full-time job (maybe both). Maybe when you get home you’re just so exhausted you can’t stand, or mentally drained, and all you want to do is veg out on the couch and watch some brain-numbing TV. Or if you’re like me, a full-time student with so much going on, it feels like you’re just trying to keep your head above water most of the time.

When I’ve finished studying for hours, or come home from a four hour lecture, the last thing I want to do is sit down and force out some words with brain power that I don’t have left. I’d much rather binge watch Once Upon A Time until I pass out and have dreams of Captain Hook (it’s happened, no judgement), or spend some quality time with boyfriend, or have an old-fashioned girls night, or I don’t know, sleep for the first time in a week.

We are writers. The words are a part of us, and they always will be. That doesn’t mean that the longer we go without writing, we become lesser writers. Yes, we are writers, but we are also human beings. With lives, and families, and responsibilities, and memories to be made.

Let yourself off the hook.

I know this can be hard for us writers, but seriously. If you need me to give you permission: You shouldn’t be writing right now. You have absolutely nothing hanging over your head, pressing at the back of your mind. You shouldn’t feel guilty. Go outside, read a book, spend time with your family, go out, take a nap. There are a hundred other things you can and should be doing instead of feeling guilty for not writing.

Again, we are writers but we are also humans. You do not stop being a writer if you’re not writing, or if you don’t think of writing every hour every day. The words will always be there. Go out and live your life, enjoy it. Maybe you’ll even get inspiration out of it, or come up with the next great American novel.

Trust me, letting go of that guilt feels amazing. When I stopped listening to that little voice, it felt like being freed from shackles.

So the next time you feel that familiar, gnawing guilt in the pit of your stomach, and hear that voice in the back of your mind, saying “You should be writing”?

Kindly tell him to leave you the hell alone.

From The Outside Looking In

You have probably heard of the recent chaos that is Ferguson. If you haven’t, I suggest you read this post. If you have, I suggest you read it anyways. I know this is totally non-book related, but I just had to get this out. Since I first heard of it more than a week ago, I keep reading bits and pieces of each side of the story, usually conflicting and confusing. I have yet to read something that breaks the whole situation down, and looks at both sides. I hope to do that here, and in the process sort out this tangle of thoughts and feelings I have about Ferguson. I am in no way an expert in any of this, but both sides of each point are taken from real arguments and points I have seen made.

Side 1: Michael Brown was a criminal and thug. He stole cigars from a convenience store and matched the description of the criminal. The cop who shot him feared for his life, and shot in self defense. 

Side 2: Michael Brown was a 17-year-old boy who was about to be the first in his family to attend college. The security footage which is pointed to as evidence of him robbing the store has also been used to show he paid for them, or that it’s difficult to identify him in the video at all. Even if he had stolen the cigars, the penalty for theft is not death. Self defense is understandable, but Michael Brown was unarmed at the time, and was shot six times. According to one of the autopsies, one of those bullets entered the top of his head, indicating he was already face-down on the ground. Autopsies also showed he was not at close range (read: not dangerous) when he was shot. Also, why six potentially fatal bullets? A tazer or shot to the leg would have stopped him, without having to kill him.

Side 1: People started riots and looting after his death, and many used it as an excuse for violence. Force is necessary in return to keep order and protect the people.

Side 2: The majority of protesters were entirely peaceful, with only a handful who were violent in any way. Yet, SWAT and military trucks, assault rifles, and tear gas was brought out in full, threatening force. Many were held at gunpoint and arrested including media, and both tear gas and rubber bullets were fired on peaceful protesters. Also, some looting was out of need–such as protesters who broke into a McDonalds to get milk for those who had been hit with tear gas.

Side 1: They are trying to make everything about race. Why does no one care when it is black-on-white crime? 

Side 2: Missouri, and specifically Ferguson, apparently has racism deeply embedded in its history. Many witnesses and protesters reported police officers and dispatchers calling them racial slurs when they tried to get information, or to talk peacefully. There is also a long precedent of police officers discriminating against those of color, and that has sometimes ended in tragedy, such as the recent death of Eric Garner who was choked to death by a police officer. They are making it about race because at least some part about it is, the world just doesn’t want to see it. (Also, have you noticed how few of the police officers are not white? I have only seen one man of color in the entire force.)

Side 1: Why don’t the media and protesters just go home? They are just stirring the pot. They want the attention and excitement.

Side 2: Yes, they could go home, but their problems wouldn’t go away. Maybe for the media–but it is the media’s job to show the world these things, especially the things that people try so hard to hide and keep from the public (such as the lies about tear gas and corralling media away from action). They have every right to protest, and they are angry. They want to be seen and heard, because they are tired of the way things are and they want change.

 

So far, I think those are the main controversies that I have observed (please point out anything I might have missed). From someone who is relatively detached from the situation and conflict, I find myself siding with the protesters. The police have lied, kept secrets, used unnecessary violence, shot rubber bullets at protesters, violated first amendment rights, and shot tear gas at peaceful protesters including children (and lied about it). For me, there are too many tallies against them that I have a hard time seeing their side, even when I look at the facts. And I did try to weigh both sides, and see how they might be justified.

But the truth is, none of this is. Even if Michael Brown had been a criminal who robbed a store and been shot by a cop acting in self defense, even if there were looters and rioters, even if they’re making this about race and trying to stir the pot, does not justify a police force that looks too much like an occupying army in an oppressive regime. Attacking unarmed and peaceful civilians? Taking away rights, violating the first amendment, and enforcing their rules with an iron fist?

Really, it makes me angry. How could we as humans do this? How could we let this happen? It makes me want to get there on the front lines and chant for justice right along with them.

It is shocking that this could ever happen, that it is still happening, and that we haven’t really done anything about it. And honestly, it is terrifying. To see how easily this did happen, how fragile our system and our little world is, and just how close we are to real life dystopia.

My thoughts and prayers are with those in Ferguson this week, and I really hope this gets resolved soon, for all of our sakes.

 

 

This video is a quick, factual, and clear breakdown of the situation and some of the factors behind it.

Also worth checking out: This news interview, these pictures, and this article. 

 

Spoons

Wow, I cannot thank y’all enough for your amazing response and support to my last post about my chronic illness. It really, really means a lot to me. But I also realized how little some people understand or realize about chronic illness, so I thought it would be important to talk a little more about what it is really like.

First, it is unpredictable. I may feel relatively “normal” for a week or so, then the next week because unable to even get out of bed (like this week). It hits without warning, and without reason. I might take all the precautions to be healthy, avoid certain things, stay hydrated, etc. but that can never stop it from happening anyways.

Second, it is nothing like normal illness. If any of you have ever had a bad case of strep, you may know that feeling of being completely drained, where your whole body aches and all you can do is sleep. That is kind of what it can be like having chronic illness, only all the time, in varying degrees. Chronic means chronic. It isn’t going to go away, or even get better. There is no cure in most cases. I can’t get healthy by working out more or juicing or meditating two hours a day. Making healthy choices can help my symptoms, but it will never truly go away.

Third, everyone is different, and no one can judge someone else’s experience or illness. One person might look relatively healthy or normal on a day-to-day basis, like me. Another might have visible symptoms such as bruising, hair loss, or need for a wheelchair or walker. Just because I can look healthy, doesn’t mean I am or even am feeling well. On the other hand, just because they look sick doesn’t mean they are useless or less than anyone else. Oh, and not judging someone else also means no advice or solutions, even if they are well-intentioned. Instead, they usually come off more condescending and hurtful than helpful. “Why don’t you try working out more?” sounds more like “If you weren’t out of shape, you wouldn’t be sick.” Not to mention, see last line above.

The Paper Butterfly showed me this great explanation of chronic illness, called the spoon theory, written by Christine Miserandino of the But You Don’t Look Sick blog. You can read the full post here, but here is an excerpt that really breaks it down. It is a little long, but absolutely worth the time.

I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon.

When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning…I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs…Getting dressed was worth another spoon.

I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about…I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get to work, and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.

We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, as well as standing on a train, or even typing at her computer too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night.

When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to drive home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous, that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all.

I rarely see her emotional, so when I saw her upset I knew maybe I was getting through to her. I didn’t want my friend to be upset, but at the same time I was happy to think finally maybe someone understood me a little bit. She had tears in her eyes and asked quietly “Christine, How do you do it? Do you really do this everyday?”

I explained that some days were worse then others; some days I have more spoons then most. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”

Its hard, the hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything. I fight this to this day. I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to. I wanted her to feel that frustration. I wanted her to understand, that everything everyone else does comes so easy, but for me it is one hundred little jobs in one. I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I have to attack it and make a plan like I am strategizing a war.

It is in that lifestyle, the difference between being sick and healthy. It is the beautiful ability to not think and just do. I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count “spoons”.

If you are healthy, you can never truly understand what it is like to be chronically ill, and I am really glad you don’t have to. But having an open mind and being educated can be a step towards understanding what someone goes through, and being able to better support them. It really does mean a lot.

The Fog

It’s inescapable and suffocating, a fog that consumes me entirely.

No, I’m not talking about that fog–the killer horror movie kind–but the kind that is always inside of me, all the time. Its name is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and today it came out with a vengeance.

If you know me or are familiar with this blog at all, you’ve likely heard me mention it before. Honestly, I don’t talk about it very often because I try not to focus on it. I refuse to let my illness win, become a part of every aspect of my life, and suck the joy out of everything that I enjoy.

But today, it did just that.

Sorry for the past few days of relative silence, but I’ve had a good reason I promise. Normally, I’m good about “powering through” my bad days. I’ve been living with my illness for more than seven years, so I’ve gotten pretty good at managing it. But if you are one of my unfortunate comrades who have chronic illness yourselves, you are all too familiar with the fog.

I’ve been reading the Shadow and Bone trilogy, so I am comparing it to the Fold. A lot of days, I am able to summon enough light to pierce through the fog, just like Alina, but others, I don’t have the strength, or it’s just not enough.

Today was one of those days. After I was up all night being physically ill, my body is completely wiped. I slept for twelve hours, then napped, and still didn’t have the energy or strength to get out of bed. I haven’t been able to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time without feeling dizzy, let alone make it out of room or down a single flight of stairs. I didn’t even have energy to hold a conversation with my boyfriend or family, and spent the day more or less in isolation, but for my ever present cuddle buddy and sick day companion.

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It has been a long time since I have had such a bad day as far as my illness. But I am reminded, even now, when it is difficult to summon enough strength to write this post, that no matter how bad things are in this body, I can escape to a hundred others.

Being trapped in this bed can feel an awful lot like sitting in a jail cell–but books and writing are a portal to an endless possibility of worlds, and freedom.

This is why I love writing, and why I will never, ever stop being a writer. I can’t. Words and ink are like oxygen and blood to me. They are my light, to pierce through the fog and the muck of this life, no matter how dark it seems.

Reading Siege and Storm got me through today. For a few hours at least, I could forget the pain and discomfort of this body, and become someone else entirely, lost in a rich, vivid, fantasy world. What could be better than that?

The reality of my illness means that I cannot always push through, and I will have to miss out on things, sometimes things that I love. I’ve missed staying connected with the writing community, work, a party, and interacting with friends and family. Please be patient with me in times like this, and know that I have not forgotten about all you lovely people, I am trying my best 🙂

I will have this illness for the rest of my life, and nothing can change that until there is a cure.  In the mean time, though, books make life a whole lot better.

And with that, I am going to finish this book, and then nap for the third time today.

What’s Up Wednesday

KITE2

 

Hey all, it’s been a while since I’ve done WuW, but thought I’d stop by this week 🙂

What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, to help connect writers on this writing journey. If you’d like to join us, check out the blogs each week, get to know some of the other writers taking part, and spread some writerly love! 

What I’m Reading

I just finished The Park Service by Ryan Winfield (read the review here). I am currently reading two ARCs for review from Netgalley–Altaica by Tracy M. Joyce, and Feuds by Avery Hastings. I am about 70% done with Altaica and am really liking it so far. It is one of the few YA epic fantasies I have read, but it really good so far. I will keep y’all posted 🙂

What I’m Writing

If you didn’t know already, I am participating in CampNaNoWriMo this year, my first NaNoWriMo event ever. So far, despite the ups and downs, it’s been a great experience! I have written over 10,000 words for Nightfire and have almost 33k total–over halfway there! (You can read my CampNaNo updates here).

What Inspires Me

Other media–books, TV, movies. Stories. I’ve been reading a lot lately, and have found all kinds of good words and phrases to use. I also love TV shows, and (gasp) sometimes appreciate them as much as books. They were written too! Right now I’m in love with Defiance on Syfy, which might sound super nerdy but it’s really a great show. Surprisingly deep characters, real, raw emotions, some awesome world-building, and a great story.

What Else I’m Up To

Well I just got back from our first family vacation in a couple years, and it was great! Minus it storming our second day, and me getting terribly sunburned (of course). It was awesome to spend a few days with family and boyfriend enjoying the sun, sand, and surf–and each other, of course. 🙂 I didn’t even mind the 10 hour drive!

I also started packing up boxes to move out for the first time in two weeks! I am excited, but also a bit nervous as I have never been on my own before and have no idea what to expect. I know it will be good though, and I will still be close to home. Ready to start this new chapter of my life 🙂

Have a good week!

Worthy of the Week

Hey all, so I have been playing around with this idea for some time, but haven’t figured out quite how to execute it. So, this may fail miserably, but I thought I’d try it out 🙂 I didn’t want this blog to be just about writing, but also life and inspiration, and I wanted to be able to share some of the things that matter.

I decided I’d try sharing a quick breakdown of some things I found during the week, in three categories: Inspiration, Issues, and Words of Wisdom. With so much plain crap on the internet these days, I’d like to take a moment to share some things that are worthy of sharing. And if you like this idea, feel free to join in! Just post your link in the comments, and I’ll stop by 🙂 So here it is, the very first Worthy of the Week!

Inspiration: I am constantly inspired by art, whether for writing or art of my own. I could easily post a hundred different photos for this, but here are three beautifully haunting pieces that stood out to me this week.

collage by Carme Magem,Saatchi Online Artist: Jaeyeol Han; Mixed Media, 2012, Painting "Hidden Violence, Notting hill, London 2011" #artundercover guru.....by M.A. Wakeley ......mixed media on canvas

Issues: You will find that I am mostly passionate about women’s issues (which arguably, are not issues for any gender, but humans as a whole). I will try to switch things up, but I wanted to start with something that really matters to me.

There is undeniable a gender gap in our own country (the US) but it is shocking to realize just how horribly women and girls are treated around the world. They are garbage–less than garbage, less than animals, less than dirt. I had always been aware of this, but it was on the edges of my awareness, distant and far away and it didn’t really affect me. Then I watched the documentary Half the Sky, based on the book of the same name, which highlights major women’s issues around the world, intelligently using celebrities to raise attention. If you haven’t seen it, it is free on Netflix, and you should go watch it. Right now. Seriously, it will change your life, whether you are a woman or not.

Girl Rising 39 (2)              Half the Sky movie poster (2012) poster MOV_da079446

Words of Wisdom: These words really struck me, as I have been trying to live more intentionally, and make the most of my good health. I find myself using my health as an excuse pretty often, instead of challenging and putting myself to go out there and do more. In addition to the Summer Bucket List I mentioned last week (which we’ve already crossed off four things, and had a blast!) I am planning trips this summer (camping in Hill Country, then Huntington Beach to visit cousins) as well as possible mission trips for next year (my heart is set on India).

So I leave you with these two nuggets, from none other than Rumi.

“Run from what’s comfortable. Forget Safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”

Rumi Said...

“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”