Thursday, October 30, 2014

If you have your health, you have everything

I know this for a fact. If you have your health, you have everything. My husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age thirty. We had been married for five years. We had a five-week old son. Good health is something we took for granted. We were young. You never imagine you will get a progressive disability. You grumble about paying your LTD contributions. You never imagine actually needing it. You feel invincible, like the world is your oyster. Then something happens. We've seen it with us. We've seen it with our friends and family. Cancer. Heart attack. Mental illness. Drug overdose. Life is short. Life is fleeting.

What doom and gloom to write about on Halloween. Forget about scary.  It's plain depressing to think about mortality. Especially your own. But in the end, we all face the same fate. Taking care of yourself (eating right, exercising) plays a major part in your continued good health. Unfortunately, whether you get cancer or high blood pressure isn't always in your control. You can do what you can, but you can't fight your genes. Both my parents have glasses, it was inevitable, no matter how many carrots I ate growing up, that I would eventually need glasses. Then there comes plain bad luck. If you've done everything right, have no family medical history, and still get sick.

The worst part is not knowing.

There is something wrong with me. About a month ago, I had several episodes of faintness and dizziness. I just didn't feel well. I went to my doctor and my blood pressure was very low and my cortisol was high. I figured I was stressed out. There's been a lot of stuff going on at my work over the last year. My doctor gave me a prescription and told me to eat two oxo cubes a day to increase my salt intake. I still don't feel well. I'm so tired I can barely get out of bed in the morning or keep my eyes open at the end of the day. I get a flushed face and my head feels like it's about to explode. My mouth, face, and hands feel numb. I'm worried there's something serious going on. I feel best lying down. Not exactly a permanent solution.

Good health is precious. If you are healthy, never take it for granted. Do what you can, while you can. Literally live life to the fullest. While I'm on a cliche roll... Eat dessert first.

Is it stress? Is it physiological? Psychological? Is it my job? I was fortunate to stay home with my kids for almost four years. My oldest son was in pre-school when I went back to work. My husband's health was stable and it seemed like a good time to go back to work. Ever since I started with this company, I was under stress. I re-entered the workforce in an administrative assistant position. I couldn't believe the tasks I was expected to do (wash dishes, make coffee) and how I was treated like a second-class citizen. I was yelled at publicly and overworked. When I had the opportunity to apply for another position, I took it. After nine months, I started a job in the finance department of the same company. My new co-worker developed an instant dislike for me. She bullied and harassed me. I told my manager several times and nothing changed. I worked for two years like this. I refused to give up and quit, to give her what she wanted. Now, tomorrow, is her last day in the department. She voluntarily decided to transfer. On Monday, she moves upstairs to work for a different department. I should be okay now, stress-less at the very least.

I feel like I'm burning from the inside out. It's hard to describe. But I'm a writer so I have to try. My forehead feels like it's about to burst, there is a tighteness and numbness around my mouth. I just want to lie down and hope the feeling goes away. I'm very worried, but I won't give up until I figure out what's wrong. If it's stress from my job causing these issues, my husband has encouraged me to quit. No amount of money is worth risking your health.

Life passes by too quickly. Why does it take a crisis for us to be grateful for what we have? To stop and smell the roses?




Thursday, October 23, 2014

I had an idea... But that was yesterday

Have you ever heard the saying 'use it or lose it'? What about 'strike while the iron is hot'?

I love using phrases like this... I have about a zillion of them! Definitely in my everyday speech. Sometimes in my writing. It's amazing how some old-fashioned sayings are still applicable in our modern world. Some are a little graphic like 'kill two birds with one stone' or 'more than one way to skin a cat', but people get the gist of what you're saying. It's a colorful way of communicating. Like giving a one-line lesson on life. Believe me, there's 'method to my madness' especially when it comes to writing.

Writing is about communicating. A way to express yourself in a way others can understand. Non-fiction should convey its message in a way that satisfies its purpose, whether it be a historical account, news, a biography, or an encyclopedia. Fiction should be somewhat believeable. Even good science-fiction is based on good science. I am a firm believer in using my imagination, but, in order to keep your reader's attention, you need to make them believe your story. Can your character fly? Then they might be more likely to have wings than fins. Make sense? It should to your reader.

Writing is about artistic expression. I like blogging because I write in a more casual manner than in my stories. I think of it as conversational writing. I think of something to say and I write it down. I don't over-think, over-plan. I just write. I liken it to when I belonged to a Toastmasters Club in university. One exercise was when you were handed a slip of paper with a topic on it and given two minutes to speak on it. Speaking about the first thing that popped into my mind was enjoyable for me. It was like an oral blog.

Writing is about sharing. Sharing stories, ideas, maybe even recipes or patterns. Blogs and other social media are the perfect medium for sharing. I use Twitter daily now. It's an amazing platform and a great place to share with people with like interests.

It all starts with an idea. Every book, story, peom, anything you can write down must be thought up first. I think of ideas all the time - for books, for blogs.  I jot them down as soon as I think them up. Otherwise the idea could be lost for good. Not all my ideas pan out, but as long as they keep coming, I'll keep writing them down. You never know when you'll strike gold. Or suffer a missed opportunity. Yesterday's idea could be tomorrow's novel. Keep dreaming. And keep writing those ideas down.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Guest post at Raven's Ramblings

http://ravenmcallan.blogspot.ca/2014/10/thumbs-up-on-saturday-with-guest-maya.html?m=1&zx=7db5c5b44accf0ec

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Editing and Other Things I Procrastinate From Doing

Why is editing so darn hard? You've written the book. It's the best you can make it. Or so you think... Then a critique partner or editor gets their hands on it.

Long pause for effect.

How could I have missed so many things on the first round? When I review my own work, I read what I think is there, what I meant to say, not necessarily what a reader will see. Plus everyone has different opinions on how to place words, how to describe actions, how to format thoughts or dream sequences. Editing follows basic writing rules, but it's also subjective depending on who is doing the reviewing.

This post's title was selected more for the humorous effect than actual truth. I received my last edits by email at the end of last week. I told my editor I would look at it over the weekend and get it back ASAP. Every night after the kids go to sleep, I work on it, I read my story and review the edits. Every night I fall asleep in my chair, laptop perched on my knees. It's not because my story is terribly boring or anything... Life is just too busy. By the time the work day is done and the kids are in bed, I am exhausted. And my day is far from over. My to-do list is a mile long and everyday it gets longer not shorter. I'm losing the battle on that one.

It comes down to priorites. My number one goal is to finish reviewing those edits and send them back to my editor. I will finish it. (Right after I write this.) Then, tomorrow, I will tackle my to-do list again. After a massage and an episode of Breaking Bad Season 5. It's all about balance, right?

How to edit effectively? What is the correct process? When I'm writing, I must admit, I do edit a little bit as I go. When I pick up my WIP, I re-read the last few paragraphs so I get a feel for where I left off and sometimes I make changes, mainly due to misspelled words written when I was half asleep... zzz... Because that happens. I try not to re-read from the start though. It's up there with running on a treadmill and wondering why you aren't propelling forward. The important thing is to get the first draft down before you start to lose direction. What doesn't work can be changed during the editing process.

Back to the original question. How to edit effectively? Write it down and then let it rest. Wait a week, a few weeks, before self-editing. Like I mentioned earlier, when I review my work, I see my intention more so than the actual words I used. Of course I know what meant - I wrote it! If you wait a little while before reviewing, the words won't be as recent in your memory and you'll be able to be more objective.

The next step in the process would be to select a trusted third party for review/edit. I am fortunate enough to belong to a writing group. My group offers more than editing support... They are an awesome source of advice and encouragement, something we all need at one time or another.

Once you incorporate their comments and suggestions (I often go back and forth a couple of times to get it just right), you're ready to start subbing.

Subbing (submitting your manuscript for publication) is a whole other topic... Maybe next week's blog??? Let's skip ahead to the point where your story has been accepted. Then the real work begins. The serious, hardcore editing process with the professionals. With my novella, I went through three intense rounds of editing before line and final edits.

Editing is a process. Every time you read your work, you will find something else to add or some other area to tweak. It's not finished until you see it in published print and, hopefully, you won't see anything else you'd like to change at that point. Editing is a crucial part of the whole writing process. Who cringes when 'John' suddenly becomes 'Joe' for a paragraph or when you find spelling errors or other typos? An error like that can ruin the reading experience. So, do the hard work up front, invest the time to edit properly, and you will reap the rewards later.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Confidence and Other Four Letter Words

Confidence is a four-letter word. Not literally, of course.

 

I am not a confident person. When faced with unfamiliar scenarios and conflict, I cower behind a facade. I sing my confidence song (from either ‘The Sound of Music’ or The King and I’) and I pretend that my stomach is not twisting around inside my body, threatening evacuation. Over my lifetime, what little confidence I had was shaken by multiple moves and cruel peers. I have never been part of the in-crowd. I have never tried to be popular or have a ton of “friends”, I have always danced to the tune of my own drum. I consoled myself with the fact that eventually I would be accepted for who I am. I’m fine with who I am, I like who I am. But I am not confident. Over the last two years, especially, I have been dealt a serious blow to my confidence in my professional capabilities due to a prolonged, difficult work situation.

 

When I look into a mirror, I don’t see a true image. I see the consorted view of my mind. Like a thin person only seeing weight and an attractive person only seeing ugliness. I don’t want my boys to feel this way. I want them to view themselves the way they truly are. Every night I say an affirmation with them, detailing a few of the ways they are good and important. I want them to believe these things (after all they are true) and I want them to have healthy self-esteem and self-confidence. Unlike their mother.

 

Can I be truly comfortable with myself and lack confidence? I tend to second-guess myself. At my day job, I constantly need direction and review. Maybe I’m in the wrong line of work? Maybe there is something out there where I would be completely confident?


Even when writing I have some doubts about my ability. But I find it so relaxing and liberating that I keep on trying. I ignore the voice in my head that says my story is ridiculous and I'm just wasting my time. I feel free when the words are pouring out of my mind onto the screen. The same feeling I get when I ice skate, play the piano or sing. The weight of the world slips off my shoulders for a fleeting moment in time.

 

The circumstances of the past influence the path of the future. At my current job, I have been inadequately trained and constantly criticised. I've been there for two years. I am finally getting some more training after two years of requests. Now I wonder if I can do the job? What is my path forward? Am I doing the job I'm meant to do? At thirty-four, I'm still asking myself what I should be when I grow up.


There's no guarantee in life. No sure fire way to select the right path. In fact, we often have to choose the wrong path before we find our way. You simply have to pick and forge ahead. And sometimes you have to fake your confidence and convince yourself to believe you can do it!

 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t -- you're right.”

Henry Ford.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rookie Mistake

I lost my 33k WIP last night... I literally can see the file, but when I try to open it I get a 'you do not have permission to access this file'. How could this happen? I thought it was safe inside my iPad... I had even emailed myself a backup copy... Then I realized the document had been too slow to open so instead of saving my book to my PC hard drive, I deleted the email.

I've tried every method known to writer-kind... First, denial. I repeatedly tried to open the file. Then I shut down the iPad. I  updated the iOS. I restarted again. I updated the app. Nothing. Okay, I get it now. The file is gone.

Second, I googled for help. There is pretty much nothing on Polaris Office. I'm not blaming the product. I have the free version and just learned tonight that there is a version you can buy and, in that version, you can upload to Dropbox. That would've been nice to know yesterday.

Third, I looked on my PC for the last time I'd saved it. It had been a while... 977 words... Only missing 32k. I'm not crying yet. Then I looked in my deleted email. I even googled how to recover deleted email. Nothing. Nada. Nil. I'm out of options.

Surprisingly I'm not crying yet. I'm still at the 'how could I be so stupid' kicking myself in the butt mode. I mean, I know better. I do. How many times has this happened to someone I know? I feel bad for them, but everyone knows you have to back up.

I'm already stressed to the max from work. My blood pressure is all wacky. I'm eating oxo cubes to keep my pressure up! And now I lose two months of hard work. It's disheartening, it really is. Now, it's setting in and I feel my eyes filling with tears.

Writing is more than a hobby for me. It's my outlet, the way I express myself. I poured everything I had into this story and it's been ripped away from me. My characters were a part of me and I never even had a chance to say goodbye.

I don't know if I can rewrite it. The flow was so good before, so natural. I don't know if I'd be able to recapture it. At the same time, I want to finish what I've started.

So, with trepidation in my heart, I select the file name one more time. The downloading box has come up. Five minutes pass, then ten. Still at 0%. Okay, no problem, it's a big file. Fifteen minutes, then twenty. 0%. I'm afraid to touch it. Should I leave it going all night? Or take a chance, cancel and try again?

I don't dare touch it. If this works, I promise to backup every day. I'll be a better person, give more to charity, help the environment, save the rainforest, donate blood... Anything! Just please... Come on 1%... I need the hope. Small blessings... The downloading box is still up at least.

How long do I wait? How long can I stay up before I need to sleep? Staring at the 0%, hoping for a miracle. Knowing I don't deserve one. It was my own laziness and arrogance that led to this catastrophe.

Everyone makes mistakes. Whether you use an eraser, whiteout or the backspace key, most writing oops' can be corrected. With the exception of a lost - unbacked up - file. This is the last thing I needed to 
happen, but I have learned my lesson.

I share my sad story, not for pity, but as a reminder for all to backup electronic documents. I don't want this to be you next time. Still 0%.