Farewell For Now, Not Forever

It seems like everyone has something difficult they’re going through right now, even if it’s “just” the pandemic. Everyone has something that’s happened or happening and it’s going on at the absolute wrong time. And we’re not immune here at the Scribes.

Even just living through this time is a drain on the creativity, inspiration, and life energy.

Each week we’ve striven to bring you helpful, inspiring, and new content to help you on your writing journey or creative outlets. But for the last few months that’s become harder and harder on all of us. That, coupled with some personal issues a few of us are going through right now, has finally come to a head for us.

So, for now, we’re taking a break from the blog. I was dreading this for a while, feeling it coming, hoping the tides would change in our favor, but it’s just not. This isn’t forever, at least, we don’t think it is, but it is for now.

We plan to regroup at the new year and see where everyone’s headspace is and if we feel better and ready to bring you renewed content and, if we do, we’ll be back!

Thank you all for reading with us over the years, every like and comment and share has been a gold star on our days and I’m sad to see it end. But remember, you can find each and every one of us on your virtual bookshelves if you miss us and want to show your support.

Music Makes Me Write

We’ve all talked in the past about what kind of writing rituals we have, ones that we just enjoy to give ambiance to the experience and others that we have trained ourselves to use to make writing easier.

For me, I have my preference of when and where to write (mornings, in my office), but if I have to make adjustments to that (my office gets unbearably hot in the summer), I can adapt and write at different locations and times if I need to get my words in.

But my trained ritual is music. For every book, I take time to curate the start of a playlist–a soundtrack–for the book. I do try to get at least forty minutes of a playlist before I start so that it doesn’t start repeating on me too soon. But repeating is part of the magic of the right playlist too. Like the chanting refrain of a spell, hearing the same key songs again and again will help me get the story on the page.

If you get the music just right, it will conjure the characters and/or location of the book in you mind when you hear specific songs even outside of writing. Sometimes I even put one song on repeat for an hour because it has the magical words that are working when no others are.

I like to keep building on a list if a book is a series, so I can hear the different voices of the different characters in the cast. I also like to throw in some instrumental tracks to help when I’m building tension in different parts of the book.

I managed to get my Ash and Ruin Soundtrack up to two hours and forty-five minutes.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4TUKR4rCv8Av2k2rRqhxkd?si=Pj9bw5frSJmOi-s6WPE1aA

I can open that and am instantly transported back to my post-apocalyptic world teeming with black-cloaked monsters.

Surprisingly, my Wytchcraft playlist is shorter than my A&R soundtrack. I say surprising because that series is much longer, but that world is much smaller in a way as it’s not a journey story like A&R. And, while there is a cast of characters even bigger in this series, it really is mostly about my MC, Mattie, so the music is mostly for her and to be in her head.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3epr0YSBEjn7ccUvQgOfTA?si=CUIvy8fZQAq1BSUfNoX5hQ

I have shared that I also have a pen name, Leila Bryce Sin, and under that name I write completely different stories (coughcoughveryadultthemescoughcough). So I definitely make sure that music is different, but one theme you’ll find throughout my playlist is strong female voices. I love a good power ballad sung by a woman that I want to be for five minutes. It’s a special kind of storytelling and I fucking love it.

My Brimstone War Trilogy was set in Las Vegas so it needed music to evoke that special city for me and it featured a war between heaven and hell, so it needed a lot of angry music. It’s quite the hodgepodge, I know, but it worked for me through three intense books.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/142r4gSfvwqPwS0z7jeVGm?si=KxYY45UeSjWnloq64F2oRA

Now, I have two playlists that aren’t tied to any one book; they’re soundtracks I can go to no matter what book I’m writing and it’ll help unlock a door in my mind like no other playlist can. Sometimes you  just need intense emotions and music, pushing you forward as your characters run for their lives or fight to the death. Or the right creeping melody to help you curl your spine and sink into  the cushions, hoping to drag  your reader into the tense, scary darkness  you’re weaving.

Soundtracks: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5F26qJIXsZ87hIx2q62shz?si=ruUaORORRnKMJfjU6VwC2A

Instrumental: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/24uUYnObN6uUBZR4suO8Ig?si=EiL6GDS8Qmy6UX_RnrcoYA

You probably notice there are the same artists on the different lists, even some of the same songs, and that’s because those artists really speak to me. I do tend to write slightly damaged, a little bit angry women as my main characters, so a lot of the same songs work for all of them. Or for me. Whatever. The Pretty Reckless, Kaleo, Ellie Goulding, Halsey, and Florence and the Machine are some of my touchstones no matter what I’m writing. Finding those voices for yourself could really help you if you find yourself stuck in getting through tough scenes.

Personally I love to find new music. It’s something I’ve always loved since I started figuring out what music I like. I can spend whole days getting that playlist started before I put fingers to keys, creating the vibe and ambiance I want to portray in a story. Ritual really is the only word for it. So, I hope sharing some of these lists with you, helps you find new sounds and voices that help you with writing.

(P.S. I did have this all set up super cool where you could see the playlist in the post but for whatever reason, WordPress is being a complete butt. So if you can’t see the playlists, I’ve included links. Not nearly as cool, but what are you gonna do?)

I Have An Idea

If you’ve been following along with my writing saga for the past year, you know I’ve been struggling to figure out a new book idea or even just to get inspired to start writing again after writing so much so fast for so long.

I’m a big believer in refilling your well and rewarding yourself for milestones so it doesn’t just feel like an endless trudge through the words, from one book to the next. It’s really hard to be a writer, especially a self-published writer, because you really are the only thing that keeps you go. Yes, if you have a contract with a publishing company, you have agreements to meet, but sometimes that’s not enough to inspire someone.

For me, I’ve been struggling to find that spark again. I started working on a new book last NaNo, and I won NaNo with it, but that’s been it. I’ve only gotten to the 50k word mark. I had to walk away from it and when I came back, I had to re-read the whole thing and make some notes, but no new words have happened. And the weird thing is, I like this book idea. But I do think, maybe I have too much going on in the book? I may be trying to make a salad out of it and I need to pull back. I dunno. But, like I said, I like the book, but I haven’t been able to figure out why I can’t finish it.

So I took a break. I’ve blogged about this. And, of course, the end of the world happened and, while that should have given me plenty of time to write, being inspired when you’re stressed the fuck out, isn’t easy. So I haven’t finish it.

And every time I think things are getting back to normal and maybe I can start working again, things in our state change and I’m back to no spare bandwidth to write.

But then, last week, I got an idea.

A new character walked into my mind and glared at me.

I don’t know her name yet. But I do know what she is. I do know what she is doing. I do know she’s interesting.

And I want to write her story.

The idea is super new and fragile right now. I have no idea what the point of the book is, other than following this character around and writing down what she’s doing, but it has sparked something inside of me. I haven’t tried to figure out her name yet. I think I actually already have her playlist built (maybe she’s been forming for a while). I don’t know what the Big Bad is, or if she’s the Big Bad (!). But I know that the idea is really cool and different than what I’ve done so far.

So, what is the point of this post? Maybe it’s to inspire you if you’ve been beating your head against a block wall because you haven’t been able to write or even think of an idea to write about. Maybe it’s to remind me that, when I thought maybe I’d run out of ideas, there is still some water in the well to draw from. I don’t know. But I’m excited.

This idea is both dark and shiny. Like a glittering, black diamond. It’s precious and formed over a long time and under great pressure and I’m clutching it close and going over every pane trying to figure it out as it mesmerizes me.

But I’m not going to rush it. I know, based on my past experiences, I can’t go too slow–once I have an idea, I need to keep up with the urgency to tell the story or I’ll lose it–but I’m not going to kill myself trying to get the outline written in a few days and then start pumping out thousands of words a day. I’m going to sit with this idea until I know where it’s going, what’s at the climax of the story, then I’m going to start working on it.

I don’t know if that means I’ll start writing soon or sometime next month. But if you’re struggling, I’m here to tell you to breathe and let the ideas come to you when they’re ready. Or when you’re ready. I was really trying to force it and it just wasn’t working. That’s how I got to my first series, now that I think about it. I was trying for a long time to force one story out of me, but I couldn’t get it to take off. When I finally let it go, I was able to write almost 10k words of my first book in one sitting. No, I don’t recommend doing that. But it was one of my first self-lessons in writing and I’ve clearly forgotten that.

The right idea will come to you if you let.

It is so hard to let go of stories we’ve started. Trunk novels hurt too (I’ve got one of those during this time too). Time not writing sucks. But sometimes we gotta go through all of this to finally be able to say, “I have an idea.”

New Release: Hate Jacket by M. Andrew Patterson

Hello my darlings, I hope you’re all staying safe, wearing your masks, and washing your hands. Please don’t end up an infamous internet sensation because you won’t use curbside service or wear a mask. But, if you’re here, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you. Moving on!

So, this week, we’re lending our blog to help boost the voice of a friend who has their debut novel coming out! So exciting!

We’ve got an awesome cover reveal, blurb, AND pre-order links to share with you today. Is it tacky to say the cover is awesome if I helped create it? Well, if it is, then I’m tacky af.

I gotta say, I’ve had quite the creative block for some time now and when I Kool-Aid-Man’d my way into helping Drew with his cover (no, he didn’t ask, yes, I just said “HEY LOOKIT I MAKE THINGS! DO YOU LIKE IT?”) it really shook something loose inside of me. I actually enjoyed making something again. So as much as I wanted to help a debut author, because goodness knows I’ve been there, I am grateful I got to do this for myself too.

I remember Lyra once talking about getting past a creative block by doing something other than your normal art and you know? I think she’s on to something!

Now, without further ado, I give you, Hate Jacket by M. Andrew Patterson!

Coming August 11, 2020 — Pre-orders available now!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Julius Monroe hates his life. He hides the truth of his father’s abuse with careful lies and a kick-ass jacket that keeps everyone at bay. But Julius’ careful facade crumbles after a run-in with the school administration puts him on a collision course with his best friend’s sister and her jealous boyfriend.

But escaping the school bully and his father’s abuse isn’t his only worry. The worst monster is Lela, whose manipulations threaten to expose every secret that Julius is so desperate to hide.

When his worlds collide, Julius must make a choice. Live with the monsters he knows, or take a chance on being free.

About the Author

Andrew didn’t realize he wanted to be an author until he wrote his first words on his step-father’s Apple IIe. Fast forward 30 years and that story still isn’t finished. He keeps claiming he’ll write it…just after he finishes the four hundred other ones in his head.

Born in California, on a now decommissioned army base, Andrew then spent the next four years in Germany before moving to Kansas where he has been ever since. Coming from a long line of librarians, Andrew didn’t expect to continue the family trend. Instead, he received his bachelor’s in Music Theory from the University of Kansas in 1997. It was during that time that he ended up working in the university library as a student. He found he liked being around the old books and has been hanging around dusty old tomes for the entirety of his adult life.

After 20 years, he decided that he wasn’t leaving the world of libraries and received his Masters in Library Science from Emporia State University in 2015. But life changes and Andrew took a leap into the real world and now works as a software developer for a digital marketing firm.

When he’s not working or writing, Andrew is an avid gamer, reader, and occasional maker. He currently lives in Olathe, KS with his wife, their combined six children, and a tortoiseshell cat named Lili. She’s a princess.

Black Lives Matter and So Do Their Books

Black Lives Matter.

Every single one of us here at the Scribes’ blog thinks so. And if you plan to come at us with that all lives matter bullshit, you can unfollow right now. Have a nice life, but we’re not here for that. All lives don’t matter until Black Lives Matter. Full stop.

Now, to something a little more cheery. It is unfortunate that it takes hate and violence for that message to be screamed into the universe. And, while it is incredibly important for us to look at the ugliness of humanity, to watch and bear witness to the pain and destruction we cause others, we also need to uplift the good. Don’t look away when a systematically racist society oppresses and kills Black people, but let’s also put value on their contributions to society. Let’s amplify their beauty and art. Let’s hear their voices, not just crying out, but singing.

So, with that in mind, I have a few new release recommendations for you all. If you follow my writing you know I love writing YA and Fantasy and I hope to write an Epic, or Epic-adjacent book sooner rather than later. So all three of these books are right up my alley and they all released last Tuesday right in the middle of the upheaval of the BLM anti-police brutality protests. Which is not great timing. People are rightfully distracted and may not have been looking for entertainment. But, like I said, we need to celebrate the good even when recognizing the bad. So check these books out! And bask in the cover envy with me.

And, if you’re like me, you probably have some Audible credits just sitting around, racking up, not sure what to spend them on. Well, guess what? They are all on Audible!

Maybe it’s going to be okay

It’s okay to not be okay. I think we’ve all seen that commercial lately. We’ve all heard it a lot lately. Maybe it makes you feel better, maybe it doesn’t. But the fact remains, it is okay to not be okay. And it is okay to not be writing right now.

I’m saying that for myself as much as I’m saying it for you.

Last NaNo I started working on a new book and I won NaNo with it, but that’s about it. It’s still sitting around 50k words, waiting for me. And that bitch will wait. I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to finish it or not, mostly because I’m not sure I actually like the direction I took it, but also because focusing on writing has been so difficult.

When I finished NaNo, I ended up taking some time off for the holidays, because, the holidays. But then the beginning of the year was very financially stressful for us so I just couldn’t focus. Then, the day after Valentine’s Day, we started working on a very labor-intensive landscape project, which took nearly a whole month for us to finish. We worked on it literally every day, even if it was just for a couple of hours after clients and all day each day of each weekend. So there was no way I was able to actually write because I was so physically exhausted I couldn’t even watch TV, let alone decipher what my characters were up to.

We finished working on that project on March 9th, muscles aching, bone weary, overly tired. Yep, ten days before our state shut down. So we had been, inadvertently, self-isolating except for going to Lowes to get supplies for a good 30 days before the stay at home orders went into effect.

At least we finally have a nice place to sit outside in our own little quarantine bubble, right?

Sure, but that didn’t help the panic attacks that happened when I realized what the shut down meant for us, being self-employed who saw clients, face-to-face on the daily.

Do you think I could even think about writing?

I mean. I did think about it. With extreme guilt that I hadn’t written since NaNo and now all those excuses of why I couldn’t muster the words seemed flimsy and weak.

I know, people are talking about all the work they were going to get done during the quarantine but, let me tell you, anyone who can be productive during times of trauma, they are special. Because this is a trauma that we’re going through and not everyone processes the same way.

In high school and college, I was the queen of productivity during hard times. Give me a good, long, dark depressive state and I would churn out some of the best poetry of my life. Give me a stress and anger and a looming deadline and I’d write three A-quality final essays in one night. But now?

No.

I don’t know if it’s maturity or just exhaustion that comes with age or if I didn’t have the proper anxiety that I have now, but in times of stress and anger, I do not produce well.  So I haven’t been. And you know what, maybe it’s okay, but it also sucks.

I miss writing. I was so damn burned out because I’d written too much too fast that I had to take time off, but now all the time and the reasons and the issues feel like dominoes that have no end. I miss writing. I miss weaving together characters and their adventures. I want to get back to it. June Summer Camp NaNo is coming up and, by now—before—I would have already been working on a outline to get myself ready to dive in. And maybe I can, still. Maybe I can actually use Summer Camp to help me finish that story I started, even if it’s just going to be a trunk novel. Maybe, if I finish it, I can move on and work on something else. Something that makes me excited again.

See? It’s okay not to be okay because maybe just talking about it, blogging about, journaling about it, you’ll come out the other side feeling a little bit better about where you are. I’m looking sideways at my WIP and wondering if I can’t hear the characters whispering now that I’ve gotten this out of my system.

Covid Confinement Story Time — Part 2

Hello my friends. Last time we talked it was April 2, 2020 and we were fresh into the lock down–at least compared to where we are today. I don’t know about you, but twenty odd days later and this is starting to feel a little more normal for me.

Not a lot has changed, except just getting use to things, I suppose. Still go to the store all masked-up, still get excited to find things that I used to take for granted. Still debating about saving as many pennies as we can versus getting take-out from our favorite restaurants. Still watching all the shows, and yet, some how not. Still not sleeping as well as I should be, but the nightmares aren’t as often as they used to be. Still vacillating between rolling my eyes at thew news and screaming at the TV–or just shutting it off and taking it in small doses through articles online.

So I hope you too are finding a new rhythm in this apocalypse. I realize it’s about time for me to go back to the store to replenish our food and I’m not exactly excited to do that. I sort of understand the bulk-buyers as much as I sneer at them. You don’t want to have to keep going back but you don’t want to be an asshole either.

Anyway. Last we talked I’d told you I was reading chapters of my apocalyptic book, WORLD OF ASH, and I still am. We’re on target to finish next Thursday so you have time to catch up and join in. I’m going to link the chapters below and the ways you can watch and listen.

Chapter 1 Facebook

Chapter 2 & 3 Facebook

Chapter 4 & 5 Facebook

Chapter 6 Facebook

Chapter 7 & 8 Facebook

Chapter 7 Instagram

Chapter 8 Instagram

Chapter 9 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 10 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 11 Facebook || Instagram part 1 || Instagram part 2

Chapter 12 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 13 Facebook || Instagram part 1 || Instagram part 2

Chapter 14 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 15 Facebook || Instagram Part 1 || Instagram Part 2

Chapter 16 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 17 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 18 Facebook || Instagram Part 1 || Instagram Part 2

Chapter 19 Facebook || Instagram Part 1 || Instagram Part 2

Chapter 20 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 21 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 22 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 23 Facebook || Instagram Part 1 || Instagram Part 2

Chapter 24 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 25 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 26 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 27 Facebook || Instagram Part 1 || Instagram Part 2

Chapter 28 Facebook || Instagram

Covid Confinement Story Time

These are weird and terrible times. There’s no reason to sugar coat it. As I type this I’m also trying to balance our bills against our bank account, like so many of you probably are. And it is insanely hard to focus right now, right?

Like, I see people making jokes about being so bored and I really hope they’re just joking. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I wish I were bored right now. I’m not bored; I’m stressed the fuck out. And I’m pretty lucky–my husband and I have been working from home for years, so we haven’t learned weird new things about each other; we have family and friends who have reached out to offer support if we need it; our bills are going to be covered this month. Realatively speaking, we’re lucky. But, I still am so damn stressed out.

I have not slept solidly through the night since a week before Newsome shut us all down. Last night I woke up at least 3 times, once because I was sleeping so strangely that I knew I was hurting my neck (and I’m paying for it now) and another time (just 1 hour before my alarm) because I dreamed we had slept through 2 virtual meetings and was absolutely freaking out in the dream.

Ugh. Exhausting. How can we be more exhausted now that we’re all at home? I really hope, when we’re on the other side of this, as a whole society, we finally come to terms with the idea that there are better ways for us do to this whole society thing.

But this isn’t a political post. This is a post about not being able to focus. The irony is not lost on me. I know so many people thought they’d get so many things done with this so-called gift of time. Reading, writing. home projects, etc. etc. Not happening right? So I thought I’d help but reading to you.

I started reading chapters of my post-apocalyptic book, WORLD OF ASH. Sometimes reading or watching the genre you’re going to through is cathartic, right? Bad break up? Sad, angsty songs and drama movies. Super, duper sappy in love? Love ballads and romantic comedies. Apocalyptic plauge keeping you locked up at home? Post-apocalyptic lit and zombie movies, obvi.

So, if you’d like to enjoy my Covid confinement story time, you can catch up! The first few chapters are just on FB, but then I started using IGTV and you can choose which you’d rather watch/listen to! As of this writing, I’ve read 13 chapters. I’m reading a chapter a day Monday-Friday if you’re so inclined to join in.

Chapter 1 Facebook

Chapter 2 & 3 Facebook

Chapter 4 & 5 Facebook

Chapter 6 Facebook

Chapter 7 & 8 Facebook

Chapter 7 Instagram

Chapter 8 Instagram

Chapter 9 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 10 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 11 Facebook || Instagram part 1 || Instagram part 2

Chapter 12 Facebook || Instagram

Chapter 13 Facebook || Instagram part 1 || Instagram part 2

Creating Outside of Writing

We maintain this blog to talk about the art and craft and work of writing. You, presumably, come here to read about that. But today I’m going to talk to you about when you’re not writing.

A lot of time, no matter how far you may be into your writing career, we often feel guilty when we take time off of writing. And no matter how often we tell each other that taking time off is not only okay, it’s necessary, we struggle to take that to heart when it applies to us. I can tell my writing friends they deserve time off, that we all need to decompress, go get yourself a little water for that well, but when I’m taking time off I have to keep saying, “It’s okay. You deserve this.”

But I don’t always feel like that’s true.

It is true. It’s as true for me as it is for you. But my guilt doesn’t care about true and fairness.

So, if you struggle with that as much as I do, when you do take time off from writing, make it worth it. Have it fill your well. Your well is that source of creativity inside of you–your well of inspiration. Think of it as a literal well from which you drink, but it doesn’t have a natural source refilling it–you have to refill it from time to time.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have been struggling to work on my new project and I finally accepted the fact that I needed to step away from it and reconsider what I’m going to do. But I needed to do something creative to fill the space not writing has left.

So, over the last 3-4 weeks, I’ve been working with my hands. My husband and I have been doing a major (for us) landscaping project. We have limited outdoor space and we’ve been trying over the years to make it into something that we can really enjoy but, because of the odd placement, the way the sun hits it, a bunch of other factors, everything we’ve tried has eventually failed. It’s succumbed to poor planning, weeds, the drought, etc.

We decided this time we were going to do it right. I knew the reason we hadn’t done it “right” before was because it was going to be so hard. Like, physically hard. Hard, back breaking work. And I was right; it has been painfully hard.

We’ve torn down the termite damaged wooden structure. Shoveled at least a dozen wheel-barrels full of dirt. Dug out massive, hidden chunks of cement. Built garden boxes. Dug a 3.5 foot post hole and cemented a new post in. Spent long hours into last Saturday night laying out 35 sixty pound pavers. And we’re still not done. The good news is, we’re done with the heavy labor. The stuff that made my back and hands ache for days, it’s all done. We’re down to small things, like making it pretty, and building a bench to finish it. Not easy, necessarily, but not 35 sixty pound pavers either.

I made it a point to pull equal weight to my husband–not leaving all the hard, heavy things for him to do. Yes, he definitely lifted more pavers than I did, but I made sure I shoveled more dirt than he did. I wanted this to be an even division of labor. When I sit out there with a cup of coffee and my outline, I want to feel the same amount of accomplishment as he will.

And, Sunday morning, when we woke up and walked outside to get a good look at what we’d finished the night before in the light of day, I finally felt relief. We’d done something and we could actually see the progress finally. It was the same feeling I get when I get hit the 3/4 mark in a manuscript. It’s not quite done, but damn, I have made it through the difficult parts and the end is in sight. And, if I focus, I know I can finish the last couple of chapters fast and furiously.

We did hit a roadblock and an idea we had to make it pretty completely crashed and burned. And I was really upset about it. It wasn’t an expensive letdown but it was something we’d put a lot of time into and it just didn’t workout and all I could think about was all that time and energy wasted. But that’s something we face in writing all the time. Sometimes you write a whole book only to realize at the end, that book isn’t going to be published. It wasn’t right or good or something. But we have to put it in a drawer and let it go and start something new. So I let that frustration go, tossed the ruined materials and marched back down to the hardware store today and got new supplies. And you know what? This is going to be 100% better than that scrapped idea and now I know that. In all actuality, I couldn’t have known our first idea wasn’t going to work until we tried it. Which, again, is a lot like figuring out a book. All you can do is try and fail and try again until you figure it out and get it right.

I don’t know for sure, but something in my gut is telling me, when this project is done, I might be able to get back to the book. I’ve been thinking about it more and more and with less dread and disappointment. Maybe doing something creative and difficult that wasn’t writing was just the thing I needed to unblock my water source. Maybe my well is filling back up. Or maybe I needed to be reminded that I can create things from scratch so I can do it again.

So if you’re stuck, maybe do something else with your creativity. Create something else, watch it form from your hands, and remember you’re an amazing artist who deserves time away from the pages and keys and voices. Quell that guilt.

(And yes, I have been taking progress pictures, I just haven’t posted them. I want the whole thing done before I post anything so you really get the full effect of the transformation.)

Writing with Anxiety

It has taken me over twenty five hours to finally write this post. The beginning of 2020 has been quite stressful for my household, especially after we thought this month, this new year, was going to be the start of a better year. We were confident that we were going to start this year feeling good, more secure, like the ground under our feet was going to stop shifting. Turns out, we were wrong. I think everything is going to be okay, but this past week has been particularly hard for us. Lots of surprises we weren’t prepared for and we had to make some difficult adjustments to make things work. Plans had to change. Things aren’t starting off how we wanted.

So yesterday, when I sat down to write this post, things hadn’t yet resolved themselves and I was actually shaking with anxiety. My body felt like I was vibrating. I was sitting through my own personal earthquake and the ground wouldn’t settle.

Monday I’d started the day off feeling pretty secure. Those surprises hadn’t hit yet. So I was feeling pretty good about getting back to the novel I’d started during NaNo. I’d taken the holidays off and given myself time to think about the book and where it was going. I’d written to the end of the outline I’d had done and knew I couldn’t move forward until I finished the outline or, at least, gotten a few more chapters outlined. I finished reading the first 50k words and felt a lot better about how the book was shaping up, realizing it wasn’t as meandering and stretched out as I thought. Tuesdays morning I outlined two chapters.

I know two chapters doesn’t sound like a lot, but I outline in long form, by hand.

See? That takes a toll on my hands nowadays. I don’t know how I used to outline five chapters in a day without my hand killing me. But anyway. I was really happy with my new progress. I thought, hell, if I can outline two chapters a day, in five days I’ll have ten chapters ready to write!

Then new surprises exploded in our email and what we thought was going to be a calm month turned into panic and uncertainty. My stomach knotted up and I couldn’t focus on work anymore. I’d have to be okay with those two chapters while I tried to deal with new issues. My anxiety was so bad that I couldn’t really focus on anything. I couldn’t calm down. I looked calm. Oh, I can look calm like the best of them. But inside? My heart is palpating. My breath isn’t smooth. My arms feel like they’re shaking. It’s like I’m really fucking cold and can’t stop shivering. But you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I can go through the motions like a champ.

I knew things wouldn’t be settled until late morning Wednesday. And, until that happened, my anxiety brain would not calm down. Anxiety is like having nervous cat living inside you. You can try to calm it, give it warmth, sustenance, a place to curl up and relax, but any small movement, any unfamiliar noise, and you set it off and its claws are in the curtains and it is spitting and hissing without warning.

I had work to do though, work I couldn’t ignore. I had a client in the morning and I needed to get this post written. Having someone face-to-face was helpful because I had to deal with them and couldn’t dwell, waiting for news that the ground wasn’t moving anymore. But as soon as they were gone, I was left in the quiet and that cat was shaking and growling low.

Write my post. That’ll help. But no. I sat at my desk and stared, my arms still trembling and feeling like I was sitting in a freezer. Just waiting for a phone call that would tell me if things were gonna be semi okay and not just all out terrible. We were hoping the month was going to be good and now I was praying for semi okay.

I couldn’t write my post. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I actually wanted to post about NaNo and what to do now, but I couldn’t think of what I wanted to say. I looked at my outline and wanted to get the next chapter done. I couldn’t. The characters couldn’t be heard over the growling cat. I was stuck in an anxiety trap. My mind wasn’t racing like it will when I try to go to sleep. I wasn’t thinking of all the disastrous things that could and might happen—though any time something showed up in my email I assumed the worst. I wasn’t crying or balled into a corner. I was just sitting here, right where I am now, and trembling. Waiting.

Anxiety is a monster that can do many things. It can steal your energy. It can steal your happiness. It can make you angry or sad or panicked. Anxiety demands attention like a bank robber with a gun. And even if your rational brain is telling you things are going to be okay and you work things out in your head, anxiety can hold on, claws sunk so deep there’s no pulling them out until the cat is ready to retract.

But now, here I am, nearly 1000 words into this post, and no longer shaking. Things are different than what I hoped and expected in the beginning of the month, but we’re semi okay and I can suddenly move my fingers on the keys and think about this post. And my outline is waiting for me and my characters are still there, ready when I am.

I used to be a write every day kind of person, only taking one or two days off on the weekends. I was terrified of losing momentum once I started writing a book. If I took too much time off, I was scared I’d struggle to start again. And you know what? I was right. It is very, very hard to start back up. And shit like this week happens that totally derails me and I think, if only I’d been working I’d be further along than where I am and wouldn’t feel so shitty about being derailed. But it’s okay. The words will always be there when you’re ready and able to come back. It took me a long, long time to reconcile that in my head. The write like you’re afraid you’ll die before you finish served me really well these last few years, but now, things have changed and so have I. My anxiety is actually a lot worse than it used to be and I’m having to always learn how to listen to it, deal with it, and adjust for it.

If you need the break because you don’t have a choice because that cat’s claws are sunk so deep you’ll just shred yourself trying to remove them, just wait. Let the cat calm down and retract the claws. Your characters, your words, your abilities will still be there when you come back. Not everyone can work in chaos and despair, not everyone’s art flourishes in the dark, and that’s okay. Wait for the sun.

And, if you suffer from anxiety, and reading this post triggered you, let me leave with you a picture of adorable sleeping pups, using the same pillow to try to calm you back down. I highly recommend a cuddly pet if you have anxiety, btw.