A leap of faith

I am a total procrastinator. I can find a TON of things to do before those things I’m supposed to do. There’s a reason it took me three years to finish my dissertation (well, procrastination and an evil committee chair). But, you get my point. I like fiction writing, but now I’m finding that I’m engaging in the same procrastination behaviors. And, I think I’ve figured out why (so far, it’s not the cat keeping me pinned…that should be helping). I think it’s because moving to writing full time is a freaking huge leap. A leap of faith. And, those are extremely difficult to make. So, I make the excuse that I have to make sure none of my students have turned something in within the last five minutes, or that I need to check the department’s Facebook page just to make sure that announcement got posted…and then I spend an hour wandering around FB.

So, why do I do this? Again, this gigantic, scary, life-altering leap of faith. If I actually complete my current short story, that means I have to submit it. And, strangers will read it. And some of them won’t like it. And, and, and…. It’s not that I haven’t published stuff before. I have. But that was research stuff. Stuff that could be backed up, supported etc. Not stuff that was just straight out of my imagination. Not things that other people might find weird, or uninteresting (OK, so research is only interesting to a small pool of people, but that’s the pool I was writing to). I know the pool I’m writing to now, and it’s much, much bigger.

So, here I am with a cat trying to pin me to the sofa, writing this blog, and avoiding working on the short story and on Book #2 in the series. I even went for a walk this morning which always makes me feel better. Luckily for my procrastination proclivities, somebody just went down to the basement and put in a load of laundry. That means, I can’t use laundry as an excuse to not write. At least not now. Guess I’ll just have to write. I will admit that writing this does help get me in the right mindset for writing.

The semester is effectively over. The papers for my largest class are not due until Wednesday night at midnight. I’m already planning on going in to the office on Thursday to take care of grading those and hopefully getting the senior research projects taken care of as well. Grades are due next Tuesday, so I’ll turn those in Monday evening (cuts down on the constant whinging and grubbing for better grades). Thus, I have no excuse for not writing (didn’t I say that already?) Plus, it’s raining. Stay in and write.

OK, I’m off to write. I really am going to do this. I keep telling myself I’m taking this life-changing direction. That I’m leaving academia. That I’m going to write for a living. So, I’d better actually take that leap of faith.

Here I go!

Feeling thankful

Yeah, I know. Yet another post about being thankful. They do crop up this time of year. But, I’m taking it a little differently this year (at least I think I am). For over a year now, at the end of the day, I’ve been writing down 10 things I’m grateful for that day. It’s been everything from my husband (every minute of every day), my family, a fan-freaking-tastic parking spot out front, my cats (we lost three this year and one moved in with us, so it’s been an interesting year in terms of felines), my students, my colleagues, the sunny day, getting out to walk, whatever. I started doing this because I read several different pieces that discussed the creation of well-being and positive attitude that comes with deliberate recognition of what you’re grateful for. You know, beyond the yadda yadda of course I’m grateful for my husband. The idea here is to recognize and think about all the little things that crossed your path that day that did indeed make it a little better, or brighter even if only for that moment. The small child who smiles at you and waves, the dog who is so happy you scritched her ears, the chance encounter with your neighbors, that sort of thing.

So, this Thanksgiving week, I’m grateful for all the usual things, friends, family, my health, etc. But looking back on what I’ve written down for the last year plus, I’m very grateful I started consciously thinking about all those small, daily occurrences that make the moment or the day just thatmuch nicer and brighter.

To illustrate: I just got back from picking up our turkey at Whole Foods. I waffled between walking and driving. I’m lucky enough that the store is an easy 15-20 minute walk. But, I’d be bringing back a 15 lb. turkey. And, we don’t have one of those granny carts. So, I decided to drive. My initial thoughts were, OK, this isn’t as bad as I expected, even with all the set up for the Thanksgiving Day parade (oh, yeah, we’re in detour central for that thing). Those initial thoughts were very quickly trampled. I quick ducked off the street I was on and meandered my way back down towards the store. Grateful I know the sneaky routes. Success! After dealing with some twat who was blocking the parking garage entrance (grateful for the patience levels I’ve achieved), I got into the store. Got my turkey. Grateful for the nice woman who’s job it was today to deal with that. Got my cider. Grateful for the funny woman at the checkout. Got back home easily, and yes, grateful for the kick-ass parking spot. And, finally, grateful I do not have to go back out into the chaos that is Philadelphia today. If I do, I will walk and I’m grateful that walking is an option. I’m also grateful that the current, and sole remaining cat, Max, is happy that I’m sitting next to him on the couch writing this post.

I’m also grateful that we can host and have our friends over for our “orphans Thanksgiving.” And, last but never least, I’m grateful I have five days off of work, lots of time for writing, and only one week left in the semester. Whoo-hoo!

What are you grateful for today?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!

Lions, tigers, and bears all seem to appear at this time of year. The metaphors, at least. Work and its associated stresses, time sinks, and general all-around malaise (nothing screams malaise quite like students and faculty at the end of the semester. Everybody just wants it to END NOW!) make for a large pride of lions; each on stalking you and creating at best worry, at worst fear. The general stresses of the holiday season, combined with less than mild world news (looking at Hong Kong) become that tiger stalking in the jungle; you never know when something is going to jump out from its hiding place and attack. Finally, not writing enough for my own satisfaction, never mind keeping up with NaNoWriMo, is the hibernating bear (my muse and brain cells are apparently on extended holiday); can’t quite seem to wake up and not sure you want to.

I am REALLY looking forward to the end of the semester, even though there are a whole host of other things waiting for me at the end. But, those things/plans/events are things that I want to deal with and work on. Even the trip to Europe with my students. We have plane tickets and a place to stay for the first 2/3 of the trip. The rest is easily taken care of, so I can simply look forward to watching my students explore and experience the simulation, catch up with well-respected and liked colleagues, and enjoy good beer and food.

Writing? Well, yesterday I read a whole new book. Which is OK, because it’s in the urban fantasy genre and it’s a renewal of a series I really like. Got some interesting ideas and learned more about pacing, scene writing, and character arcs. So, that does count as work. Today, we tackle yard work (leaves from the neighbor’s tree are finally all down), and some other pre-Thanksgiving chores and then it’s supposed to rain. That’s when I will go back to the writing. I owe a short-story by mid-February and I have to keep going on book #2 in my series. I also have to gently poke my beta readers for book #1 so that I can get that out.

Also in the line of work, I’m figuring out how to license images and covers, the ins and outs of converting to a Kindle Unlimited format and all those details. I’ve created covers for all three books already since that makes me feel like the books exist and I just have to fill in the space in between the front and back covers. I’ve found that this is similar to my process of writing academic articles. There, I just blast in and write out the whole thing, dumping in notes for citations, place holders for data tables etc. For me, even if I end up dumping 10 of 25 pages and writing an additional 15 pages, that’s OK because it’s editing, not original writing. Psychologically, there’s a world of difference between writing and editing. Writing is facing a blank page and trying to organize your thoughts and ideas into something comprehensible and (in the case of fiction) entertaining. Editing is looking at a finished product and tweaking things so it smooths out. Yes, it’s more complex than that, but that imagery is what I use and it works to keep me moving forward.

I did mean to write yesterday. I had all intentions of doing so. But, I think the meeting I had on campus at 8:00 a.m. kind of ripped it all out of me. Not really an excuse, but an explanation (OK, so I feel better telling myself that). But, I did read and did make note of interesting structural bits in the book. Like I said, that does count and I’m not just saying that for an excuse. If you don’t read, you can’t know what makes one story work and another one bomb.

So, I’m off to rake leaves, run errands, and then write. The cat will really enjoy the writing bits as I tend to sit on the couch and he sleeps beside me, keeping an eye on my work and whereabouts.

Enjoy the weekend!

Image by Michael Siebert from Pixabay

NaNoWriMo and dry spells

Another long spell of no blogging. I really need to avoid these dry spells and do this more often as it lets me get thoughts out. When I’m staring at words on a page, they seem to make a lot more sense than when jumbled up inside my head. I have been writing (kinda, sorta), trying to keep pace with NaNoWriMo. But, not very successfully. I didn’t officially sign up, but I did start keeping track of my word count each day. The last few days have been, shall we say, less than stellar.

I did start writing a short story prompted by a call for stories from someone in a group I’m in. If accepted, this will be my first paid writing. I’ve got published pieces in the academic world, but you don’t get paid for those (even if it’s a book, you really don’t get that much from it…there’s some idea that academics do it for the pure intellectual challenge and don’t give a damn about money…HA!)

Life is moseying along pretty well so I’m not sure why writing is not occurring. I really do try not to stress myself out when I don’t get something down every day, but that’s easier said than done. I’m trying very hard not to let the annoyances and stresses of work get involved in my life outside of work. That’s also tricky since as an academic, much of work spills waaaay over into life. For example, I’m taking students to Europe over winter break and due to the clusterfuck that is our non-existent “global engagement” office, I am doing ALL of the logistics as well as the academic prep for this trip. Thus, I’m back to having a ton of homework to take care of for that class and trip, on top of all the other grading and prepping for other classes. Then add in committees that are churning out unnecessary work for members and you have academia in a nutshell.

Hmmmm…guess work life is not humming along as smoothly as I might have wished. Home life and non-work life is truly fantastic. Like I said, writing a short story for hopeful inclusion in an anthology, working my way through book two of my series, pondering two more series, and generally enjoying the writing gig. Now to make money with that.

OK, thank you for listening. I am off to do some more writing and cook some brunch on this chilly Sunday morning. Here’s to a productive week ahead, and it’s almost Thanksgiving!

Image by Marion Wunder from Pixabay

Mammoths and living

The following is a comment I left on a post called “Fraying” at According To Hoyt. The post is about how our differences, exacerbated by social media and the apparent need for many people to engage in virtue signalling (showing the world that this is a REALLY GOOD THING or NOTHING TRUMP DOES IS OK IN MY EYES EITHER! or whatever it is that they feel the need to be publicly supportive of or angry about). Because of this need to virtue signal many people believe lies and slander about others that they know personally and have known for years. Years worth of personal knowledge, friendship and shared experiences go out the window with the need to show those whose judgments they simultaneously crave and fear that yes indeed, I’m still totally supportive of this group!
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Just found this today.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/taming-the-mammoth-why-you-should-stop-caring-what-other-people-think

It dovetails right with what you are saying about worrying about how others judge us, *that* they judge us and how we can get out from under that mammoth. Those that believed the slander about you, Sarah, will believe slander about anyone they know because they value staying in the group more than their authentic voice. They don’t realize there is another group “out there” which will welcome them in. Or they are afraid to even go look because of what others might say.

I started writing fiction because of a word prompt you had way back in the summer of 2018. I’m still in academia, but I have a plan and a system for leaving and yes, I’m going to make writing my full time job. I also know I’m going to get laughed at by colleagues. But then, due to events over the last year or so, I’ve already discovered I can’t trust most of them anyway.

Here’s to jumping and knowing the net will appear!
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The linked piece is what I want to talk about now.

The mammoth in the piece is a metaphor for our need for and fear of others’ acceptance of us. The author points out that we all have mammoths in us, but the trick to leading your authentic life and leading with your authentic voice is to control your mammoth.

Leading with your authentic voice, being public with it, is a very scary proposition. You open yourself up to ridicule, harassment, and ex-communication from co-workers, friends, and even family. When I decided to embark on this author journey I hesitated to even tell my husband that this is what I wanted to do. I was afraid he was going to laugh at me and also (very legitimately) bring up the issue of the two of us trying to live on one salary.

In the end, of course, I did tell him. And he was and is extremely supportive (I never should have doubted him. I know he would walk through fire drenched in gasoline for me). Others I’ve told have also been very supportive. A couple have asked me if I plan on continuing in academia while writing, thinking that of course, I will have to do the sensible thing and maintain a guaranteed income. (Did I mention that tenure is a life-time job guarantee and that I’d have to be insane to walk away from that? I did? Well, OK. To continue then.) When I say no, I’m jumping from academia to full time writing, most times friends tilt their heads, think about it for a few seconds, and then nod and smile and say something along the lines of “Cool! That sounds exciting!” I’m discovering that I’m very lucky in my circle of friends and I am beyond grateful for all of them.

So, my mammoth is seriously objecting to my leaving a tenured job for something that is simply riddled with uncertainty. Taming and controlling that mammoth has been difficult and scary. One of the things my mammoth does is indulge in internal conversations between me and what I imagine others will say. Needless to say this exercise does not result in any resolutions to anything, rather it simply ramps up my stress levels. I’m slowly getting that bit under control.

I read the linked piece today and I think it was the last little thing that I needed to convince me that yes, I am doing the right thing for me. I wrote some more on book #2 yesterday and today. Yesterday was a bit of a struggle, but today, things came easily. I’m not really sure yet where this book is headed (I have a vague idea, but no specifics), but I’m sure it will wind up someplace really fun and interesting. And, it should be a good story getting there.

I will no longer run my life and my ambitions according to those who are too buried by their own mammoths. I am listening to my authentic voice and giving it room to breathe and grow. It is not going to be easy, but it will be rewarding in a multitude of ways and I can’t wait! There’s a system or method to my madness and I’m heading out.

Living by the saying “Jump and the net will appear” is scary and exhilarating all at the same time. But I think this is the best way to truly live and I’m going for it.

Do it! Don’t let your mammoth smother you and don’t let the mammoths of others sit on you.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Happy Halloween!

I always enjoy Halloween in my neighborhood. There are a lot of kids out; a lot of them come in from other neighborhoods across the city. It’s great. The kids are having a blast and the adults are happy knowing their kids can walk around the streets without fear. On top of that, I get to hang out with my neighbors who are very cool people. We sit on their stoop and hand out candy while catching up. The trick-or-treaters love the fact that there are three…THREE..candy bowls that they get to raid. It’s a lot of fun.

It’s been almost a month since I updated this blog. It’s been a busy and somewhat stressful month as well. I should keep writing here on a regular basis since writing helps me work through a number of stressors, problems, provides a means to vent, etc. At work, it seems to be clown cars all the way down. But, I think I’ve worked everything out. I’m taking students to Antwerp, Belgium in January and there is absolutely no process nor structure for dealing with the logistics of a trip abroad with students. It’s ridiculous.

But, I figured out a work around and I’m pretty pleased with it. There are still details to be ironed out, but I think the big hurdles have been jumped. Tomorrow is a “research day” which means I’ll be doing my own writing. Yay! I have started book #2 and I’m feeling very good about it. I’m getting good information from reliable sources about how to deal with Amazaon and it’s Kindle Unlimited structure so I’m very confident that uploading Book #1 will be a piece of cake. it’s out to beta readers right now. In addition to Book #2, I’m outlining Books #1-3 for my next series. It’s exciting to know that I actually do have all these stories lined up inside my head just waiting for an outlet.

There have been many times when I wish that I had figured this author thing out earlier. However. I know that I wouldn’t have figured it out without going through all the experiences I’ve had so far. Those experiences gave me the ideas for Book #1 and I’m very grateful for that. But, yeah. It’s been 20 years in the academic career. Time for a change.

Hubby heads out to meet up with his college friends for a week or so of golf and cards. I will miss him terribly, but I’m also looking forward to the opportunity to get a lot of writing done. Tomorrow is Day 1 of NaNoWriMo and I intend to get in at least a few hundred words each day. Getting a good way into Book #2 will be great. I am very happy with my progress so far and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.

Enjoy your Halloween and eat all the candy and goodies you want!

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

What counts as work?

What counts as work? I’ve been struggling with this for a while now. I tend to avoid doing the school work/class prep in favor of writing. But, when I sit down to write I find myself doing a host of other things. However, it may not be all wasted time and procrastination. I read something the other day (yes, this will count as work, you’ll see) that mentioned that even reading something counted as work because if you discover, while reading, a good or bad way to write dialog or a scene, then you’ve accomplished something. Or, reading history allows you to better craft your world(s). In my case, I sat down and read a book sent to me by a guy needing beta readers. I learned a lot in my afternoon of reading. I learned more about how to describe a location, how to write a fight scene. I also learned how NOT to write some things. I saw descriptions that became boring. I read conversations that went on just thatmuch too long. I learned more about writing by reading.

OK, so reading counts. What else? Well, the obvious. Outlining a new or the next book or series. I spent some time yesterday looking at notes and was pleasantly surprised at what I’ve put down and reminded that I do have a number of good ideas. Working on covers is another one. Oooh! Covers! Yes, there is the tangible output everybody looks for. If I can show a rough cover to my husband at the end of the day, then I’ve accomplished work. I like messing with covers because it doesn’t feel like work. It feels like playing around. Scrolling through photos, reading about how to change/adapt/use those photos. How to make the text just so. How to figure out which font. Finding just the right font. All of that counts as work.

Switching back to class prep/grading. Yes, this counts as well. It obviously counts for the day job. But, it also counts for the writing/author job. It counts because while I try to do all of it while on campus, that doesn’t always happen. It counts for the writing/author job because I have to get it done. If it’s not done, I cannot work on the writing. Yes, I use the fiction writing and other author work as a reward for finishing the tasks related to committee work, class prep and other things day-jobby. Which reminds me…gotta finish counting general education courses next week (the fun just never stops).

The last thing I count as work is meditation and time spent letting ideas marinate. Meditation helps me lower stress levels (day job brings A LOT of that), and lets ideas float through and around my brain. Even (OK, this is last), writing on this blog counts as work. As I write down my processes, questions, brain waves, frustrations, etc. I find that oftentimes I am able to figure out answers or solutions. This is akin to meditation, but a bit more active. It counts because it moves me forward on the path of my choosing.

If it is in furtherance of the direction I want to head then it counts as work.

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Seeing what you want to see

There have been a number of issues in the news today that read like a “how-to” guide for deluding yourself about reality. By that I mean that many people are reading and becoming outraged by news stories on just about everything. The most common refrain I’m seeing on FB (my statistically inaccurate anecdotal survey tool) and hearing in conversations with colleagues is “I knew it! I knew s/he was corrupt/crooked/treasonous/lying/ evil/hypocritical/wrong/stupid/moronic/racist/sexist/homophobic!” or “Of course they hate him/her. S/he’s telling the truth/speaking truth to power/taking down the elites/ standing up to bullies/ supporting LGBTQ community.” Confirmation bias is seeing what you want to see.

These reactions come from all sides of the political sphere. Lefty/progressive friends hold up Greta Thunberg as a modern day Cassandra on climate change and Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi as bravely standing up against Trump the Thug. Right/conservative friends tend to understate some problems and overstate others. Although, truth be told, from where I sit, those on the right (aside from the Never Trumpers who seem to think that if they disavow Trump enough the Left will somehow come after them last) are far less likely to be sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming.

Let’s take the two main issues in the news today (tomorrow it will likely be two different issues given the rapidity with which the news cycle can spin). First off, Greta Thunberg and climate change. This child has stated that she is on the autism spectrum and suffers from depression. Her parents have money and clout. So, when she stated that the idea of climate change depressed her they encouraged that (I’m not making this up, you can read interviews with her. I’m not linking them because if you truly care about this issue you care enough to do thorough research…even if that research leads you to conclusions you don’t like or didn’t expect). So, Greta’s parents pulled her out of school and sent her on a world tour of developed countries (European and the US) to yell at them about how it’s all the adult’s fault for climate change. She’s 16, people. She’s not a meteorologist or a climatologist or a geologist or anything but a depressive, on the spectrum 16-year old girl. Who travels first class, sailed on a multi-million dollar yacht across the Atlantic and generally has her speeches and life scripted by her parents and other so-called “responsible” adults around her. Her parents in particular are making millions off of the exploitation of their daughter. This is not an “out of the mouths of babes…” moment. This is a 16-year old girl being manipulated instead of helped. Stop enabling her abusers.

The other issue dominating the news cycle (the media is spinning in place trying to keep up with what they should be screaming about today) is the impeachment inquiry begun by Pelosi et al. That one is fun too. Pelosi failed to follow House rules and put the initiation of the impeachment inquiry to a vote (probably because she knew it would fail), and changed the House rules in August to prevent Republicans from participating in any discussions regarding the inquiry. Adam Schiff received the whistleblower complaint in August, but only just now acted on it. The CIA changed the requirements for filing a whistleblower complaint from requiring first-hand knowledge, to admitting hearsay….in August. I’ll take manipulation of the system for partisan gain for $1,000, Alex. Abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous. Trump is rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, but Pelosi, Schiff, and the media are actually trying to undermine our political system and they’re doing it out of spite.

And, for anyone who thinks impeachment will ruin Trump’s presidency, I refer to you Bill Clinton’s impeachment. It didn’t ruin him. All’s it did was rile up the electorate and stop all responsible government functioning for six months. And, that’s what will happen this time. If you support Democrats and don’t like Trump, you should ask yourself why Democrats are doing everything in their power to help Trump win re-election. Because that is the way things are going right now.

Confirmation bias is running rampant on the left and seemingly everyone is caught up in it. That is going to make the shock even greater when things don’t turn out the way they expect. Brace yourselves. It’s gonna get ugly and it will come from the Left.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Plans

Keeping up with writing has gotten away from me. Once again, the busy-work tasks of the semester have taken over. Correction: I’ve allowed them to take over. Starting today, I am following a plan that will keep me on track for writing fiction, taking care of academic work, and spending time taking care of myself. And, spending precious time with my husband. I am really not happy that I allowed writing I enjoy to lie fallow while small, easily accomplished tasks were allowed to take over, become high priorities, and create the usual stress.

I say “usual stress” because I’ve found myself getting upset and stressed over the same-old same-old. When I’m angry and feeling boxed in I tend to hold conversations in my head with those who are blocking me or antagonizing me. These conversations do serve to get out some points, remind me of issues that I can bring up, and otherwise allow me to vent. However, they also, in a weird (or maybe not, I don’t know) way cause more stress because I recognize that I’m never going to have those conversations in real life. It can be frustrating to know that the very excellent points you know need to be made are unlikely to see the light of day.

All of this leads me to neglect the work I really like to do since I feel like I really have to take care of all these little things before they become big things. This leads me to get more frustrated. So, the plan. This weekend, hubby and I decided that we are going to turn off the TV and other distractions at least two evenings a week so that he can look for a new job and I can write, edit, read, or work on covers. Anything, EXCEPT worrying about current tasks etc. We’re still working on the whole, plan not goals idea, but I think we’re getting there. There is no doubt that this time next year we will be elsewhere. That’s the plan.

One (pretty big) part of this plan is to write/post here on a regular basis. The plan now is for twice a week minimum. In addition to the ramblings of an ornery dragon, I am planning on posting some short stories and flash fiction.

Thanks for listening and happy Monday. It’s the start of a new week!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

One down, 14 to go

I’ve been neglecting the blog, but I have a reason. The first week of the semester is done. Only 14 more to go. The week before classes start and the first week of the semester are always hectic in the fall. Freshmen trying to figure everything out, colleagues trying to get and stay organized (it’s always optimistic the first week), returning students finding friends and professors, everybody generally running around. There’s lots of laughing and hugs as well.

There have been some changes and some things staying the same (sadly). I have been reminded every day this week that I am indeed making the right decision by leaving academia at the end of this year. As I’ve said many times before, it’s going to be scary, probably difficult, but exciting and fun. I am very much looking forward to the new directions for both of us.

I have vowed to myself that I will find the time to do my own non-research and non-course related writing every day. I have finally (!) finished editing my first book and I’m going to be sending it out to my beta readers this weekend. I’m going to outline the series that popped into my head last week and see where that takes me. I’m also going to write up a couple of short stories that have been floating around in my brain for a while now.

So, we’re off and running. Hopefully things will calm down. It’s bad, but I don’t want to focus on teaching and committees, I want to focus on my own writing. Included in that is keeping up with the blog. I know that I ramble a lot, but writing down those thoughts and ideas helps to clarify things and gives me some idea of what to write about.

In the meantime, it’s a long weekend. Go out and enjoy!

Image by Ken Shelton from Pixabay