Writing, worry, and focus

I’m sure that I’m in a dramatic state of mind when I say this, but, I’m all out of sorts. Like, really, really in a mood. I have been in one since Monday. It’s the first week back to work (after one off) since I submitted the dystopian to several carefully selected agents. I can’t seem to climb out of this funk and focus on anything for very long. I gotta say I wasn’t expecting this. Just like every other part of this project these feelings are new to me. My over anxious, fiction-swallowed brain wonders what this means. It’s not my lack of confidence in the work itself or how I presented it. I feel good about both of those things. So, what’s my problem?

Writing that down led me to this answer: I’m burned out.

I burned myself out, and I’m still recovering. Sure, the unknown of what’s ahead is certainly eating at my feet, but that’s not the only thing going on. I pulled something crazy off, and now I’m paying for it. I suppose that means I will be slowly getting back into the groove of things. Perhaps leaning into this rather than fighter it would allow me to unclench my shoulders. After writing solely one story for so long, spreading back into multiple projects (nonfiction work included) feels strange.

Creating a world and spending time not only inside of it but obsessing over each detail fitting into place was fun. If I’m being honest, some of the most fun I’ve had. What I experienced with the book I just finished is something I’ve always fantasized about. Perhaps some of what is going on is that I actually miss the world I created. Does that sound completely crazy? Maybe, but I run that risk every time I open my mouth.

I’ve been cleaning and organizing my house. I’m in no way naturally domestic. I’m just so damn anxious, and cleaning helps. Also baking.

Again, I know I’m being dramatic, but I feel lost this week. I have a pile of work, but I can’t stop vacuuming or putting things in themed baskets. Waiting is part of it. I’ve got to find a middle ground, perhaps have more patience with myself. It’s hard to feel like I’ve accomplished anything when nothing is final yet. Again, part of the gig, I know. I just have to suck it up. Christmas is around the corner, and I need to sell more articles, so I have to find a way to ease my mind where it needs to go. Maybe whisper to myself, “Don’t worry, it will happen.” Who knows?
So basically, I’m just whining here right now, feeling sorry for myself when nothing at all is going wrong. But, my mind does feel clearer so for that thank you.

Reality: new projects while waiting to hear

“Go for broke,” is one of my favorite sayings. One I keep close to the lip, a tool I use as I build my writing career. It’s Monday after Thanksgiving, after a week off, and I’m feeling more than a little strange. I started my time off completely zapped. I had never worked harder. The late summer well into November were so intense. I feel like a different person coming out of it. Finishing that book transformed into a rabid obsession that fueled all of me. The first two days off I still found myself drifting toward my computer trying to figure out different concepts (now it’s time to write another one) and ways to will my goals into a successful reality—which for some reason translates into checking Twitter too much. Once my family came into town, my mind left my work worries and remained in the warm present. It was a truly wonderful Thanksgiving that left an afterglow for the majority of the holiday weekend. As Sunday crept past my anxiety grew.

The project I’ve been referring to both here and on Too Many Words as my dystopian series has been consuming most of my brain. I had no idea how obsessed and wound tight I was until I stepped away. Funny how that works. Perception is the greatest of all powers to wield, I think. I sent out a bunch of pitches before the break, and now I’m off to start new projects I’ve lined up. I was in bed last night anxious about getting back to work and unable to get right to sleep. Not something I was anticipating. I just stared out the window at the wind-grappled trees trying to find a peaceful mindset to attack the next few weeks with, then eventually, I faded out. My dreams were a combination of rejection letters and zombie attacks. To want something so bad is a feat to hold all its own.

Monday morning started like most. My alarm went off at six. I sat on the sofa with coffee and a copy of Rune of the Apprentice by Jamison Stone. Then the mad dash of breakfast, packing lunches, and making sure my children are remotely put together enough to send out into the world for six hours. While I walked my dogs, I took the long route and strode as slowly as I could.

I sat down at my desk and opened my inbox for the first time in five days to find the first ‘pass’ from an agent on this project. It took some time to let that roll off my shoulders. “No’s” always come before “Yes’s” and I’m really confident in this project and in its ability to sell. I just have to hang in there and busy myself with my next projects. Gotta keep writing. Create. Pitch. Create. It goes on and on. This is the gig. After that I settled into an awesome planning session with Rebecca Clark about our next steps with the Shadow Bearers. Then before I could settle into anything real, I felt a need to vent, to think out loud. Sometimes to write one must clear out the junk first. So basically I just spent the last few hundred words thinking out loud about what I’m trying to process. Sharing my junk with you.

I’m in a new phase. My head needs to remain in the game. Now, I need to put a game face on and sell some articles.

Thanks for listening to my nonsense.

-J

Breaking Man and Building Heroes (Walking Dead Spoilers)

We are five episodes into the seventh season of The Walking Dead, and I’ve finally found my thoughts so far. I was counting down the days to the premier, soaking in every promo ad. Each character compilation of their journey from the beginning broke my heart. Hell, the release date was even on my calendar. And, here we are into the season, and I’ve been finding myself quiet. There are a mess of spoilers below, so if you are not totally current on the show stop reading, bookmark it, and come back if you want to.

As many of you are well aware of, I’m huge Walking Dead Fan. Comics. The show. The characters. I’m all in. So much so, I’m incredibly forgiving when it comes to oversights or devastating deaths. Last season left us with hearts in our hands, on the edge of our seats. For those who are also readers of the comic (myself included) had a pretty good idea Glen would face the fate of Lucille, but still, we weren’t sure. The Season 7 premiere “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” came and left many with a hollow feeling. I felt sick. Abraham’s and Glen’s death was gruesome and heart clenching. Oh man, when Maggie got ready to continue her way to The Hilltop despite the divesting loss of her husband destroyed me. The credits rolled, and I was speechless. I had planned to write something about the first episode, to take my fandom to the next level, and I couldn’t say a thing. Watching Negan break Rick down through the course of an hour closed any glimmer of hope, of a way out for them. The format of this episode added layers of emotion. Seeing their death’s through Rick’s memories, it killed me.

“The Well”  took us to the kingdom with the deliriously unstable Carol. Her quote “I don’t know what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way” will be among the classics for the show. The Kingdom’s involvement with Negan added depth to his reign that added gloom despite the cheery gloss of the episode. Plus, there’s a tiger with an owner filled to the brim with backstory.

Any hope I pulled from The Kingdom was crushed the following week while I watched “The Cell” through my fingers as Negan and Dwight (Dwight may be one my most hated characters) break down Daryl (my favorite) through repetitive and degrading torture. Daryl is an all time self-sacrificer. Despite his gruff exterior and incredible ranger-like abilities, he is all heart and oh so loyal. There is a whisper telling me Daryl will do something amazing. But a small part of me worries about his future. Daryl wasn’t in the comics, so there is nothing to pull from. The show often strays from the exact storyline in the comics, but there are always clues in the panels for an idea of what is to come in the show. I just don’t know what’s going to happen to him and it is making me crazy. I really, really hope he doesn’t go the way Beth did. There has to be good reason to break our hearts.

“Service” crushed me in an entirely different way. An hour and a half of Negan shaking down Alexandria. I felt the character’s feelings about Rick coming up short. As Rick transformed from instruction follower to a darker version of himself, something a littler closer to Negan, it was hard not to share the current disdain for Rick. He is the leader after all (or was) it was his responsibility to take care of everyone. Maggie trusted him…

But, here I am swallowing “Go Getters” and I feel hopeful. Wow, what an amazing episode. Maggie, Sasha, and Enid form a bond and a new alliance in the most heart-enriching way. There were several exchanges between Sasha and Maggie, Enid and Maggie, and all three of them, that left me screaming, “Yes!” The three clearly have a future with Jesus as they gain control over The Hilltop that I am really excited about. The Saviors showed up with a new crew. As the thugs took their share at The Hilltop, I didn’t feel sick the way I did while Negan pillaged Alexandria for their guns, pride, and mattresses because it was evident a new leader is emerging. Maggie, am I right? Wow, when she drove the tractor over the singing car and trespassing zombies. There was so much to take from this episode, that I finally found my voice. Right before the credits rolled Jesus and Carl crossed paths in the back of the truck heading to Negan’s!!!! Wow!

The Walking Dead has plenty of zombies, but it isn’t really about that. They are the setting. Life is the way it because of the zombie apocalypse, but it in earnest it’s about the people surviving, a continued comment on the harshness of humanity. The characters have been through so much, and have changed through it all. At the heart of it, The Walking Dead is relationships, fear, society, and the darkness in all of us. Humans are predators. Any storyline that really digs deep into the part of humanity really appeals to me, as it does with many. Apocalyptic worlds feel familiar. Nightmares are a manifestation of fears, stress, and trauma. The interest in a fallen society is a symptom of our current society (I am not just talking about the election). The time we are in is very intense, and uncertain seeming. There is a comfort I get when I watch or write a story about a broken world. The first time in Season 7, I can see ways our heroes can get out of it. Impossible odds, but they could do it. I believe in Maggie. There was something not right about Rick’s group and their merge with Alexandria. Seeing other factions split off really brings possibilities into play. There is a lot to hope for, as well as against. I’m really interested to see where all this goes on the show.

Lost in Fiction: writing months away

I’ve been lost in a hole. Not a dark, unforgiving one. Something more along the lines of a rabbit hole. I wasn’t in Wonderland. A dark, dystopian world of my creation has had me wandering around. I’ve lost a few months in the best kinda of way. Parts have been pieces I’ve been writing for years, that haven’t quite worked and parts are concepts I’ve always longed for when I reach for something in the dystopian genre. I’m really excited about it.

If you write or are plagued with a need to create in any way you might know what I mean when I say, “Ideas are priceless. The loss of them is terrifying.” There is nothing like getting a burst of inspiration. A clear picture. I love those random moments where I’m vacuuming or showering and an idea that feels like I’ve been waiting my whole life for appears. Crystal clear images. Pieces of me and pieces of something I’ve never known. There is a beauty in it that I love, something I crave. Perhaps even at times, my obsession with getting and growing concepts gets unhealthy. Maybe that fact that it’s something always on my mind, makes me impractical or selfish. Selfish, now I’ve hit on a note. I feel so selfish sometimes. One of my favorite things in the world to do is spend endless hours writing away while I listen to music too loud. It’s amazing, but it’s just for me. Sure, someday people will read it and hopefully get something from it, but I do it just for me. I do it because I have to.

Getting lost in a story is something I’ve always clung to, something that made it possible to survive my dysfunctional childhood. Magic friends in cupboards. The fountain of youth. A beautiful friendship with a sad ending. Magical creatures that teach very needed lessons. Antiheroes on the road to redemption. Heroes in books are something that has gotten me through so much. Creating them is something I must do, so I do. I’m so thankful for my partner in life and our child that support me as I chase my dreams, while I’m distracted, while I’m unworthy. They say they don’t see it, but it’s hard not to feel bad when I’ve done nothing for hours but create made up stories. It’s my job, it’s what I’m hanging my hat on, but it feels strange.

I’m so close to something I’ve been working so hard on for so long. I can’t wait and I can. I comb over lines searching for ways to make each word be the best it can. I feel sick and alive and hungry.

As my novel enters the editing phase, I have a moment to look around at my surroundings. Halloween has passed. Thanksgiving and family will be here any minute. Add more explanation. Bring the emotion forward as I best I can. Being close to something can make the want of it so loud it’s deafening.

I must look away and just keep my head down. I’m almost there. Names in a line. Eyes waiting. I feel different this time. Writing this draft felt like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Maybe I sound like a naive, lovesick teenager. Perhaps, it’s just like that. Each one is a little better. A passion transforms into a solid concept and then, we have something worth it.

There is something about chance that ignites curiosity in me and sparks a crippling fear. Simultaneously these things come together and bring sharp, angled tracks to the ride that is building a writing career. Part of me wants just to be at a spot that I can feel like I’ve achieved what I’ve wanted to, but I am cynical and practical enough to know that once I get to that point, I will be focused on the next thing.

Ivy covered doors. A castle in the clouds. The rolling hills of The Shire. Simple recognition.

Worlds to find. Places to seek. Hearts to break. I’ve been lost in a world in a way I’ve never been. I listened to myself differently that I have in the past. I wasn’t concerned with creating a certain event or trying to find the killer angle. It was the characters that lead me and the world they lived in.

In all honesty, I haven’t done much in the last few months than writing this story. Reality didn’t get as much attention as it should of. Other projects were on hold. As you know, my blog collected dust. But, here I am peeking from the pile of notebooks and many versions of Pages documents. I feel different. A little strange. Ready to pitch. It’s time to close.