present mind, writing hands

As I sat down to write the post I thought, “This is great. I need to do this every day. I need to make time for writing outside of my fiction projects.” Other random, obscured thoughts circled my mind in a series that eventually formed some sort of long drawn out idea or concept. One after another like a flip book of procrastination. All my mind wandering halted when I released I wasn’t writing anything down. I also do this when I’m drafting. Think, and not write. I’m forward not present.

I talk a lot on Too Many Words about listening to the gut whisper and how part of knowing your process is understanding how every day it’s a little or completely different from the day before. Thinking and writing usually means one of three things.

  1. I haven’t given myself enough backtrack thinking.
  2. Free writing is necessary.  -OR-
  3. I need scribble down the arc for a short that won’t be quiet.
  4. Lunch is necessary.

The common thread between all three is that I need to be doing something other than what I can’t help but stare at. Even switching from computer to notebook helps. Hell, it’s the last day of NaNoWriMo and I completed my 50,000 words. Actually, I got to 52,010 words but who’s counting?

Isn’t that point?

Yes, and no.

Everyone who sets out to do NaNoWriMo has there own reason, even if it’s just the comradery of committing to write 50,000 words in one month with a collection of writers all around the world. I like that feeling. I needed that boost to get me working on this incredibly intimating, dragon-sized rewrite. Now as we enter December I am nearing the midpoint of the project and I am just gonna keep going until this phase is at an end.

My life feels too full lately (or always). We as a family unit are operating at faster frequency, with two kids in elementary school and activities they want to try ontop of both me and my husband working. (Something many juggle.) It’s tough for me to see either of my kids have a stressful time. At the end of the day my main goal as parents is that my children feel supported. I remember how hard school was. Gosh, I barely made it out. But I do best to be present when they are, to give them a steady backing because not having one as a kid made everything harder. So when I sit to write, to work, I think of it as for me, because  I love and need it. I do not treat it like the blistering, humbling hell it sometimes feels like.

It’s tricky balancing life and work and family and self and breathing. I am still working and grinding toward my goals so when I look at a day where I wasn’t as productive as I’d like to be or ended up needing to do a whole bunch of things I didn’t count for in my 2 am planning it can feel impossible to accept all I did do. It’s hard to see accomplishment when it’s this gradual, forever process of building a writing career, of writing a book, of revising. Whatever, sometimes it just doesn’t jive or flow or really I just need an apple and a walk to smooth the thoughts out. Stepping away feels like the worst thing in the world because it feels like failure.

Repeat after me, “Taking care of yourself isn’t failing.”

As I have mentioned on Too Many Words recently, I’ve been managing my anxiety disorder. I have known that anxiety is dragon I have to tame. I’ve had panic attacks when I was a teenager. Socially, forget about it. But over the last year and a half, my anxiety built a mega city and now I need to practice tools and exhaust myself with yoga so I don’t chew on my leg like a dog that needs a walk. I have been practicing yoga most mornings before the house is awake. I push myself and breath and am gradually working up to a handstand (I’m close) One of the schools of yoga is Hatha. Which is basically holding different positions. One after the other until you’re sweating, tingly, and you’ve forgotten what’s plaguing you because you’re tired and starving.

When I am doing a side plank with my knee to my nose all I am thinking about is not pulling a muscle I didn’t know I had. I am breathing through it. I know what my stomach is doing. Every muscle holding me up is at the forefront of the mind. Once I settled into the moment, once I’ve mastered it, then it’s time for the next position. (Warrior 3 is my favorite.)
I’m not telling you to do yoga but the act of fully being present and then repeating it with different positions is a lot like the mind needed for drafting. Ease back on the toes. Write down character’s nagging motivation. Pull in the navel. Fold into the scene. Find out what’s important. Lower back pinches so you ease forward. Your hand is on your calve instead of the floor. Switch voices. Jot that idea down and then come back.

It’s all a dance. All of it.
As I come to the end of this post I have the element I was missing for a scene I planned on writing. So I’m gonna get on that.
As always thanks for reading.

-J

Life, it keeps going

The kids are at their last of school before holiday break. I have turkey broth simmering on the stove. I’m sitting in my quiet living room beside the Christmas tree, attempting to find peace. I want to enjoy the holidays and make the most of them, but I need to get my head right. In truth, lately, I’ve been feeling kinda lost.

As I wait to hear word from agents about the dystopian novel I spent the last six years obsessing over I’m trying to focus on other things mostly unsuccessfully. Not only am I pitching one book, but I have high hopes of selling the series. I really and truly feel like I’ve put my best foot forward. It’s been professionally edited. The query is tight and the agents I’ve reached out I really researched. Waiting is harder than I expected. I’m finding it hard to focus on much, but I’m making myself write because if I don’t, my mind will implode. I find myself unable to sleep after waking from stressful dreams about simultaneously getting rejection letters and being chased by zombies. They always catch me.

Short fiction is helping. I’ve been able to get a decent string of solid stories out as I spin about the future of my series and plan a stand alone  book. One night while I was staring at the wind-buckling trees I asked myself, “What do I do if this doesn’t work?” This is when my mind lets in the idea of becoming a certified dog trainer again, but then I tell myself, “No you are a writer, and you have made the decision to pursue a full-time career in storytelling.”

I feel like a fake adult.

If I shut my inner-doubt down and really pay attention, I can see and feel how close I am. It’s been an uphill battle of discipline and the feeling like I’m wasting my time, but I am close. There is this weird thing that happens anytime I send positive vibes my own way. A part of me always wants to swat the self-boost away.  I’m not sure what this is, but my inner-doubt is one of the hardest things I have to manage. I think about that scene in Erin Brockovich when Julie Roberts yells, “I’ve taken time away from my kids. If that’s not personal, I don’t know what is.” I spend about 8-10 hours a day writing, networking, and cobbling this career together. Somedays I feel like I’m awesome and others, well like I’m living in a dream world reaching for impossible goals.

Writing all this down helps, just I I thought it would. I’m not gonna hear anything until after the holidays. I need just to put it out of my mind and enjoy the holidays. There will be a lot of down time moments where I can work through the concepts I have for my next book because right now I only have annoying fragments of things that don’t make very much sense, but that’s how it all starts out doesn’t it?

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.

Juggling The Real World and The Fictional One

Happy Thursday, all!

I have Bob Mueller on the show. He is the author of The Sad Girl, a story about Danny, an ex-con who discovers he has a daughter who has been taken by human traffickers. Bob and I discuss his process, how we both need to write on paper first, and parenthood. Bob talks about what it feels like to write about human trafficking and how he manages multiple ideas. Before Bob comes on, I talk about my love for anticipation and how I have a complicated relationship with my phone.

Listen on iTunes

Listen on Stitcher

Listen to Chapter 8 on iTunes

Hey, guys! I hope you are enjoying your weekend. Just letting you know you can listen to Chapter 8: The Problem with not knowing on iTunes.

Elliot attempts to avoid Pete after the other night as she becomes even more attached to her new friends and unfamiliar grounds.

Elliot Granger & The Clueless Brigade is a work of fiction. The contemporary series is intended for listeners 16 years and up.

Chapter Three: Need a new reason to be

I stared at the bright green numbers. They flickered back at me in the form of 3:07. I stopped sleeping through the night the week before my mom died. I was starting to sense it coming, and that’s when losing her truly began to rip me open. I only dreamt of her. Every single one forced me to open my eyes, only to realize it was a dream. My night’s usually consisted of me falling in out of sleep, jumping into reality only to fall back into the dream.

I was losing grip on everything I was.

Flashes of my mom’s wavy hair and her wide, warm smile played on a reckless repeat in my head. I sat up on the edge of the bed. My purple flannel sheets were bunched up and tossed against the wall. The smells that lingered in my room were a mix of vanilla and cinnamon. My sweat-soaked turquoise hair stuck to my forehead and cheeks. The room was freezing, but my body couldn’t have been any warmer.
I dragged myself from my bed to my yellow cushioned desk chair. I flipped on the computer as I grabbed my sticker-covered water bottle. The bright glow of the screen burned my eyes with its initial flash, taking my room from complete darkness to a chamber cast in a soft glow. The empty application for the travel photography internship stared back at me. Pete said he found it, but I knew it was Evie. I knew she wanted to help me, but I couldn’t bare it, not at that time. It was painful to breathe, and even harder to swallow.
My mom’s faded voice said, “Well, are you going to fill it out?”
I shrugged but said nothing. I always tried at first not to talk back when I heard her. I wasn’t sure what it meant, or even what I wanted it to mean. I was terrified that I was losing my mind, but even more so of losing my voice. I wrapped my hand around the silver bird pendant that hung around her neck my whole life.
My stomach twisted to make room for the expanding holes in my chest. An angry and toxic breath forced itself out between my lips as my finger bitterly x-ed out the browser window. A picture of a four-year-old me wrapped around my young mother’s leg was there to greet me the moment the browser disappeared.
Damn.
What was I doing to myself? I quickly quit out of the photo gallery, grabbed the small tin box, and headed straight for the window.

The only thing I liked about Joan’s house was the bedroom window. It opened where both parts of the roof dipped down and touched, making sitting on the roof totally possible. I had discovered it the first time Glen moved Brian and me in. My emotions were dumping out of me at an alarming rate. I needed something to hold on to, somewhere for me to collect the pieces of myself.
I place a thinly rolled joint to my lips and lit it. Thick, harsh smoke poured into my lungs, my mind loosened as my eyes focused on the starless sky picturing the twinkling beacons as if they were there in sight.

***

My eyes were fixed on the cream-colored dashboard. Every single time I was in Glen’s car I experienced overwhelming urges to cover the spotless interior of the BMW in thick mud. Everything that sucked about Glen the car encapsulated: vain, selfish, and out of whack priorities. Electronic music filled the car to a point no one could talk to each other. I had nothing to say to Glen but enjoyed talking to Brian. He was a good kid. It made my stomach twist that he had to go through his life without the world’s greatest mom. I used to be jealous that he had the standard aged mom and a dad, who lived together in a substantial house. My version of our mother was sixteen when she had me, and I never met my father. She raised me as she worked full time and put herself through school. We moved to different apartments yearly. Now, I see I had it better after all. I had her. He doesn’t, plus he had to live with Glen’s new family, where in a little less than two years I wouldn’t have to deal with that. I fantasized about running away. I was beginning to think I wouldn’t hesitate so much if I had someone to go with.
The music turns down as the car slowed. “Well, Brain this is your stop. You are taking the bus home.”
I looked back at Brian’s bright blue eyes and freckled face and saw mom. He looked so much like her. He even had her pointed chin. Now the expression on his face was mostly sad.
“Have a good day, buddy,” I said tousling his hair.
“Yeah, not likely.”
“Same here,” I smiled at him.
He tossed a broken smile back. Brian pulled a book from his backpack as he climbed out of the car without saying a word to his dad. I watched as Brian wandered toward his classroom door. He sat as far from the other kids as he could manage. He tucked his khaki covered knees in his chest keeping his words on the pages of the book.
My heart sunk to my feet. These were the moments where I wished I had magical powers, where I hoped that someone or some option would appear, so that some how I could fix his life. It wasn’t fair. It will never will be truly okay again. Tears began to pull at my eyelids.
“Damn minivan is taking up both exit lanes,” Glen cursed under his breath.
“Brian doesn’t talk to any of the kids.”
“Well, the kid reads too much. He only had one friend at the old school.” Glen said this as his beady eyes stared out the driver’s side window.
“Well, then maybe you shouldn’t have moved him.”
“Private school is better.”
“There is enough change. A new house, school, and sibling was unnecessary to add. Losing his mom was enough.”
“It’s not my fault she had cancer. You are always acting like I did that her.” His words come and burn my face.
I shake my head and look out of the window. Not at Brain but the sky instead. My heart started pounding in my chest.
“Calm down, sweetie. Don’t let him get to you,” my mom’s whispered version of her voice trailed in my brain as if she was standing behind me.
“Why did you marry him?” I asked out loud without thinking. The moment the words left my mouth, dread and panic coated my muscles. I glanced over at Glen, who’s attention was focused on the white van unloading snacks and poster board. He didn’t hear me. Glen slammed his fist on the horn.
A middle-aged woman with a blond bob turned her head and glared at us.
“You’re such an asshole,” I muttered.
“Well, no one is asking you to stay,” Glen snapped, as he peeled around the van and sped off. The music was blasting again. I allowed myself to sink into the heated, leather seat and feel sorry for myself.
I needed to do something. I needed something to hold on to. The nearly identical houses blurred into a mix of white and gray. Juvenile trees with bare branches lined the sidewalks equal distances apart. Nothing stood out as special or unique.
Glen’s quick breaking turned my stomach over multiple times, so as I was climbing out of his car hoping my bag’s zipper was scratching the paint, I felt like I was going to throw up at any minute.
“The bus home after,” Glen spat at me.
“Got it,” I spat back as I slammed the door closed.
“Easy!” He yelled through the tinted windows.
The sounds of Glen’s tires squealed sounded off behind me as I reluctantly walked toward the crumbling building.
Once the obnoxious sounds of his car dissipated, it made room for a symphony of coins and other items dumping onto the cement parking lot.
“Dammit!” A voice howled in a cracked voice.
I couldn’t help but be curious. My hand naturally found the camera in my pocket. My fingertips grazed the cool metal button.
“I hate everything!” The same voice called out.
Bright red hair caught my attention. After taking a few steps closer, and drained my neck around a sad, dying tree in a planter, I saw it was Molly from group. Her canvas bag was split open, leaving the contents of her purse scattered all over the cracked cement. The door to her SUV was thrown wide open, her hair in messy disarray.
Without planning or considering it, I said, “You can borrow my bag.”
Molly found me. Her eyes were red and swollen. She pulled her bottom lip into her mouth.
“I have enough space. Two compartments.”
“That’s okay. I’m gonna put it all in the glove compartment.” She pushed a sigh through her lips as she ran her hands through her hair. “I can’t deal with this place today.”
“I’ll help you pick it up,” I mumbled as I walked nervously up to her. My heart pounded in my chest as I pushed myself outside my comfort level.
She flashed me a wide smile, “Thank you. That’s nice.” Tears were fresh in her eyes.
“Sure, it delays me going through those stupid doors.” I said into my chest.
“Well, don’t go today.”
I picked up purple sparkly lip gloss and a lighter.
“I’m not going,” Molly continued, “You can put those in the glove box.”
I nodded and awkwardly walked over to the car, “We can’t just skip.”
“Why not? We were both signed up for that bullshit program. Ya know what that means we have in common?” Molly raised one of her mismatched eyebrows with a cock of her hip.
“What?”
“The adults in our lives have given up.” Her smiled widened. She was beginning to look less sad, and I felt like I had something to do with, which brought on the rarely felt pride.
“That’s true.”
“Let’s go down the shore. Nice long drive followed by a view that reminds us we are small and insignificant.”
“That’s sounds awesome.” My feet began to tingle, urging me to go this time.
“Sweet, let’s do it.”
“I can’t.”
“Why?”
“We could be gone for longer than five hours. I just got a dog, and I don’t want my guardians to have a reason to give her away.”
Molly’s lips flattened into a straight line. The redness of her eyes was starting to fade.
“Okay, how about the mall? Food and looking at cute things?”
I should go to the group. I shouldn’t make things worse. But, as these thoughts circled through my mind my mother’s voice found its way through, “Go be a teen. It’ll be good for you.” I allowed my eyes to close for a minute. Her warm smile and encouraging eyes found me. I could picture every time she’d widen her eyes in a way that was encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone.
“Yeah,” I said surprising myself, “Let’s go to the mall.”

 

Copyright 2016 Jayme Beddingfield

*Note: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to anyone is entirely coincidental.