When the Belief Falters

Well, it certainly has been a summer so far, yeah?

It has been for me, I can tell you that. There have been things happening. There have been adjustments to life, the day job, the Universe…Everything.

And none of that has passed on through without leaving some kind of impression, something to mark its passing.

All of which has had an impact on the writing. I haven’t been doing much of it, and what I have been doing has sometimes felt like trying to squeeze water from a stone.

Add to that a couple of days where I didn’t get anything done at all and, one night, I wondered what it was that I was doing.

Why was it so hard? What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I get back on schedule? Why couldn’t I muster the drive to sit down and write?

And, because I am nothing if not a bundle of nerves, wrapped up in anxiety and self-doubt, I wondered if maybe it was time for me to stop.

Now let me tell you: This isn’t the first time I’ve asked myself these questions. I think we all do every now and again. This is the first time, however, I didn’t simply dismiss the thought out of hand, and I gave serious consideration to the answer.

Why now?

Because I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. Not with the Work in Progress. Not with my career as an author. Not anywhere.

And I know this is a massive sign that I should be keeping my eyes on my own paper, but there it is.

So I sat there, one night, thinking.

Wouldn’t it just be easier to quit?

On one hand, it certainly would. It would free up a heap of time and effort. Not just on the writing front, but on the authoring front as well. I wouldn’t need to spend as much time (if any) on social media. I could stop the monthly newsletter. I probably wouldn’t feel as much of a drive to update the blog as often. All of that would be gone. Swept right off the table.

Most of it anyway. I do think that the blog would stay active, but the format (Not to mention the schedule) might change.

But the real question is this:

Do I want to quit?

Again, I considered the answer very seriously and, as it turned out, I did not want to quit. I tried to picture a world in which I didn’t actively tell stories and something profound happened:

Something deep in my mental and emotional core recoiled at the idea.  I could almost physically feel the aversion to to it, it was that strong. The degree of internal “Nope” was enough to convince me that I wasn’t interested in setting the pen down anytime soon.

Which…still left the question of why writing was so hard at the minute.

By now, you’re probably shooting pointed glances at the *waves hand at everything* world and are not surprised by the fact that writing right now is difficult. I concede the point that there’s some truth to that, but it I didn’t (and still don’t – you’ll see why, later) think it’s the sole cause.

I considered what it was that I was working on.

Had I lost faith in the book?

This too is a significant question. If you’re going to sit with a novel length project (any size project, really), you’ve gotta believe in it. You’ve gotta believe that you can pull it off.

Note: You might not have a solid answer to the question of “How” you’re going to pull it off – that’s a secondary thing – but you’ve got to believe that you’re going to get there eventually.

So I took a look at the project and, after thinking about it, I decided that I still thought/believed that I had a story there – which was something of a relief since I’m close to 50k words in.

That brought me to the scene of the crime, so to speak. The scene I was struggling with.

In the end (And I will recommend this approach to anyone who asks) I sat down with a notepad and pen and I started writing down questions, rapid fire, about the scene. What am I struggling with? What do I want to do with this scene? What is this scene supposed to do? DO I even need it at all?

There were other questions, but I think you get the picture.

Some of these questions came out right away. Some of them were spawned by answers that I came up with after the initial round of questions passed.

I made sure to answer them honestly – which sounds kind of silly, having to make sure the answers were honest but, lets face it: we all delude ourselves a little bit, and a direction in the work taken because you want to avoid something is usually a dead end.

When I was finished – and this took me about an hour, all told. I had a better, more concrete idea of what I wanted to do, and I a full page of notes for how to do it.

Now, you might be wondering how “Struggling with a scene” blew up into “Are you sure you want to keep writing?”

Well, the times are decidedly heavy. There’s less interaction going on with folks in the writing community and most of that interaction is taking places on Facebook and Twitter, which are problems unto themselves. My old writer’s group kinda fell apart and I haven’t found a new home yet. And, of the folks I normally talk to about writing, I don’t feel comfortable about DM-ing them out of the blue, late at night, so they can talk me off the ledge.

Note: If any of those folks are reading this, the above is more about the hangups that I’ve got, than any kind of reflection on you.

Obviously, I’ve got a lot to unpack and examine, but the point of all this is to recognize when thoughts and feelings like this come around. To give them the attention and care they deserve.

A little self-reflection, a pause to wonder what’s going on, to seek honest answers, is a good thing. Something that I probably don’t do enough of, but plan on doing in the future.

Thanks for reading.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

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Five Thing Thursday: July 9th

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: Kidney stones *shudders*

Thing #2: Sometimes the belief will falter. It doesn’t mean that you should stop. You might want to take a moment to examine why, though. You might learn something.

Thing #3: A little self-reflection is good for the soul. I probably don’t do it as often as I should.

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Smashmouth (Allstar in particular)

Thing #5: There is always music in my head. Sometimes, though it’s like the mental jukepox is only playing samples, or just the chorus before moving onto the next song (Random shuffle is always on).

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What am  I reading this week?

Paint it Black by John Hartness

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

If you’d read Sundays Post. I’m more than happy to say that I’ve recovered and am able to function normally. I am taking the entirety of the next week (My Birthday Week) off. There will be grilling and more Rugby replays. This is also one of the two main times a year when I tend to get more introspective than usual. One of those times resulted in this blog. Who knows what’s coming next…

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe Y’All.

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The Myth of the Suffering Artist

Last week, I had been trying to get myself back on a kind of writing schedule. I kicked it off on Monday. I got up early, and got some writing done before reporting in (Figuratively speaking) for the day job.

It felt pretty good and I was glad that I’d done it and was looking forward to doing the same thing Tuesday, then the rest of the week.

3:00 am Tuesday, I had a flare up of kidney stones. For those of you who have had them, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you that haven’t, the following description will be a pale comparison.

Imagine a sharp, stabbing pain that you *Cannot* get away from, radiating through your lower back on one side (In my case it was my right side). The pain will vary in intensity sliding from barely tolerable to so intense it make me sick. No position, no body contortion, eased the pain. It woke me up at 3 in the morning, and I watched the sun rise, without a further wink of sleep. Non-prescription pain killers blunted it, and I spent the entirety of Tuesday trying to snatch sleep in 45 minute (on average – sometimes I was lucky enough to drop off for an hour, other times I couldn’t manage 30 minutes of sleep) chunks.

I didn’t eat anything for over 24 hours. The thought of food was enough to make me nauseous. I was *Never* not in pain and the next night, despite being exhausted, I spent in 45 minute chunks of fitful sleep.

This is painting with a broad brush because, honestly, if you’ve never had them, there is no bit of description that I can wield to put a fine point on it.

I’m typing this draft on Saturday afternoon, and this is the first time, I’ve had the mental capacity to do *Anything* creative.

Yet there are (Thankfully diminishing) schools of thought that it is in the depths of this pain where I would do my best writing. Only by somehow channeling that pain (and this can be either physical or emotional pain – which is ridiculous in itself, the two are hardly the same) into my writing, it will allow me to reach greater heights in evoking emotion, in resonating with the reader (who, apparently is only interested in misery because there’s no way you can express any kind of joy when you’re in so much pain you wish you could simply pass out for the “Sleep”).

The “Suffering Artist” idea is old, and it’s a lie that originated way back when some artists came to the realization that maybe it was possible – with a bit of skill and a lot of practice – that “Other” (read that as “More common”) folks could do what they were doing.

This was back in the days where “Artist” could be used as a occupation description and covered any creative pursuit. The thought was that one’s pain was one’s own and nobody else had it like you did – you were so emotionally raw, so in tune with the harsh realities of life (This was also back when you – if you played your cards right – had the added bonus of not being required to produce anything on a regular basis because you had a Patron who supported you and your work) that your “Exquisite Agony” had only one outlet.

The idea caught on. In places, it became a kind of contest to see who was in more anguish (Mental, because nobody wanted to physically hurt – that would have been inconvenient).

We did it to ourselves, and the idea lives on to this day. The picture of the Starving Artist (sound familiar), the artist struggling under the burden of addiction, or mental health issues, using them as fuel for their creative drive.

It’s Bullshit. All of it. And every time I see a “Reputable” publisher, content site, producer of “Stuff” try and get away with “Paying” their contributors with “Exposure,” it makes me want to reach into my monitor and tear the article, offer, posting, to shreds if I could.

There is no playing through the pain.

Take care of yourself. Demand that your health (be it physical or mental) be a primary concern. Demand fair and proper compensation for your work.

You are the only one that can produce what you produce. They, at least, had that part right back then. If follows that without “You” there is no “Your” art.

So if you’re suffering AND feeling down on yourself for not producing, I urge you to reach out to folks in your artistic community. The people in the trenches with you will tell you it’s ok to take care of yourself. To do whatever you need to do to be ok again, so you can get back to work.

And if anyone tells you that you should just “Push through it” or that you’re not a “Real” artist because you aren’t working through the suffering: Actively ignore that advice – you can bet that the people spouting that crap certainly aren’t following it themselves.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Posted in LIfe, Mental Health, Self Care | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Five Thing Thursday: July 2nd

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: Set small achievable goals. You don’t have to eat the apple all in one bite.

Thing #2: I certainly have a new appreciation for Leftovers.

Thing #3: The July newsletter went live on the First. Be sure to sign up to find up what’s going on in The Forge.

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Amaranthe. They’ve got a new release coming in October. You can check out the new single, “Viral” Here

Thing #5: I am finding that, now more than ever, I need to focus more on planning. Without it, the day to day becomes an absolute shambles.

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What am  I reading this week?

Straight to Hell (A Quincy Harker Novella) by John Hartness

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

Music, music, music. There will also be grilling this weekend (Naturally) and more Rugby replays.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe Y’All.

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First Things First

I haven’t written in a week.

A good part of that has to do with the state of *waves hands at the world* everything. More times than I like ot admint, I find myself mindlessly (or semi-mindlessly) doomscrolling (which is an awesome word for it) through twitter, bouncing from one garbage fire to another.

It saps my energy.

Though I can’t lay the blame entirely on social media. I need to own some of that myself. One of the greatest things about writing is that it’s something that you can do anywhere, at any time.

This is also one of the greatest procrastination traps around writing. I’ll put it off because, you know, it’s something that I can do anytime, anywhere, right?

Not really. I kept telling myself this past week that I’d later. After I get off work. Once I’m done with chores, later in the evening.

Want to know something? “Later” never comes.

There’s only now, when I’ve spent my spoons on damn near everything else and the activation energy cost to start writing is so large, because I’ve got nothing left.

So I’ll tell myself I’ll write tomorrow – and you know about tomorrow, right?

So, today, I told myself, I was going to put the writing first. And you know what? After I got the breakfast and the coffee (Essential) done, I sat down to write and I got it done.

After I scratched that off the “To-Do” list, a couple of things happened:

First, I felt so much better that I’d gotten it done. Second, the rest of the day seemed lighter as well.

Don’t get me wrong, the Sunday list is pretty heavy – it usually is – but today I’m not carrying that “You should have been/should be writing” weight on my shoulders.

I know I’ve fallen off my schedule. It’s pretty easy to do when you consider just how much has changed. I’ve got a lot more lee-way in the day to day stuff, and it’s no surprise to find that’s led to slippage on my part.

This next week, I’m going to get myself back on schedule. It’s going to take work. And sacrifice. Back in the “Before Times” I didn’t have much in the way of “Down-time” for myself and I’ve got more of that now, and its a heady feeling.

Since nothing else has the capacity for “Give,” it’s some of that down time I’ve got to sacrifice (Which, I figure, will always be the case until I’m able to retire from the day job – cuz that sure as hell isn’t going to give).

That’s going to be hard but, in the long run, I know the sacrifice will be worth it.

It was today.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Posted in Challenges, LIfe, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five Thing Thursday: June 25th.

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: Unleash the Archers has a new Single out. They’ll have a new release coming out in August. You can check out a bunch of their music on their website.

Thing #2: We had pretty heavy winds around here not that long ago – late last weekend or Monday. The wind was so strong, it blew my calendar off the wall. I noticed it was missing yesterday.

Thing #3: At the time of this post, there will be less than a week to sign up for my July Newsletter. You can sign up by clicking the finely-crafted link at the top of this page.

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Unleash the Archers.

Thing #5: Choosing to learn a foreign language has turned out to be one of my better decisions. If you’re new here, I’m learning Welsh. Also, croeso (welcome)!

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What am  I reading this week?

Hexxed by Kevin Hearne

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

Music, music, music. There will be grilling this weekend (in between bouts of rain) and more Rugby replays.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe Y’All.

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Activation Energy

I can’t remember where I first heard this term, although I suspect that I originally came across it during a dimly-remembered chemistry class.

Basically, as far as I remember it, the term refers to the minimum amount of energy required to kick off a reaction. If you want to start a ball rolling down a hill, you’ve got to poke it hard enough to overcome its tendency to remain at rest and move it far enough for gravity to take over – and the ball rolls downhill.

The nice thing about this is that for every scenario, as long as none of the variables change(same ball, same surface, same level of wind, etc.), the amount of energy required will be exactly the same.

Every time.

I’m not talking about that.

For me, the term has come to mean the amount of mental and emotional energy it takes to begin something.

The hardest part of doing anything is getting started.

And here’s the thing: From one day to the next, the external factors of whatever “Thing” you want to begin, can be exactly the same – BUT – the amount of activation energy required to get started can be wildly different.

As the song goes: “Some days it don’t come easy – and some days it don’t come hard.”

(That song would be “I would do anything for Love – But I won’t do that” Sung by Meat Loaf. Go You Tube it. It’s great)

And this is true for each and every one of us – all at different times and under different conditions.

Lately, for me, it hasn’t been coming easy. Even the fun stuff.

I take heart in knowing that it won’t always be this way. No, I don’t know when that’s going to change, so I concentrate on what’s right in front of me.

Today.

Saturday was the first day I’d written anything since the Friday before (a week and a day for those of you keeping score). When I had the time, the activation energy cost was too high.

So I tried again the next day. And the next. and the next…

And that’s the point of this.

Not that I hadn’t written in just over a week. Not even that I’d gotten something done Yesterday.

The point is that I kept coming back. Maybe I didn’t succeed, but the real triumph was the attempt.

The hardest part of doing anything is getting started. Maybe today isn’t your day. That’s OK. Tomorrow might be – you never can tell.

Just keep coming back.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

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Five Thing Thursday: June 18th.

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: Allergies are awful this year. I don’t have any advice for them, but I’m there with you.

Thing #2: Welsh lessons are coming along well. I can bid a Dragon Good morning, Afternoon, and night (a Welsh dragon that is). I can proclain that I like a good beer, and I can count to 19 without help.

Thing #3: I am starting to gauge just how humid it is around here by how thirsty the page is for ink on a particular day.

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Unleash the Archers

Thing #5: The Absolutely hardest part about anything…is getting started.

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What am  I reading this week?

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Artificial Conditions by Martha Wells

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

Well it’s grilling season, so that’s been relaxing. There are still loads of Rugby replays out there to watch, and I’ve been reading.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe Y’All.

Posted in 5-Thing Thursday | Tagged | Leave a comment

Back to Normal?

Here in my neck-o-the-woods, Monday (June 15th) marks the end of a bunch of stay-at-home orders and I’m hearing folks around me starting to talk about things getting back to “Normal.”

This kinda scares me.

Primarily, it scares me because there’s still no cure or Vaccine for the Coronavirus. We are still logging upwards of around 2oo new cases in the state per day.

If, on Monday, people go right back to the old “Normal” (Not wearing masks, etc) a lot of people are going to get infected. That’s not the “Normal” I want to get back to.

And, yes, the number of recoveries is also increasing daily. Want to know what “Recovery” is classified as?

You’re considered to have “Recovered” if YOU’RE STILL ALIVE after 30 days of the onset of the disease (according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services).

That’s it. Did it kill you within a month? If you’re able to answer that question, you’ve recovered.

Again, that’s not the “Normal” I want to get back to.

And we’ve all seen the kind of people that have turned up as a result of “Normal” going sideways.

I don’t want to go back to “Normal.” Normal, back then, was pretty crappy, to be honest.

I want a new normal. I want a new normal where it’s more important to protect, not only yourself, but others by wearing a mask, than by not taking steps to protect yourself and others. I want a normal where nobody gets to decide who gets to be human. I want a new normal where the color of your skin doesn’t matter. Where it doesn’t’ matter how you Identify. Where folk aren’t willing to knock someone down and step over them to get a freaking haircut.

And that’s not going to come easy.

But how we get there is by starting small. How we get there is by drawing a line in the sand, planting yourself at that line and saying, “No More. You will go no further.”

And I get that there’s a sliding scale of how doable that is for folks, but you know what? Doing it – whatever it is that you can do – is what matters.

You and you alone define “Normal” for you. So define it. Set boundaries, make changes, do what you can to change the sphere of the world around you.

And you’ll get there.

Good Luck.

Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

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Five Thing Thursday: June 11th.

Welcome, everyone to another installment of Five Thing Thursday and…

Here are Five Things I want you to Know:

Thing #1: As things start to reopen, Be extra careful out there.

Thing #2: Grilling season is in full swing out here.

Thing #3: The Welsh language – in as much as I have learned it – has 3 ways to represent the word “The”:

‘R, Yr, and Y

Which one you use will depend on what’s around it.

Thing #4: This Week’s Audio Landscape has been brought to you by… Beast in Black

Thing #5: So far I have managed to survive the latest wave of allergies. The struggle is real.

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What am  I reading this week?

Hexed by Kevin Hearne

The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

How have I been relaxing and refilling the well?

I’ve been reading, playing games and watching rugby. I’ve also added sunsets on the porch to the mix, now that it’s warmer.

###

Be sure to check out the Freebies Page for story Excerpts.

If you’ve read, and enjoyed any of my books, please consider leaving a review:

Weird Wild West

Trials

Predators in Petticoats

Chasing the Light

See you on Sunday!

Until then…

Be safe Y’All.

Posted in 5-Thing Thursday | Tagged | Leave a comment