Tag Archives: Writing

Writing Through

Perhaps this will be a short post. Perhaps not. The point is to write something, anything. Because it’s been far too long since I have. 

It’s such a cliche for writers to be afflicted with depression, and of all the things I am, of all of my unattractive qualities, this is the one I hate the most. The first thing to go when I’m down the rabbit hole (and, God, I’ve said that so many times, that term is becoming it’s own cliche, I need a new one) is my writing. Then my reading. Until I can barely find much satisfaction in even magazines. It’s a cruel, ironic state for a writer: cliche depression leads to cliched writer’s block which leads to writer not writing, leading the writer to become more depressed. All I have managed to write lately is a story about a girl (woman) who is depressed. At least I was able to use the darkness for a purpose, if only for the few hours it took me to write it.

I’ve had to force myself to read. I was back to my voracious self for quite a while before I got reader’s block. It didn’t help that the book I was reading was about depressed women writers. The fact that it was so well written, and that it was as if the author had crawled into my brain and set up camp from which to narrate, only drove me further down. 

I’ve had to force myself to keep going, keep writing, even if it sucks (because, hey: words), to keep reading, keep moving my brain cells in some communicative way. So why am I sharing this? Partly, writing this post means I’m writing which is vital. Partly, because I believe good writing is painfully honest, it’s what invites the reader to empathize. Think about it: even sci-fi & fantasy is best when it is written so flawlessly that it could be true, right? (C’mon, if you ever find yourself in King’s Cross Station in London, aren’t you going to pay extra attention to the pillars between Platforms 9 & 10?)

I write this because I’m not the only one. Because being a cliche means there are enough people like you to make the cliche valid. Maybe if I let it out, I’ll perform my own exorcism, at least for this round. Maybe, I’ll inspire someone else to admit they’re feeling. The same way I am, and maybe they’ll write about it. Either way, the point is words. Words drive me and stop me, sometimes they drag me. I just want to be the one who knows how to read the map.

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Listless Listing

I found myself having to read my own blog post yesterday. I set challenges for myself in 2015, but I feel as if I’ve been drifting for awhile. Since January, I’ve made a list for myself each week of things I wanted to accomplish, like responding to a friend’s letter, clean the bathroom, etc. On each list has been poem drafts and submissions. It wasn’t until today that was able to check off the submission box. Not once have been able to check off every item on my list by the end of the week.

This is one of those rabbit-hole-warning-signs I need to be conscious of. My productivity slows, its always the first thing to go before I fall into a depressive episode. It doesn’t help that my friends are doing so professionally well. I have to admit I’m jealous, but the thing is, how often do we get jealous of something and still sit back and dwell in it rather than doing something about it, so we can feel better, at least feel as if we tried? Every day I tell myself, do something, write something, say something, try something. This week is the first in awhile when I actually have.

People have called me a force to be reckoned with. It’s a weird label to have, because you begin to believe that you are at once formidable and vulnerable. How do you keep the momentum of the force? What happens when you slow down? That slowing quickly drives you far lower than usual because you realize that you are suddenly not at all what people believed you to be. I have to constantly remind myself that I always have the potential to be that person, that it is always in me to be that force, but that I need to DO SOMETHING in order to earn it.

So I list. I make lists because they keep me on track. I keep lists because my fibromyalgia can render me utterly useless at times, but there is always something small I can do that will still make a difference and I need to remember that. I make lists so I can remember what I need to do, because my fibromyalgia will also cause me to forget or even not see what needs to be done. I make lists so that I can feel accomplished no matter how little I do. I make lists because they haunt me into action.

This post, this general, freeform post, was on my list for at least three weeks. Now I can check this one off too.

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Yoga Challenge: The Make-up Days

Pose of the Day: Tree pose

Last week, man, I just fizzled out. What a horrible way to “finish” a challenge I felt I’d so successful at. I was… I don’t even know what I was. Fibromyalgia-y. In the midst of a flare, you’re picking and choosing what you can and can’t do, and your body whittles down that list even more until you find that biggest accomplishment of the day was brushing your hair. I slept a lot. A lot. I slept for twelve hours one night, took naps almost three hours long, couldn’t move much, felt nauseated, barely ate or ate too much. No yoga for a whole week. And I felt awful without it.

I’ve come to look forward to the evenings I practice yoga. I make tea, set up my mat, listen to some smooth music that helps me relax, do my 15-20 minutes, and then lay in bed to watch tv, or read, or even just something like a blog post or a to do list. I wouldn’t say yoga has made me more focused, necessarily, but it’s given me a sort of routine in the evenings that I looked forward to, and I felt like I was accomplishing something. Even if my body still has some rolls that I thought would be–at the very least–more subtle than when I started, and even if I’m still wearing the same size I was wearing at the beginning of the challenge, I still felt change. To not have that, even for a week, especially for a whole week, I really felt like I lost something. It was partly guilt over my challenge, but, like I said, it was something I looked forward to.

I felt better last night, and got right back into it. Twenty minutes, good music, every move felt amazing. I realized that, after a whole month, I can actually touch my heels to the floor in Downward Dog now! It’s an amazing feeling to realize that your muscles have extended themselves to make new things possible within the confines of your body. I also got back into drinking plenty water. I had a superbad sick day on Sunday, replete with vomiting, body aches, fever, general grossness. And all I wanted was water. (Mainly, it was most of what of what I was able to consume without throwing up.) I’ve noticed that I am hyperaware of when my body starts needing water now. Before I know it, I’ll have drunk a full water bottle. It turns out I can curb many headaches by doing this. I’ve had far fewer (as in, not every single day) headaches since hydrating.

I could say that yesterday and today were my new Days 29 & 30, but it just doesn’t feel right. I feel like I’m not finished. And to be honest, I’m not sure I want to be finished. It seems to me that that would give me the perfect excuse not to keep going with it. Yoga’s become one of those friends I have to check in with several times a week just to make sure that everything’s okay, it’s not in my head, that it’s real, that it’s something I still look forward to and don’t feel as happy without.

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Yoga Challenge: Days 26-29

Pose of the Day: Cobra

I really didn’t anticipate feeling this miserable at the end of my challenge. After taking those days off last week, I was determined to do at least something yoga-ish. Friday I made my post while resting my legs up against the wall, otherwise known as Legs Up the Wall pose. It worked, I got my time in. Saturday I felt like death after over-exerting myself for a family day out, so I did ten minutes of Savasana before bed. It was basically like falling asleep on the floor or couch and then moving into the bed. Sunday I was feeling really good; a new episode of The Walking Dead was coming, I had pizza rolls at the ready, all in all it was a great day. I did about twenty minutes because all the stretching felt so good.

And then I woke up yesterday.

Whether from stretching a bit too far during my Sunday workout or from sleeping on the couch in the we hours of Monday morning when my husband’s snoring drove me awake and away, I got it. Bad. I couldn’t move my head to the left. I mean, I could, but not without incredible pain. No amount of heating pad, massage, or muscle relaxer was working. I had to skip my workout. I still hurt a bunch. I’m really upset at this point because I haven’t been feeling well for almost a week, but it’s not a cold or the flu, because it’s milder, but still enough to make me not want to move. This is one of my fibro flares and it is so incredibly frustrating! I was so close to doing exactly what I had set out to do, following all the rules I set for myself, and my body is now saying, “Screw that.”

It’s not just the physical stuff. I finished three books last week and I should have, by now, made an entry on Jillie’s Bookshelf for each and I just can’t seem to get my thoughts together. This is one of those things that a lot of people don’t get about chronic illnesses: your best intentions are consistently compromised until you learn that the only way you’re going to accomplish your goals is to remember that they’re there when you’re ready. You have to know when and if it’s okay to set them aside in order for you to simply get yourself back to yourself. You have to wait. You have to be patient with yourself, which is the hardest thing ever.

I am most likely going to extend my challenge a few days. Maybe I just won’t count yesterday and today, or maybe I’ll just do an extra week. I definitely have to drink more water. I noticed last week that I wasn’t consuming as much. Part of that was that I didn’t feel good, but the other part was just plain laziness. I have my trusty water bottle back at my side, now. Hopefully, I feel more like myself, my inner self, sooner rather than later.

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Yoga Challenge: Day 12-14

Pose of the Day: Pranayama

Okay, the PotD isn’t really a pose; it’s yoga breathing. Deep, in through the nose, calm, measured breathing. Realizing Friday night that I wouldn’t get around to my regularly scheduled programming, I decided to take advantage of the hot tub at the indoor waterpark where my family was enjoying themselves the night before a relative got married. (No yoga on Saturday, but I got quite the workout on the dance floor!) I spent a good 15 minutes trying to relax my body as much as possible in the lovely bubbles. The issue with pools and hot tubs is that your body tries to rise the more you relax. I found a god position that helped me stay under while taking up as little room as possible in this public arena. It felt so good. I was so relaxed. Focusing on my breathing still worked my core muscles and my arms felt heavy as I lifted them out of the water when I decided to get out and join my son and hubby in the lazy river.

I need to stop taking the weekend off. Yes, I was active on Saturday and we had a situation yesterday that required a trip to urgent care. Still, I need to stop finding excuses as to why I’m going to “do it later” or why I’m too sore/tired/etc. I’m not losing weight, may have gained some actually, and that’s another reason why I can’t tell what exactly yoga is doing for me at this point. I may have gained some muscle. My stomach feels harder… underneath the spare tire. I was hoping that after a good six weeks of water, yoga, and general betterness, I would notice at least a minor change; a better fitting shirt, a pair of pants loosening in the hips. Alas, no such luck yet.

My saving grace at this point is the fact that I feel good. Honestly, the only reason I want to lose some weight is so that I can wear some of the adorable clothes I bought around summer/fall. If I had bought them in bigger sizes, I don’t think I would care as much. I just want to be smooth around the edges, have things look the way they were intended to, no bulges or rolls, etc. I’m glad that the improvements I am experiencing are improving my mental well-being. I haven’t really been tempted to go down the depression rabbit hole since I started these challenges. I’m writing more, making lists to keep myself on task, being a more productive member of society. I’d rather have these things be my normal than a smaller waist, actually. It’s no use looking good if you can’t get out of bed, anyway.

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Back in the Cozy Armchair

I love what my Read Harder challenge is doing for me! I set upon this challenge as a way to get back into reading. The last few years I haven’t been able to keep myself as interested in books as I used to be. I definitely wasn’t as voracious as I used to be. I could devour a book as if it were a delicious meal and I nourished me as much as a meal would. I purposefully open all the curtains on a snowy day and curl up in a chair next to the largest window with a cup of hot chocolate and a Willa Cather novel just to be able to enjoy being the perfect cliché for a few hours. I’ve never stopped reading, but I kind of took a back seat to everything else in life.

What I’ve been noticing in the past two weeks or so is that I’m getting closer to the reader I used to be. I persevered through a book I wasn’t thrilled with, to find that the second half was totally worth it. I devoured a book in less than 24 hours. I’m even reading classics again… well, a classic. I reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for one of my challenge tasks (a book published before the author was 25). I do plan to reread Jane Eyre for another (a book published before 1850), which will lead to a book I plan to read for yet another task (Wide Sargasso Sea: an imagined prequel to Jane Eyre focusing on the first Mrs. Rochester, a book that is a new spin on/retelling a classic story). The more I’m reading, the more I’m looking forward to the next book, and the one after that.

I’m also finding that the way that I read is returning more to the way I used to. I’m really interested in interpretation of the text, picking out the various symbols and references to other works of literature. (Mary Shelley seems to have been a big fan of intertextuality.) I’m making notes, I even write in a book because I wanted to underline a passage in the absence of my usual post-its. (If you know me, this is a big deal. I regard most marginalia as sacrilege, but I let it go because it wasn’t an expensive book and I don’t like mass market paperbacks anyway, so it didn’t hurt as much to deface it.)

What I mean to say is that I feel excited again. I didn’t realize that a simple challenge I set for myself last month (Gallon A Day) would lead to me setting new/more goals for myself. This Read Harder challenge came at the right time and I’m so happy about it. I want to write every day. I actually couldn’t wait to type this up because it felt weird not to have something to say.

I think the most important that we always have to remember is that there pieces that are integral to the core of who we are. They may break away a bit, but they’re always still there, even if only by a thread. As long as you know what those pieces are, you always have the opportunity to keep them strong and intact. If it takes a challenge or a kick in the pants to make it happen, so be it. You can’t let go of the things you love, especially when those things come together to make you who you are.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have 15 chapters to go on this one.

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A Writer’s Wresolutions

2015 is going to be a good year. We all hope so. We all hope that the next year will be better than the last (at least, the Counting Crows do). It’s the reason we make resolutions; it’s a way to ensure that the year will be better by making ourselves better. Quit smoking; drink less; exercise more; eat better; blah blah blah. By February most resolutions have been abandoned. The ones that hang on are either made people with stone resolves or were not that hard to begin with (eat salad once a month; give to charity, as in $1 to that panhandler at the corner by Walmart). My resolution is not to make resolutions. Instead, I am creating challenges for myself. I can easily drop a resolution by using the excuse that, really, it’s practically implied in our society that I will anyway.

This year, 2014, I quit smoking. I set a date and, for once, I did it. Honestly, it was one of few, but great, accomplishments that I made this year. I challenged myself, and I met my goal. I made a Gallon A Day challenge for myself to both increase my water/liquid intake and force myself to write about it every day. I’ve been successful on the whole. I have basically made myself accountable. It was a challenge, so I strove (strived? strove seems right) to meet it. Even when I fell short, I didn’t feel bad; I forgave myself.

So, my challenges for this year, so far. I will be coming up with new ones as I go along. Some are going to seem small, but they’re big to me. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t need to make it official.

1. Participate in Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge. Part of the inspiration behind calling my resolutions (ugh, let’s ban that word) challenges, this project urges reader’s to complete 24 reading tasks such as a book by an African author, a book published pre-1850, etc. In doing my research and going through my to-be-read shelf, I’ve realized I won’t even have to make any big investments in order to accomplish most of these tasks. It’s really more a matter of being conscious of what I’m reading. To be honest, I didn’t read as much in 2014 as I used to. I need motivation to get back to the thing I love so much. Ive already started with my short story collection pick, BARK by Lorrie Moore. I will be documenting my reads on my long-neglected, if ever used, companion blog to Random Lines Working: Jillie’s Bookshelf. Regular progress updates/thoughts will happen here.

2 Yoga-A-Day/Yog-A-Day/Stretch A Day. Hell, who knows what I’ll call it, but after my water challenge wraps up, I’ll be doing 10 minutes a day of yoga and documenting it. It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s way more than zero.

3. Continue drinking water. I won’t be as anal about it as I’ve been for my water challenge, but I like my results, and want to continue reaping the benefits.

4. Write more. It took drinking water to get me regularly posting to my blog. I’ve barely written anything since editing my manuscript, even though I’ve been very proud of the few things I’ve published this year. I want to make sure I stay in the habit of putting words down, no matter the subject… though, I won’t count grocery lists.

5. Publish more. I realize I have no control over the opinions of editors, but submitting more work, means my chances go up. I want to publish at least 6 book reviews. With three already in the works, I shouldn’t have too much trouble achieving this goal, but the other three, who knows? That’s why it’s a challenge. Not to mention I have to write more in order to have more to publish.

These are just the challenges I’m starting with. There’s always the possibility of NaPoWriMo, or a new 30-day challenge I haven’t come up with yet. There is room for editing, changing, evolving, growing bigger or smaller. That’s why they’re challenges and not resolutions. Don’t make promises to yourself that you might break. Don’t say you’re going to make these catastrophic, ridiculously huge changes. If you fail to follow through, you’ll end up feeling guilty, to say the least. I have millions of excuses why these challenges are too hard to meet. But the point is trying. The point is doing what I can to raise myself to a certain level and feeling good no matter what rung on the ladder I get to. Challenge yourself. And be proud of even attempting greatness.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Gallon A Day: Day 15

If only beer and whiskey and caffeinated coffee counted toward my goal. Working backstage at a concert last night meant I completely forgot my water bottle and I felt too awkward to ask the band if I could sneak one of theirs. I did get a big glass when my friend and I went out afterwards but it was just barely enough. So I missed my gallon goal by 24 oz. yesterday. Y’all. I’m not doing very well, am I? At least I’m trying and that is always what matters most.

I do feel better overall. I’m motivated. Water is even becoming a sort of default. As soon as I wake up, if I have a slight headache, or my mouth is just a bit dry I go for a small glass of water. A quick 8 oz. and I’m on track. It’s a great feeling to know I’m taking care of myself without really trying. That is a huge deal for me. And I’m feeling so good about this challenge because it not forces me to do something so obviously healthy, but something I thought would be too hard to accomplish in real life. In fact, I’m so inspired by it that I’m thinking of making 2015 a year of challenges for myself. Small ones like this one. Little changes to write about. Really, that was the main reason I began this challenge; I was blocked and felt I had nothing to write about. Doing this means I have something to write about every day.

As I continue drinking water like it’s falling from the sky for the next two weeks, I’ll be thinking of what else I can do. I’m thinking next month may be 10 minutes a day of yoga, a small goal, but so healthy.

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Gallon A Day: Day 9

I think that now is a good time to point out that as we try to improve our lives and our health, there will be days when the world says to you, “Nice try.” Yesterday was just pathetic. I was in a lot of pain from a procedure at the doctor’s office, so I pretty much slept all day. I basically consumed about 50 oz. of liquid (hey, at least I got more than half my water).

There will always be times when you know you could have done better, or that you wanted to try harder and you just couldn’t muster the fortitude to do it. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you try the next day and the next, knowing that at some point it will be second nature to do whatever that thing is. My writing, for example, goes through phases. I’m super-productive for a month, then blocked for another two. I come out of it. When I do have those productive months, I make the most of them by reading, writing reviews, poetry, etc. I don’t waste it. When I end up blocked, I try not to crawl into a hole and wither, I do my best to stay open for the next bout of inspiration to come along. For instance, this challenge was just another way to keep me writing while my poetic muse is on vacation.

So I’m not going to berate myself for messing up. I’m still in pain, anyway. But I am going to keep trying to get to a gallon every day. And if I don’t, then I don’t. After all, this is a CHALLENGE, meaning you can meet it or not. What’s most important is that I’m honest about my results. I do that, if nothing else.

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