Skiing in Colorado!

So, the weather turned bad, and when it snows in CO, you go skiing.  I’m not a good skier, but I do enjoy it, and I learned how to ski backwards today.

We should be driving back tomorrow (hopefully), and then I can get back to writing. As much as I love being home, I miss the comfort of our own apartment, and I have a hard time writing with a lot of people around.

I hope the weather has been nice everywhere else, and I hope the holidays weren’t too tiring.

Christmas fever is hitting hard.

I so desperately want to go home. We’re planning on making it home for Christmas, but we won’t be getting in until Christmas Eve, and I’m having a hard time concentrating on work because I just want the weekend to get here.

That said, I still got a new draft of my newest story done, and I’ll start submitting it when January gets here.

I don’t think I’ll be posting next week because of the holidays, and this one is short because I need to clean and pack before we leave.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, and a bright and happy New Year.

Burnt out on writing!

I’ve been so stressed about writing. Seriously. I sit down to try and get work done, and it sounds like it’ll be fun and productive, but then I start to worry about how much work I’ll actually get done, and my palms start to sweat, and I grind my teeth. I tried to figure out when this issue started to arise, and the answer was something I didn’t want to acknowledge. My MFA. The whole reason I’m having trouble writing is because of my MFA.

It may seem misleading, and it’s not to say that I can’t write now, but the way I write has changed. During my MFA, it was so fast paced that I was often times so rushed to simply create more content that I didn’t have a lot of time to fine tune what I was working on at the moment. That did change in the last semester when much more of my time could be dedicated to just my thesis, but I had somehow conditioned myself that when I sat down to write I needed to do it quickly with great strides.

The program was meant to push me, and it certainly did, but now when I sit down to write I still slip into that mentality that the work needs to be done quickly so that I can get to the other items on my agenda. That isn’t the case. There are no more papers to write, and I am not having to making a lesson plan for my creative writing  class.

So, why can’t I write?

Apart from the fast paced nature of the MFA, the answer is directly in front of me: it’s me. I stress myself out when I sit down to write, and I grow continuously more anxious the longer I sit without producing something. Sometimes, I find myself getting up and working on something else that needs my attention because it relieves me of the stress of having to produce.

Writing used to be an escape, something I could use to help understand the world around me, but somewhere along the line I started forgetting the joy of writing and only focused on how I could make it better.

I need to strike a balance between the two, but it feels almost like a betrayal to say that I have trouble enjoying writing at this time in my life. I haven’t mentioned it to people because I almost feel guilty for saying something like that.

How could I feel that way when getting an MFA was what I wanted? Writing is my passion, so how could I get tired of it?

I think I got a little burnt out during my program, and it may take me some time to get to the place where I both love writing (and now have the skills to improve upon my work), but it hasn’t happened yet.

Baby steps. Each day I sit down and try not to grind my teeth. Each day I’ll remember what it was like to write without the impending school deadline.

Each day that burnt out part of me tries to spark again, and maybe sometime soon I’ll remember the joy of sitting down to a piece of paper with a pen in hand.

Discussing feminism in The Crown. [No spoilers]

I really hadn’t intended to post something like this until last night when my husband and I were watching Netflix’s original series The Crown. I really enjoy series like this one, and I’m only three episodes in, but I think the characters are well done, and I’ve heard the budget for the show is astronomical.

I was a bit surprised when my husband wanted to watch it with me. He likes period pieces, but tends to lean more towards darker dramas. Although not a period piece, Breaking Bad was one of his favorite shows, and that’s about as dark as they come.

So, we’re sitting down to watch the third episode, and for those who haven’t watched it, the main issues of this episode are where Queen Elizabeth and her family are going to live (they currently reside outside of Buckingham Palace), what surname will be used (Mountbatten or Windsor), and when Queen Elizabeth’s coronation will take place.

For the sake of the post I’m only looking at the first two issues that I mentioned, although the third does bring up others issues in the show although they focus more on the political aspect rather than the familial.

Long story short, Churchill and Elizabeth’s cabinet want her to keep the name Windsor, and to move into Buckingham Palace. She is initially reluctant because she mentions numerous times not liking the palace, and she doesn’t want to be rude to her husband by demanding that their children keep the name of Windsor.

Anyone who had watched the news knows that Queen Elizabeth does in fact reside in Buckingham Palace, and her male heirs do use the name Windsor, so the suspense of what the ultimate outcome will be is rather short changed, but that is not where the tension of the episode arises.

It is in Prince Philip, her husband’s reaction that we see the conflict. Upon hearing from Elizabeth that they will be moving, and that Windsor will be the family name, Philip is understandably upset.

He says something along the lines that this marriage isn’t what he thought. He blames Elizabeth for moving the family away from their home, for ruining his career, and taking away his name.

At this point I mentioned to my husband that I thought Philip was being a jerk. Elizabeth was always meant to take the throne, he knew that, and he only assumed that the Windsor name would be discontinued. I understand  that neither had expected her to take on the role of Queen until much later in their lives, but he’s acting as if all of this is a shock.

Anyhow, my husband said that it wasn’t fair that all these things be taken away from him, and it dawned on me that he was just seeing it from his perspective. When we got married, I gave up my name, my job, and my home to move across the country to be with him. Yes, I knew what I was signing up for, and there are times when I feel as if didn’t quite understand what that meant for me.

In regard to the show, I was Philip and he was Elizabeth. I understand why Philip was upset because there are numerous other factors at work regarding their family, but at the core the issue was still the same.

My husband thought that Philip giving up his career, his last name, and his home was too great a sacrifice in the marriage, and he felt as though his rude treatment of Elizabeth was warranted. I don’t think he realized fully that I had done the same thing for him until I called him out on it.

To be clear, I wasn’t mad at my husband’s initial response because he has no other experience except his own, but I wanted him to see things from a different one. To understand that what Philip is so mad about is what women were often expected to do without question.

I think we were both a bit surprised by my comment, but we ended up discussing it a little bit more before moving on. He even mentioned that he wished there were a way to make marriage more “even”. We are in a healthy relationship, and we share the responsibilities of it 50/50. I didn’t have to give up the things I did to marry him, but it was my choice, and it is one that I am happy with.

I can certainly say that I gained even more respect for my husband for willing to look at a view other than his own and see where his own perspective was lacking. I’m looking forward to when he can do the same for me because that is how we grow as a couple.

Cover letters are death

So, I owe an apology because I didn’t post last week due to the holiday. One of my best friends comes to visit us every year, and I admit that I didn’t think about posting until after she left. I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you and your family/friends do anything for turkey day.

Now that we’re done with Thanksgiving, and the big holiday season is coming up quickly, I find myself thinking about the different journals that I want to submit to at the beginning of the year. Many that I want to submit to have submissions in January, which is what I’m aiming for, but it means that I need to start working on my  cover letters.

I’m not sure if everyone feels this way, but cover letters are something that I struggle with writing. I have so little to say about myself that my cover letters look a step below pathetic.

I’ve been told that some publishers don’t read the cover letter until after they’ve read the submitted work, which is probably good in my case, but I still spend a great deal of time stressing out over them. I always spend about half an hour on each because I want to personalize each letter I send out. I feel like a generic letter is a little insulting to the editor and gives the impression that I don’t care who I’ve sent my work to.

Pathetic cover letters aside, the piece that I’ve been working on for several months, and the one I was planning on submitting, still isn’t coming together like I want. I’m aiming for about 4000 words, and I’m about halfway there.

I think the concept is decent, but I’m having a hard time adding enough detail to keep the story intriguing. I got a comment during my graduate work that my writing seemed more directed to a young adult audience. I have several friends who are excellent YA authors, but that’s not what I want to write, so I keep worrying about whether the content and the prose are too elementary.

I’ve been playing around with varying sentence structure in different parts of the story to try and evoke different emotions within the reader, but I’m afraid I might be trying to do too much given my word limit.

Still, I have a little less than a month if you factor in holiday breaks, and I see my family so infrequently that I often feel guilty trying to find time to write while visiting. My parents and my husband’s parents only live ten minutes from each other, so juggling between two families during holidays is sometimes challenging because I always try to split the visit 50/50 between our two houses.

We’re also going to try and go skiing this year. Colorado is blessed with some of the best skiing, and I do my best to keep up even though I haven’t spent much time on the slopes. I hoping to improve this year.

Hopefully I’ll have a better grasp on my story next week.

Fingers crossed.

Being your own boss must be the easiest thing in the world, right?

As a freelance writer, I get asked this question a lot. I never know quite what to say, and it’s not that the question is hard, it’s just that my general thought is, “Well, not really, and this is awkward because I don’t really want to talk about it”, and that never lets the conversation continue.

In truth, I’ve struggled with it a lot post grad school because I often feel guilty when my husband leaves for work and I’m still in my sweats. Am I working? Yes. Do I have work to show for myself when he gets home? Yes, although he doesn’t keep tabs on me. (I get pretty self deprecating if I haven’t completed anything for the day, and he can usually tell right away.)

Working from home has been a more difficult adjustment than I imagined, and it’s not for the reasons one might think. I don’t have a problem staying “on track”. I don’t often find myself distracted by the t.v. or the internet, but I would always feel as though I needed to be chained to my work all day, and under no circumstances was it acceptable for me to take a break to cook lunch or take the dog for a walk.

This line of thinking usually resulted in me feeling completely burned out by early afternoon, but I had to constantly be working for it to be acceptable that I stay and work on my career from home. I don’t know if other people (regardless of profession) have come across similar feelings when it comes to working from home.

It certainly wasn’t making me happy, even though I was doing what I’d always wanted. I should have been happy, but being constantly stressed over the fact that I got up to take a break and eat a snack wasn’t doing me, or my work, any favors. I thought that was how it worked.

Upon finding this out, my husband promptly told me I was crazy for not taking breaks during the day. His average day is twelve hours long, and he told me that even when he’s super busy he tries to take a break ever couple hours. He does something completely non-work related so that he can recharge for the rest of the day. He plays a game on his phone, he gets something to eat, or he talks with his friends. Now, with him being gone so long, and us only able to have one car, I spend most of my weekdays without leaving the apartment very often. The animals and I have developed a highly intricate secret language.

Even writing this, it makes stupidly clear to me that I need to take breaks. I can’t physically separate work and home because they are in the same place. I don’t really have the ability to leave work at the office because my office is my dining room table.

Even in the past two weeks I’ve tried to be more lenient with myself when I take breaks. I try not to feel bad about it, I make myself take time for lunch, and I always take our dog on a walk after my work day is done.

I thought working from home would be easy because I can be very dedicated in my work, but it ended up being more difficult in ways I had not even imagined. Are my days more broken up, and have I let loose the mentality that I must be shackled to my desk all day every day? Yes, but I am writing this post as I’m eating lunch.

Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Is Self Publishing Really Worth It?

It’s finally starting to feel like fall here in Texas. The heat is something that I’ve never gotten used to while we’ve lived here, and the cooler weather is beyond welcome. I always find it easier to work when the weather is cloudy and cold. Probably because I enjoying wrapping myself in blankets while I work.

The change in the weather spurred me into action in finding out more information about self publishing, and whether it is really what I think will benefit me the most. In the past week I have learned a bit about self publishing, and what it is to be a writer in the post-graduate world I find myself in.

One of the main things I found out about self publishing is that it is a rather big gamble with your own money. Everything from the editor to the cover picture needs to be paid for by you, which does allow you to be more specific in keeping with your vision, but it also means that the upfront cost of getting something published is rather pricey. I found several websites that would direct you to reputable people in each field that you need to get your book off the ground. Although, the nice thing about self publishing is that you could publish your book without any of these services, but the chances of it seeing any success are slim.

So, freedom of expression is a significant pro of the self publishing track, and with kindle and e-readers so popular these days, there is a market for self published works to make a name for themselves.

If you’re willing to take the risk, and if you are dedicated to overseeing each and every aspect of your work, then self publishing might work for you, but I had to think about what I wanted.

As I said in my previous post, I do want to try and get something published by a house, but I don’t have that much work at the moment, so I emailed some advisors and friends who are have found success in their years as writers. I don’t want to say that self publishing was a last ditch effort for me, but I did feel as though I wanted to go the more traditional route.

So, am I still on the fence? Yes, but my gut tells me that I need to try and get something published by a journal. And it was certainly a surprise to me to learn that novel excerpts are rarely accepted. Looks like I’ll be brushing off some of the short stories I have to see if they can be improved to the point where I can send them out.

It’ll take some work because all of those stories have been shelved since before I started my degree, and I know they will need a serious overhaul. Still, it gives me something to strive for, and for me that’s a large part of the battle right there.

 

So, you’ve finished your MFA. What now?

Since I’m just getting things back up and running, I thought that I would tackle one of the reasons I’m starting this blog up again.

I finished my MFA this past summer, and I was proud of what I had accomplished. My MFA was unlike a traditional school in that all work and scheduling was my own responsibility. I didn’t have anyone that I answered to daily, and my progress was solely judged on what I snail-mailed to my advisor every three weeks.

I met people at Goddard that I know will be my friends for years to come, and when I got my diploma I was happy. I felt like I’d done something solely for me, and that I would finally feel confident in saying that “I am a writer”.

Fast forward several months…

Am I still happy? Yes. Of course. I don’t have any regrets in getting my degree. Do I think I was a little optimistic in thinking that my degree was going to solve my problems? Entirely too optimistic.

I have diligently written almost everyday since I graduated, and I see no other way that I can improve my craft other than doing just that, but with that said, I still feel rather conflicted by the fact that I haven’t done anything with my degree other than that. I certainly know that it will take longer than a few months (try many years) before I will likely see the results of my hard work, but I’m someone who needs goals to stay motivated. Sure, a long term goal of potentially getting published one day is great, but it’s still a rather abstract goal, and I need something more immediate to keep me going.

Que my newest idea, which might or might not prove to be a smart idea. I think that I will try to self publish a collection of my short stories. That way I can start to get my name out there. It will at least allow me to say that I am published. Now, I am a complete stranger to self publishing, so I have a lot of research ahead of me, but I think that it will give me something to strive towards. I already have a collection of pieces that I can edit and improve for the collection.

I’m still rather old fashioned, and I would like to try and find an agent and publishing house for the novel that I’m working on, but just because I want to have my book published through a house doesn’t mean that I need to have all my work produced that way.

I’m just trying to keep a delicate balance between being optimistically driven and paralyzing self doubt. I do tend to lean towards the later, so this will certainly be an experiment in pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

Next week I’ll hopefully have a better idea of how to start down the rabbit hole that is self publishing. If anything, I’ll have a good story to tell.

Be well.

Is anyone out there?

It’s been a very, very long time since I last posted, but now I actually have time to sit down and start up my blog again.

I won’t say much in this post other than I will be resuming posts on Wednesday, and for now they will just be once weekly. I’ll see how things go from there, and the focus of the posts will most likely be the same.

So, if there is anyone still out there connected to this blog, be prepared to hearing from me more frequently!! I have a lot that I’d like to talk about.

I have missed posting, and I really hope that people will be excited to read about my journey of the past few years.

Cheers! ❤

Taking a break from posting.

So, the hubby and I are moving at the end of the month. We’re driving all the way to Texas, and I’m trying to stay open minded about the move. I’ve grown strangely attached to Seattle. I loved Colorado when I lived there, but Seattle is just special to me. Anyhow, with moving and not having a place to live yet, it will be hard enough to get school work done, so I won’t be posting until we get settled.

Maybe I’ll post pictures of our new place when we get unpacked. We were going to try and get a house on base, but the wait list is pretty long, so we might be living in an apartment again. We’ve found a few contenders, so as long as they don’t have breed or weight restrictions we’ll be fine. Hoshi turned eight months old at the beginning of this week. He’s just about 90 lbs, and he finally is starting to seem big to me. Up until this point I always saw him as small, but he’s bigger than most full grown German Shepherds. He is still a lap dog. I think he’ll always be a lap dog.

I hope everyone’s Friday is going well. I have to go try and write a paper. I’m not doing very well with it, and I’d love to just pretend it doesn’t exist. The book that I read for the paper is a brilliant book. It is Kazuo Ishiguro’s A Pale View of Hills. He also wrote Never Let Me Go. I’ve heard that it is fantastic, but I haven’t had a chance to read that one.

Anyhow, happy reading to everyone!