Writing Wednesday

I’ve begun another edit of Rain. I’m going through one of the returned Tessa Duder manuscripts with a bright pen and marking changes, deletions and errors. So far I have found lots, and every time I mark something I think “this is why I didn’t do better, this here.” or “no wonder” or “man, this sucks.”

I’m not feeling the passion for writing, that’s not back yet, but a certain pragmatism is back and that’s why I’m back into things. Here’s the train of reasoning: I cannot get published unless I submit my work. I cannot submit my work at the moment, because it needs polishing. If I want to be published, and I do, I must edit and polish until I’m happy with the work again. Then I can submit it.

I am sufficiently removed from the manuscript, because I haven’t looked at it since October last year, but there are still emotions attached to it. Mostly the bad ones like failure and rejection. I just have to ignore those and keep on working on it. I do still believe in the book, but I also kind of hate it. I think this is relatively normal in terms of writing a novel, but I dunno. I’ve never felt this passionately angry about a book before, and that probably makes sense, given how passionately into it I was when I was writing it.

So, although it really doesn’t sound like it, this post is to tell you all that I have hope and I am editing, which is working on my writing, and hopefully, slowly, obtaining my dream.

Writing Wednesday

From the awesomely depressing 3eanuts.

It’s not writer’s block, exactly. It’s more like, writer’s discouragement. Writer’s ‘what’s the point’? In short, my recent illness and the return of Rain from the Tessa Duder awards has put me into a funk. I am not sure how to pull myself out of it and it’s making me pretty sad.

My usual way of getting myself back on track is a bit of free writing. I did try that last week, but I was again overwhelmed by a ‘what’s the point?’ wave of ennui. I haven’t tried this again since. This week I have decided to give myself a real break from fiction. I got angry with feeling this way last week and made a list of all of my short stories and what I think needs changing in them. This made me feel better for about a day, since I had a plan. Plans are good. We like plans. But the next day when I pictured up the list the thought of going into any single one of those stories made me feel like a failure before I’d even read them again. The plan didn’t work and now I feel guilty when I see the list.

On Monday morning I got out my journal/personal diary and tried to express everything I was feeling. Although it felt good for a while I think it just cemented how sad this is making me, so I won’t do that again in a hurry.

On Tuesday I got up and went for a run instead of sitting still, not writing. It was a good thing to do. Running was easier than I thought it would be, given it’s been three weeks or so since my last run. I went 1.59km around the water front and felt good afterwards. Today I am muscle sore, but that’s just the penalty for not-running.

This morning I realised I have to change my thinking, so I picked up the book How to Be Rich and Happy and worked through a few exercises. I wrote goals down in my journal and thought about small steps I can take to make the goals reality. I think this was a good thing to do, too, but I still feel very sad.

Perhaps the sadness isn’t about not writing? Perhaps it’s a reaction to all the horrible things that have been happening, like the Christchurch quake and the Japan quake + tsumani. It could be. I get overwhelmed by things like that. Maybe it’s just because summer is ending and I love summer the most out of all the times of year? Maybe it’s all of the above?

Tomorrow I will go for another run. On Friday I’ll do more Rich and Happy exercises and see if I can get myself back on track. I don’t know what else to do except take the pressure off myself and hope it gets better.

(Actually what I really need is those NZT pills from Limitless. Can anyone hook me up?)

Hormones vs brain

Who will win? Welcome to the ongoing craziness that is my mental state and my post-30 hormones.

Back in June I posted this entry about how conflicted I am about reproducing. I want to say that I have improved my mental stability on this issue since then. I want to say it, but it would be a huge lie.

I’ve been crying more than ever before when it comes to ‘that time of the month’ because my body is ramping up the hormones and panicking that I am running out of time. I know, logically, that the optimum time for baby having is right now, and my hormones have taken this logic and turned it into a 2012-level end of the world scenario. My body is telling me that the only thing worth doing is having a baby.

And, as you will recall, this terrifies me. I don’t know how to deal with babies, and quite frankly, I don’t want to learn. I am happy for my friends who have babies, I can see how happy it has made them, and I find their babies incredibly charming and cute, but a large part of this is the ability to hand them back.

When Lee and I were in Rarotonga, we both agreed that we would never have children. We would live on as we are now, with just each other to worry about. About a month ago, I woke up convinced that having babies was the only possible choice. I made the mistake of telling Lee this. I said to him ‘I think we do have to have babies. It’s just something we have to do.’ Then I went to have a shower. When I came back after my long weekend shower, Lee was sitting exactly as I’d left him, he was actually physically paralysed with fear.

I had a great talk with Sok about this on the way to Giffy’s baby shower, I’m really thankful that I feel I can be open and honest about this kind of thing, because it makes me feel like less of a mutant freak. Plus I can think of people I know, or famous people whose blogs I read who do not have kids and still lead happy and fulfilling lives. Just because I don’t have my own kids doesn’t mean there are no kids in my life. I could start hosting children’s birthday parties, for example, or helping out with Capital E’s events. Go back to the library and take storytimes again. Then I can still come home and sit quietly and do writing.

I am yearning (really) not for a baby, but for a child, and then a teenager. I look at TV characters like Bekah from Californication and Alexis from Castle and I want my own version. I want the future, without dealing with the immediate ramifications of the choice.

I guess the real conclusion to come to is that I’m just not emotionally ready. I’m so conflicted, and I think about all the things I am working towards now which a child would conceivably (forgive the pun) interfere with. It’s also telling that when I did my Big Five for Life exercise, the images I came up with did not include children. It never even occurred to me. So….if that’s true, why does writing it make me want to cry?

(I really wish I was a boy.)

While I’m away

Oh, I think I forgot to mention on here that we’ve had some good news in regards to my mother in law. The cancer has not spread to her lymph nodes and she has a lumpectomy scheduled for the 31st. Radiation therapy will follow, but its way better than chemo. Her surgeon said she was in the ‘best possible position’, so we’re all feeling rather relieved. Which is not to say that the time ahead will not be difficult, but it’s so good to have some of the mystery removed.

So Lee and I are off to Rarotonga for a week, then we’re in Auckland for a couple of nights. We might get online in Auckland but I don’t *expect* to be online until the Friday when we get back.

I have scheduled some blog posts to publish so that my stats don’t go all to Hell and you have something to read while I lie on the beach. Mmmmm the beach.

Check back here tomorrow and on August 22nd, 25th, 27th and 29th for new stuff 🙂 I’ve scheduled them mostly for afternoon/evening. I obviously won’t be doing my usual twitter and livejournal reminders so it’s up to you to click back. You know it’s worth it.

In the mean time, read about the last time I went to Raro.

The C word

My lovely, darling, angelic Mother in law has been diagnosed with breast cancer. We don’t know yet the nature of the lump, or if it has spread or anything. She is getting surgery pretty soon, since she has health insurance. They were going to come to Rarotonga with us, but we have canceled her and my Father in law’s tickets.

To say the least, this was a shock. I’m not going to get in depth here, I just thought I’d talk about some of the emotions that have been flooding my system.

– this is the big one. This is the one that made me break down crying at work on Friday. There is so much nasty stuff associated with cancer: chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hair loss, surgery and of course the possibility of death. All of these things I have seen on TV or in movies and felt nothing about. Now it is immediate. It is happening to someone I love. I want it all to go away. It’s too big, quite frankly.

anger – this one is pretty irrational, but I’m experiencing it all the same. Why should she be the one that gets cancer? When she is a good, kind person who watches what she eats and exercises regularly? She breastfed her babies (which is meant to statistically reduce your chance of getting it). It’s not fair that the universe should pick on her. Cancer should only happen to mean people. Dumb cancer.

guilt – big dose of this yesterday. Lee and I are still going to Rarotonga, because I am on the end of my tether and desperate for a holiday. I want to see my sister very badly and she is so excited to see me. How heartless am I that I am taking my husband away from his mother when she is going through this whole thing? She will probably have the surgrery while we are away and we might not be contactable. I am a terrible person for putting myself first like this, but at the same time, I really need this holiday.

sadness – this is the constant. The one that comes out of all the above. This and the fear have broken my sleep since Friday. More than anything I just feel so very sad that such a thing has happened at all. I don’t want her life to have to change. I don’t want her kids to have to worry about it. It all pretty much sucks.

The good thing that has come out of this is the way people have rallied around. A lot of people have already been through this with their partner’s mothers or with their own. They are offering support and love and good wishes, and I tell you now, it’s truly appreciated. The advice we have received has also been very welcome, this is all new territory for us, and it’s scary as Hell.

This entry is not a pity party, and I don’t need you to tell me that I’m right or wrong to be feeling the way I am. I just wanted to get it out there. What I would appreciate are your good wishes, your advice on how to cope and your support through this horrible time.

Wednesday Writing meltdown

I managed to give myself a massive hangover on Sunday, so the huge chunk of time I had mentally reserved for editing was instead spent watching Gilmore Girls season 4 and feeling sorry for myself. Monday night was a write off (literal pun there) due to a crazy busy work day and Lee having a cold, and last night I had role playing. We trialled/play tested Danger Patrol, which was relatively fun.

So today, after work and a shopping expedition for ‘pimp my ride’ race car driver accessories (more on that later) I came home and did some actual writing related stuff. I looked through the edit of the article I wrote for the RPGirl zine and I made the necessary changes and let the editor know that I accepted the corrections. Then I spent some time with What’s the Worst That Could Happen? I edited about 20 pages today, just going through and making little tweaks and fixing things. I got into a rather zen frame of mind while I did it, which was nice.

However none of this matters because right now I am having overwhelming, massive, crushing doubts about ever making it in the real world as a writer. Late at night I think to myself that there is no way that I can ever get published and I’m filled with this fear of what I should do with my life if writing doesn’t work out (baker??) and what a failure I’ll be. All my friends and workmates and stuff will be like ‘weren’t you writing a book?’ And I’ll have to say ‘uh, yeah. It sucked.’

The fear isn’t overwhelming, but it is a constant background noise at the moment. It is a voice in my head that tells me how useless it all is. We’re in a recession after all, (I must stop saying that), and it’s a bad time for publishing and writers are starving and I should really go and study a decent trade like marine biology.

I fantasize about how I can switch bodies with Meg Cabot and take over her life. It’s all writery and warm (she lives in Florida) and she does book tours. I want to do book tours. I want to stay in hotels and have people come to talks I do. I really really want this to happen and I want to believe that if I keep working at it and sending my stuff out then I can make it happen. However the fear remains. The fear is bubbling away at the back of my head. Again I have to tell myself to ignore it, but it’s very hard some days. And those days have been a bit more frequent than normal.

I think it’s seasonal, in part at least, I hate winter and I thrive in summer. The cold and the dark and the cold and dark make me feel hopeless. My diet’s been really crap lately too. Too many takeaways because Lee’s been sick and I’m too lazy to cook. I’ve been trying to save money so I’ve been eating cheese and salami toasted sandwiches at lunch time. I can’t even bring myself to eat the apples my mum brings me. Stupid winter, makes me hibernate.

Must keep on keeping on. Must make time to edit things. Must write querie letters in preperation for sending the manuscripts out. Must find places willing to consider my horror short stories.

Hormones approaching 30

Please do not be offended by the stream of crazy you are about to read.

I didn’t think that I’d be fazed by turning 30, in fact, I’m still not. I’m a few months off yet, but everyone makes such a big deal of it when you say 30. Like it’s the end of your life or something. I have always determined to not worry about after some sage advice from Susan when I was still an impressionable teenager.

The problem is that my body doesn’t feel the same way.

I was very pleased to find my first ever grey hair last week, it’s very shiny and silver. This evening I noticed that it has a friend, just hanging out nearby. I’m hoping they recruit more of their near friends so that I can have a Rogue-esque silver lock of hair at the front. I have totally wanted one of those since I read the Belgariad by David Eddings.

My body clock is what is really driving me crazy though. I’ve never been a baby person, I’ve never really wanted one of my own. I’m much better with kids aged about 4 and up, you know, the ones that are toilet trained and capable of forming whole sentences. They’re like little people. I’ve never understood the desire to have something that screams and poops and you have to be the one that deals with the poop and all their vomit. That grosses me out. My body clock has a different frame of mind. It will see some innocent person walking down the street with a baby in a pram and my whole hormonal uterus will suddenly ache and scream in my ear Babybabybabybabybaby!

When I think of my friends who are pregnant, I think about how lucky they are, and how they must feel like they are so totally blessed. Then I feel sad that I am not pregnant. Then my brain actually kicks in and says ‘what? WHAT?’ And I wonder what that was all about, because I love my life how it is now. With long sleep ins when I want them, uninterrupted nights, no nappies to change and no one’s vomit to clean up but my own. And I know how to aim into the toilet so it all just flushes away.

Besides all that, Lee and I have two mortgages right now and it’s a recession and we can’t afford to bring new life into the world. And besides that, it’s kind of a two person decision and while Lee isn’t completely against the idea, he can think of many downsides. As can I. But try telling my body clock? Not even. That clock doesn’t listen to a word of reason.

Combine this with the all consuming terror I have of being pregnant and giving birth and you have one very confused Jenni. One moment I’ll be going babybabybabybabyifonlyihadababymylifewouldbeperfect and then the next I’ll be imagining with every working faculty of my Worst Case Scenario brain just how awful being pregnant would make me feel, and how I wouldn’t recognise my own changed body and how there’s this whole bit at the end where a LIVE HUMAN comes out of you, and I think that there’s no way in the world I am ever doing that. This is within a two minute time frame. And then I’ll cry because I don’t know what I want.

There’s also this whole weird thing where a lot of other people want you to have babies as well. I told my mother that another one of my school friends is pregnant and her eyes got all shiny and I just know she was thinking ‘you’ll be next’, and she already has three grandkids. I guess it’s not that weird, but it can be pressure-tastic for me. Like, I know you want to meet my future baby but don’t you understand the terror? The horrible, consuming terror?

I suspect no one is ever truly ready to get pregnant and have a baby, but I feel like I will never even be close. I wonder what life would be like if we never reproduced and I can see Lee and I happily doing what we’re doing into our forties and at the same time it scares me (is this all there is? What if I get bored?) and it also seems very easy and comforting. We *know* how to do this bit after all, we function fine without kids. That is when I’m not an emotional hormone wreckage puddling on the floor.

*le sigh*
Being a grown up is hard. Anyone want to go back to high school with me? I’d be awesome at those 1000 word essays now.

And you can blame Dooce for this unusual outburst of crazy from me, I’ve been reading her book as well as having a hormonal breakdown.

Sad Making

There’s some stuff going on right now in my and my friends’ lives that is very sad making and hard to solve. I hate it when things are so big and scary and you feel helpless to change anything. I don’t want to go into any details because of privacy issues and how I want to keep this blog free of whining, but there is something making me sad that can be easily solved.

Yesterday, at Yum Char we were offered shark fin dumplings. I have been offered these at Yum Char before but not since last year when I saw sharkwater at the film festival. I learned in that documentary that the world shark population has decreased by something like 90% due to fishing, mostly illegal fishing and mostly for supplying the shark fin soup trade. I saw footage of sharks being hauled in from the ocean, the fishers then cut off all their fins and tossed them back into the ocean to die there. It was nasty, cruel and unnecessary.

I say unnecessary, I know that shark fin soup is a traditional Chinese dish that gets served at weddings to show how prosperous the couple is but the irony is that shark fin is just cartilage and has no flavour. The soup is actually mostly chicken broth. So, one of the things that I can do is to boycott any place that serves shark fin. Unfortunately this includes my favourite Yum Char spot.

I don’t want to boycott my favourite Yum Char spot so I thought I’d research and check if shark fin dumplings were also made of shark fin or if it’s just a name, like bird’s nest. Unfortunately the first recipe that I found on the net was this one. Of course I don’t know if this is representative of all shark fin dumplings but I kind of have to assume it is. Notice how the dumplings are also made with pork and prawn for flavour?

Of course, just stopping going there isn’t going to achieve anything, so I’m going to write and let the restaurant know that I can’t eat there until they stop serving shark fin. I don’t expect to make a difference, because I’m just one person and I’m sure there are plenty of people who go there and enjoy the shark fin but I have to do this anyway. I can’t condone this.

I am also going to check out the other Chinese restaurants in Wellington and see who is selling shark fin. I really hope Shanghai isn’t, but I don’t know.

So, there’s something that makes me sad, because of the sharks and because of the delicious glazed barbecue pork buns that I won’t be eating any more but at least I can do something about it. I can take concrete steps and know that I have done something good.

Point of Fashion: robe
Current Obsession: wishing NZ immigration would let Kim stay

You’re living for nothing now, I hope you’re keeping some kind of record

I don’t know if it’s because I’m starting a new project, but I am overwhelmed with doubt about my new novel. I keep coming up with different arguments in my head for why I shouldn’t even bother trying.

I formulated a sentence or two while in my bath and decided to go on from there, but when I sit down to actually write the thing my Inner Critic says “what are you thinking writing this?”
I’m like “well, I thought it would be an interesting idea.”
Inner Critic says “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re writing about a woman going to the hairdresser. It’s really boring and mundane.”
Me: “Oh, but…I kind of thought it was an interesting relationship, because there’s this level of intimacy-”
IC: “No, it’s boring, trust me. Like reading about someone going to the dairy for milk.”
Me: “Oh. Well, maybe I’ll just write a couple more pages and we’ll see about that.”

*writing happens.*

Inner Critic pushes in. “No, see this is boring. No one actually likes reading stream of consciousness stuff you know. It’s pretentious.”
Me: “…”
IC: “And you’re just saying what everyone thinks in that situation.”
Me: “Well, that was kind of what I was trying to do. Now be quiet, I want to get to the end of the hair washing sequence because I think I’m getting an interesting-”
IC: “Oh, a head massage and you’re using sexual terms to describe it. Genius.”
Me, near tears: “Can I just finish this sentence please?”
IC: “What’s the point? Seriously. You’re being boring and pretentious and obvious.”
Me: “Shit, am I really? I’d better stop.”

I think you get the idea. Also, this is in no way a new thing. Back when I was just starting out on Kiki I really struggled with this. I guess you could call it self sabotage, or a lack of confidence, or writer’s block. I guess I just have to do what I did then and ignore my inner critic altogether, just get it down. It’s not easy when the inner critic is so loud and convincing though, she really plays off my insecurities.

Even if what I write is no good and I never even show it to anyone, it’s good practice just to write. (Remember Leonard Cohen’s advice? paraphrased here, and properly quoted here, because it’s good stuff.)
I have to just keep writing and inventing as much interesting stuff as I can to shut up that darn voice.

Extra reading:
Things I’ve Learned about writing.
Motivation it can be hard to come by, so grab it when you can.

It just occurred to me that it’s more than a year since I’ve been taking Wednesday afternoons off. I feel like I’ve achieved heaps, and I am greedy for more time away from work to achieve more.

Inspiration, emotion

My grandmother died last night.

It’s strange, we weren’t close, but I do have happy memories of her from when I was a kid. She used to let me help out with baking and I’d learn things from her. My preferred method of separating eggs is learned from her. (Crack the egg into one hand, then pass the yolk back and forth until the white has fallen into the bowl. It’s very hard to break the yolk this way, and you get all the white out.)

I’m sad. I am sad for my father. I am thinking a bit about death and about being quiet.

We knew that she was dying, she’d been sick for some time. I had the chance to see her, but I was scared. I didn’t want to see her dying. The last time I saw her, just before Christmas, she was lucid and in a good enough mood and she said nice things about the quilt I made for my mother last year. I wanted that to stay my last memory of her.

It makes me think of this quote…..

You don’t have all the time in the world. I say to myself ‘you know how long it takes you to get something done so, you know you’ve got to run through at least ten versions of this thing. You have to write down what you’re going to abandon. You’ve got to see how it works in the whole thing and then throw it away. And then throw it away.

– Leonard Cohen