IWSG: May 2019

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Hmm. I don’t recall seeing the monthly email, so I don’t know this month’s question. That alone makes me feel insecure…

We’ve moved into our new house but we’re still unpacking. Plus, there are a number of moderate renovation projects I’ve been helming: fixing the sprinkler system, getting the new kitchen hood, fixing the solar heating on the pool, and eventually also replastering and retiling the pool as well. Between this stack of tasks and managing the kids’ schedules, writing hasn’t been high on my list. And I can’t say I miss it much. I like to think I’m a good writer, but since I can’t seem to succeed at it no matter what I do, I’m now starting to believe maybe I’m not very good after all. Which is a bit of a blow. When you spend your life priding yourself on a skill or talent and (much later in life) discover maybe you don’t have that skill/talent…

I did recently begin tinkering with an old piece. I don’t know where it’s going, if anywhere, whether it will ever amount to anything or be publishable at all. Maybe I’m wasting my time. Maybe all the years I’ve spent writing were a waste of time and energy that I should have been putting elsewhere.

So I’m trying to figure some stuff out. About myself, my writing, my “career” (if it can be called as such). Faebourne is up for a RONE award, and voting begins next week, but given that I’ve never been able to mobilize enough people to support me, I don’t have much hope in that quarter either. Feels like a nail in my coffin.

Letter to Rob: Chip Tooth Smile

Dear Rob,

Been a while. I wanted to listen to the new album on my morning walk, but Spotify was misbehaving by shuffling the songs, and I couldn’t get it to stop. Thing is, I like to first listen to an album straight through because I believe the way it’s put together is just as important as the individual songs. Maybe I’m old fashioned that way. In this day of people picking and choosing songs and not having to purchase whole albums, maybe the order doesn’t matter so much. But I know work goes into that order, too, so I still like to listen to an album in the way it seemingly is meant to be heard, at least the first time.

All that is a long way of saying I’m still working on it. What I’ve heard so far I like, though there’s a certain homogeny to the sound. Perhaps that’s intentional, meant to help it all hang together. I haven’t decided whether I like it, though.

There’s certainly an undercurrent of mortality here, too, something a tad… I don’t want to say “maudlin” because that’s not the correct word for it, but… Despite protestations to the contrary (“Dying Young”), deaths of various kinds haunt what I’ve heard. An attempt to shake them off or something.

“Sentimental” maybe? Here I am, a writer, and I can’t think of the word I want. Sigh.

Between the sound and the lyrics, the whole thing makes you seem stuck on a feeling, like you’re going in circles. And that’s okay because I think that happens to a lot of people, and so this album will speak to them. Each song will reaffirm something in them because they’re feeling that way, too.

I’m probably not even making sense now.

Long letter short (too late), I do like what I’ve heard so far, though I don’t actually like the name of the album at all for some reason. That’s a “me” thing, however, something I’d need to self-delve about. The Spotify animation, too, is distracting, but I’m never really looking at my phone as I listen, so whatever.

Congrats and good luck with it and the tour.

~M

2019 So Far

Can you believe we’re nearly a third of the way through this year already? In some ways, 2019 feels like it started a loooong time ago, but in others it seems to be flying by.

In mid-January I made the executive decision to put our house on the market and sell it. My husband and I had been talking about it for a while, but I finally just decided: new year, new life. On top of selling the house (and buying a new one), I also went under the care of a nutritionist, and while that wasn’t 100% successful, I can say we have:

  • Sold our house
  • Bought a new one
  • Moved

And I’ve lost 15+ pounds since January as well. Still have those pesky final ten to go.

Also still have a lot of unpacking to do, but we’re making progress.

I could say that I “knew” 2019 would be a year of upheaval, but honestly, it’s really been the year I’ve felt majorly motivated to make big changes. The upheaval is all self-made. And I don’t regret any of it. I’d been stagnant and semi-discontented for too long.

As for writing, well… I’ve dabbled, but I’m not pushing it. I have plenty enough to keep up with at the moment, and I’m not burning to sit and spill onto a page (or, more accurately, a computer screen). Anyway, I am reading and rating scripts for a screenwriting competition, so that’s enough to keep my toes in the creative pool.

How is your 2019 going?

Does Writing Get Easier?

I saw this question posted online recently, and my immediate thought was: If it does, you’re getting sloppy.

Writing is work. Sure, there are days when the words flow, the characters follow directions, and the plot comes together. Those days feel magical. But I’ve worked office jobs, and I know that those kinds of work days can happen anywhere. Good work days and bad work days are not exclusive to writers. It’s just the nature of the good and bad that can make it seem so different.

People who don’t write can’t quite conceive of writing as “work.” This is because writers, despite all the trials, generally love their work. And some non-writers feel as if loving your work means it isn’t really work. But again, that’s not any more true for writers than it is for anyone in any other field. A construction worker could love his job, but it’s definitely still a lot of work. A computer programmer could love her job, but again, still work.

“Oh, but you sit in a chair all day and make stuff up.”

  • Plenty of people sit in chairs most of their working days.
  • Making stuff up isn’t as easy at it sounds. If it were, everyone would do it all the time, right?
  • Making stuff up and selling it to people is even harder.
  • Making stuff up, selling it to people, and having people like it enough to want more is hardest of all. If your job does not require you to please large quantities of diverse and sometimes very picky people on a regular basis, consider yourself lucky.

Do you remember having to write papers for school? Sure, often they were essays, but sometimes your teacher wanted you to write a story or a poem. Wasn’t that work? Wasn’t it in some ways easier to write the essay because at least you had a starting point, a topic handed to you?

Bottom line: writing is work. And I know many authors say they can spit a book out every month, or six weeks, or whatever, but I have to question the quality.

Good writing seldom goes quickly, and it never gets easier.

Still Here

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. I’m just unpacking and sorting and lining up contractors, etc.

Last Thursday I finished up with cleaning our old house so we could had the keys over the new owners. Usually I’d say it felt strange to think we wouldn’t return to a place we’d lived for nearly seven years, but honestly, it doesn’t feel strange to me at all. I think maybe I was done with that house long before we actually sold it. At the very least I’d detached emotionally from it.

There are few places I’ve lived in my life where I immediately felt happy and at home, but I’m grateful to be able to say the new house is one of them. Still, the unpacking process is a slow one as we try to decide exactly where we want things and how we want to use the space. I love that my office is at the very back end of the house (in the old one it was in the front, with the window looking out at the porch).

At the same time as I’m organizing my house, my life, my world, I’m trying to decide what I want to do with myself. What do I enjoy (when I have the time)? Well, I like editing, and helping fellow writers work kinks out of their stories, and reading tarot for my friends. I like speaking to new writers about the process and industry, too. And I love being involved in theatre. Unfortunately for me, I don’t often get the opportunity to do any of those things. And that’s the really sad element to my life—that I’m not valued for any of the things I enjoy doing.

In the meantime, I mostly am relied on for keeping up with laundry, keeping groceries stocked, handling all things kid and school related, and also managing a certain amount of house-related things (like the pool). Since this takes up most of my time anyway, I guess I shouldn’t mourn that no one wants me for my other interests because it would be difficult to fit them in.

There you have it. I may or may not go back to writing if the bug bites. For now, I have plenty on my plate. But if you happen to have questions about writing, editing, or tarot… Feel free to ask.

AKA zmethos

I’ve had a lot of nicknames in my day; if you’ve read the FAQ, you know some of them. I’ve been Mandy, Manda Panda, Weeb (as in “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”), Data (from ST:TNG), Indy, Mac (for MacGyver), Sherlock… Not necessarily in that order. But my favorite nickname is still Methos.

It was given to me as an undergrad, and my core of friends eventually took the nicknames Kronos, Silas, and Caspian. You either understand this or you don’t, but after we rented Highlander 2 to see if it was as terrible as everyone said, we started calling ourselves the Zeistmeisters. For fun. No profit.

And so I became Zeistmeister Methos, or just zmethos for short.

I’m only mentioning this because it’s the name I’m using to repost my fan fiction. All of the fics are pretty old, but I’m “shelving” them online because I don’t have a way to open the old files any more. So in a lot of cases I’m having to re-type from hard copies.

Anyway, if you see anything by zmethos, that’s me. Or if on random sites you see really, really old stuff by A.C. Langlinais, that is also me. I’ll admit I’m tidying some of the stuff as I post it, so it may not be exactly like the original. Hopefully that’s for the better. At the very least, I’m trying to fix spelling errors and typos.

And now I’ll sign off in the way I used to do with my friends: ~ZM

Mentors

I was helping host a Facebook cover reveal party, and it got me thinking about mentors and all the people who have supported me over the years. I’ve been really fortunate in that regard, and I wanted to write about a few of them.

Mrs. Truehardt was my first real mentor. She was our gifted & talented teacher, and we were in a pilot program where she followed us through several grades. (They call it “looping” now, and maybe they did then and I just never knew it.) She really encouraged us to develop our skills and interests, and she knew my strengths were in reading and writing. I remember once I forgot to write a paper, so I wrote a poem and handed that in instead. She loved it! We were all so sad when she retired after our fourth-grade year.

In high school I had Mrs. Bason, the journalism teacher, and Mr. Crivello, who taught honors and AP English Lit. Mrs. Bason was a fellow Trekkie, and we even once went to a Star Trek convention together. When I graduated, she gave me a book of poems inscribed with: “I know you’re going to be a great author someday.” Mr. C (as we called him) also encouraged my writing. He gave me a cassette tape of Jackson Browne music, too, which I still have, even though I’ve long since bought the albums in digital format. He’s the reason I got the highest possible score on the AP exam, too.

As an undergrad I was lucky enough to study with Dr. Douglass S. Parker (“Doc Parker”), the man who coined the term “parageography.” He had two offices on campus—one in the HRC and one in Waggener. Both were so crammed with stuff he couldn’t hold office hours in either. So he would send a note around to me and tell me to put on my one good suit—the one my parents had bought me for job interviews—and meet him at the faculty lounge. And he’d sneak me in and we’d have lunch and talk about his days in the war and in Memphis… He played in a band, if I remember right. Trombone? Doc Parker said I reminded him of his ex-daughter-in-law and wished I’d learned enough Greek to help him with his translations. He wrote the recommendation letter that got me into grad school, and he emailed me regularly to check on my writing and whether my world (AElit, which I had developed in his parageography course) was published yet. One of my biggest regrets is that he didn’t live to see my work in print. He was a wonderful champion.

And in grad school, one of my thesis advisors, Lisa Diercks, was the one to get me my first job by recommending me for an internship that eventually got me hired. I showed zero aptitude for book design, but she saw something in me anyway, for which I’m very grateful!

There are many more people in my life who have guided and supported me, but I can’t name everyone, else this list would be eternal. But I like to take moments now and then to remember that I didn’t get where I am all on my own—I’m not that good, nor quite as independent as I like to think. Good teachers make big differences in the lives of their students, and for that I’m forever thankful.

Life with a Nutritionist

No, I’m not living with one. At least, not in close quarters. I am living with one telling me how and what and when to eat.

First off: Why hire a nutritionist? At my last general wellness visit with my doctor, I told her that I kept gaining weight and nothing I did seemed to stop or reverse it. I’d changed my eating habits, begun counting calories, was exercising—nothing worked. My doctor told me not to be concerned, but as a precaution she also sent me for blood tests. Everything came back normal. So then I got sent to a gastroenterologist. He diagnosed me with “low motility,” meaning my gut is slow at digesting and *ahem* eliminating. He put me on an expensive medication that kept me tied to the bathroom. I decided the cure was worse than the disease and quit after a month.

Finally, my doctor suggested a nutritionist. So I decided the start of a new year was the perfect time to tackle a new health regimen. I’m now four weeks into a nine week program. I’ve lost about 11 pounds, and of that about half has been body fat. I look better, but it hasn’t been easy, and I do worry whether I’ll be able to keep the weight off.

Here’s the current situation: I have to eat certain amounts and kids of foods at certain times of day. I eat at 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and around 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. (roughly half an hour before I go to bed). At those times, I have to pick from an approved list of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. I cannot have breads (except Paleo bread), pasta, or dairy. I can’t have sugar; the only sweetener I’m allowed is Stevia. I can’t have starches like corn, rice, potatoes, carrots, or bananas. It’s not very fun, especially for someone who loves cheesesteak, mashed potatoes, and ice cream.

On top of all this, I have to take a lot of pills. First thing in the morning I take a probiotic and two Omega fish oil capsules. With breakfast, I’m supposed to take a Caltrate, too. Before lunch and again before dinner I take a starch blocker. At dinner I take three more Omega-3 capsules, a vitamin C tablet, another Caltrate, and another probiotic. Oh, and somewhere in all that I also take a magnesium pill as well. Yeah, it’s pretty f***ing insane.

And not inexpensive. All the health food, all the pills—the cost adds up quickly.

My nutritionist says that I’ll be able to add dairy and bread back into my diet at a later date (when we get to “maintenance”), once we’ve rebalanced my hormones or whatever. She also says I probably won’t want those things, but I have serious doubts about that. I don’t crave them the way I did in the first week or so, but I still want to be able to eat them. There’s nothing to make you want something like being told you can’t have it.

I worry I’ll be stuck eating off this restricted menu for the rest of my life. That if I don’t, I’ll just gain all this weight back and be fat again. And sometimes I wonder if losing weight and being healthy is worth all this sacrifice. I honestly can’t decide. I want to be healthy… But I also want to enjoy life. Eating should be a pleasure, not a chore.

So I’m about halfway through this… experiment? I don’t know if that’s exactly the right word. We’ll see what happens. I don’t have the extra energy that the nutritionist said I’d have, but I am sleeping better than before. That’s a plus. I worry about things like vacations. I want to be able to eat and not have to think about whether it fits my prescribed menu, and without feeling guilty for my choices. I’m not convinced there’s a good middle ground except moderation. And a life full of pills and supplements.

Worth it? What do you think?

January 2019 in the Rear View

The first month of the year is almost over, and already so much has happened. Alas, not as much on the writing side as I’d like. If you’re wondering where I’ve been and what’s going on, here’s a recap.

  • We put our house on the market. Which has meant a slew of cleaners, handymen, and the like have been in and out, making it impossible for me to get any work done. The open house is this coming weekend, so let’s hope it’s all been worth it.
  • We’re looking for a new house. The flip side of trying to sell ours is needing to find somewhere new to live. There are a number of reasons for our move that I won’t go into, but right now we feel a bit like we’re in limbo, and that makes it difficult to concentrate on writing.
  • I got a nutritionist. After my thyroid was tested, and my GI tract was looked at, my doctor recommended I find a nutritionist. Which I did. And now I’m on some funky diet that I hate, but I will say I’ve lost quite a bit of weight already, so… I’m still living for the day I can have cheese and bread again, though, even if in tiny quantities.
  • I need surgery. Another fun follow-up visit with my doctor resulted in the news that I need some surgery. It’s day surgery, nothing major, but the recovery will be similar to when I had my C-section, which will mean no lifting anything heavy—right as we’re planning to pack and move. I don’t have a surgery date yet, so things are in the balance until we know when.

As you can see, my January has been eventful! And you might be able to understand why I haven’t been writing much either. Though one writing-related thing did happen this month: I got the rights to The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller back. I’ll be re-editing it and republishing it later this year. I’m considering a title change, though. What do you think? Should I keep the title or change it?

Here’s to maybe a little less excitement in February. How has your year started? Bang or whimper?