Thursday, March 24, 2016
Over the years in my blog, I have written about faith, illness, and writing. Really, all of the topics have been safe. I haven’t talked about abortion, gay rights, politics, or anything on the list of fiery issues that can get people lambasted for their thoughts and ideas. I avoid conflict. I hate it. I get too emotional and my whole week can be ruined. I am a wimp and I don’t like being reduced to a pile of emotional muck. I miss the days of feeling safe to talk about my ideas with other individuals who respect me enough to not be cruel or for me to hurt their feelings.
A thought has been plaguing me for the last couple of weeks. I know it is linked to the entitlement dilemma that is talked about by a lot of people. The use of the word deserve bothers me. I hate the word deserve. Lately it seems I hear it everywhere. “I deserve to win.” “I deserve this job.” “I deserve to make more money.” “She deserves a free education.” The list could go on with how people deserve this or that.
Here is a list for me. “I deserve an auto-immune free body. I deserve a trip to Rome. I deserve a healthy, well-adjusted daughter. I deserve to sell 50 books a week. I deserve a husband who dotes on me. I deserve supporting parents. I deserve free classes in writing. I deserve to have giving, respectful relationships with my children. I deserve friends who stand by my side.” Now, some of these “deserves” I get and others I don’t get. The reality is that I don’t deserve a blasted thing. I am thankful for the deserves I receive.
Years ago I wanted to go to college. I was a great kid who didn’t do drugs or alcohol. I respected my parents and teachers. I played by the rules, never getting into big trouble. I didn’t have straight A’s, but I did well in school. I “deserved” to go to college. Most kids “deserve” to go to college. The reality is that it isn’t free. Sure, I had friends who had free rides due to scholarships or rich parents. I didn’t have either. I worked for my education. I worked three jobs. I EARNED my education.
Move forward many years, I applied for an amazing job as a GS-11 for the federal government. Multiple other people applied for the position. Did they “deserve” the job? Did I? Well, sure. Most people “deserve” good things to go their way, and especially if they are qualified. Guess what? There were not multiple job positions. Just one. I ended up getting the job. Did I get the job because I deserved it? Nope, because the other people deserved it as well. I received the job because something in my resume spoke to the boss. I had a character trait he wanted in the position. I didn’t “deserve” the job any more than the other people. I worked hard for that job through honesty, hard work, and integrity. I didn’t walk into the interview room with the attitude of I “deserve” this job. I walked in and told them what I would do for the position and they liked it. They could have just as easily liked my competition who “deserved” the position as well.
I held the job for two years. During that time, I worked hard, but my health declined. I ended up being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. I was so sick that I was missing a day a week of work and sometimes more. I applied for a medical retirement and was granted a disability. Now, I clean a toilet and office building for a little extra money and I have a four year degree. Do I “deserve” any of this? Nope. But I don’t not deserve it either. I couldn’t do the job and needed to leave. It was a fact of life. I could bemoan my fate or I could face it and find a new way to live. The word “deserve” has nothing to do with the scenario.
So, what do we do with this word “deserve.” Let’s look at my writing. I could say that after writing 1,286,862 in the last 8 years, I “deserve” to make a living as a writer. I could say I “deserve” a large book signing contract. Heck, I could say that I “deserve” enough sales to pay for a class or even to just buy a cup of coffee once a week for the rest of 2016. That isn’t asking all that much. Five dollars a week is it. Well guess what folks, I doubt that is going to happen. If I expect that, I am 99.9% sure that I would become a very disappointed, disgruntled person. I don’t deserve success. I do though deserve a chance. And I am getting that chance. My novel and five short stories are out there for readers to find. I deserve a chance at making that money, but I don’t “deserve” to make that money. Frankly writing and all things in life take hard work, determination, perseverance, and a splash of luck, timing, blessings, whatever you want to call it.
All we “deserve” is to strive for our best and see how it turns out.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
A friend asked me the other day if writing a novel was hard. Sure, the process was hard, but now that it is over, I look back and think, well, maybe not. But I keep thinking. The project started years ago. For a first book, I believe it took about two years to write. I had a blast writing it. In that respect, the writing was easy. The hard part was all the learning I needed to do to get a decent novel. Looking back to the past, I realize the story has been with me forever.
My characters came into being first. Princess Icylica popped into my head between 1989 and 1993. My new husband joked about my cold feet. “Cold feet, cold heart.” I told him that he had married the Ice Princess. At some point, I named her. The real story didn't start until I surrounded myself with a bunch of English friends. I worked in the college writing lab and when we weren't tutoring, we talked story. Corrion came into existence. During this save time in my life, I became a medic for the Montana National Guard. My dear character Guri is a result of my friend calling my little family the Three Billy Goats Gruff. When I had my second child in 1995, the three became four. Of course, this made my friend the troll. I promised to put her in my first novel, hence, Guri, one of my favorite characters.
With two little boys to raise, a new teaching career, and the National Guard, I actually found a little free time to write. Instead of a novel, I started small with a short story. I sent the story out and promptly received a rejection letter. I quite writing, thinking I would start when the kids were grown. I was busy. Years flew by, but Corrion and party went to sleep with me every night. I played scenes through my head and a plotline grew. Typed word counts did not grow. In reality, I had writer’s block for twenty years. As I approached the big 40, a friend asked about my writing. I realized I needed to get busy. When I retired from the military, the word count grew.
Of course, my first 500,000 words sucked. As I headed through the second half of 1,000,000 they started fitting better. I read books about writing. I read fiction books. I read books about editing. I attended conferences. I followed blogs. I have put up with really arrogant people who think they are the next J.R.R. Tolkien or Earnest Hemmingway. Talk about egos. They snub their noses at Stephnie Meyer and JK Rowling. Now, I don't necessarily like sparkling vampires, but these women wrote stories that grabbed the world. I wouldn’t mind being either woman! I continue to learn formatting, inDesign, Smashwords, and CreateSpace. I need to learn a ton more in all these areas, plus marketing and distribution. All of this has been hard. I have to say it also exhilarating when the project comes together.
The actual writing? Well, that actually depends on the day. Yesterday as I attempted my first draft of this blog post, I struggled. The words felt like drivel. This morning, I don’t care. I just want my fingers to feel like they are flying across the keyboard. Until the coffee kicks in, they aren’t flying but I am okay with that.
The one thing I know about this little writing gig is that I love it. I am a far cry away from the success of Meyers and Rowlings. I have a good 5,000,000 more words to reach the writing ability of the classical greats, if even then. I mean they are great for a reason! But each morning, I will plug away at learning, typing, formatting, designing, and dreaming. Plotting, always plotting (maniacal laugh track inserted here). Oh, and a side note, the research can be fun. I have been dogsledding. Not much can beat that!
If anyone has questions, please ask. I love talking about my characters and writing.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Life is changing! The summer of 2015, I found my life derailed. Normally, I love going on tons of adventures. However, my travels became very minimal this past year because my daughter was right in the middle of her mental illness and my husband left much of the summer for military duty. Struggling with my own depression, the few adventures I took always held a tinge of sorrow. Now, my feet are itching to find new places to explore. With Madelle conquering many of her challenges, I am able to resume my exploration of the world, well at least the state of Montanan. In preparation, I bought a "Back Roads" calendar that I look at every day to inspire me to take the road less driven. I also bought a travel book for my state. With the weather being so warm, I have already begun with my first weekend adventure.
For years, I have taken the interstate in a north eastern direction to visit my mother-in-law, go shopping, attend the theater, or go to football or softball game. Every time when I pass a couple of off ramps, I am reminded that I need to stop and see some sights. For a good eighteen years, the First Peoples Buffalo Jump has called for me to come see the sights. I had never been to a buffalo jump. I can say I have now and I plan to go back.
Since I left later in the day, I only had about an hour and a half to look around. I will go in the morning next time. I stopped first at the interpretive center. I chatted a bit with the center's clerk and asked a few questions. I wandered through the displays, touching the soft curly hair of the stuffed buffalo and the soft teepee hide. I gazed at the stuffed hawk and owl. A stuffed rattlesnake caused me to cringe. Once outside, I walked a short distance to take a few pictures of the cliff from a distance. Now, there is a three and a half mile trail for the visitors, but I didn't have enough time for that before the gates closed. I opted instead to drive to the top. What a beautiful view! I took the stairs down the jump, getting a nasty little sliver from the railing. I laughed at the adorable prairie dogs as they scampered around. Though I wasn't inspired by a story like I had hoped, I enjoyed the afternoon of snapping pictures.
My next adventure the following day was to walk a section of the river trail in Great Falls. Normally, I am too busy with other plans to enjoy the trail. I chose a section with the intent to take pictures of the first set of waterfalls called Black Eagle Falls. Again, I plan to take a day trip or two this summer to hike other areas of the trail. I passed some other hikers, but I the traffic was relatively light. The wind whipped around and the clouds kept the air crispy. As I neared the falls, I marveled at the sound of rushing water. I also loved the feel of the mist in the air even at such a long distance. I believe no matter where I go, my favorite set of waterfalls will always be the Kootenai Falls where I grew up. Nevertheless, I will say that the Black Eagle Falls are gorgeous.
I ended my weekend with taking a short walk in town. I wanted to see a little of the art I read about. My time was short because I scheduled time with my mother-in-law for my last day. I did have time to enjoy the Canadian Geese and a couple of squirrels. Three pieces of art were in along the section I walked. I loved the fish. Again, I will explore more later on this year. In fact, I might just run over there again later this month to take the MIL out to lunch. I have this feeling I need to start saving money for gas. My little Focus is going to get some miles put on the speedometer.
Friday, March 4, 2016
Many years ago, a mother I knew from our church ran away. She left her five beautiful children, ages two to sixteen. My oldest child at the time was two as well. I was appalled. I didn't really know her, but I remember being so upset. I looked at my beautiful little boy and couldn't even imagine being driver to the point of wanting to escape hundreds of miles away.
Fast forward to about twenty years later, I began to relate a little bit to this woman. Last year, my life as a mother crashed and burned. One day, I wanted to leave. I dreamed of moving to some little town on the Oregon coast. I wanted the crashing waves of the ocean to fill my head, to drown out the negative of everything happening. Instead, I went to the library. I didn't do anything but sit and pretend to write or read. After a couple of hours, I drug myself to the car. I drove home, dreading my life.
What kept me from not jumping on the interstate? I didn't think Jerry would take me back. I couldn't shirk my motherly responsibility. God might forgive me, but I wouldn't have been able to forgive myself. Instead, I called a therapist. I went for a ton of walks. I watched a lot of television to escape. I cried.
All people need a break, moms included. Due to the circumstances, I couldn't get away last year. This year though, I am making some plans. Last weekend, I run away on a small scale. I drove to a neighboring town and checked into a hotel. I took walks, read, slept, and watched television. The cat didn't scratch on the door. The dog didn't whine to come into my room. Doors didn't open and close to see if I was sleeping. I had the entire weekend to just be in the moment of me. It was beautiful.
At the being of April, I am running away to spend a weekend with my sister. We are going to plan more of our 2017 trip to England. Shopping will be our other form of entertainment and maybe a movie. She will work one day while I enjoy her quiet home and do a little writing. I haven't told her yet, but I might plan another weekend for the fall.
I still think about the runaway mom from long ago. I thought her so selfish at the time. Maybe she was, but maybe she wasn't. Did she ever get to take time for herself? Was one or more of her children making her life feel like a warzone? Did her and her husband have a horrible relationship? I can well imagine her life now that I have been through the fire.
I am so thankful I have a husband who loves me and I love him. If he and I struggled with each other last year along with all of our other trials, I might well live in Oregon today. I am thankful for all professional workers who kept working with all of us to get us through the storm. I am thankful for a special friend who listened to me every morning. I am thankful for all the prayers that kept us lifted up.
Running away can take many forms. I know that even if I run away for a weekend, I will never permanently run away from my children. They may run from me, but I will always be waiting for them to return.