Most of the Way to Sleep

I finish nursing her for the night. Sleepily she reaches for her pacifier. I help her plug it in her mouth, and she settles in my arm as I open Llama Llama Red Pajama for the hundredth, three-hundredth time.

I read, but I’ve memorized the book, so I also watch her. She tugs gently, purposefully at her curls. Her eyes close, but she isn’t quite asleep. She shifts a little at each page turn, and when I finish and bring her to my shoulder, she lifts her head and looks at me. I finish a song, kiss her face, and place her in her bed as she reaches for it, milk and words already lulling her most of the way to sleep.

Anxiety is a Bother

Anxiety gets in the way of a lot of things.

It makes it hard to get out of bed, to set down at the computer and write even so much as a dumb little blog post. It makes it hard to leave the house, to get chores done. It’s even hard to just sit on the couch and read a book, because why, what’s the point, isn’t there something else you should be doing.

Anxiety makes it hard even when you manage to do these things. I edited for two hours, but what’s the point, there’s so much more to be done. It makes it hard to feel accomplished, and easy to feel frustrated as you fall into that awful spiral of comparing yourself. I look at my to-do list with all of its checked boxes, and I still feel like I haven’t done a thing. I might as well just stand in the shower, or lie on the floor, clutching my stomach.

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All those margin doodles…

I’m lucky, though. I have things that have to get done, and an anxiety that is just mild enough that I can do those things at least. I have to walk the dog. I have to buy groceries. I have to make dinner, fold laundry. I have to sit at the desk and pick up a pen, because even if I rip out every sheet of paper I mark, or write just two sentences and fill the rest of the page with swirls and doodles, because going just one day without doing that is worse pain than my anxiety knows how to inflict.

And as I move, my body calms. I can do one more thing, then another. I can go to one more store. I can clean the counter top. I can write one more page, edit one more chapter. It can take days to stop thinking so much on how much I’m failing, how little I’m doing. But I know that this feeling — this awful, bothersome, eternal feeling — isn’t forever, and if I keep pushing through it will fade until I almost (almost) can’t see it anymore. Then I can look back, to meals I’ve made, to piles of read books, to notebooks and journals full of words and ideas, to email chains between me and critique partners, and I can see that I have done something, despite everything inside of my getting in the way.

What to Do While Waiting for Critiques on Your Manuscript; A List

I finished another edit on my manuscript. I sent it to my critique partner, posted it in my new writing group, and gave everyone over a month to get back to me with any kind of response.

Now I’m waiting.

And I’m trying to figure out what to do in the meantime.

Here are some ideas.

  • Go back to that other manuscript you shelved for a little while…though you’re sure you still need to wait on it.
  • Take on the vague story idea and do some research so you can slap some more vague ideas on it and maybe get something that resembles a plot.
  • Actually blog on your blog.
  • Read. Read a lot. (You need to read more kids books anyway.)
  • Actually clean your house, maybe finish unpacking those half full boxes in the basement.
  • Draw.
  • COLOR.
  • Critique everything you can on your writing group. (Oh wow I should actually do that one.)
  • Just keep writing. Something. Every day. Whether it’s a story or a query letter or a weird listy blog post and even if you don’t think you’ll ever do anything with it, keep writing, because it’s the only thing that consistently makes you feel like you, that makes you feel like you accomplished something with your day, and keeps you sane enough that the people you care about can tolerate you being around.

Yeah. Those might be a start.

2016 Goals for Writing, Reading, and Life

Happy New Year, all! I’m pretty bad at making New Year’s Resolutions, partly because I never take the time to really think about it. What do I want for myself? How to I want to become better, or what good do I want to continue doing?

I came up with a few goals for the year. Some might change, some might get replaced by new goals as the year stretches on. But right now, these are the hopes I have for myself.

  • Keep on writing. Boy, that sounds obvious. But, I feel like I have to keep reminding myself that writing is a thing that it’s okay for me to do, that it makes me feel more whole and probably makes me an easier person to be around when it’s done. It’s hard to push away the thoughts that I should be doing other things: visiting people, working more hours, folding that laundry already. But writing is something good that I keep managing to get away with that makes me happy, so I want to make sure that I keep a place for it in my schedule, no matter how my life shifts and changes.
  • Don’t get pissed if I don’t write. The above being said, life happens, and I don’t always write/edit every day. Sometimes I’m really busy. Sometimes I’m just having a relaxing day lying on the couch with my husband. Sometimes the words just aren’t coming, and I really should start folding that laundry instead. As long as it doesn’t become a habit, it’s not the worst thing to miss it every once in a while.
  • Widen my reading. I feel like I read a big variety of books. But, there are genres I wish I read more of, like memoir, or that I want to get back into, like epic sweeping fantasy. Or books I want to try out more of, like narrative nonfiction or handy-dandy self help books.
  • Read more children’s books. A specific one, but also, I feel, necessary. I don’t feel I read enough children’s books last year. And I’m trying to write children’s books. So I really need to work on that.
  • Stop dwelling on things. Oh, this is actually really hard. If I’m left to my own devices for too long, I start thinking about all the things I’m angry or sad or regretful about, and oh boy that just ruins the day. These include events that happened way back in my childhood that probably no one remembers except for me, and I really need to move on and stop letting things ratchet up my anxiety and send me crashing into the ground.
  • Deal with my anxiety better. I got much better at dealing with anxiety last year. I’ve started removing myself from situations, I breathe, I exercise more (especially when I know I’ll be entering an anxiety-inducing situation). Now I want to get even better at it.
  • Stop being so critical of other people. John and Hank Green have a quote that I’m massively paraphrasing, that one of the problems with the world is a failure to imagine others as complexly as we imagine ourselves. I’ve started to do that with little made up stories of why that person yelled at me at work, or thought it necessary to cut me off on a rainy highway, and that keeps me from being so mad. Which keeps me from dwelling. Which is good for my anxiety! (It’s all coming together.)

Those are some thoughts for betterment I have for myself. What about you? Any resolutions about writing, reading, or life in general? Are my goals ridiculous? Let me know, and have a great year.

Reasons I Like Winter

photo credit: Tree Of Snow via photopin (license)
photo credit: Tree Of Snow via photopin (license)

Winter is probably my least favorite season of the year. I don’t like being cold, snow sports are far from being my thing, my dog often refuses to pee because of the low, low temperature, and I get at least two awful colds before spring finally arrives (though this is less the fault of the season than of the public. The horrible, disgusting public.)

Even so, I get annoyed when people overly complain about the season, wishing for snow to never appear, that it should stay 60 degrees at all times. As much as winter drives me to madness, I feel like a lot of these people are really missing out on some pretty good things.

  • Snow storms. I’ve made it clear how much I love bad weather, the coziness of it as I sit on the couch with a cup of tea, or huddle at my desk with some coffee (always with the caffeine). When everyone else is freaking out and panicking about the possibility of snow storms, I scour the weather forecast hoping that a storm will come, that feet of the stuff will dump on the ground. I feel a little guilty when I think about it too much, since I know I’m lucky to not have to worry about shelter or food or heat or even entertainment, but I yearn for blizzards all the same.
  • The actual snow. It’s cold. It slows my car down. My dog’s too short to run in it when there’s more than 6 inches on the ground. But goodness it’s pretty, and there are few things more perfect than a swath of shining white as yet unmarred by boots and paws.
  • My dog loves it. It’s too tall for her now, and she gets cold way too fast, but one of my top ten favorite things to watch is her, bounding through chest high snow, as awkward as a seal on a beach.
Run, doggy, run.

 

  • The mornings. I like waking up when it’s still dark. There’s something calm and comforting about that, like the early morning is trying to wrap me up in a blanket. In the summer, the sun rises too early, and I basically have to be in a bout of insomnia to be up and moving around before the sun rises, but in the winter, the timing is perfect.
  • The appreciation. I’m human. As much as I roll my eyes at the complainers, by the end of February I’m done. Things are turning to gray slush, and I feel perpetually damp. After suffering through all of that, the spotty green of buds just starting to open on all the trees spreads a small simple bit of hope inside.

What do you like about winter? (Please don’t tell me nothing.)

Weekly Finds: Princesses, Agents, and Delicious Food

I saw on, of all things, a People magazine article that Disney will be coming out with a new Disney Princess, Elena. This will be Disney’s first Latina princess, which I think is a good step towards diversifying their lineup. It’s a TV show, not a movie, and it will be on Disney Junior, so I probably won’t watch it personally, but it’s nice knowing this will exist. (Maybe now Epcot’s Mexico can have a character meet up other than Donald in a Sombrero.)

Literary agent Janet Reid wrote a nice post about what to do about unresponsive agents. Basically, if you’re waiting on someone who’s holding your manuscript, a polite email to check on it from time to time isn’t out of line, and that you shouldn’t feel beholden to someone just because you’ve been talking to them. I have not had someone who I’ve felt like is holding my book baby hostage, but it does make me feel better about double checking the status with people who have shown interest.

And just to make sure that everything on this list is completely unrelated, this week we found an Indian restaurant nearby, and despite the fact that they sat us directly next to the door on the windiest winter night ever, it was excellent and delicious, and pretty quick. There’s still a pile of items I’d like to have tried there, but I had just enough restraint to not go too (too too) crazy with my ordering. We’ll be back, just hopefully not anywhere near the door. (Now we just need an Ethiopian restaurant to roll in…)

What have you found this week?

Snowed In

We’ve gotten a nice big blizzard today, keeping us from going to work, reaching our cars, or even taking the dog on a walk longer than three minutes. We’re trapped in our little condo — and I am so thrilled.

As much as I love the warm comfort of being inside on a rainy day, snowy days are something else. I have an excuse to stay where I am, to fill up my notebook or plow through a novel, to work on my knitting or just sit on the couch with the dog curled up next to me. Even when I do venture out with the dog for a moment, I’m wrapped up in coat and snow pants. I’m insulated, and comfortable, and even if the power does kick out at some time  this is probably the most relaxing day I’ll have all month.

There’s a neighborhood back there, I swear.

 

Are you snowed in? What do you do on a blizzarding day?