Hey, it’s J.. I’m doing the Summer Sanity Challenge through the Ten Percent Happier app. Join me – it’s free! Download the Ten Percent Happier app on the App Store or Play Store, then tap this link to add me as a friend http://challenges.10percenthappier.com/?challenge=summer-sanity-challenge-2020&challenge_invite=pnbuYcT4jL6ma3AZiFsvSh1v&challenge_title=Summer%20Sanity%20Challenge
I made a fun and lighthearted gift basket for my mom and sister to celebrate Mother’s Day this year. Included were the ubiquitous candy and flowers… but also my homemade cloth masks, toilet paper wrapped in ribbons and bows, and hand sanitizer with “Corona Killer” written on it in red Sharpie.
I put the basket on the front porch and rang the doorbell before backing away to a safe distance. We shared laughs and both Mom and my sister really enjoyed the gift.
I don’t think of myself as a sentimental person, and I do just fine without a lot of social contact (as long as it’s meaningful when it occurs). I was a tomboy in my elementary years and a survivor of various emotional traumas (many due to my own poor choices). I’m a tough girl ™️
I didn’t expect to feel that sudden pang and tears threatening when I had to leave without giving my mom a hug.
Several months ago, she offered to go through all three Druid Chronicles novels and help with editing. Since I’m an indy author who primarily writes and publishes for fun, I can’t justify spending thousands of dollars on a professional editor. So I’ve done 95% of it myself. I’m good at grammar but editing one’s own material is tough simply because I’m so familiar with the material. Catching errors and typos requires a fresh eye that is extremely difficult for an author.
I had more or less forgotten about it, assuming that my 3 year old nephew, work, and the pandemic had eaten up all her spare time. I was wrong.
Today, Mom gave me two quarts of local strawberries and her copy of Traveler, complete with what looked like a million sticky notes scattered throughout its pages.
I guess we all want our parents to be proud of us, but I’ve spent decades becoming significant to myself so that compliments are lovely, but icing on a delicious cake.
Her words to me today, however, were a precious gift. She said that while she was going through Traveler, she was reminded of what a “wonderful writer” and “excellent wordsmith” I am.
She’s told me before that she likes my books, but your mom is supposed to say nice things about your creative endeavors. My mom especially, since she sometimes takes “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” to an extreme. She is truly one of the nicest, kindest people you will ever meet. She only gets sweeter and.more loving with age.
But today I really took her words to heart, and I find myself on the verge of tears again. I’ve had such difficulty finding time to be a writer in the past several weeks. I can’t seem to find the time to fix the things that I know need fixing, and to finish the fourth novel. For once, I haven’t been beating myself up over it, but there has been a gentle daily reminder to get back to my laptop.
This pandemic has us all in a tailspin, trying to figure out how to juggle kids, jobs, and staying safe. My daughter is an essential worker, so my granddaughter has been with me anywhere from 15 to 25 hours a week since schools closed. What with riding and training my horses in the morning (so they don’tget wild), having Rory in the afternoons, and preparing supper and spending time with family in the evening, my schedule is packed. Unlike a lot of people, I am busier than before the shutdown.
It has been a valuable lesson in how much time I really had before all this started, and how much of it I wasted. It is a lesson I am constantly learning, as I’m sure many of us are.
My mom told me she’s going back to work in the morning. She’s a church secretary. I told her to put some tape on the floor to keep people from coming too close. She’s over seventy, and while she’s in good health, too many people around here seem not to be taking COVID-19 seriously.
I need to write and edit tomorrow. But I’ll probably spend the time making her some more masks.
As Arkansas is one of the few states without lockdown orders, our parks are still open. The playgrounds, picnic tables, and workout stations are cordoned off, but the walking trails are open.
Overall, people seemed to observe social distancing rules, with the notable exception of Runner Dude, who ran up behind me panting from a foot away, and Dog Momma.
Rory loves animals and exhibited a phenomenal amount of self-control by oohing and ahhing over all the cute dogs instead of running over and begging to pet them.
Unfortunately, after she exclaimed over one dog’s cuteness, Dog Momma – who was carrying the dog – invited Rory to pet it. Of course the small child forgot all else and rushed to pet the poochie, but I grabbed her, saying “Nope!” I gave Dog Momma an apologetic smile and told her thank you for offering.
To Rory’s credit, the reminder snapped her back to the rules and she didn’t even complain about not getting to pet the dog. We continued our walk, looking at the lake, ducks, geese, turtles, and fish.
Overall, she had a great time, said it was very peaceful and relaxing. Exercise is always good and keeping the kid entertained is even better, but I felt like I had to constantly watch out for numbskulls who don’t know how far 6 feet is – or who simply don’t care.
And honestly, it doesn’t matter whether they agree with the governor’s decrees or not. If people don’t distance themselves appropriately, we’ll lose the use of our walking trails, too.
On Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier” podcast, she relays the following teaching story:
We got a taste of that last weekend when an EF3 tornado ripped through the middle of town. Jonesboro is a small city with a population of about 76,000. The tornado didn’t travel a straight path, obviously, but this map approximates its path. I’ve marked some of the places that were hit. The map doesn’t show where it went after the airport, when it hit a furniture store, an ambulance base, damaged another neighborhood of houses, and knocked a train off its rails before continuing north to Paragould and beyond. I heard that flyers for Aldi (where the tornado dropped) were found in Rector, MO, approximately 150 miles away.
My two favorite lines from this video are “What are we even doing???” and “Well, did not expect this today! This is great. The apocalypse is AMAZING.” Arkansans are awesome. 🙂
This video shows an aerial view of the path of destruction in reverse, starting at the northeast side of town and ending up where the tornado started.
Just to the north is Academy Sports, where Willie McDonald became a hero.
Without a doubt, the coronavirus pandemic is bad luck for all of us, but on this day it was a silver lining in the storm clouds. There normally would have been more cars on the roads and people eating out and shopping. While our population isn’t that large, Jonesboro is encircled by many small towns. People from 50 miles around come into town to shop and there would have been hundreds of people at the mall.
But not that day. Because of the coronavirus, the mall was almost empty.
The mall interior pictures were taken by a friend who is a paramedic and first responder.
Because of the coronavirus, there were no fatalities from this tornado. Twenty-two people were injured and only two of them were hurt badly enough to stay in the hospital.
Every dark cloud has a silver lining.
Almost forgot: it took a few days to get the results back, but my mother was negative for COVID-19. Yay!
I was musing this morning on how so many people’s lives have been dramatically changed within the last few weeks, and how, except for the last two weeks of preparation, that of my family remains almost the same.
We all work in service jobs, so we’re all still going to work. After my cleaning frenzy last week, my schedule went back to normal: work on the weekends, horses in the morning, laundry/cooking/cleaning in the afternoons, and video games or reading in the evenings. I haven’t been writing for a few months now but have started to consider when I’m going to fit it back into my schedule due to the one big change.
The big change is that because Rory is out of school, my days are not my own anymore, if indeed they ever were. Luckily, her mom has been going to work in the afternoons so I still have my precious time at the barn. Edward refers to this has my “horse therapy” and with good reason.
Today I spent the morning working with Peregrine and Luna. After lunch, I took Rory outside to play while I cleaned up the flower bed and picked up trash left over from the pool and when Ed painted the house last year. Then I finished the Witcher book, couldn’t find any others (Surprise! We don’t have them!) and grabbed a Shannara book.
The Shannara novels by Terry Brooks are my lifelong favorite and in the past several years I’ve been buying signed copies… and putting them on my bookshelf with the previous ones. One of my resolutions this year was to read all 50+ books that I’ve bought and not read in the past decade, so it seemed a good place to start.
Tonight, my younger sister texted to ask if I had any masks, or a sewing machine, presumably to make masks. I texted back to say no, we didn’t, and that those homemade masks are next to worthless unless you add a HEPA filter to it. Her son was sick all last week and still wheezing this week. She’s sick now, too… and so is our mother, who was tested for COVID-19 today. She’s in her 70s. Forgot to mention, my sister and nephew are living with our parents while she’s attending college.
So much for us staying away, I thought. Then again, my nephew was in daycare and my mom is an administrative assistant (i.e., church secretary) who of course deals with the public. I told her two weeks ago that she needed to start working from home and that my sister should pull her kid out of daycare, but I received noncommittal responses.
No one dissembles better than my mother.
I don’t know any facts about their illnesses, but my guess is that they all have been infected with the novel coronavirus – because clearly it’s been around longer than a few weeks and we’re only just noticing now.
Time will see what tomorrow brings.
I’ve never managed to keep a diary even once in my life – which clearly has carried over into blogging – but thought it might be nice to have a record of our experiences here in Geektopia. We have a little different perspective than most people, as my husband and I do not have to worry about continuing to work or receiving an income.
That’s because we’re nurses.
Currently, Edward is working on a cardiac floor of an acute care hospital (full time/overtime), and I’m doing private duty nursing for a single client/family (part-time).
We’re both assuming that we’ll get COVID-19 at some point. This is why we have postponed our master bathroom reno, bought a big freezer, and stocked it. We also stocked the pantry and have enough toilet paper for about a month (per usual). We expect to be quarantined at some point and I didn’t want to worry about food.
All three of my adult children live with us, plus my granddaughter. I also invited my oldest son’s girlfriend to shelter with us during the pandemic. I had a family meeting with the kids and outlined our pandemic game plan. I’m happy to say that, 10 days later, they’re all sticking to it quite willingly. It helps to live in a household of introvert nerd video gamers.
We are social distancing from both sets of elderly parents, as they are all in the high-risk category for death if they contract the coronavirus.
I spent all last week cleaning out the basement den (it was disgusting) and then attacked the living room. I listened to NPR pretty much non-stop. Ordinarily ingesting this much news-related content would cause me significant anxiety, but updates related to the pandemic have done the opposite. Maybe it’s because this is my field of expertise. Not pandemics, but health care. The more I know, the better I feel, and the more I can help both my family and other people.
I’m still not finished with the living room but after a winter of eternal rain, the weather turned nice. I’m sitting on the back patio with my laptop. I was going to read but found myself carrying on an inner blog-style monologue while making Rory’s lunch, so figured I might as well start writing.
Rory is my 7-year-old granddaughter who is surely a changeling. I’m convinced that the fae switched our real grandchild at birth and left Rory. All my children are pale-skinned, short, and introverted. Rory gets tan in the summer, is tall for her age, and loves to talk to everybody. Of course, she’s out of school now, and of course, I’m keeping her while her mom is at work. While she wasn’t crazy about school, Rory does miss going to the park and playing with other children, so I’m trying to strike a compromise between making her play alone all the time and retaining my sanity. Having a beautiful day to play outside is a gift.
Our veggie garden was fairly successful last year, so we decided to play gardener again. We bought veggie plants at Lowe’s on Monday evening. Side note, we were first in line and my fellow Americans demonstrated their complete lack of interest in social distancing when they lined up behind us. I thought about telling them they were in the presence of someone who worked in the hospital but didn’t want to scare the cashier.
Yes, I am ballsy enough to do it, and no, my husband doesn’t give a shit about me being brash and mouthy.
My daughter weeded part of the garden over the weekend, and I finished it on Tuesday. Yesterday and today I spent a couple of hours planting. I didn’t have a hand in any of the gardening last year, so it was a nice surprise to find that the weeding and planting only took about four hours total. I expected it to take a lot longer.
I planted Georgia sweet yellow onions, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, Brussel sprouts, curly kale, and one purple kale. We have a bunch of tomato plants and some asparagus but they’ll have to wait until Edward finishes off the north and south ends of the raised beds. They need weeding and good soil.
Now I’m going to continue reading The Last Wish: Introducing the Witcher. I really enjoyed the Netflix series and found out that my bookworm husband has all the books. Because of course, he does. More later, as things progress.
I have become a big fan of podcasts. I picked up “Happier” with authot Gretchen Rubin and “10% Happier” with Dan Harris this time last year because I was miserable, riddled with anxiety and depression. Rubin offers practical, everyday suggestions for how to be happier, while Harris attacks the problem from the meditation and spiritual side.
When I ran out of that, in the summer I turned to “Happier in Hollywood,” which is fun even if you’re not in Hollywood or a TV writer.
I recently discovered “Hurry Slowly” by Jocelyn K. Glei, which has become my favorite. It’s “about how to find more creativity & meaning in our daily lives” and has made me completely change the way I think about my own creative efforts and my ideas about productivity.
For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to cram the square peg of creativity into the round hole of Google calendar in the name of the holy god Productivity. Occasionally I bemoaned the lack of creative flow during the times I planned to write, telling myself that “butt in chair time” was paramount to getting my books written along with everything else I had chosen to pile on my shoulders.
It’s true that sometimes you have to make yourself sit there and you cannot wait until inspiration strikes, but it is also true that you have to allow time and space for the moments when inspiration does flow. For me, this is usually when I have planned to do something else (typical Rebel).
Creativity cannot always be scheduled like home organizing sessions. It’s good to set aside the time to do it, and research has shown that doing the creative thing at the same time every day helps jump-start the brain for that activity, but don’t limit yourself to those times and don’t feel obligated to sit in a chair for an unproductive 4 hours.
Sit for 30 minutes and if nothing happens, do something that will get the creative juices flowing. This is not social media, surfing the net, or watching TV. Take a walk. Do yoga. Go for a hike in the woods. Fold laundry Mindless household chores work great for me, no lie. For one thing, they’re boring. For another, I often pretend I am a character doing this menial task and inevitably they start talking to another character. Voila! I have a conversation.
So far, it’s working, and I think it will continue to do so. I don’t know if it’s all the work I’ve been doing with my hands (on my son’s cosplay) or binging so much Netflix this week, but my creativity well has been flowing freely. Thursday I wrote an effortless 1100 words and on Friday 1200 more. Sunday and Monday were the same.
Clearly, something is working.
Glei also discusses the effect that email, interruptions, and social media have on our lives, which has made me take a long, hard look about the mindless minutes and hours I’ve spent on Facebook and Twitter. At the end of one episode, she discusses how we’ve become like sportscasters for our own lives, broadcasting events on social media.
Thus made me take a hard look at my Facebook use. Why is it that I have felt compelled to share my life, my horses, and the funny things the kids say with the world of Facebook? And why do I feel like posting but hardly ever call my mom or dad to talk to them about these things? It’s like I have chosen a superficial relationship over real ones. Why would I find that preferable?
Until I have an answer to those questions, social media will no longer be given the gift of my time and attention. And is that really how I want to spend my life? I say that writing novels, reading, and drawing are priorities in my life, but if that’s really true if I’m frittering my time away posting ephemera?
I have frequently felt like there wasn’t enough time for reading in my life, which is crazy because it’s one of my favorite things to do. Also, I can’t be a good writer if I’m not first a good reader. Once my Facebook usage dropped by 90%, I magically discovered the time to read.
My goal for 2020 is to continue along this path of learning to hurry slowly. Hopefully it will be a lifelong focus. It just might lead me to great things.
Somehow, even though I was dreading writing Chapter 20 because I thought it was going to be dull, I managed to write chapters 21 and 22. It actually ended up being fairly interesting stuff.
So there I was again, staring at the beginning of chapter 23 and doubting myself – which is stupid and irritating because all day I’ve been eager to sit and write it. I had a fabulous idea yesterday while driving out to the boarding stable and have been ruminating on it ever since. And yet, I’m staring at a blank page with no idea how to start it because, of course, the idea I had was the exciting part in the middle.
I do this a lot. I have this really great idea for an exciting scene but I have no idea how to get in or out of it. The solution is to just write the scene and then work my way forward and backward to complete it. It’s weird, but it works.
Luckily, I also have the material from the original draft of these novels (from back when it was one book), so now I have two half-finished chapters. Not bad for a couple hours’ work, but one of these days I hope I’ll be able to approach a chapter with confidence rather than trepidation. After all, that lack of confidence makes no sense and has absolutely no basis in reality.
I always have another good idea. I should remember that tomorrow when I sit down to write.
Where research is concerned, the prevailing advice to writers is to get the story down and then go back and fill in the details. I’ve never been good at that, simply because my brain hits a roadblock and refuses to go forward. Also, quite often I need to know how far apart places are (I use real maps on Google Earth) so that I know how far my characters are going and how long it will take them when riding their horses or walking.
This week’s research time suck was the Oracle at Delphi because for some reason I decided in a prior novel that somebody had recreated the temple to Apollo, and then for purposes of tying off storylines, decided that Davis and Angie needed to go there.
So instead of writing Chapter 20 like I was supposed to yesterday, I wasted hours researching the layout of the temple. I knew it was about 78 ft wide and 197 ft long (23.82 m x 60.32 m to be exact) and I was trying to figure out what the diameter of the columns is and how far apart they were spaced. All this was because I couldn’t find the info out directly, but the sources I found said the Greeks considered the perfect spacing of columns to be 2.25 times the width of the columns. I am terrible at math and abysmal at algebra, so I don’t know why I even attempted it.
I ended up ranting about how difficult this was, and my husband and older son trying to help with the math but also trying to convince me to just pick a height and be done with it. I do admit to being something of a perfectionist so that was hard to let go of. After educating them and my daughter on how the Greeks measured things, all I could say was, “Those Greek people!” To which my daughter replied, “There was nothing else to do, so they spent all their time doing math.”
It made me laugh and I realized how ridiculous I was being and that a close estimation was, in fact, good enough because only about 6 of the columns are still standing in the temple and it has no roof. And honestly, if anybody writes to tell me, “Hey, your info on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi is all wrong” then I will immediately rope them into giving me the correct information and update the book online. Having the ability to fix things on the fly is one big plus of being an indy author.
After 2 or 3 hours of research and 15-30 minutes ranting to my family (which they are well accustomed to at this point), I wrote three sentences describing the temple.
It took me three hours to write three sentences, and I can usually write a chapter in that amount of time.
So was it really about wanting to get it right, being a perfectionist, or something else?
As it so happens, I was listening to the “Happier in Hollywood” podcast that day and they talked about procrastination being the product of fear rather than lack of discipline/focus. I knew kind of what needed to happen in this chapter but I guess I was afraid of not getting it right. Or more truly, sitting in front of my laptop with nothing to say.
I went for a walk the next day, which usually stimulates my creative juices, and wrote a conversation for the chapter on my phone. Before bed last night I had another brief convo idea, and also wrote that down. This morning I woke up thinking, “What if Davis decides/threatens to destroy the thing?”
The cure for anxiety is action, and today I took action by transcribing my notes from my phone into my Word doc. I also happily noted that I’d already written 5 pages of material and, considering that I like my chapters to be at least 7 pages, probably didn’t have to write that much more. I did get sidetracked trying to figure out how long it takes to hike up there but after 5 minutes reminded myself that it doesn’t matter because this temple is not in Greece.
So I got to work and wonder of wonders, it just flowed. In fact, the scene will continue in Chapter 21, which I’ll work on tomorrow.
I think I mentioned that I started writing Chosen: Book Four of the Druid Chronicles (hereafter referred to as either DC4) in January and primarily quit because of anxiety/depression/exhaustion, but the other reason was that I really wanted to write it from both Davis and Angie’s perspectives. However, I was concerned that it would be confusing to read even though each entire chapter would be from one person’s viewpoint. Most of the time that’s fine, but when I read Allegiant by Virginia Roth, I got confused as to whether it was Tris or Four talking – my fault and not hers because when I read I tend to skip over titles and dive into the next chapter.
I couldn’t decide what to do so I did what comes naturally – procrastinating! I also discussed it with a good pal who is also a beta reader and DC superfan, and she thought it would be fine. But I still had to think over it some more. The back of my mind is kind of like a crockpot, always something cooking in there.
I decided to go for it. The worst thing that can happen is that I have to rewrite half the book back to Davis’ perspective or delete a bunch of chapters entirely. The best thing that can happen is that you get a better view of some of the events I have planned for my hapless hero. After all, unconscious and/or sleeping people aren’t very good storytellers.
I already had something like 8 or 10 chapters written, so I wrote three brand new chapters, 2 – 4, from Angie’s point of view (POV), kept chapters 5 and 6 pretty much the same, and reworked 7 and 8 from Davis’ POV to hers. Half of 8 was already written, so I changed that to Angie’s POV and added something I hadn’t planned but what seemed like a good idea. I was going to move on but the story seemed abrupt and some stuff had been unaddressed, so I’m adding another chapter between 8 and what was 9, so now 9 is 10. I try to write chronologically as much as possible, but when I get good ideas (or good suggestions or critiques from others) I like to try and use them.
I wanted to alternate their viewpoints but that’s already blown out of the water so I’m just going to let the story flow from whichever character tells it to me best. I’ve written other books and have other works in progress, but none of my other characters are as wild and unpredictable as these druids. Davis and Angie are willful and headstrong, so I just let them do whatever they want. It’s always more interesting than whatever I had in mind, anyway.
On to chapter 9!