Chy - 7

Hello Again

This title wasn’t meant to reference the fact that I’ve not posted on this blog in, oh, A THOUSAND YEARS, but a topic I’ve been mulling today while packing boxes for our upcoming move from Bristol to Edinbrrrrrr. (Edinburgh, for those not aware of how much colder it gets there than here, a mere 360 miles away). To pack, I need to first unpack, and that included the box at the very back of the bedroom closet, under the pile of everything else.

In it, I found these:

 

And these:

 

And of course, I did what any sane person would do. TRY THEM ON. I also went searching for photos of these babies in action. It’s actually quite hilarious that I thought I’d need to take these not only from Nashville to Sacramento with me when I moved there, but then from Sacramento to England. I wore these on stage playing bass in my old band Cashmere Love Crash, and other various bands. And possibly I bought the leopard ones hoping someday I’d get a complete Mimi Marquez from RENT costume together (my style guru circa 2003) but it never happened. Life can be rough.

 

In any case, I clomped down two sets of stairs to show my husband who had a chuckle and pointed to the rubbish pile by the door, but something in my heart twinged. These boots are so representative of who I was at the time. Someone who lived in Nashville with a close friend, out playing gigs around town at night or seeing other gigs, sometimes multiple (ooh la la) in one night, working as a barista at the fabulous Fido in Hillsboro Village, and just generally having what seemed a very exciting twenties. These trigger so many memories of the time I felt more free and life seemed a wider path than ever before or since.

Revisiting the memories is a blessing. I’m grateful for memory. It’s one of those bazillion things so easily taken for granted, but when I think of any who struggle with hateful disease that steals their memory from them, my heart aches unconsolably. Memories remind us of the fun, amazing, beautiful times, but also the embarrassing, the painful, the challenging — the times that are maybe more likely to shape us. Who we were “back then” is not bad, even if it’s more of the latter than the former list. It’s still part of who we are, or at least, I choose to see it that way.

Even if I’ll never get on stage and rock out on a Zeppelin- or Radiohead-inspired tune again, I am so grateful for that time of my life. And as a writer, all of it feeds into my stories. Every experience. It might seem so far from who I am today, but it’s not. She’s still inside — and so is the me at 5, playing with my sisters in the backyard; and at 15, painfully shy and passing notes to one of my few friends in a school I felt certain was designed to tear me down; and me in my late twenties, living in California and working 3 jobs without a clue where my life was going; and me turning 30, back at university, this time in Falmouth, Cornwall, falling in love with the sea and the wind in my hair and not yet realising that place would leave an indelible mark on me (and my novels).

My birthday this year felt like a big one. It could’ve been scary, and yes, I had some tears, which is stupid because I should just be grateful I’m here still, right? But I’m a kid at heart. I will always feel like a kid. My amazing husband and friends and sisters threw me two massive surprises and I had a blast, so I can be nothing less than grateful.

They say you shouldn’t look back because that’s not where your future is, but I don’t think it’s wrong to do so. It’s a reminder of all the people you were, and while you might not be that person every day anymore (or any day!), they made you who you are, and that’s worth considering, and celebrating. And just before a massive transition like moving 360 miles away from the friends and normal we’ve known here, with other significant changes no doubt on the horizon, I think it’s helpful to look back as a reminder, a starting point to figure out where to go next.

I’m still the girl with the leopard print boots. They might just need a fancy dress party to come out again.

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Chy - 7

Scotland Easter

I haven’t been writing on here nearly as much as I used to, and I want to change that.  In the meantime, I might make up for lack of blog words (as I’m trying to focus all my words elsewhere at the moment) with photos.

We just returned from a week in Scotland, and spent 2 nights camping in our favourite spot at the foot of Ben Nevis. There was snow and hail above 700m and it rained almost the entirety of our stay, plus I was on week SIX of a mutating flu/cold/virus thing with my right ear completely blocked, so we didn’t do any proper climbs. But it was gorgeous as ever, regardless of where I stood.

Once back on dry, sunny land in the lowlands, I managed to meet one of my favourite authors (Laini Taylor — author of the DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE trilogy and the recently released STRANGE THE DREAMER, which I’m currently devouring). And ate some scrumptious Mexican food.

Hope you all had a marvelous Easter weekend! <3

Rushing water everywhere on our first hike of the day.

 

 

Love this tree.

 

First view of Steall Falls (my 2nd, but first on this trip), which was used as backdrop in Harry Potter & the GoF.

 

The infamous wire bridge.

 

Steall Hut in the glen facing away from the falls.

 

Steall Falls.

 

Sodden.

 

But all that water makes for gorgeous green, right?

 

Just wet.

 

 

Miros Cantina in Edinburgh, best Mexican in the UK!

 

Had a brief chat with the inspiring and utterly fabulous Laini Taylor at Waterstones in Edinburgh, after her talk and Q&A.

 

Back on dry land, down in Cumbernauld.

 

Until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

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Chy - 7

Reading (when everything is a) Challenge

Last week I tweeted about how excited I was to smash my 2017 50-book reading challenge on Goodreads, since I was ridiculously proud of my mere 30 in 2016 (recap, and, okay, a bit of justification: 2016 was not a smooth year for me). I WAS excited, I noted, until I’d decided to re-read J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE SILMARILLION and THE LORD OF THE RINGS this year (the latter being my absolute favourite book of all time).

Don’t get me wrong — I’m euphoric about reading these. It’s been several years, and while I try to watch the LOTR trilogy every Christmas, reading the books takes a bit more time. My books-read counter is going to crawl over the coming weeks. Not because I’m a massively slow reader, but because these words must be  s a v o   u   r    e      d.

As Pippin quoted Treebeard:

So I’ve started THE SILMARILLION, this time with a Tolkien dictionary and map beside me (for following all those Valar and Maiar and Quendi around). But it got me thinking.

Reading As Respite — and Motivation

Truth is, in times like these where concentration is hard to come by due to current issues, the best thing to do is dive into what inspires you, and remind yourself of what makes you feel hopeful, and strong, and creative, and motivated, and just plain good. And just as Tolkien described in his beautiful essay, On Fairy Stories, this isn’t about escapism in the negative sense:

I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used . . . Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he . . . thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.

And as C.S. Lewis said in OF THIS AND OTHER WORLDS regarding the reader of fantasy: “He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

So. Rather than buckling down and sticking to my usually-demanding daily word count (or, when editing, scene tally), I’m giving myself a bit more grace. If my struggle to focus is throwing up brick walls (or walls that look like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and news outlets…), I need to step back and not beat myself up for it. And in the evening, maybe start my reading a little bit earlier. Rather than staring at a screen and berating myself for sub-par productivity, I’m trying to tell myself it’s okay to just go to words I love, and sit there for awhile.

Granted, I’m not on a deadline other than any I give myself right now…

Why I Write

I love what Tolkien said about his Elves in the preface to THE SILMARILLION:

Their ‘magic’ is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations . . .  And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation.

The Elves used their abilities to add beauty to the world, not control it nor become its master.  Tolkien wrote much about writers as sub-creators, made by a creator they’re naturally inclined to wish to imitate. “We make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made.”

But this is WHY I write — with the hope I can also create a world of a story and characters and events that might someday be someone else’s respite, inspiration, or encouragement.

We create to inspire, and we read for inspiration. While my productivity might be a bit lower currently, my well is being filled, and that’s no bad thing. It’s the very thing I need to prepare me for the next set of words, and the next set of days.

I hope you’re filling your well with words that inspire you. <3

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Chy - 7

Whatever Happens, Stay Busy.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Americans! Hope you’ve been enjoying your leftovers and have a lovely (and possibly lazy) weekend! I cooked the bird yesterday due to the Scotsman being away for work on Thursday, but it was lovely having friends over and even watching of bit of the Macy’s parade online.

I’m about to admit something I’m not proud of. This week, I did what I’ve done the past several years, and that’s listen to the little voice whispering in my ear that the holidays means people don’t really read emails or have the chance to consider them until into the New Year, and that somehow negatively affects me.

Why does this make me worry? Well, in my head, I feel like it’s time where I won’t hear answers, and therefore can’t make progress — but worse is the fear I’ll be forgotten and shuffled into a pile of dustbunnies in the corner, because HOLIDAYS, and therefore, any answers I might be waiting on will blink out of the realm of potential.

Falmouth sunrise
Falmouth sunrise

What a negative viewpoint, right? And how self-centered! I can hear you thinking it. Honestly, I should be focused on my family and making holiday memories rather than worrying about the career goal and dreams I’ve been working toward all these years … right? Or can’t I do both?

I realized after sharing my concerns with a friend how accustomed I am to finding yet more ways to worry about what I’m waiting for. It’s a timely blunder as I’m currently reading Wendy Pope’s inspiring and uplifting WAIT AND SEE.

Every day is a chance to keep up that progress I want to see on my end — and that’s all I can EVER do. So I can’t worry about things like this. It’s out of my control — it was never IN my control, no matter what time of year it is. I’m also reminded again of my favourite read of last year, BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert:

  • You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better.
  • The results of my work don’t have much to do with me. I can only be in charge of producing the work itself.
  • The ones who stand at the gates of our dreams are not automatons. They are just people. They are just like us. There is no neat template that can ever predict what will capture any one person’s imagination, OR WHEN (emphasis mine); you just have to reach them at the right moment. But since the moment is unknowable, you must maximize your chances. Play the odds. Put yourself forward in stubborn cheer, and then do it again and again and again.
  • Whatever else happens, stay busy.

So instead of finding new ways to worry that actually only eat away at the very progress I’m concerned about, I’m spending this weekend doing the things that refuel my tank for the writing that happens throughout the week, and focusing my mind on what I can control. And wishing everyone a hopeful holiday season this year as we look for ways to help others in the days, weeks, and months to come. Roll on, 2017. <3

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Chy - 7

Twitter & Missing Out

This year has been a difficult one in a lot of ways, but a busy (in a mostly good way) one, too. Which means I haven’t spent endless hours scrolling through Twitter like I used to.

Gratuitous autumnal Allegany State Park shot of a beaver swimming toward me.
Gratuitous autumnal Allegany State Park shot of a swimming beaver.

This is definitely not an anti-Twitter post – I am so grateful for what it’s made possible! I’ve met so many amazing writer friends and critique partners through Twitter, through contests and writing groups. In fact, I think I’ve met all of my CPs, past and present, through Twitter one way or another.

And the supportive writing community is immense. How encouraging is it to know, as a writer, you can peruse Twitter at any hour of the day or night and find others around the world also writing, editing, struggling with a draft, and celebrating over a finished scene? Even if you’re not interacting personally, hashtags like #amwriting or #amediting or any of the thousands of writing groups out there are such an unbelievable source of encouragement we’re privileged to have access to right now.

However.

Because this has been a really crazy year for me, and because I’ve committed to accomplishing more this year than in years past, I’ve not spent time on TweetDeck and kept up with the fifteen columns I have on there like before. I check in maybe once a day, sometimes once a week, and have a look at my top three lists for a minute, and that’s it. Occasionally I spend more than a minute – just now I scrolled around for about five, and instead of feeling enlightened about whatever topics are being discussed or who ate what for lunch, I felt like I was missing out.

This post is basically me having a stern talk with myself.

It’s not just that I’ve not had time therefore I’m missing all the info-sharing and friendly banter . . .  that’s been a constant for the past year for me. I also felt I was missing out because everyone on Twitter is telling me the good stuff – their book deals, their agent signings, their book tours, their awards, their cover reveals.

I want to keep up with it all, and I want to celebrate with them, but if I don’t religiously check in, I’m sure to miss tons of this news, and by the time I see it, I feel like a jerk for not having commented sooner. And yes, I do feel the temptation to compare where I’m at with their fabulous news. But I just can’t. Life is too short. Life’s too short to spend all of it on social media – but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss it. When I do check in, I love seeing what’s making people laugh and what people are excited about. It’s the greatest way to be involved and encouraging and encouraged without even leaving the house, and sometimes, you just can’t.

This is everyone on Twitter celebrating all the good stuff.
This is everyone on Twitter celebrating all the good stuff.

 

This is me.
This is me.

But everyone’s day is different, everyone has different priorities, and if it’s a choice between spending 6 hours editing my current manuscript, getting to the gym, and having dinner with my husband and maybe meeting up with a friend, or being online throughout the day but not meeting my work goals, I have to choose the former.

I wish I had an extra hour a day to spend solely on the long-distance, never-ending conversation. Especially as one who has emigrated from her home country to a new one. The vast majority of my friends are still in the U.S., and I have to be online to be in touch with them. But that’s the struggle (if it’s a struggle – I think it’s also a blessing that we’re *able* to keep in touch across such distance in such an immediate way) that comes with moving around in the world.

All this to say, if you’re anything like me and maybe you’ve been choosing to spend more time on your own work, and on your immediate circumstances, it’s okay to do that, and to not feel guilty. I envy people who seem to be able to do it ALL: get the agent, the book deal, write and edit all day, go to workout classes, spend time with their families and friends, AND get online and have a massive community around them to engage with – daily.

Until I figure out how to fit all that plus sleep and me-time into 24 hours, I have to accept that there are choices to make, and most days – until I get the book deal and need to be promoting, that is (*heh*) – I need to mostly focus on the immediate work in front of me.

Second gratuitous autumnal Allegany State Park shot.
Second gratuitous autumnal Allegany State Park shot.

I know I need to make more time for the online relationships I’ve been grateful to be part of. I certainly don’t want to lose them! But I think social media stress is A THING, and finding that balance between nurturing relationships vs. living solely online and slashing productivity is a real challenge.

If you have any suggestions or tips on how to balance this stuff, feel free to share! 🙂 Until next time x

 

 

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