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.
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.
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 atwith 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.
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.
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
Helloo! Happy Autumn, or if you’re in the UK like I am, happy fog!
Basically, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in the UK and haven’t watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail a thousand times like I have, here you go:
Except we don’t usually get the summer bit 😉
Anyhow, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged for two reasons:
1) I’ve been to the States twice since August, and up to Scotland shortly after, so I’ve had little time to write let alone blog *about* writing.
2) As much as I love reading all the wonderful content out there, not just about writing but about people’s lives, their adventures, their struggles, how they handle and overcome those struggles, most of the time I don’t feel a great need to blog about my own.
When I do, I post something, but lately I feel strongly that what I add to the bulging-at-the-seams interwebz needs to be meaningful, even if just in a small way. I don’t want to post about how much I wrote or didn’t if it doesn’t matter to anyone but me. I guess I don’t know exactly what my blog should include at this point, but along with the updates I share with #WIPMarathon and other writer buddies, I want it to say *something*, even if it’s just, “This is what I learned this month.”
No, this isn’t a post about my latest tattoo (I haven’t had a new tattoo since circa 2007!), but about what the lovely Brits refer to as “tat.” I’m sure Americans call it that occasionally, too, but I’d never heard the word used as such until I moved here. Useless junk. Tasteless whatnots. Whatever you want to call it.
Every year at Christmas, I notice more and more Christmas tat lining shelves by shop doors and registers, sections right along main entryways and aisles full of gift sets out the wazoo. I’m not talking about quality products that come in box sets. I’m talking boxes of cheap perfume and cologne, no-name-brand bath soaps, and cheap toys and novelty items that get played with for three days. The cheesy junk that feels like it was left over from a rummage sale. A reindeer hat that will get worn once and then given to a charity shop! A touchscreen stylus in the shape of a carrot! And then, there’s THIS.
Total impulse buys — just walk two inches in a department store and you’re bombarded with candy containers the size of Montana, boxed candle sets that smell more like feet than pine trees, and Christmas-themed EVERYTHING so you can basically buy one of each and be set for your entire gift list.
Seeing all this junk makes me think extra hard about what I buy for people these days. Christmas isn’t JUST about giving, but giving is a lot of what we do at the holidays. And giving isn’t just about buying something on your way to the register so you can fulfil an obligation. Companies package stuff in a clear plastic tray inside an easy-to-store red & green box, practically screaming, “This is an awesome buy! Look, it’s all holiday-ready and all you have to do is stick it in one of these nifty £5 gift bags (when an entire roll of Christmas wrapping paper might only cost £2)!”
I was reminded even more of this last month. Black Friday has made its way to the UK (despite there being no Thanksgiving and national holiday and therefore no crucial day off work on Friday for people to shop). Stores were in the news for hordes of people stampeding for dusty big-screen TVs that no one would touch 2 months ago because they were cheap, overstocked rubbish. But take ten quid off the price, put a bow on them, open the doors 3 hours early, and BAM! Instant sellout.
I love giving gifts. Things I think people will enjoy, or need, not what’s easy to grab on my way toward the tills. Making things or buying personalised items or just something that took a bit of consideration is what I want to do. And the more outrageous the tat gets, the easier it is for me to think about what I’m giving to someone else. I want to say, “I care about you and I thought about you,” not, “I ticked you off a list, here’s random item #8.” It’s so easy to get swept up into the consumerism madness, but it’s all just stuff, in the end. I want the stuff to symbolise something much more important: the love and appreciation I have for someone else being part of my life.
(That’s not to say I didn’t buy a whoopie cushion at a gift shop last summer. But I bought that for myself. 😉
May your Christmas season be filled with love, family, friends, and peace <3
This is an unapologetic photo post, just to warn you in advance.
I just returned from my first visit to Paris (Disneyland Paris doesn’t count!) and had a fantastic time. It feels somehow sad that it took me until now to visit a place whose language I studied twenty years ago. Especially given the proximity to where I’ve been living for the past 7 years, but it’s not for want of trying. Over a year ago, my husband booked us a trip as a late birthday gift but I wasn’t able to go in the end because the Home Office had my passport from having applied for a new visa months earlier. But I made it this time. Hoorah!
So to celebrate, I had champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower, toured the Palais Garnier and scored 10-Euro tickets to the opera (Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri) which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, stalked Erik (just kidding. Sort of), ate crepes and baguettes and pain au chocolat et café au lait, visited Notre Dame during an Easter Sunday mass, toured the Catacombs where 6-7 million Parisians rest, climbed the 300 steps to the dome of the Sacre-Coeur, saw Moulin Rouge, the Seine from all angles, the mini Statue of Liberty, the Louvre, Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe… phew.
Oh yes, and saw lots of American tourists wearing b&w striped shirts and berets. *cringe*
Given the understandably frustrated comments on social media, I thought today might be the day to start this series of posts I’d been postponing to whenever I got around to it, when I couldn’t stand talking about writing anymore or posting yet another update about how things aren’t going, etc. etc.
Let me preface this by saying, I’m an American, with no current plans to give up my passport. In fact, I just received a renewed American passport (to include my new married name), though it was done in preparation for my next UK visa, in the never-ending series of £1000-or-more visa applications one must endure in order to not get kicked out of this country.
I wanted to visit the UK all my life, and at 26, finally did. Six months later, I had my first visa and the date I’d become a UK resident. Many people on both sides of the Atlantic asked, “So why’d you leave the U.S.?” rather than, So what made you move to the UK? Wording is everything. Many assumed I left for a reason, rather than came for a reason (which, if you’re curious, was university + I just freaking loved it here).
I miss the U.S. every day in life. Not a day goes by I don’t feel homesick for my family, my friends, driving on the CORRECT side of the road, wide roads, huge grocery stores, entire aisles devoted to cereal, massive State and National Parks, and so much more. On 5 March this coming year, I’ll have been a UK resident for seven years. SEVEN. I can hardly believe it. I love it. But I miss the U.S. more now than I ever did.
I moved around a lot, so it’s not like I hold a fairytale image of one place. At three I moved to Canada from WNY, at six I moved back. At nineteen I moved to Nashville, and at twenty-three I moved to Sacramento. I miss all of it. But of course, I miss WNY most.
I love my new home, and I’ll do a later post(s) about why. The reasons are many (number of annual vacation days, for one). But for right now, without further rambling, here are ten things I sorely miss about the U.S. (family & friends, of course, being a constant given):
No argument. The U.S. gets all the weather. All of it. The UK is generally grim and rainy, but when the sun’s out, it’s CELEBRATION TIME, even if it’s 45 degrees. I time the majority of my U.S. visits in the summer because there is no better summer on earth than a WNY summer. Sunny days, humidity, thunderstorms, gorgeous song birds and crickets at night, bonfires, camping, sitting out in muggy air without needing a jumper. You get proper summers. And you’ve got Florida and California weather. You can tan without being asked what salon you went to.
2. Shopping & Eating.
Tim Horton’s, Chipotle, P.F. Chang’s, Sizzling Fresh, The Melting Pot, The Keg, Target, Whole Foods, Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, Buckle, Macy’s, Sephora, Frederick’s of Hollywood, just some of my favourites. You are seriously spoilt for choice in the U.S. when it comes to shopping. I will never take that for granted again, when visiting the U.S. I wish I hadn’t when I lived there. You’ve got MASSIVE parking lots, massive parking spaces you don’t have to try eighteen times to get into. You have entire aisles of cereal. The choice is enormous. Restaurants do food I actually salivate thinking about. Proper fresh sushi bars that serve unagi (our one sushi chain here, Yo Sushi, does not serve it, nor does it serve oyster shooters. Don’t get me started.) Food tastes fresh, and burgers taste real. The ease of driving around to all of these places, pulling into a spot in the store/restaurant’s own parking lot, walking in, getting what you need, walking out, and going on to your next errand is amazing. Which brings me to point number 3.
I got my licence at 17 in the States, barely studied, tried once and passed. Never thought that much about it. I had one nervous day of driving when I practiced for the first time on the thruway, but that was it. I once thought nothing of driving 12 hours solo from Nashville to Buffalo on a semi-regular basis. I drove from Nashville to Sacramento by myself. Driving was as natural as breathing. Wide roads, endless places for u-turns in case you went wrong, shoulders to pull over in case of emergency, patrolling cops who often succeed at popping the bad guys, drive-thru banks, coffee shops, restaurants… So Much Easier. Bigger cars. Mostly automatic. I had to take my UK driving test three times to pass – at 31. I knew how to drive safely, but it’s all the flippin’ street signs painted on the ground here that are worn off or have cars, you know, driving on them so you can’t read them until it’s too late and you’re in the third lane from the right which means you’ll get screwed out of your exit on the roundabout. Just know that driving in the U.S. is bliss compared to the U.K. Trust me. Think about that when you’re sitting in traffic on your way to work. On our last two trips to the U.S., driving around San Francisco and Disney World, Florida felt like floating in the clouds compared to driving here.
4. Social Interaction.
You can find friendly, lovely people anywhere in the world. And there are lots of unfriendly people anywhere in the world, too, so I’m not wearing rose-tinted shades, here. But on average, more strangers will spark up friendly chit-chat in the U.S. than the UK. Many more. Nashville was one of the friendliest places I’ve ever lived or visited, but most of the people in Western NY will give you the time of day. The Scotsman notices this every time we visit. Some places aren’t so friendly, but many are. So much easier to smile and say hello to someone who doesn’t think you’re nuts for doing so, because they do it, too.
This ties in to point number 2. It’s in the store names. Bed, Bath and Beyond. The Container Store. An entire store, JUST for containers! It’s amazing! Now that we’re buying our own house, I’d give my right pinkie for a neighbourhood BBB and Container Store. No matter what you’re looking to buy or eat, you’ve got thousands of choices. You want peanut butter? Here are fifteen different kinds. I could visit Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, and Lidl and find maybe three brands.
6. The Spice of Life.
Variety. Less about purchasing power and more about people. This is only my experience, but in 6.5 years in the UK, I’ve come to realize that the majority of my opinions are unpopular. I stick out like a sore thumb because I’m not an atheist, don’t like football (soccer), don’t follow Strictly Come Dancing, X-Factor, or Big Brother, I’ll wear sunglasses if it’s sunny even though it’s 40 degrees out, and when I ask someone, “You alright?” I actually expect an answer. I’m not being negative towards my adopted country, I’m just saying that believing what you want and doing your own thing seem much more popular in the U.S.
People in the U.S. are unabashedly passionate about whatever they love. Unafraid to wear their heart on their sleeve. Love Star Trek? No problem – here’s my Deanna Troi costume and the list of the last ten conventions attended. Morning person at Starbucks wishing everyone on your way out the door an awesome day? No problem. Willingness to gush with pride over who and what you love? No shame.
8. Opening Hours.
One of many reasons I love Scotland is they don’t adhere to the ridiculous Sunday trading laws that England has. Places of business, based on size, can only be open for six hours on Sundays in England. No 24-hour grocery stores. Things are so much more accessible in the States. You can get that container of Bison chip dip you’re craving at 9 PM if you want it. England did suspend this outdated law temporarily for the 2012 Olympics… because they know citizens of other countries aren’t used to such an old-fashioned idea.
Building upon the last point, it’s just so much easier to get your hair cut, your doctor appointment, your prescription filled, your mail posted, your car parked in the States. As I said earlier, you can drive into a parking lot for the post office, send your mail, then drive right up to the salon to get your hair cut. Imagine that! Not having to park in a claustrophobic city centre car park, walk three miles to one errand and then two miles the other way to the next. I can make an appointment with my family doctor in the States and see him next week, no problem (at least, right now I still can). I’ve had untold problems with the level of service the NHS offers. My husband had to wait about 4 months for a simple appointment with the GP over a problem that couldn’t be treated by the time the appointment arrived. Healthcare in general is still preferable, easier accessed, and more professional than elsewhere.
Meeting people. As an adult, it’s always harder to meet new friends when you don’t go to classes. But in the U.S. I found it so much easier to join a new class, not at university, but a fitness or yoga class, or try out a new hobby, or a new church, or whatever. For many of the above reasons and more, finding such opportunities and being able to join them here is more difficult. There are all sorts of special-interest groups available in the U.S., and I’ve always found it easier to meet people with shared interests in the U.S. than here, probably due to a mixture of above points 9, 8, 7, 6, and 4.
* * *
That’s it for now. I am still as in love with the UK as ever, and so, so grateful for my opportunity to live in this beautiful country. Read Bill Bryons’s NOTES FROM A SMALL ISLAND and you’ll know just what I’m talking about. This country is amazing. I am blessed to live in a country I love, and come from a country I love. But I wanted to take today to celebrate some of the things I love and miss about the U.S., plain and simple.
Here’s hoping for some better news on the current state of affairs soon.