Chy - 7

Unsocial Media

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

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 ūüėČ

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.”

Which brings me to this post’s point. Yesterday I read about Essena O’Neill‘s departure from social media Continue reading “Unsocial Media”

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Chy - 7

I Love Trees, and other disclaimers

choose joy

So I’m way behind (two months, in fact) on check-ins with the #WIPMarathon gang, and I haven’t just blogged to blog in donkey’s years (real time, a few months). I’ve been buried in my current manuscript, as well as summer travels, and a decision that seems increasingly weightier¬†every time I peer at it. Sideways.

But now’s the time to sort¬†that out. Summer’s always my busiest time of year since that’s when we tend to cram in all the trips. July was¬†the most incredible (I mean that literally; I couldn’t believe how much I fit in) month, and I can tell you that easily because I recently invested in one of these:

http://www.passionplanner.com/

I had to order it from the States but it was well worth it. I like lists and organising and planning, and I’ve tried any number of diaries and planners over the past two decades (I was very¬†fastidious with my planning back in high¬†school, too!), but this one is TRUE LOVE.

I won’t go into all the reasons why — check it out for yourself — but suffice it to say it shows me at a glance how I’m doing this week,¬†asks me questions, gives me encouraging quotes, and does it all in a neat, tidy, professional-looking package (without being sterile-looking).

Anyhow, back to July! When I¬†answered my¬†questions about how July went, how I felt about it, etc., I was BLOWN AWAY by how much I accomplished in the month! It’s my favourite month, I suppose rather egotistically because my birthday’s in it (even though these days, the idea of no longer being 25 freaks me right out), but also because it’s summer and reminds me of all the fun childhood summer adventures I had.

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This July, though. My husband and I played in TWO separate outdoor volleyball tournaments with our friendly club (the Horfield Hornets), Wick and Whitefield in the Bristol area. Between those two weekends, I went to Falmouth, Cornwall (where I attended uni) on a solo writing break for 4 nights, had the most glorious (distracting) weather, and edited about 50k words.

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The next free weekend, we went to the west coast of Wales for my birthday present (my husband is the most thoughtful guy ever), which was a day photography course with this guy:

http://www.andydavies.info/pages/workshops/skomer.html

We took a small boat to Skomer Island and I learned some new tips for using my DSLR to photograph wildlife, specifically, puffins (and how I love puffins… and taking photos of them; my patronus is a puffin).¬†So that was magical.

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And in the midst of all of that, I finished 2 passes on my manuscript and got to host one of my dear uni friends for 2 weeks while she was doing a course nearby.

And all sorts of other things went down. I had my first (and I would love to say, last) MRI! I was forced to remove the belly button piercing I’ve had in since I was 22! (and put it back in immediately afterwards). I went bowling and beat my husband 179 to 177! (He wins at every game and sport ever ever ever). All KINDS of jolly japes!

We¬†were in the VIP pit at Taylor Swift’s first ever concert in Scotland, in Glasgow, and she was adorable and sweet and entertaining¬†as always (oops, that was June, but here’s a photo anyhow):

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Admiring her outfit as much as I was.

Needless to say, been a bit busy! But regarding…

WIP MARATHON!

I can’t really add my check-ins for June and July now, but I will say this. Trees. I love them. I wish Ents were real. Trees make this world marvellous, and I’m happiest when I’m in (or near) a forest. But I’ve gotta say, I’ve just learned the secret to editing (for me) is printing the manuscript.

That’s right. I’m on manuscript #4 and have never printed that bad boy off before, but I’ve done it now, three rounds on the current manuscript, and taken each to Staples for a¬†cheap comb binding. And the number¬†of invaluable changes I’ve made because I’ve seen it all on paper is beyond counting.

The proof!
The proof!

I try to utilise as much paper space as possible, so I set the page horizontally, make two columns, font size to 11, and single-spaced. Some people might say this’ll drive them cross-eyed, but it works for me. It looks (somewhat) like a real book, and that tricks my mind into seeing so much more than on the screen. Even my with massive Apple Thunderbolt screen.

I’ve read for years the tip about printing your MS and editing on paper, but until I actually did it, I sorely undervalued it. I did two drafts and two passes on Scrivener, received feedback from my crit partners, made those changes, all before printing off the first hard copy. It seems like a lot of work looking back, but I’m lip-bitingly optimistic that this has saved me a lot more work, given the endless revisions I did on previous manuscripts.

So, fellow WIPMarathoners, if I have any tip from the past two months to share, that’s it. If you’re like me and just smile and nod when people say that but have never actually tried it, I highly recommend giving it a shot once.

Of course,¬†as with everything in the romantic and whimsical dreamscape that is the writer’s life (yeah, I know), what works for one doesn’t work for another. There is no secret recipe, but for me this has¬†been a massive boost.

Until next time, enjoy the rest of your August!

The Scotsman and I had theme shirts this year. If you know these names, big-ass batch of brownie points to YOU. (Best ep ever).
The Scotsman and I had theme shirts this year. If you know these names, big-ass batch of brownie points to YOU. (Best ep ever).
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Chy - 7

Christmas Tat

image1No, 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.

But.

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. ūüėČ

May your Christmas season be filled with love, family, friends, and peace <3

 

 

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Chy - 7

It’s been HOW long?

So my last post was aptly titled, “I’ve Been Away.” I’ve been away again, but I definitely¬†don’t want to make a habit of it.

This summer, I did some of the most awesomely fun things ever. My friends Lauri and Charlie and I visited our university town of Falmouth, Cornwall.¬†I was busy with multiple trips to Paris and London and the U.S. to see family. My two sisters and I were in the same place at the same time, which is rare these days and always over way too fast. I met my new niece for the first time.¬†Then more trips,¬†my first Star Trek convention, in London (at which I met the entire cast of TNG except for Jonathan Frakes and Wil Wheaton, who didn’t attend, sadly… but it was AMAZING), some friends’ wedding in Lyon, France, and just lots of incredible busy-ness! (Did I mention I met Brent Spiner¬†on¬†both sides of the Atlantic? Data = <3).

But unfortunately, the health problems I was struggling with in my last post are still present. And I’m angry at myself for allowing it to put a damper on everything that happened over the past 8 months.

I just had my 2nd gastroscopy, this time to biopsy my esophagus. I’m awaiting¬†those results, but the scope itself showed that my esophagus and stomach looked to be in perfect¬†working condition. The endoscopist said, “You’ve got a stomach to be proud of!”

All of which is lovely, except it doesn’t explain my mystery swallowing problem. When I eat most foods, it feels like they’re sitting somewhere between the back of my throat and the entrance to my stomach. And no tests or x-rays have been able to show any problems. It might be easy to dismiss this as a mental problem except that I did¬†have gastritis, which has been treated with PPIs that I’m still taking, and¬†the acid reflux it’s caused has been known to also cause swallowing problems. It’s just that no doctor has been able to TELL me, “Yes, this is what’s going on. Do this, and you’ll get better.”

So for now, I’m still taking the PPIs, hoping they’re doing something, and await a specialist appointment in¬†December¬†(that was made in July and can’t be bumped any sooner).

I know this is not a serious issue, and the doctors have assured me of this as well. But to me, it’s serious, because it’s affected my quality of life. It’s made me miserable to¬†be around, and made me miserable, period. I want to eat like I used to. I’d LOVE a glass of red wine. I’d love to just eat like normal and not think twice, “Is this going to feel stuck in my¬†esophagus and make me panic?” Though I remind myself over and over, this isn’t major. Some people have REAL issues. This is not one of them.

And, I have faith. The only real comfort I’ve had has been God getting me through this. I might feel at the end of my rope some days, but¬†I’m back to writing regularly, and exercise.

Which brings me to today’s point. (Yes, I have a point!) — (1) NaNoWriMo, and (2) the gym.

(1) I’m doing NaNo this year! Let’s be buddies! I’ve prepared nothing and have only the beginning of a draft I liked, that had no idea where it was headed, so I’ll work on that.

(2) GYM. Here’s where we throw down. I’ve been trying all sorts of things to overcome the anxiety that’s accompanied¬†this¬†mysterious dysphagia. A lot of it’s been helpful, to a point. I’ve been a runner for years (not a GOOD one, but a¬†runner who does 10ks and is pleased with coming in under an hour. That kind of runner), but since our current neighbourhood isn’t conducive to refreshing jogs, I joined a gym. And it’s time I¬†really use it.

I’ve never done this sort of thing before, but I’m posting it publicly so that, even if no one reads this, I’ll still feel compelled to stick it out. For ONE WEEK, I commit to getting up at 7 on weekdays, going to the gym, and starting my day with a workout behind me. Some people do this without thinking twice. I’d like to just do it, for once ūüôā Beginning next Monday, 3 November.

If you want growth, you gotta get out of your comfort zone, right?

No matter how rainy, no matter how tired, no matter how cold and lazy. I’m going to do it. And we’ll see what all the fuss is about after a week. If I feel better, I’ll try to keep it up. If not, then I’ll go back to once or twice a week¬†whenever I can fit it in.

Until next time, here are some gratuitous photos of the past 4 months (the fun stuff, not the not-fun stuff):

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Brent Spiner at RocCon in Rochester, NY

 

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The lovely ladies of Star Trek: TNG – Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, and Denise Crosby

 

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John de Lancie. I love Q.

 

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ENGAGE!

 

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The handsome fellas: LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, and Brent Spiner (again!)

 

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Amazing weather in Paris.

 

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My favourite spot on earth (Allegany State Park, NY)

 

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Another Allegany shot

 

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Lyon, France — hot in October!

 

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Finally – FRONT ROW for Phantom in London. I was SO FREAKING HAPPY.

 

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Our hotel room view. Amazing.

 

 

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Cakes and champagne in Falmouth. As one does. (Thanks, Lauri!)

 

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Stopped for the view on my favourite run, in Falmouth.

I’m grateful to God that I’ve had the opportunity to do all these amazing things and visit these beautiful, breathtaking places. I just need to learn to stop focusing on my feelings, and focus on what’s real, and the other people around me. And in that department, I need all the help I can get.

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Chy - 7

I’ve been away.

It’s been awhile since I posted, and I’m thinking I’m too late for the June #WIPMarathon check-in (sorry, gang!). I haven’t actually been away from home anywhere, as the title might suggest (apart from last weekend in London to see the 5 remaining Monty Python members do their thing *loves*).

Time has been crawling because I’ve been unwell. Probably more unwell than I’ve ever been, and it’s kept me pretty preoccupied. Off and on since¬†March, I’ve been struggling with¬†anxiety and some of its more unpleasant physical symptoms, which I believed was stress and tension-related.¬†After escalating, a doctor told me two weeks in a row that it¬†was “just anxiety.” (Aside:¬†if you struggle with anxiety at any level, never let someone tell you it’s “just” anxiety. Anxiety is a Thing. It’s a Big Thing. And just because you can’t quantify it with a urine sample or X-ray, it’s there just as much as a virus or a broken limb).

Doctors told me to get therapy, take anti-depressants. I felt like food was frequently getting stuck in my esophagus, and believed it WAS just anxiety, and I¬†was overly stressed about my chosen direction in life, and how I feel I’m failing and flailing.

Finally, after several weeks and untold hours spent in panic attacks and attempts at deep breathing and everything else you can think of, when another doctor heard that I wasn’t eating solid foods, he referred me a hospital. Three weeks later, I had an endoscopy (which I thought I didn’t need, since there was nothing wrong with my stomach).

Yes, there was! I have mild gastritis. I was biopsied for¬†further issues, but that came back negative. Apparently (and I will be getting a second opinion, just because of the length of this and how much it’s affected me), gastritis¬†can cause acid reflux, and reflux can cause swallowing difficulties. I’m on medication to calm the acid, and slowly starting to eat softer solids and gain some weight back.

It’s not quite as simple as popping some Tums and getting on with my day.¬†But it’s slowly getting better. I can’t wait to be able to sit down to a plate of chicken wings or a steak and salad without flinching, but that might be awhile. The feeling of having food stuck in your esophagus and chest — especially when you don’t know what’s causing it — is the scariest thing I’ve ever been through. I’m so grateful it doesn’t appear to be anything more serious than reflux. But I’m on the heavy-duty stuff, so here’s hoping it clears up soon. Thank you, God, for¬†getting me back on my feet.

* * *

As for the “just anxiety”, that’s a separate issue I’m getting under control through a fantastic book by Dr. David Burns, and the support and love of dear friends¬†who’ve shown me how much they care. Ultimately, one of the biggest stressors of my life in recent years is something I need to come to grips with in my own head and heart.

I graduated 2010 with the belief that my hard work, my 1st class degree, and all the extracurricular work I put in around the degree, would FINALLY enable me to feel good about myself, at last. To get a place on a career ladder, work my tail off, and have self-respect, and feel that other people saw me as a contributing human being. That I could do something that *mattered* to me.

It’s 2014 now, and I never did get that film job. If you read my blog back in the day, you’ll know I chronicled the difficulty of getting an industry job as a mature American grad in the UK (despite having graduated over here with work experience to boot). I didn’t have the contacts that kids who grew up here had, and I seemed to have the *worst* timing. Whatever it was, every interview ended with, “You were this close.”

Follow that with¬†rededicating myself to writing, and two completed manuscripts. The type-A perfectionist in me, who struggles with distorted thoughts I’m just now learning about, such as “fortune-telling”, “all-or-nothing thinking”, “mental filters”, “mind-reading”, “magnification”, and “emotional reasoning”, felt that her worth was dependent on¬†what others thought of her writing, because in the end, that’s all I’ve got left. I’ve tried so many paths in my life, and I honestly, truly believe that writing is the thing I love most, that I think about every day, that I itch to do.

But lately, I’ve been away, because¬†of fear, and comparison to every published author out there. Recently I¬†finished reading a series that blew me away — it has flaws, some sort of big, actually, but the writing is dreamlike and gorgeous and the plot lassoed¬†my heart and danced across the sky with it. It shook me, and did everything I love about a good book.

And it made me feel awful. Like, I-will-never-amount-to-anything awful. Reading a great book should inspire a writer, surely, not make her want to throw her hands up.

I think a lot of my anxiety (that wasn’t related to physical symptoms) has been related to this. I was praying about it earlier today, as I have been for weeks and months and even years. If this isn’t the path God wants for me, I want to know. I want that desire taken away. This afternoon I tried to sit down to revise something for a second shot at it, and it felt contrived. I went to bed.

I¬†woke up with a song in my head, and I felt lighter, because I think I finally realised that my writing is¬†my writing. I can love someone else’s writing so much that it hurts, but it can never be mine.¬†Nor should it. My favourite authors inspire me. And I’ve always said that my goal is to inspire others in the same way that my favourites have inspired me.

I’ve never said my goal was to write just like them, be compared to them, try to puzzle out their secret mega-mystery tactics like a combination lock.

A quiet voice reminded me, I need to just be me, the me I was made to be, and write the best that me can write. A¬†great story should inspire me to find my own great stories, and polish the ones I have — never write¬†their great stories. Because they can’t write mine, either. I have to shut out the voice that says, “But you’re not (enter awesome author¬†here) and you NEVER WILL BE so quit trying!”. It’s true I need to quit trying to be anyone but me, but that voice isn’t rooting for me to keep honing¬†my own voice, either.

So I’ve been away, but I’m finding my way back, soon.

“Remember what the Monty Python boys say…”

“What, ‘always look on the bright side of life’?”

“No. ‘Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition’!”

– Sliding Doors


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