Friday, August 15, 2014

Writing Process: Change is Good

No, I haven't forgotten this blog. I just got sidetracked by things like a new book (when am I not?) and studying for the GRE (ironically my weakness is verbal!).

In a rare moment of peace, it's clear I need to update you, dear gentle readers.

My mind is a whirlwind. I am, as some artists say, In the zone. In fact it is difficult to do anything except work on this crazy idea of mine. Once again I let myself be pulled into a completely different project (surprised?).

I approached it differently than I normally would. Rather than wait for revelation, I developed the main characters in their entirety. Then I determined the scope and scale of the story. The intention, for many reasons, was a three part series. I even have the titles for each book and a rough sketch of the outlines for each. It is, quite a departure from my writing process in the past.

Why this departure?

I need to avoid blocks. I don't have time for blocks. I tried a few different things to address this problem and so far this seems to work the best. I've been writing this project for about a week and have already reached 17000 words in the limited time allotted every day. In short, this has been the most successful process I have tried.

It probably helps that the idea is something that's been stewing for almost 3 years. It came to me during a bout of insomnia. I've written and rewritten several iterations of the story in my head and it never felt right. Then I finally decided to try this different process and it connected.

I am so pleased with this process I may even try to go back and revise book 4 of Khloe with this in mind. I really want to finish that book and currently it feels forced to me (pun intended) as opposed to natural. It just feels like I'm cramming too much too fast. So I will finish this project (or at least part 1) and then I will revise book 4 and complete it.

After that? Maybe the Rollins pack? It seems series are where I need to focus. My foray into nonfiction was not as successful as I would have liked. I'm not giving up on that venture, but I'm also not committed to it the way I am to my novels. Fiction is my first love and I need to honor that.

It is my fate.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Creation and Destruction

The soul yearns to create. This is the mode of artists, engineers, writers, and developers. This is the language in which we speak - we solvers of problems - the structure of our universe. This is the root from which all beauty comes.

But what of destruction?

Destruction is so quick - so easy. It takes seconds for fire or water or weapon to render creation to dust. It doesn't matter how many hours or days, years or decades were spent in its formation. Destruction comes in seconds.

In pantheons the god of creation is always close with that of destruction, for as all people know, throughout time and space, they are two sides of the same coin.

Death is not an end, but transition into new life. The old is cleared away in preparation for the new. Entire cities are built upon cities, upon cities. Coral grows upon the skeletons of dead coral. Plants feast on the remains of everything, broken down by the tiniest of creatures...broken down to dust - to dirt.

It is only when we forget to embrace this cycle, the second and more frightening half, that we come to problems. Everything must be broken down at some point. Everything must be picked apart. Everything must be destroyed, or it will limp along, sick, twisted, and pained - a kind of perpetual Hell.

That is not what existence wants. It wants destruction, just like it wants creation. Each of us has a part to play in this beautiful balance. Each of us is called to be creator and destroyer in the same breath...

We struggle, we question, we tear down and then, always, we build a better up.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Change Wrought: Relationship, Writer's Block, and Self-Development

Sometimes strong feelings or major life events can be inspiring to a writer. Other times, they are the exact opposite.

For a while I was doing very well with my daily writing goals. I was consistent. Frequently I more than surpassed them by several thousand words! Recently, however, I've been struggling. I haven't written consistently in some time. I missed July by a long shot, neglecting my publication goal despite its reachability. I mean, Khloe could have been done by now. And I want to finish, intellectually. But I just don't have the motivation.

Part of this has been because my son has grown into a more active phase in his development. He does require energy stores that I used to put solely towards writing. However, to place the blame squarely on my child's activity level is unfair and unrealistic. Yes, his energy draw is large, but he takes naps. He plays by himself. He sleeps earlier than I do. I could realistically write even with his increased mobility. There is more going on. Much more.

As you know from reading earlier posts, I've been on quite a journey this year. Every week brings new change in myself and my perspective. It has been a healing time. It has been a beneficial time. I have learned things about myself and come to conclusions in this year that I never could have at other times in my life. I work out 6 days a week. I study Spanish daily. I try to eat balanced meals. I try to meditate at least once a day. I'm working towards specific professional goals.

And I am sincerely grateful for this. I am healthier, stronger, and generally more focused. It is an exciting time for me.

Unfortunately I have a major area of my life that is holding me back and I feel this is impacting my writing. My mind is so focused on this area that I have been uninspired to write. For someone like me who typically writes daily and has multiple books independently published, this is a strange turn.

I would even go so far as to say I have no interest in writing.

In fact, writing this blog post was a chore. I struggled to pick up the laptop. I wrote lines of several other posts and even wrote entire completely different posts before finally settling on this topic as worthy of publication on my blog. I agonized over the words in this post. I fretted over coming clean about this issue. And even still, there is much more I could confess to you, my gentle readers. But what should I say? What is too much? What is enough without making people uncomfortable?

Crazy, right? I mean, who does that? And what could possibly twist me up so badly as to cause such difficulties?

Well, I will answer: the next phase in my life journey. I am applying to PhD programs, and that necessarily is a point of excitement and trepidation. If I don't get accepted, it doesn't matter. I would be disappointed but I would get over it. I would decide on another goal. Rejection is not my worry. My worry is that it will create more relationship difficulties than I have at present.

You see, when someone undergoes transformation, it is impossible for things to stay the same. The equilibrium is disrupted and suddenly old habits don't fly any more. New things are required. Change doesn't just happen in the person transforming, but all around that person has to change. The question is, how?

Absolutely I have transformed. It began with my pregnancy and has continued for the 11 months since my son's birth. I am a completely different woman, with a completely different understanding of how I want to be in the world. Part of this had to do with acceptance of myself, part of it had to do with deciding what I wanted and then actually taking realistic measurable steps towards those things. And quite frankly, I know my husband isn't interested in the same things I'm interested in. It is not that he is consciously working against me getting my goals, but he isn't helping me get them either. As I try to shoot higher and higher, I feel more and more that I am weighted down.

I don't feel this way because I no longer love my husband or because he is sabotaging me. Neither of those things are strictly true. I feel this way because the longer and more entrenched my transformation becomes, the clearer it is to me that my husband is unable to change.  Or rather, he is so worried about what steps he should take, he doesn't take any. He doesn't change because he doesn't feel 100% confident in what he wants. He goes back and forth, afraid to stay where he is, and afraid to move forward. While he's waffling, I'm moving forward with my life, leaving him in the dust. I'm growing and changing quickly and he isn't...

It is pretty clear why I've been struggling with writing.

How can you do anything you love when something so crucial as your relationship is in the hands of someone else? I don't know. I struggle with it every day. It is painful to watch my spouse rely on old habits and struggle against the changing landscape that is our relationship and his very different wife. It is painful to watch him make choices that inevitably cause discord and difficulty. It is painful to watch him make choices that utilize a kind of logic that doesn't make the remotest bit of rational sense to me.

We're one week away from our 6 year anniversary, and I wonder how things will be moving forward. It is no longer my decision. I have made my choices and I'm comfortable with them. I just hope that he actively chooses his own transformation, one that will enhance and enrich my own. I hope he decides to join me.

In the mean time, I wonder. I wonder when things will change in such a way that I am once more inspired to write. I wonder what would make the difference for him. I wonder what will inspire him to transform. I wonder when I will be able to truly move forward in every aspect of my life. I can't handle the stagnation. It is upsetting.

Because right now, when I hold the computer on my lap, I don't want to write. I don't want to open my word processor. I don't want to open my blog post editor.

I just want to browse the web and forget.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Personal Progress

What a week!

This has been a huge week for me from a personal development perspective. My approach to life, the universe, and everything has shifted allowing the unexpected (or long awaited depending on your view) to fall in place.

I am a believer in Myers Briggs typing. Yes, there are limits to any tool's effectiveness, that said, I have found the MBTI to be incredibly useful. In fact, this week it was game-changing.

I think I may have said before that I am an INFJ (introvert, intuitive, feeling, judging). I knew this, but I hadn't really taken that information to a useful place because I had no circumstance in which to apply it (not in my estimation, though that was probably a false assumption). My husband had taken the test several times and always came out differently so I was unable to use the information.

Then I got a crazy idea.

What if I took the test for him?!

I accepted the fact that whatever results I got would have to be taken with a grain of salt. The numbers probably wouldn't be accurate but at least I could uncover his type.

Now had I ever read all the types, I would have pegged him in a second...but that isn't how I roll.

Needless to say, Christian came out unsurprisingly as an INTP (introverted, intuitive, thinking, perceiving). Knowing Christian and reading what INTPs are like, I didn't have to retest. Because of the apparent accuracy of this result, I eagerly began devouring and sharing information about our types with Christian. Suddenly our differences and compatibility came into sharp focus. This blew our minds, especially when we read about relationships between our types.

It was like reading about ourselves.

While this opened up possibilities for growth in our relationship, that is not what I want to share here. Instead I want to point out a few things that I discovered about myself in the process.

Firstly, my type is sometimes called "the confidant" or "the counselor" or "the author." No joke.

Secondly, in case you weren't clued in by the above, some of the careers INFJs are suited for are writer, teacher, and counselor.

And thirdly, all of these things - info about my type, relationship issues, and my personal circumstance - brought back some other questions about life direction.

Our family cannot live on one income, not with present circumstance. I cannot stay at home all day because I go crazy. I have to work. I really love my baby, but in order to be a role model and provide for him I need to do what is best for my emotional health, our finances, and my professional goals.

Sometimes the old plan is the best new plan. Or maybe it isn't a plan, but at least a possible direction (I'm working on my spontaneity.).

When I was still in college I very strongly wanted a doctorate. The idea of putting the letters behind my name appealed. I liked the idea of being incontrovertibly equal with men (and surpassing others). It helped that "doctor" would further androgynize my name as Alexis can be male or female. The problem was I wasn't sure what I would do with a PhD or what I would study. I couldn't justify the resources on an unknown.

Recently a friend mentioned fully funded programs and suddenly it became a possibility again, or at least a consideration.

Other thoughts came to the fore. I am a good teacher. It feels like performance in the best way. It allows me to use all my strengths with purpose. I enjoy teaching, particularly adults. I really enjoy teaching adults subjects I love - like art, or public speaking, or writing.

Oh my GOD that took a long time to get there!

Yes. I could be a professor of literature and writing! I could hone my craft, teach, and be a mom. The variety of tasks and responsibilities suits my work style and temperament. It is something my parents have urged me towards for years.

Probably worth a gander at least.

So these next few weeks I plan to explore the possibility of a doctorate and all that will mean. It is an idea, not a plan, not for certain - just a good idea. We shall see how it pans out.