Tempting Fate…and Losing

So, remember how last week I wrote about my big pet peeve of head injuries in media? Well, it looks like I must have ticked off the head injury gods, resulting in one of the worst weeks I’ve ever had.

When I wrote last week’s post, I said I’d just come out of a five-day-long migraine, but it turned out I was just in a reprieve. It ended up being nine days of pain at or above 7/10 on the pain scale, that only ended when my neurologist put me on a course of steroids (which have dulled the pain down to a 2-5, and are currently tearing up my guts, but hey, at least I can see straight again.)

How bad did the pain get? Well, by Day 9 it was so bad, just walking around shook my brain so much it brought me to tears. Fun times.

To make matters worse, Boy #2 decided to copy his twin and run headfirst into the gym wall on Friday, earning us a late-night trip to the ER for a concussion of his very own. (He’ll be okay, but we had a quiet weekend of no screen time, and he’s in for a week of no recess or gym class at school.)

Needless to say, I haven’t been getting much work done.

My focus has been scattered, to say the least, making it tricky to edit my MG up for critique. Instead, I’ve just been saving all the crits in a file to look at later, hoping they’ll make more sense to my brain when it’s not pulsing with a migraine.

I’ve also started plotting out a new YA Contemporary, a fairy tale re-telling, that’s pretty slow-going. I’d love to start writing it soon, but worst-case I might make it a NaNo project this year. (“Worst case.” Did I just tempt fate/jinx myself again? Probably. Sigh. When will I learn?)

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for Bri to read my other YA Contemporary, to see if it’s ready to go on sub, so keep your fingers crossed I’ll have some news on that soon.

It’s pretty disheartening to have accomplished so little now that I’m officially back on Almost-Full-Time writer duty, but that’s life with chronic illness/injury (not to mention kids). All I can really do is keep plugging away in the small amounts that my head allows, in a slow-and-steady kind of way and hope to eventually hit the finish line.

And maybe also hope that my neurologist can find something that takes my pain away.

(By the way, did I mention that because of the stomach meds I have to take with the steroids, I’m going through everything this week without coffee, chocolate, alcohol, fried, or greasy food? Talk about pushing me to my limits. Whatever gods I offended are super vindictive, let me tell you.)

Anyway, I hope you all are having more productive weeks than I am. Hopefully next week’s blog post will be more cheerful.

 

 

 

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My Biggest Pet Peeve

As most of you know, I’m currently in my fourth year of a concussion right now, and since I just came out of a five-day-long major migraine, it felt like a good day to talk about one of my biggest pet peeves in books, film, and TV. (If you’re a writer, you can consider this writing advice; if not, just let it be food for thought.) Ready?

Head injuries.

Specifically, people being hit in the head so hard, they’re knocked unconscious, then suffering no lasting effects once they wake up.

(I’m looking at you, Giles.)

Look, as the not-so-proud experiencer of three separate concussions (and mom of a once-concussed child), I know that you don’t have to be knocked out to get a concussion (only one of my three concussion hits included a loss of consciousness). But, chances are if you do get hit hard enough to pass out, you’re going to be left with one.

And that means you’re probably not just going to be able to jump up and run off like nothing happened, when you wake up.

I admit, concussions are pretty unpredictable things, but odds are you’re going to be left at least a few of the following symptoms: headache, dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound, and trouble focusing your eyes.

Now, in fairness, not all symptoms show up right away, (my son didn’t start feeling nauseous for about an hour after he hit his head), so maybe  you could make a clean escape before the pain set in, but if I don’t see the head injuries starting to take a toll at some point? *shrugs* Well, it’s a disbelief I’m not prepared to suspend.

I mean, I’ve only been knocked out once (playing softball, if you’re interested), and at this point, I’m not allowed to drive, suffer pretty much daily from headaches and/or migraines, and can’t leave the house without wearing sunglasses, so I’m a little sensitive about the damage head injuries can do.

Okay. Rant over. *Gets off soapbox*

What about you? What are the pet peeves you absolutely can’t handle in media? Let me know in the comments.

 

The Sorting Hat is Proved Correct

This week I finally started back with my online critique group after a year away. (When I took a break last September, it was only supposed to be for a few weeks while I scribbled out a first draft…but then things spiralled out of control on a personal level and while I was writing, I wasn’t coming up with anything I felt I could show other people.)

I *love* critiquing. I really enjoy finding ways to make stories stronger. And reading other people’s critiques of the same piece will often give me valuable insight for my own writing. Revising is by far my favourite part of the writing process (I know, I’m such a weirdo). But first drafts for me are always filled with so much doubt…revising is all about improvement and striving for perfection.

Which is probably explains why I’m such a Ravenclaw. Yet, in all the sorting quizzes I’ve done, Slytherin has come a close second (once it even came first, but if Harry can choose not to be Slytherin, so can I). I’ve never really understood how I keep landing there. I mean, I guess I’m ambitious, in that I want to be a published author and I’m working hard toward that goal – but I wouldn’t sell a friend out to get there or anything.

And then came this week’s critiques. Don’t worry, I didn’t go all Simon Cowell on them, if that’s what you’re thinking. I promise you, my crits were perfectly constructive and encouraging and appropriately-worded.

No, it was the content.

Like, apparently I have very strong thoughts on the proper way to torture someone for information?

No joke, I think I wrote about half a page on why the methods used wouldn’t result in information, and then recommended an alternate course of torture that would inflict the most pain but the least incapacitating damage, to allow the suspect to talk.

I kind of scared myself.

I finished my note with “I swear I’m a nice person, I just read a lot of bad books! :D”

Seriously, though, it was a window into a terrifying part of myself.

But, fortunately, that’s not the kind of book I’m interested in writing. As dark as the themes of my YAs might get, so far they’ve stopped short of torture. So I’m sticking with my Ravenclaw status. After all, as J.K. Rowling says, “It’s our choices that show what we truly are…far more than our abilities.” (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

PS. My critique group includes books for all ages, and I believe this book is actually an Adult historical fiction (for those worried about torture scenes in children’s books)

PPS. If I’d been sorted at age 11, I’d probably have been put in Gryffindor, since I was quite the gutsy stand-up-for-yourself-and-others-at-the-risk-of-everything kind of kid. But these days (and ever since high school, I’d say) I’m definitely a Ravenclaw.

How to Write When the World Might Be Ending

*Please note: this is written as advice for anxious people like me who are stressing out at the daily influx of terrible news and looming possibility of nuclear war. If you are dealing with, or preparing for, any of the *actual* disasters to have hit our continent this week (including those of policy), then obviously your priorities will be to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Writing is hard, y’all. Like, really hard. Even on the best days, it’s a job and a half to string together words into works that are powerful, emotional, fun, funny, not to mention sensical (spellcheck tells me this isn’t a word, but then what’s the opposite of nonsensical? See what I mean about hard?).

But these days, when every other news alert feels like it’s bringing closer to the end of the world? It’s practically impossible to get words down on paper/computer.

I’ve blogged before about how hard it is to write contemporary fiction right now, when the world seems to be changing on a practically daily basis, but the futility of writing when there might not be a world left at all? That’s some really existential angst there, my friends.

And I’m not the only one thinking it. Someone on Twitter (I think it was Matt Haig, but I can’t find the post now) recently wrote: “Writing advice: write like the world will still be here when your book is finished.”

And it’s good advice. I mean, are you going to put your whole life on hold because there *might* be a nuclear war? Let your whole life slide into futility? I mean, if the world is ending, why bother eating vegetables, or going to work, or signing your kids up for swimming lessons?

Imagine if everyone had given up during the 80’s and the Cold War with Russia. How many books wouldn’t have been written. How many people would have got scurvy.

Okay, that’s the pep talk portion out of the way. Now for some practical advice on how to keep writing.

  1. Get prepared – I’m a planner, so it helps my state of mind to feel like I’m prepared for things. Look up what to do in case of nuclear attack (hint, it’s not get your car and try to escape), and make sure you have a basic emergency kit prepared (you should have this anyway, though it will likely be different depending on where you live. We’re prone to snow & ice storms here, so we usually check ours at the start of winter). *Bonus tip*: try and look up how to prepare without reading about all the bad stuff that happens – it’ll just make you panic more.
  2. Avoid the news – let’s face it, the news is a business, and their job is to make things as exciting (ie scary) as possible so people will tune in. There’s a fine line between wanting to be informed, and becoming a ghoul, transfixed by the daily horrors on the screen. Try to find the level that works for you. (This includes social media, which has become an outrage factory of late, and certainly has been adding to my anxiety. If you have to take a break for your peace of mind, do it.)
  3. Eat the cake – or drink the wine, whatever you need to do to relax. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I said not to despair and give up vegetables, but no one’s going to argue if you need a little cocoa-therapy to calm your nerves.
  4. Just write the book – back to the pep talk. There comes a time when you just have to tune everything else out and write the darn book. Because if and when all this is over, you don’t want to be sitting there with a blank computer document when you could have had a novel. It’s okay if the words don’t come as quickly or easily as they did before, so long as they still make it into the world.

So that’s my advice. Good luck, keep writing, stay strong.

 

P.S. A note for those who think I’m weird for stressing over this when I don’t even live in the States: Do you really think a nuclear blast or EMP is going to respect imaginary lines on a map and stop at the border?