Dear Diary: October 2014

dd oct 2014State of the blogger: tired but recovering.

I’ve given twelve large presentations this fall, not to mention the high school visits, college fairs, and daily appointments I’ve attended or hosted. I’ve been doing tons of research for my next novel, along with lots of reading for fun. After running on empty for so many months, I decided I needed to make some changes to my sleep schedule.

Usually, I’m writing till about midnight, at which point I try to go to sleep and lie awake in bed for an hour or hour and a half before finally nodding off. I talked to my psychiatrist about this and he told me that the light from my computer screen keeps my body from getting the memo that it’s dark out and time to prepare for bed.

So now what I’m doing is writing till ten, then taking melatonin before reading in bed till about eleven, when the melatonin kicks in and I’m OUT.

It’s been pretty amazing.  I’m getting about 8.5 hours of sleep each night instead of <6.

I’m also taking magnesium and vitamin C and trying to eat healthier. Still seeing my therapist once a week.  It’s Project: Jackie time.

Things are about to get crazy again as I dive into writing a second draft of my next novel, which I call AVS or Ardor Valor Splendor.  I doubt that will be the name we land on, but it works fine as a placeholder.  I’m SO excited about this novel, and I have TONS of ideas for the revision, but I’m honestly stuck thinking, I don’t know how to write a book. Somebody help me! HarperCollins thinks I know how to write books!  HELP!

Okay, perhaps that’s a little hyperbolic, but I really am wondering how to attack my second draft of this novel. I figure that I’ll do it just like how I finished Truest: butt in seat, hands on keyboard. Show up, sit down, work hard.

Send chocolate FRUIT.

(See how good I’m being???)

P.S. I heard David Sedaris perform tonight and got an ab workout from laughing so hard. LOVE HIM.

P.P.S. Spoke about OCD this morning for a counseling class at UNW … doing another one tomorrow!

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Character-Inspired Halloween Costumes

Jackie Lea Sommers:

Okay, now THIS is hilarious. If you love books and have a sense of humor, read on.

Originally posted on InkSplotch:

It’s a safe bet that there will be lots of cute Elsa’s and Anna’s trick-or-treating this year. But if you’re like me, you want your Halloween costume (or that of your child) to be clever and distinctive. Here are some sure-fire one-of-a-kind costumes inspired by fictional characters. I guarantee you’ll be the only one running around cul-de-sacs and ringing door bells in these costumes.

Member of Abnegation (Divergent trilogy)

Costume: Modest gray t-shirt, gray sweatpants, no makeup.

Pros to costume: You can basically just roll out of bed. Also, Four is attracted to members of Abnegation.

Cons to costume: Other trick-or-treaters will assume you’re exceedingly lazy. Also, Four doesn’t exist.

Nancy Drew (Nancy Drew series)

Costume: Black pumps, titian wig, blue convertible (in case you need to pursue suspects), packed overnight bag (in case you need to pursue suspects across state lines).

Pros to costume: Black pumps go with…

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Advice for Aspiring Young Writers [from an Aspiring Young Writer]

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Show up.

I’m convinced that’s about 80% of writing a book right there. Show up to write, day after day, and put in the work. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Inspiration will be abundantly there when you show up. Inspiration will learn your routine and meet you there.

Don’t let yourself be paralyzed by fear of failure; I am telling you right now: you will fail.  But keep showing up. Write a bad first draft, the worst one in the world. But then show up and write a better second draft. Show up again and write a better third draft. Repeat until you’re satisfied with your work. Meanwhile, the people who never showed up might not have a first draft at all. They’re still on the starting line, scared to put down a wrong word.

Think about Story more than grammar. Read great books and then take the time to think about what you liked about them, what made them “work” for you. Copy that technique. Put your own spin on it.

Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

In other words: show up, show up, show up.

Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

In other words: show up.

Stephen King wrote, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.

He’s right: you’ve got to show up.

Writing is hard. So hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever committed to in my life. But also one of the most rewarding things. And when my first novel comes out, if you enjoy it, please remember that it took 33 months of showing up– almost daily– to get to where it is. And those 33 months came after 48 months of showing up to another novel that never even saw the light of day. And before that? Three years of college writing courses. Along with a whole childhood packed full of stories from the moment I could first write.

My book is less the result of talent than it is of  hours and months and years of showing up to do hard work.

Ready?

 

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Talk about Your Medicines Month

medicines

I was invited by the American Recall Center to blog about my medicines in October, and I agreed– there is still such a stigma attached to taking medication for mental illness (and to mental illness itself!), and I think that talking about things reduces stigma.

I started my search for a medication for my OCD as soon as I was diagnosed, which was back in 2003 or 2004.  It took five years before I ended up with the right “cocktail.”

The five years included:
* 3 psychiatrists
* 1 physician’s assistant
* SSRIs
* SNRIs
* TCAs
* a beta-blocker that I was allergic to (which almost killed me)
* tremors
blocking/stuttering
* jello-legs
* drymouth
* lethargy
* vision blackouts
* rapid weight gain
* & a year in the middle when I avoided all medication due to the above.

But when I started meeting with my former psychiatrist (the now-retired OCD expert Dr. Suck Won Kim), he got me onto the right medication almost immediately. These days, I take a combination of Prozac (SSRI), Effexor XR (SNRI), and a teensy dose of Risperidone (an anti-psychotic).

Am I ashamed?

HA!

NO.

Am I grateful?

YES.

Do I rock the boat?

Not usually. Though my current psychiatrist (also a lovely, amazing man) helps me to feel confident in making slight changes to my regime as needed. For example, I now take Ativan for panic as needed.

Do I think medication is the right choice for all people with OCD?

No. It varies from person to person, and in EVERY case, I would recommend ERP as the first/best treatment. If I had to choose between my medication or my twelve weeks of ERP, ERP would win every time.

But isn’t taking medication like saying I don’t trust God to heal me?

What if medication is part of how God is healing me? Let me tell you a story about three boats

Want to join the discussion? Comment below about your medicines (or mine!).

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Second Draft Manifesto

second draft manifestoJackie, be kind to yourself. Writing is a long, arduous, difficult, but rewarding process, and almost nothing comes to you easily. You have to fight for it all, and you do that by showing up, day after day, sitting down, and doing hard work. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and to be honest, it’s probably irrelevant where you start: toes, ears, tail. Bring salt.

But really, salt is prayer, friends, and courage that looks an awful lot like fear. It’s easy to confuse the two, but courage is fear that keeps showing up to work.

You can do that. It will look different on different days, and that is perfectly fine.

Please remember that you love this. The writing life is a mysterious amalgam of your choosing it and its choosing you. That feels almost holy.

This process necessitates many steps backward. It’s an inherent part of the journey, and that means that even steps backward are steps forward. And that fits with your worldview too, you know: all things working for good.

Keep your hands and heart and mind open to grace, which is more abundant than you ever seem to realize.

And find the joy in this journey. Please. There is so much there, and sometimes you let fears and doubts scream so loudly that you can’t hear the laughter. Listen for it.

Be gentle with yourself. You’re not alone. Not ever.

Image credit: I think the image of the giant elephant in the sea is from the cover of an Explosions in the Sky album. It was so perfect that I had to use it.

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Things I Need to Hear

Sooooooooo … I had a bit of a breakdown last night. I’m not quite sure how to classify it: Mental breakdown? Nervous breakdown? Emotional breakdown? Manic episode?  Whatever it was, it was wild and rollicking and high-pitched and ugly.

It was not, however, connected to OCD. So, there’s a victory.

It was connected to my next novel. I have a first draft but it’s terrifically first-drafty, with so much work needed that it feels insurmountable. When you see my post about “showing up” later this week, you’ll think I’m a hypocrite, but yesterday, it really felt like staring at an elephant that was so big it filled my viewfinder. And there I was, holding a fork, with the instructions to start eating.  Where do you start?

In addition, there are some very dear people in my life who are dealing with health concerns right now, so worrying about a revision felt like complaining about a stubbed toe in contrast with their much larger concerns. I felt wildly overwhelmed and terribly selfish and utterly alone in the world.

I sent out a call for help to my team, and received many texts and phone calls, proving how not alone I am. Des even invited me over to her place (two buildings over), so I spent a couple hours with her, calming down from the fever-pitch wildness of my night.

So, what do I need to tell myself?

I have my First Draft Manifesto. I think I need a Second Draft one too.

It would say this: Jackie, be kind to yourself. Writing is a long, arduous, difficult, but rewarding process, and almost nothing comes to you easily. You have to fight for it all, and you do that by showing up, day after day, sitting down, and doing hard work. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and to be honest, it’s probably irrelevant where you start: toes, ears, tail. Bring salt.

But really, salt is prayer, friends, and courage that looks an awful lot like fear. It’s easy to confuse the two, but courage is fear that keeps showing up to work.

You can do that. It will look different on different days, and that is perfectly fine.

Please remember that you love this. The writing life is a mysterious amalgam of your choosing it and its choosing you. That feels almost holy.

This process necessitates many steps backward. It’s an inherent part of the journey, and that means that even steps backward are steps forward. And that fits with your worldview too, you know: all things working for good.

Keep your hands and heart and mind open to grace, which is more abundant than you ever seem to realize.

And find the joy in this journey. Please. There is so much there, and sometimes you let fears and doubts scream so loudly that you can’t hear the laughter. Listen for it.

Be gentle with yourself. You’re not alone. Not ever.

So there’s that. Thank you for letting me sit down and process this with you, dear blog readers.  Any encouragement you’d like to leave in the comments section will be gobbled up like it’s a Thanksgiving feast.  By the way, I made the decision last night to spend Thanksgiving alone, back up in Duluth, attending to my story. I feel good about it.

Love!

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Christ, my Gravity

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m not sure if you’ll understand what I mean when I say that for most of my life I felt untethered.  I had this weird sensation of floating away into nothingness, and I hated it. So ungrounded, so aimless.

That’s why I so often refer to Christ as “my gravity.” He tethers me to something– to him! to reality! to meaning!– and puts weights in my shoes. It’s probably my second most-used descriptor for Jesus, the first being “my rescuer.”

And, really, for me, the two terms mean almost the same thing.

Image credit: Hirni Pathak

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