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!

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?

 

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!).

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.

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!

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

All About the Benjamins: Author Advances & Royalties

advances and royaltiesI’ll be the first to admit: I’m not an expert on the business side of being an author. I’m not even an expert on the author side of being an author. But a lot of you have asked questions about how the money side of things works. I’m gonna do my best to explain it!

The first money that an author makes when getting a book deal is called an advance. The advance can range wildly, and while it’s uncommon that an author will go around sharing what their advance was, there is an insider publisher code used to put advances into certain categories:

  • a “nice deal” ranges from $1 to $49,000
  • a “very nice deal” ranges from $50,000 to $99,000
  • a “good deal” ranges from $100,000 to $250,000*
  • a “significant deal” ranges from $251,000 to $499,000
  • a “major deal” ranges from $500,000 and up

Usually (I think– at least for mine!), the advance is given out in chunks. Mine was a two-book deal, and I got 50% of the advance after signing, 25% will come now that I’ve turned in book #1, and the last 25% comes after I turn in book #2.

My agent gets 15% of this, 20% of any foreign sales.

So then what?

I have to “earn out” my advance– that is, earn it back.

Here are my royalties terms, directly from my contract:

royalties

So, first I “earn out”/earn back what they paid me in my advance, and then after that, I would get a royalty check twice a year (if people are still buying the book). That’s the goal: that the book would be so popular that people keep buying it long after it’s released. They call this the long tail.

So, here’s a hypothetical scenario using small, easy numbers.

Say an author gets an advance of $10,000.
Their agent gets $1500.
Let’s say their book costs $10.
At a rate of 10% per book, the author would make $1 back toward their advance this way.
So they’d need to sell 10,000 books before they’d “earn out” their advance and start collecting royalty checks.

Simple, right? 🙂

*mine.

Even Then

Wow, YES.

out of darkness

There are a dozen red roses in the trash behind your house,

and the phone in your hand buzzes,

but you do not answer.

It’s all wrong, when love works backward and undoes you,

and even the air in your lungs begins to feel toxic.

Dear one, the scars that roses left may swallow you whole,

and night will still be night,

but I think you will find that, even then,

grace will still be grace.

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Another Interview with a Former HOCD Sufferer

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????One year ago (exactly!), I posted an interview with “Hannah,” a former HOCD sufferer who had found freedom from her obsessions and compulsions through ERP therapy. It’s gotten over 6300 views in the last year and is my second-most viewed post after “A Closer Look at HOCD.” Last summer, I said that Hannah would be willing to do a second interview if people had more questions, so this time I’m using questions straight from blog readers.

Tom asked: How do you get past the feeling that the thoughts felt so real even though you knew they were not in line at all with your inner values?
Hannah answered: Just to be clear up front, I am not slamming homosexuality. In fact, even people who are gay get HOCD– they obsess about being straight! The awful thing about HOCD (for both straight and gay sufferers) is that it is a LIE. HOCD lies to us about our sexual identities, which are so central to who we are. Most of the people I’ve met who have HOCD are not anti-homosexuals or homophobes; many of them even campaign and vote for gay rights. But their OCD is lying to them about their own sexuality, and that’s where the anxiety slams into them– hard. That said, how do you get past the feeling that the thoughts feel so real? You let them come. You let yourself think the thoughts. You let your body react however it wants. That is part of ERP therapy– and not just for HOCD alone. In ERP therapy, you let the thoughts come and just be thoughts. You learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty. Listen, I know that sounds awful— it sounded awful to me too!– but now, after having gone through ERP … through embracing uncertainty … I now am confident about my sexuality. It’s backward– ERP always is– but it works. Like Jackie has said a lot on this blog, ERP re-wires your brain.

Roxy asked: Did you find that the body sensations were the hardest to deal with and overcome?
Hannah answered: If not the hardest part, then definitely one of the hardest. I mean, how do you argue with your own body when you have a groinal response to the gender you don’t think you are attracted to (or don’t want to be attracted to)? It feels like “evidence,” right? But, I’ll tell you the truth here: I am straight. 100% straight, and I no longer have any doubts about that. But I still get turned on by images of beautiful women. I just don’t think that’s evidence anymore. It’s evidence that I’m a sexual being but not that I’m homosexual. I’ve found that I actually am super turned on by romantic scenes between homosexual men in books … I’m not gay, and I’m definitely not a man. What does this mean? I’m no psychotherapist, but I simply think it means I’m sexual. And that’s true. I still know I’m straight. But yes, the body’s reaction is a total mindf**k to the OCD brain. Then, if you’re anything like me, you keep “checking”– did I feel something there? How about that time?— that’s a compulsion, of course, and the RP of ERP is “response prevention.”  You have to stop checking.

Howdy asked: I am wondering what it has been like trying to date people. I think [my therapist] thinks I am gay.
Hannah answered: If your therapist is an OCD specialist, then I can almost promise you that he/she doesn’t think you’re gay. That said, since the point of ERP therapy is teaching the client to embrace uncertainty, your therapist is probably wise not to let on either way. But if you truly believe that your therapist thinks you’re gay, I’d find a new therapist. Those who specialize in OCD treatment are going to be wildly familiar with HOCD. As far as your question about dating people, I’ve found that I’ve suffered more from ROCD (relationship OCD) than HOCD, constantly questioning if I was dating (or even liking) the right person, doubting if he was a good person, doubting if we belonged together, etc.  The great thing about ERP therapy is that you can be treated for one type of obsession and yet the ERP works on all areas.

Jake asked: What techniques did you use to accept the doubt/uncertainty?
Hannah answered: Do you know how when you say a word over and over and over again, it starts to lose its meaning? For me, it was like that. Listening repeatedly to lies over and over eventually made them sound ridiculous– and clearly like lies. I’m not sure if that answers your question, but for sure look into ERP therapy, if that’s not what you’re already referring to.  It’s the best treatment out there for HOCD (or any OCD).

Christine asked: Did you have a “backdoor spike” when recovering? How did you deal with this? Did your thoughts consume you? I can’t go an hour without having invasive thoughts, is this normal? What thoughts did you have that stressed you out the most and what did you do to overcome these? Can you remember how quickly you began to feel your anxiety lift after beginning ERP?
Hannah answered: I don’t think I really had a backdoor spike in this area, though I did in some others. I dealt with it by returning to my ERP exposures. Thankfully, when I’d do that … and then go to bed … I’d usually wake up “re-set.” Very different from the days when (to answer your next question) my thoughts consumed me. If I wasn’t obsessing over something in the forefront of my mind, then I was still feeling sick about it while it existed in the background. I’ve had other themes with OCD than just HOCD, and to be honest, some of them were more upsetting than the HOCD, but the most stressful thoughts with HOCD were often when I would worry if I was attracted to my girlfriends. Or if I would worry that one day I would “suddenly” realize that I was gay– after I was married to a man.  I had a romantic same-sex dream one night and woke up “convinced” I was gay. How should one deal with the invasive thoughts? ERP, ERP, ERP. Jackie writes about it a lot on her blog. Maybe she can include a link. [Jackie interjects: go to jackieleasommers.com/OCD for more ERP details!] Finally, how quickly did I feel my anxiety lift after starting ERP? Not right away, that’s for sure– in fact, I think it gets worse before it gets better! At first, the exposures are HORRIBLE, but then– like I said– they start to seem silly (or at least, that’s how it worked for me).  I started feeling relief after about 2.5-3 months.

I want to thank Hannah once again for being so OPEN with my blog readers!  I hope that you all heard her refrain of “ERP, ERP, ERP” loud and clear. That is the message I’m continually sharing on my blog too. If you want to read more about HOCD, check out these posts:

A Big Ol’ HOCD Post
Hannah’s First Interiew
A Closer Look at HOCD
No One Really Wants to Talk about HOCD
Hannah’s Third Interview