Resistance: The War of Art

war-of-art4I had in the past attempted to read Steven Pressfield’s¬†The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, but I’d been waylaid, I think due to the way he talks about mental illness in the book.

But this time I pressed through, and I really enjoyed it! I listened to the audio book on a long trip for work, and it only took about three hours from beginning to end. I probably could have read it even faster with the book in my hand.

The War of Art is about Resistance. It’s about anything that stops us from getting our creative work done– and about how to overcome it. Pressfield makes an extensive list of things that play into resistance: procrastination, of course, but also sex, trouble, drama, victimhood, self-doubt, fear, criticism, love, stardom. He’s not afraid to add things to the list that you and I would rather keep off it. This was pretty eye-opening for me.

war-of-art

In the second part of the book, he talks about “becoming a pro”– how to overcome Resistance. To be a professional, we need to show up, be prepared, be patient, ask for help, accept no excuses, among other things.

A quick excerpt:

In my younger days dodging the draft, I somehow wound up in the Marine Corps. There’s a myth that Marine training turns baby-faced recruits into bloodthirsty killers. Trust me, the Marine Crops is not that efficient. What it does teach, however, is a lot more useful.

The Marine Corps teaches you how to be miserable.

This is invaluable for an artist.

Wow. Pressfield goes on to say:

The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation.

Tell us how you really feel, Steven. ūüėČ

But, honestly, this resonated with me. Writing is a mix of joy and misery; publication too. But what am I supposed to do? Ignore my calling? No. I need to become a pro.

war-of-art3

In the last part of his book, Pressfield talks about muses and angels– he takes the book to a whole other plane, reflecting on how the artist isn’t really in charge anyway. I’m sure he loses a lot of readers here, but not this girl. As a person of faith, I already believe something similar.

All told, this was a fast read and well worth it. In the days since finishing it, I’ve been able to recognize areas of Resistance in my life and to deal with them accordingly. Great, thoughtful book.

Beyond Writer’s Cramp: Any Ideas?

In most regards, it’s been an incredible weekend: I got to see my dear friend Cindy (to whom¬†Truest is dedicated) and meet her adorable baby boy; I’ve gotten lots of rest; I’ve written a lot, chapters I feel really, really good about.

But there’s one area that’s been brutal. I am still battling overuse of my hands, wrists, arms, and elbows. It was perhaps the worst it’s ever been this weekend, and that’s saying a lot. I was sincerely considering going to the ER.wrist InjuryA brief history:

It’s hard to remember when it started, but I’ve had bad wrists for something like a decade now. At one point, I couldn’t open a car door or hold a book with one hand. I can’t do certain things anymore, even just for a short time, like bowling with coworkers or helping a friend paint her house. I can’t carry a lunch tray without both hands. I stare in awe at restaurant servers.¬†I might go a month with little to no pain, only to have one or both wrists completely flare up.

Measures I’ve already taken:

  1. I see a chiropractor and a massage therapist.
  2. I was diagnosed with overuse– not arthritis, carpal tunnel, tendonitis, etc. Just overuse.
  3. I was formerly in occupational therapy with a hand specialist until she broke up with me because I couldn’t afford to go weekly.
  4. I do stretches.
  5. I ice.
  6. I take Ibuprofen/Advil/Aleve.
  7. I use Biofreeze.
  8. I have an entirely ergonomic set-up, both at home and at work.
  9. I don’t write for (what I consider) unreasonable amounts of time, maybe 2-3 hours a night, although I am at a computer for my day job too.

The one measure I can’t take:

  1. Using dictation software to write. Please believe me when I say that I have thoroughly investigated Dragon, read reviews from other authors who have used it, and I also know my own methods well enough to understand that this is not a viable option for me.

That said, does anyone have any other ideas? I’m a little desperate here. After all my efforts, sometimes it just feels like it’s getting worse and worse. I was in so much pain this weekend that I was making noises like a wounded animal. This writer needs some solutions.

Six Parts of Writing a Book that Aren’t Actually Writing

There is so much more to writing a book than just writing a book. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and thought I’d write up a few thoughts about it. Note that this is¬†my experience; every writer has his or her own methods!

writing3Research. 

When I was younger, I thought, “I’ll never write historical novels; that way, I won’t have to do research.” HA. I think any well-thought-out piece of writing requires so much research, and not always the kind you might imagine. I’ve spent countless hours researching things that my characters are interested in, just so that I can have my characters talk about them with convincing acuity. When those things are above my head (i.e. the quantum mechanics in Yes Novel), I have to still find a way to write¬†just enough to convince the audience I know more. (Then I had to have my physics Ph.D friend read those scenes to make sure I didn’t say anything absolutely wrong.)

Speaking of bringing in friends, I do this all the time. My Facebook friends usually assume that any random question that comes from left field is usually book research. Sometimes I will spend¬†hours just finding the name of a¬†color or how to build a table or how to translate one sentence of Portuguese. I remember taking so long just to find the name for the “blanket” used during X-rays: a lead apron. That sentence wasn’t about X-rays either; it was about how depression presses weighs on a person. I spent all night researching boats for a paragraph in Salt Novel.¬†And if I get the details right, the reader probably won’t notice– it will flow smoothly instead of tripping someone up!

Brainstorming.

For me, this usually looks like conversations, either prayer or otherwise. I get out either my prayer journal or my process journal and start asking questions, thinking, waiting for answers. Sometimes I tell my friends, “I have a problem to solve. I need this square peg to fit into a round hole,” and we go back and forth until we make it work. Sometimes this takes a long time and means headaches and tears. But I don’t do it alone.

Listening.

I’m not sure if that’s entirely the right word. But with the exception of when I’m sleeping (although not always– sometimes I think about my novel while I dream!), I am always on alert for ideas, solutions, objections. My co-worker said, “Can I still rent a vehicle if I’m not 25 yet?” and my first thought wasn’t how to help her but, “Oh crap, I have a 19-year-old renting a car in my manuscript. FIX.” Anything¬†funny or beautiful or interesting– all my experiences, in fact– pass through the novel-sieve: is this something I can use for the story?

Timeline.

I spent the entire evening¬†earlier this week nailing down the timeline of my story. For me, I find it easiest to use an actual calendar and to fill in the days with the names of scenes. Timeline matters¬†especially if there is a “time bomb” in the novel or if there is some process (pregnancy, an academic year, etc.) that has to follow certain general guidelines. It also keeps me from bypassing important holidays. And¬†the weather has to be right for that time of year (see above: research). And if there is a love story, I want to make sure that it’s reasonable. I don’t want my characters falling in love in just three days.

Strategy.

This is something I am learning. With my first novel (Lights All Around,¬†unpublished), I had¬†no strategy. I barely even considered the most basic constructs of a novel: action, climax, resolution, and the like, let alone thought strategically about how the characters were changing from beginning to end. I did that so much more with Truest, and now it’s becoming a built-in part of my writing life.¬†I¬†find myself thinking things like, “If I want M to relax and C to become more assertive, then I should have a scene where C takes control and M follows suit.” That probably seems like a no-brainer, but for this writer, it took about three decades to get there. Now I think, “If I want X to be especially impactful, then I need to set it up by making Y more extreme. How can I do that?” (See above: brainstorming.)

Reading. 

When I am writing, I like to stay deep in the waters of great fiction. I have re-read a handful of books that inspire Salt Novel over and over again. I enjoy the story, but I also examine it. Why did that work? How did the author make me feel that way? Why did I change my mind about that character? If I am trying to create a river, it helps to stand in one. 

There are other things too, like outlining,¬†marketing (eventually), and finding connections between themes (my favorite!). It’s a lot of work, but soooo rewarding! How blessed am I to get to do this with my life?

Off to write now– actually write!

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I love the writing rhythm I’m in right now. It feels good to sit down nearly every night and hammer through something. It’s been quite varied: some nights I will sweep through two chapters and others I will spend all evening on just 250 words. It all feels good. I am just now running into the part of my story that I have the¬†least experience with; I am trying to tap into raw emotions over situations I’ve never been in. It’s intimidating, to say the least. But I keep¬†rotating between my desk and my prayer journal.

I just binge-watched¬†Stranger Things on Netflix and quite enjoyed it. (And I don’t even enjoy being scared … but I do love a good psychological thriller.)

Waiting for my copy of Melina Marchetta’s new book¬†Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil to arrive. In the meantime, I re-read¬†Saving Francesca¬†and its companion novel¬†The Piper’s Son. (P.S. Salt Novel, my current work-in-progress, was born out of¬†The Piper’s Son + a “what if.”)

Jacob Wetterling’s remains were found on a farm in Paynesville, MN. His abduction hit way too close to home for those of us who grew up in central Minnesota, and this has been a question that people my age have had for most of our¬†lives. I remember when he was abducted in 1989. I was seven years old, and St. Joseph, where he was taken, is only about 20 miles from where I lived. Paynesville, where he was found nearly 27 years later, is about the same distance. The man who led them to the body was living in Annandale, just 11 miles from my parents’ house.¬†This case has changed both MN and national laws, and while it is¬†a heartbreaking ending to this decades-long mystery, I hope it will somehow bring the family some closure.

I am sleeping much better (and with NO sleep aids)! The insomnia doctor I’ve been meeting with is the kindest, gentlest, sweetest man. I am so grateful for the way he has thoughtfully pursued answers to my long-standing issues with sleep.

Work has been insanely busy– due in part to the last-minute closing of another private school in Minnesota (we ended up with maybe 8 or so of their students transferring to UNW and registering late) and in part to the implementation of new software in my office. But I feel¬†good. I feel like I’m doing some of my best recruiting I’ve done in years. I am overflowing with creative ideas. It’s like a dam burst.

I’m thinking ahead to next month– which includes OCD Awareness Week– and planning to meet with the OCD Twin Cities team to plan a special event for it. (Anyone have ideas?)

My parents’ dog had puppies! Five purebred German shepherds– four chubby dark-colored male pups and one little all-white girl pup. In all our batches of puppies over the years (to different dogs), we’ve never had a purebred white shepherd before!

puppies

Well, I’d better get back to the manuscript. It’s¬†being fussy.

Love,
Jackie

P.S.¬†What’s going on in your worlds? I always love to hear from you, friends.

 

 

Shattering Stigma as Book Advocates [Guest Post at It Starts at Midnight]

Today, I’m honored to be over on my lovely friend Shannon’s blog, talking about the power of book advocates to break¬†the stigma of mental illness.

ShatteringStigmas-2-e1472245713311It begins:

My young adult novel Truest, which came out last year with HarperCollins, features a teenager with a depersonalization disorder that makes her question whether real life is actually real‚ÄĒor if she is just dreaming it all. To me, it‚Äôs a compelling concept, sparking thoughts around philosophy, reality, and the nature of existence, not to mention mental illness and depression. Although I‚Äôm not a doctor or psychologist, I still felt qualified to write this story. Why? Because I dealt with solipsism syndrome myself.

To read the rest, click here! Thanks for taking the extra time to hop over and read my thoughts.

 

 

5-Year Blogiversary

blog fiveMy blog turns five today!

Since I started this site, I have:

  • written and published a book
  • left management (which allowed me to write and publish a book)
  • written a manuscript (Salt Novel), set it aside, written another manuscript (Yes Novel), then set it aside for the earlier one
  • met and/or interacted with hundreds of brave people with OCD and other lovely people in advocacy
  • partnered with the International OCD Foundation
  • became the communications director for OCD Twin Cities, an IOCDF affiliate
  • recruited hundreds of students to my university
  • become a feminist
  • grown in my faith
  • bought a house and remodeled it
  • listened to the books in¬†The Chronicles of Narnia at least 250 times (but probably more like 400-500) (and¬†The Horse and His Boy makes up probably 33% of that, ha!)
  • successfully maintained my OCD remission
  • met and/or interacted with some incredible bloggers
  • had several incredible babies enter my life (i.e. my friends had kids!)

I’ve been so blessed by everyone who follows my site. Your support and comments and friendship mean the world to me! Here’s to¬†year number six!

Humor me, folks: what accomplishment are you most proud of from the last five years?

Image credit: The Delicious Life

I’m an emotional tornado, but my mascara doesn’t run.

Hi friends! Hope you’ve all been well. Thought I’d offer a little update on my life, for those who are interested!

Salt Novel
I finished my¬†synopsis. It’s a long, detailed, color-coded one.
Plotting is done. Brainstorming is done (for now). Research is (mostly) done.
Now I just need to pull all of this together into one smooth narrative.

 

Work
My best work buddies just left the university, and I’m spontaneously a mess. I have kinda been overly emotional my whole life. When I used to come home from summer camp, I’d cry and mope for a week. I start to tear up at random moments these days.¬†I’m tempted to say that I’m pathetic, but I don’t think it’s pathetic to care about people.

Sleep
Going to the sleep psychologist this week.¬†I’d love to be able to fall asleep at a regular time, sleep all night, and wake up well. Shouldn’t be THAT hard, right? Ha. Last “night” I was up till 6 am (I read a book, wide awake), then finally went to bed once it was light out. #sleepdisorder

Endorsements
So, I’ve sort of just believed that makeup is makeup is makeup and that people are foolish for paying an arm and a leg for fancy mascara when Cover Girl does the trick. But I was wrong. I’ve been using this Buxom mascara (Sephora, $20), and it’s UNREAL. I need to take pictures sometime to show you the difference. I also started using this Urban Decay¬†makeup setting spray (Sephora, $30), and frankly, I’m shocked. I’m used to having my makeup sort of melt off my face throughout the work day. With this stuff, my makeup looks the same¬†on my way home from work as it looked on my way to work– in fact, it looks the same even after dinner and writing and a nap. I’m a believer.

(If I can remember, I’ll take a picture of my makeup before and after the wedding/reception I’m going to tomorrow. I don’t know if anyone else cares about this at all, but my mind is blown. Ha!)

Weddings
Wedding season is most definitely upon us. So happy for Brittane and Ben and for Emily and Joe. ‚̧

Politics & My Voice
My gosh, does my big mouth ever get me into trouble on social media! I try to always approach social media carefully, never posting anything that I might be later ashamed of. That said, I’m not a particularly ashamed person, not about most things. I¬†think I’m smart and my voice is important. So I’ve been contemplating whether or not I should write a blog post about how I’m going to vote in November and why. I’m not sure. Letting the idea percolate. Crazy how much politics stir people up. Wish everyone would get that stirred up about, say, mental illness stigma.

Reading
I’ve read so few books in the past couple of months. I hate it. I’ve been far too busy for my own good, and as an introvert, I kinda hate it. I really want to settle into new routines this fall. This will be my fourteenth year of recruiting. How did I get so old?

How are you? I’d love to hear!

 

 

 

Review (& Thoughts On) The Art of Slow Writing by Louise deSalvo

slow writingSo, this book is called¬†The Art of Slow Writing, but the truth is that I¬†read it very slowly. It’s taken me months to finish this book, not because it wasn’t good (it was!) but because I’ve been so busy and overwhelmed, plus it has content I wanted¬†to take in¬†over time.

I really enjoyed this book– it was a constant reminder to let art run its course, to let books reveal themselves in their own time, to embrace the uncertainty of the writing life, and how important persistence is to she who wants to be an author.

 

 

Loved this:

uncertainty writing

I’m writing slowly right now. But that doesn’t mean I’m not working hard. I spent last Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday doing research, hammering out details, brainstorming, plotting, and finishing up my VERY LONG AND DETAILED synopsis, which is now up to thirteen pages, double-spaced. I could NOT have created this synopsis early on. I needed to spend over a year with this story and let ideas build and build before I could pull this blueprint together.

But now that it IS together, I have a map from the beginning to the end of my novel. I have 60K words written already, but SO MUCH editing to do … plus I’m imagining about another 20K left to write.

This page from deSalvo’s book is Where I Am At:

slow writing quote

It is one thing to amass 50 or 60 thousand words of prose. It’s an entirely different beast to shape those words¬†into a book. I learned so much while writing¬†Lights All Around— and learned even MORE writing¬†Truest— but there is still so much to learn. Every new book is a new mountain. Climbing one mountain does not mean I know how to climb all mountains.

It’s fulfilling work, but it is most definitely WORK.

I like life.

This was a really busy– but ultimately really good– week for me.

Last week, I was (pre?) diagnosed with a sleep disorder– Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which sounds totally fake but isn’t. Basically, my circadian rhythm is off, which is why I stay awake so late (even with Ambien!) and then feel impossibly paralyzed in the mornings. I’m meeting with a specialized sleep psychologist next month, and in the meantime, I had blood work done to see if it’s safe for me to go back onto Risperdal. I took that tiny .5 mg (notice that is POINT-FIVE not FIVE mg) pill for eight years, and when I went off of it (maybe six months ago?), I’ve just gone haywire. I know that for most people, mornings are not fun. But, for me, they’ve been impossible. I don’t know how else to explain it.

My favorite kiddos came over on Saturday, and later I found a sweet note from the six year old. Allow me to translate: “Ava loves Jackie’s house.” Jak E with a backward J leaves you with cake. I like cake.

My editor was in the Twin Cities, so we hung out on Monday, brainstorming and discussing Salt Novel as well as writing and publishing in general and all the things we’ve been learning lately. It was wonderful! I left feeling energized to write and excited about my manuscript. Now to find more time …
The rest of the week consisted of therapy (yay), haircut (yay) and dye job (yay? see pics.), getting paid for the German translation of Truest (YAY), and ice cream with my bestie (major yay).

How about you? I can’t believe July is half over. Where is summer going? I’m ready for cooler temps (it’s been in the nineties in Minnesota and miserably humid, though the end of this week was better) but I’m not ready for the ruckus of fall recruitment quite yet.

Think of me as I sort out my sleep/novel/work/life.

Up/Down

Hey peeps, hope you had a lovely Independence Day weekend! I sure did. I was able to rest and read, plus I put in lots of hours of writing.

I’ve had a lot of¬†UPs lately:

I feel good about my novel outline. I’ve been enjoying writing and doing it regularly. Work is going great. I actually had an amazing and productive day yesterday that reminded me how much I love my job. My friends are so lovely, and so is my family. I had a heart-to-heart with my daddy. My coworkers are so fun and smart and terrific. My fingernails are a pretty pink.

I’ve had a couple DOWNs too:

There is a mouse somewhere in my house who is smarter than my EIGHT traps. There was a storm last night in which my city got three inches of rain in 45 minutes, and some of the rain found its way into my basement. I was not exactly loving homeownership last night, but thankfully, my roomie knew what to do. I have at least one morning each week where I wake up in a depressive funk that is unexplainable except for brain chemistry.

But that’s life, right? I’m feeling good and grateful, and I feel full of ideas and drive (usually) and feel like a sponge with all that I am learning (book research FTW!). I have a long way to go toward my ultimate goals (writing/health/work/etc.), but I’m on the road.

Wave as I drive past!