Monday, September 5, 2016

Positivity for Writers #4: I Almost Gave Up... And Why I Didn't!



My last post was in March.

March.

That's insane. That's insane because so much has happened since then!

So why?

Because for the last six months, I've been in the process of giving up. Quitting. Throwing in the towel. Saying F this! You may have wanted this when you were a little girl, but you were young and foolish then...

Writing is hard. Publishing is hard. Interpersonal relationships are hard. It's all hard.

If you've ever put fingers to keyboard, submitted a manuscript, collaborated, or been part of a community you know this particular struggle.

I quietly closed down my Facebook. I put away all my Raine trappings. I decided I would... or wouldn't... or maybe...

And it sucked my friends. It sucked ALL the butts. More than that, it hurt my spirit.

Because a life without writing is a million times harder than the other day-to-day noise... And that's what it is, it's just noise. And doubt.

I wish I could show you clearly how I got from Point A (Let's quit this shizz!) to Point B (OK, I'll just put it away for now) to Point C (You know what? I'm strong enough to handle this.) Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure I stumbled like a drunk person along the path. Here are some of the things that I totally donked up before kinda, sorta, getting it right.

  • Acknowledge how you feel. I fought against the feeling of discontent without acknowledging it for so long that my psyche eventually went snap, crackle, pop! and I was forced to acknowledge for I felt. Believe me, if you can do it quietly and on your own terms, it's much better.
  • Let yourself sit in it. Man, I fought it. Once my psyche broke and I realized how I felt... I was like, "MUST! DO! SOMETHING! ABOUT! THIS!" and that 'something' was to burn my writing house down. It took four incredible friends practically sitting on me to get me to stop flailing and just be.
  • Weigh your options. But...but...this is the path I'm on. I have no other options! Not so. Going a different direction can be scary. And it definitely won't be easy. A new writing style? A new name? A new publishing house? Getting an agent? Or maybe becoming an indie publisher? Even stepping away from the publishing game? I didn't like all the options I came up with, but at least I finally realized I have some.
  • Ask yourself the hard questions. Is it worth the shitty feelings? You'll probably start with that one. And if you feel half as miserable as I did, you'll say, nope. But you have to ask yourself this question as well: Will I regret quitting? And Can I be happy taking a break instead?
  • Listen to the universe. Seriously. Don't ignore the kind words of your readers, your betas, your peers. Don't ignore the quiet opportunities that come your way, or the signs that point you toward your own contentment.
  • Cut out the poison. Ohmygawd I have a habit of doing everything wrong when I feel bad! I eat too much, I'm too sedentary, I spend like a millionaire even though I only take home a librarian's salary. I seek affirmation from the wrong people and pack away projects that would make me feel good. So... I consciously stopped. I don't read reviews anymore, I don't read my the Facebook newsfeed. I try to be a good friend to people who are also good friends to me. And I chopped the shizz out of those credit cards. But it took over a year to get here.
  • Be creative. Even if you don't feel like you can write, create. Draw, dance, sing, play, garden, sew, design, dream. This is one thing I did right. In the time I was figuring my shit out, I started drawing again. I started customizing dolls. I started doing decoupage. I made my own stamps and played around with calligraphy. I tackled color. Copics, prismas, and new lining techniques. I didn't let that creative energy stop.
  • Try again. If you're going to quit forever, surely one more go at the keyboard isn't that much to ask? And if you can't manage that, at least read something you've written. For old time's sake? That way, you can say you gave it your all. 

Writing is challenging. Same with publishing and collaborating and interpersonal relationships. They are all challenges.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by those challenges, give yourself a moment to breathe. Allow yourself to see your options. Change directions if you need to. But don't quit.

I promise you, there's someone--probably many someones--in this great wide world who will be worse off for not having read your words.

But more than that, you will be worse off for not having written them.

With Kindness,
RoRo

Friday, March 25, 2016

FREE FICTION: The Quick and the Tad

A little free fiction that I wrote :) Harmony Ink Press put it out in their newsletter 3/1/2016 and I should post it, in case anyone missed it the first time around <3

With Kindness,
Ro




The Quick and the Tad


I DIDN’T sleep much last night.
It’s stupid, practicing something to make it sound spontaneous. But this isn’t Where do you want to go for lunch? It needs practice and a hell of a lot of courage.
I dump my bike on Quick’s front yard and go around to where the mulberry tree half hides his window. He never locks it and doesn’t even startle when I open it.
I’ve got one leg over the sill when I blurt out, “I’ve got something really important to ask you!”
Smooth.
Quick’s on the phone and doesn’t seem to hear me.
“S-sure,” he says to the caller. “I mean, I didn’t even realize you noticed me. But ’s cool. Can I, um, call you back later? We can talk more.”
I plop down on his bed, my head buzzing with my question. “You okay, Quick?”
“Do you know who that was?” He holds up his cell.
“Nope. Psychic powers must be on the fritz.”
“It was Kelsey Harold.”
Oh…. “What’d she want? Trying to get you on that stupid decorations committee for Spring Fling?”
“Not… quite,” he says slowly, raking his hand through his hair. I try not to stare. It’s long, dark, with streaks of gold. He sometimes pulls it back in this man-bun thing that makes me forget to finish my sentences. “More like asking me to Spring Fling.”
Shit.
“Yeah, that’s… something.”
My best friend’s had a thing for Kelsey since the eighth grade, but I ignored it because he never had a shot. She’s pretty and nice in a goopy banana syrup way. What’s not to like?
“What should I do, Tad?”
“Tell her yes.” My mouth is totally autonomous. I force a smile even though I feel like someone has punched me in the gut. “Hey, I’m gonna go. You should call her back.”
“You just got here.”
True. But I don’t have any reason to be here. Not now.
“And you were gonna ask me something. You said it was important.”
“Nah…I….” Forgot what I was going to say. Lame lie.
I can’t ask him now. But maybe I can tell him something instead. “Um, turn around,” I say, and he raises an eyebrow at me. “Just turn around, all right? And I’ll tell you a secret.”
With a suspicious glance over his shoulder, Quick slowly turns his back to me.
We haven’t done this since we were kids and we’d trade secrets at sleepovers when we didn’t want my little brother to hear us.
“You’re being weird, Tad.”
“Yeah. Sorry.”
When I put my finger on his back, he flinches.
“What are you doing?”
“Telling you a secret. We used to do this all the time.”
“When we were, like, eight. You’re being really weird.”
“C’mon, you want to hear my secret, right?”
When we were kids, we got really good at being able to read the feel of the letters. We’d write them big and slowly. I really liked when he touched my back. Now I’m not writing big or slow. I know Quick has no idea what I’m spelling, and that’s good. If he’s got a shot with Kelsey, then I really don’t want him to know how I feel about him.
I leave my palm on his back after the last word for longer than I need to. I can feel his warmth. As he shifts, I feel his muscles move under my hand. My heart starts racing. Keep your head, Tad.

I’VE GOT something new to practice during my bike ride home: being happy for Quick. Like, really, stupidly happy for him. He’s going to Spring Fling with Kelsey.
So I’m happy.
I’m happy my best friend gets a shot with the girl he likes.
But, question. Can you be happy and totally miserable at the same time?

I SAW Quick on Snapchat on Friday, but I ignored him. He bombarded me with texts last night. When he called this morning, I made an excuse not to talk.
“Why are you avoiding Quick?”
This is not a question I expect from my little brother. Andy’s standing in my doorway, looking at me like I’m stupid. We don’t really talk much. I don’t know why he cares.
“Not.” I shrug at him. “Everything’s fine.”
“Yeah, ’cause he sends me a text when ‘everything’s fine.’”
Quick texted Andy?
“It’s nothing. Kelsey Harold and him….” I shrug again.
Has he called Kelsey back and told her yes yet?
“You’re a moron.”
“Get the hell out of my room.”
Andy takes a tiny step back so he’s technically in the hall. “You like him, don’t you?”
“What?” I try to sound offended and incredulous. “It’s not like that.”
Liar, liar pants on fire.
“You’re happy he’s got a girlfriend?” Andy asks dryly. He’s fourteen;nothing he says is supposed to come out that dry.
“Yes.” Totally. Completely.
“Whatever. You should tell him how you feel.”

I MANAGED to avoid Quick all morning and then hid out in the bathroom during lunch. But now it’s English, and we usually sit next to each other. Kelsey’s in this class too, though, so maybe….
I pull out my book and start flipping through it like I’m suddenly interested in Victorian short stories, but then Quick’s there. I can feel his scowl. I glance at him. Thaddup. I’m too young for a heart attack, right? He passes Kelsey and walks toward me, throwing his bag down so hard, he almost flips his desk over.
“So you are here, Tad.” It’s an accusation.
I try to sound casual. “Yeah, I mean, I’ve been here, but….”
“But you’re avoiding me.”
“Hey, don’t you want to go sit with Kelsey?”
He looks over his shoulder at her rigid back. “I don’t think she wants me to sit with her.”
“That’s too bad. Having your first fight?”
His gaze snaps back to me. I can’t remember him ever looking so pissed. “You’re such an asshole.”
“That’s me,” I mutter.
Quick drops into the seat. “Look, can you just say what’s on your mind? You’re really starting to piss me off.”
The Yellow Wallpaper blurs before my eyes. “I thought you’d want some alone time with Kelsey.”
“I’m not going out with Kelsey.”
“Yeah, right. You’re going to Spring Fling.”
No, we’re not.”
“Whatever.”
“Why are you so angry, Tad?”
Saved by Mrs. Michalski and her man hands. She raps on the whiteboard. I listen without listening and take notes without knowing what I’m writing down.
Is he for real? She’s not his date?

QUICK STEPS in front of me when I try to leave.
“Gotta hurry to math.”
“Nope. Follow me.”
I follow him through the sea of students. When I don’t move fast enough, he grabs my hand. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend. He lets go once we’re free of the crowd.
There’s this little room at the back of the school near the auditorium. There’s nothing in there, just a high window and a stack of gym mats. If we ever want to skip, this is the perfect spot.
We sit down next to each other on the mats. “Wanna tell me what gives? You say you wanna ask me something but you write on my back instead and bolt before I can reply. Now you’re avoiding me.”
What gives is that I’ve got feelings for my best friend, and it’s eating me up inside. I’m not brave enough to just be friends. Not brave enough to let go, either.
“I’m happy for you, Quick.” I’ve practiced those words so often they almost sound real, even to me. “It’s Kelsey, man.”
“Did you even hear me? We’re not going out.” He glares hard at me as if it’s my fault.
“Why not?”
“Jesus, Tad. That was you writing on my back, right? ‘I like you. Don’t date her.’ Ring any bells?”
But I wrote it so fast and so sloppy! How the hell did he…?
“How…?”
“Jackass. Do you like me or don’t you? Because I said no for you, Tad.”
I look down at the dirty floor and hope I’m not blushing. Blindly I grope for his hand and pull it to me. I lay it on my knee, palm up.
“Ask me a question.” The room absorbs my words, my secrets. We’re alone here, but I can’t say it out loud.
“Do you like me, Tad?” His voice is quiet.
I write on his palm with my finger. Large letters, slow, so there can be no doubt.
Y-E-S.
“Do you want to go out with me?”
Y-E-S.
“How long?”
F-O-R-E-V-E-R.
“No, how long have you liked me?”
I repeat my last answer.
His palm is sweaty. It’s not even that warm in here.
And then very slowly, I ask him the question I’ve been wondering for years: “Do you want to be my boyfriend?”
For a minute we sit there, not looking at each other, our palms pressed together, and then slowly he laces his fingers with mine. Like it isn’t a secret at all, Quick says, “Yes, I really do."

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Learning to Share the Scary Things!


It's a fine line we authors dance upon: cultivating a pleasing public persona vs. sharing our real selves. I'd say most of us are doubtful creatures, introverted, and many of us are depressed or have some other challenges with mental illness.

As long as I've been online (a lot longer than I've been Raine O'Tierney, obviously!) I've struggled with this concept. What do I tell? What do I keep at bay?

The friendly, buoyant, exclamation-point loving Raine is a real person. She's a very real part of me, even. On good days at work, you can find me butt-dancing in my rolling chair to music or squealing over new office supplies. Not a blog goes out for my department that doesn't involve an exclamation point or two.

And when I say kindness is my religion, I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Being kind to one another is the best thing we can do. (Note I did not say nice. To me, being nice sometimes involves a sort of social horseshit dishonesty that is soul-sucking. But genuine kindness? I'm alls about that!

It's the other: the more challenging Raine O'Tierney that I contemplate sharing. I've actually been quite open with my depression and my therapy. I haven't mentioned all (yes, more than one...) of my particular disorders with all their particular acronyms. Then my therapist challenged me last week to write a non-fiction book about what it's like to live with one of the vaguely aforementioned disorders.

I was very surprised by that. I never thought about writing about myself before! Especially in the context of the fine line we all tread. To do it properly, I'll have to bare all the ugly garbage that comes with being me. But... No one said I have to share it. No one said I have to publish it. Except, what if I do?

I'm a better person than I was two years ago. I'm a better person than I was a year ago. Hell, I'm better than I was yesterday when I read We are not our failures and was so fundamentally struck it reduced me to tears.

I think I will take up the writing challenge, even as I juggle no less than 20 new ideas. I can't change my mistakes, but maybe I will like what the book says. Maybe I will put it out there, bared soul and all.

So much to think about.

Contemplatively, and with Kindness,
Raine O'Tierney

Friday, February 12, 2016

I Was So Damn Arrogant, or Writing Terror

I truly was arrogant enough to believe that once I had "jumped the hurdle" of paralyzing self-doubt and crippling creation terror then I would be done, as if it's a one-off thing. Congratulations, you've leveled up and now you're ready for the big time, Raine!

But doubt, like chaos, seems to be the natural state of things. When not guarding against it, the fear creeps (sometimes rushes!) back in.

I spent all of 2015 writing for other people and I'm scared I don't how to write for myself anymore. My defenses are untrained, and it's easier to be afraid than it is to write. I don't know how to stand up to the voices in my head anymore that say:

You can't...
You won't...
You aren't... 

I recently thought about writing an M/M Regency-Era Romance. This was such a charming idea that it pushed all the storm clouds out of my mind...for 5 whole minutes. Then the voices came back louder than ever.

You aren't good enough to do that, Raine.

I wouldn't say that to my worst enemy, you know? But somehow it seems incredibly simple to say it to myself.

Spend half an hour on Facebook and you will see a dozen people in all stages of their publication journey, from the newest newbie to the most seasoned veteran, battling this same ugly voice.

Creation is scary.

Putting that creation on display for people to judge? Sheer terror.

I held off writing this blog until today because I like to end things positively. Until this morning I could not see where to draw a single ounce of hope from. Then I got my CPAP.

Wha--huh?

Apparently for the last two years I've been suffering from severe sleep apnea. Severe-severe. Like I stop breathing 47 times AN HOUR. I've been a walking zombie...Obviously. Now I have a machine that will keep me breathing all night long. I might dream! I will definitely have more energy.

Energy to fight the negative voices.

Energy to write.

I'm not under the illusion that I will get better sleep and immediately there will no longer be any fears, doubts, or moments of depression. But I am hopeful because it's a start--a weapon in my fight against this creation terror.

--Raine O'Tierney