Friday, November 30, 2012

Working through the blues

Now I know it's not easy or cool to admit, but sometimes even cowgirls get the blues. And sometimes even writers get them. Maybe it's something minor, like that down feeling you get when you've had a cold for a long time. Maybe you've had some lousy times at work. Or maybe you just struggle when winter hits. We all have those down times*, and that low energy feeling can make it really hard to put in the time for our writing. What can you do about it?

First, let yourself off the hook a little. If you sprained your ankle, you wouldn't expect to win a sprinting competition, would you? Well, when your brain is out of balance or feeling low energy, it's the mental equivalent of a strained muscle or sprained joint. It needs rest. Take care of your mind! Get some extra rest and try to relax.

You also want to take a little extra care of your physical health. A lot of the time we feel down because we're not feeling well and haven't really noticed any symptoms of sickness. If your body's running out of juice, it can't provide a lot of energy for creative endeavors. Try to get some exercise into your day, even if you feel tired and cranky. And avoid sugar, booze and excess caffeine. I've tried drinking extra coffee to get my engine revving when I feel down, and it rarely helps for long. In a pinch, I've found that extra Vitamin C (from juices or EmergenC or just ascorbic acid added to honey and hot water) can give me a bit of extra energy, but that can wreak havoc on your gut. (Just saying.)

After lecturing you about health and rest, it seems the next step is counter-intuitive: work. When my husband was diagnosed with tennis elbow, his doctor gave him an armband to help the muscles rest. But the doctor also gave him some exercises that would strengthen the muscles so they could do a better job supporting the joint. When you're down, you need extra sleep and relaxation. You don't need to sit on your butt watching tv. Give yourself time to work on your writing projects, but give yourself permission to produce less. You want to keep flexing your writing muscles without overtaxing yourself.

The best thing about giving yourself that permission to write less is that you'll probably surprise yourself with how much you can produce! This week, I've been feeling a bit gloomy (I always feel gloomy after I take a trip to visit my parents--I just wish I could live closer to them!) and I haven't written very much. But I have written a little every day, and yesterday, I wrote a lot more than I expected. It felt great! And today I don't feel nearly so gloomy, because I have my writing to cheer me up.

One last thing: if you can find an extra scrap of energy, take a moment to do something nice for someone. Write a positive review of a book you liked. Send a friend a note. Catch up with your Christmas shopping. While you do it, imagine how the recipient will feel when they get that nice experience (and if you think a review can't touch an author's heart, read this one at Doubleshot Reviews and check out the nice note from the author!). Making human connections can be a great reminder that you're not alone and that you've got lots of great gifts to offer the world. And isn't that what life is really about?

Good luck writing through your down time. I can't wait to find out what you produce!

*Note: my advice is for short term downturns in mood. If your dark feelings last longer than two weeks, you may have a more serious condition and might consider getting help. All I've got is hugs and puppy pictures, which I am more than happy to share.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Give Thanks!

It's Thanksgiving week! Hooray! Soon I will be eating pie and drinking coffee, which are two of my favorite things. I also plan to make a nice long list of things I'm grateful for this year, which will definitely be topped by getting a house, getting kitties, and working with James Sutter (myclever and delightful editor over at Pathfinder Tales) on the novel that I'm writing. I feel like I've learned so much about stories this year!

What are you most grateful about this year? Have you learned anything that's helped fill your writing toolbox?

Monday, November 05, 2012

Wonderful Weekend

Orycon 34 was fantastic. Getting to be with new friends, make new friends, and show off Portland to some of my favorite out-of-town visitors was a blast. And unlike Orycon 33, I did not get stuck in the elevator and need to be rescued by hunky firemen (although I'm not totally certain that's a win. ;)  ).

Here are a few thoughts from the con:

I've heard a lot about self-publishing and Kickstarter over the last few years, but M.K. Hobson is a lady who is doing an amazing job making it work for her. After a tremendous first novel and very good second novel that were both released by a traditional publisher, she ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and produced her third book herself. The book is beautiful--I can't say enough about the back cover of The Warlock's Curse, because it looks so damn cool, and even the typesetting is terrific. It's a great approach for an author with production skills and a passion for her large, immersive world. Plus, she throws a truly fun launch party!

This convention had some terrific panels, and I'm glad I went to them. I think it's all too easy to get sucked into parties and networking (hey, I love that stuff!) and never get a chance to attend a panel, so I feel really lucky my schedule let me sit in on some good ones. This year I made a point to seek out more information about martial arts and warfare, and I feel incredibly inspired to keep exploring those topics. I am still mulling over some of the information Rory Miller (corrections officer and writer) shared at our panel (the other brainy panelists were the fantastic Kamila Miller and the delightful Jason V. Brock) on "Smut, Gore, and More." I came to talk about body fluids--yay, smut!--and left humbled by this man's experiences facing real violence and true horror.

Everything about the convention kept circling back to the truth about writing: that it's for people. Even when you're writing science fiction and fantasy--heck, maybe especially when you're writing science fiction and fantasy--your writing needs to tap into something true and human. It's critical to use your time not-writing to expand yourself as a human being.

Oh! And one last thing: I came back from the con to discover that my weird tale "American Farmhouse Style" is up at Phantasmagorium's website. It's an oddball and the first piece I ever wrote that spooked me out!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Orycon 34

Hi, friends! If any of you will be in the Portland area this weekend and plan to catch Orycon, I'll be there, too. Here's my schedule:

Friday (11/2):
2 pm, Ross Island Room
Theme: What is theme and how do you develop it in your writing?

8:30 pm, Grant Room
Reading: a dramatic performance of Lovecraftian Madness ... and more.
Don't miss this one, because it's going to be blast!

Saturday (11/3):
11 am, Lincoln
Franchise Writing: writing in other people's worlds.
The other guys on the panel are writers for Star Wars, Star Trek and other big franchises--I can't wait to hear what they have to say!

2 pm, Lincoln
Stalking the Wild Anthology: tips for success in anthology sales

10 pm, Roosevelt
Smut, Gore and More: the challenges of writing sex and violence

Sunday (11/4):

10 am, Broadway
Fantasy Storytime: knights, dragons and princess stories for kiddos
This one's for your little munchkins.

I'm looking forward to this convention so much! My panels sound like a blast and I know the bar at the Doubletree Hotel is a great one for hanging. I'm sure you'll find me there throughout the con!