Tag Archives: Overcoming Doubt

Breaking the Chains

I am pumped.

Couldn’t tell with the use of that period, could you? Considering that I overuse the exclamation point in every day life (thankfully, I don’t in my actual writing), the use of the period here is actually quite poignant of how pumped I am right now. Why am I so stoked? Because I am breaking the chains that I’ve enslaved myself with and I am excited. I am eager.

I am back.

You see, ever since November, when I started a new book called BLOOD PRICE, what started out as a strong attempt to write book number six turned into a drought lasting almost three months; a drought inspired by fear, doubt, confusion and laziness. Fear in what was (is) happening in the world and fear of how that impacts not only myself, but those I love and those who undeservedly are being targeted and affected the most. Doubt in myself, in the stories I’m telling, in my ability to tell stories. Confusion in where BLOOD PRICE was going and where it was meant to go–and fear that I was telling the wrong version of the story or, even sometimes, a fear that I was writing too true of a version, and the response to either option. The natural laziness that happens during the holidays and the winter season paired with the laziness used as an excuse to not confront those doubts, fears and confusion. These emotions have dragged on and, though I’ve written two short stories and jotted down a handful of notes pertaining to book ideas, I’ve written nothing. I haven’t worked towards anything.

It got to the point where I was considering tabling BLOOD PRICE altogether, to work on something else. The excitement for the story had obviously passed and I was running into more roadblocks than I was solutions. I have other stories I want to tell. I could work on one of those, get back into the groove of things, and return to BLOOD PRICE when I got my mojo back.

That’s not a bad plan. That’s not a bad thing, at all. Tabling, though I’ve always unjustly paired it with a bad taste in my mouth, can be very beneficial and very needed. Yet when I thought about the stories I wanted to tell, the ones that I am currently excited and jazzed to write about, the same emotions still lingered and no words were getting written on the page. Suddenly, hopelessness was creeping in; hopelessness that I would never break out of these chains I’ve placed upon myself.

And then I had an idea.

I didn’t want to table BLOOD PRICE. Not really. Yet the idea of trying to pick back up on page 70, where I’d left off, and come up with where to go next is exactly the thing that has kept me from even opening up the Word document and attempting it in the first place.

So why couldn’t I start over?

And here’s where the excitement comes in.

I know what you’re thinking: starting over? How could that prospect possibly ignite so much excitement? You’re moving backwards. Usually, I’d be right there with you, but as soon as the idea took hold and I felt the excitement building, I knew I figured out a solution, a way back into my craft. I’d make an outline. A proper outline that I skipped making before NaNoWriMo. I’d figure out what was going on, where the story was heading, what happens at the end. And then, once I had my headway, I’d pull up my current draft of BLOOD PRICE. I’m not deleting what I’ve already written. Instead, I’m going back in, editing to fit the new outline and then, once I get to page 70, I’ll be so tired of fixing that and changing this that I’ll be dying to write down something new.

And so the story will continue.

Perhaps this seems like a silly method or an impossible solution for overcoming my demons and escaping my fears. Yet I just spent the last 20 minutes finishing the outline and, in doing so, I fell in love with the story again. I fell in love with the characters that answered, this time, when I spoke to them and asked them what happened next. I got excited about how much I’m playing with the environment, how different this is structurally from anything else I’ve written and how powerful Natanni is–my first female protagonist (how it took me six books to get to a female protag, I have no bloody clue). Though it is going to be a lot of work and deleting to fix what I’ve already written to include the necessary scenes and aspects now required to make this story what it needs to be, it’s work I’m willing to do; work I’m excited to do. When you’re coming from a place where you felt suffocated because you couldn’t remember how to breathe and suddenly, you not only inhale, but exhale as well?

Yeah, I think pumped is actually an understatement.

Cheers.

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Keep Writing

I’m nowhere near where I want to be, as far as my writing career goes. I have no publications, no agent, no queries floating out in the trenches. I can’t live off my writing alone (or, at all, frankly). Yet I’m also so much farther along than I ever imagined I could be, back when I started this journey when I was a wee 7th grader. And I’ve learned some pretty amazing lessons throughout, but I think the most important one is the title of this post:

Keep Writing.

For the longest time, I worked on my first novel, PATH OF THE PHOENIX. For years, I slaved over that thing. I wanted to perfect it. It was the story that was going to break the doors down for me. It had to be. I spent so many years outlining for it, I had rewritten it so many times, I cared about the characters so much, that it had to be the story. It just had to be.

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. Four books later and I’m working on a completely new series, with PATH OF THE PHOENIX still awaiting yet another (and probably another) rewrite and editing round. At first, after two rounds to rejections on my first book, I was hesitant to write anything else. I won’t lie: it was partly out of fear that I couldn’t write anything worth reading. If I could pour my heart and soul and everything I had into PATH and nothing happened, how could I devote the same amount of effort into another story, with that dark whispering in the back of my head telling me that it doesn’t matter, you won’t make it anyway? Yet another part of me didn’t want to move on, because that’s exactly what I’d be doing: moving on and abandoning this story that I loved so much. And I didn’t want to do that. Despite not being ready yet, I knew that it could be ready someday. And it deserved more than for me to move on.

But that’s the catch. The story does deserve it. It deserved to be worked on and improved. It deserved to be told. But I couldn’t do that by sticking with it and it alone.

So I did.

Starting and completing that second book was almost more paramount than finishing that first one, for me personally. Granted, it was still within that same world, with the same characters, so I didn’t truly break away until book four, when I wrote a completely new work not part of that trilogy. Yet that second book was everything. Because it fueled the crazy desire that I have to keep writing and keep telling stories, regardless of what happens with those stories. After taking six months to write book two, I didn’t write book three until almost a year had passed, still unsure of what the hell I was doing writing stories that weren’t being read. Yet the itch was still there. I had to keep writing. I wrote book three in a little over three months, during my first ever NaNoWriMo.

And since last November, I haven’t been able to quit.

I wrote a standalone sci-fi novel that I adapted from a screenplay I wrote in college this past spring. I’m currently halfway done with the first book of a nine-book planned series, with the potential for a spin-off collection of works that I honestly have no idea how many books it would take to complete. I plan to have this book done by the end of September. For NaNoWriMo, I want to write a new novel, probably standalone, that is centered completely and unashamedly around a woman and her period in a fantasy setting, where the entire culture and way of life of her people revolves around women bleeding out of their vaginas. (I seriously cannot wait to start writing this. I think it can be a really enlightening read and I would love for it to be published just to see how our culture, who is terrified and ashamed and shuns and covers up such a natural body function that so many members deal with on a monthly basis, responds to such a topic being so focused on). And then I have another book series that I know hardly anything about, but it’s rattling around in the back of my head, waiting for me to give it attention. So many ideas. So many books.

Do you see the switch? I went from spending years attempting to perfect one book to writing (potentially) four books in one year (if you count last November to this November as a one-year time frame).

Guys, that’s incredible.

I’m not trying to gloat. I’m seriously in awe that I’m actually producing this much writing. I’m blown away at my own discipline, at my own ability to shut out those voices of doubt (which are constant) and what can happen when I truly put writing first in my life. And recently, I’ve had a few authors and editors tell me the same thing, once they learn how much I’ve written, despite being unpublished: “That’s awesome. You gotta keep writing. That’s the most important thing. Just keep writing.”

In the midst of realizing that I can write this many novels and am creatively capable of pushing on despite rejection, I’ve come across some important truths that I hadn’t accepted for so long:

  1. The first book you write doesn’t have to be the first book you publish.
  2. Writing something new after not publishing that first completed work is not “giving up” or “abandoning” that work.
  3. Even if you choose to “abandon” a story–even an entire completed book that you’ve slaved over–that’s okay.
  4. The more you write, the more you improve.

I know those points probably seem obvious, but for the longest time, I either didn’t realize them or rejected them. I didn’t want to write something new after my first book because I wanted so badly for that first book to make it. Looking back, I’m so glad it didn’t. The book I queried was not ready. The agents that rejected it were so right to do so. Hell, it still isn’t ready. But the only way I was able to realize that was to keep writing. By writing more, my craft improved. By writing more, my confidence grew. By writing more, I became a better storyteller, a better writer, a more creative and imaginative (and more dark and cruel; sorry darlings) mind.

It is so freeing to write knowing that it doesn’t matter which book “makes it” in the publishing world. It is so freeing to still fight for that dream of being published yet slowly learn to become okay with the idea that you may never be published, yet you still write and dedicate your life to these stories anyway.

It is so freeing to just write.

The best part? I can apply everything that I learned to any and all of the stories I have already written.  So PATH didn’t have the chops five years ago, when I was just starting out. Cool, that great! I know so much more now, I am better connected to the writing community and the great minds and resources within that community, that I can improve that story a-hundredfold. Perhaps it doesn’t get published, even after all of this. Maybe my fifth book is the one that opens the door. Maybe my 12th. Or my 100th. Or maybe none of them do. And that’s okay.

I have a slew of reasons why I want to be published; why I want to be read. But in the end, I want something even more: to write. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep living inside my own head, continue learning and loving these characters that grace me with their stories and I’m going to keep recording them. And I’m going to keep fighting to improve my ability to tell those stories and I’m going to keep dreaming that I’ll get to share them with you, one day, and perhaps you’ll even like them. Because I’m a writer. And damn if that isn’t what we do.

Cheers.


Tropes and Clichés

I’ve been thinking a lot about tropes and clichés lately. Between editing a previous trilogy with a  foundation built on tropes–including everything from the Chosen One to vampires and werewolves to old men who know all yet tell nothing–and planning a new series that uses even more–and this time, purposefully–plus simply observing the dialogue surrounding the industry, with the constant desire to have something new, without clichés and tropes, grace the bookshelves; it is hard not to think about these things and form an opinion about them. Are using clichés and tropes good? bad? Do they help or hurt your writing? Does writing become less if they are incorporated?

I don’t have an answer to those questions. Opinions, sure, but no answers. Because every answer to them is subjective, like the opinions that help form those answers. Here are my subjective musings:

I’m very thankful for the tropes and clichés I’ve incorporated into my writing, because they have taught me a lot. I know the Chosen One plotline has been done a lot in fantasy. That didn’t stop me from writing a book about a boy who was chosen, through luck and unfortunate circumstance, to save the world. It also wasn’t the reason I wrote that book, either, to incorporate those clichés. Instead, I simply wrote a book about a kid named Darryn, who just so happened to fit the Chosen One mold. As I learned more about Darryn, that was what he fit into. That is how the story took shape and I went with it. Does that make him and his story cliché? Absolutely. Does that make him impossible to be unique?

I don’t think so.

Yes, his story incorporates a ton of tropes. Yet he is still different because it is a new story. It is a story written by my hand, with different characters and a different world. Will it feel familiar, one day, to readers, if it ever makes it that far and has a chance to be read widely? Yes, definitely. Yet will they find something they still enjoy, something to complain about, something they hate, something they love, regardless of how many tropes I used?

I hope so.

In my quest of querying and publication, Darryn hasn’t gotten the light of day due to the tropes that build the foundation of his world. And I understand that, 100%. It isn’t the most original storyline. Though I wish Darryn would get a chance, I haven’t given up hope on him yet. One day, I think his story will be read. And that will be exciting, tropes or no tropes. To be quite honest, however–and show my own naiveté–I didn’t realize how many tropes I incorporated until I started trying to get it published. And while I have my own spin on them, they are still tropes and they are still roadblocks, currently, in my publishing journey.

But in my writing journey, they have only opened doors.

You see, like many creative souls and many people in general, I doubted myself and I doubted my craft. I still do. Even as I began mapping out Darryn’s story, discovering what was going to happen next, I doubted whether I had the chops to make it happen. It took me a long time to start writing it, because I doubted myself as a writer. So perhaps, unconsciously, tropes surfaced in the story to give me confidence; writing something similar that I have read dozens of times and enjoyed might help convince myself this “writer thing” isn’t a fluke. I don’t know. I never really thought about it. And despite having the dream to get published one day, I didn’t write Darryn’s story to get published. I wrote it because I had a desire to tell it and that desire outweighed any other fears or doubts or tribulations. It was the story on my heart and so I wrote it. And then I edited it. Over and over again. I tried to craft it in a way that readers would enjoy reading it and maybe, yes, one day, it would get published.

And then it got rejected. Over and over again.

Too long, they said. Too generic, too cliché. Not original, not unique. Try again next time. 

Though the rejections hurt at first–and the doubt that I could never write anything original and would always be a cliché-writer took hold–eventually, I shook off the negativity and continued Darryn’s story. It might not be “good enough” to be published, but he certainly wasn’t done with me. So I wrote the second book. Then, the third. Two prequel-type books linger in the back in my mind. Seeds have been planted to allow for a sequel-series, if I wanted to explore that avenue. Then, editing all the while, I moved onto a separate book, in a new genre, new age range and an entirely different plot. And I finished it. And now, as I slowly plan out the bare minimum for a nine/ten book series, eager to start writing it despite having no idea where it is going, I’ve shared the central idea with a few people; friends and family and a few writing colleagues. The initial response:

Wow, that sounds awesome! Or: It’s going to be a lot of work, but I can’t wait to read it once you’re done. And, my favorite: That’s so unique. I love that idea.

Unique, they said. Calling one of my stories unique, when my first work has so many tropes, it was as if I was trying to pack them all in, instead of being completely unaware until after the fact. Of course, I recognize all this is biased praise, looking at the source. Yet it got me thinking and here’s what I conclude:

Clichés and tropes aren’t for everybody. They have been around for ages and at some point, they worked, enough to become the elements in stories that, now, agents groan over and audiences beg for something different. Some people label them as overdone. Some people hate them. Some people use them as the mark of a “poor” writer. These people may be right. I do agree that branching out and trying to create new, engaging storylines is never a bad thing. I hope to write stories that reach that calibre, one day. At the same time, a little familiarity never hurt me, and also, excites me, in a way. When I read a new book with tropes and clichés as center-pieces for the plot, it makes me wonder: if I’ve read this plotline a dozen times and here it threads again, what did the author do to make it different? It’s almost like a game, setting up my expectations through familiarity and then suddenly changing them when the twist hits. I think that is another way to make something unique.

Personally, I will always be indebted to clichés and tropes. They helped build the first novel I ever attempted and didn’t give up on, but instead, finished. They helped me thicken my skin through the rejection process. By unknowingly using them and suddenly having them pointed out to me, I became more aware as a reader and a writer, and started challenging myself to think outside the box. And now, as I begin work on my next series, they have been the direct inspiration–and will play a major role–within that series; a series that has already been coined unique (even biasedly-coined) and I haven’t even written a page yet.

Should you use clichés and tropes in your writing? That’s up to you and the stories you want to tell. If you want to be published, the more creative you can get and the more outside-the-box you can think, they better your chances are. You might want to stay away. But if you have a story in your heart where tropes abound, write that story. Sure, it may not get published. But it matters. It is your story and it will help you, in some form. Tell the stories in your heart. Listen to advice and criticism, but never abandon yourself and your work. Stay true to that, keep fighting, keep writing, keep learning, and you’ll make it, in whatever form “making it” takes.

Cheers.


Inspiration from a Bastard Named Kip

Well, how’s that for a catchy title, eh? Eh?

So I believe in my review of The Broken Eye I posted a few weeks ago, I made a reference about writing a post about how a certain character inspired me and how I hoped to “use” him as motivation. That character is Kip Guile. You might have heard of him, if you’ve read the books. If you haven’t read them, I will try not to spoil too much for you (as you will read them, if you’re smart and enjoy fantastic literature), but Kip is a bastard–a royal one, but a bastard nonetheless–who is fat. Kip knows this. Kip accepts this, usually making the jokes before anyone else can make them. And sometimes, he seems okay with this. It is what he is. Yet more often, he is ashamed by this. Always, he is aware and thinking of it.

And boy, have I never resonated with a character so well as him.

When I first discovered Kip, his awkwardness and his rolls while reading The Black Prism, as a writer and a reader, I was excited that he was fat. Kip was the hero of the story! Finally, a fat protagonist. Though, after reading the first three books out of a five book series, I don’t think there is a cut-and-dry protagonist or hero or villain. There are many players at work, yet Kip is no mere secondary character. He’s a mover and a shaker and he’s fat. And I was excited about that, mostly because I understand him. Finally, a character who I can resonate with because of our mutual struggles regarding our appearance. After my initial excitement, however, I became sad. Because I understood.

I understand knowing what it is like to constantly be thinking about your size, constantly being aware of your own body, but only because you’re constantly worrying about others perceive you. That is my life, 100%. Now that it is summer, it has only gotten worse. And least in the winter, I can hide under large sweatshirts. Here, let’s go inside my head:

Swimming or no swimming this year? Swimming requires a bathing suit and bathing suits require exposing skin, so…yeah, probably not. Oh, I love this tank-top, but my bat wings make me self-conscious. Time to throw on that cardigan, because I’m to sweaty to wear a t-shirt alone. Dammit muffin top, you’re ruining everything, including any chance at confidence or someone of the male variety to be interested in me. Stop that. Your biggest size is large? Guess I won’t be buying anything from you. Oh, I’m going to buy this online…and now it doesn’t fit. Of course. 

Then, when I’m around people, like Kip, I feel the need to point out the obvious before someone else does it. Like Kip, I don’t do it tactfully, though I’m not as brave as he is. I usually say “curves,” as if the word makes the rolls and jiggling more attractive. Right.

Though Kip lives in a different time and age, I saw the parallels in our thought processes and our ultra-awareness of our size went hand-in-hand. While I avoid taking pictures at all costs–and if I have to, definitely neck-up only–Kip doesn’t have to deal with that. But I know he would react the same way. Just like I know, if I was forced to join The Blackguard–an ultra elite bodyguard group where fitness and being skilled in being fit is everything and essential to making the cut–I would be terrified, too. Kip and I, we are kindred souls.

kip_guile_by_avisnocturna-d82ir77

Artwork Credit here

I’ve included some fanart of Kip, just so you all can get a reference. You notice I didn’t include any of myself. Purposeful, that. However, I’ll describe myself for you, in case we’re only internet friends. I’m roughly, what, 200 pounds, perhaps (gosh, that hurts me to write and publish)? I have non-existent triceps that cause my arms to flab and look horrible in pictures. I have what I label as a doughnut as a waist, comprised of lower back fat, saddlebags on the side, a nice pouch in front. My thighs touch and I wear size-16 jeans. I’m this awkward combo of fit and overweight. For example: I have nice biceps and shoulders and calves, because I used to play soccer and I used to work-out more regularly. Yet having those features, paired with the features that give away my love for Southern food and extra helpings, makes me a weird looking individual. I’m not ugly, but I’m nowhere near gorgeous, either. Of course, I know plenty of people, lovely-hearted souls that you are, who would disagree with this description of me. But this is how I see myself, complete with a lens tainted by society. Like Kip, only I can change my perception of myself, regardless of whether I’m right or I’m wrong.

Come to think of it, I think Kip is actually bigger than me, but his pain and struggles are very similar. And that’s why Kip is such an inspiration.

You see, without giving away too many spoilers, Kip is forced to join The Blackguard. He is forced to run, to train, to fight. And he does. And he fails. Yet he also succeeds, but not immediately. Throughout the three books, we follow Kip on his journey and his journey isn’t to get skinny, though I’m sure he thinks it would solve a lot of problems. His journey is to discover who he is, discover his role in a very complicated world and to make it into the Blackguard, which requires hard work on his part–often times, putting in extra work, hours and effort compared to his comrades. Does he make it in? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out.

Reading about his journey inspired me in more ways than one and gave me some important reminders. Despite Kip’s size, he made friends. He had people who loved him. We even have similar situations regarding the romance department (similar until the end of The Broken Eye, in which case, Kip, good luck with the headache you got yourself into, bud. You know who I’m rooting for). He could be successful and use his size to his advantage or be successful despite of his size. And though he does tone up a bit, I think Kip learns to slowly accept himself as he is.

I would love to do that. To sound cocky, I kinda love the person I am. I like my awkwardness, my nerdiness, my quirkiness, my personality, my beliefs and values. I hate my body. I hate how self-conscious I am about it and how much I hate it. I want to love my body. I want to accept myself regardless of my size, my curves, my fat. Yet I haven’t gotten there yet. But it is something I want to work towards. And though I know I have supporters and friends and family who will love me no matter what size I am, reading about Kip and seeing those same type of bonds was a good reminder.

Kip also taught me that you can overcome your obstacles, even if it feels impossible. He reminded me it takes hard work. It takes determination. It takes sacrifice. It takes the desire to want it and then acting upon that desire. You can’t just want it and do nothing. You can’t just complain and expect change. Also, it is okay to fail. It is okay to have a bump in the road. But more importantly, he showed me two things: focus on your goal and remember the realistic time it takes to reach that goal. You see, Kip’s ultimate goal wasn’t to get fit. It wasn’t to get skinny or become hot. He wanted to join The Blackguard. He wanted to do something for himself and make Gavin and Ironfist proud. Becoming more fit was a requirement to reach that goal. And that didn’t happen in one chapter. It took three entire books and it isn’t over yet. He’s still going.

1034 … lighbringer 14-18 kip guile 04 _ Full post: http://mais365coisas.blogspot.com/2014/12/1034-lighbringer-14-18-kip-guile-04.html

Artwork Credit here

We’re surrounded by the desire for instant results. We expect to be able to workout and suddenly be ten pounds lighter the next day. And we always give ourselves a deadline, when trying to get fit: I have to get fit before summer, I have to drop ten pounds before the wedding, I have to get into size ten jeans before school starts. Or, almost worse, we compare ourselves to others: I have to workout so I can be as pretty as X, Y and Z, because I can’t be considered pretty unless I am like them. Yet those aren’t healthy motivations, expectations or goals. And Kip reminded me of that.

So, what I am going to do with this inspiration, you ask. Well, I’m going to start working on changing my lifestyle and my mindset. Getting healthier, walking more, working towards a better lifestyle, without a deadline. I don’t want the pressure a deadline brings or the mentality of, “Once I lose ten pounds, I’m done.” I want to be healthier for the rest of my life and I want to do it so I can love myself wholly, not love myself except for my appearance or weight or body size.

I made a tank top that says, “Training to Join the Blackguard” on it. My plan is, while I’m living at home, to walk the family dog every day (because the pup could afford to lose some pounds, too) for at least 30 minutes. Today marks four days in a row for us, average 1.75 miles a day. And, I joined a “Walking to Rivendell” challenge that started today and goes until Mid-August, to help me stay accountable with others and walking every day.

Once I move into my own place, I’ll start running at the gym, also 30 minutes a day. By that time, the walking will have strengthen me up to running. I’d love to lose 40 pounds, whether that takes a year, two years, five years, ten. And at each 10 pound weight-loss mark, I’ll make a new tank top (one will say “Training to Save Thedas” and another “Training to Save Skyrim” because the female characters I created in those games are basically aspirations of what I wished I looked like). The fourth tank top will say, “Training to Join the Mighty.” It’s another reference to Kip, but one I won’t explain so I don’t ruin it. However, I will say this: the significance of it means that I made it. I did it. And I absolutely cannot wait for the day, years from now, when I post on this blog a picture of me wearing my “Mighty” tank top, telling you all I followed in Kip’s footsteps and I persevered, despite it all.

Until then, I plan to work. I plan to fail. I plan to try and love myself, even if I never lose forty pounds–even if I gain ten more. I plan to try and build my confidence and start working out not to lose weight–though that is a goal–but to live a healthier lifestyle. Focus on that, not the numbers, not the scale. Focus on improving. Because, like Kip has taught me, while others may define you by your body size, you are so much more than that. You don’t have to be limited by your body size and you don’t have to hate yourself, regardless of how big or small you are. You can love yourself, even if it is a struggle.

Here’s to loving ourselves, fat rolls and all.

Cheers.

 


The Demons of Doubt

You know you’re a writer when Doubt plagues you so often, you’re reaching a point that you just want to punch Doubt in the jugular and also find some way to use it in a future story. At least, that’s how I’m feeling at the moment, which, in an odd way, proves that despite how often Doubt invades, I can take comfort in the fact that I’ll never stop writing (because only a very stubborn and true writer would decide to turn the very thing that stops her from writing as a form of inspiration in future works).

But even knowing that doesn’t ease the times when Doubt is really raging hard, especially when it comes at you in multiple angles of your life and you succumb, feeling powerless against it all.

I wrote a blog post recently about my life as a Catch-22, which has only gotten more complicated since. Basically, I’ve learned that my part-time job, due to the budget cuts, not only limits my hours, but also changes the hours over the summer, moving them during the day instead of the evenings, while also not scheduling me during breaks when the university is closed, to ensure I don’t go over my 1,000 hour limit cap. So while getting three weeks off in the summer and getting Fall, Spring and part of Winter Break off sounds really lovely, my current financial situation is paycheck-to-paycheck living. I can’t afford those breaks.

Of course, I still plan on getting a second job, but when the hours of my current job fluctuate between evenings during the school year and during the day over half the summer, that really complicates the types of jobs I can apply for. For example, I thought about applying to be a bank teller from 8-5 before my night-shift job, but I couldn’t switch to an evening shift at the bank that closed at five during that odd month in the summer where I work during the day at my part-time job. Yet I’d need to be able to work the most hours at both jobs to make ends meet. So that makes me lean towards retail, but I’m not confident that I could make enough working a retail job to meet the minimum bills I’d obtain after moving out on my own.

Me being me–a stressed-riddled-over-thinker–I didn’t stop there. I stressed about how if I got a 8-5 job on top of my part-time job, I’m looking at a 5:30am wake up call when I’m not a morning person. A day where I started working at 8 and didn’t get off of work until 10, at a different job. Not to mention trying to figure out how to make three portable meals a day to eat, especially once I move out on my own and don’t have my Mom’s leftovers to rely on. Or what about scheduling in workout time, especially because my self-esteem has plummeted in recent months due to my curves and growing tummy?

Realizing all of this got me not only flustering, but doubting myself on an immense scale.

Then, my car broke down while I was on my way to a rare overtime shift.

She’s fixed now, but if I wasn’t down in the dumps then…Let me tell you, sitting in your car that won’t start on the side of the road, bawling your eyes out because that’s your natural reaction to everything, for an hour and a half during five o’clock traffic isn’t exactly the way you want spend your Friday afternoon. Especially because you’re not bawling because you’re stuck on the side of the road. You’re bawling because you desperately wanted that money from that overtime shift. You’re bawling because your slowly building up your savings account from the last time your car needed unexpected–and very costly–repairs, only to have her betray you again, simply because she’s 15 years old and that’s the best you could afford two years ago when you got her; and you’re not in a better spot now to upgrade, either, without tightening your wallet even more suffocatingly. You’re bawling because you have to commute to work and you seriously can’t handle the stress of trying to find, let alone afford, another car at the moment. You’re bawling because things are hard right now and you’re doubting everything.

Normally, when I’m down, I try to escape by leaving reality for a bit, whether it is through gaming or reading or writing. I “leave” and deal with other people’s problems, which are always so much greater than mine, yet easier to solve. While gaming, I just kill things and relieve stress; while reading, they have to figure it out, not me; and while writing, my characters have to figure it out (though sometimes, that actually does fall on me). Regardless, it is refreshing and relaxing and oddly empowering. So, naturally, when this was all going down, I turned to writing as an escape and tried to work on my current project, only to be even further discouraged. Doubt had found me there, too, even though I started a new project with fresh ideas, different characters and new twists from my previous trilogy.

Your story doesn’t have enough meat to it. It’s going to be too short. Nothing even happens in it. There isn’t enough action. You’re not smart enough to write science fiction. Sure, it’s expanding to now include an unplanned-sequel, but that doesn’t matter, because no one is going to read the first one. Look how well your first series worked out.  

I mean, damn, Doubt can be a bitch.

I’ve always had these thoughts concerning my writing, though I usually fight through it and keep writing, regardless of what the voices say. I’ve doubted my precious trilogy numerous times, yet that didn’t make completing it taste any less sweet. Perhaps the exact opposite, actually. I hoped, trying a new vein and starting a new story, set in a dying world with some political commentary and technology I’m not familiar with–but excited to learn about–that Doubt wouldn’t be so quick to invade. Especially as I’ve been dealing with so much doubt regarding my career, my finances and my independence in my real life (not to mention the constant doubt surrounding my body image and unyielding single status). Writing is where I am meant to escape doubt, not be plagued by it so deeply that it took days for me to get a single scene written, my mood never elevating like it usually does after a writing session.

Here’s the thing. Here’s the hard truth: this is life. I’m a 23 year old young “professional” who just graduated college and is still trying to figure out how to adult. Finances are going to be hard to figure out. Adjusting to the adult life is going to be hard; stressful; tear-inducing. Doubt is a demon that has always plagued me. Yet, in that same vein, doubt is the demon I’ve always slain. It’s a part of life. It’s part of growing, a part of learning and a part of prevailing. Even with writing–my sacred, sacred craft and passion–doubt is not banned there. But neither is it eternal.

Amidst this past weekend where I’ve felt like everything is falling apart and I can’t keep myself together long enough to survive it, I worked 10 hours of overtime. My car got fixed. My parents were supportive, both financially and emotionally. The weather was beautiful. I came out with a new workout motivator that I will hopefully start using (soon). I got past that scene I dragged through and am in the middle of writing a new scene that makes it easy to push out the Doubt that nags at me; a scene that, instead, makes me want to point a certain bird at Doubt and claim, “This shit is gold.” I’m in the middle of a book–it nears closer and closer to the end and I am not ready–that constantly makes my own problems seem pale and increases the risk of me being late to work each day as I try to slip in another chapter. Life is good.

Life is also stressful. Life is hard. The demons of doubt surround, engulf, suffocate. Yet they need to be there. They need to be experienced. Because then that same doubt can be learned from and, eventually, overcome, in one form or another. Don’t give into doubt but don’t ignore it, either. Instead, stay positive, focus on what makes you happy in life and strive to find more things to increase that happiness. Fight your battles and know when you need a break. But never give up. I got this. You got this. Lets slay some demons.

Cheers.

 


Restoring Faith in Yourself

As many know, I’m trying to make working out a part of my lifestyle. I started mid-January and did pretty well. Then, Spring Break hit. I used that week and literally took the week off. I didn’t work out (except for one day), I didn’t do homework, nothing (besides March Madness and my bracket busting in the first round, my productivity level was zero). And that was okay with me. But then I came back to school and found that I was unmotivated to continue to work out. My work outs, meant for the mornings, got later in the day, until eventually, they stopped happening at all.

For roughly these past two weeks, they stopped happening.

I was down on myself. I looked in the mirror and tried desperately to avoid it. I got on the scale back home and to my great disappointment, those six pounds I lost crept back. I was right back where I started, yet I had worked out for nine weeks straight. Discouraging is an understatement. Every day, I would tell myself I should work out. I should log my food. I should eat better.

But the results weren’t there. I couldn’t see them. I could only see the things that I really needed to work on. And the whispers returned. The You can’t do this; the you’re not good enough; the this is impossible. And I kept getting reminded that I’m going to be at the beach soon and I can already feel the shame and guilt surrounding my body surfacing. Two-piece or one-piece? Will I have made enough progress by then? Plus, a lot of people around me are trying to lose weight, too. And they constantly bring it up, talking about how they are eating bad, they need to eat better. They need to lose weight. They are too fat. They should be at the gym.

All these people, talking about all the things they need to change about their bodies, when in fact, they are all healthier and skinnier than I am.

How am I supposed to read that?

I began to feel suffocated under this constant strain of getting healthy. Everywhere I turned, eating better and working out was either being talked about or thought about. And everywhere I turned, I continued to see my own failure. In a discussion with a great friend, I was told in a honest moment that yeah, losing 20 pounds would be good for you; 40 would be ideal, given your height and age, but 20 is a good start; a needed start.

20 pounds? 20? How could I manage 20 when I can’t even manage 6?

Things were growing darker. I began to panic, feeling overwhelmed. I always viewed losing weight as a way to become beautiful, instead of focusing on getting healthier. But my health, if I continue the way I am now, is actually at risk. My eyes were opened to that and it freaked me out. It meant my failure was even worse than it was before.

Graduation and the summer — the season of bikinis and way too much exposed flesh — continue to creep closer and closer with every day. And I’ll want to take pictures, then. I’ll want to look nice at my grad party, take pictures with friends before I lose them. I’ll want to take pictures on our last guaranteed family vacation. And I didn’t want to hate the way I look in those pictures. I had to lose the weight. I had to. But I couldn’t find the motivation, not after seeing that scale, not after facing my failure and accepting it.

Then, today, I got back from a meeting around 8:30 or so. Before I could think, I quickly changed my clothes into workout attire, grabbed the “Core Speed” video from T-25, and threw it on my laptop. I’m stubborn. I knew once I started the video, I was going to finish it. So I made sure I didn’t have any other option, I made sure I didn’t have any time to talk myself out of it. And I worked out. You would think two weeks of not working out wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but I couldn’t complete half the workout, I was breathing so hard. I went through two bottles of water. By the end, I sweat so much my hair was literally matted against my head, drenched as if I had just showered.

But I had finished it.

And I felt strong. I felt my muscles working. I felt good. 

You see, I got so fixated on the number on the scale, so fixated on the number that I want to reach, and the great distance between them, that I didn’t stop to think about where I was at now, what I have already accomplished. Could those six pounds have been six pounds of muscle added? Maybe. Were those six pounds a sign that while you can work out with the best of them, if you don’t fuel your body right, you aren’t going to reach your goals? Definitely. But, I was working towards it. I had worked out for over 60 days in a row. I went from never working out to keeping up with Shawn T (as much as anyone can actually “keep up” with that mad man). I was completing what I set out to do. But instead of the next step (working on my food intake as well as working out), I was only focusing on a goal, and how it wasn’t happening quick enough.

Sure, do I wish I could wear a dress at graduation and not feel self-conscious about it? Yep. Do I wish I could wear a two-piece bathing suit and not feel like a beached whale? You betcha. I focused on those events alone and raced against an impossible clock. I’m not going to transform myself the way I want to by the time I graduate; by the time I go on vacation; hell, even by the time Christmas comes around. I won’t have reached my goal.

But I will have made progress. But only if I keep working.

So lost was I in the desire for results to be immediate that I lost sight of my real goal: I want to be beautiful. I want to be lean. I want to be healthy. I want to be strong. Like I tell myself all the time, I’ve created this body for 22 years. It is going to take a couple years — and plenty of failures and missteps along the way — to reach my vision that I have for myself. And I do have a vision, a great one; an obtainable one. But not a immediate one.

For the past two weeks, I forgot that.

Tonight, after I worked out and showered, I wrote something on my wrist: Vision over Mind. I want it to serve as a reminder; a reminder that I’m not racing against any sort of clock, but instead working to make a lifestyle change. A reminder that I’m doing this to be healthy and happy. A reminder I am doing this to prove to myself that I can. A reminder that there are going to be days where I don’t work out and days that I eat way too many calories, and I enjoy every bite (and rightfully so). A reminder that while the scale is one sign of health, it isn’t the only sign, and at the end of the day, my weight is just a number. A reminder that I have a vision for myself, a vision of myself, and who I can rise up to be; and I have the strength, the endurance, the perseverance, the stubbornness, the will, to make that vision come to life.

All I have to do is shut off my mind, shut off my self-doubt, my despairs, my disbelief, my impatience, my fear. And once I do that, anything is possible.

So, I say onward! And congrats on reaching my first failure. Here’s to many more, alongside all of the exciting successes, awaiting me on this journey.

Cheers,

Nicole