Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Considering Behind Closed Doors

I’ve spend a lot of time thinking. I ask a lot of questions, and when I get the answers, I store them in little compartments in my head, all under the title of “someone’s truth”. What people say in any given moment is their reality, at least for that given moment. And to me, these truths (whether they hold any truth to me is irrelevant) are something to be considered.

I think today philosophers would be known as motivational speakers or in some cases as lazy… due to all the time externally doing nothing while mentally running a triathlon. I am a philosopher. It’s one of the things that makes me a great content editor. I spend a lot of time considering. In the time I’ve spend considering, I’ve honed my natural ability to be empathetic.

Empathy is the ability to feel, to experience what someone else is enduring. At times, this can be a heavy cross to bear. Empathy is what makes many people capable of creativity. Think of actors or writers who are able to transplant themselves into some other character for a time. In order to physically portray or to accurately describe this other character, on some level, they must be able to empathize with the character.

 I don’t typically share what goes on in my head or in my personal life, unless it is a matter that really frustrates me or angers me. Because in those moments of heightened emotion, I type out of the words and hit the “post” button before I even calm down long enough to realize what I’ve just said. And afterwards, the words are already out there, and I can’t take them back. And, I think it’s time for a change.

Well-makers lead the water (wherever they like) ; fletchers bend the arrow ; carpenters bend a log of wood ; wise people fashion themselves. - Buddha
My mother was, well she still is, one of the most convincing people I know. She attacks her “truths”, no matter how momentary they are, with an admirable amount of conviction. (She should be a motivational speaker… but that is another story for another day.) She got there by listening to cassette tapes of motivational speakers, mostly in the car and lot of the time with me in it. So, despite my pleas to listen to the radio, I listened to people like Og Mandino or Zig Ziglar. And while she was learning how to be a better salesman and motivate her staff, I was learning how to think for myself and to think with compassion and empathy.

 The reason why this is important is because I see so many people struggling with things behind closed doors. I think it’s time to open those doors and look at what is behind them. Namely, I’m going to try to focus on what goes on behind the doors of artists.

 So, for the first time, I will be doing a series of blogs considering all the many possibilities to get us through those tough times, those times of doubt, and methods we are not supposed to share for fear they might ruin our “platform”.

 If you have any questions you want answered you may comment on the blog. If you want to protect your anonymity, feel free to ask me a question on Twitter @AEWrites via DM. (If I’m not following you, just ask, and I will.) If this question requires a personal response, please make sure you say so; otherwise, it could end up as blog fodder.
 I will consider all the options, and hopefully, one of my answers will help you find a way out.

I like this picture, I like how bright it is on the other side.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Should I Bother Coming Out of the Closet?

I don't know when it happened.

As a writer, this is quite embarrassing. I think I'm a hippie. I mean, at least the stereotyped version of it...minus the illegal drugs.

I don't know what it happened, but this is as close to coming out of the closet that I'm probably ever going to get. I'm coming out to say, I think I'm a hippie. I don't know. Keep reading.

But, this has led me also feel like a conspiracy theorist. I'm starting to believe everyone out there has been misled, misdiagnosed, and misunderstood. And because I am currently on the upside of what has seemed like an endless downhill road, I just want to share it with everyone. But, come on, that's just plain scary. I grew up with an evangelical mother in an evangelic church, I'm definitely worn out on the preaching and "do this and you'll get this" operation. So I'm just going to share.

Which leaves me with this blog. This is the quietest way I know how to "come out".

So, while I don't typically list this as public knowledge, I will share it just this once (and perhaps even take this blog down after it's had its chance to run).

I have a number of health issues.

So here's what I face/faced on a daily basis:
Sciatica - This is basically just a set of symptoms. It encompasses lower back pain that at time can run down into the upper thigh. It's got a lot to do with nerves and pinching. It hurts. Some days it really hurts.
PTSD - Post traumatic stress disorder, became more well known after the Vietnam War. I don't like talking about this because I'm still at a point where it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. But, I will say that it's kind of like having to be forced to relive the most terrifying parts of your life over... and over...and over... and over...
Ovarian Cysts - These are pain. When mine rupture, they bleed all over my stomach.
Undiagnosed - When there's a change in the barometric pressure the insides of my knee caps feel like they are going to explode (I have no idea what this is called, some say it's rheumatoid arthritis).

So, let me paint a picture for you. On good days, my ovaries throbbed with an occasional sharp tinge of pain, and my lower back could be appeased with 800 milligrams of ibuprofen. On bad days.... I'd end up in the ER getting shots of morphine. Granted, the worst days only come 2-4 times a year. But, most of the time, my back is in such bad condition, I can't be in an upright position. You'd find me instead, on the floor with my feet elevated, a heating pad on my gut, and movies playing or reading a book. I was lucky if I could concentrate long enough to read.

And the doctors... OOOOoooohhh, the DOCTORS! They'd look at me like some "little woman" and tell me that I needed to get over these "cramps". Thank God for nurses (female, which the industry is still dominated by). The therapists I'd been to were even worse. Most of them, well all of them except the last one, missed the PTSD. Instead, all my symptoms were divvied out into separate diagnoses... IE borderline personality disorder, depression, and the general anxiety disorder. (Treatments for these didn't work... I wonder why... hmm...) Grr.

In any case, my days were spent generally very angry. I couldn't escape the pain. So, I'd angrily try to get the work that needs doing done. But, still I got behind regularly leaving tons of mess for me to clean up on the occasional "good days". This is a daunting task. This was an unbearable task.

As a result, a few years ago, after a night of crying pathetically in pain, flashbacks streaming incessantly through my head, I stomped into a bookstore and looked at meditation CD's. There is a type of unceasing pain that will drive you to insanity, and I was there. I had reached my breaking point. I didn't care what anyone else thought of me. I'd try anything. Even if I had a preconceived notion that meditation was for crazy people.

I threw myself headfirst into the world of meditation. If nothing else, it was a way to make sure I didn't lose my sanity during a fit of pain. And, so a few years past with that. Then, this last November, I had another cyst rupture. I ended up in the ER, crying and screaming. For almost three months afterwards, I didn't do anything. Then, finally I got tired of laying around and worked a million times harder to control my body despite the pain through meditation. Then, I resumed my typical regime of doing whatever I could until the pain got to be too much. Needless to say, I have a high threshold for pain and it has been ever growing.

But, I still couldn't help but thinking that there had to be something better than just coping! So, in another desperate torrent, much like the one that found me stomping off to buy mediation CD's, I start researching...gasp... alternative healing methods. And suddenly, I find myself where I am now.

I drink various concoctions of apple cider vinegar twice daily, and it is gross. I drink apple cider vinegar. Did you hear me? To me, this is right on par with eating chocolate cake in order to lose weight. It just sounds ridiculous. I can't help it. I think it's nuts. But, it works.

At about the same time, I started trying my hand at yoga. No, not the super impressive circus contortionist kind, nor the kind that is intended to make me look like a goddess in a bikini. I'm talking about the kind that is meditative and focused on helping my back. It's more or less meditation combined with good stretching.

So here I am, meditating, drinking apple cider vinegar, and doing yoga. Oh, and after all my PTSD experience, I try to approach people with patience and kindness. So, yes, I'm all about the love, too.

But, you know what makes this funny... at least to me? I still think it's nuts.

I'm still not sure I want everyone knowing how jaded I am towards average doctors or how jaded I am towards the organized religion that never led me toward a path of alternative solutions.

And I guess that's what happens. As people, we endure something long enough and with enough pain that we become jaded. My problem lies before all this happened, I produced a judgement against the hippie (peace, love, and happiness) cliche. Maybe it was because I never thought it was possible. Maybe it was because I was in a state where those ideals could never exist. But now, I've made them exist.

I'm not perfect. I still get entirely out of whack some days. Some days my PTSD gets the better of me. Sometimes, there's not a yoga class suited for my needs when I need it. Some days, I cannot tolerate the idea of drinking that awful apple cider vinegar.

I wonder, what have I become? Am I now that crazy hippie stereotype I always laughed at and disregarded?

And that is when I return to my keyboard, to my characters, and to my writing. Maybe the answers are there. My books are my escape, and yet are the way I stay grounded. I send this query out to the universe, out to the world... I would love your input, your stories. Should I accept that I am doomed to become a label? Is that something I should learn to accept? And why, why am I so afraid to acknowledge that I'm different? Should I even bother coming out of my closet?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Being A Writer Does Not Make You Right

I haven’t written a blog in a while. This is due to the fact that my usual ranty self hasn’t had much to say. I have given it some thought, and I asked myself what’s been going on in the writing part of my world. This has mainly led me to think about writer decorum.

 As self publishing grows as an industry, I am finding the writer world a less and less savory place. I didn’t expect the voraciousness and self righteousness that comes from slighted authors. At least not on this level.
Let's imagine, let's create - not hate (corny, yeah? I don't care.)

There are a number of authors, mostly self published, that are attacking people who have opinions, albeit negative ones, of the author’s work. That’s right, attacking. I would define “attacking” seeing as people are going to deny that this is even happening, but it has and does. I have no need to point them out further, if you want to find them, look on Amazon for yourself.

This is simply unbecoming behavior.  

On my blog, I ask everyone simply be respectful and to not post unfounded hatred. Have a differing of opinion? Fine. Want to use sarcasm? Great. Snarky personalities are always welcome. But, for the entitled, I-think-I’m-God’s-gift-to-the-literary-world I have 3 words for you. Get over yourself.

 I have had a number of negative responses to my blog, but the fact of the matter is, they are someone else’s opinion, and I choose to respect them. What good would it do if we all wrote and published material that only got decent or good reviews? How would we grow as writers if we didn’t have someone out there telling us ways to improve? If your sales are really that great, then you shouldn’t worry about the handful of naysayers. If your sales aren’t doing that well, then take a look at your work.

I'd post pics of hating authors, but don't want to call anyone out.

In no other field will you find a craftsman berating potential clients telling them that they are idiots or not entitled to their opinions. Along with my many other talents, I refinish furniture. If something doesn’t sell, I don’t immediately jump down the throats of buyers saying that they don’t know what they are talking about. Instead, I go back to drawing board. I work harder. I hone my craft. I get better. I study. And then, I make something new. If you respond to downright negative reviews, you are doing nothing but starting a back and forth that is not going to resolve itself. It’s just like name-calling.

I expect this kind of behavior from the spoiled brats of my generation (I apologize on behalf of them). We tend to have this entitlement issue. We think we deserve something just because we exist. We are not willing to work for what is ours. It’s like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum because they didn’t get their sweeties and candies. Really? Not everyone likes your work? Get over it. Someone gave you 2 stars? Get over it. A bunch of people gave you two stars? Hire an editor.

What? You think you are the first writer to have toiled tirelessly over some “great work of fiction” to have your dreams bashed by some reviewer? HA! Don’t make me laugh…

And there is one more thing… these group attacks? Oh, they make me livid. Reading is supposed to open our minds to new things, to expose us to a world outside of ourselves, to help us escape…and yet there are people (generally friends of the writer) out there mass attacking reviewers for having opinions! And I’ve read the reviews under attack, most of them are completely valid. I feel like I’m taking a step backwards into high school and the sheep mentality. Didn’t your parents ever say, “If they told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?” Since when did writers become so cliquey?

This goes beyond writing and professionalism. This certainly crosses the line into being a decent human being and an individual. Please, have some integrity. Integrity is one of the few things that can’t be bought or sold in this world. You cannot ride the coattails of someone else’s integrity. This is not the Salem Witch Trials. Let’s not burn anyone at the stake because one person points an accusing finger. We don’t need that kind of blemish on our profession.

You actions have reactions, make sure they count in the right way.