The Lazy Writer: Reading is My Crutch

Since I made my declaration of “I’m going to Write a Novel!” on FB, people ask me all of the time, “How is your novel progressing?”. To which I reply, “No comment…hahaha” or “Writers block is a bitch you know?” as I shuffle my feet and avoid eye contact.

I have a pretty extensive outline (which I am quite happy with) and tons of notes and ideas, but when it comes to the writing, well I don’t have  much. The few pages I do have I am not happy with and honestly it has thrown some water on my fiery passion of writing. I think damp is a good way to describe how I feel about my novel. I got caught up in the storm of a great idea and I was running full tilt and splashing in the puddles, but now the thrill has worn off and I am just wet and cold. To distract myself I read a lot.

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I have always been a voracious reader and a half ass/part-time “writer”. I read everything I can get my hands on. Lately, I have been on a huge Tudor/English court kick. Phillipa Gregory and Sandra Gulland are two authors who I highly recommend if you like the genre. I took a break from Henry the eighth and all of his dramatic descendants to read the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. You have to love the sexy, sassy Sookie and all of her supernatural eye candy. But I have to wonder, is all of this fun reading just a delightful distraction?

Front Cover  Front Cover Front Cover

Are voracious readers all just lazy writers? Are we the crash and burn wannabe authors who just couldn’t hack it in the literary race? My story is the one novel I can’t buy off of the bookshelf until I write it.

Time to put on my rain boots and word sludge.

What to Expect to Read When You are Expecting

Well surprise everyone I am 17 weeks pregnant. I have been in a bit of a writing lull and my reading time now includes baby books. Well… not books but book.

I am reading “What to Expect When You are Expecting” by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel.

WTEWYAE

What to Expect has been a great source of information on how your body will change. They are very PC in their descriptions about breast changes and how some women start to show earlier than others. BUT, they don’t mention the fact that you go through a stage where you look like a beer pong champ. I am talking bloat and thick through the middle. You will get all of the side effects of a long weekend of drinking: the gas, ohhhh the gas, heart burn, and the bathroom will be your new hang out spot. Pregnancy is one of those things that is beautiful from a distance. Talk to a woman’s partner or someone arguably closer (cubicle mate) and they will tell you the dirty truth about being near a pregnant woman. Thanks for loving me anyway guys!

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It feels as good as it looks ladies.

What to Expect has been a huge reassurance that these weird-ass side effects nobody talks about are not me losing my mind. I have had bloody noses, SI joint pain, dry skin, acne, and then beautiful skin, and then acne again. I don’t know why we aren’t just given a list of possible side effects when we find out we are pregnant. Hey Doc, can I get a list of the things I should call your office about and a list of things that are completely  normal? I think this would save everyone a lot of time… and your receptionist won’t want to murder me for interrupting her lunch yet again. Luckily What to Expect covers a lot of these side effects.

I’m still waiting for “The Dirty Truth: What to Expect When You are Expecting”. The nitty-gritty down and dirty truth about pregnancy. Until then ladies pick up a copy of “What to Expect When you are Expecting” it’s the only preggo book I can find that doesn’t put me to sleep after two pages. I got headaches from the last book I tried to read from all of the eye-rolling.

The Stupid Girl

Disclaimer to all readers: Please don’t read this article as me casting my emotional rod into the internet ocean for compliments. This narcissistic issue starts and ends with me.

“I am stupid.” I say this to myself often throughout the day. I whisper it to myself in the bathroom at work after I ask an obvious question to my co-workers. Every day when I leave the office, I think to myself, “I am the weakest link on my team.” Hell, I would vote myself off in most team situations. I inhale the word idiot and exhale in a rush of anxiety when someone asks me for directions within the town I reside. How do I explain that I can’t remember street names that I drive on daily? When people talk about North, South, East, and West they may as well be speaking a foreign language. My family has had to deal with more directional hysterics from me than anyone should have to in a lifetime. I thank God daily for their patience.

I think my stupidity complex started in elementary school when my class began learning multiplication. My teacher created a pyramid to chart the basic 0-12 multiplication table. Well let me tell you I was no Pharaoh of THAT pyramid. My peers started to progress, but I always stayed at the bottom. I think I got through the 2’s (2×2 =4, 2×3=6, etc.) and just stopped. For months I sat in shame at the bottom of that pyramid while I watched other children receive treats for their success. It was not the rewards that I coveted, my parents were generous people, I didn’t want for much growing up. I wanted to be equal with my peers, but I was always behind.

I hated sitting in class where the whispered words “You’re stupid.” echoed throughout my mind and bounced around the walls. School was my mirror, where I had to face the part of myself I desperately loathed. In high school I graduated with a 2.0 GPA, a courtesy from teachers who desperately wanted to see me succeed. Even living through the trauma of K-12, I decided to attend community college. The decision was due to my best friend applying. I thought, “I guess college is the thing to do”.

After my first quarter at community college which felt like a flash back to the nightmare of K-12 (Pre-reqs are the worst!) I began to look forward to class. I found a passion for learning aside from the anxiety of everyone finding out just how stupid I really was. I devoured the content of each class. I knew that my work was weak so I made up for it in participation. I volunteered my ass off. If the teacher asked a question, I was the first to answer. Extra credit, I was all over it. My GPA went from a 2.0 in high school to a 3.7 upon graduation from Western Washington University.

My time at WWU was a chaotic, wonderful, crazy time in my life. I was working two jobs and completely immersed in my English literature degree. I was finding my way and learning who the “adult Rachel” was. I had my setbacks as well though. For example, I remember being in a study group for a 400 level English class. I was with two very intelligent classmates (the Sheldon and Leonard of the English world) and I told them I felt bad because I wasn’t helping much with the assignment, they were just flat out faster than me. But in good humor they joked that I provided the tea and the study space at my apartment. I cried that night, all of my old anxieties and worries rushing back at me. The echo of “I’m stupid, I’m stupid, I’m stupid” was an earthquake inside my dark bedroom.  The next morning the emotional disaster that was my ego followed me onto the bus. I went to class with a residual “Stupid“.

Time reveals the magic of our past, hidden behind the black curtain of the present.

All of my life I had teachers and parents who believed in me. They were showing me their faith in a variety of ways. My 3rd grade teacher had me read one of my stories out loud to three other classes. My math teacher Mr. Sessions gave me extra assignments so I could graduate from high school. Upon graduation day he gave me a dream catcher that he made himself. My Dad paid for my first two years of college out-of-pocket, with only a 2.0 GPA from high school backing up my scholarly reputation. My Mom and step father let me live at home for four years after high school. They spent hours every week helping me with homework. None of those people would have gone to such effort if they did not see any potential in me. I will never forget how I almost fell to the floor when one of my classmates introduced me to his reading group as one of the most insightful, intelligent people in our class. That compliment was a cast for my broken confidence that was beaten down by yours truly.

I can look back now and appreciate my academic achievements; I can attribute graduating to not floating by on participation and extra credit. I looked like an idiot (often) and I survived. I hope sometime in the future I will look at this time in my life and realize that: I was good at my job. My novel was decent. I should listen to my husband when he patiently tells me that I am, in fact, an intelligent woman. Maybe one day I will realize that I am not the only driver in a constant state of lost. Tomorrow I will look in the mirror and tell myself, “You are not the stupid girl.”

Scents and Scentsibility

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Three books at once; I am quite the promiscuous reader.

I decided to splurge and get a facial for my birthday in August. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the spa was the amazing smell that permeated throughout every room.There is something about natural oils that can invigorate and soothe you at the same time.

On the other hand, have you ever walked into someone’s home and it’s like walking into a Bath and Body Works (guilty)? Where you smack into a wall of perfume and smoke. While it smells amazing it can give you a headache or make you feel nauseous depending on the scent. Don’t get me wrong, I love my citrus summer, and fall pumpkin spice candles as much as the next girl, but when I am trying to read and relax I want the spa experience.

I started researching the benefits of essential oils and found some really interesting information on Web MD: Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes. “The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods. says ion researcher Michael Terman, PhD, of Columbia University in New York… In fact, Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants.” – Web MD

Negative ions are abundant in nature. For example, a water fall produces 50,000 Ions/cc, the country 700-1,500 Ions/cc, and mountain/seashore 5,000 ions/cc. While an air condition room has fewer negative ions 0-25 ions/cc (doTERRA manual). The negative ions upon reaching our blood stream increases our serotonin and help immensely with our mood.

I searched Amazon and read many blogs for the best product to dispense natural oils and I found  a few different options:

  • Tea lite diffusers (burn the oil)
  • Plug in diffusers
  • Fan diffuser
  • Nebulizer
  • Ultrasonic mist diffuser

I decided on a ultrasonic mist diffuser: doTERRA the Aroma Lite Diffuser, because it adequately dispenses the oil and there is no smoke to inhale. I chose two oils from doTERRA: Purify (lemon, lime, pine, citronella, melaleuca, cilantro) and Citrus Bliss (Wild Orange Peel, Lemon Peel, Grapefruit Peel, Mandarin Peel, Bergamot Peel, Tangerine Peel, Clementine Peel essential oils and Vanilla Bean Absolute.)

.DSC_0292I plug in my diffuser every evening when I get home from work. I use the 8 hour setting (there is also a four hour setting) so that it runs for a few hours before we settle in at night. The diffuser is very quiet (and trust me I am a light, finicky sleeper) so we let it run while we sleep. The soft purple glow is very soothing, but I turn the light off because I can’t sleep with any light. Both scents are lovely, but the Purify has a much stronger smell than the Citrus Bliss and I tend to gravitate towards it for that reason. Follow the essential oil use chart to choose which oils work best for you.

I love to have the diffuser on while I am reading and writing. I am prone to anxiety and sometimes this hinders my ability to write. The smell helps me to relax and quiets my mind from the chaos that typically ensues after work. I don’t think this diffuser will be my “end all” for my anxiety, but if it helps in the slightest (and I truly believe it has) then it is worth every penny.

Here are some more links about the health benefits of essential oils. I chose to write mostly about the positive effect it has on my mood because that is the main benefit I have received.

9 Essential Oils with Huge Health Benefits

Benefits of Essential Oils: 10 Natural Ways to Heal Yourself

The Struggle is Real

Don’t you  just hate when inspiration strikes at 7:41am when you are sitting at your work desk? Luckily I have an awesome coworker and friend who I can bug across the aisle, “Ashley, can you listen to my novel idea?” We look at each other with data-glazed eyes and talk about creative ideas and the light of humanity begins to shine again.

I am so grateful for my day job of project management and scheduling that affords me the money for my house, bills, and fun on the weekend. Although when that writers itch begins it’s hard to focus on the Excel sheet in front of me. In fact, I just want to run from the building, jump in my car, and drive home to my novel. Why do the waves of urgency hit at the most inopportune places/moments? I document my thoughts, but by the time I get home the rush has left, and I am stuck with uninspiring notes.

I’m asking writers out there, how do you schedule the time and more importantly the inspiration (as if it can be scheduled) into your 40 hour/week career schedule?

Happy writing/reading peeps!

The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Fisherman and His Wife

The Fisherman and His Wife is a classic story of greed and not knowing when to stop.The story begins when a fisherman releases a trout back into the ocean because the trout is actually a bewitched prince. Upon hearing what her husband did, the fisherman’s wife (Ilsebill) demands that her husband requests the trout’s help for a nicer house. The requests become more and more extravagant, until Ilsebill wants to be “like God” to command the sun and moon. When the fisherman requests that his wife be “like God” the trout says, “Well, then. Go home. She’s sitting back in your hovel again.”  This tale will make you reflect on need vs. greed. I found myself thinking of all of the blessing already in my life when I finished this story.

The drawings in this story are by Wanda Gag, 1936.

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The Fisherman and His Wife

Outlining My Novel

Sometimes it’s hard to go back to the basics. Ever since we began essay writing in elementary school, we have always been instructed to create an outline. In my haste to start writing my novel I skipped the outline (hey I had it in my head) and dove write into the dialog. I found that this was a huge mistake because I was writing in circles and finally quit writing for a few months

I started to research outlining  to get my ass in gear and start on my book again. I came across the article, “How to Write a Novel Outline and Structure a Story” by Eric Dockett. This article is great for new novelists who are looking to to make a checklist before they get started. I could see my story in my head, and the sequence of events, I just needed a visual to keep me organized. Here are the main points highlighted in the article:

  • Creating Your Novel Outline
  • Overall Novel Structure
  • Structure of Each Act or Section
  • Chapter Structure
  • Setting Goals

After reading Dockett’s article I rushed out to Office Depot and bought a new white board and went crazy for an hour, getting an overhead view of the structure of my story.

outliningSo here I am, BIG outline made, now I just have to break it down again a few more layers. I am going to keep dissecting  until I have an outline for each chapter.

Wish me luck!

The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Frog Prince

For my 27th birthday my husband Miles bought me “The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” edited by Noel Daniel and translated by Matthew Price. Published by Taschen.

The collection begins with a wonderful introduction by the editor Noel Daniel about the history of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. I didn’t know that the German fairy tales were not actually written by the Grimm brothers (although there was an extensive amount of rewriting), but they were collected, edited, and translated by the brothers. The Grimm brothers originally targeted the tales for scholars, but noticed over time that they had a split audience and children were enjoying the stories just as much as the adults.The collection was then tailored towards a younger audience. The edition I was gifted was derived from 1857 when they released their “child-friendly” version.

Aside from the 27 charming stories the book contains, the illustrations that accompany each story are enchanting. Through various mediums, the stories are brought to life in a Büffet of illustrations ranging in dates from the mid 1800’s to mid 1900’s.

I am going to pick and choose a few of the tales to review in forthcoming posts. The first story I would like to start with is “The Frog Prince”.

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The “Frog Prince” according to Daniels dates back to a medieval Latin manuscript. The colored engraving featured above was done by Walter Crane in 1874. The illustration seen above captures the young princess and the frog as they bargain for a golden ball and friendship. The frog agrees to retrieve the golden ball that was accidentally dropped in a well. As for payment he requests not money, “But if you would be fond of me, and cherish me, and if I were your friend and play mate, sitting next to you at your table, eating from your golden plate, drinking from your cup, and sleeping in your bed-if you will promise me these things then certainly I will slip down below and bring you back your golden ball.” The princess flippantly agrees thinking she would never see the frog again. She gets her ball back and walks home.

When the frog comes knocking on her palace door the princess turns away coldly and demands that he goes on his way, but her father the king forces her to keep her promise, “Whatever promise you have made, you must also keep.” (Go Dad!). Eventually the princess and the frog go to bed and in a fit of frustration the princess hurls the frog against the wall and the frog turns into a prince and explains that the princess broke a spell that was placed on him that only she could undo. He then stays the night with the princess (very racy for medieval literature). The next morning he rides off with his princess and his faithful servant Heinrich who “..had been so downcast ever since his master was transformed into a frog that he had bent three iron bands around his chest, lest his sullen heart burst with grief.”

This story holds the obvious morals of keeping your promises and don’t judge too harshly before you know someone. But there is also a lesson about true love that is explained not between the princess and the frog prince, but from loyal Heinrich whose heart had to be bonded to keep from breaking apart when his prince turned into a frog. There is also a lesson directed to parents, perhaps the most important: Hold your children accountable to their promises and commitments.

DSC_2471Note: If you would like to read the same edition I have, you can purchase it here.

Literation is REALLY A Word

Literation is defined by Merriam-Webster as “The representation of sound or words by letters.” I know, I didn’t think it was a real word either until I looked it up. When I tell my friends the name of my blog they give me a funny look and inevitably ask, “Is literation an actual word? Do you mean alliteration?” Even as I type, spell-check is accusing me with its read squiggly line of making up the work literation, but I swear it’s real. Hopefully I didn’t slit my blog’s throat before it took its first breath by giving it an impossibly complicated name.

Final argument: Scrabble recognizes it as a 10-point word.

 

 

 

Shakespeare Fail

I woke up Friday morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to get a good start at my “real job” and then come home and work on my book. I bought a large white board for the office and let the ideas flow. (Outlining will be the topic of my next blog post.) I was really excited for Saturday because I was going to the Island Shakespeare Festival. Every weekend they feature a Shakespeare performance and we were going to see Richard III. I am embarrassed to admit that even though I was an English major I haven’t read ANY Shakespeare. I hear he is a big deal in the literary world? Although I was obsessed with this quote in high school after watching Romeo+Juliet. I had it tapped to my wall for years,
Quotes from Romeo And Juliet (3)

 Anyway, Miles and I boarded the Kititat ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island, it’s a short 15 minute ride. This was a busy weekend with campers, hikers, wedding attendees, and everyone looking for a little local adventure. After snapping some pictures on the deck we walked back to our car with a fine sheen of mist and salt coating our skin.

 

 

Before the play we did a short hike out to Fort Ebey with our friend Ben who writes for the local paper. As you can surmise, Ben’s local knowledge was a major bonus to our day.  If you have never been to Fort Ebey, I highly recommend making it a point to visit. The rolling fields and ocean cliff side are simply dreamy.

We rushed to get dinner and make it to the venue on time, but we failed. Richard III was already five minutes in by the time we made it to the front gate, and tardiness was not acceptable. Lesson learned, sometimes in life you can’t be late. So we hung our heads and walked away.

But alas! We had food and we had wine in our backpacks and we decided to make the most of the day. The three of us sat down in the center of Langley and talked about family and friendship. We talked about my book, the holes and gaps and how I am trying to fit the pieces together. I told them both that I worried it would be another YA literary heap-o-garbage. Not even voicing my worst and most obvious fear that my story will be ignored, looked over, passed by. Ben assured me, “I will review your book, and I will not let you attempt to publish crap!” This reassured me immensely, because I know Ben, and he would indeed never let me turn in crap. My unvoiced concern…well that is just a very harsh and very possible reality.

We moved to the beach and sat on a bench  where we passed a Nalgene bottle of red wine and talked about our careers, and how we viewed them. We noted that I  focused on the past and my journey, Ben focuses on the present, and Miles looks towards a future where maybe he can escape spreadsheets and live through his lens (he is an amazing photographer). We laughed when we contemplated what this said about us and our lives.

The hell if we know.

The three of us ended our evening back in Everett at The Cannery. We got to see more great friends and listen to the power vocals of the band Joseph (always a treat to hear live).

Sometimes the best days happen by mistake. Even though I am sure the performance of Richard III would have been entertaining, I think it is a rare gift to spend unforced, quality time with people who matter most in your life. Those moments and those people are what inspire me to just.keep.writing.