Be a Bad Writer

Be a Bad Writer

By G D Penman

I’ve been writing for longer than I’d like to admit. I joke about being thrown off of my father’s computer when I was six years old for typing rude words. While that did happen, I’m not certain that particular novel was ever going to come to anything. In reality I’ve been pursuing writing professionally for about ten years now with only one real gap.

That gap lasted almost a year, and it came from one major misunderstanding on my part; I was trying to be a good writer. I‘d heard that a good writer sits down every day to work. I‘d heard that a good writer edits and edits until all of the evil is driven from their manuscript, leaving only shining golden prose.

The first one led me to quit writing for a year, the second stopped me from getting my work published for almost a decade.

Write Every Day

In a perfect world I’d be free to sit down at the computer each morning and write to my heart’s content. I’m getting closer to the goal of becoming a full-time author with every book I get published, but it will still be a few years of hard work yet. Before I get to write for myself, I still have to spend about eight hours each day writing for other people to pay the bills. Back when I quit, I was working twelve hours a day in an unrelated job. Sometimes more. I had no time for hobbies. I had no time for much of anything except sleeping, then heading back to work. Writing was one straw too many. I wasn’t getting anything written even when I did sit down to do it. I was exhausted.

Unfortunately, I had to eat. I had to put a roof over my head. Like most writers in the modern era, I didn’t have rich parents or patrons to lean on. I had to work.

Writing requires energy, something that all of us only have a limited supply of. I was all out. Even now that I’m in a much more comfortable position I sometimes look at that expanse of blank white on the screen and it is too much.

The most important lesson that I’ve learned about writing is that most of the work happens long before I put my fingers to the keys. That’s why I can cheerfully churn out a novella in a weekend but writing sprints like NaNoWriMo are a nightmare to me. (The first year that I attempted it nearly prompted me to quit writing all over again, and the month long depression brought me as close as I have ever been to divorce.)

So I am a bad writer. Some days when I’m struggling I just don’t bother. I understand myself well enough to know that I’ll make up for lost time on those good days when inspiration strikes and I have the energy. When I’m working out how long a project is going to take, I average the up and downs.

Refine to Perfection

While banging my head against the wall of having no energy and no idea what I’m working on may have derailed me once or twice over the years, the idea that I could make my writing perfect by coming back to it over and over is what nearly ruins me on a daily basis.

There is an old adage that no work of art is ever completed; only abandoned. My problem is that I just can’t quite pry my fingers off of them. I’ve held onto short stories for years before submitting them. I have a folder of abandoned stories that didn’t even get that far. Too imperfect to even come to fruition. One particular story has gone through the grind of edits and revisions so many times I’ve lost count; comparing the latest draft to the very first, one is clearly inferior to the other. The writing is more grammatically correct perhaps, but the edited version has lost all the passion the first one held.

I know that I’m meant to edit in passes, the first one to put the story structure in order, the second to fix the prose, the third to fix the dialogue and the fourth to fix descriptions. That’s the way I was taught to work by older and more experienced authors when I was first starting out. As it turns out, the correct number of editorial passes for every novel that I have actually sold is one; to pick up any typos.

So I am a bad writer. I don’t edit my work before sending it off, and it is much better for it. Of course, I get pages and pages of notes and changes back from my editors but from what I understand, the situation would be the same regardless of how long I review and revise.

Be a Bad Writer

Writing is an art rather than a science; there is no “right” way to be a writer, only a cacophony of conflicting advice coming at you from all directions. Writing every day does not make you a writer any more than swimming every day makes you a fish.

It has taken me years of practice to get to the stage where I believe my work is good enough to be published. Years in which I took classes, studied the craft of writing, and read extensively.

Being a “good” writer made me miserable. Being a “bad” writer made me successful. If you can call someone who still has to eat Ramen for every other meal successful.

 

gd-penmanG D Penman writes Speculative Fiction. He lives in Scotland with his partner and children, some of whom are human. He is a firm believer in the axiom that any story is made better by dragons. His beard has won an award. If you have ever read a story with Kaiju and queer people, it was probably one of his. In those few precious moments that he isn’t parenting or writing he likes to watch cartoons, play video and tabletop games, read more books than are entirely feasible and continues his quest to eat the flesh of every living species. He is the author of over a dozen books including; The Year of the Knife, Motherland, Call Your Steel and Heart of Winter.

How to Go Pro Like Van Gogh (HINT: It’s Not About the Money)

How to Go Pro Like Van Gogh (HINT: It’s Not About the Money)

Iris Van Gogh

‘Irises’ Van Gogh, 1889

How to Go Pro Like Van Gogh (HINT: It’s Not About the Money)

By

Nick Horton

Does the word “professional” apply to Van Gogh? He didn’t make any money and he failed to become famous (even locally) in his own lifetime. Sure, his art fetches high prices now, and is well received by nearly everyone. But that’s his work, not him.

Van Gogh was a failure if your definition of “professional” is forever entangled with financial and popular success. Of course, if you think Van Gogh was a failure, you are a fool.

Your goal is to be a serious artist. To do that means that it is time for you to start treating your work as work. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the basic requirements you’ll need to “go pro”.

You Must Retain Amateur Status

The words “play” and “work” are not opposites, they are complements. No matter how seriously I am going to urge you to take your work, it should never stop being an activity you love doing.

Being an amateur has nothing to do with your paycheck, it has to do with your attitude and motivation. The original meaning of the word “amateur” did not mean “less serious”, or broke, it meant that you were a lover of whatever it is you are an amateur of.

You can be an amateur and not be a professional, but you cannot be a professional without also being an amateur. A professional who has lost their love of what they are doing is what I would call a hack.

Know if You Are Only a Hobbyist

Creating art because you like to do it is a perfectly valid reason: it is reason enough. We should give hobbyists far more respect that we currently do. A person with a few hobbies is far less likely to be living a soul-crushingly stressful lifestyle, will have healthier relationships, and will probably live longer than the rest of us.

That said, professionals and hobbyists are not the same. How can you tell which you are?

Some might start with the following question (which I hate): “If you were rich, and didn’t have to work, what would you do with your time?” The assumption being that whatever answer you give is what you should be doing with your life NOW, not waiting until you get rich.

That’s bullshit.

Here’s a better question: “If you were dead broke, and you knew (for sure) that committing to your art was going to prevent you from ever getting out of poverty, would you still choose to do it?”

If you answer “yes”, then you are not a hobbyist, you are a professional.

Van Gogh made this choice. The result was the best work he was capable of producing. A professional finds this trade-off worth it.

Work as Hard as a Professional

The 19th century writer, Anthony Trollope, had a full time (non-writing) job. Still, he would wake up early every morning and write for three hours, getting 1,000 words per hour (250 words every 15 minutes, exactly). He got his 3,000 words in every day, no matter what. He was like a machine in his level of dedication to the hard reality of creation: you have to be consistent.

Prince wrote a song a day. Steven King writes 2,000 words every day. Anthony Burgess not only wrote 2,000 words a day, but also composed classical music during the evenings.

A professional artist treats their work like a proper job — especially when not being paid for it.

Work Ethic is Empowering

The fact that hard work and consistency are the fundamental predictors of your success (not financial!) as an artist is empowering. The mark of a professional is that this fact excites and motivates them.

Van-Gogh-self-portrait creative commons

Van-Gogh-self-portrait creative commons

Contrary to the myth, Van Gogh was wildly successful in his own lifetime. His worked his ass off every day. He doggedly worked to improve his craft and skill levels. He produced.

If you don’t find this fact empowering (or worse, find it sobering) then you’re a hobbyist — which is awesome, but don’t ruin your fun by making your art into work.

For a professional, the whole point is that you want this to be your work! So start acting like it.

The Myth of the Muse: No Excuses

Most artists are waiting around for inspiration. Without this mythical inspiration, they feel helpless.

What a writer would call “writers block” is a sham. There is no muse! There is no magical external force in the universe that will take over your body and force your hands to create.

Most days you will put in the work, and there will be nothing special about it. Some days, you’ll be hit with inspiration. The point is to be ready for this inspiration, lay the groundwork for it, and take advantage of it fully.

A Professional Artist Goes Public

An athlete who doesn’t compete is not an athlete. They may exercise, they may train, but I’m not going to call you an athlete until you enter your first contest. Once you do that, I don’t care if you did badly, I don’t care if you always lose, I don’t care if you will never win or make money or get a scholarship, you are a REAL athlete.

Similarly, you may be a horrible artist, you might produce some of the worst work in the history of your medium, but if you put your work out there for other humans to see, read, or listen to, then you are a professional artist.

You won’t magically build a large audience just because you set up a blog to put your stories or paintings on. But you will have broken through a huge glass ceiling most artists are too afraid to face: rejection.

Putting yourself out there is something only the tiniest one-percent of one-percent of artists are willing to do. The rest don’t have the guts to do it. Do you?

You may only have an audience of one, but that’s an audience. Hell, that one person may hate your work, but that isn’t relevant. What matters is that you had the guts.

Wheatfield with Crows July 1890 Van Gogh

‘Wheat Field With Crows’, Van Gogh 1890

Showing Your Work is Now Easier Than Ever

We live in a world where the middlemen of art (record labels, publishing houses, etc.) are quickly becoming more of a hindrance than a help. There was a time when they were the gate-keepers between the artist and the audience. That is no longer the case.

The internet has changed the landscape of art. If you want an audience, you can find one.

I suggest that you have a blog (not just a website) where you showcase both your work and yourself. Yes, use Facebook and other social media networks. But your blog is yours. And it will never matter if Facebook changes their algorithms or rules on you.

The Point

Everyone should exercise: it’s good for you and it’s fun. Yet, for a small minority, exercise isn’t enough, they want to be athletes.

Similarly, everyone should engage with the arts. Studies abound that extol the benefits to your brain and psychological well-being. But that’s not what you’re in it for.

To be a professional, at anything, let alone the arts, requires that you act like a professional.

  • Work harder at this than you do at anything else.
  • Don’t allow any excuses for why you aren’t practicing and producing daily (the muse myth).
  • Put your work in front of others.

Repeat. It’s really not complicated. It’s just hard. Thankfully, it’s also the most fun you’ll ever have.

Now go lift something heavy,

Nick Horton

describing-vs-teaching-nick-horton-weightlifting-academy

 

Nick Horton, ‘The Iron Samurai’, is a poet and musician; was trained in mathematics; and is a Zen-Atheist. Clearly a weirdo.

Writing With Hand Tools

Writing With Hand Tools

Writing With Hand Tools

By Nick Horton

In the wood-working community, over the last few generations, there’s been a revival of the use of hand tools. The reasons are obvious once you hear them.

Working with Hand Tools

  • Hand tools provide a connection with wood that is just not possible with power tools;
  • Hand tools are safer (by a long shot);
  • Power tools produce dust which is a known carcinogen;
  • Hand tools only produce shavings which have a pleasant odor;
  • Power tools are extremely loud (requiring you to wear ear protection) and will likely piss off your neighbors;
  • Save for hammering, hand tools are so quiet that you can work in the garage in the middle of the night and not wake anyone else in the house.

Power tools certainly have a place, especially in commercial environments. But for many people, hand tools provide a more personal option that increases their sense of creativity and enjoyment.

Of course, there is another reason hand tools have become more popular: we’ve learned that technological advances are a double-edged sword. For every good that comes from a new advancement, we lose something. Often, we can’t predict what that loss will be until we’ve already felt it.

Writing Without Writing

Woodworking isn’t the only field where a revival of hand tools and a back-to-basics style can be of use. Artists of all kinds, especially many writers and musicians, have become mired in the myth that without their high-tech tools, there is no way they could produce.

For most of human history, writing didn’t exist. There were no books. Hell, no one had yet chiseled a poem into a rock.

That said, creative construction with words did exist. Poetry existed. Storytelling existed.

Writing is NOT synonymous with typing. Writing is far more than that. Writing, as a craft, consists of a series of steps starting with a creative spark and ending with a finished product.

In our prehistory, writing didn’t exist, but writers did.

Writing is a Craft

Saint Francis of Assisi said, “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

All artists are laborers first, craftsman second, and only then artists. Another way of saying it is that to be an artist, you must embrace ALL of what it means to be one, not just the “heart” bit.

Masters of all crafts (in art, engineering, sports, etc.) will constantly tell you that what matters more than anything is mastering the basics. And this process is made clearer when you strip away all unneeded baggage.

Tools like Word, or Scrivener, or Libre, or Office are useful when it’s time to use them. But an over-reliance on them may be a sign that you’ve become too far removed from the craft of writing as writing.

Let’s look at a few other possible ways to write.

Pen & Paper: The Forgotten Technology

The list of writers who used pen and paper in their process is long, and includes: Vladamir Nabokov, John Irving, Susan Sontag, Joyce Carol Oates, Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Jhumpa Lahiri, even Quentin Tarantino among many others.

To one of our pre-literate ancestors, the combo of pen and paper would seem a miracle of technology (magic) — and so it is! To us, it seems arcane. How times change perception….

Beginning your writing process with more basic tools may provide the novelty and the variety needed to fan the flames of creativity. Worst case scenario: you get a hand cramp.

Index Cards

Vladamir Nabokov said that he only wrote 160 words per day, and that it would take him an entire day to get them right. His prose is so thick and meaty, that I often think he was a poet who tricked us into thinking he was a novelist.

He wrote those 160 words on index cards in pencil. Each would be labeled with a scene header or some other information. Then he would arrange these little scenes physically in front of himself, and have a tactile and graphical display of his work in progress.

Playwrights and screenwriters often use index cards to help them build up their plots. But Nabokov literally wrote the entire novel on them.

White/Chalk Boards

An alternative to a standing desk is to write standing at a white board (or chalk board, if you prefer). I do this as my first draft for everything from poetry to song lyrics to articles like this one.

It makes writing similar in feel to painting on an easel. There is something about being able to stand, walk around, and visualize what you’re doing that is liberating.

Markdown vs Word Processors (vs Typewriters)

You could say that a word processor is a very complex typewriter. Alternatively, you could say a typewriter is a crappy word processor. But I think both would be wrong. In fact, a typewriter and a word processor are fundamentally different, and belong in different categories.

A typewriter produces a finished product that is remarkably basic. You don’t get bold text, you don’t get different fonts or font sizes, you don’t get spell check, you can’t copy-and-paste.

A word processor allows all of that and more. Perhaps too much more! It’s a never-ending source of distraction, primarily because you are consistently fiddling with the formatting of what you’re writing rather than about the content of your writing.

To combat this without losing some of the rather nice benefits of technology (like spell check or copy-and-paste), many writers have moved over to using the markdown format in plain text editors. Markdown is now ubiquitous in academic writing, documentation for programmers, and other places where complex formatting is required eventually, but gets in the way of the subject at hand.

Markdown is like using a typewriter in the sense that if feels very plain and basic. On the other hand, you can then convert it to a Word Doc, or a PDF or whatever you need, without losing out on the ability to format the document.

The Point

Jodi Picoult said, “Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands.” It may also be caused by imprisoning yourself into having only one way of writing.

Writing is not typing, it is crafting with words. Typing may be one method that you use to write, but you should be careful not to restrict yourself exclusively to it.

Writing with hand tools is not necessarily safer than writing on a computer, but it may help you to be more productive. And if not, it will at least give you something to talk about.

Now go lift something heavy,

Nick Horton

describing-vs-teaching-nick-horton-weightlifting-academyNick Horton, ‘The Iron Samurai’, is a poet and musician; was trained in mathematics; and is a Zen-Atheist. Clearly a weirdo.

Should I Write Under a Pen Name?

Should I Write Under a Pen Name?

Should I Write Under a Pen Name?

By James Eickholt

 

How do I know if I should write under a pen name? This is a question no one can answer but the authors themselves. Almost everyone who writes knows that Ann Landers is a pen name, but what isn’t so commonly known is that two women wrote behind the name of Ann Landers. Did Eric Blair and Samuel Clemens write stories so dangerously radical they needed the protection of pen names? Would Joanne Rowling’s stories have been critically impeded if she hadn’t published under an abbreviated name? Is it unscrupulous for political activists like William Penn to hide behind the fake identity of a pen name?

Although my name is James, I’ve written several short stories and a few novels under the pen name Jake Elliot. That is like Elliott, but with only one ‘t’. I mention this because most people automatically add the extra ‘t’, and then they find some other person in their Google searches. I’m just not popular enough (yet) to have Google automatically redirect lost souls to my ethereal existence on the inter-web. Eventually, I’ll discuss my reasoning for taking a pen name but first, I’ll open this discussion reflecting on popular authors who’ve written under pseudonyms.

Johnathan Swift, although this truly is his birth name, originally released Gulliver’s Travels under the name Lemuel Gulliver, and his essay A Modest Proposal was also released under a pseudonym. In fact, most of his writings were penned under a pseudonym, and by their scathing anti-British intensities, he earned his recognition as an Irish patriot. Johnathan Swift’s writings against English hegemony drew sharp attention from the mock-Irish judiciary, who in turn attempted to silence Swift by accusing him and his printer of seditious libel for one particular work, the Drapier’s Letters. These weak charges were intended more as a point of intimidation and did not stick, only instigating more feverously outspoken attacks against British rule over Ireland. However, despite the many pen names Johnathan Swift used, everyone seemed to know the real author’s name.

Which brings me to both Samuel Clemens and Eric Blair—far more successful at being known as their false names, I often wonder if these authors needed to write under pseudonyms. Both England and the United States are societies claiming freedom of speech. Animal Farm is among my favorite books—in my top twenty for sure—and although ripe with political satire, was the story of pigs and sheep overthrowing a farm so eviscerating that Eric Blair needed to write under a pen name? What about 1984? Clearly a work of dystopian fiction, 1984 seemed more an attack against communist Russia and Joseph Stalin than a criticism of England’s governing style, even if the story is set in a reformed London.

Samuel Clemens wrote several scathing stories, oftentimes against the bigotries of the southern United States, and occasionally a good-humored jeer against the arrogant flair of the northern United States. Although The Adventures of Tom Sawyer seemed pretty light in its delivery, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn cut deep against the hypocrisy of free men who kept other men as slaves. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is another humorous story with pointed criticism, but was Clemens’s work so infuriating that he needed to write as Mark Twain? I realize that ‘mark twain’ is a boating reference from the time of paddlewheel riverboats, and Samuel Clemens loved the mighty Mississippi, but did he need to write under a pen name?

E.L. James…okay…I fully understand the need for a pen name, but what about J. K. Rowling? Rowling wasn’t writing bad erotica, but great children’s fiction. And, when Joanne Rowling did write under a pen name, she was relentlessly attacked by public opinion for her efforts. Personally, I say good for her. She proved to the world that not only could she write stories for adults equally as well as she did for children, but she could be successful doing so. However, I speculate (and there is no proof to this speculation) that someone who could make more money from Rowling’s name associated with those books leaked the true identity of Robert Galbraith. I could be very wrong in my suspicion, considering there is no privacy within our new world order.

Unlike E.L. James, my first work of fiction was published under my real name. I knew fame and fortune were right around the corner and realized that I needed some sort of cover—a sanctuary to protect me from the soon-to-be mob of clothes-tearing fans. After all, being an author is a lot like being one of the Beatles, or Elvis. But a closer facet of the truth, even more important than escaping the roving gangs of relentless fans and paparazzi if I was to ever become a household name, I first needed a household name.

Verizon knows me as James Eickolp, my driver’s license claims I’m James Eickolt (at least that’s close to the correct spelling), and even the IRS has misspelled my name since I first filed for a tax return in 1988, insisting that my name is actually James Eickart despite what my birth certificate and passport say.

Chuck Palahniuk is one of my favorite Oregon authors, but I still don’t know how to say his name. Even now, I need to go to my bookshelf to make certain I spelled his name correctly (which I didn’t). No one misspells Stephen King or George R. R. Martin. I needed a name like that—powerful, dignified, and easily recognized by the fifth-grade reading level that America boasts. So, Jake Elliot it was. And yet, I have been asked more than once why I write under a pen name. “It isn’t like you’re writing smut,” some have said. Perhaps fooling people into thinking my books are naughty will be my path to fame and glory as an author of fiction, and if so, at least Jake Elliot is an easily remembered name.

 

 

Jame Eickholt AKA, Jake ElliotJames Eickholt is a hybrid author who generally writes dark fiction with mildly sarcastic and ironic edges. Most of his stories are told under the pen name Jake Elliot. With one short film, eight short stories, and three novels to his credit, he considers himself accomplished in a grossly over-saturated market. When not writing twisted little stories, or working for ‘the man,’ James and his wife enjoy going on real life adventures. World travelers, they have visited Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria—all of these experiences stain and bleed into James’s writings—sometimes only as wisps and smudged fingerprints.

How Full Time Writing Gave Me a Rash

How Full Time Writing Gave Me a Rash

 by EM Prazeman

 

Are you contemplating quitting your day job to freelance full time?

On January 1, 2016, my coworkers ordered a giant cheesecake. We celebrated my insanity. I said goodbye and started writing full time.

Two months later, I have some things to report. Don’t worry; I won’t describe my rash.

My biggest challenges were the things I didn’t plan for, things that freelancers  sometimes mentioned on blogs, sort of, but I was so zeroed in on replacing my income as soon as possible, I missed the underlying message.

About a week in, I started to get the first symptoms.

In a way I’m lucky that I manifest stress as psychosomatic disease and that I recognized that’s what was going on. But just because I knew I was getting sick from stress, that doesn’t mean that poof, the illness went away. Turning on the light doesn’t make the monster disappear. But maybe if you know how many arms and legs and teeth (and stingers and tentacles) it has, maybe you can do something about it before it sends you to the hospital.

So what stressed me out if it wasn’t mainly financial?

Despite the fact that many freelancers mentioned organization issues in their blogs and articles, it took me the whole first month and the better part of the second to figure out that I needed a larger work area and some grown-up office supplies. Who knew? I had a spiral notebook for notes, daily tasks and to track hours, I had a couple of Excel files to track financials, and I had my giant calendar of awesome on the wall to remind me of upcoming events and projects.

It wasn’t enough. Not even close. My marketing activities increased and became more sophisticated overnight. I generated more complicated task lists, and I didn’t have the experience to prioritize them properly. Steep learning curve, that. Now, my book notes are separated by book, and my to-do list has its own notepad. My income and expenses are logged in separate notebooks and compiled into Excel files once a week. (Ahem. Most weeks.)

I also tried to do too much at once. Suddenly, because I theoretically had more time, I wanted to update my websites, which meant coordinating with my very busy webmaster in Germany. I became more active on Facebook and Pinterest, and I decided to get a smart phone so that I could participate on Instagram. I had a convention to attend mid-February. At the very, very last minute, I managed to get my books in on consignment with an awesome book dealer there. I contacted libraries to see if they’d be willing to carry my books. And of course I wanted to be involved when a local writer had a book release. I want to be supportive and active and out there, not just because I want to sell my books but because I love my community of writers. We share in each others’ successes, and our hearts ache when any one of us is struggling. But that participation level is time consuming and can be emotionally draining.

Now I’m in the middle of a book show. Ouch.

On a good day I can write over ten thousand words. I have yet to have a ten thousand word day since I started writing full time, which is fine. Those big word days wipe me out, and I almost always write half that the following day. Try to tell my stress monster that, though. Because not every day is a ten thousand word day, I must be slacking.

So I overscheduled, under-organized, and expected too much of myself. Taking baby steps and slowly increasing my workload would have been a much better, possibly less itchy idea. But even if you’re more rational and organized than I am, you’re still going to be experiencing a lot of changes at once.

This site has a free Stress Level test. It’s a useful tool that’s been around for a long time. My stress level as of this writing is 227. What’s yours, and what might it be if you decide to write full time?

Sometimes stress causes body changes that will require medical assistance. Here’s a good article that touches on that and gives some fantastic advice on managing mood:

I’m one of the lucky ones. My stress illness took the form of a rash, which is uncomfortable but manageable. It’s a thing, in case you didn’t know:

Here’s what I did:

I committed to going outside every day regardless of weather, even if my husband had already taken care of the livestock. It’s good for me to be an outdoor kitty from a few minutes up to a couple of hours every day. Gardening days are especially great for relieving my stress.

I practiced deep breathing. A lot. Our bodies are affected by our breathing patterns in ways that aren’t completely understood by science, but science has measured many of the effects of breathing on the body. Every time I noticed that my shoulders had bunched up and/or my jaw was clenching or my legs had started to bounce up and down, I stopped what I was doing and focused on my breathing. Give it at least 30 seconds. If you’re unfamiliar with focused breathing, there are lots of schools of thought. It helps that in college I practiced zazen and went to a Zen meditation retreat/clinic. If you don’t have any experience, here’s a good place to start:

I cut way back on anything that had sugar, dextrose, corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. I also cut back on empty carbs, eating out, and (wah!) alcohol. I allow myself one or two of those things a day, in small portions. Not my favorite restriction, and I have to read labels on all the packaged food I buy, but it helped so much with my rash that I’ll keep on doing this until the rash is 100% gone.

Lastly, I’m getting in the habit of taking on a neglected household chore every couple of days. One day I put all my DVDs away and dusted the DVD racks. Another, I bought a small bookshelf and some office bins, and set up my seldom needed work-related stuff on it. Yet another day I cleaned off my dining table/desk, changed the tablecloth, and put everything back together in a more organized arrangement.

I took a day off. The whole day. I’ll do that again soon.

You get the idea. You know yourself. If stress starts to impact your life, do what helps you to relax, and try out some new strategies if the old ones don’t help. Be conscious of your choices and seek help when you need it. The things that help me might not help you. And don’t be afraid to seek therapy. You’re changing jobs. It’s not going to be easy. Let the love of writing guide you through the rough spots. Keep learning and keep growing, and you’ll get to where you need to be.


EM Prazeman

EM Prazeman writes secondary world historical fantasy with romantic elements. In other words, you get the beautiful clothes, the intrigues, and deadly duels with wit, rapier and pistol without the baggage that comes with the history of our real world 18th century. She’s a world traveler who prefers direct research like firing a flintlock firearm, paragliding, and sailing on a square-rigged ship, because it’s fun and because her readers deserve the best she can give.

 

“The world of MASKS is a fantasy world unlike any other I’ve encountered, rich with mystery, intrigue, and danger…. We all have our masks, and MASKS lifts the façades of its characters and its world to expose the ambiguous truths behind them.” – David Levine, Hugo Award Winning Author