The writing bug is back

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I hope you are all well and staying safe. I have not posted here as often as I would like, but for good reason. I am finally continuing the adventure of writing my second book.

My creativity from March to July was dismal, at best. I could not put together a string of words that gave me any sort of joy. My work in progress collected dust and my characters had self-isolated to the extent I feared they had taken reclusiveness to an award-winning level and would never return. I was devoid of ideas and was deeply saddened by the reality my prolific brain had atrophied.

But a series of chance discussions in August sparked my imagination and charged new life into the decaying cells in my brain. One by one, the neurons began to fire, and the ideas began to flow. The novel that had sat in solemn darkness with only 18,000 words is currently over 31,000 words in a span of two weeks, and the characters are now tripping over themselves to add their stories to the chapters of the adventure I am writing. This is a writer’s dream.

The inspirational voice that sounded was unexpected, but quickly presented ideas that got me excited. The stagnant pool in my head is now churning with ideas. I find myself at my laptop, writing for hours at a time and then having to physically readjust to the life I am living outside of the life I am creating in my story.

This is my bliss. This is the elusive happiness I struggled to find for four months before the muse came back. This is what being a writer is all about and I cannot tell you how excited I am to finish book number two and continue to write the following three in the series.

 

 

The elevator and the stress of knowing exactly what to say

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As a writer, I craft strings of words into sentences. Those sentences become paragraphs that eventually blend into chapters to create a novel. To say that process is easy is ridiculous. When I wrote “the end” after finishing my first book, I felt like I had nurtured the story from conception, and I had carried those words until I had given birth to a full manuscript. After I typed those two words, I wept.

I thought the most difficult part of writing a novel would be the writing itself. I was wrong. I have recently become much more aggressive in my plight to share my words. After chatting with a friend, and then a friend of that friend, I was gifted some great advice and given the task of coming up with an “elevator pitch” for my book. For those unfamiliar with an elevator pitch, it is basically condensing the eighty-three thousand words of my novel into a twenty-word pitch that could be quickly shared on an elevator and outline of the backbone of my book. It was an arduous task but one that made me strip back all the things that take place in the story to the reveal the true essence of what the book is about.

I was forced to forget about the characters and all the great plot twists I had woven into the fabric of the story. I was tasked with creating a succinct delivery of two lines that could pique the interest of someone who could potentially propel my first child into the private school that had a three-year wait list. It was hard. It was intimidating. But it was achievable.

After many drafts that were close to the mark, but not close enough, I managed to put together twenty-three words that truly convey the heart of my first book. I also created a similar pitch for the book I am currently writing as well as a pitch for the third book waiting to be written. The elevator may skip my floor a few times while I am waiting for the right door to open, but now I am confident I will know exactly what to say if given the opportunity.

 

 

 

Even my exhaustion was exhausted

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Frayed nerves aside, this summer was one for the books. From not knowing if I would even have a job this year to spending countless hours researching all the Covid protocols for opening a family resort, this summer presented a profusion of challenges. Thankfully, we rose to meet them all and we had an extremely successful and safe season.

When you work in a fast-paced job, there are few moments you can stop and realize how exhausted you have become. It is natural to wake up in the morning, jump into the deep end of the day and swim with all your might until your feet finally touch bottom in the shallow end, allowing you to tiptoe up the stairs to escape the water. This was the summer of 2020.

Our respite, this year, came much earlier than it has in past seasons and my body responded very quickly to the welcome down-time. And when I say responded very quickly, I mean I crashed. I went from going to bed long after midnight and waking at 5:00 am with a brain loaded with scenarios for the day, to sleeping for a solid twelve hours because I could not keep my eyes open much later than 7:30 pm.

But with the exhaustion came the overwhelming pride in knowing that we had not only survived the Covid summer of 2020, we had succeeded in providing a safe and enjoyable environment for our guests. Though they were aware of all of the protocols we had in place, they were still able to relax, enjoy the change of scenery from the concrete jungle to cottage country and forget the turmoil that still existed in the world outside of our resort bubble. In the end, it was a win-win.

My exhaustion has since been remedied. A few nights of sleeping like a teenager has brought me back to life. The Covid demon that stole my ability to write has been vanquished and my creative life is back on track, largely due to a great mentor I had the honor of sharing ideas with during the summer and who continues to fuel my desire to write.

What I have learned from this summer is that exhaustion cannot steal the best parts of you. It may have the power to suppress your joy, your tenacity and your creativity, but it does not have the power to fully take those things from you. You must weather the storm until the sky clears and have faith the best parts of you will eventually be restored.

 

 

 

How one book has potentially turned into a four-part series

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Writing is an interesting pastime. Some days my fingers cannot keep up with the speed at which ideas come, and other days I stare at the screen for countless hours and nothing happens. For five months, especially during the initial Covid-19 isolation period, my characters self-isolated as well. The voices I am proud to admit I listen to were so muted, I began to think I had never heard their voices in the first place, and I was unable to write anything. But divine inspiration is a wonderful thing and it comes from sources that are never anticipated, but truly cherished.

Last week, I had the extreme good fortune of having a guest at the lodge who had read my first, unpublished novel in July take a keen interest in the story. He had arrived back at the lodge for a second stay in August, and during each day of his vacation, he dedicated a portion of his precious family time every afternoon to meet with me and discuss his ideas of how he saw the concepts of my future novels morphing into a series. My creativity exploded with the force of a Supernova and an abundance of lights reappeared in the dark recesses of my brain. By gently weaving the characters from the first novel into the fabric of books two, three and four, the “Relative” Series was given life. To say his input was invaluable is an egregious understatement.

In the short span of seven days, my creativity came back with a vengeance. Spending thirty to sixty minutes a day sharing ideas about my characters and my story lines relit a fire within me that had long been extinguished. My neurons recharged, the bubbling cauldron of ideas overflowed and one book turned into a series of four stories, now all connected, taking the word ‘relative’ to a new level.

White board at the ready, I will be spending my day off tomorrow journaling ideas for the new books and documenting the connections between stories. Book number two is still in its infancy, but it is pulling itself up to the table and is ready to take a few more tentative steps before it hits the ground running. Zoom meetings have been scheduled with my friend every Monday beginning September fourteenth and I am ready to be accountable for getting this series written. 2020 has just take a giant turn for the better!

 

 

 

 

The Day Off I Absolutely Needed

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When you only get one day off a week, you must pack as much activity as you can into an exceedingly small window of time. Yesterday, I did the opposite. I changed my regular day off from Monday to Sunday to spend a quiet day at home and watch the stream of an online concert that was both mentally and emotionally soothing. (apart from the tears because the music was SO lovely)

I have mentioned in previous blog posts that I have become slightly obsessed (in a good way) with a musical theatre boy band called Collabro, a group who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2014. These boys have gone above and beyond during the mess that is 2020 and have constantly kept in contact with their fans through social media as well as other platforms. For the first time since March 15th, these boys put together a live, socially distanced, online concert for their fans and it was brilliant.

This year can only be described as an emotional roller coaster. I feel like I have been a prisoner in the first car, slowly chugging up the track and not being able to prevent the eventual crest over the hill, the rocketing descent into utter chaos and the visceral sensation of true fear. But each day I remind myself to remember the plateaus during the ride, the moments when I can catch my breath after the turbulence and the moments of serenity before the track pulls the car up the hill for another round of torture.

Despite the state of the world right now, I seized the day yesterday and fought my way off that roller coaster for a short time. I was able to spend the day at home and not talk about, or think about, Covid-19. I did not have to wear a mask or maintain a social distance from anything. For one day, my life felt somewhat normal and it was bliss. It was the day off I absolutely needed for me to get back to me.

 

Filling my cup

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This is the high season in the hospitality world for resort operators. While the start of the season was extremely stressful having to have so many safety procedures in place, we are succeeding on a daily basis and giving those who had been isolating in the larger urban areas a chance to socially distance while relaxing and unwinding in cottage country.

For most of the month of July, I have spent my energy filling cups that did not belong to me. My cup had a small reserve, enough to keep me putting one foot in front of the other and do my job to the best of my ability, but it waited to be filled with the things I needed to bring me back to me.

During the busy season, I get one day off a week. Yesterday was that day. Instead of going out for socially-distanced visits, I chose to stay home and fill MY cup. I allowed myself to sleep in. I cranked show tunes while I cleaned my house and I got back into my kitchen for the first time in a long time. I love to cook, but Covid-19 had all but squeezed the life out of every molecule that gave me the desire to create food, until yesterday. It was a small step making Vegetable Soup, but it was a step in the right direction.

Each day I make an effort to fill my cup is a day I am headed on the path back to myself. Each moment I choose to find the beauty and the fun in the things I did before the coronavirus took over the world is an achievement I find worthy of celebrating. Life may not be normal for a long time, but those moments I can bring as much normal and joy back to me is a small victory.

As I type this post you are reading this morning, several hummingbirds visited my feeder and my juvenile groundhog friend, Chunk, munched on the quarter of a watermelon I left out for him. Life really is about the small things and those little moments filled my cup. I’m ready to start another week and face the challenges that may loom in the distance.

 

 

 

 

How live-streaming helped me live again

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Covid-19 has taken a huge toll on me, not physically but, mentally. After cresting the half-century mark last year, I am blessed to be able to say I had never struggled with anxiety or depression. What I would have first described as a distraction slowly burrowed into my brain and riddled me with emotions and a sadness I had never had to deal with before. Having been an extrovert by day and introvert by night, I became overwhelmed by the isolation that came with being advised to stay at home and only go out in public when necessary.

Looking back on the past few months, I should have known I had been affected more than I care to admit. The things I loved to do in my spare time became a burden and I forgot the pleasure I felt when I cooked a wonderful meal for myself or sat down at my computer and let words cascade down from the heavens to help me write the novel I am working on that has been untouched since March. The passion I once had for my hobbies became non-existent and that made my sadness feel even more powerful.

But life has a way of kicking us in the pants and it chooses interesting ways to send us compelling messages that cannot be ignored. I spent forty minutes watching a live stream on Patreon by someone I greatly admire. During his video, he emphasized how important it is to put ourselves first and to take time each day to do small things that bring us back to ourselves. His message couldn’t have been louder or clearer. I had been so focused on things that had nothing to do with me that I had all but forgotten to focus on myself and the things that are important to ME.

I have not posted on my blog since April 27th. It pains me to say that. This space has always been my sacred space. This space has let me be myself and free the words that want to be freed whenever I feel the desire to let them loose. But those words have been muted by the blanket of stress I have let weigh me down. NO MORE! Today I take back my power. Today I let the words oppress my thoughts and unleash themselves. Today I will create a spectacular meal for myself because I am the number one thing in my life. If I don’t take care of myself, how will I ever have the energy to take care of anyone else? Thank you, Jamie Lambert. Your words did not fall on deaf ears.

 

Even my characters are self-isolating

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As a writer, I initially looked at this isolation as a great opportunity to add tens of thousands of words to the novel I am currently writing. I could not have been more misguided.

At the beginning of my time at home, my brain was overwhelmed by all of the information being shared on social media about Covid-19. I couldn’t open Twitter or Facebook and not become immersed in the deluge of articles and interviews. The fantasy world in my head retreated and took shelter behind all of the reality I forced myself to watch and my characters have since taken their self-isolation to an impressive level. They are proving the theory that complete seclusion is perfectly attainable.

As many times as I have tried to convince them we could meet at an acceptable social distance, they have vehemently refused to leave their self-captivity and have extinguished all of the light bulbs they historically have used to send me ideas. My invitations for Zoom meetings have gone unanswered and their exhaustive silence has become deafening.  I am stymied.

But the absence of their voices has not made me doubt my ability to finish this book, it has only made me put my reality ahead of my imagination, for now.  I know those characters have been sending text messages to each other, formulating their plans to come out of confinement because they want their stories to be told. The strength of their voices at the beginning of this book makes me believe they want their lives to be forever etched onto the pages they are helping me to write.

So, I will wait. I will sit at my laptop and be ready for the moment the first voice timidly comes out of their self-imposed incarceration and begins to speak again. Until then, I will formulate more plot lines and hope all of the characters agree with the direction the story may follow. And if the trajectory of their adventure is incorrect, I’m sure they will, once again, wake me in the wee hours to tell me how wrong I was and to set the directive of the scenario back onto the course it was meant to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I can’t cope, I cry and then I cook

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A lot has happened in my little world over the last three months. I won’t bore you with the details as most of those have been documented in previous posts if you want to go back and read through them. Imposed quarantine and my immense fear of the Coronavirus aside, the calendar year of 2020 has felt like a battering ram and I am the feeble wooden gate, splintering with every blow.

I have always been the person who was very quick to hatch a Plan-B. I don’t dwell on the details of what just happened. My brains kicks into overdrive and I immediately search for a plan of action to move forward. But something in the way my neurons have always fired in the past has recently changed. For the first time in my life, I feel completely overwhelmed and uncertain about where I go from here and that, for me, is the true sign of how affected I am by what is happening in the world right now.

I try my best to process all of the information presented online but when those reports become too staggering to deal with, I purge my accumulated emotion and I cry. I make no excuse and I don’t fault myself for my behaviour, I just cry. Once I have released the intensity of those feelings, my focus shifts and I want nothing more than to be in my kitchen. I have recently renamed my kitchen my “solace room” because it is the only place where I can feel a true sense of peace.

Today is no exception to that rule. My dueling crockpots and my Dutch oven will be filled with a myriad number of items that will produce the combined aromas of onion, garlic, bacon and a collection of other ingredients that will eventually become an assortment of soups and stews I will share with others. One person, in particular, will have his freezer filled with these items as a dear friend has just been diagnosed with advanced brain cancer and is awaiting the plan for his course of treatment.

So, this morning, I am shutting out the socials, and the rest of the planet, to bring my focus into a world I can control, into a world where I can be helpful even if it is on a very small scale. And as the onions caramelize and the bacon is rendered, I know I will cry more tears today because it is what I need to do. I can only hope when this pandemic is over and we are able to live our lives again, I can say I was able to recognize the best parts of myself and know that I gave everything I could to make things a bit better for the people I love when they needed it the most.

 

 

I don’t care where it came from

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Emotion has always been the driving force behind the need to write my blog posts. Putting words to a page allows me to process emotion in a way I feel most comfortable. This post is going to allow me to vent some frustration and attempt to understand the vast divide between the people who get it and the people who never will.

It is currently Monday afternoon, as I write this, and in the past thirty minutes I have admonished myself for habitually touching my face several times. It shouldn’t matter since I have been staying home and have obsessively washed my hands approximately thirty times since noon, but I’m still trying to do my part to flatten the curve.

I have cried so many tears thinking of the front-line workers in essential services, the truck drivers, the first responders, the police, the fire departments, the paramedics and the many doctors and nurses who are forced, too frequently, to decide which patient deserves to be put on the only available ventilator. Day in and day out, they enter a war zone to save as many lives as possible.

Shortly before I felt the desire to write another blog post, I received a comment on Facebook from an old acquaintance (who I have since unfriended) sharing his theory that the virus is lab-made and everything will be fine in a week. His rhetoric was written in response to a meme I had posted about adhering to the government-imposed social distancing and self-isolation. He continued his nonsensical comments by saying he would not allow the government to tell him how to run his household and the “hype” surrounding the virus isn’t warranted.

Let me just say this, and I apologize for the profanity that will follow….at this point, I don’t give a shit where the virus came from. It could have been created by a university student, bored in their molecular biology class for all I care. My biggest concern is that it is here, and it is killing people. The “hype” surrounding this virus has crippled our existence and forced those of us, who understand the concept of how this virus spreads, to stay home and hone our skills on social media, pick up sewing again, read the book we have been meaning to read or to teach ourselves how to bake homemade bread. My family lives two minutes away and it would be SO easy to drop by for a quick visit, but those visits are now reduced to me say hello from my car window across the road from their driveway.

I spent a great deal of time calming myself before I wrote this post. It would have contained an exaggerated number of expletives had I not taken many deep breaths before putting my fingers on the keyboard. The “hype” surrounding this virus has already killed upwards of 74,000 people, and those are just the registered deaths. Those who have succumbed to the virus were people like you and me. They had families and friends, and their deaths will not go unnoticed.

This isn’t over. This virus isn’t finished with us. More people will die and they could be people we know and love. And if I follow the inane thought-process of the ignoramus who is not following the guidelines of staying at home, I hate to think how much soap I would need to wash my hands of the blood of those I may have inadvertently infected with my utter disregard for the severity of this pandemic by NOT staying home.

My government does not run my household. My heart and my head run my household. And if I, for one second, thought I could potentially help even ONE person by staying at home, you can bet your ass, I will choose staying at home. Every. Single. Time.