Life, Change, and Writing

In the midst of this pandemic so many lives have been turned upside down. People have been thrust into new ways of living, existing, coping. I haven’t. My life hasn’t changed much because being home, working from home, homeschooling was my life and to a point, still is. The most I’ve struggled with is finding toilet paper and finding focus. The degree of change has varied with each person, with each family.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I know there are people struggling with getting anything done at all when the house is full of people, when normal routines have been disrupted, when there’s no certainty when things might go back to some semblance of the way they were. I wish I had some tips and tricks to help others figure out how to navigate this, but the way I did it was to just do it. I didn’t have any other choice. I didn’t have the privacy of a home office the way I do now. I didn’t have the dedicated time to do what I wanted to do. I had to make it or I just had to do it in little swatches of time.

And one thing I learned by doing it the way I did is that I’m a high stress person. I’ll stress about the smallest things and I’ll stress about big things and I’ll stress when something impacts my family and I’ll stress when something may impact my ability to get coffee the way I like it… But I’ve found, in general, that I can actually thrive and make progress when there’s a lot of stress, outward stress, at least. Inward stress and I’m done for. But the outward stress… That’s what I thrive in.

I didn’t always believe that and here is what this post is actually about. I thought having a nearly empty nest, and all sorts of time in a day, and a dedicated home office, and a chore schedule, and pretty much zero interruptions that I would be productive as shit, cranking out books left and right and upside down and right-side up… And well, I was wrong.

I can’t speak for anyone else. There are writers who need that, who need to not be on the verge of pulling their hair out. They need dedicated space and quiet and to be left alone. I get that. For instance, when my books are in editing and when I’m formatting them, I am that writer. But otherwise, I am not. I get distracted and unfocused and even…bored. God, I hate that word. So fucking much. And I’ve tried the schedules. The morning routines. The plan everything. The set my intentions.

Maybe the quiet gets to me. Maybe the walls get to me. I don’t know. But I do miss the chaos of all the things happening and going on.

And there’s definitely a piece of this that is mourning the near empty nest. I am in mourning that my kids are grown and don’t need me as much. I am in mourning that those magical years are over. I am in mourning that a new stage of life is here and I wasn’t emotionally or mentally prepared for it. Sometimes I’m not sure what to do with it all and maybe that’s what most of my struggle is. What do I do with it all? The mourning and the new? I spent so many years working and writing and living one way that I’m not sure how not to work and write and live another way. This is the inner stress. This is upheaval of life as it once was but isn’t anymore and I know a lot of people are going through it, just on the other end.

I worked a job. I homeschooled. I did the cooking and cleaning. I wrote in the wee hours.

Then… I homeschooled. I cooked and cleaned. I wrote in the between times and in the wee hours.

Then… I dropped off and picked up. I cooked and cleaned. I wrote less and less and not in the wee hours.

Then… I wandered aimlessly and the concept of time got skewed in my head.

I miss the chaos. I miss the way things were. I miss being pushed against the walls of all the things that needed to be done.

Now, none of that is to say that chaos is the only thing that helped me or that peace and quiet and time  are the only things that I’ve struggled with. I’ve struggled jealousy. Envy. Compairisonitis. Too many things. Not enough things. Inconsistency. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Humiliation. Embarrassment. Lack of confidence in myself. Lack of belief in my writing and the stories I’m trying to tell. These are all pretty serious things in and of themselves, but put them together and it’s one big fucked up show.

But when there was chaos in my house, when there was normal life in my house, I didn’t have time to think about all those other things that throw wrenches. I could only throw myself into the writing in the windows of time I had at my disposal. I wrote at the kitchen table. On the couch. In bed. At baseball games. At band rehearsals. In the pick-up line at school. In coffee shops. At restaurants. In bookstores. In the middle of the hotel lobby at a conference. Those things worked for me, worked like a fucking charm for me. I can set goals until I’m blue in the face and with the best of intentions and for a couple of days, I’ll get all over them. Then, I’ll fall off. I have time. I can start again later. I can do that tomorrow or next week or whenever. No one is waiting. No one cares. And those things are just fucking lies. People are waiting. People do care. I am waiting. I care.

For a long time now, by this point in the year, I’d have given up already. The goals long forgotten. The planner collecting dust. And I’d be in the… Well, I’ll try again next year frame of mind and beating myself up. I had time. What’s wrong with me? But this year… through the writing of blog posts and journaling and not giving up and plugging along and trying to learn about myself as I am now, as life is now, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t do well with a planner (that post is HERE), and I don’t do well with word count goals (that post is HERE). I need pressure and a little chaos, even if it’s manufactured. And when it comes to my writing, a deadline does that. It gives me an end. It gives me an ultimatum. And I will thrive in that. Telling myself that I need to get to 50,000 words by the end of the month does absolute shit for me. I’ll let the end come and go, and I’ll wave as it passes. Set up a pre-order and have a deadline… Dude, I’ll get that done. I’ve let one lapse over the years, but my mindset game wasn’t strong at all. It’s stronger now. It’s better now. It’s not to be fucked with now.

It’s kind of like when my mom is coming for a visit and my house is a wreck the way it always is… I’ll start off doing little things here and there a few days before she’s due to arrive. Then, the day she is supposed to get here, I’ll talk to her throughout the day to find out where she is and how much longer it’ll be until she pulls into the driveway… When she’s an hour to an hour and a half out, my ass is in high gear and this place is spotless and things are put away and the toilets are cleaned and the floors are mopped and the clothes are hung and the surfaces dusted and the kitchen is gleaming.

The writing for me, with a deadline, is like that. The writing for me, in small pockets of time with all the things going on around me, is like that.

The writing with all the time in the world to get it done, is not like that for me.

The writing with peace and quiet and time, is not like that for me.

It’s probably why I also like and need and have conditioned myself to use a timer when I write. Not blog posts, obviously, but my books, definitely.

Life is a bit of a struggle for me. I’m not ready for all the changes that are here now or that have been coming. I can’t control any of it and I can’t stop it. I can’t make my life go back 10-20 years even though I wish I could. I’m jealous of all the people who are homeschooling now and who have all their kids around because I miss mine. Because I miss those years. And I know some people are jealous of the situation I find myself in…kids pretty much gone and time is now my own. The only things I can control right now is my writing and my output and I’ve not done well with it. I’ve lost a lot of time trying to find what box I fit into now.

How do you cope with changes in life and stress? Does your writing soar or suffer? Let me know. I’m curious. Always.

 

Lissa

 

I’m Not A Word Count Writer

I wanted to be. I still do want to be. But the honest truth, y’all? I’m not.

And it’s not because I set unrealistic word count goals. At least, not anymore. I used to. But then I’d fall off the wagon a week in and I’d be running to catch up, only to be left in the dust because I didn’t run fast enough or hard enough or consistently enough.

Being a consistent writer… Well, what do I consider consistent? Every day? Yeah, sure. I’d love that, but again, that whole honesty thing and no. I’m not an every day writer. This is something I’m still coming to terms with. I’d like to think that I will one day be an every day writer, but… Now, some people consider any writing, writing… Journals, blogs, books, short stories, essays. And if that’s something I adopt as a truism, then I am an every day writer because I journal, whether it be my regular empty my head of the shit journal or my gratitude journal daily.

I am always thinking about writing, whatever book or books that I’m working on, how to re-write a blurb, what’s coming, what plot point needs fixing… An author I love, V.E. Schwab considers these ruminations writing and well, who am I to argue?

So, if I’m not a word count writer, what am I? And can I aspire to certain word counts?

The answer to the second question is yes. A group on Facebook that I’ve joined has a 10K Words in a Day challenge. I have tried it once. The other days they did it, didn’t work for me as I was either on the road or had family things come up. But I did try it and I did do well. Not 10K well, but over 6K that day and it was good. Of course, my brain was fried afterward and I didn’t write for several days.

Not being a word count writer I think is also why I don’t win NaNoWriMo, even though I try every year. But if I approach it differently this year, maybe… If I approach it the way I plan to approach Camp NaNoWriMo, I should be able to pull it off. We’ll see. (I did not pull off Camp NaNoWriMo, this year.)

I tried doing 10K Weekends and I loved this idea so much, but I couldn’t seem to get my ass in gear consistently enough to do it. I’d put it off on Thursday, and say that I’d make it up on Friday, and then oh look! it’s Saturday and then Sunday and well, I’ll try next weekend. Yeah, that sucked. It sucked hard. I haven’t attempted it in a long time.

Now, the answer to the first question… I’m a deadline writer. I think I’ve always known it, at least always as far as my decade+ long writing career has been going on. When I wrote just for me, or for Literotica, or whatnot, I wrote until I was finished. I wrote a lot in a short span of time. There were no expectations. No one cared. It was just me. And often in the middle of the night after the family was asleep. Once I began pursuing publishing and writing as a career, I wrote my own way. A lot here. A little there. A lot more somewhere else. So on and so forth until the book was finished. If there was a deadline, I rarely missed it. Except when it came to self publishing. I could move that date around all I wanted. And that’s pretty much what I did.

When 2020 began, I took author Sarah Cannon’s writing plan workbook and worked up a plan for releases, word counts, days off, etc… And within a couple of weeks, I’d once again fallen off the wagon. I raced to catch up. I modified my route to make it easier, but it didn’t work. By the end of January, I’d only written 24,448 words. I was 40,000+ words behind where I’d planned to be. I was discouraged. I was sad. And I wrote all of 1444 words in February.

I spent most of February depressed and aimless. I was falling back into this pattern that I have every single time I’d set word count goals. I tried to fight through it because my plan for 2020 was bigger than a single month. And then… I ended up spending 10 days in Florida. I wasn’t on vacation. My time wasn’t my own. My mom had knee replacement surgery the day before my 49th birthday and got out of the hospital on my birthday. That same day, my grandmother came down with the flu. Was taking care of two of the most stubborn women I know, alone. I didn’t get to celebrate my birthday and that kind of depressed me, too. I spent very little time doing anything but seeing to their needs and running errands they couldn’t. But it did offer me some moments to think…especially in the car on the drive down and back home. I wondered what I could do differently than I had been. What could I change? What inside my head would make any sense? That’s when it kind of hit me. I’m a deadline writer. And I didn’t know why I couldn’t see it before.

1K1Hr… That was the standard word sprint. For others. Give me an hour to write 1000 words and I’ll waste time until the last 30min. Give me a deadline and I’ll typically write a little here, and a little more there, and bust my ass the last two weeks to get it finished. I usually have multiple projects going, too. This is how I wrote as much as I did when I first started out in 2008/2009.

I kept telling myself that I couldn’t write that way anymore, and yet… Why not? Cleary the way I wanted to write wasn’t working for me, so why couldn’t I try going back to what I know did work?

I’m currently working on 5 different books. 3 new ones and 2 re-releases, along with re-writing 2 blurbs. I know what I’ll work on next month because it has a pretty immediate deadline. But the ones I’m working on right now, have later in the year deadlines. I’ll be putting things up for pre-order to seal in the deadlines from Amazon and that will help me out a lot. And yes, I could do the same thing and set daily word count goals, but that’s never been me as a writer. Facing the truth of how I write is not fun or easy. Not when I want to be some other way. But it’s also kind of freeing. I’ll enjoy it more if I don’t force myself into a hole I don’t fit in.

Have a great weekend, y’all.

Lissa

10K Weekends For Writers – Week 5

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I don’t know about y’all, but I need A LOT of words this weekend. I need ass in the chair, fingers on keys, and words pouring out of my eyeballs onto the screen.

It’s week 5 of 10K Weekends For Writers and week 4 was a pathetic effort on my part. I got less words last weekend than I’ve gotten all year long and we’re only in February! (Can you believe that, btw? I mean FEBRUARY!)

So, bring your manuscript, your determination, your motivation, your terrible for you snacks (or if you’re one of those who can eat healthy writing having a writing binge, go on and bring your carrot sticks and water)… But it’s time to get down to it and write.

Author, bloggers, college students with a paper to write… Let’s get it on!

Add your name to the Linky below and keep track of your word count. The social media hashtag is #10KWeekendsForWriters. Grab the little badge if you want, but join in! Challenge yourself. Can you write 10,000 words between 7pm tonight (Thursday) and Noon on Sunday? Why noon? Because it’s Super Bowl Sunday. I didn’t forget. Hell, I’ll be watching and pulling for Peyton! And for those who won’t be watching, you can have until 10pm as usual. But for those watching the Super Bowl? It means is that YOU and I have to get the most words in BEFORE kickoff, before you start the party, before the beer is cold enough…

So, you ready?

As Peyton would say O M A H A!

~lissa

10K Weekends For Writers – Week 2

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Are y’all ready? Do you have 10K words in you? Do you need to do some hard and heavy writing over the weekend? This is the challenge for you!

Beginning at 7pm on Thursday night (tonight) and ending at 10pm on Sunday night, the goal is 10,000 words. If you come in under that, it’s cool. Maybe it’s something to work up to. Maybe you’ll get it right out of the gate. You may write 10,000 words in a day. Whatever your ability and timetable, you have a whole weekend to get in as many words as you can.

Check in with the Linky below. Keep track of where you started with your word count and where you ended, then come back on Sunday night and leave a comment on this post about your progress.

So, let’s get writing! Feel free to grab the 10KWeekendsForWriters badge for your site or social media and be sure to use the #10KWeekendsForWriters hashtag so we can all check in over the next few days.

Any questions, leave a comment!

Are you ready? Let’s get writing!

~lissa

Temptation Tuesday – Shifting Currents

This is something I’m working on that’s new and it was for a special call for a publisher, but I’m not going to get it finished in time to meet the deadline. The Sticky Cowgirl has been taking up a lot of my time and I’ve about had it with these two…

But, even if I miss that deadline, I’ll self publish it and it’s no harm, no foul… It’s a bear shifter, not related to the Denali Heat series, but it’s me hoping that this one will kick start the next book for my polar bear shifters. For the time being though, I’m working on this one, here and there…

This is unedited, so just ignore the issues within…

Blake muttered a curse. Humidity covered everything from the leaves on the forest floor to the tops of the trees that rose high above. He slammed the cabin’s front door and retreated back inside to the blessed air conditioning. “Ninety-six? Not even seven in the morning and it’s ninety-six degrees? The universe is trying to kill me. That’s got to be it. Climate change. Global warming. Blah. Blah. Blah. What about just fucking hot?”

Grumpy as a bear didn’t even cover it for him and was no laughing matter. He was a damn bear. Or at least, he was a half-bear. And he hated the heat. Why didn’t bears hibernate in the summer? They could sleep during the scorching, blazing, sun-baked days instead of…sweating and having to go around naked all the time.

Not that there was anything wrong with being naked. He always got up in the morning, got dressed with the intent to stay that way, but never made it past noon. Noon-oh-one showed up and he was buck assed naked and in the river. The river was starting to piss him off too. The water was cool, but more than once, he’d seen and he’d smelled someone. It wasn’t anyone he knew. It wasn’t anyone he wanted to know, not if his keen senses were on target and they usually were.

The scent was all female. Human, but with a delicate undertone of bear. He’d never encountered a half-breed female before which had been just fine with him. He’d had sexual encounters with full human women, but none in quite a while. Being intimate had always made him want something more. He was in his early twenties when his parents were killed in shifted form. Poachers had trespassed on their land. His land now. And the world hadn’t gotten any safer or better for wildlife.

He didn’t want to mate. Now, or ever. Sex was fine as long as it was anonymous sex. There were plenty of bars on the fringe of the mountain towns for him to find partners when the urge struck. But mating? Producing cubs? No way.

And even though his natural bear counterparts never mated for life, his parents and grandparents and all those that came before and after, had. It was just one of the smudges of his DNA. He wanted to be left alone here in this little corner of the Smoky Mountains. He didn’t care what happened after he was gone, but until that time came, he was content to exist right where he was, alone.

A female shifter didn’t figure into his mind’s long-term plans. His body had other ideas with every whiff of the meddling woman. Not that he’d met her. For all he knew she was a very pleasant creature.

Creature? “Shit.” He bit the word out. The older he got, the surlier he got. Enough so he’d called her… If he was so damn content to be isolated and alone, why was he grumpy all the time? This was something he didn’t understand. Shouldn’t it make him happy? Shouldn’t he be ecstatic and thrilled to be living the ultimate life according to his grand design?

“I was happy,” he growled to the empty cabin. The empty cabin that was too big for just one person, but felt too confining most days lately. It had been built for a large family. His grandmother had had four cubs and those uncles were still alive with cubs of their own. He had family. He had cousins.

He’d had a twin sister, too, but she hadn’t survived birth. His mother had never been able to have more.

He knew pain and loss and he didn’t want anything to do with it ever again. A woman would only complicate his uncomplicated life. “I’ll just stay away from her,” he declared to the four walls. “I’ve done a good job of it so far. I can just keep doing so until she leaves the area.”

Feeling satisfied with himself and his decision, Blake made for the kitchen and the Mason jar of iced coffee in the fridge. If summer were good for anything, it was iced coffee. He drank it black, undiluted but for a few ice cubes and a slight sweetness.

He stepped onto the back deck and took a deep breath. The heat wasn’t so bad with something cold coating his throat and cooling him from the inside out. But it was still oppressive. He turned to reenter the cabin, but caught the scent before he could turn his head. She was near. To the northeast and getting closer.

Blake debated with himself. Should he get closer? Should he get a look at her? His body screamed that yes he should. His brain, on the other hand, screamed obscenities at him for even considering it.

Her scent was stronger now. “Man, this is such a bad idea,” he whispered to no one even as he crept off the deck and onto the forest floor. For a six foot five guy, he could be surprisingly stealthy.

He weaved his way through the trees toward the water, careful to keep out of sight as he got closer. A stand of trees and low-lying bushes allowed him to stay out of view. He crouched to his knees and waited.

He didn’t have to wait long. She rounded the bend in the river several seconds later and Blake had to bite down on his tongue to keep the howl at bay. His soul growled “Mine” and his brain knew they were all goners.

Reddish blonde hair caught the morning light that glinted off the water. Strands of gold and red, copper and auburn floated on the surface behind her. Her face was tilted up toward the sun as she drifted along.

She was beautiful. What he could see of her, that is. She had a full finger that fit the tube, not one that would slink through the middle unless she held on. No, this one was curved and womanly in shape. Blake liked that.

Too much. He huffed, then dropped back behind a tree. The sound echoed and she lifted her head, her gaze focused in his direction. He held his breath and stayed where he was until he was down river a little ways.

He followed.

He hadn’t intended to, only his feet wouldn’t listen to his head. He didn’t usually shift in the daytime, but this wasn’t just any day. This was a special day. His bear had found its mate, and his human was pissed about it. Oh yeah. A real fuckin’ special day.

And what he’d like more than to mate at the moment with the pretty redhead, was a swim. In human form, it was hotter than hell. In bear form, it was damned hotter than hell. His coat was brown and he melted into the foliage of the Smoky Mountain National Forest. His paws were soft on the ground as he tracked the path of the inner tube. Every so often she hummed songs he didn’t know, but he liked the sound. He hated that he liked it, but nonetheless, he liked it.

She didn’t have on a bathing suit, but rather a white tank top and cut-off shorts. Would her nipples be erect? Was she braless? Did she maybe have a bikini top under the tank top? None of the answers mattered. He wanted her. Her scent was sweet and rich, like honey. Her hair was long. The color of her eyes, how tall she might or might not be, the span of her waist… None of that mattered. His gut knew.

She was a shifter too. He wasn’t sure at all how he knew that, but he did. His family didn’t mate with only shifters and the person with the dominant genes won out on whether offspring would move within both worlds or not.

At the same time, Blake didn’t think she was from around the Smokies. Her scent was too different, too new for her to inhabit the same North Carolina stretch of forest and mountain, he did. No, she was a visitor to these parts.

He also wondered if she could scent him too. Every so often she’d glance over, as though looking for something, but Blake knew she couldn’t hear him or see him. He was far enough back and used his knowledge of the woods and the river to keep her in his sight and to stay out of hers.

The –

“I know you’re there,” she called out, interrupting his train of thought.

Blake hunkered low to the ground and tried to stop breathing. He didn’t want to be found out. He wasn’t ready. Rather, his human side wasn’t ready.

“You’re not going to talk to me? You’re just going to hide in the trees?”

He snuffled and slipped behind a tree, climbing quickly. He had a good view of several miles of river and mountains. He could see the roofs of cabins and tube rental shacks.

“That’s kind of rude. You can see me, but you’re not going to let me see you? It’s also kind of stalkerish.”

Stalker? She was calling him a stalker? Well, that was so not what he was. She had the complete wrong idea about him.

He was on the ground again in no time and without sparing her a look, he walked back toward his cabin. When he was sure she couldn’t see shadows or shapes, he shifted back into human form.

Him? A stalker? What kind of crap was that? “The callin’ it like she saw it kind, asshole.”

Blake is definitely going to fun to play with…

~lissa