Other Duties as Assigned in a Writers Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve enjoyed the slower pace of summer the past few weeks.

Nearly a year post-pub, I am fortunate book event requests continue for Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, but at a slower yet steady pace. Now I have time to do the other tasks associated with being a writer.

Things like endorsing books for authors upon request, which requires reading said book and summarizing the impact of it in a sentence or two. Like reviewing writers grant applications local writer’s guild, posting on social media, and prepping for two upcoming conferences I’m a presenter at. Like reading voraciously and giving online reviews for other writers, and meeting with hopeful authors upon request. Like researching new affordable ways to market my memoir online and introduce it to new readers. Like writing essays and posts for blogs and magazines about this writer’s journey. Like reaching out to universities and requesting my book be considered as extra reading or texts for their sociology, psychology, or gender studies program.

These are other duties as assigned for writers. They are optional. But writing, much like the rest of life, is best done in a supportive community. There is a time to take and a time to give.

Thanks to so many giving writers in my local and international community, I’ve learned a lot and had some successes, and have found a safe place to land when sharing failures.

I’ll be the first to say I’ve said yes to a few too many things this year. I’ve skimmed special moments with family and friends or during events because my mind has been racing to the next thing on my list while I’m working through the present one. And I’ve let my savings whittle away as I’ve dug deep in my pockets to make sure I’d be available for events wherever requested. And I’ve loved every bit of it.

But it’s time to slow down. I’ve begun requesting speaking fees to cover writer’s events that cost me. It’s a shift in thinking and inevitably results in some no’s, but that’s alright.

I’ve taken the time to enjoy conversations without feeling I need to get back to work. I’ve cuddled my cats with wild abandon. I once snuck away for tent camping with my daughter. And I took an afternoon to watch a rescued porcupine baby learn tricks. And every morning, I listen to the breeze blowing in the leaves before I get up and start my day. Not exactly a state of Zen, but it’s a start.

In three years, I retire from my all-encompassing day job, and will face a lot of big decisions then about what’s next. How will I fill my days? Where will I fill my days?  Will I become a fulltime writer? Will I leave Alaska permanently to live closer to family, or split my time between states. Everything is unsure.

But what I do know for sure is that I can work as much or as little as I want in writing, and enjoy the love and support of an irreplaceable reading and writing community that will be with me, wherever I land.

Thank you for that.

On September 1-8 (2017), my publisher will be offering 32 terrific e-books for only 99 cents! I promise you, there are treasures here. Feel free to load up and tell your friends!

Thank you. Always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Discipline of a Grateful Life

This week, I enjoyed reading Sam Gentoku McCree’s piece on Ten Steps to a Grateful Life.

Having a grateful life is a discipline.

photo 1It’s not difficult for my mood to tumble this time of year. It’s dark in Alaska for much of the day. My energy dips just as my work chaos soars. And then there are upcoming social functions associated with the holidays that I loathe given my crowd-averse nature.

But I’ve made a point of penciling in times of gratitude in my day to day life. I wake up ten minutes early each day to give thanks, and in doing so, realized how much I appreciate the surprise sources.

Case in point: I am naturally drawn to darker topics, so after much consideration, I decided to piece together the life and death of Muriel Pfeil, who died in 1976 in Anchorage. The story is everything I write about already: domestic violence, international child abduction, the works. The trouble is I don’t know her family or friends.

I got a couple of names through a friend of mine. Two lovely women who have been friends for sixty-plus years were gracious enough to take me to a Thanksgiving party hosted by the Alaskan Pioneers yesterday to do some digging around.

Yes, I actually signed up to hang out with a group of strangers and socialize.

Two hours later, I felt like a part of a great new supportive family. I’d been tentative when it began. ”I’m thinking about writing the story of…” but with the encouragement of my dear hostesses, I left with many new contacts and a greater conviction. I’m not thinking of writing the story of Muriel Pfeil. I am in the process of writing about Muriel Pfeil. And I so appreciate the support and enthusiasm of my new friends.

My daughters with cats
My daughters with cats

There are always the typical things I’m grateful for, like my wonderful daughters. They’re happy (mostly). They’re healthy. They’re working. I even managed to get one of them to move out of the house. I’m grateful for my kittens. My extended family and friends. My work. My health. My volunteer work.

But I’ve scaled back on some things and it’s given me time for a bit more rest, and for writing workshops and coaching. I have created space again.

Thanksgiving is here. What are you thankful for?

I’m always thankful to connect with you here.

PS– I learned that A Girl’s Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson is now available on Amazon. I’m pleased to have my essay  titled Healing included.

Zen-ing My Monster/How I Calmed My Nerves and Enjoyed a Date

Am I the only person who becomes a monster when it comes to matters of love and dating?

Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you: I like people. I love their stories and quirks and cultures. I may not be consistently outgoing, but I always love me a new friend. I really do.

photo-60-

Until it comes to dating. The planning of it, the executing it, the whole nine yards.  Then my judgements are never-ending.

Is it that I don’t like men? I don’t think so. Is it that I prefer being alone? Not always.

“Why are you so mad at men?” a friend asked me recently when I groused about a man asking me out.  It stopped me in my tracks.

I don’t like to be mad, and certainly at a whole gender, but she was right. Even when I joined Match, I’d look at rows of pleasant faces online and make snarky comments. This guy’s nowhere near this stated age or Good luck with that, Buddy.

After much deliberation, I’ve come up with my top three reasons to avoid first dates.

unnamed*Dating messes with my sense of control, and though I enjoy other types of adventure in life, I could live without first dates.

*Dating forces me to answer everyday questions about myself in which the answers are anything but normal, i.e. Are you close to your parents?  Do your kids see their father much?  If you knew my weird life, complete with a parental child abduction as a toddler, and my daughters’ international abduction later, you’d understand how this could kill early dating pleasantries.

* Dating requires a certain vulnerability to be authentic. I don’t do that well. Instead, I cover my nervousness with humor and hold my date hostage by asking all the questions. I get to be like a stand-up comedian.  Take my children, please!   At the end of the date, I’m worn out, and my date has turned into a raisin.

This past Sunday, as I made the mad dash for the coffee shop I arranged to meet an gentleman at, I was a hot mess. My curls even got nervous and I looked like Albert Einstein. I tried to dust my shiny (sweaty) nose with loose powder in my car and spilled it all over me.

I immediately lapsed into negative thinking. This will never work. I’ll bet this guy’s another jerk. He probably won’t even show.

Then I stopped myself and pictured a better outcome for my Two -Hour Date. That he would be there in the coffee shop. That he would be fun to talk to, and that I would be glad we met.

This week, Leo Babauta wrote in Zen Habits :

2012-07-21 21.30.43You worry about how you look, about how you’re perceived, about how you’ll do, about whether you’ll fail, about what you don’t have, about what you’re missing out on, about how you compare to others.

He goes on to say that if you start to build confidence, you can let go of the worries and feel good rather than anxious.

You will walk down the street, relaxed with a smile on your face.

And so I did. I walked in to the cafe with a smile on my face, and was greeted by a handsome and very kind man. I enjoyed a killer cup of coffee and lively conversation. The time was well spent, and I added a new friend into my life. And I never saw the monster-me the whole time.

What Do You Do When You’re Fighting the Blues? Three Strategies That Help Me Every Time

I took a few comp days off work to savor the colors and smells of autumn. My plan was to return to a teeny cabin in Seward to write and relax before the first snowfall.

I envisioned this.

And then I woke up.

Oops!

Snow continues to fall on this 23rd day of September in Anchorage, and is accumulating in great quantities, and not far behind comes the bitter cold and constant darkness that marks Alaska’s winters. It will be May before  Alaskans can leave their homes with simple shoes and a thin overcoat again.

I have  lived in Alaska for more than 44 years of my life. You’d think I’d get used to it, right?

Sadly, I do not.  Seasonal Affective Disorder pulls me in like it does so many others, and by April, I hardly recognize my darker personality.  Sleepless. Sluggish. Snappish.

Fortunately, I’ve found a few things that have helped.

1) I become deliberate about what I watch on television and read.

For example, right now, I’m reading The Paris Wife, a well-written novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.  It’s a dreary read, and had I known winter was making an early arrival, I’d have started with Justin Halpern’s I Suck at Girls. Much funnier. And I re-read my favorite post on zenhabits.org called  Gett Off Your Butt: 16 ways to get motivated when you’re in a slump.

2) I exercise outdoors.

I’m no marathon runner, but getting my heartrate up while ingesting a little vitamin D is my best antidepressant.

3) I stay connected.

It’s so counter-intuitive when I’m low and want to shut myself off from humans. But being with friends, family, being with my blogging community is critical to pushing through the funk.

What do you do when you’re fighting the blues?

Thanks for stopping by.  And please like my author page at https://www.facebook.com/lizbethmeredithfan‎