W is for Writing

letters-alphabet-cursive-wAs promised, a post on writing…

I don’t remember when I started wanting to become a writer (of fiction). I do remember when I learned to read. I was in first grade and my teacher was having each person read a bit from our textbooks. I remember finishing my section, looking up, and realizing that I had read it. With no help. All by myself. A rush of joy went through me and I thought, “I can read!” It was one of the few times of pure realization and happiness I can remember.

Somewhere between then and third grade I decided that becoming a writer was the coolest thing ever. In third grade my teacher set up these stations for independent work. My favorite station was story writing. All of my stories began with “once upon a time” and were about a “young girl” who overcame various challenges with courage and aplomb. Obviously all of my stories were fantasies about what I wanted my life to become, but I loved it nonetheless.??????????????

In fourth grade I entered our school system’s “Young Author” contest. I made it to the top three authors in my school and my story was submitted to the state contest. Another student in my school won, but I held the realization that I came close (I was in the top ten statewide) close to my heart.

Between fourth grade and high school, I played around with fiction, never really doing much but keeping my dream close. I never told anyone other than my best friend of my dream. Of course, at that time we alternating between being actresses, dancers, singers, and various other professions so I don’t think she ever took my ambition seriously. I was afraid to tell anyone else for fear that I would be mocked the same way I was when I said I wanted to be President of the United States (“you can’t do that! Only boys can be President”).

Then in high school, I did something quite stupid. I wrote a scene depicting me in the middle of a food binge then gave it to a friend for criticism. She tore it apart, pointing out everything from spelling mistakes to logic errors. Ultimately she said “it doesn’t seem real.” But it had been real, it had been me. My dream shriveled up and hid deep inside me, light deprived for years.

In my twenties and early thirties, I would occasionally drag out this dream of writing fiction, shake it out, and let it

It was just the pen, the paper, and me. Terrifying.

It was just the pen, the paper, and me. Terrifying.

soak up the sun for a bit. I’d take a workshop here, a class there. I read writing magazines and books. Open a word processing program or pull out a notebook and stare at the black screen/page. But I was always paralyzed by the fear that I’d not be able to do it right. That whatever I wrote wouldn’t “seem real.” So I’d back away, tuck my dream away, and try to content myself with my life.

Then, in my early thirties, I took a fiction writing class that gave me hope. It was taught by a man who had actually been published (not a best-seller or anything, but a book that a real publisher had bought). I had to take an upper level writing class to get my Associates degree, and this was the only class that appealed to me. So I tried, fighting my fear every step of the way. I forced myself to write at a higher level then I’d ever written before. And I succeeded. In one of my final evaluations my teacher said that I wrote better than he did. Better than a published author! I held that evaluation in my heart for years before I wrote another word.

Flash forward to 2010, many things had changed in my life. I’d survived years of suicidal depression, buried my mother and beloved grandmother, and finally decided that I could no longer put off my lifelong goal of getting my bachelor’s degree. My first semester back at a four-year university I decided to take a fiction writing class and be open to whatever came my way. The class was a revelation. I adored it. I loved the writing exercises, the students, even the deadlines. And, most importantly, I felt joy. Despite the hardships of my life at the time (financial difficulties, physical illnesses, etc), I was filled with hope. I was working toward one goal (bachelor’s degree) and doing something I loved (writing). I even got a short story published in my college literary magazine.

Since then I’ve taken another fiction class, where I also did well. I even considered attempting to get a Masters of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing, but then I got sick (hospitalized for suicidal ideation). My dream still lives within me, nurtured by the realization that my university teachers believed I could be published and/or get into a Masters program. My dream has lost most of its wrinkles and gets regular doses of sunlight.

But I don’t do as much to nurture it as I could. The fear of success and the fear of failure sometimes paralyze me. I try to remember that I’m allowed to write a “shitty first draft” (to quote Anne Lamott). I try to remember that I don’t have to be perfect, but I’m not always successful.

Regardless of my fears though, I plan to continue to work my way into being published. After all, I don’t want to write the “Great American Novel.” That novel has already been written, multiple times (see Twain, Melville, Hawthorne, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Salinger, Toni Morrison, etc). I just want to write a novel that a hardworking person can get lost in for a few hours. A novel that lets a reader forget for a time their own troubles. I want to give a reader the same experience I get when I read.

And I will do it. I must. Writing is my passion and I can no longer ignore it.

Is this your pic? If so, please contact me so I can give you credit.

Is this your pic? If so, please contact me so I can give you credit.

Blessings to you all.

Be well.

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W is for Websites (and Blogs)

letters-alphabet-cursive-wSo, I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping—translation, avoiding—lately. This is mostly because I’ve been overwhelmed with loneliness and worry (I’m unemployed, sick, etc). That said, I’m tired of thinking about myself. So I thought I’d take time to highlight my favorite websites, most of which I’ve linked to on this blog.

Cat Sites: I’m a big fan of cats. And, probably because I can’t have one in my current apartment, I’m obsessed with pictures of them. On Facebook, I like seven different pages that are cat or pet related (most of which I’ll won’t mention in this post). Here’s an overview of the sites I love:

  • The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee: This is a blog written by a cat foster family in Seattle. Originally written as a way to help get
    Wylla - image courtesy of theittybittykittycommittee.com

    Wylla – image courtesy of theittybittykittycommittee.com

    their kittens fostered, it is currently focused on one of their adopted kittens, Wylla, who has special needs. I love this site because the star is just too cute. This site is usually updated once a day, during the week.

  • Cats. Where they do not belongThis is a tumblr.com blog that features, as you’d expect, cats where they aren’t supposed to be. Enough said. The site is usually updated once a day, less often on the weekend.
  • William of Mass Destruction: This is a blog supposedly written by a black cat; mostly the cat complains about his siblings or makes sarcastic comments. The humor appeals to me, but mostly it’s a way to see pretty pictures of gorgeous cats.  Usually updated once a day, weekdays, but sometimes less often.
  • The PsychoKitty Speaks Out: Another blog supposedly written by a sarcastic cat and I like it for the same reason I like William of Mass Destruction, just not updated as often. However, this blog is special in that the writer makes up some cleaver “cat-speak”: “doods” for “dudes” and so forth. For some reason this makes me laugh.
  • Daisy the Curly Cat: Another blog written by a cat, this one a cutie with curly fur. This blog has daily themes: Mondays are comics featuring Daisy and her siblings, Tuesdays and Thursdays are general picture days, and Wednesdays are “wordless” (apparently there is some sort of agreement with many of the cat blogs to post some sort of uncaptioned picture then linking to other blogs). Only posts Monday through Thursday.
  • Housecat Confidential: Another cat written blog, this one written with the cats referring to each day as if the day itself was a reader. Posts daily (weekdays).
  • Love Meow: This is a website that finds cute cat stories and videos and posts them all to their site for your reading convenience. The stories usually focus on cat rescues but the videos are priceless.
  • Army Kitty: Similar to Love Meow, this site lists cat stories (but rarely videos). I actually like this site a bit better than Love Meow because the layout is clearer. However, the videos alone on Love Meow are worth checking it out. Both Love Meow and Army Kitty are updated daily, sometimes on the weekend as well.
  • Freekibble Kat: This is a charity website that allows you to donate food to animal shelters with or without a monetary donation. You can donate without emptying your wallet by answering a daily (all 7 days) trivia question. Regardless if you answer the question right or not, 10 pieces of kibble are donated to the shelters on their beneficiary list. This site is an off-shoot of Freekibble which does the same thing, but for dogs. There is a link for the dog site as well as a weekly email reminder. You can only “free” donate once per day per device.
  • The Animal Rescue Site: This is another charity website that allows you to donate with or without money. Instead of answering trivia questions, you just click on a button and the site’s advertisers donate. There are also links on the site to its sister sites where you can click to donate to a general charity (GreaterGood), for hunger, breast cancer, autism, veterans, diabetes, literacy and the rainforest. If you’ve got a few extra bucks, you can also give by shopping. You can click once per day, for the “free” donation, (all 7 days) per device.

Mental Health Sites: If you need a reminder, I have been diagnosed with Reoccurring Major Depressive Disorder (with suicidal ideation) and I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. So I try to keep myself educated on the trends in the industry, both for my own health and in case I ever decide to start a career in the industry.

  • Therese J. Borchard: This site/blog is written, obviously, by Therese J. Borchard, a prominent mental health blogger. Ms.
    image from HealthyPlace.com

    image from HealthyPlace.com

    Borchard has bipolar disorder and I find her writing style easy to read and comforting. I highly recommend her articles for both those with and those without a mental health issue. She’s not ashamed to say when she’s been having difficulty with her disease and she’s done a lot of research into the physical aspects of depression. Lots of great advice on how to handle symptoms and what it’s really like to have the disease. I also recommend her books.

  • Celebrity Psychings and PsychCentral: Celebrity Psychings is a blog, hosted by PsychCentral, that focuses on those in the entertainment industry who have spoken out about or who have some sort of mental health issue. The blog is occasionally superficial but I like it because it appeals to the tabloid part of me. There are other blogs on PsychCentral that are good as well.
  • Psychology Today: This is the website for the magazine of the same name. Lots of easily understood information on various mental health topics. I use this website when I need a reminder of some of the basics of psychology.
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA): This is an organization dedicated to providing support and information for those with depression and bipolar and their families. I also “like” them on Facebook. The site can get you information and connect you to support. On Facebook they keep you updated on news and events.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Like the DBSA, this is an organization that’ll provide you with information and support. But what it does a lot more of is advocate. The NAMI focuses on trying to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness. Again, I “like” them on Facebook, where they keep you up to date on their efforts.
  • HealthyPlace: This site advertises itself as America’s Mental Health Channel and has lots of information, forums and blogs. I find their Facebook posts especially helpful; they ask good questions and link to great blog posts. If you had to choose only one of the above sites to “like” on Facebook, I’d pick this one. It’s helpful with the day to day of living with a mental illness.

Writing Sites: Something I don’t talk much about on this blog is my desire to become a novelist. It’s something I’ve dreamed about ever since I was in 3rd grade. The following sites are places I don’t go every day, usually because I can’t focus (due to my depression. The inability to focus is extremely frustrating) but they’re good sites nonetheless.

  • Writer’s Digest Magazine and The Writer Magazine: These are two of the prominent writing magazines in the United
    National Novel Writing Month - image courtesy of nanowrimo.org/

    National Novel Writing Month – image courtesy of nanowrimo.org

    States. Writer’s Digest leans a bit towards those who are first starting out while The Writer leans towards the veterans. Both are worthy of reading regardless of where you are in your writing journey. Another prominent writing magazine is Poets & Writers; it leans towards more academic writing but is still worth reading occasionally.

  • Absolute Write, Writer Unboxed, Live to Write – Write to Live, Novel Rocket, WOW! Women on Writing, Writing.com, and Funds for Writers: These are all sites for support, forums, advice and so forth for writers. There are plenty of other sites as well, but these are the ones I visit when I need some advice, to read a blog about writing, or just to lurk in the forums.
  • National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo): This is a fun site where you are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. There are many spinoffs of this concept (write a novel in a day, a week, a year; edit a novel in a day, week, year; etc), but this is the original. A great challenge if you can do it and many schools use the concept/website to promote writing. The forums are especially lively. I encourage everyone who is interested in writing to give it a try. It is especially helpful for those who have a problem with perfectionism in their writing since the focus is on getting words on the page, not on the quality of those words.

Other sites: Since no one is just about three things (in my case cats, depression and writing), I also look at other things online. Here’s a selection of them:

  • The Happy Logophile: A blog written by a mom and writer. She doesn’t post very often, but when she does,
    image courtesy of bbc.co.uk

    image courtesy of bbc.co.uk

    it’s invariably lovely and insightful.

  • , A writer who designs & a designer who writes: A blog mostly about design. Posts are added as she comes across things but they’re always really pretty and distinctly cool.
  • Whatever: This is the blog of science fiction writer John Scalzi, who usually posts daily (all 7 days). He has a regular post called “The Big Idea” where guest writers talk about their work, but almost all of his other posts are written by Mr. Scalzi himself. He writes about just about anything, from political issues to writing issues to the sunset behind his house. The tone of his posts is generally humorous and the comments for his posts can run in the thousands. Pure entertainment.
  • Catholic Cravings: This is a blog from an Australian writer and is currently under transition. I started reading this blog because of its catholic bent (I’m a convert) and it’s interesting to see her views on feminism, etc, from that angle. Right now she’s transitioning the blog into a self-hosted arena so it’ll be interesting to see what she does in the future.
  • Not a Punk Rocker: A blog from a mom with mental health issues and who has a kid with mental health issues. Her tone is generally funny and her posts can range from a musing about eating disorders or her kid’s problems to descriptions of her workplace to pictures (and descriptions) of her latest manicure. She generally posts once or twice a week. Often good for a laugh.
  • Relevant Radio: This is the website for a catholic talk radio station I used to listen to on my way to work, when I used to have a job. You can stream directly from the site or download recordings of their shows. Very informative for anyone who wants to know more about being catholic or who wants to keep in touch with their faith. It was instrumental in my conversion.
  • All About Romance: I’m a big reader of romance novels and hope to eventually write one. This site offers reviews of romance, chick-lit, LBGT lit, and women’s lit as well as recommendations and forums. I use it as a way to find new things to read as well as to see what others are saying about the kind of writing I hope to break into.

There are, of course, other websites I like. Sites where I check on the news, shop and so forth.

Are there any websites I haven’t mentioned that you’d like my opinion on? I’d love to hear your opinion on the sites I mentioned above. Please comment!