A State of Gratitude

“Gratitude is a powerful emotion to use for manifesting because normally we feel gratitude after we receive something. So the emotional signature of gratitude means it has already happened.”

Dr. Joe Dispenza

And maintaining a state of gratitude creates an environment conducive to receiving what you want, because energy takes the path of least resistance. It’s science (😏).

I am grateful.

I am grateful for the warmth of my children in my arms, dense with blood and breath and bone–solid, squeezable, kissable. I am grateful for their cough and my gritty eyes from being kept awake by their cold, because it means their bodies are strong enough to fight to keep them healthy. I am grateful for soft and swelling music and lyrics that bring tears to my eyes. I am grateful for the turn of summer to fall at night and the wind whispering through the trees. I am grateful for the cold sip of a beer, the hot sip of black coffee, and the cool sip of clean water. I am grateful for the look of understanding–almost telepathic in nature–shared with my partner over the heads of our children. I am grateful for light falling through the shades, striated and languid–the sun has yet to die; we get to have another day. I am grateful for snuggly cats seeking me out in quiet moments (it’s pretty much guaranteed that if you have cats and lay down with a book, a cat will manifest on your chest). I am grateful for the soreness of muscles that have worked hard and dry, worn hands–a working creator’s hands.

I am grateful for the books I can get cozy with and lost in (The Heart’s Invisible Furies and The Darkness Outside Us right now). I’m grateful for the movies and shows that fill up my well, for the memories of my father that come to me when I watch Star Trek: Next Generation–he was a sci-fi and fantasy geek like I am now, and I never realized that before. I am grateful to keep finding books and film and art and music to enjoy because it means the hunger inside of me is infinite. And it means the hunger inside others is infinite. And it means that I will never run out of experiences that let me feel connected to other human beings and their voices and stories.

I am grateful for the people giving me the opportunity to work with them and the venues who have published and will publish my own attempts to connect with other humans. The Grey Rooms Podcast accepted my first short story (twenty drafts later, mind you), and I will get to hear that story being given life.

I am grateful for the girl who used to come home from working two and three jobs while going to school full time to burn the midnight oil writing crappy stories. For the person who continues writing with a demanding day job and two 5-year-olds. The stories are still crappy sometimes, but I am grateful for them, grateful for the passion and my patience to continue working with them, to mold each story into its final form.

I am grateful for the story I am molding right now.

Resolving To Let It Go

This post revisits some of my goals I made on the new year.

Summer is in the air, which means the year is already half over. Summer has always given me a sense of urgency, a deep stirring I can’t quite shake (or maybe Vivaldi did that). This feeling is full of want and drive. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to do with all of that yearning, especially when you’ve conveniently forgotten all your New Year’s resolutions and intentions.

Resolutions? What resolutions?

As the year progresses, I often lose track of my well-meaning intentions, which means productivity turns into a mythical creature and flies away on newly minted wings. But I want to be better about spending less time trying to wind down on Instagram after my kids go to bed and more time producing work. Which brings us to revised goal #1, which may seem a bit counter-intuitive.

Let it go.

Hear me out.

For me, being my best self means being the most perfect mom possible but also someone who cares for herself, which means quiet reading time, keeping my body strong, and writing. This is a feat when I’m just trying to keep my cool with kids at that age where  controlling any aspect of their behavior requires dabblings in the occult–they’re extremely selective eaters, they tantrum daily, and they get into these manic moods where they just dart around like very large, very loud squirrels. I’ve been reading How Toddlers Thrive, which has helped me understand that letting a little of my control go can go a long way toward happy, healthy children. This will make for a happier mom and human being, which will ideally result in divine creative inspiration (right?!).

So the goal is to stop striving toward perfections, and let it go. I’m learning this with writing too.

Submit work

I have achieved a couple things on my list in 2017 in Review; 2018 Goals. I have already beat my number of submissions from last year. After one bout of divine inspiration for a flash fic and some serious work on a couple other projects, I have some stuff I’m pretty confident about. Problem is, all those polished pieces are out right now, and I’m in that purgatory of WAITING. Maybe someday in the near future I’ll have some good news to share on this front.

I also finished draft #3 of The Space Between Me and You, and I am 5 chapters into my current WIP and pretty dang happy with them. Despite these achievements, I wage a constant battle with the negativity that seems woven into the very fiber of my being telling me ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re raising your kids wrong’, ‘you can’t even get anything published when writing is what you do‘.

But like with loosening up on my reins in parenting, I’ve realized that every day, you have to make a choice. And sometimes, that choice involves letting go of your best laid plans. You have to embrace things the way they are, and no matter how strong that inclination is to control everything, you may never be happy if you don’t loosen up your expectations just a little.

Deadlines

I work best when I have deadlines–the distant memory of working on research papers down to the wire, procrastinating and then pulling off my best work when the time was nigh. Or the flash fic I wrote this year in response to a contest, which had to be submitted by a deadline. When I plan a critique meet-up with my partner, I make the words happen. And sometimes they are pretty good. However, when there is no goal, I exist in a pudgy, lackadaisical state of ‘maybe I’ll write tonight’, ‘after I finish cleaning the entire house, I’ll write’, or, my personal favorite, ‘maybe I’ll be inspired’. Therefore, I will be better about giving myself a time frame to have a chapter plotted or drafted by and keep track of my progress for motivation. It will also help me structure my free time better, so it isn’t all spent winding down on Instagram. 😮

Get active, stay active

  • I’ve been working out at least 3 days a week for 2 months now, and 5 days a week for 3 weeks!!! I also kept true to my goal to go on more adventures. Today, I encountered this handsome fella (coyote or kit fox? We may never know. Unless you do, then tell me, please), and also a piece of wood shaped like an Edvard Munch depiction of a lizard monster in agony. But you know, I was like whatever.20180625_070911
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  • I will be participating in Pitch Wars this year, so I’m getting my submitting goodies together (query letter, synopsis, and pitch) for The Space Between You and Me. Follow me on Twitter to watch me be awkward–digitally!
  • Plot and write Chapter 6 of my WIP; maybe outline the dang thing? But let’s not put the horse in front of the cart. Wait. That’s exactly what we want to do? Oh…

READ

Keeping myself buried in stories ignites all the hodgepodge stacks of kindling in my brain for my own stories. I am five books over the halfway mark to my goal of 40. It isn’t so much about the number, as it is about the goal to let myself revel in this almost completely indulgent pastime (hey, it’s research like 20% of the time at least) and to read widely.

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Some books I’m excited to read (be reading) this year: Contact by Carl Sagan, rereading the Harry Potter series so I can undertake The Cursed Child, of which I am wary, but I need it because it goes with HP, therefore it goes in my soul (Look, I don’t own a wand or a Dumbledore beard or anything, so I think we can all agree this obsession is safe). Also, mysteries! I have so many mouth-watering mysteries waiting for me to feast my very dry eyes upon.

So that’s my biannual checkpoint on my year’s intentions. My goals for the rest of the year are modest, but even taking the time to document them is an achievement in and of itself for me. 😉

How have you done on your resolutions or intentions for the year? Does summer make you productive or lazy?

 

2017 in Review; 2018 Goals

Reflecting on 2017 and looking forward at 2018.

I have a problem with negativity. Not in my life, but in my mind. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. Fortunately,  these posts forcing me to acknowledge my accomplishments and give myself goals to be more mindful help me to exorcise a little bit of that pessimism. So thank you for being a reader and for any comment-love you’ve given. Know that I appreciate you.

So here is what my 2017 looked like and what I hope for 2018.

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2017 Achievements

  • I read 47 books of my goal of 30 (next post tallies my 2017 favorite reads), plus a TON of fanfic. Like, you have no idea. In retrospect, I might need a support group.
  • I submitted short stories 6 times and poetry 5 times, and I got 2 encouraging rejections back on one of my poems!
  • I finished my LGTBQ urban fantasy, The Space Between You and Me. 
  • Finished a 2nd draft of TSBY&M (I missed it, okay?!)
  • Between November 1st and December 31st I returned to my gothic WIP, Wrathmoor, that I had begun back in 2013 and stalled out on, and I wrote 8 chapters, totaling 52,780 new words written for the year (while listening to The Village soundtrack approximately 48 times).
  • I set up one bookshelf in my office, after a year and a half of living at my new place! And it’s pretty damn fine, just sayin’

  • I revamped and resurrected my Instagram to focus on one of my favorite things in the world: books!
  • Attended a Maggie Stiefvater signing that was just *kisses fingers*
  • I went on a writing retreat with my bestie
  • Alongside my husband, successfully grew two babies into mini-humans who talk, sing, throw tantrums, and celebrate the general chaos of life in high Dionysian fashion

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My goals for 2018:

  • Read 40 books. Follow me on Goodreads to see how I’m doing
  • Finish my office (maybe get on Annie Neugebauer’s The Decorative Writer, cause I’m a goal-oriented nerd like that)
  • Publish a poem, short story, or article. If I achieve this in 2018, I am allowing myself to buy a domain for my website, so simple domain name and no more ads! (Apologies for any assault upon your person those ads may have wrought)
  • Finish 3rd draft of The Space Between You and Me, polish a blurb and synopsis, and begin the submission process
  • Finish 1st draft of Wrathmoor
  • Brainstorm for what will be my 8th novel, The Rosen Tales; and Other Points of Contention, a contemporary/literary mystery with sparks of fantasy shot through. Comparable titles are Byatt’s Possession and The Madwoman Upstairs. Though this idea is probably entirely out of my depth, I am really looking forward to it.

Some less specific goals:

  • Write at least once a week.
  • Reflect often on the positive things in my life
  • Embrace, appreciate, and love my life, because it’s mine and no one else’s. This goes hand-in-hand with not comparing myself or my work or my life to others’.  Everyone’s got their own things, and yeah, it’s cool I can kill cacti (yeah, multiple) with almost no effort at all and play the opening of Malaguñea on guitar and nothing else. I’m gonna own it.
  • Take adventures. I often idly wish I could travel, but I’ve decided I am going to be a bit more spontaneous about this desire and just get out there and do stuff. Our little town has quite a few places for good close-to-home adventure. I’ll be sure to post pics or my super eloquent philosophications on them (Not).

So there are my goals for this big and wonderful year. I hope you are feeling refreshed by the new start as well. What are your resolutions, goals, or intentions for 2018? Inspire me in the comments.

Night Swimming

Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais

On a whim, I decide to go swimming. At 9 pm. Actually, it wasn’t really decision on a whim. I wanted something to keep my mind off a cigarette. The burn I have in my lungs right now is familiar, though an altogether different torture than sitting outside late into the night, reading or writing hundreds of thousands of words, all the while smoking like the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, asking myself ‘who are you?’

So now, I’m out here on my back in this pool, facing my fear of large bodies of water at night, vulnerable to whatever imaginary leviathin waits beneath me. There is almost no separation between me, floating, weightless as I’ve ever been, and the sky with its modest smattering of stars, only the border of the palm trees winked at by the light colliding against the restless waves in the pool. I row myself like a boat, like a canoe if we’re being honest, because I’m programmed to wish myself long and lean. And all I can hear are the sounds of my arms breaking the water with a muffled splash and my breathing in stereo, like the opening of an indie film. I could reinvent myself out here tonight, I think, while simultaneously trying to merge with the vast nothing above me.

Stop. I decided to go swimming on a whim. No. That was it–to keep my mind off a cigarette. Now about that…

Gut Instinct

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For my birthday last year, my husband gave me Jane Hirshfield’s Come, Thief. I remember picking it up, devotedly caressing its pages, being slightly disappointed by the cover that was not the one I wanted, then chastising myself for being picky.

I remember opening to the first poem, “French Horn”. I remember reading it. I remember not getting it. Not a damn word. My brain stayed closed like a flower with night still pressing upon it. I put Come, Thief away.

It’s been in the back of my mind for weeks now, because I realized I have not written a poem in months, maybe even closer to a year. I haven’t felt the inspiration for one. But lately, I’ve been catching others’ poems here and there, like light glinting off a reflective surface from its meridian. You look, but you can’t stare for more than a second because it hurts your eyes. I want that feeling of a poem rushing out of me. I’m ready for it. But I know I need to reacquaint myself with its language. So today, I picked up Come, Thief. I read “French Horn” again. This time, the locked language of the poem moved the machinery of my brain, allowing me to unlock the phrases, piece by piece, to embrace the whole.

Returning to the work of this favorite poet was like slipping into a pool of water the exact temperature of my body, then sinking deeper to be surprised by the colder recesses. But I was ready for it. And it was a pleasant shock to be immersed back in that language when I would be most receptive to it.

“Intuitions are not to be ignored, John. They represent data processed too fast for the conscious mind to comprehend.” –Sherlock

I finally sat down to the fourth season of the BBC’s Sherlock, and this quote from the first episode enamored me. It went so well with this idea that has been crackling in my brain about gut instinct. The same instinct that lead me back to Hirshfield at the right time.

Before my first poem was accepted, I had submitted it to maybe three or four places, along with some other elementary attempts. One day, going through these rough poems, “The Insolubility of Nightmares” jumped out at me as the one with the most potential. I revised it. When I stood back and looked at the completed picture, I had that gut instinct that told me this is done.  Now it’s ready for publication, I thought, and the right place will take it. Not that it is an exemplary poem in the Realm of All Poetry That Ever Was, but the concept of it had been teased into completion and polished to its highest form. Do I have stronger poems than that, published and unpublished? I think so. But my gut told me that specific poem was done. After that revision, I sent “The Insolubility of Nightmares” to Hello Horror, a newer lit mag at the time, and I received that coveted first acceptance.

At some point along this uphill trek to build my writing credits, I realized I don’t want sub-par work out there. With my story “The Wake“, I liked it about as much as I like some of my short stories I’ve stopped submitting because I know they’re not the best they can be. So when I looked at “The Wake” again with a more critical eye, I knew I needed a more explosive ending. Now, the note on which it ends is more faithful to my narrator’s personality and the choices she makes with her “scientific mind”. This alteration of her thoughts in the end made me get that same tugging in my gut: this is done. After this overhaul, the first place to which I sent it accepted. ☺ Coincidence? No.

For writers, I’m starting to understand that instinct is just as important as the other nuts and bolts in one’s writer toolbox. Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t feel that gut instinct crying out to you:

You’re not ready for that yet. 

or

This poem is not complete. 

or

It’s time to move on. 

or

It’s time to leap.

Just like everything takes practice to get better, so too does listening to one’s intuition, I’ve discovered. You get to know yourself, the fears that you must eschew, your lavish ambitions, your limitations, and your potential. I’m learning to let my gut instinct help sift through these aspects of myself, to better hear its call through the fog, whether prudent restraint or quiet encouragement.