Self Abuse and Self Care

I find a lot of times I’m getting (and sometimes giving) conflicting advice on the internet. I understand that no one agrees on anything, and I even understand why that’s a thing. What works for others won’t necessarily work for you. Habits that one blogger thinks should be easy to pop right into my day are laughable in their difficulty.

The biggest conflict, so far as I can tell, seems to be the disconnect between holding yourself accountable for achieving certain results, and not being a workaholic crazy person. It doesn’t seem to matter if the person giving these conflicting suggestions are full time writers, parents or people with day jobs like me.

Here’s the problem, though. There’s not a fine line between self care and laziness, but it’s not exactly a four lane highway, either. The same could be said for the line between productivity and killing yourself.

I don’t think it’s a line any of us really know how to tread well. I’m prone to coming home from the day job and continuing to move until bedtime. If I’m not writing, I’m cleaning way longer than the fifteen minutes that FlyLady suggests. I’m finding myself trying to finish up just one more project before calling it a night. This is not okay, as I’m sure you know. Not only does it mean I’m cheating myself out of sleep, I’m also cheating myself out of family time and taking care of myself.

At the same time, I sometimes have days where I just crash. I mean, I fail to do anything productive. Weeks, like last week for instance, go by where I miss my time to get up, don’t hit my word counts, live in a messy house and don’t accomplish anything but keeping Netflix in business. Sometimes this is because I’ve burned myself out. Sometimes it’s because I’m having a lazy day, and that’s just the end of it.

Neither of the above situations is good, and I’ll bet they’re pretty familiar to you. So, how can you tell when you’re working too hard or just being productive? How do you know when you’re taking a needed break or flaking? As with most other self care issues, this is going to be largely personal. But here are some of my warning signs. Maybe they are for you, too.

These things never mean you’re lazy!

I want to get these out of the way first. My rally cry has been self care recently, and I never want to see anyone throw away their health for the sake of productivity. So if you’re doing any of these things, don’t feel bad. In fact, if you’re not doing these things, maybe you should be.

  • Sleeping a proper amount of time. This might be seven, might be nine. I know some people don’t need as much sleep as others. I also know very well that you, if you’re an adult, know how much sleep you really need. I need eight, and any less than that will make for a crappy morning. If you need more than that, this doesn’t make you lazier or worse than me. If you need less, it doesn’t make you better. You need the sleep you need, get it.
  • Meditation is something I started out feeling silly about. I started meditating after my first daughter was born, and I hated myself for it, at first. What the hell was I doing just sitting there when there was so much to do? It wasn’t until months later when I realized how much I needed that time with the quiet.
  • Preparing a good meal, and eating it without work in front of your face. This has always been the rule for dinner, and I’ve started insisting upon it for all other meals as well. I used to write over lunch and breakfast, but I’m realizing that the scant work I get done isn’t as fulfilling. Furthermore, I need the break. Even when I’m just heating up noodles for lunch at the day job, I read or rest. I take my head out of everything I’m doing and do something fun.
  • Whatever you do to get ready for the day. This includes hair, makeup and clothes. I know that there are a lot of unhealthy things that can go into worrying about your appearance. But I also know that my day goes better if I like how I look. It’s not vain, it’s about confidence.

These things might be lazy, but might also be self care.

These habits can go both ways. Like everything else, moderation is key.

  • Watching tv is one of the ways I relax. Yes, I read a lot, but sometimes I want to watch a show with my family. This is fine, so long as I keep it to when my work for the day is done. I don’t watch tv if I didn’t make my word count. But I won’t write more in the evening if I already reached my goal. That might mean I take a hit. I don’t care, no matter how many pages I get done I won’t bring back the cozy time I spend watching Grimm with my kids.
  • Sleeping in is a rare treat that I afford myself once a week. And honestly, it’s not even really sleeping in. It’s just waking up at my normal time because my body’s betrayed me then laying in bed for awhile before getting up. When it happens more often, it means either two things. Either I’m getting sick and need more sleep, or I’m being lazy.
  • Blowing off writing time to hang out with a friend. This doesn’t often happen to me, but it does sometimes. I have a list of things to do, but suddenly I’ve gotten an email from my friend who lives in another city. I drop that list like it’s on fire. If she lived in town, and I saw her more often, I probably wouldn’t do that. I would probably get more of a chance to see her, though.

These things are almost always lazy, stop kidding yourself.

This one is hard, because almost everything is an understandable indulgence. But there are some things that you just know you’re not supposed to do. Here’s a list of mine.

  • Procrastinating without asking yourself why. I add without asking why, because sometimes procrastination is actually a warning sign that you’re burned out. It might also mean what you’re avoiding just sucks. In that case, ask yourself if it needs done. If not, take it off of your list with no guilt. If it needs done, just do it.
  • Tv during your prime time is another big no no, with the exception of sick days.
  • Not planning your time, though, is my idea of the worst thing you can do for yourself, and the only good reason is that you don’t understand what it will do for you. You must not think that planning your month, week and day so that you don’t miss appointments, aren’t late for things, and are prepared for upcoming deadlines is very important. I doubt you think that, but you’re wrong if you do. Just sit down and do it.

Please, I can’t say this enough, don’t take this as judging you, or how you chose to spend your time. We don’t have to be producing all the time. We are people first, writers after.

A Room Not of Ones Own

If you’ve been on PBW for a hot minute, you’re aware of my favorite saying. We don’t write in a bubble. We write, in fact, in a loud, noisy, messy world full of other people. Other people who may or may not be respectful of your need for writing time.

I’m at a time in my life where I am blessed. I have finally gotten a room of my own, not in reference to Virginia Wolf but in a literal sense. I have an office in the upstairs of our house, and it is all mine. No one’s allowed in unless expressly invited, including the pets.

As you might imagine, this is a recent blessing. Our previous house had no extra room for me to call my own, unless I wanted an office in our unfinished attic. I actually tried that for a time, until I realized that the weather outside was amplified up there. If it was warm the attic was freaking sweltering, if it was cold my pens froze. At least one bird got in there.

So my ‘office’ was in the living room. For most of my adult life, my office has been in my living room. In fact, a lot of time, my office consists of my writing bag, and wherever I happen to be at the time.

I’ve spent a lot of time writing while surrounded by other people, is what I’m saying. Even now that I have my own office, I spend a good amount of time writing at the day job, in coffee shops, in doctor’s waiting rooms. I have, I feel, mastered the art of writing around other people.

When Writing in a Public Place

I hope I don’t have to tell you that if you’re writing somewhere like a diner or a coffee shop there is a certain standard of behavior. Please try not to go during peak hours and take up a table for hours on end. Remember that restaurant wait staff get paid less than minimum wage, because it is assumed that they will make up the money in tips. Please don’t hurt their bottom line. Order something, don’t take up space if the place is full, and leave a nice tip.

Now that the obvious is out of the way, here’s what I do to make the most out of writing in public mo matter where I am.

As with almost everything in life, good planning will lead to a better experience. I try to have my bag with me at all times, so that if an opportunity to work on the current wip presents itself, I can do it.

I also make a point of never going anywhere without my tablet, and head phones. I sometimes find myself on public transportation, and would like to not waste that time. But other people on the bus, who apparently don’t understand basic courtesy, feel the need to chat. I don’t understand this, but there you have it. Headphones alleviate this dramatically. The music will help drown out background noise, and it deters most people from talking to you. I find that instrumental works best for this, and my default is Lindsay Stirling.

Finally, consider your location and the projects you need to get done. I’ve found that I can rough draft almost anywhere, but I really do need a table for any further drafts. So if all of my projects are in second or third draft stage, my long bus ride might be better spent reading or planning my next advertising blast.

When Writing At Home

Hopefully, the bulk of your writing will be done at home. The same rules don’t apply here. For instance, I don’t have to tip my darling husband for making supper.

The first thing you want to keep in mind is respecting the needs of the people you live with. My monsters have to come first, of course. So if I’m doing something with them, that’s all I’m doing. If you have roommates, and you know they have friends over every week on the same night, maybe that shouldn’t be a big writing night for you.

Timing is important, to a point. It might very be that at this point in your life you don’t have time when you’re going to have your living room to yourself. (I don’t advise writing in a bedroom if you can avoid it. I’ve found that I’m just too inclined to take a nap. Or, I find I’m not able to relax at night because my desk is guilting me.) So consider the ebb and flow of your family. Evenings, for us, are a little crazy. Everyone’s coming home, getting homework done, making dinner, taking care of the fur babies. When we’re all done with that, it’s family time. So I know that I’m not going to get any writing done. The mornings, though, are another story. I can write in the living room while supervising the monsters while they get ready for the day. On my days off, I write while the monsters do their cyber school stuff along side me. If they don’t have class, I can usually depend on them to watch Creepy Pasta videos for awhile, and I can pop in my headphones and write on the couch with them.

Finally, though, remember to pick your battles. Everything is a balancing act when you’re part of a family, and it’s difficult for anyone on the outside to tell you what’s right or wrong. While you don’t want to ignore your mate, and of course your kids needs come first, your needs should be in there, too. If your mate’s complaining that you never spend time with them, and you honestly can’t remember the last time you guys watched a movie together, maybe listen. If your mates complaining that you spend too much time writing when you just worked/took care of family matters all day and they’re not really up for providing you with an alternative to your writing, maybe you need to have a talk with that person. Just saying.

Writing around other people can be done, it just takes some forethought. But trust me, it’s a skill worth learning

The Binge Watching Cure

You guys, you guys listen! I found the coolest anthology I have ever heard of! It’s called The Binge Watching Cure. You’re going to love this.

The premise is that the stories in the anthology range from flash fiction as short as 100 words, then get increasingly larger until the last one is novella length! This is the perfect thing for people who don’t think they have time to read! Okay, that’s probably not anyone on this site, but maybe you have a loved one who could benefit.

More importantly, it’s a great place to submit not matter how long or short you tend to write.

No Genre limits, send them anything you want.

The word count varies, so please check out the submission page for specifics. They are attempting to be very specific about these word counts, though.

The compensation is $200 for stories under 5,000 words and $500 for stories 5,000 words.

The deadline is December 31, but if they fill their needed quota for a story length they’ll close that one early, so keep an eye out.

Here is your link to the complete submission guidelines.

Character Driven Stories

HappyThrowback Thursday.

Paper Beats World

There are a thousand different kinds of stories, one for every star in the sky.  There’s fantasy, horror, science fiction, historical and all sorts of things that I haven’t the time to list and you haven’t the time to read.  But no matter the style, language, or theme, all stories fall into two broader categories; plot driven stories and character driven stories.  Given a choice between the two, I’ll always go for character over plot.

It can be hard to distinguish between the two at first.  Basically, though, a plot driven story is about something massive happening, like a plague or a riot, or an alian invasion.  This is a story that can be told from the pov of any number of people.  Like a riot, for example.  You can see that from the eyes of a riot officer, a pedestrian, an independent journalist who’s recording the action on her…

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The noise was too much, as they moved inside, so intense. The sensation of movement, of heat was foreign after so many years. There were two of them, the beings, moving about in the heart of me. As they moved, they made sounds. There was a part of me that knew, from a lifetime away, the sounds. But the knowledge of their meaning was lost.

“Damn it, Chris, come get all your weight junk!”

“I’ve got my weights in the basement already, Babe!”

“I know, I mean all these bottles of powder! Oh damn, Chris I just spilled this shit all over the place!”

One of them felt light, steady, and hot. So hot that I worried I would catch fire. The other one felt heavier and yet unsteady.

I waited for them to go. Most things didn’t’ stay. But these two, these tiresomely hot and unsteady things, did.

Ashley felt the cramping in her abdomen first, early in the day. She tried to brush it off. It was probably just a pulled muscle from moving boxes.

Then, late in the afternoon, she felt the wetness. She went into the bathroom of their new house.

Her underwear was stained with blood, as were the inside of her jeans. The blood had soaked through, clearly visible on the outside.

They were ruined, and had Chris noticed? No, of course he hadn’t, being self obsesses as usual.

Ashley threw her ruined cloths in the trash, and got into the shower.

Chris was in the kitchen putting dishes away when she went downstairs, still towel drying her hair. He was wearing a shirt from that shitty gym he belonged to. She remembered, when they’d first met, how his amateur UFC fighting had amused her. His rock hard body hadn’t hurt. Now, after a year of married life, it was just a huge pain in her ass. The weights in the basement, the protein powder all over her kitchen. The nights he spent at the gym, not to mention the membership costs. She’d hoped with the bigger house it wouldn’t bother her so much anymore. Maybe she could even stand when his idiot friends came over.

He smiled at her, like everything was fine, and it just made her want to scream. “Hey, Babe. You okay?” he asked.

She went to the nearest box, and grabbed a pair of scissors to slice the lid open. When she didn’t respond to him, he said, “Babe?”

She slammed the scissors down. “No, I’m not okay, okay? Don’t you ever pay attention?”

“I’m sorry,” Chris said, “What’s wrong?”

“My period started!” she screamed. She picked up the scissors, and threw them at him. He ducked, just barely avoiding them. “Maybe if you didn’t spend all your time at the gym, we’d have a baby like everyone else! But no. You’ve got to go lift weights, and put all of that shit into your body. No wonder you can’t get me pregnant.”

“Ash, I’m sorry,” Chris said again, holding his hands up. “Look, we’ve got that appointment with the fertility doctor in a few days, right? We’ll figure something out.”

She couldn’t stand looking at him, couldn’t stand being in the same room with him. She stormed out.

Chris was gone the next day before Ashley got up. He was probably avoiding her, she thought, after last night.

She got dressed, and set to work unpacking boxes.

As the day went on, she found that she was having trouble forgetting the look on Chris’s face when she’d thrown those scissors at him. He’d looked so scared. She told herself not to dwell on it. He was the big fighter wannabe, after all. Where did he get off, being scared of a little woman?

Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt. Finally, she decided to go to the store for something special for dinner.

Six in the evening came. Dinner was sizzling in the oven, a giant rack of ribs with a peach cobbler. Ashley was dressed nicely, her hair and make up done. She set the table, and waited.

Six thirty rolled around, and Chris still wasn’t home. She waited. What could be keeping him? Was he angry about the night before? How dare he be mad! She’d been the one with the right to be mad, but she’d still worked all day to unpack the house by herself. Now, he was staying out late, probably with his gym buddies, worrying her on purpose!

It was after eight when he finally came home. She’d already changed into her pajamas, and put the left overs from dinner in the fridge.

“Hey, Babe,” Chris said. He came into the kitchen where she was setting up her coffee for the morning, and put his arms around her waist.

She pulled away from him, and gave him a shove for good measure. “Don’t you touch me,” she hissed.

“What’s wrong?” Chris asked.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong!” she cried. “You’re hours late, you wasted all my hard work on dinner and you’re gonna ask me what’s wrong? Where the hell have you been?”

“I was at the gym!” Chris cried. “I told you yesterday I was going to go.”

Had he? She couldn’t remember him saying anything about it. “You’re such a fucking liar!” she screamed.

“No, I’m sure I told you,” Chris said. He laughed, but he sounded nervous. “Babe you probably just forgot. Maybe we should get one of those fridge calendars.”

“So now you’re calling me stupid?” she cried. “I worked all day unpacking, then I make you a nice dinner, and this is what I get for it?”

She slapped him across the face, hard enough that it stung her palm. When he took a step away from her, she hit him again.

Suddenly the house started to shake. A pile of dishes stacked on the counter fell, crashing on the ground.

Ashley screamed. Chris pulled her into the door frame, and held her against his chest until the shaking stopped.

When he let her go, she looked around the room in fear. Would the shaking come again?

“Since when do we have earthquakes in Pennsylvania?” Chris cried.

The sounds were too much. Always now, it was so loud. How could I help but shake? When I did, the hot one got colder, and the unsteady one felt more solid. But it

The unsteady one would leave sometimes, and that was some relief. But the hot one never left. I was sure I would burn from the inside out.

Finally, they were gone at the same time. I thought I would finally have peace again.

But the unsteady one came back. Even worse, now there was another one.

“Man, I haven’t seen you in the gym in weeks. Don’t play and tell me you got that bruise practicing.”

“Don’t worry about it, Pauley. You said you wanted to look at the weight set.”

“Yeah. You sure you want to get rid of it? It’s a sweet set up, and you’ve got so much more room than at the old place.”

“We’re getting ready to have a baby. I’m picking up more hours at work, and I don’t have time for all this shit anymore, you know? It’s time for me to man up, and start taking care of my family.”

The unsteady one shook inside. I shook too.

“What was that?”

“I dunno. It’s been doing that every few days, though. Maybe there’s a train track nearby.”

“That doesn’t feel like a train.”

“Well, maybe we shouldn’t go downstairs right now.”

Ashley pulled up to the house, surprised to see another car parked there. Judging by the junker aura it gave off, and the shitty gym sticker on the back, she guessed it must be one of Chris’s UFC buddies.

She couldn’t handle that, not with the news the doctor had just given her. She was baron, would never be able to have children. The last thing she wanted was to play hostess to some meat headed freak. She took a deep breath, and went inside.

Chris and his friend were sitting in the living room. Ashley almost cried. The guy was sitting on her brand new couch, wearing greasy cut offs!

Both men stood when she came in. “Hey, Babe,” Chris said, “How did the doctor appointment go?”

How could he think it was a good idea to bring that up in front of his dirty friend? “Can we talk about it later?” she asked, doing her best not to scream.

“I’ll get out of your hair,” the other man said. He gave Chris a one armed hug, and left.

As the junker pulled out of the driveway, Chris said, “What’s happened at the doctors? Did he say why we haven’t been able to have kids?”

“Yeah,” Ashley said, going into the kitchen. “He said everything looks fine with me. I kept telling you it was you who couldn’t have kids. Now do you understand why I asked you to stop with all this fighting shit?”

She looked at the stove, and gasped. There was a pot of red sauce boiling. Large drops were flying out, staining the stove and counter tops.

“What the hell is this?” she cried.

“I wanted to make dinner for you,” Chris said. “You’ve been so tired, with the move and all.”

“So now my cooking isn’t good enough,” Ashley said. “Or are you just punishing me for not being home to make dinner for you and your loser friends?”

“Ashley, I was just trying to do something nice for you,” Chris said.

“No, you’re just trying to fuck my kitchen up! Well, lesson learned. I sure won’t be home late again!”

She grabbed the pan from the stove, and threw it at him. The pan missed him, but the hot sauce spilled over his legs and feet. He yelled in pain, reaching for a towel to get the sauce off of himself.

The house was shaking again. “And what is this?” Ashley screamed. “What the fuck, Chris? Exactly how much research did you do into this fucking house before you invested all of our money into it?”

“I think I need to go to the hospital!” Chris cried, looking at his legs. There were blisters where the sauce had hit him.

“Oh, man up for once,” Ashley said.

So much heat! So much shaking! I couldn’t stand these beings anymore. I was sure that they would rip me apart if they stayed inside of me.

The next day, Ashley was home, still trying to make some semblance of order among the boxes, when the phone rang. She dodged boxes and bags to answer. “Hello?”

“Ashley,” Chris’s mother said. “How are you feeling?”

“Good, thanks,” Ashley said. Of course Chris would have told his mother that she’d gone to the doctor. “Chris isn’t home yet, I can have him give you a call back.”

“Oh, actually, I called to talk to you,” she said. “I came by this morning before you were up, to take Chris to the hospital. That was one hell of a nasty burn on his leg.”

“He didn’t tell me he wanted to go to the hospital for that,” Ashley said.

Chris’s mother was quiet for a minute. “How did that burn happen, Ashley?”

“Oh, he was making sauce, and dropped the pot off the stove,” she said. “I didn’t think it was that serious.”

“It was, and I don’t think that he dropped that pot himself,” Chris’s mom replied. Her voice sounded like ice. “I think you lost your temper, and you threw it at him.”

“Why would you think that?” Ashley asked. Had Chris really gone crying to his mommy?

“I think it because I’m not an idiot,” the older woman replied. “I think you’ve been losing your temper with my son a lot. And I think that you had better stop it. Chris is patient, and he gets that from his father, not me. Do you understand?”

Ashley hit the release button, and threw the phone against the wall. How dare he involve that old bitch in their business?

So much heat!

It was raining when Ashley heard Chris pull into the driveway. It was almost exactly six.

He came into the living room, where she was sitting in the dark. “How’s your leg?” she asked.

“It hurts still,” Chris said. “I had my mom come take me to the hospital this morning.” He pulled up his pant leg to show her the bandage.

“Really, your mom?” Ashley asked. “Have a nice talk with her?”

He gave her a strange look. “It was alright,” he said finally.

“Because, she seemed to think there was something wrong,” Ashley said, getting to her feet. The baseball bat was still in her hand. “She seems to think I’m not treating you right.”

“Ash, let’s be fair for a minute,” Chris said, pointing a finger at her. “I had to go to the hospital because you lost your temper and threw a pot at me. I didn’t say anything to Mom, but maybe I should have. This has got to stop. I don’t know, maybe we need to see a counselor or something.”

Ashley laughed. “What’s a counselor going to do? I don’t need someone else to tell me what a worthless piece of shit you are.”

She was close enough to him, she took a swing. She hit him on the arm, and he winced and pulled away. She swung again. “You don’t do anything around this house, you bring your buddies into our clean home without warning me, then you go crying to your mommy when I stand up for myself!”

With every accusation, she hit him again, and again. Finally, the bat landed on his head. It split his forehead open, and blood spilled over his face. He turned, and ran for the front door.

The house was shaking again, but Ashley barely noticed. She stood in the center of the living room, listening to Chris run for the front door, and out into the rain.

So much heat!

The floor under Ashley’s feet started to split, as books and figurines fell on the floor. She looked down, scared now. She tried to run, but it was far, far too late. The floor split open, and she fell into the basement. Landing on the cold cement floor, her head snapped back. She felt it split, and was still conscious when the warm blood soaked into her shoulders.

The heat, the unsteadiness, is gone. There is some warmth in the heart of me, but it will be gone soon, too. Finally, there is steadiness and coolness again. Finally, there is peace.

When to share yourself, and when to wear a mask

I think you all know that I don’t hide a lot of who I am. I’m pretty upfront about my opinions of politics, religion, science, stamp collectors and whether a story should be plotted. (It should.) I’ve also been open about my struggles with depression and adult ADD, and how it is to be an introvert in a world that rewards extrovert tendencies. I talk a lot, maybe more than I should, about my abusive ex and my horrific mother.

I’m very careful about what I chose to share about my personal life, and what I don’t. Don’t ever think it’s just about me deciding to rant about a certain topic, or being too embarrassed by some dark thing in my past. I don’t do this at random.

How and what you share with people as part of your personal persona as a writer and blogger is exceptionally personal. I can’t tell you what you should share. I can tell you what I chose to share, what I chose to keep to myself, and why.

What I share

I always try to share when I’m struggling with my writing. I do this because I never want to be that person. The one that others think is perfect, and no one could live up to. I don’t think there’s that much of a danger of this, but I don’t want to risk it. This week, for instance, I’ve had trouble finding the time to write, and haven’t gotten more than a few pages done. It’s not a good writing week. But maybe you’re having not a good writing week, too. Let’s try to get better together.

I also love to share my success stories. Look, I’m probably not a better writer than you. I know for a fact that there are people who read this blog who are way better writers than me. I know this because I read their blogs too.

While I get angry about a lot of things, I do my best to share with you all when something has legitimately angered me, not just frustrated me for a day. Even in that category, I try to keep it to things that might impact you, too.

My mental issues are a struggle for me, but it’s not one that I want to hide as though I’m ashamed. If I had a physical illness, I wouldn’t be quiet about it. I know that a lot of people suffer from mental illness, and a lot of times we keep quiet. We shouldn’t. I am not ashamed of who I am, the good and the bad.

I share funny things that my kids and darling husband say and do, because I love them and love to talk about them. My kids are my first love, and I am honored with the responsibility of raising them. I could never have written four books and self published two without the never ending support of my husband.

I am, above all, honest about who I am. I don’t post on social media about coffee to be a stereotype. Coffee preparation is my favorite hobby. I really do love cats, too many actors for me to add here, Youtube, blogs, comic books and everything else I talk about. I want people to read my writing, but I would also like it if people knew who I am. It would help if I was honest about who I am.

What I don’t share

I don’t share personal information about my kids. I’ll mention the names of adult members of my family, with their permission, but not often. I actually wrote a whole post here explaining why I don’t share information about my kids online, so I won’t go on very long here. Suffice to say that I want my children to be their own people, and make their own mark on this world.

I don’t share where my day job is. It’s not because I’m ashamed. I actually love my day job, and am proud to work for the company I do. It’s a good company that treats its customers and employees with respect. But a lot of what I say here in PBW is controversial, and I don’t want anyone to think that I speak for my company. Also, there are a lot of legal repercussions to sharing where you work online, especially when you’re trying to have a professional online persona in a creative field. Better just to avoid it.

I don’t share my anger when something trivial and personal has gotten under my skin. You can point to the time I dedicated an entire post to demeaning Taylor Swift because she is not a feminist as she claims to be, but that’s not personal. I don’t want little girls to look to her as an example. But if I’m fighting with the husband, or some jack ass almost hit me when I was crossing the street, you probably don’t need to know that.

I don’t share anything when I am depressed. Honestly, most of it comes out bitchy and self indulgent. When I’m in one of those moods I resent everyone and everything, and I will say something I don’t mean.

If you are like me, and you’re trying to make a name for yourself as a writer, you could find worse ways to spend a few hours than considering what you do and do not want to share of yourself with people outside of your home. Knowing where your personal line is will hopefully keep you from over sharing, and give you the freedom to share with the world what you really want to.

Cut These Things Out of Your Day

I’m sure you’ve all heard the jar analogy when talking about time management. If you have, feel free to skip the next paragraph.

If you haven’t here’s a brief overview of the story. You have a jar, a pile of large stones, a pile of small stones, sand and water. If you pour the water in first, of course, there’s no room for anything else. Same goes for the sand or the small stones. But, if you put the large rocks in first, then the small rocks, then the sand and finally the water, it all fits in. This analogy is pretty easy to break down. The big rocks are the most important things in your life, the little rocks are the second most important. The sand and water are the little things that fill our day up. For me, here’s how that breaks down.

Big Rocks- My family and my health, both physical and mental.

Little Rocks- My writing and my day job.

Sand- Horrible chores like housekeeping and errands.

Water- All my lovely little time wasters like social media, hand crafts, watching makeup tutorials and reading Buzzfeed.

When I first heard this analogy, I actually thought it was bullshit. No matter how I prioritize things, there are still 24 hours in a day. But I also knew that, every single day, there was more on my to do list than could ever get done. And I knew that, as much as I wanted to be a famous writer, I wanted to experience my monster’s childhoods more, not to mention still have a partner in my darling husband when they fly away. So, I decided that even if I lost all of my water and most of my sand, I had to get my big and little rocks into my jar.

As it turns out, though, when I started living by this basic principle, I really am fitting just about everything in. And man did I feel stupid, but it turns out that I can scroll Buzzfeed just as well when I’m tired, but writing my blog posts should probably be done when I’m fresh, even if I still think I’m too tired.

Some things did fall by the wayside, though. Or, at very least, they were dramatically reduced. If you’re struggling to fit writing into your day, here are some things that might not fit into your jar at all.

Social obligations that I don’t actually want to fulfill.

I have a lot of people in my life that I like a lot. They do things sometimes, and they invite me. I used to say yes to everything, thinking I would offend someone if I didn’t. Now, if I don’t have the time, or I just genuinely don’t want to go, I don’t. Major things I’ll sometimes make myself go to, because I’m learning the difference between ‘I don’t want to’, and ‘I might actually like this but my social anxiety is preventing me from saying yes’. But in general, it’s been a relief to not only be able to say, “I can’t,” and be surrounded by people who genuinely understand.

Chores no one but me cares about

My house needs cleaned. Stuff needs to have a home, dishes need to be done and laundry as well. But I think if we’re all honest with ourselves, some things do not need done as often as we do them. I’ve often found myself doing things because I thought it had been long enough since I’d done them, not because they actually needed done. My sheets are clean, and I don’t have any allergies. Unless we’ve been sick, they don’t need cleaned. My jeans don’t need cleaned after every use, which saves on laundry and water.

Basically, if I don’t think it actually needs done, it probably doesn’t.

Time management games

Now, this was a personal demon for me. Some people can play all these games like Candy Crush, Farmville and Tapped Out with no problem. They can play a little, and not have their whole day sucked into them. If you are that sort of person, you play those games my friend. I am the sort of person who can have a glass of wine and not finish the bottle, so I understand how you feel, and will not be the alcoholic telling everyone else to not drink at the party.

For me, though, it was an addiction. I played them way too much, as they are designed to make you do. I lose more time to them than I should. Thankfully, I never got into the habit of losing money to them.

Social media

This is not a demon for me, but I know it is for many people. In fact, no longer feeling obligated to read every single tweet in my feed was liberating. These days I take care of my own social media via Buffer, and hop on sometimes in the evening if I’m done reading Buzzfeed. (Usually I just cyber stalk Liev Schriber.)

Now look, I don’t want to demonize social media. If you find value in it, that’s great. But make it a reward. The Pomodoro Method is well adept to this. Say you’ve got some writing to do. Well, set a timer, write for 25 minutes, then spend five minutes scrolling twitter. Or if you’ve cleaned the whole damn kitchen, maybe you’ve earned some Facebook time.

I’ll even go a step further. If your separated from someone you love by distance, then social media might just be one of your big rocks. I have had many a night where a friend and I talked on Facebook. That’s great, and you should do it. I actually hate it when people downgrade chatting and texting as inferior ways to communicate with people. Why is that better or worse than calling someone? I think it’s just because it’s different, and there will always be people who distrust things that are different.

Feeling Guilty

I have this really bad habit. If I have a lazy day, or if I just get sidetracked by life, I get down on myself. I feel guilty. That guilt makes me feel bad, and since I don’t like feeling bad, I avoid the thing that makes me feel bad. Then, my stuff still didn’t get done, so I feel even worse.

The worst thing I do, is when I miss a day of writing, I tell myself I’ll make the pages up the next day. So, instead of expecting three pages from myself, I want to write six. Even if I get four or five pages done, I’m still not reaching my goal. Then, even though I did better in a day than I usually do, all the happiness from that is sucked right out of me.

If you skipped the housework, or didn’t get your pages done, don’t get down on yourself. Especially if you skipped a small stone for a big stone.

Clarkesworld Magazine

This one’s a pretty standard science fiction market. A good one if you’ve got a solid science fiction story you’re looking for a home for.

Genre- Science Fiction and Fantasy

Word count- Not listed

Payout-10¢ per word for the first 5000 words, 8¢ for each word over 5000

Wait time- At least two weeks

Here is your list to the full submission guidelines.  Of course, it’s always important to read the the the guidlines in a market. But make sure that you do in this case, because they have a pretty extensive list of things they don’t want, including zombies and talking cats or swords. So check it out.

How many drafts do you need?

It’s Throwback Thursday!

Paper Beats World

This is a burning question, and I’ve seen people do it wrong both ways. Lots of people will write one draft, say ‘wow, this sucks,’ and toss it right out. Others will never get done with that first book, because they must make it perfect before they move on to any other project. Brothers and sisters, hear me; these are mistakes!

I shoot for four drafts, and a final polish. Each draft has a specific job, though. Here’s how you break it down.

Draft one-

My first draft is all about playing. I write whatever I want, pages of um, love scenes that never make it into the book. I write my outline, deviate from it, think of something better, and write that instead. I make up characters, throw them away, forget their names, rename them, decide love triangles, make up brand new plot lines, and sub plots, give characters…

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My Home Town

I want to talk today about my home town, Butler Pennsylvania.

Full disclosure, it’s not where I was born. I was born on a military base in Groton Connecticut. But I digress.

My great grandmother moved to America from Hungary with her parents when she was little. For some unknown reason, they decided to settle in Butler. They built a house, that my great grandmother lived in until the day she died. She raised my grandmother and my two great uncles there. My grandma ran away and raised four of her six kids in Connecticut. Then, she and my mother moved back here, grandma to raise the youngest two of my uncles, and my mom to have me.

Both of them have since moved back to Connecticut, leaving me here alone. I have no blood family in this town.

Butler isn’t known for much. We’re the birthplace of the Jeep, that’s about it. We’re an old coal mining town, and we used to be a steel town. We’re not in the Bible belt, but you wouldn’t know it from looking. My town is mostly Republican, and those Republican’s voted for Trump in the primaries. (We few Democrats voted for Bernie, though, so that’s a plus.)

Can I also add that we don’t have a Starbucks, Whole Foods, Ikea or Ihop. Trying to find fresh produce isn’t a thing that happens, and I can’t find a decent place to buy Indian spices anywhere outside of the Strip District.

So, if I wasn’t born here, I don’t like the politics here, and I’m frustrated by the shopping and food choices I have, why do I stay?

Because I have roots here.

I walk through my memories every day. This is only something that you’ll understand if you also live in your hometown. I was married in the middle of Diamond Park, where I played as a child and now take my monsters to play. Walking down Main Street I pass my first job, the bar I had my first legal drink in, the restaruant my mom used to run, the crappy apartment we lived in above the burger place. There’s the coffee place I used to go to with my friends in high school. There’s the coffee shop where I sat and scribbled a prayer over the first draft of Broken Patterns. My kids will go to the same high school I went to. I can see the hospital where my monsters were born from my back porch. Here is where my great grandmother is buried. Here is where I’ve had all but two of my birthdays.

Being from this town, I have a great appreciation for miners, and steel workers. They built this country, and were casually disregarded when no longer needed, left to choke to death on Black Lung and poverty.

I’ve seen Pittsburgh, our closest city and my favorite place on Earth, become a home for technology and medicine. We are also apparently becoming Hollywood South. (We were Gotham!)

Our dialect is unique, stranger than even our other Appellation towns. Gumbands, Sou’side, all that. Yinz know what I’m talking about.

People know me here, and for the most part they like me. They knew my mom, grandma and great grandma, too. Which means that some times I’m called ‘Becky’s daughter’, or ‘Mary’s granddaughter’. My husband’s the same way, and now that we’ve been married awhile sometimes I’m getting ‘Denise’s daughter in law’.

There’s something great about that, though. I don’t have a lot of family, and I don’t talk to most of what I have. For much of my life I’ve felt sort of like a tree with very shallow roots, as though I could be blown over at any moment. When someone recognizes me from my family, I’m reminded that I wear my heritage on my face, and that my roots are deeper than I realize.

I draw inspiration from this town, and a lot of that is fed into my writing. When my main character in Woven says she thinks her city is the most beautiful in the world, that’s me talking about Pittsburgh. When another character weeps for the old mining town he grew up in drying up, that’s me talking about Butler.

I walk with my memories, with my roots under my feet every day. I don’t think I would be the person I am if I had grown up anywhere else. And even if I someday leave it, it will always be with me. This will always be my home.

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