A guest post I wrote recently recounting a frightening experience I had as a girl.
*As we continue our Mental Health discussion, here’s a post by a very special guest, Simone Lisa. Thank you, Simone, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!
There’s a little glimmer of warmth, burrowing into my chest. And a chink of light, peeking into my spirit. If I listen carefully I can almost hear a heart-warming song. It has taken me awhile to recognise it – the song of hope. Unfamiliar. Really scary. Really positive. Hope.
Hope has a few different acronyms:
- Hold On Pain Ends
- Have Only Positive Expectations
- tHink pOsitive oPportunity comEs
- Help Open People’s Eyes
- Hanging Onto Positive Expectations
But I think my favourite is…
- Heart Open Please Enter
I have had years of being knocked over and having to pick myself up again.
- Grief after eight different family members died.
- Worry as my teenage boys dabbled in the risky behaviours so many indulge in as they grow into adulthood.
- Sorrow as my marriage started to crumble.
- Stress as my elderly grandmother became more and more dependent on me.
- Fear as my body aged and my youth disappeared.
- Pain as my back deteriorated.
Coupled with a lifetime of burying emotions and not dealing with personal issues as they arose, it became too much for me to cope with and I crumbled. Every time I thought things couldn’t possibly get worse, I was wrong. Every time I tried to stand up and move on, another phone call came in. Someone needed me again. Someone wanted my help. Someone else had died. Another problem arose. Too much. Endlessly and relentlessly battering me to the ground, and in 51 years I had never learned positive mechanisms to deal with stress. The past two years have been eye opening and debilitating, and while I went a long way backwards, perhaps that is the direction I first needed to travel before I could embark upon a different path.
The past few days I have felt hopeful. Every time I become aware of that sense of positivity, that I may have a future and things will improve, I worry I’m going to be battered to the ground any minute. The phone will ring and I’ll be given bad news. Again. I’ll be needed. Again. The phone will ring and I’ll be forced to choose between doing the right thing by family or the right thing by work. I’ll be put in lose-lose situations. Again.
But you know what 2017 has shown me so far? Nothing but positivity. Sure there are major stresses I’m still dealing with – but they are last years’ stresses and we’re working toward positive outcomes.
- My teenage boys have grown into beautiful young men.
- My marriage is receiving some tender care with tentative hope for the future.
- Nobody else died.
- My grandmother is being cared for in the nursing home.
- I love my job. I love my friends and family.
- My physical health is good and my mental health has improved.
You know what else? I found myself singing in the car. Singing!! I love singing and I’d stopped years ago. It is so good for the soul. Like alcohol however, I can’t indulge when I’m sad and stressed. I don’t drink to cheer myself up – I drink because I’m cheery. I don’t sing to cheer myself up – I sing because I’m cheery. When I realised I was singing, I realised I must be cheery.
So it turns out I have hope.
- I am hopeful my beautiful boys will be okay – they will grow into the wonderful young men they are destined to be. They will experience love and happiness and success. They will contribute. They make me proud.
- I am hopeful our marriage will continue. Hovering on the brink of separation has taught us both we’re not ready to throw in the towel. We value what we have enough to put in the hard yards.
- I am hopeful my mental health will improve. My depression and anxiety are alleviating. I recognise them for what they are and have strategies in place to deal with signs and symptoms as they arise.
- I am hopeful my life will go on. My story isn’t over yet. I have the opportunity and means to contribute financially to our family and meaningfully to society. I have abandoned plans to end my life and instead accept I have a lot of time ahead of me.
- I am hopeful my elderly grandmother and ageing father are in safe hands. Their health is good and they are well cared for. I also accept that yes, I will have to farewell them both in the future, but they have had wonderful, happy, long, productive lives and I have support to deal with the grief when it inevitably strikes.
- I am hopeful my back pain will go. I am thrilled about this in fact. I finally have a diagnosis and treatment plans and it is not major or degenerative and I will once again be able to exercise pain free.
More significant than all of these put together however, I am starting to feel a small sense of hope my eating disorder will improve. I won’t say disappear. Or aim for full recovery. I would be glad of those things – but so early in the phase of recovery (I may have been doing this a long time, but I went backwards before I moved forward. It’s a long and winding road…) I don’t want to jinx myself with unrealistic expectations.
You know what else? Without hope, I can’t recover. Without hope it is an intellectual exercise. Without hope I won’t make the right choice when faced with a difficult situation – I will make the most familiar and immediately comforting choice. Even if that decision leads to a poorer outcome. Because without hope, recovery is pointless. It feels temporary. Why would I make a good choice today if tomorrow it’s all going to fall apart anyway? I may as well eat a box of chocolate and be happy for five minutes.
Recovery is reliant on hope. Recovery needs my heart to be receptive – not just my head to be willing. So for today I want to say, my Heart’s Open Please Enter.
(Post originally appeared on Simone Lisa’s Blog )
I’ve had it pretty easy in my writing life. Grammar and syntax come naturally to me. I had great English teachers who praised my creativity and encouraged me. My mother was a reader who indoctrinated me early in the joys of fiction, with the help of a great library. No one suggested that writing wasn’t a good career choice, or that I needed to be more practical. I’ve had support out the wazoo.
So far as a crucible to forge a writer in, my childhood was a good one.
Many writers have had more to overcome—unsupportive or outright abusive families, second languages, mental health issues, political persecution. All that is to say that I know I have very #firstworldproblems when it comes to my writing life.
See, I was always going to be a writer. Ask people who knew me in first grade. It’s always been on my agenda. An assumption, like being a mom and a teacher. A given.
As I grew up, I used to talk about writing a lot. I’d get all dreamy and imagine my future career as a world-famous novelist. But it was always a hazy dream, filmed through Vaseline so you couldn’t see the harder realities of it: the actual work. It was “someday.”
But I wasn’t doing anything to make it happen.
Sure, I wrote. Once in a while. When I felt inspired. When I was in the mood, or when one of my ideas was just so tenacious there was no escaping it. But I didn’t take myself seriously as a writer, and neither did anyone else. Why would they? It was like I thought some big publisher was going to somehow just find me and pay me to write without my ever having proven I could even do it. A fantasy discovery scenario. Not a career plan.
Then, I was turning 42, which Douglas Adams taught us is the answer to life, the universe and everything. It was my crisis moment. I told myself it was time to give writing a serious attempt. There was a lot less “someday” left than there once was.
The obstacles in my writing life were all internal. Setting priorities, finding focus, making time. I was my own worst enemy, putting my own dream last on the list of things I would spend my days and hours and years on.
That’s when I committed to a daily writing habit. It was a game-changer for me.
It was harder than that might seem. At age 42, I was in the middle of a teaching career and a marriage. I was parenting two daughters and a dog, maintaining a house and household, fighting the battle of the bulge, and trying to have some kind of social life. There were a lot of pulls on my time. And I’d made a habit of many years of giving my time away.
But, I started to insist on writing time. Slowly, over the course of a few months, I renegotiated my contract with life, and made sure there was room in it for writing. I gave up things that I could: television, social opportunities that I didn’t want badly. My initial goal was 250 words per day. Just one page. And I struggled to put down that many words. It took me two or three hours some nights. It was hard and frustrating.
But I am stubborn. And it got easier. Soon, I could write 250 words in half an hour. I learned that the words didn’t have to all be keepers. That sometimes, I had to write garbage to get it out and get to the good stuff underneath. I learned that if I could just get something on the page, I’d be able to make it better in the next pass, but that I had to give myself something to work with.
Now, I can’t imagine a day without writing. I write somewhere between 800 and 4,000 words a day, depending on other life demands. A day when I only write 250 words is a day that was full of lots of other life—parties, sickness, travel, or something—and a decision I made about my use of time.
My family notices when I haven’t written. They see me getting grumpy and say, “Hey Mom, did you write yet today?” the way other families might suggest you get a sandwich, take a nap, or take your meds. It’s that important to my equilibrium.
And because I’m writing every day, I’m getting better at it. I have flow. I’m finishing things, revising and polishing and publishing things. People are reading them. Some people even like them. This summer, I sent my third novel off to my publisher. I get to say things like “my publisher.”
So all this is to say, if you want to be a writer, you’ll have to write. Look at your life. Figure out what’s in your way (even if it’s only you that’s in your own way). And find your way around those obstacles. You can’t ever get there if you don’t start the journey. And it’s quite a trip!
Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. You can find her Menopausal Superhero series from Curiosity Quills on Amazon, or request it at your favorite independent (or big box) bookstore. You can find her online on her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+, and now on Tumblr.
How do you keep your readers coming back for more? Is it the main protagonist/antagonist? Or perhaps it’s the thrilling storytelling? Better yet, maybe it’s a combination of interesting characters and edge-of-your-seat story line. So…in your experience, what have you noticed readers enjoy most about the stories you write?
By voting (you’ll have to let me know that you voted) or commenting, you’ll have an opportunity to either guest blog or be interviewed here (your choice!).
*Hello my fellow readers! I have an awesome treat for you today! I have a very special guest who will share with you her story of how she struggled and overcame self-doubt to achieve her creative dreams: Lorna Faith.
I grew up the youngest of 11 children in a family that homesteaded a little more than a section of land in Northern British Columbia, Canada.
Our family started out on that farm living in a two-room house, with curtains between the rooms. We dubbed that house ‘the white house’ because we had painted it white on the outside 😉
We lived a very simple life. Dad saved every penny so he could buy more cattle, seeds and machinery that would expand the farming operation.
We grew up telling stories around the supper table and before bed almost every night.
My friends were mostly my family and my animal friends. I would tell stories as I rode the horse and as I gathered the cows from the pasture for milking just before supper time every day.
My dad and six brothers chopped down trees in order to clear more land to grow more crops. Each year we would clear more land, pick more rocks and roots and plant more seed for harvest. In those first years, we would stook the hay until we could afford a baler to pull behind the tractor.
We lived off the land. My mom grew a large garden and we butchered our animals for meat in the winter. Each fall, we would butcher pigs, a couple of cows and a few chickens with close friends of my parents so we would all have meat for winter.
When I was given free time, I would play with my friend Skippy who lived 3 miles down the road from us. She and I had a lot of fun dancing to Beatles records at her house, and riding the calves when she came to visit our farm.
My brothers made their own go-carts with dad’s help and we would drive them around the yard. I really wanted to learn to ride the motorbike, but my older brother and sister told me I first needed to learn to milk the cow before they would teach me. So I learned to milk the cow at six years of age, and by the next day was learning how ride the motorbike before my feet could touch the ground.
We built tree forts in the large populars around our yard, and made our own stilts to walk in across the yard.
I would often have the most fun riding the horses or just sitting with them out in the pasture. I remember often resting beside one of the horses in the pasture, it was a safe and soothing place to be. I did it so often that my mare would nudge me to sit on her back or lay down beside her, like I was one of her ‘offspring.’
It was fun to grow up on a farm. We learned to work as hard as we played together as a family.
Although there was a lot of fun, my dad was a strict disciplinarian. And when he would get really angry, he would just throw stuff at us… whatever was handy at the time.
So as a little girl, I lived in a lot of fear as to what would happen next and whether the next mistake I made would mean a black and blue bottom. Because of many days spent in fear, I also wet the bed every night until I was twelve years old.
My mom would soothe my fears and encourage me in my creativity, which really helped. She encouraged me to play the piano and sing from early on… and later encouraged me to write.
Mom believed in me. When I was ten years old, she gave me a necklace with a tiny mustard seed in a glass box that hung on the end of the gold chain, and told me “Lorna Faith, you are going to encourage many people throughout your life.”
Her belief in me helped get me through many difficult days.
For example, in elementary school I had a tough time learning to write. I had a teacher who told me my writing was like chicken scratchings. Being a farm girl, I knew what that meant. The worst part was, I believed him and I was devastated.
I didn’t write stories again for over twenty years; not until I began homeschooling my own four children how to write their stories.
Learning to write has definitely been on-the-job training. I didn’t have any formal training, but it has been a lifelong passion.
It wasn’t until the dream to write stories was sparked – as I taught my kids how to tell stories – that I tried to write again. I resisted for weeks because of fear, but the dream only grew bigger.
So, I began to write. I scribbled down small stories with a pen and a small notebook for a few years before I got serious about it.
From the first words I put on the page until I finished the last sentence of my first novel, every single day I struggled to get the story on the page. Sure some days were easier than others, but every time I saw the blank page looming in front of me, I was consumed with intimidation and fear of failure.
Fear of rejection showed up in my writing days resulting in perfectionism and procrastination that slowed me down.
Self-doubt became my constant companion and brought questions like: What if I really am a bad writer and end up failing? What if no one wants to read my books?
Insecurity mocked me, resulting in more self-doubt.
I didn’t realize there was a truth I was struggling to accept. That inside, I was already a writer.
I didn’t understand that before I could really find my voice as a writer, I needed to own that identity. Activity would follow.
My aha moment came when I read Jeff Goin’s book, You are a Writer and these words were highlighted to me: Don’t wait for someone to pick you. Pick yourself.
I finally realized that all those years of struggle, I had been waiting for permission. Somewhere deep inside, those negative voices had expanded into something bigger. I had been waiting for that unknown someone to pick me and confirm that I was a writer.
Pick Yourself. I let those words sink in. I didn’t need a big publishing house contract, literary agent or editor to confirm what I already knew.
I am a writer.
Since that defining moment, I’ve chosen to own that identity. I’ve started to come out of my self-imposed cave of fear, and have decided to choose myself.
So if you’ve been struggling with fear of failure or self-doubt, I hope you will also give yourself the freedom to own your identity.
Be brave. Take a risk. Step toward your dream.
It’s time for you to choose yourself.
Lorna Faith has fun writing historical romances, and has her eye on writing some contemporary romance in the near future. Recently she released Book #2 in her historical romantic suspense series called, Anchoring Annaveta and is hard at work writing a new stand-alone novel in the Western Historical Romance genre set in the early 1900s around Calgary, Alberta. Lorna also loves to reach out to struggling and first-time writers. She has published a writing book called Write and Publish Your First Book and now has an online course by the same name. You can find out more about what she’s up to by going to http://www.lornafaith.com. Lorna would also love to chat with you on Facebook or Twitter.
*I have a special treat for you all today! It is my honor to introduce to you Lidy Wilks who will be talking about her passion as a writer and poet, and how she came through her struggles to achieve her dreams. The cover reveal above is for her poetry chapbook, Can You Catch My Flow? Be sure to check out the special giveaways at the end of this post Lidy is promoting!
I’ve taken a few detours on this creative journey. I’ve stumbled and detoured away from it. Funny, when I think about it. As I’d always known, from the moment I read Little Women and Moby Dick, that I wanted a future involved with books. I didn’t know then what kind of job it’d be. But I never doubted for a minute, that whatever that job entailed, I would find where I belong.
Yet, I’ve had my highs and lows in trying to achieve my creative dreams. My first fan was my friend and classmate. Her excited response supported my interest to become a writer and write more stories. I held those aspirations all the way through high school; until a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I got older. Naturally I said “I want to be an author.”
Well, imagine my utter shock when I was told that writing was just a hobby. Making money from writing wasn’t a high priority. I wanted to write and have readers enjoy my stories. To my teacher, becoming a published author was unrealistic. Writing could not feed you, clothe you or pay the bills. That was the reality of things.
Despite her quick and crushing, pessimistic assessment, I couldn’t let go of my dreams. But it still affected me so much that I changed my intended major on my college applications. I’d decided to major in Mass Communications instead of my favorite subject English. At least with a Mass Comm degree I can get a job in print media/publishing that’ll pay well. Fortunately, this little detour didn’t last long.
What happened? I was reminded of what I really wanted after my first semester. I only majored in communications because I was afraid of a future that hadn’t even happened yet. I let that fear guide me on a different path. A dream of becoming a magazine editor/writer as a way to hold onto my creative dream; but that fell apart because of an elective creative writing class, and the professor who encouraged me.
So I spent the next four years writing to my heart’s content. Studied and read British and American poetry, and Shakespeare’s plays in Old English. Taking non-fiction creative writing, and poetry workshops. All the while minoring in Mass Comm because I might as well finish what I started. Plus, it could come in handy (and it did a bit now that I’m a blogger). Point is, I was never happier. And then I graduated.
True to form and I don’t want to admit it even now, I did not find a job with my English degree. I started temping and found a job at a non-profit. I got married, had kids and before I knew it, writing-wise I had nothing to show for it. Life had taken me on another detour until a company move to a new city gave me the kick-in-the-butt I needed. Dust off the story ideas I’ve filed away throughout the years, and exercise my writing muscles. And not just write again; but, write more poetry and submit them to literary journals, magazines, etc.
Looking back, all these detours served as lessons. To never again let my doubts, lack of confidence, or the opinions of others take me away from what I love doing. And believe me, I almost completely turned my back from it especially after receiving a nasty rejection letter from a poetry editor. But as much the support I’ve received helped validate my writing dreams, I should believe in myself more especially against those whose opinions would deter me from it.
After all, I will always question myself and whether I have the talent and determination to continue on this journey. Questions like what is this poem about? Who is the poem for? How could I ever had written this? Or, being filled with writing envy and asking why didn’t I write that? But these are questions I deal with whenever I pick up a pen to write, or read a poem. And that’s not something that will ever go away. It’s one of the things that’s part of a writer’s life. And it’s a writer’s life for me.
About the Author:
Ever since she was young, Lidy Wilks was often found completely submerged in the worlds of Dickens, Louisa May Alcott, Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew. She later went on to earn a Bachelor degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Franklin Pierce University where she spent four years knee-deep in fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction workshops.
Lidy is the author of Can You Catch My Flow? a poetry chapbook, and is a member of Write by the Rails. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two children; and an anime, book and manga library which she’s looking to expand, one day by adding an Asian drama DVD collection. Lidy continues her pursuit in writing more poetry collections and fantasy novels all the while eating milk chocolate and sipping a glass of Cabernet, or Riesling wine.
Over the years, I’ve read countless articles and blog posts encouraging writers to occasionally write guest posts as a way to expand their artistic’s horizons. Well, I finally took that plunge.
My inaugural guest post:
Why You Should Write Short Fiction at the Short Fiction Writers Guild‘s site.