Archive for category Writer Wellness
Suicide. It’s a topic that’s been on most of our minds as of late. I was BROKEN when I found out about Robin Williams. It’s like this bright shining star just snuffed out, leaving only a black hole of crushing emptiness behind. I feel terrible for taking him for granted, selfishly assuming he’d always be around.
I haven’t yet cried because I’m afraid I might not stop. My fondest childhood memories involve Mork & Mindy. Growing up, I’d watch Williams’ comedic acts over and over and over, studying his timing and how he could do what he did, because to me? It was MAGIC. In fact, I can honestly say he was my earliest mentor. I learned to laugh and make others laugh, and, since home and school were living nightmares, laughter was my lifeline.
I’m no expert aside from having suicide issues in the family. Also, years ago, I suffered horrific depression after being on the phone with my father when he unexpectedly died. No one realized he had cancer until after the autopsy, because he was always making everyone laugh, always smiling and making us smile…until he was gone.
While I won’t get into a discussion regarding suicide and depression, I’d like to address some reasons many were so sideswiped when Robin Williams took his life. Obviously I can only speak from my own perspective as a humor author and chronic class clown.
Humor is Birthed From Pain
Ever notice the high mortality rates among comedians? Self-destruction is common. One reason is that humor is an amazingly powerful defense mechanism. I switched high schools six times and was poor, thus the target of every group of Mean Girls (which come standard). In my freshman year I turned inward and fell into terrible depression. Then I learned how powerful humor could be. It could be a weapon.
The right turn of phrase could decimate an attacker.
Humor can also be body armor. Funny people use laughter to minimize pain so we can cope. Maybe we come from a background where we aren’t allowed to express hurt, pain, sorrow, disappointment, and so making jokes becomes a way of staying sane. Or maybe there is so much pain that humor is the only way to keep from overloading. This is common among police officers, soldiers, doctors, and any profession bombarded with tragedy.
Never Let Them See You Sweat
I’ve been guilty of this (being the comedian of the family). I love making others laugh and never lose my sense of humor. When I was admitted to give birth to The Spawn, the attending nurse crashed every single vein trying to get an IV in me (until I politely asked if my mom could do it—she is an RN). The nurses missed inserting my epidural (the needle that goes into the spine) seven times. Yet, to the end and through every contraction, I had everyone laughing, even though I was in agony.
When I was 22, I finally had to have four impacted wisdom teeth removed. I couldn’t afford an oral surgeon and so the dentist gave me the anesthesia and proceeded to chisel all four teeth out of my jaw. My roommate who brought me said all she could hear from the room was the staff laughing to the point of tears. Apparently through gauze and anesthesia I was still a riot.
Laughter has been there to help me contend with the fear and pain, but this coping mechanism has a dark side.
I know it’s my own fault others don’t necessarily take me seriously when I’m hurting. How could they? I’m cracking jokes and making everyone happy. I’m a giver. I don’t know if life is worth living if we aren’t laughing. And if we’re going to be in pain, why not bear it with a smile? People & circumstances can take away anything but our attitude, right?
The problem is that others see that smile and might not understand that we do need help and likely aren’t going to ask for it. Or us being “funny” might make it seem we’re not in as dire of a situation.
Just ask the people who tried to get me to an ER last week when I had my first violent reaction to peanuts.
Givers love to give. Comedians live to make others laugh. We love it so much we’re often blind to when we are empty and the darkness is there to pounce when we’re at our lowest. As a community, one of the things we can all do is learn to be better at actively listening. WANA was built on this principle—WE ARE NOT ALONE.
I’ve been doing this myself. Talk less, listen more. Joke less, hear more, be honest. Listen for subtext. If we ask someone, “How are you today?” at least stick around long enough for an answer. Ask the next question.
Lack of Boundaries and Rest
I find it interesting how the corporate world expects to be able to reach us 24/7. Meetings and “work” creep into our Saturdays and even Sundays. But how would our job feel if we showed up with our kids to work? What if we read a novel or took a nap?
Oh, what? No quid pro quo?
My husband gets business calls before we are even awake. 99% of the time, it’s over matters that could wait. We’re interrupted at dinner, on weekends, during church. When are we going to say NO? I now turn off my phone on weekends. I just…can’t.
Most of us—even the funny folks—are running around on fumes. This is when depression sets in even if it isn’t clinical. Humans were not designed to run fill tilt 24 hours a day. Those of us with a gift for making others laugh likely just don’t show symptoms as early or at all. A lot of us “don’t want to bother” anyone.
Also, a lot of us jokesters have set up expectations in others that we will always make them smile. When we can no longer do that—when we are too spent or hurting—we retreat. We don’t want to disappoint.
Situational Awareness—Take It To H.A.R.T.
Are we hurting, alone, resentful, or tense? In this go-go-go-go life, we should be mindful to stop. Take a break so we can check our condition. We wouldn’t drive a car and ignore red lights flashing. CHECK ENGINE. FUEL LOW. NEED AIR. Why do we do this to ourselves? And for the other funny folks out there, joking about the CHECK ENGINE light is no laughing matter.
This is why I’m so tremendously grateful for all you. I might hurt, but I’m never alone and you guys keep me company so a lot less tense.
The hurting? Yeah. Covered in hives and want to scrape off my skin with a carrot peeler (go to doctor in an hour). Resentful? Benadryl kinda making me resent everything, including sounds, light and those annoying air particles that insist touching me. PERSONAL SPACE! And bugs farting. How are the spiders and fruit flies so flatulent?
What are your thoughts?
Do you do tend to minimize by joking? Maybe laugh off things you shouldn’t? Do you retreat if you can’t be entertaining? Do you feel desensitized to pain because of coping so long with humor? Do you have friends of family who are like this? Maybe that you need to watch more carefully?
I miss Robin Williams. The world is a far darker place without him. I hope he’s somewhere he can see how much we all loved him and how devastated we are to be without him.
This past six weeks have been a real beating, including the death of my grandmother. She’d no sooner passed away when I had to step in and care for my sister-in-law who was having major surgery to reattach both retinas. I was in go-go-go mode and I thought, if I could just get some rest, I would be okay.
Well, after taking a week at the ranch, I’m not okay. I didn’t want to move or write or sleep or eat. I felt surrounded by a deep malaise, like blows in the dark yet no idea where the pain was coming from. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but then an old lesson resurfaced.
Confess the Real Emotion—Name It and Claim It
One of the first things that helped me tremendously was when I learned to confess the real emotion I was feeling.
This was over ten years ago, but I recall one day that I just couldn’t seem to get out of bed. It was a really dark time for me. I had lost my career in sales due to a misdiagnosis (doctors thought I had epilepsy), and I was on the verge of eviction and facing having to move in with my mother. I had no energy and no real desire to do much of anything. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and all I wanted to do was cry.
Some of you may be able to relate to my upbringing. I had a single mother who was doing all she could to keep us afloat. Thus, my brother and I were never angry, disappointed, discouraged, or overwhelmed. We only had two feelings; we were “sick” or we were “tired.” Being ill or needing more rest would never make my mom feel guilty. Thus anything negative we ever felt ended up getting pigeon-holed into one of these two categories.
It was a really bad habit to get into.
So years later I found myself still only having two “emotions”—sick or tired. My mother came over to check on me. It was like ten in the morning and I was still in bed. Not sleeping. Just staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the reasons I was a total and utter failure. My apartment was a disaster and I couldn’t bear to ask anyone for help. I knew I needed to pack, but I just couldn’t seem to move.
My mom stood in the door, crossed her arms and asked, “Kristen, are you depressed?”
I sat up and said something that marked a moment of change in my life. I said, “You know, Mom. I’d like to tell you that. I have every reason to be depressed. I have no job, no money. I am afraid of my mailbox because it is full of all these bills I can’t pay. But that isn’t it.”
“What is it, then?”
“I’m overwhelmed. I’m drowning. I don’t know where to begin. You know what else?”
By naming the specific emotions I was feeling, I had unleashed tremendous power. I had opened a way to make a plan. As long as I was sick or tired, there was very little I could do to remedy either. And, to be honest, I wasn’t sick or tired. I was just so out of my depth that it was making me sick AND tired…all the time.
I’d lost a lot in three years—4 deaths in 6 months (including my father), my career, my health, my apartment, my dreams. And it was bad enough that I had lost those things, but then I never properly grieved any of those losses.
How could I? I was only sick or tired.
But this day was different. For the first time…I was heartbroken, overwhelmed, discouraged. For the first time I felt connected back to that intimate part that was…me.
This simple lesson was the first major step. Once I admitted that I was overwhelmed, it was easier to break big problems into manageable bites and get busy—-fix what was broken, grieve what was lost, let go of what needed letting go. Once I admitted out loud that I was discouraged, it freed me to dust off and try again. Suddenly, it was okay to be disappointed. I could grieve, feel the pain and then start anew. I have found that life is lived best in forward gear.
From that point on, I made it a habit to name the real emotion. It was too easy to hide behind, “Oh, I am just tired.” It took courage to say, “I am disappointed. You said you would help me with this project, but you haven’t been doing your share.”
It was scary, and still is. I will also point our this is a lesson we are always relearning.
Again, today, I was talking to my Mom. I just wanted to run away, change my name, hide under the covers. Then I realized I’d fallen into an old bad habit. When Nana died mid-October, I got busy. I stepped in to care for my SIL. I cooked, I cleaned, tended the toddler and SIL’s two boys, the dogs the laundry. I did every thing but…cry.
I was drowning and didn’t even see it.
In our fast-paced world, what is the allotted time for sadness? Do I take a day off? A week? I’d been so caught up being there for everyone else, I’d never stopped to cry, to admit I miss my Nana. I didn’t get to see her before she died. I didn’t get to attend her funeral. And I never stopped for five minutes to admit I was hurting.
Just walk it off….
Anyway, sorry if I have depressed the heck out of all of you. I’m doing better. I think there is just something about the three-week mark when there’s a death. It’s like we are so caught in the shock blast of losing someone that our brains and emotions take some time to catch up.
I know when I broke my arm in two places I didn’t feel any pain. ANY. I recall it being so surreal. My arm was in the shape of an “S” but nothing. Doctors later told me it’s because there is SO much pain, the brain kind of short-circuits. It’s only until the pain starts to lessen and the shock wears off that we FEEL what’s happened. I think death is much the same.
We all experience loss–death of a loved one, a relationship, a dream and this is all part of life. But to everything there is a season, even a season to just sit still, cry and admit we are sad and that it is okay to be sad. I know once I did that today, once I had a good cry, I felt a LOT better.
So yes, I am still here. Still alive. Tired and a bit battered but better :D. Thanks for your love and support through all this mess. It is VERY appreciated.
What about you? Have you ever been through a loss and yet it never dawned on you to just call it what it was? To grieve? To get angry? To cry? Were you so caught up in the routine of life that you had a hard time giving yourself permission to just sit? To mourn? To notice you were drowning and needed help?
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To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
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I generally am a Pollyanna. Yes, it gets me in trouble sometimes, but I feel joy is a choice. I needed to remind myself of that yesterday. I’ve just returned home from Florida, and OY VEY what an adventure. I love my job, and helping you guys never feels like work, but the traveling can be…interesting.
A Tale of a Chronic Procrastinator
I knew I was going to be speaking in Florida, but in working my tail off to finish my new social media book, traveling, bed from hell.…buying my ticket was, er, um…put off. At the last minute I scored the cheapest ticket I could find on American Airlines. Ah…but there were two problems. Okay three.
Ticket was over $600. BUT it was with American Airlines. I’ve had a long-standing grudge against DELTA and have refused to give them ANY business. In fact, I’d kind of hoped they’d sink into Hell and burn. So I buy this horrible ticket. DFW to New Orleans, to Atlanta, finally to Melbourne, FL. Return flight? Same in reverse. Melbourne to Atlanta to New Orleans to DFW. Much to my horror? Once I arrived at the airport, I realized two legs of the trip were via Delta.
Why I Hated Delta
Years ago, I suffered barely controllable complex partial seizures (and that is a long story and I am perfectly healthy now). Yet, at the time, I was essentially epileptic. My health was deteriorating, my father had suddenly died, and Christmas was painful without him, so I decided to join some pals and go to the Bahamas for the holidays instead. The Bahamas were, blech, but on the return flight home, our plane had mechanical difficulties and had to be redirected to Atlanta.
Being a naive traveler, I’d packed my anti-seizure medication in the checked luggage (stupidly believing I’d be home in three hours). As we were being ticketed for other flights to get us home, I asked the ticket person if there was any way I could get to my bags. I could feel the anti-convulsive medication was wearing off and it was beginning to get a bit scary. She was NASTY to me and not only told me “No, but hell no. And go away for making me do my JOB.”
I went to complain to a supervisor, not only for the way the woman treated me, but that I REALLY needed my medication. The nasty ticket agent, knowing she’d been way out of line, stepped in and lied and told the supervisor I was drunk and combative and needed to be banned from any flights.
***I never drank alcohol, namely because it was contraindicated in the anti-convulsives.
Yes, my behavior probably seemed strange, namely because I was starting to have SEIZURES which made my balance off and I was slurring. So instead of taking pity on someone who was disabled?
DELTA stranded me in Atlanta, Georgia with no luggage, no meds, banned from flying and no way home.
An elderly couple found me crying in a hallway and took pity on me and made sure I got back to DFW. By the time I got home? I was in full seizures AND had pneumonia (because DELTA rerouted me through a FREEZING New Orleans with no jacket and no meds and I slept the night on cardboard boxes (from Christmas decorations) to stay warm.
I was ill for almost three months after this. Pneumonia is no picnic.
I wrote DELTA a letter telling them how I’d been treated and…nothing. Since then? I have had MANY opportunities to fly, but would rather take 16 connections through Trinidad Airways than give them any money. Thus, I was a tad ticked when I realized my oversight with my Florida purchase.
I’d have to fly with the Devil, um DELTA.
Twelve Years Must Make a Difference
Ironically, the DELTA flights were the best ones. In fact, on the way home, my connecting flight to New Orleans had mechanical issues and it was clear I’d miss my connection to DFW. What did DELTA do? They promptly and KINDLY put me on a direct flight to DFW. The crew was HYSTERICAL. I’ve never had a safety briefing that FUNNY. They went above and beyond and, I suppose after over a decade of hating their guts?
I forgive them…mostly.
I am generally not a person who holds a grudge. I have the memory of a tsetse fly with people. But with BUSINESSES? Hell hath no fury. For TWELVE years I’ve told anyone who’d listen NOT TO FLY DELTA THAT THEY WERE EVIL.
But I suppose people change and thus I suppose businesses change too. This last experience helped me forgive them (mostly) and I’ll maybe even give them another try. In fact, it was wonderful that the plane experienced mechanical difficulties and I was given a direct flight because, when I made it to my car?
The battery was dead.
Had I been delayed (not getting the direct flight), I have no idea how late I might have made it in. Hubby would OF COURSE come to the rescue, but would it have been ten or eleven at night (with a baby)?
And I’d like to say I handled the dead car in triple digit heat with grace. I didn’t. I cried. But once I calmed down and Hubby arrived, I realized what a rare and strange gift DELTA had given me. I made it in early enough for the problem to be resolved far more easily.
So, in all of this, I learned, happiness is a decision, not a destination. Forgiveness can come if we are open to it (AT&T doesn’t count). KIDDING! Life is all about perspective and which one we choose. Focus on the negative? Expect more.
My Tante (Aunt) Christine told me a fabulous parable.
A man wanted to move from one village to another. He stopped a resident of the new village and asked, “What kind of people live in this place?” The resident replied, “Well, what kind of people lived in the last place you lived?” The man replied, “Oh, they were terrible, cold and mean. They left me out of everything and were uncaring and cold.” The resident replied, “That’s the same kind of people who live here.”
A few days later, another traveler approached the same resident wanting to move. The resident asked, “Well, what kind of people live in your village?” The traveler replied, “Oh, everyone is SO nice. They are kind and caring and I always feel welcome.” The resident replied, “That’s exactly the kind of people here.”
Thus, I suppose the lesson is we get what we look for. Setbacks and delays can be terrible, but often? They have a silver lining. We create the world we want to see. DELTA did me very wrong, but they made it right this time and I’m open to forgiving them and giving them more business. Yes, my car was dead, but Hubby could be my hero and all of us could go to dinner together.
What are your thoughts? I prefer to keep things positive, but is there a business that so WRONGED you that you were their best BAD advertising…but then they made it right? Have you ever experienced a setback or tragedy, but in retrospect? It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to you?
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Those of you who read this blog know that I am always very upbeat and positive. I believe there are few things in life that can’t be fixed with a smile and elbow grease, but these days I’m losing my sparkle. As we enter into the holiday season, there are all kinds of goodies and treats and we all know that January 1st will be here soon enough. Most of us will be back on the treadmill, vowing that this time and this year things will be different.
The problem I have is this. I have no idea what normal looks like anymore.
I have been battling my weight my entire life. If I didn’t have an exercise routine that rivaled a professional athlete, I was always 30-40 pounds overweight. Even with said exercise routine, I rarely got down to what the charts said I should weigh. In fact, I remember sitting in the plus section of a department store and crying.
Six years ago, I found out I had severe food allergies (gluten, casein & soy). No wonder I’d been fat since the 80s, when all the “experts” deemed meat as evil. You shouldn’t be eating that meat! Have a bagel. Now THAT’S healthy. The healthier I’d tried to eat (low fat, whole grain, skim milk) the more I was poisoning myself.
Once I pulled the offending allergens out of my diet, I finally shred the weight I’d always carried around. I was 130 pounds with very little effort and I looked and felt amazing.
Then I got pregnant.
I had the world’s best pregnancy. I ate gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and organic. I worked out twice a day, six days a week. Even into my 9th month, I was swimming a mile a day and doing step aerobics (even though I could no longer see my feet). Over the course of my pregnancy, I gained 30 pounds. I had a super healthy baby and bounced back to feeling great in no time.
Three years later, I still have those thirty pounds (plus 10 for a total of 40), no matter what I do or how well I eat. If I train hard and don’t lose, I am told “You’re working out too much.” So when I drop the frequency, I get told, “You need to work out more often.”
My diet is mostly lean protein and green veggies. I only use strict amounts of healthy oils like olive oil or coconut oil and eat only good carbs, and am very strict about them, too. I’ve had alcohol on only 4 occasions since July. I don’t eat sweets, drink soda, or use artificial sweeteners.
But none of that matters, at least when it comes to my weight. I am healthy, have beautiful skin and hair. I have enough energy to power a small city and am never sick, but I am still a size 10-12 and 170 pounds.
Why is it no one looks like me?
When we look on TV, we are confronted with extremes–super skinny or clinically obese. We are calling anorexics “beautiful” and calling dangerously obese women “curvy.” We are an a country that is dying because of euphemisms. I hear parents call morbidly obese children “husky,” “big-boned” or “muscular.” We have retailers calling anorexics “curvy.” Take a look at some of my favorite selections:
This is why I will never give Eddie Bauer another DIME.
Or NY & Company…
I wrote Eddie Bauer AND New York & Company letters. I received a nice form letter about “how much my opinion is valued.” Yeah.
Talbots did only slightly better in my Tour of Curves…
Everywhere I went, I tried to find models who looked like me. I’m not super skinny, but I am not yet plus-sized, either. I was shocked at the models retailers used in their catalogs. My favorite models were at THIS site. Lucky Brand you got LUCKY! Their models are so thin they look bow-legged.
Shame on you, retailers.
At Old Navy, they are kind enough to have Plus size clothing, but they don’t use actual models, because we all know fat girls aren’t pretty.
Apparently no woman exists who is between HER:
Barbie Didn’t Make Us Fat…
I constantly hear this silly debate about how Barbie is to blame for girls (and later, women) having body issues.
News Flash…BARBIE IS A DOLL. WE DIDN’T GROW UP BELIEVING WE SHOULD LOOK LIKE A PLASTIC MATTEL TOY. Seriously, give us women a little credit.
High Fashion Dysfunction
We did, however, watch the fashion industry and television and film continue to elevate women who were thinner and thinner and dangerously thinner.
I played with Barbies my entire childhood and felt great about myself. In fact, I never had issues with how I looked until I was fourteen and started reading Seventeen Magazine…and no one looked like me. The girls were all over 5’7,” less than 110 pounds, and ONE body type—the stick.
Girls these days have it even harder. In the remake of the hit 90s show 90210, most of the actresses were frighteningly thin. At one point Jessica Stroup weighed in at 100 pounds, yet she is 5’8″. Shenae Grimes (5’3″) weighed in at 90 pounds.
Fashion Needs to Take Responsibility
It really irritates me that people can blame a plastic toy, but fail to keep the fashion industry accountable. The fashion industry has always been the thought leader when it comes to what we as a society consider beautiful.
In the 1950s, if you weren’t Caucasian, blonde, with blue eyes and curves, you weren’t pretty. It was the fashion industry that started breaking the rules, who started highlighting women of different races, who started showing skinny girls as beautiful in a world that valued the Marylin Monroe body type only. It was the fashion industry who took a risk on a woman with a gap between her teeth (Lauren Bacall), and women of color (Iman).
There was a time that fashion led the charge to opening society’s definition of beauty, yet now when we have reached a crisis point they want to claim they aren’t doing anything wrong and their models aren’t that skinny (Karl Lagerfeld). And, yes, Vogue claims it will tsk tsk the too-young and too-skinny, but I’m not overly impressed with the change. The models still look like bony Amazons in need of a sandwich.
Hey, Vogue! Want to be interesting? Don’t put a bird cage on a woman’s head, put some meat on her bones! You think you are art, when all you are is predictable.
Gee, another anorexic Amazon with poofy lips.
Retailers are Responsible
One might give high fashion a bit of a pass, since no woman is going to wear a birdcage on her head and a bra on the outside of her clothes (and not get carted off to the loony bin), but retailers? Gap, Lucky, Abercrombie, NY&Co, Eddie Bauer ALL use models who are far too thin. Look at the pictures above. If the camera adds ten pounds?
I’ve tried writing letters, but that hasn’t gotten me very far. I feel frustrated. I’ve had all the blood work and I am a perfectly healthy woman…who is a size 10-12.
Can I Make Peace with My Thighs?
I don’t know. That’s the best answer I have. I feel that, if I were African American, I’d be the perfect size and shape. In fact, when I went to get my thyroid tested, the phlebotomist (an African American female) thought they’d written something wrong on my chart.
You’re here for OBESITY? Girl, you look FABULOUS!
We live in a world of magazines that hail how beautiful and curvy Beyonce and Mariah Carey are at a size 12-14, but then the same magazines call Jessica Simpson a cow for being the same size 12-14. Women of color can have curves, but us white gals need to look more like Posh Spice. We can never be too rich or too thin.
I feel like I am at the mad Hatter’s Tea Party where nothing makes sense. No one looks like me, and every ad, every movie and television show is a reminder of how I don’t measure up, how I’m not trying hard enough. I try to buy clothes, and Target has 23 different new “skinny jeans.” I can’t buy clothes because nothing in the Misses department fits a woman with thighs, but I am too small for the Plus size department…
…so I live in yoga clothes, which is fine because I live at yoga and in the gym anyway. We no longer even make clothes to fit normal people anyway.
Where Have All the Size 8s Gone?
Those of us in the middle just seem to have disappeared. I can’t help but wonder if that isn’t at the heart of this nation’s disease. Back in the era when the size 6 and 8 were ideal, we didn’t have near the obesity rates. Have we elevated an impossible thinness and that has made our nation fatter than ever?
My Personal Protest
I decided long ago that I would no longer purchase fashion magazines. Additionally, I refuse to shop from any store that uses only super skinny models. I think if enough women did this, the industry would change. I would say write a letter, but I didn’t get that far.
I know there are naturally thin and small women out there. I never said retailers shouldn’t use skinny models at all. But they shouldn’t be using bone-skinny models to the exclusion of everyone else. If this was a race issue, the fashion industry would be in court by now. If they only photographed Caucasian blondes to the exclusion of Latinas and African American women, they’d be in trouble (and should be). But these days we are facing a different kind of discrimination and it is costing our girls their self esteems.
Out of Control
I have never believed in crash diets or fad diets, but I have gotten to the point that I feel my attitude about food has gotten out of control. I can’t dedicate this much time thinking about everything I eat and do.
Is it non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free?
Did I have enough carbs? Too many carbs?
Enough protein? Too much protein?
Enough exercise? Am I overtraining?
The NEW New Year’s Resolution
I’m healthy. My blood tests prove that. For this I am very grateful. I eat really well and have the hair skin and energy levels to show for it. I will work on focusing more on what I do have than what I don’t. Vogue can go to hell. I vow to find a way to make peace with my thighs and somehow learn to love being a size 10-12.
What about you? Do you think this country is out of control? Do you think the extremes have something to do with this? Do you have a hard time accepting yourself as beautiful? What do you struggle with? Have you made peace with your body? Do you have any advice or suggestions?
Today, I want to talk about something that is vital to success. REST. In Western society, we have this warped sense that we need to be productive 24/7. In fact, one of the biggest challenges I face as the Social Media Jedi is that writers believe that, if they are having fun on social media, then they must be doing it incorrectly. They mistakenly believe that all that time chatting about life, hobbies and family is somehow not as good as “marketing” their book and blitzing out non-stop promotion, yet nothing could be farther from the truth.
Contrary to what one might think, that “fun time” on social media will actually create the most resilient parts of our platform—relationships. When people connect with us emotionally, they bond and they become part of our “tribe.” These more primal instincts are what will create long-lasting love, loyalty and passion for our brand.
But writers believe if it is fun, then it mustn’t be work.
As a craft teacher, I run into the same issue in a slightly different form. I can tell in two pages if a writer reads a lot of fiction. It is simply shocking how many people want to write a book, but then they believe that reading fiction (or watching movies) is a waste of time. Everything becomes about pounding out more word count and the quality of the stories suffers.
I run into many writers who are so fried and burned out working on their novel that they can’t remember the last time they had a creative thought. Yet, when I suggest resting, reading a book or watching a movie, I might as well have handed them a crack pipe.
What? READ? Who has TIME?
I must confess that I suffer from the same problem. I work and work and work until I am ready to drop when the best thing I could do for my creativity and productivity is to STOP. I believe a lot of this goes back to my childhood, and is also a product of Western thought and culture.
History and Some Armchair Shrink Time
If you study the Industrial Revolution, you will see that the formation of public schools went hand in hand with industrialization. Schools were charged with creating a literate population, sure. But one of the main reasons so many philanthropists like Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Rockefeller supported schools was that schools were there to train the workforce of the future.
Schools teach us to sit still hours at a time, take instructions, and not to question authority. We learn early on that creativity is punished and conformity is rewarded. I was constantly in trouble in school because I never could work linearly. Sitting still? Fuggetaboutit.
They were constantly claiming that I had a hard time focu—OOH SQUIRREL!!!
Where was I?
I remember one time the teacher assigned a complicated maze. I started from the end and worked to the beginning, solving the maze without hitting any dead ends. She gave me an F. Why? The goal of the maze was to solve the maze, right? Why did she care HOW I got the answer so long as I did it myself and didn’t cheat?
But she did care. Yeah, Mrs. Foster kinda hated me. I spent most of my third grade year sitting in the hall. Fun times :D.
I was constantly in trouble for how I looked at life, that I didn’t do it like everyone else and so every report card was marked with: DOESN’T USE TIME WISELY.
Of course, looking back, I was a creative personality, with probably a touch of ADD. We live in a world that punishes those of us who don’t do it the way the manual states, and this can really affect our relationship with time. Creative people, when we walk barefoot in grass or watch cartoons or look at pictures on Pinterest, we ARE working. We can’t help it. We are always creating, but we live in a world that has told us that, because our “work” can’t be measured with “metrics” (I.e. word count) then it must be goofing off.
It isn’t. Learn to ignore those voices.
Back to the dead bodies. Kristen, what is with you? More zombie stuff?
Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter know that I regularly do Bikram yoga, which is 90 minutes and 26 postures in a room that is around 110-112 degrees. It is fabulous for detox, for the joints and the back, and the heat gives an amazing cardio workout and helps prevent injury because warm muscles are pliable muscles.
Anyway, there is a pose called savasana, or Dead Body Pose (or Corpse Pose). When I first started doing Bikram yoga, my biggest challenge wasn’t the poses or even the heat. It was sitting still (and shutting up for 90 minutes, but that is another blog). Seriously, I could not sit still.
I felt too guilty.
I ran through my grocery list. I thought about plot points. I went over research. But just being still and relaxing was making me twitch. The second half of the class was really tough, namely because every pose had a 20 second savasana after it. Pose, then dead body, pose, then dead body. You got it.
Please, let me at least take my iPhone in here. Then I can play Angry Birds and improve my eye hand coordination. SOMETHING!
All I could think of was the words of my third grade teacher, Kristen just doesn’t use her time wisely.
*twitch, twitch, twitch*
No matter how hard I tried I had a hard time resting. But then a weird thing happened. I decided to do the Bikram Yoga 60 Day challenge. 60 days of Bikram in 60 days. I happened to notice that I did great in every class but one. There was one instructor I HATED.
I didn’t hate her, just her class. She was a sweet, sweet lady, and I couldn’t understand it, but, every time I took her class, I felt like CRAP. I kept having to sit down. I didn’t have energy. I felt sick, winded, drained and this didn’t make any sense to me because every instructor says the exact same words. They have a 90 minute script that guides the class through the pose. It shouldn’t have been different. Same script, same poses, same room.
I could NOT figure out what was going on.
I drank more water. I took extra electrolytes. I thought maybe it was because she taught in the evening, so I took her in the morning to see if I could make it through. Nope. Still tanked. I thought back to childhood and wondered if it had to do with some unresolved Mommy issues I hadn’t located. Maybe my lack of energy was passive aggression on my part to sabotage her class (Hey, I’m a writer. We over-analyze everything).
No matter what I tried, nothing helped. And I wasn’t the only one who was struggling. I noticed other people in the class having to sit out or rest, because they couldn’t keep going, people who normally were fine.
WTH was going on?
Then, one day while in this instructor’s class, it hit me what was going wrong. In the second part of the class you are supposed to do a pose. This is an extreme exertion of energy. After the pose, you are to lie still in savasana, like a dead body (hence the name). Not only are you supposed to lie still like a dead body, but you are to lie there for TWENTY seconds. Yet, this instructor was rushing. She was only leaving us there for SIX seconds. We didn’t have enough time to rest and recharge, and it was drastically affecting every pose we did.
This was a powerful lesson for me. FOURTEEN seconds. What difference did FOURTEEN seconds make? It made a world of difference. Instead of having energy and doing every pose with confidence and ease, I felt like I was going to vomit and had to keep lying down. I LOST MORE TIME BY NOT TAKING TIME.
How many minutes of the workout did I lose because of those missing fourteen seconds?
How much of your productive time are you losing because you won’t take a day or two days to rest?
Dead bodies are good for us. Lie still. Do nothing. Dead bodies don’t have grocery lists and kids and deadlines and day jobs. We must have balance, Yin and Yang, light and dark, cookie and cream filling. The Force must be strong with you so chill the heck OUT!
I know many of you likely have a Mrs. Foster in your head telling you that you aren’t using time wisely. Ignore her and don’t feed her your attention and energy. Things we don’t feed eventually die, even the sour-faced elementary school teacher trapped in your head.
When we rest and recharge our work is better and clearer. Creativity is like a battery and it runs out of juice. Recharge that imagination. Play, relax, go to the park, finger paint, play Twister with your kids. Laugh. The world needs creative people to keep its humanity. If all of us are just efficient little workers then Skynet wins.
So go enjoy your weekend…after you comment. I will be grading, and those of you who don’t leave a comment are not using your time wisely. SLACKER!
So do you have a Mrs.Foster trapped in your head? Were you in trouble for not sitting still and for failing to use time wisely? So you have trouble resting? Have you overcome being a workaholic and have tips to share? Do you—OOH! SHINY!
I LOVE hearing from you!
Quick Announcement—I have a cool new class I am offering ACHOO! The Writer’s Guide to Going Viral. Also check out the new classes at WANA International. We have classes about global domination using Facebook, how to turn your book into an audio book, how to build a WordPress site of your own. Tons of cool stuff taught by WANA instructors hand-picked by ME (but please do not hold this against them :P).
To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of October I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
Happy Good Friday! I hope everyone has a restful holiday. We are entering the conference season, and there are a lot of large conferences coming up soon. So, today I’d like to relay my
disaster experience with my first conference and then offer the powerful lessons I learned.
Remember, I made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to.
I have to say that I have attended quite a few conferences, and the DFW Writer’s Workshop folk have been one of the best (It was also my first, so it will always hold a dear spot in my heart). This year the keynote speaker is New York Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins. The DFWWWW Conference has a history of selling out early, so seriously, buy your slot NOW. You’ll thank me later. DFW offers an amazing variety of classes, taught by some of the best talent in the industry.
I mean, I am teaching there, right? :D
Ouch. I got a cramp patting myself on the back.
It is so interesting looking back now at my first conference. A lot has changed. I am a multi-published, best-selling NF author represented by one of the top agencies in the world, S.G.G. Literary, as opposed to a hopeful wanna-be fiction writer. I am a speaker, not an attendee.
It still feels very surreal, and I still keep thinking one day the gig will be up and they’ll realize I was on the list by accident. But, hey *shrugs* we’ll party until they figure it out, right? :D.
Anyway, looking back at my first conference is sort of like being out of college and looking back at that time of trial and testing and thinking…I am so much smarter now. Or, thank God I am not still THAT stupid. In my case, it’s a close tie which.
My first conference was back in February of 2008. I was an overachiever and got Swine Flu a year before it swept the world. For most of February, I had 103 fever and wanted to die…then burn my own ashes (again) because I was pretty sure I was so sick that even my cremated remains would have body ache. I nearly didn’t make it to the conference (which was DFW).
I was so sure that 2008 would the year I got an agent. All I needed was an agent and then my life would be on Easy Street. My biggest concern was what to do if the agents started fighting over me. How would I choose which one to go with? Would it make future cocktail parties in NY awkward?
Yes…I was a wee delusional, and sadly, I cannot blame it on my fever.
And, to make it worse, I should have known better, but I didn’t. I had been on the editing side and had many, many acknowledgements in published books from grateful authors who professed publicly that they would not have been published without my help. I’d run a well-established critique group for 3 years and had even been teaching some social media. I felt pretty confident that I knew my stuff.
I find it funny how I had been in “the publishing industry” for so long, yet was still pretty clueless. I think I was like the computer programmer who believed he could kick butt in software sales. I knew so much, but in my pride and relative isolation, was unable to see how much more I had yet to learn.
Conferences are vital for showing us how much we really don’t know (but then they give us the tools to remedy that, too).
So, anyway, that Friday night, the agent-author social went really well. I was charming and fun in my own mind, and managed to make it through the entire night without tucking my dress in my pantyhose. I think that was the last thing to go right for the next 24 hours.
First, for those who do not know, I have a zillion food allergies. I might even be allergic to myself. I would live in a giant bubble, but I can’t get cable. So keep this in mind.
Hey, can somebody order me gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, preservative free pizza? Please? Anyone?
The Friday social goes well, but that night I get no sleep. None. I was too excited. I was going to be an agented author by this time the next night. My future was so bright, I was fairly sure it had caused permanent retinal damage.
The next morning I peeled myself out of bed and drove to Grapevine, TX, which was about an hour away. I looked stunning in my new suit, but I was so fried that I forget to grab the food I’d packed the night before. I arrived at the conference half-starving already and it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. That entire morning, I barely paid attention to any of the craft classes because 1) I was exhausted 2) I was starving and 3) I had my agent pitch right after lunch…which I could smell and it was making me half-mad.
I dodged out of a class early to talk to the caterer and asked if he had anything that was gluten and dairy free. He said “Yes.” The angels started singing. YES! I could get something to eat. I grabbed my meal and began wolfing it down prison-style, knife at the ready to stab any of the kitchen staff who might decide to take my plate before I had eaten the garnish and the Sweet & Low packets (fiber).
I finished eating before the other writers were even let out of class. I was feeling great. The writers filed in. I started socializing to take my mind of the pitch that I knew would catapult me to fame and fortune.
Candy Havens stepped up to do her keynote and…
My heart rate suddenly kicked up to 150 beats a minute, and felt like I was having a heart attack. I felt dizzy and my fingers and feet went totally numb, along with part of my face. I struggled to stay conscious as I watched Candy’s speech. I couldn’t get up and interrupt her, but I was terrified that I was going to pass out right there. My peripheral vision was soon gone. Black. And I could tell I was inches from blacking out. Clearly I got into something I was allergic to. I chugged every glass of water at the table trying to dilute whatever foul element I ingested.
I hung on Candy’s every word…waiting for the last one. The second people start clapping I dove out of the banquet hall and stumbled to the bathroom. I was in bad shape. A couple of the speakers happened to be in there and apparently it was clear to them that something was definitely wrong with me. They wanted to take me to a hospital.
NO! I had come too far. I could do this.
I still had an hour until my pitch session…the 15 minutes that would change my life forever…although I did grant permission to call an ambulance if I passed out.
During that hour, I drank another gallon of water and the symptoms, blessedly, started to subside. About a half hour after I staggered into the restroom, another woman stumbled into the bathroom with a screaming migraine. Apparently the caterer forgot to mention the liberal amounts of MSG (monosodium glutamate) in the broth used to cook the rice. We were both in pretty bad shape.
Thus, I missed another craft class trying to be at least coherent for the agent pitch. I got into the room and my beautiful suit is all rumpled and my hair is flat on one side (from leaning on a chair trying not to die). I am also pretty certain I only had makeup on one eye.
I sit down and begin to talk, but have no idea what point I am trying to make…and now I have to pee. Like BAD. Like 12 seconds after I sit down I am now aware of the 6 gallons of water I drank. So now I am wiggling and trying to think, but all I can picture are waterfalls and sprinkler systems and babbling brooks and speaking of babbling, what the hell was my book about anyway?
It was a disaster.
But, an hour after the pitch session, I felt better and I finally got to do what conferences are all about. I made loads of friends and connections, and took some great classes to improve my skills. I learned so much at that conference and met some of the most AMAZING people who are my friends even to this day. Candy Havens is still one of my all-time favorite people, and it is really cool to now be one of her peers instead of this strange neophyte-stalker.
Okay, I am still strange and slightly a stalker but she now doesn’t jump when she spots me in her shrubs.
Anyway, I look back and wonder if I would have just lightened up and gone for the conference for the right reasons, would I have had my near-death experience? I was so keyed up that I made one dumb decision after another, which was probably fueled by stress and sleep deprivation.
I gave myself Deer in the Headlight Syndrome. You know what happens the deer caught in the headlights? They get creamed, flattened, squished.
Hopefully, I made my point. RELAX! ENJOY your conference experience. Making the decision to attend a conference separates the wanna-bes from the professionals. Conferences are the best, and they are the greatest investment you will ever make in your writing career, but NOT because of that 15 minute pitch session.
The pitch session is not a career make-or-break situation. Seriously, agents (I have heard whispers of rumors coming from the caves) are HUMAN. More importantly they are humans with the sole job of finding writers to represent. They are not the enemy. Also, the only person with the power to make or break our career is….US. Agents do not hold that power. If we write excellent stuff, agents will want to represent it. Period.
Also, we can talk to agents outside the pitch session. I don’t recommend sliding your query letter under the bathroom stall, and try not to ambush them outside the Ladies Room door, but here is a little understood secret. Agents go to conferences to network and to…. Are you ready for this? FIND CLIENTS.
We can talk to them. In fact, agents expect writers will talk to them. To think otherwise is like thinking it would be rude to offer a designer a fabric swatch at a trade show. Agents go to writing confernces to meet writers and, hopefully, out of aaaallllll the hopefuls, find someone with content that they believe they can sell.
We are in control of our careers, which means that yes, agents are important, but connections and classes trump agents any day of the week. The more connections we have, the more doors of opportunity will come our way. The more we listen to others and learn from them, the faster we grow and mature into the type of writer an agent is dying to represent.
In the end, after all of my suffering, did I get an agent? No. I got a form letter with the wrong name on it. But, it was probably one of the most valuable experiences of my career, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Top 5 Tips to Maximize Your Writing Conference
1. Go to all the craft classes you can.
Trust me, no matter how good we think we are, we aren’t even close to how great we COULD be. Go to more than just agent panels and “How to Land an Agent” classes. Take this opportunity to grow into a better you. Grab hold of that opportunity to learn from those doing what you want to do. Ask questions. Take lots of notes. Team up with friends and take all the classes and then share notes. Often there are tricks and techniques shared that we can’t get out of a book.
Also, at conferences, we get to network with authors who are where we want to one day be. We can make
hostages mentors out of them. I stalked Candy Havens…okay, I still stalk her. But she is an AMAZING human being and five minutes listening to her will make you feel like you can take over the world. She is the only person I know who can simultaneously kick my @$$ and make me grateful for it. I have a conference to thank for knowing her. Candy challenged me to come up to a higher level and she STILL does. This is worth more than what you will pay for the conference. TRUST ME.
3. Talk to all the agents.
Not necessarily to pitch your book, but just to be nice. You might see them at another conference and they will recognize you. Now you are forming a relationship. This also helps you see they are really
blood-sucking werewolves human.
You can talk to agents other than the one assigned in your pitch. The pitch session just guarantees us a particular agent’s undivided attention. It doesn’t mean that the other agents will take out a restraining order on you if you say “hi” and ask to give your elevator pitch.
4. Have FUN!
Conferences aren’t cheap. Squeeze every bit if fun out of every little moment. Get your money’s worth.
5. Go out of your way to form memories.
This is like high school or college. We can either have a blast in our “learning years” and take lots of pictures and have lots of fun…or we can rush through it and fail to enjoy our “writing youth” because we are to busy wanting to be “writing grown-ups.” We only get to be Baby Writers once. Enjoy the moments of magic before this becomes a job. Enjoy the youth because you will soon have to let it go.
So what are some of your conference experiences? Good or bad? Some of my closest friends are people I met at conferences. Do you have any advice? Tips? Pointers? Want to recommend a conference? Want me to come speak at a conference in your area? Put it in the comments. I love hearing from you.
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Due to the tornadoes, I am behind. Will announce last week and this week’s winners on Monday. Thank you for your patience.
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.