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Do you journal? WAIT?! Don’t leave yet.

I know, I know. People blather on about journalling and why you should do it. I’ve even done it in an old blog from almost 4 years ago. And I stand by it.

HOWEVER…

Bad me. I’ve been a shitty journaller and there’s been huge swaths of time between my entries. I took a look this morning and realized I hadn’t journalled since February 3, 2018.

Soooo much has happened in my life since February, good and bad. From negatives such as the death of my beloved pug and snuggle partner, Bosco, and my formidable Nanny who was 90 years old, to the Hubs getting knee surgery and being off work for 3 months, to finding out I was pregnant and then miscarrying in the span of a handful of days, to more positive events such as having 2 books published by Oghma Creative Media and getting to travel to Arkansas for a writers retreat and another trip to Hawaii with the Hubs and long-time friends.

Bosco boy. Forever missed.

8 months of my life fit into a tidy 6 pages. That was it. I could have broke it all down to the details and emotions that filtered through each event, but it’s been some time and those feelings have already faded. As a writer I would need to delve deep into them to express them properly and crying isn’t really my bag. Not today. So I settled for an update as if catching up with a friend I hadn’t talked to in some time.

There’s no wrong way to do it and people do it for various reasons in varying ways. Some scribble about their day. Some take the pen in their fist and angrily vent their greatest annoyances to get it out on the page and out of their heads. All ways are meant to be cathartic or purposeful. For me, today, it was a chance to look at the last 8 months of my life and see all that happened. Time speeds on. No doubt I forget important details I could have included, but these were the events that found me.

I always hope I’ll get back to journallying the way I used to, but life has changed since then. Work is busy and stressful – expected at a homeless shelter – and when I’m not working shift work, I’m working at my writing and getting book 3, 4, and 5 ready for publishing, so essentially, I’m always working.

If nothing else, my entries proved I haven’t spent much time living life or having fun. It’s now Autumn, my favourite season. So I also took a few snaps this morning of the backyard in full Autumn colours. Someone PLEASE learn how to freeze the season so I can have it all year.

Where’s a true Magic when you need one?

 

Original Question:

I recently began a full-time job for the first time in a couple of years and almost immediately suffered from panic attacks, increased stress, and worsened depression. Before this full-time position, I worked on a contract by contract basis, so the regular paycheck was a big reason to jump on the work, but it feels like all my money now goes to shrink appointments and medications to try and level me out enough to deal with a job which I now can’t bear. My time away from work seems to be made up solely of dreading going back to work. I know many people don’t like their jobs, but this is seriously affecting my health and personal life. So, what should I do? Quit the regular paycheck as my friends suggest and return to contract work, or, as my shrink and members of my family advise, just figure out a way to keep on showing up for work.

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

You’ve connected the expectations of this new job to your mental health symptoms and have reached out to others before throwing in the towel, so my guess is you’re used to pushing yourself beyond your gut feelings in case you’re acting impulsively. This shows a self-awareness you should be proud of. My question would be what are the reasons your psychiatrist recommended you continue with the position? I’m certain they gave them and did so with the positive intentions.

My guess is they know you enough to know that this is an opportunity to work on skills such as grounding to build a resilience to change and coping you may lack. A concern of this is the depression which can easily shift into apathy. If you become numb and indifferent to the position, this is as bad as the depression itself because you’ve cut off the emotions needed, the ones your psychiatrist intended for you to work through. Any bouts of dissociation doesn’t solve mental health issues, it IS a mental health issue, so be sure to mention it to your psychiatrist ASAP in the case it does. The moment the apathy cuts out is a highly emotional one and they can speak to you about handling those feelings as they rush back.

You’re right, most people hate their jobs, so another question would be: Is it the pressures of a full-time job or the routine of showing up to the same place very day doing the same thing—which can be dreadful to someone used to a haphazard routine with some give—or is it the job itself causing the panic and depression?

If it’s the pressures, then you’re right to first try and work through this with your psychiatrist and identify where they stem from. If it’s the job itself, there’s got to be other full-time jobs out there you can explore while you’re getting through your current misadventure so you’re not missing out on a paycheck I’m assuming you need.

One thing I’m going to add is self-care. I know everyone makes it sound like it’s all scented candles and a hot bath, but it’s simpler than this and is tailored to you. Also, journaling or some type of record keeping of your days may be a good idea, so you can look back and see the progress or lack of instead of guessing if things are getting better or not. Recording your mood, something you enjoyed from your day, a scale of 1-10 on how much you hated it, or how much liked it to try and remain positive. It’s also something your psychiatrist might be keen on you doing so you’re taking some control of your healing.

Finding out the loopholes to our thriving through each day is a trait we all seek out when we know we’re in a position we cannot escape. You have control here. Weigh out your psychiatrist’s advice and do everything you can to make it work. If it’s not, go to them with a new plan—Yes, create your own—and see what they think of it BEFORE you execute it so they can judge if your plan was designed to avoid some issues you should be facing or if it’s truly a crap job you need to move on from.

You’ve got this.

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.

Original Question:

Sami-Jo, I have a friend I dated several months ago who I know didn’t experience a “lightning bolt” of attraction when we went out. But, I also know that I check just about every box, except maybe the “IS HE CHRIS HEMSWORTH?” box, on her partner checklist. There are times where I’ve been available to her or made her laugh where I get the feeling the thought crosses her brain that I might be worth a second shot, but it’s momentary and so I’ve never acted on it. So, my question is: I like her a lot, but should I even be wasting energy thinking about the opportunity of a second chance, or pursuing her, since I’d clearly be more of a compromise on her part?

Photo by Emma Frances Logan on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

You started off by calling this person a “friend”, so I’m interested to know if they began a friend or if you’ve been calling them a friend after the initial date. Does this make a difference? Hell yeah it does!

If you were friends first, then the person could be afraid of taking the next step and losing you to a failed romantic experiment. If they’ve become a friend after an initial date, then you may have been slid into the friend-zone (trendy term, yet accurate).

Either means you’re in a holding pattern. Relationship limbo is as sweat-inducing as breaking your back in a drunkin’ moment of thinking it’s smart to get down and limber beneath a mop handle for the sake of impressing the audience or entertaining them by falling and knocking the wind out of yourself. When love is on the line, no one wants to fall and fail, they want to skirt under that filthy mop handle and come out the other side with a heart full of future promises and frat-boy applause.

As with anyone over 25 years old, you don’t have time to waste on games and aren’t holding out for the greatest love since Ryan and Blake and sometimes a slow burn is worth the wait. What isn’t worth it, is being someone’s back-up plan. Don’t put yourself in the position of waiting for this person to decide you’re the one. You either are or you’re not. Life isn’t a long-running sitcom where the lead characters have a will-they-won’t-they romance where the audience knows they’re perfect for each other and the season ender highlights the long-anticipated kiss.

My advice would be to move on. If you want to be friends with this person, then retain causal contact and if a romantic relationship develops then great. Maybe once they see you take a step back they will re-evaluate how close they would prefer you and take steps to close the gap. Though I would also question why they’re waiting for you to step away to decide they suddenly want you in their life.

Relationship baggage can stop those from taking the jump into a good thing, this is understandable, but don’t let you’re understanding of their situation prevent them being held accountable for their actions.

Keep looking. Keep your options and heart open to others. Don’t allow yourself to be anyone’s compromise. You don’t have to look like Thor to be someone’s hero.

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.

Original Question:

I have chronic insomnia. Over the past eight years, I have tried every possible remedy, home-cooked or prescribed. After a visit to my doctor this week to follow up on my progress, or lack thereof, I asked her if she thought cannabis would be a realistic option. I have a friend who has had great success with it and figured it’s the one thing I haven’t tried yet and I’m at the point where I’ll fucking try anything. My wife was skeptical about it when I mentioned it to her and my 16-year-old daughter furrowed her brow when she found out. Even with legalized marijuana coming to Canada in a month, there’s still a stigma attached to it, not to mention the potential for troubles crossing the border into the U.S. My question is this: how open should I be with this, particularly with regards to my social media posts and discussions with co-workers? I’d love to reduce the stigma (I’m a firm supporter of the legalization of marijuana) and be transparent with respect to its benefits (assuming I see any) but living a public life as a writer and a private life as a corporate 9-5er has me hesitant to share too much.

Thanks,
Sleepless in Canada

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

Good for you for taking the step in asking your doctor! While cannabis use is becoming a more popular alternative to traditional pills, most doctors won’t broach the subject first. We are our best advocates and you found it in you to take control of your health. It’s a big deal.

My first instinct is to say “Fuck yeah! Tell the world!” but I understand not everyone understands how cannabis can alter someone’s life for the better, so you’re right to wait a tick and give it some serious thought. I can’t tell you what’s right for your life, but I think you would benefit from listing each area of your life and figure out realistic worst-case scenarios.

Could you lose your job? If so, would it be a legal dismissal? If your work doesn’t suffer, and you don’t appear under the influence, what’s the difference between your prescribed cannabis and a co-worker’s prescribed Ativan? I would find a copy of your works policy and procedures and see if there’s something in there first before speaking to them about it, but ultimately, it’s none of their business. Chances are they won’t know otherwise, so maybe wait and see if cannabis works for you first.

Genuine familial support is key in anyone’s life. You’ve taken the steps to see the doctor already, so you’ve made the decision this is worth trying. Everyone is skeptical of what they have no evidence of, so hopefully your trials with cannabis are successful and they see the difference firsthand. Depending on the 16-year-old, their experience with cannabis may be them or their classmates sneaking out back of the school and getting high with their friends before a boring Calculus class. You have the opportunity to show cannabis has a multitude of uses without ending up in binge-eating Cheetos as stigma dictates. What a great position to be in.

As with your doctor, you need to advocate for your needs in all aspects of your life. Weigh out the negative and positives and if they’re not catastrophic, go for it. And if they have the potential to be life-altering, maybe question why this is and how you can change that or if you care to. Lack of sleep dysregulates all parts of our lives. If you have a chance to create some routine and get to a point of restfulness, there’s nothing but positives.

With the countless testimonials of people who have benefited from cannabis, I wish you the greatest of luck with your insomnia.

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.

Original Question:

I’ve been going back and forth about what to do with a book on suicide I’ve drafted over the past few months. It currently sits around 200 pages and includes everything from sex, abuse, and personal stories in between. I want to copyright it and provide it freely because there is such a huge industry revolving around life coaching and people who exploit those who are vulnerable.

I also implicitly state that I’m also hoping to create an audience for my writing. At the same time, I’m concerned I too will draw the wrong attention and it may just be perceived as airing my families dirty laundry. The bulk of the work I want attention for is my fantasy writing which I wanted to release at the same time. So if people wanted to support me they could purchase the fantasy work. I know there’s a lot to process here so thanks very much in advance!

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Slice of Advice:

Let’s tackle the first book. It sounds like a purge piece you hope others will identify with and help them through their own experiences. I love these because they reinforce the notion of everyone having family secrets or traumas and experiences they hide and making them public removes the stigma of feeling the need to hide them. Good for you for even flirting with the idea of putting it out there. Is it airing dirty laundry? Hells yeah it is, but it’s been stinking up the whole house for far too long. I say shake it out on the front porch and let the neighbours stare. Before you know it, they’ll have their own hanging from their porch swing and you’ll all be chatting about it over the sounds of sweeping the remanence of all the shame and embarrassment onto the front lawn.

Expect to encounter a neighbour or family member who will slam their doors on you or try dragging you back into the fog of seclusion, but persist, and understand that they too are allowed their embarrassment, but it doesn’t mean you have to squat in it with them. A range of emotions will hit you when you hand over the first copy to someone or post somewhere public. Feel what you need to but ensure some of that is pride for refusing to remain hidden.

Your story, your perspective, your voice.

You said you wanted to distribute it for free. There’re many ways to do this—make available on blog and all social media venues, donating to a library or organization who helps those with similar experiences in your book, talk about it on a local radio show, share with other bloggers, etc.—as long as you still plan to do everything you would for any other published works including getting a cover artist and editor to ensure the content is tight and readable. Which means it won’t be free for you, so be prepared to put out some cash without the expectation of a return, though it sounds like you’re okay with this.

Bridging the gap between a non-fiction novel and a fiction novel isn’t easy, though I do know someone who is in the process of doing this. They’re using their same name for both titles, but there was discussion on if they should use a pseudonym for one or the other. That’s a personal question you’ll need to mull over if you haven’t already.

They’re different genres with different audiences. The only thing they have in common is you, so using one to create an audience for the other is tricky. As you post things about your non-fiction novel, you can direct them back to your website where they will see that you write in multiple genres but treat them as the two different beasts they are as your marketing game will need to be on point and there’s lots of books out there that can help.

Check out Rachel Thompson’s book ’30-Day Book Marketing Challenge’ and her site in general. She’s an advocate for many things and the book helps with all genres.

Whatever you choose to do, ensure you take extra care of yourself and any raw feelings the non-fiction book may cause. Choose a pace that works for you and reach out if things become overwhelming.

Good luck!

If anyone has any further advice to give, remember your manners and add something in the comments.

“Wow. It’s quiet today,” someone says at work.

“Noooo! Don’t say that!” *I feverishly look for REAL wood, not that pressed wood crap, to knock on*

When you work in a shelter, you never, ever, comment on a quiet shift or you risk immediate karmic backlash. No. Instead, you ignore the quiet and when someone mentions it, you knock wood, flex, and stare the bad luck down like an alpha wolf about to go rabid if it dares to mess with you.

Then, twenty minutes pass and it gets busy anyway because that’s the nature of social work.

Hrumph.

Superstitions amaze me. No proof they work exists, but still, we insist on engaging in weird and embarrassing behaviour to prevent whatever bad thing we assume will happen if we don’t.

We insist on trying to override common sense and basic science by crossing our fingers for good juju. You don’t rely on absurd tactics to keep the strip from turning pink when birth control would’ve been the smarter option.

So where do these desperate attempts originate from? Our parents? They’re easy to blame, but they learned it from somewhere.

Some common ones in my world come to mind, so I started Googling.

The favoured ‘knock on wood’ to ward away the evil that is the busy work day, is said to derive from pagan times when spirits and deities lived in the trees. Touching or knocking on wood acknowledged and called upon them to bring about good fortune. I’ll never knock on wood again without thinking of little spirits living in the chair rails.

Food isn’t free from superstitions either. Say you get hand-talking about an episode of Wynonna Earp and how sexy Tim Rozon looks with a ‘stache as Doc Holliday and the salt shaker goes flying. Everyone knows spilling salt is a no-no, right? But why?

Salt used to be an expensive commodity, so spilling would be wasteful, but the tasty mineral has been used in many ancient rituals as well as modern rituals to cleanse or ward away negative spirits.

There’s also a connection to lies and treachery as in DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper as Judas has spilled the salt.

 

Regardless of the reason for it being bad luck, you bet you’re scooping up every grain and tossing it over you left shoulder to reverse the bad juju and/or blind the dirty devil on your left shoulder. (Blow it a kiss while you’re at it. I hear he likes that.)

Some superstitions have long-lasting negative consequences. In the middle ages, black cats were said to be familiars of witches and, if they crossed your path, they’d block your path to God or Heaven. Countless black cats have been maimed or killed since then for no other reason than moronic superstitions.

The number 13 is another. Paraskevidekatriaphobia (fear of number 13) is so puissant that buildings still refuse to label the 13th level as it is. The label assigned to the elevator button doesn’t change the fact that it’s still level 13. We know this, but we refuse to admit it. While the Chinese and Ancient Egyptians thought 13 was lucky, the rest of the world is deluded enough to pretend it doesn’t exist. Though there were those New Yorkers who started a trend of Thirteen Clubs in 1881 which consisted of facing every superstition related to the number. Guess what? Still alive. Well, now I’m sure they’re dead, but not because of their group.

In all parts of the world superstitions pop up for various reasons and make their way around the world.

  • Don’t sweep at night or you’ll sweep away your wealth. – West Africa
  • Pregnant women shouldn’t wear a lei or the umbilical cord will choke the unborn baby. – Hawaii
  • An itchy right hand mean unexpected money, but an itchy left hand means unexpected money loss. – Turkey
  • Throwing rice at the bride and groom encourages nearby jealous spirits to eat instead of bothering them. – China

Whatever the problem, we humans have a superstition to combat it. As glass half-empty as we try to be, we instinctually crave hope, and think that our problems can be solved by avoiding open umbrellas inside or, like myself, sleep with the open end of the pillow case to outside of the bed because having it on the inside leads to the potential of trapping in nightmares.

As long as they don’t hurt anyone or impede on rational functioning beyond minor embarrassment, I say let them stick around. I know I don’t plan on walking under any open ladders, so if someone wants to put snake skin in their wallet in hopes of becoming rich or wear the same unwashed lucky underwear all football season, then that’s their bees wax or…crotch rot as the case may be.

Do you practice any superstitions? Don’t worry, none are too odd to be repeated. Unless your superstition consists of repeating your superstition aloud, then send it via psychic messages. I’ll be waiting.

 

Resources:
http://www.weldonowen.com/blog/38-odd-superstitions-about-food-brooms-body-and-more

http://www.csicop.org/superstition/library/common_superstitions

http://psychiclibrary.com/beyondBooks/superstition-room/

http://www.csicop.org/superstition/library/common_superstitions

 

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(My original post was on The Fabulous Fictionistas website.)


Which “V” word? You ask.

Vampires?

No, but you may stumble over a few in the dark on the way to kitchen for more snacks.

Vagina?

Pfft. Even if we Fictionistas are taking one each on our writing journey and at times listening to it’s gut feeling instead of our tummies.

Victims?

Sort of. Maybe. You’ll find many and we writers love to rack up the kill quotient and decimate the hearts of our readers for our own sick pleasure.

The “V” word I’m getting to is “VALIDATION”.

Boring after realizing vaginal intuition is a thing, I know, but stay with me.

As someone who works with an array of people, validation can be one of the strongest tools in my belt. We humans crave it. We like to pretend we don’t, but we do, and gaining such acceptance and understanding when it involves your passion? Lord love a duck, we crave this most.

You can close the shutters, ignore all forms of social interaction, and write yourself into early carpal tunnel, but then what?

We writers need validation for many things we don’t even realize. Here’s a fraction of the validation supportive writing communities can provide:
  • The fact everyone’s first draft is better toilet paper than publish worthy, yet you never get rid of even tiny nuggets of brilliance.
  • Staying up until the birds are singing to perfect a scene or finish revisions is worth the dark circles and week of walking like an octogenarian, because the result is more important than bathroom trips.
  • Rejection letters are received by everyone brave enough to put themselves out there. They are also considered a point of pride and a challenge, especially to some famous author who refused to take no for an answer.
  • Your browser history is a testament to hours of valuable research you’ll use 3% of and makes you look like a serial killer, arborist, and circus performer.
  • The mushy middle is a real thing on and off the page and many have tips on how to combat them both. We’re all wearing sweats anyway.
  • Sanity. With so many characters battling for attention in your brain, you’re not the only one to daydream and run your shopping cart into the kid in front of you. Chances are the wail and pissed of parents scowl proves an impressive character reference.
  • “We are all rubbish at this.” Validation from a writer friend. All of which validate our insecurities as a writer. We can’t be positive 24/7 and word brilliance tends to sprout from bouts of inner conflict. Sometimes we need other to kick your ass into gear, and this is okay.
  • That a shelfie ranks higher than a dick/tit pic. (I challenge you to send a shelfie in response to the next request seeking sauciness)
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Mmmm. Now you’re talking. Show me more.

  • Going without showering, a real meal, sleep, and physical interaction with another human is acceptable as long as you get your word count in.
  • There’s millions of writers out there recycling elements of the same stories, but there’s only one you. And yes, your vampire-fairy adventure mystery romance has an audience you’ll discover if you work hard enough to find it.

Get out there and find writers who you can share something with, even if it’s only how awesome your new notebook is and how your cat/dog/lizard is cock-blocking your writing time.

Heya creative people,

Sometimes inspiration hits at the craziest places, like the shower with no options to write things down. Ideally, your muse slides up to your shoulder and whispers sweet plot lines while you’re in front of the computer with swift fingers. (err…maybe not put quite like that). You know what I mean. A creative space is important and can welcome you into the proper head space to build captivating characters and worlds to better illustrate the story rolling around in your noggin.

I’ve been in my new home since December and this weekend I FINALLY got my office together. The basic elements were in place, but a constant mess with bare walls.

BEFORE - like I said...a mess.

BEFORE – like I said…a mess.

 

A few hours later, some art on the walls, and DVD rack turned book case, and a healthy dose of dusting and I’m left with:

AFTER! So much better.

AFTER! So much better.

 

It’s not a creative space without the creative works of Angelina Wrona and Sara Deck on my walls:

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My computer was coming on to me.

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And a gratuitous shelfie:

 

20160604_183919

 

Bosco approved:

20160604_173403

 

Do you have a space devoted to creativity? Let me see 🙂

Hey guys!

Huh? Well, that was easy. Arm in arm with the anonymity of a keyboard and editing options, saying hello to a bunch of strangers is simpler than blinking. Walking through the doors of McCormick Place in Chicago and seeing the thousands of people milling around ranging from readers, bloggers, authors, librarians, advertisers, publishers, and anything else you could possibly think of that’s related to the publishing world, PLUS the expectation to talk to them and make future contacts?

Cha’right bud.

Simple eye contact was a no-go. It granted permission for people to talk to you, to ask questions, to hand you something you might not want, and to seek something from you that you might not have to give.

Smiling was an invitation I couldn’t commit to so chances were my resting bitch face was securely in place.

Out of my comfort zone is, well, uncomfortable. Obviously. But I did push myself to make conversation when I had something to say and handed out a Fabulous Fictionistas bag with all the ladies info inside to at least 5 people. Okay, maybe 4. But they were a great marketing tool for someone comfortable reaching into the cavern of possible rejection.

Pointing out which Fabulous Fictionistas were the outgoing type was a cinch. They were the ones running around making contacts and finding old ones to reinforce plans. I’d like to think one day I’ll have the fortitude to do so as well, but this year – my first book conference and year as a published author – was not my year.

I did find ways to learn, even if observational rather than active.

I learned Disney had great breakfast foods and wearable swag.

 

Daphne and Sami-Jo enjoy the wonders of sustenance and wearable swag

Daphne and Sami-Jo enjoy the wonders of sustenance and wearable swag

 

I learned most companies had stacks of books to give to people and would rather have you take it than cart it back home. So I collected a crap ton of free ARCs (advanced reader copies).

20160516_141958

FREE BOOKS!

 

And had a wonderfully painful time of lugging them around and then fitting them in my suitcase and carry-on while remaining under flight weight requirements.

One thing the venue could have used was a reading nook to get cozy with them while you rested your sore bodies, but the most you got was the cafeteria.

So while it seems the event may have been a waste of time since the whole purpose is to network, it wasn’t. Learning is different for all and, in this case, I like to think of my experience as laying the foundation for future years and experiences of whats expected of me. I went in blind and emerged aware of my current limitations and of those peaks I’d like to reach.

Worth every penny.

Also, I got to meet ALL of The Fabulous Fictionistas. They are as amazing as they promised and I had an hilarious time getting to know them in person and learning a plethora of knowledge to use for my future as an author while we all work as a team on the path to rule the world.

BEA17 is in New York and I can’t wait to meet up again. Maybe 2017 will be the year I talk to more than 5 people.

As an introvert these things are difficult. Have any fellow introverts out there found ways to use this as an advantage? Or to bypass the shyness and do more than chat about the overpriced water? (Because I failed in that mission as well).

If so, let me know. 😀