Insecure Writers Support Group: Learning to Relax

I wanted to have this posted on Wednesday. Wednesday was yesterday. Yesterday was Insecure Writers Support Group Day. It only comes once a month. The first Wednesday of every month. You’d think I’d be able to make that. Especially since the optional question is posted weeks in advance. But here’s the thing: I’m just too busy.

That’s what I told a lady in church yesterday as to why it took me so long to answer her email: I’m doing too many things.

That was my excuse to my pastor when he asked why I haven’t submitted a new article to our monthly magazine: I didn’t have time, but September, definitely September! (Because the deadline for August was two Saturdays ago.) Now I kind of have write something for September because he’ll be looking for it, which makes me nervous…

And while I do plan to write one (I already have an idea circulating in my head), I have to figure out a way to make time, because the deadline for the September issue is July 29, and with a week-long cruise to Alaska coming up in 12 days (and counting…) that deadline will sneak up on me like a thief in the night. Then I’ll be saying, “October. For sure, October. I promise!”

And that brings me to the topic for today…

What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

It’s a lesson I’ve learned and am still learning: Don’t commit yourself to too much. I have a problem with starting five different projects at one time, and then wondering why I’m so frazzled. And I have to remember, overwhelming myself with too many tasks, too many self-imposed deadlines, led to my epic writer’s meltdown a year ago last month.

I mentioned this in a previous post. Back then, I was participating in the A to Z Challenge, I was a beta reader, I was a facilitator for a flash fiction writing challenge on my blog, I was trying to write a post every day on my blog and write new poems and short stories to submit to literary magazines, I was editing two different magazines, plus I had a mundane 9 to 5 job.

A year later, and I feel that meltdown creeping up again. So what am I doing now? I have three different blogs, this one, my fiction blog, and my Christian devotional blog. I post Monday-Friday on Lovely Curses, Sunday-Wednesday-Friday on Sunday Morning Word, and Monday-Wednesday-Friday here, for the most part. Wednesdays and Fridays are my busiest days. I’m still editing two different magazines, but one is starting to consume too much of my time. I’m more involved in church now; I’m there between three and four days out the week, either for Bible Study, ministry meetings, or classes. I’m still working my 9-5 job. And now I’ve ventured into Camp NaNoWriMo. If you’re curious, I’m at just over 6,200 words for my 30,000 word novella. Way ahead of schedule. 🙂

A few days ago, I nearly cried while looking at everything I’m trying to do, what I haven’t started on, what I have yet to complete, how quickly my self-imposed deadlines are approaching. It’s too much. It’s just too much. Something’s got to give. And I hate to admit that I have to let one or more of my baby projects go. But I want to sleep at night! I want to go to bed at a decent hour. I’m tired of having to tell people I didn’t finish something, or I got delayed. I admit I’m a bit of a procrastinator, but this is beyond procrastination now. I look at all the the unchecked items on my to-do list and just want to curl in my bed, under my covers and hide.

Yesterday, I read a post on the blog, Monday is Still Coming…  and it hit me. I’m busy. Too damn busy to be content with life. I can’t just sit down and do nothing. I can’t hold a conversation with friends and not talk about work. I can’t sip a cup of tea on my front porch on an early Sunday morning and just enjoy the breeze, the swish of the leaves in the trees, the calls of the birds, the scurrying of the squirrels. My mind will be racing with worries over all the things I haven’t done yet, that I need to get busy with.

When I start to feel stressed like this, I seek consolation in the word of God, and while there are so many scriptures about finding rest and peace in Christ, this is the one the Holy Spirit brought to me today:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30; NKJV

Another verse tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). So I’m casting all my cares on him. What do I need to let go?

That’s when He showed me the project that has to go first. About three years ago, I started an online literary journal. At the time, it was something I was really passionate about. I worked on a literary-arts journal when I was in college, and after graduating, I didn’t want to entirely let it go. I just wanted to share and support the amazing talent of my fellow writers and artists, especially those who aren’t so lucky to get published often.

It started as an annual magazine, then quickly became a quarterly magazine. Now I’m publishing collections six times a year, but I feel like I’m reading, rejecting, accepting, and editing submissions non-stop. For just one person, it’s overwhelming. And I can’t ignore the fact that since this magazine has jumped off, I haven’t been able to pursue publication of my own work (or even write anything new) for over a year.

I hate to let it go. I truly do. I used to joke about how online magazines never last. People start them on a whim, and just as quickly, they’re gone. But I’m not going to pull a disappearing act. Eventually I will sit down and write a letter to send to contributors and subscribers. I’m terrified to do it, but I know I must. At this point in my life, it’s not a priority for me; even worse, it’s become a burden.

So what are my priorities moving forward?

Priority #1: Continue to strengthen my walk with Christ. Sunday Morning Word is a project I’ve been working on for longer than the magazine, and God has put it on my heart that Sunday Morning Word is what I’m supposed to do. So I will continue to dedicate myself to doing what HE has called me to do, not what I want to do, because what I want often leads to unnecessary stress.

Priority #2: Write. Write poetry. Write fiction. Finish that novel. Reserve flash-fiction and short-shorts for my blog. Dedicate no more than 20 mins a day to Lovely Curses blog posts and get back to writing that novel, to writing stories and poems to submit to magazines—like that new short story I’ve been saying for months now that I’m going to write. Sit down and write it already! Get in the habit of scheduling posts. Reshare old posts at least once a week to give myself a break. When participating in challenges, post when I have time, not when the prompt question is posted.

Priority #3: Self-love. Go shopping. Buy myself a new pair of heels. A new dress. Try new hairstyles. Enjoy my cruise to Alaska in 12 days (and counting…). Eat healthier, take walks in the park, go to the gym. Make tasty, colorful home-cooked meals. Stop complaining so damn much. Enjoy life. And then share precious moments I experience here and on social media. Promote positivity, because this world is too negative.

And that’s it. That’s all I want to do. July and August might still be a little busy, as I wrap up all open projects on the magazine (and eventually muster up the courage to send out that letter), but after that, I’m finished being a busy worker bee.

My only focus will be on God, myself, and learning to relax…

Nobody Blogs on Fridays

Nobody blogs on Fridays. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating here. WordPress is virtually a ghost town on Fridays, and I struggle to find a good posting time.

Throughout the week, I could have hundreds of views . . . well, let me be more realistic . . . tens of views . . . well I can give myself a little credit  . . . twenties of views on my blog, but once Friday hits, I’m lucky if I make into the single digits. This is not even a joke, the weekend (Saturday, and Sunday, holy day of rest!) is more active than Fridays!

What is it about Fridays that make people not want to work? In my office, half the department is gone by 3:00 every Friday afternoon. The only people left are usually me, the other temps, and the employees who have the misfortune of being scheduled for a 4:30 meeting. I never understood why people used Friday as an excuse to slack off work. Yes, it’s almost the weekend, and people are eager to dive into the weekend shenanigans, but the workday for our office still ends at 5:15 PM, people, Monday through Friday.

But let’s get back to blogging, and why my Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting habit is currently in jeopardy. I recently joined the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a place to share, encourage, rant, rave, and connect with other insecure writers like me. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day, and although last Wednesday I wrote about how I don’t always feel appreciated as a writer in my family, I still wanted to address the optional prompt for the June 7 IWSG blog hop.

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

Last year, I had a writer’s meltdown. I’m not sure what happened—if had worn myself out, or if I was simply overwhelm with all the projects I was trying to keep up with. Let’s name a few of the things I was doing before my meltdown:

  • The 2016 April A to Z Challenge — The challenge was to write a new post every day (but Sunday) for each letter in the alphabet. I wrote a novella called 26 Husbands—26 Unusual Deaths, a story about a grandmother living in a retirement home who makes some striking revelations to her granddaughter about her past life.
  • Beta reader for a self-published author — Though I was thankful for the opportunity, I wished I hadn’t accepted the task. I didn’t research the author before I committed to being her beta reader, and the novel was nowhere close to publication ready. To be honest, it sounded like something my uncle would’ve written, if he was a writer of fiction. But I was beta reading on my own time; I wasn’t getting paid for it, so I couldn’t edit it the way I wanted too. Personally, I thought the author needed to go back to the drawing board. The story was all over the place; it desperately needed a plot, and the protagonist was flat in the most pitiful way. After much debating with myself, I finally emailed her my comments and my suggestion for her to find a quality editor. A week later, she published the novel as is on Amazon. *sigh*
  • Hosting a flash fiction writing challenge called Moral Mondays — The challenge was to write a 100-word fable based on the moral prompt provided. While this was fun, I just didn’t have the time or energy to facilitate consistently every week.
  • Being a writer — I write short fiction and poetry, and for the pieces I don’t publish on my blog, I submit to magazines. I’m also trying write my debut novel.
  • Being an editor — Yes, I am an editor of an online literary-arts magazine, and I also edit my church’s monthly publication.
  • Day job — On top of trying to supply my growing readership with entertaining content on my blog, establish my brand, and write to be published, I work a 9-5 job. Talk about exhausting!

Eventually, I fizzled out. I couldn’t keep it up anymore. I crashed and burned. I stopped writing altogether. I virtually disappeared. I became a ghost.

After about five months of writing nothing at all, I started this blog to ease myself back into the habit. Starting a new blog is hard work. I can share share share my posts on my other blog until I’m blue in the face (or fingers?), but the likelihood of dedicated followers of my other blog actually clicking the link and coming here was slim. I basically had to start over from scratch. Trying to build a following of people willing to read my insecure ramblings on being single, or being a writer, or just my life in general, which is really quite boring, on a daily basis, especially in a world full of online trollers, is hard.

And so I disappeared for another five months, posting sporadically, coming back for a while and then dropping off again, posting once a month if at all.

Now it’s June, and next Tuesday will mark a year since my first disappearance. Do I feel another disappearance brewing? Not if I can help it! But some days, especially on Fridays, when I fear no one is reading me, I do wonder if it is all worth it…

Have you ever quite on writing? Tell me why, and what brought you back!

Do you blog on Fridays? Prove me wrong about readerless Fridays. Drop a comment! I need a confidence boost that I’m really not talking to myself.

And if you are the type to actually click a link when prompted, check out my Gravatar profile, which has links to all the blogs I manage. The latest posts to my other blogs are also in the sidebar . . . if you never noticed. 😉

Dear Jiffy Lube Mechanic

Dear Jiffy Lube Mechanic,

Remember me? I came by for an oil change on a rainy Wednesday afternoon around lunchtime the week before Memorial Day. You weren’t my first choice. I originally intended to spend my lunch break at the garage closest to my office, but when I turned the corner, the parking lot was completely full—everyone apparently having the same idea as I, to get last minute service work done on the car before holiday travel.

In comparison, your establishment looked closed, and I was tempted to turn around and go back to work, half my lunch break already wasted and I still hadn’t eaten, but you were leaning against the side of the building waiting for me. So I pulled in, and you approached my window, gestured for me to roll it down, and asked what you could do for me. I informed you that I only needed an oil change. You asked me the mileage on my car (around 61,000—I don’t do much driving), and listed for me the pricing options and complementary services you offer for every oil change, like breaks and lights check, tire pressure, windshield wipers, and vacuuming (which I really needed, since in the two and a half years I’ve had that car, I’ve never gotten the floors vacuumed).

While the men were under the car, took me aside to your computer and informed me the services my car was due for: transmission service for every 60,000 miles at $149, fuel filter change every 30,000 miles at $79. I wasn’t prepared to spend all that money when all I wanted was a basic oil change, and I’m still not so sure you weren’t just trying to sell me stuff, but I wrote it down, just in case, for future garage visits when I had the funds. However, you sold me on the new air filter and the more expensive oil change that would give me 7,500 miles, which meant my next oil change won’t be for at least another year with how often I drive, and you also offered me ten dollars off.

Is it common practice to tip mechanics? If so, you deserve at least twenty percent gratuity for such great customer service. Miles ahead of the garage I usually take my car.

I stayed in the waiting area inside while you worked on my car. I brought my writing journal along to do some character sketches and story outlines. I was participating in the Short Story a Day May Challenge, and I had also challenged myself to write a new short story for literary magazine submission. With May nearly over, I was successful in posting a new flash story on my blog every day, but I had yet to start on my new literary story. I wanted that to change, because believe it or not, It’s been almost two years since I’ve written for anything other than my blog. So doubt was seeping into my mind.

Then you came in to tell me my car was ready and saw me writing. You asked if I was a writer. After hesitating, I said yes. Claim it, I thought to myself. Don’t apologize, don’t make excuses, you are a writer. You are published. You asked me if any of my work was available for you to read, and I tore off a sheet of paper and quickly scribbled down the online magazines where some of my favorite stories are published. Like “Full Court Drama,” published in Agave Magazine, “Clouded Memories” in Cease, Cows, “Folly” in Minerva Rising’s “Sparrow’s Trill” issue. I also wrote the web address to my writing blog and gave the scrap paper to you.

You stayed while I paid the girl at the counter, then walked me out the door and to my car. That’s when you asked for my number. And while I’m not one to just give any guy my number, especially one I just met thirty minutes before, I gave you mine, not only because of all your help with my car, making me feel like I truly received service and didn’t just spend a bunch of money, but also because you showed more interest in my mind rather than my looks. You opened the driver’s door for me, let me in, and promised to call me soon, take me out sometime, eager to hear me read some of my stories to you. I left with a smile and much anticipation.

But you never called.

I thought maybe you were abiding by the rule—wait a few days to call, don’t appear too desperate and available, make them sweat a little.

But now it’s been two and half weeks, and while there’s still a possibility that you might call, my hope is stretching thin. I’m not mad . . . not really . . . just a little disappointed. I’m at a place in my life where I’m not interested in a romantic relationship, but I was really looking forward to making a new friend, someone who was supportive of my writing. I don’t have many friends like that, apart from my blogging family online.

What happened? Did you change your mind about me? Was getting my number just a bet between you and the other mechanics? Did you forget my name and lose my number amid your hundreds of contacts? That happened with a lady at church once. Maybe I mistakenly gave you the wrong number. Things like that slip my mind quite often—remembering my own phone number. If I did, believe me, it wasn’t on purpose. Maybe I gave you the right number, and you did call, but I didn’t answer. Because of the rise in scam phone calls, I don’t answer numbers I don’t recognize. But you could’ve texted me; I do answer those. It might’ve even been better if you’d called me while we were both standing by my car. I could’ve saved your number in my phone then.  At least I could’ve gotten your name. I’m sure you were wearing a nametag, but I don’t think I ever looked at it.

I guess my only option now, if I ever want to see you again, is to go back to Jiffy Lube, use the over due transmission service or fuel filter change as my excuse for my visit. But let’s be serious, I’m a bit of a penny pincher, and I probably won’t go back to a body shop until after I attend the “Getting to Know Your Vehicle” seminar that the Men’s Ministry at my church is hosting, just so I’m sure I understand all the maintenance work that’s required for my car to keep from over spending.

Also, I’m afraid you won’t remember me, and that would be so much more embarrassing.

So if you happen to read this, I’d like to say I’m still waiting for your call—maybe we could meet up to see Wonder Woman together—but if you’ve chosen not to continue your pursuit, it was really great meeting you. You seem like a great guy, and any woman, especially if she’s a single, insecure writer like me, would be lucky to have you as a friend.

Sincerely,

The car illiterate writer with the red Hyundai

 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Will the Real Writer of the Family Please Stand Up

Not everyone can write. I know that’s a contentious statement to make in writing circles, so let me backtrack and say that not everyone can write well.

I have a lot of people in my family who think they can write, and hey, if you’re good, I’m not knocking you, but let’s be serious here. The true writer of the family is me, and it has always been me. But I never get the recognition I feel I deserve. Yes, my mom reads my work, and she brags to her coworkers, and they get hooked on the stories I post on my fiction blog. I have a brother in jail who has loads of time now to read the stories I send him to keep his mind off his unfortunate circumstances. As for my extended family—they make me feel like, oh, anyone can do that, or, it’s amazing when someone else does it, but not so much when I do it.

Memorial Day weekend, my cousin came down from Nashville to visit, and she told me about this memoir she and her parents were writing. It’s basically a history of the family, crazy life experiences, etc. It had a great premise, I thought, on account that every family has at least three outlandish stories to tell that would make a great book. The title was also badass, but I probably shouldn’t share it since the eventual goal, according to my cousin, is to publish the book.

During the entire conversation, I was under the impression that I was invited to be a coauthor in this project. Hell, we were on our way to their house to have an all-day writing session. She’d even given me the link to the shared Google Doc the memoir was on. I was so excited to be included, because for the longest time, I felt that this part of my family didn’t care about my writing, didn’t acknowledge it, or simply didn’t think it was that big a deal.

Unfortunately, when I arrived with laptop charged and ready, my aunt politely told me no, this project was for their family only, meaning mom, dad, sister, sister, no cousins, no nieces, no previously published fiction writers allowed. So while everyone else sat at the dinning room table, typing away in their assigned chapters, I tended to my blog and pretended not to be totally irked, by the fact that I was the only true writer at the table not writing in the memoir. The family memoir.

But I had many other projects on my plate. For one, the Short Story a Day challenge was nearing completion; I had three more stories to go. I was also gearing up to write a novella in July for CampNaNoWriMo in preparation for writing my novel in November for NaNoWriMo, which I spent all April planning.

Of course when I told them this, my aunt’s response was, “Do you get a prize or something for writing every day?”

“It’s more of a personal achievement,” I answered.

Then my cousin asked me to explain NaNoWriMo, and I was excited to tell her all about it since I will participating this year, and this is the first year I actually feel fully prepared and confident that I can start and finish the challenge.

Then my non-writing uncle chimed in. Allow me to roll my eyes for three minutes.

Let me pause to tell you a little bit about my uncle. First, he loves to talk about himself, but then I guess all writers do. Hell, that’s what I’m doing. I would take him more seriously if he was actually a good writer, but the man can’t even put two words together to form a complete sentence that makes sense when he talks, which is why it’s so mind-boggling to me that he was a preacher for 25 years. Preaching to whom? What congregation? Who could understand him?

When I was around 17 or 18, on my way to college, I told him about my aspirations to become a published author, and he basically told me to get a day job, I was wasting my time, no way in hell, it’s a one in a million chance that I will ever get published, might as well just give up now, major in something that will get me a job. After that, he showed me his scrapbook of all the articles he published in magazines back in the ’80s on activism and what not, and all I could think was, “Really? After you’ve just killed my dreams, you’re seriously gonna shove all your ‘success’ in my face?” Obviously, I’ve never gotten over it (even though I probably should).

And he still does that shit, to this day! Whenever I tell him, “Hey, I got a new story published,” he immediately goes to his office and grabs that stupid notebook to show off his writing from thirty years ago. Can I get one moment of glory, please, without you always trying to steal my thunder, Uncle?

And he writes just as “well” as he speaks—jumbled up rambling that spins the reader in circles. I’ve tried to read his published articles before, and each time I’ve found myself wanting to edit them.

So getting back to the story, my uncle adds his two cents. “50,000 words in a month? That’s extremely hard to do!”

Me: “It’s around 2,000 words a day.”

Uncle: “That’s a lot!”

Thinking to myself: Not really, that’s like three pages single-spaced in a word doc. Saying aloud: “Well, you have to plan ahead; you can’t fall behind, or it’ll be harder to catch up.”

Uncle after jumbling a few words: “You have to be a real writer!”

Me to myself: The fuck? I am a real writer! (in Eddie Murphy’s Mushu voice from Disney’s Mulan)

Auntie: “Well, she’s a writer too, honey.”

Me to myself: Oh, you remember now?

Uncle: “Well . . . ” *fumble jumble tumble bumble*  “. . . no.”

Me to myself: What?

Uncle: “I’m talking about a real writer. Yea, ’cause, ’cause, I know of this guy, you know, who writes like 10,000 words a day, a day! OK?”

Me to myself: He obviously doesn’t have a day job. Whatever, man. I’m done with this conversation.

So after we fell into an awkward silence, I decided to go to the link my cousin sent me and read what they had written so far. I could tell from the opening lines that this memoir was her idea. She’d written some great sections, hilarious, not too wordy, clever headings and titles (I should enlist her help with titling some of my stories, because sometimes I struggle). Then I came upon a section written by my uncle, and once I got through all the mumbo jumbo, it was again all about him, all about the great ministry work he’d done, a bunch of self-righteous shit jumbled together in run-on sentences. I was over it.

I didn’t even bother to read what my aunt had written. She’s not a writer. Period. She and my cousin spent ten minutes arguing over why she couldn’t randomly rename characters Pookie and Ray-Ray just because that was the title of the chapter (another clever title by my cousin, which I probably shouldn’t have named, but oh well). Pookie and Ray-Ray are caricatures of the ghetto. Every “hood” has at least one Pookie and one Ray-Ray. Obviously my cousin intended for that chapter to be about the types of people you meet in the hood, but if you’re going to name a character Pookie or Ray-Ray, that character has to fit the profile: Pookie, the ghetto fabulous, over-sexual hood rat, and Ray-Ray, the fast talking hustler, always trying to sell you some knockoff purse or pair of shoes, smooth talking a girl right out of her panties. These are just a few definitions, but there are many. The point is you can’t just name anyone Pookie or Ray-Ray, and the fact that my aunt could not understand that is proof (proof, I tell you!) that she is not a writer, at least not a creative one.

I’m the writer of the family, dammit! My cousin, I’ll say she’s good, from what I’ve read so far (and she’s pretty supportive of me, even from Nashville), but this is my livelihood, and it sucks that my family doesn’t respect it.

Maybe I’m a little selfish. Maybe my feelings are just hurt because I don’t get to participate in the family memoir. Since graduating from college, I struggle to find like minds who enjoy writing as much as I do. It’s why I immerse myself in blogging. I have a family of writers here online. But to have a writing session where the whole family sits together at the table to write and discus writing—oh my goodness, that is a writer’s wet dream! Unfortunately, I don’t get to be a part of it. Not with this family.

Even though I am family.

But I guess working with a real writer would be a little intimidating for them, especially since I can be an asshole of an editor too. Just ask my countless unfinished novels collecting megabyte dust on my hard drive.

A Birthday Conundrum

My birthday’s coming soon, and I couldn’t feel more stressed out. Not as stressed as my co-worker, who decided to propose to his pregnant girlfriend on his birthday, but pretty darn close.

To be honest, I could care less about my birthday, but everyone around me is trying to make it a bigger deal than what it is. Hence my stress. Birthdays stopped being important after 21, and once you pass 30, they only serve as cruel reminders that you’re getting old and have nothing to show for your uneventful life.

When you’re a kid, birthdays are exciting. You spend the days leading up to your birthday anticipating what presents you’ll receive. Maybe your parents plan a Disney themed party at your house and invite all your friends from school, or maybe you celebrate at the arcade, or the pizza place, or the children’s museum, or the McDonald’s Play Pin (do those even still exist?), or any other place where young children gather. You and your friends eat all the cake and ice cream you can cram into your tiny little stomachs until you pass out on the floor, bodies contorted in strange positions, with brightly colored blue, purple, red, or green tongues, and dried frosting crumbling around your lips.

Once you reach adolescence, the next big birthday is 16, the age also known as the peak of teenage-y-ness (because 17 is merely an afterthought). Maybe your parents buy you your first car, or you throw a wild, outlandish party like the ones on MTV’s Sweet Sixteen. Maybe you’ve decided that this is the day you lose your virginity, although if you’re smart, you’ll wait until prom, because good things always happen on prom night. (Did you catch the sarcasm there?)

Two years later, you’re 18, an adult, eager to do everything you previously needed a parent’s permission to do; get a tattoo, stay out late, date that no-good boy who will definitely shatter your heart (if you still live at home and have strict parents, this may still prove challenging), buy cigarettes—a friend in high school made this a huge deal on her eighteenth birthday, only to have the cashier deny her the privilege because her ID was expired. Maybe you’re gearing up for college, to finally be free of mom and dad (although not completely, because they’re more than likely flipping that hefty tuition bill), become your own person, discover you!

And lastly, there’s 21. The only thing cool about this birthday is that you finally get to drink . . . legally . . . but we all know you’ve been “turning up” since 16.

So what’s left after 21? Well if you’re me, you have the displeasure of having your brother’s girlfriend (a college student who still parties like she’s 21) feel sorry for you because she thinks you have no friends and you never get out of the house to do anything fun (probably because that’s what your insensitive brother—who’s mind is perpetually frozen at age 16 because of all the weed he smokes—has told her), and now she feels obligated to make you her charity case and drag you to the club with her uptight friends—who think they’re too cute for clothes that fit—to “turn you out.”

Well, excuse me for assuming when I graduated from college, I left behind the constant peer pressure to accept that “fun” meant drinking like you have no liver, dressing like you’re about to make your vixen debut on a rap music video, dancing in the dark with some sweaty man breathing down your neck, and going deaf from the noise they have the audacity to call music these days.

Call me an old soul in a twenty-something-year-old’s body.

That kind of “fun” has never interested me, not even when I was in college. My kind of fun is watching a classic horror movie marathon while eating a huge bowl of popcorn, going midnight bowling with my girlfriends (yes, I do have friends) and between games having a beer or two and sharing a plate of chili cheese fries, going to the bar for the hot wings and home chips and to watch the game and maybe even find someone to teach me how to play pool.

Notice how going clubbing with my brother and his girlfriend was not mentioned. Why? I because I’d rather not be miserable on my birthday doing something I hate with people I don’t particularly like. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother, but we have nothing in common. The things he likes to do for fun I absolutely abhor, and the things I like to do for fun he thinks are boring and lame. Is there a way we can find common ground? Probably. We just haven’t found it yet. And we won’t find it by my birthday. And that’s perfectly fine, because like I said, I really don’t care to do anything but eat some cake and go to bed.

The last few years I’ve spent my birthday with a gang of squealing children. You see, I basically share a birthday with my friend’s (yes, another friend) five-year-old. She was born two days after my birthday, and since the baby shower, I’ve celebrated with her and her family, and have had so much more fun. Why? Because I can actually be myself. My family tries too hard to control my birthday—my brother is always trying to make me be “cool,” my granddaddy always has something more important to do, my mom always has to have a “plan” to go by, and if by some miracle I do come up with a plan, everyone wants to change it!

Wait a minute, whose birthday is it, again?!

Then there’s the issue of presents. If I don’t care to have a party, I don’t care to get any presents. Of course, my granddaddy is probably going to try to “make a statement” of not getting me anything simply because I only bought him a card for his birthday earlier this month.

According to what’s he whined to my mom in private, I didn’t get him anything. Apparently a card with a beautiful message doesn’t count as a present?

And what exactly do you buy an 88-year-old man who already has everything? He has enough shirts, he has enough ties, he has enough power tools. I’ve yet to see him wear the hat I bought him last Christmas (as in Christmas 2015). And if you ask me, my brother didn’t give him a present either, just a wad of cash in card that I bought! Does the thought not count anymore? Only the dollar bills? Well I’m sorry my money’s all tied up in a summer cruise to Alaska and a $1400 doctor’s bill that my bogus insurance won’t cover.

If he tries to give me a long drawn out speech about “being a good family member” and buying presents “to show that you care,” I swear I’m going to lose it. At the end of the day, presents are just things—they break, they tear, they stop working, they get worn, and eventually we throw them away. I can do with less things. We all can.

I’ve considered disappearing on my birthday. Maybe I’ll take a spontaneous road trip down to Georgia to visit my best friend, make a pit stop in Charlotte to pick up my other best friend, and the three of us spend my birthday together. Or maybe I’ll just go off on my own, take a rest and relaxation getaway to the beach or the mountains. Hey, I live in the Piedmont of North Carolina, both are equal distances away.

But the most logical solution will be what I always do. Suffer along with my controlling family, and then party with the five-year-olds. One more year won’t kill me. But the planning for next year’s birthday getaway trip starts TODAY! Don’t ask me what I’m doing for my birthday. I’m already gone.

Finish What You Start

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:2-3; NIV)

Finish what you start . . .

It was the title to a series my pastor preached several years ago. Unfortunately, the title is all I remember. That and one particular sermon about how unmarried people should finish being single before they rush into a marriage. That was probably one I should’ve paid more attention to. I might’ve been able to avoid a few disaster relationships, or more specifically, “situationships,” if I had.

Still, the title itself convicts me . . . Finish what you start. . .

I haven’t been able to finish many things lately. As a writer, I am the ultimate perfectionist. When I catch the editing bug, nothing I write is ever good enough. I can edit a story down to nothing if I’m not careful. And if it’s not the next great American novel that I want it to be, instead of writing it down anyway so I can revisit and rework it later, I don’t write it at all, too embarrassed by how dreadful it will read. (That’s why it’s called a first draft, silly.) And don’t let me fall behind in my word count. Even if it’s only a day, it’s a mountain I just don’t have the motivation to climb anymore. Hence my countless disappearing acts from the blogging world, and why I left 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans hanging at Day 10.

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But I intend to finish Holiday Hooligans this year, this April in fact, for the A to Z Challenge. No, it’s not the holidays, technically, but if I wait to December, a whole ten months from now, I’ll never finish it. And yes, I do realize the A to Z Challenge was the main reason for last year’s burnout, but if I don’t get back on the wagon somehow, sooner rather than later, I may never write a story or poem again, and for someone who’s been doing this since she was old enough to write, that is beyond terrifying.

So this is my second attempt at finishing what I started. A 2017 New Year’s Resolution do-over (because we all know January doesn’t count—we were too busy trying to drop all those holiday pounds we gained). There are a lot of things I plan to accomplish by the end of this year, and hopefully I’ll be able to organize myself so that I’m not overwhelmed in striving to reach my goal. But if God could create the entire earth and everything that dwells within in six days, just to kick back and relax on the seventh when He finished, then I have no excuse whatsoever.

Throughout the Bible, the number seven is used to signify completion and rest. Completion and rest. Ahh, that is so true. Unfortunately, instead of Day Seven, my day of rest usually comes at Day Four, or Five, or sometimes even Day One, and I never complete what I began. So many great stories left hanging off a cliff; so many protagonists left unfulfilled.

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But to actually finish something. Yes, that would be monumental.

Think about it. When you finally relieve your shoulders of that heavy burden of always having to do something, don’t you just want to lie down, kick your shoes off, read a good book, or play a good movie, maybe turn up your stereo, and do absolutely nothing because you’re at long last “done”? Yes, I know I do. Coming home from a long day at the 9 to 5. Wanting to get in my bed and disappear from the rest of the world for the next eight hours. Yes, that sounds heavenly . . .

BUT I HAVE TO FINISH THAT NOVEL!

The price of being a writer with a day job; there never seems to be enough time in the day to do both, especially when said day job is in an unrelated field and the only good thing it’s giving is a nice a paycheck. Nice, not fat, but nice. Coming home and having to switch gears and get into the writing mode is just . . . well, hard. But I have to do it. This is my life—not some measly job that doesn’t offer me affordable benefits worth a rat’s ass when I do get sick. Writing is my life. Creating stories is my life. Entertaining the masses with this craft God has blessed me with is my life.

So let’s hop to it. Start it. Finish it. Read it. Rest.

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“Sleeper, Awaken!”

As young as I am, I often dream about death. When I was a child, I prayed the Lord would take me in my sleep so I’d feel no pain. Mom said if you’re a Christian, it won’t hurt, but I wouldn’t take any chances. Let Him come while I’m lying in the grass, counting bunnies on clouds, blowing powdered sugar from picnic pastries into the wind.

We have so little control over what happens to us in our sleep, even less over what we do.

Do we snore (apparently I do); twitch or kick (I’ve been told I do that too); talk in our sleep (my dad once asked my brother to take out the trash and yelled for him to get off his motorcycle all while lying comfortably in his bed, eyes shut, drool collecting at the corner of his mouth); or do we sleep walk (maybe . . . at least once)?

I could blame it on being more tired than I realized, or being traumatized when How to Get Away with Murder revealed Wes, with half his face blown off, #UndertheSheet. (God, I was so sure it was Nate! Why, Shonda?! Wes was the main character, the first person we were introduced to in season 1, episode 1. I’m not used to this. I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy or Scandal. I don’t know the torment your fans go through on a weekly basis!)

I guess I should’ve added a spoiler alert before that last point, but if you haven’t seen the How to Get Away with Murder winter finale by now, then too bad. It’s Tuesday, man.

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I used to date a guy who often joked about coming to my house late at night, watching me sleep through my bedroom window. He had a very dark sense of humor, and while some girls might have laughed (albeit uncomfortably), I found it extremely creepy. Especially since my ex before him used to stalk me, and going back to my very first job, I had a manager who texted me one night at 3AM wanting to “feel what it’s like to be inside you,” telling me that he was on his way over, and I needed to come outside when he flashed his headlights. I was sixteen. He was twenty-one.

This is the crop of men I seem to attract . . .

And most recently, the security guard at my job, who slowly looks me up and down before speaking to me, said, “I didn’t know you were a Dallas Cowboys fan.” I was not wearing my Cowboys jacket that day. Of course, he could’ve just remembered that I wore it the day before, but a more eerie thought crossed my mind . . .

That he was in my bedroom that night . . .

You see, Friday morning I woke up lying on the opposite end of my bed, on top of the covers, my bedroom door wide open, the overhead light shinning in my face.

That was not how I’d fallen asleep. I was under the covers. I’m pretty sure. I’d turned off my light. I remember making that extra effort of getting up out of my warm bed and walking across the room to flick the switch. It wasn’t a dream. And I always close my door at night. Always. Because I don’t like waking up and seeing shadows from the hall. Shadows of mysterious men creeping into my room . . .

I’m a writer, so my mind is working in overdrive churning off stories of what could have happened Thursday night as I slept. But I think I’ve finally figured it out.

I read a book before turning in for the night. A novel that completely spooked me. The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. And at the end, the ghostly diary writer, Sara Harrison Shea, gave us the instructions for bringing a “sleeper” back to life.

It all makes sense to me now. I rose from my bed in a trance, gathered the ingredients I needed—a candle, a fresh heart, something that belonged to the deceased—ventured out into the night to find a portal between the natural and spiritual realms, chanted the incantation, and brought Wes back to me.

That scratching outside my door, like a small critter digging its claws into the frozen dirt, trying to escape from the chill of the air, it’s him, it’s Wes Gibbins, wanting to be let inside.

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