National Novel Writing Month 2016: Epic Disaster

nano-attack-2016-disaster

As I write this post it I’m feeling a bit disheartened. It’s November 27th and this was the day I had planned on validating my NaNo win. I did not win. I did not even start.

The main reason National Novel Writing Month 2016 turned into an Epic Disaster this year is because my computer crashed on October 27th and it took 18 days for me to get up and running with a new one. I wrote the long story out on Anxiety Ink, if you’d care to hear my tale of woe and anger.

So, as I sit here huddled under my blanket in my office chair, I have to reiterate that I’ve only tackled NaNo twice. At the very least I’m two for two as far as winning goes, but I’m seriously bummed that my plans were destroyed this year.

I didn’t get my computer back until November 14th. That was the week of vacation I’d taken off work in order to throw myself hard into NaNo, but I really had no faith that I’d be able to catch up and eventually win, so I didn’t even try.

I feel guilty about not making an effort, but I feel amazing after getting some rest. This year has been exhausting for so many reasons and I was in desperate need of a week to myself.

This is not the post-NaNo update I thought I’d be writing once December rolled around. Still, I want to share what I learned that I think is equally worthwhile to what I had hoped to get out of a NaNo win this November.

1) Mental rest is important. I was quite sick off and on through the start of 2016, so once I found a self-care regimen that gave me my health back, I pushed myself hard. I think I pushed myself too hard. The numerous breakdowns I had over my computer crashing illustrated just how fried my nerves were. While those 18 days without my laptop were frustrating beyond words, they allowed me to take a step back and be part of the real world for a while. I need that more often.

2) Technology breaks need to be implemented in my life. I work 30 hours a week on a computer at the day job. When I’m home I’m usually on my computer if I’m not reading, working out, cleaning, eating, sleeping, or chasing cats. That’s a lot of hours in front of a screen. After being away so long I actually got my first bit of novel writing done on the night of the 18th because I wasn’t sick of being there. I need to find a better balance of screen.

3) Scheduling well ahead on both blogs is not just a good idea for NaNo prep. I am so grateful I was two months ahead here and on Anxiety Ink because if I had had to worry about writing and scheduling blog posts on top of all of the other stuff I was worried about over those 18 days, I would have been an even worse basket case.

4) Balance is going to be my word for 2017. I had more events in my social calendar this month than I have all year it seems. I’ve become a bit of a shut-in and I don’t think that has been helping me whatsoever. In my defence, this is the first year I’ve worked 5 days a week every single week. I’m selfish when it comes to my alone time and two day weekends have been a hard adjustment for me; I’m used to having either weeks at a time, or a day in the middle of the week to myself. I must work on getting out more further apart so that when I do fight for the alone time I need I’m not neglecting others, or myself.

5) 2016 as a whole has been an enormous life lesson. I have a new appreciation for balance and actively working towards goals. I haven’t had a chance to plan out 2017 and strategize, but I have all the supplies and knowledge I need. I will not be sitting back and letting life happen and hoping to get things done some way, somehow this year. That’s a stupid way to try to get things done and I have learned my lesson.

How did your November go?

English Nostalgia: I’m Finally Feeling the Pull

student-life-recap-by-tahmid-munaz-via-flickr

It’s no secret that I graduated from university without a clue as to what I was going to do; it’s in my site’s bio after all. Grad school was my equivalent of hell at the time. Honestly, it still is.

In September of 2013 I worked briefly at the University and did not feel one ounce of nostalgia. I was happy to be on campus laughing maniacally at all the students running around already stressed. That’s not to say that I didn’t have my own stress, just that I was feeling my share of schadenfreude.

Still, people were asking me then if I was missing school. Those who had graduated with me were. Those who still had a semester or two to go were happily back in the swing of things. I was perfectly content doing my own thing while job hunting. I didn’t miss a damn thing about my hectic university days. I was still exhausted merely thinking about them.

It’s been three years. And I am still not missing school. I have no desire to return to school. But I am feeling some nostalgia for my life as an English undergraduate.

I’ve realized recently that while I don’t miss the work, the actual time-consuming, hair-pulling, stress-inducing, sleep-depriving work, I miss campus culture, I miss learning, and I miss meaningful discussions.

Given who I am and what I love, it should be no surprise that my English nostalgia involves me missing book discussions. That’s likely why I was so keen to start a little book club with my close friends, though I’m not quite getting out of that what I had hoped yet. It’s a young club. I also have the Anxiety Ink Book Club to scratch the itch.

I’ve had a stagnant year on the creative front, which is likely why I’m finally feeling the pull. 2017 has to see some big changes for me because 2016 has sucked.

So there, I admit I’m feeling the loss of student life. Adulthood is not what adolescent me thought it would be. Growing up should come with a warning label: Not to Be Taken Lightly.

 

*featured image: student life recap by Tahmid Munaz via Flickr

A Bad Reading Habit: Anxiety and Comfort in the Known

mirror by Paul Keller via Flickr

It’s no secret that I suffer from anxiety. It’s not something I talk about a lot, but those who know me, and any readers from Anxiety Ink, are well aware of the fact. It’s something I’ve struggled with most of my life though I don’t take any medication for it. I’ve learned to handle it myself for the most part.

This year, 2016, has been particularly stressful. I’m noticing that I’m falling into some bad habits in an effort to comfort myself. While comforting oneself is not a bad thing, my coping mechanisms are leading to some not-so-great outcomes.

One, I’m closing myself off. That’s never good. I’ve been using my job as an excuse; it’s extremely social and while I do get peopled-out fast, I’m using that as a fall back. It’s ok to be tired, it’s ok to not want to do stuff all of the time, but lately I haven’t wanted to do anything with anyone at all. My friend wanted me to have coffee with her last week and I almost had a panic attack because it was too close.

Now that I’ve acknowledged the pattern I can take steps to fix it. This isn’t the first time and is likely not the last.

Two, and this is the one that’s bothering me the most (which says a great deal about me), is that I’ve developed a terrible reading habit. Every once in a while, when I can’t decide what I want to read next, I pick a favourite book off my shelf. The book I select is always one I’ve read before, and what I like to do is flip through and do a cursory re-read. I also do this when I’m tired and don’t want to read a single chapter of my current book-in-progress (I’m a binger).

My intention is always to simply read a favourite scene of my already-read book before I go to sleep. However, I always end up reading basically the whole thing and stay up later than I would have just picking up my current read.

Months ago I decided I had to stop doing this because it was really cutting into my reading time. My goal was to read 68 books this year –I can’t get that done if I’m not reading new books. I did better with that reason in mind, then fell off the wagon after reading two particularly sad books. I just wanted to be in a safe book that wouldn’t tug on those threads.

Lately, I haven’t been diligent about picking up my current-reads, and not because I’m not enjoying them. I finally had to stare the problem right in the face after perusing my to-read list and seeing all the awesome books I want to read.

This habit of picking up “safe books” is yet another coping mechanism I’ve developed because my life is not without stress right now.

While this coping mechanism is not nearly as worrisome as the other, it stems from and leads to the same thing. I’m putting up walls and falling back into the known because I can’t seem to control things lately. With the books, it’s about me being afraid to pick up a new read because I don’t know what’s going to happen. Picking up ones I’ve read gives me complete and utter control of the experience because I can take away exactly what I want.

Same goes for me not wanting to go out and socialize. It’s two sides of the same problem.

I wish it was as easy as realizing what the issue is and telling myself to stop. I really do. Baby steps are required, but I’ll get there. I’ve already started a new book with a set completion date and I have coffee plans for Friday. As well as a couple of other social events for the month.

The big stressors are the things I actually need to deal with. I’m working on those, though much more slowly.

I have to ask, does anyone else suffer from this bad reading habit? I don’t actually reread the entire book, which would be one thing, I read the parts that will make me happy. It’s an odd and controlling experience I hadn’t really thought of until I stopped to write this blog post.

 

*featured image: mirror by Paul Keller via Flickr.

Winding Down After When Words Collide 2016

I left the Delta South Hotel approximately 24 hours ago, my exit heralding the end of When Words Collide 2016 for me. Overall, it was a great festival. I was really impressed by the panels I attended and I learned a lot –there’s so much knowledge I can’t wait to start implementing in my writing and on my respective blogs.

In reference to my last post about WWC, concerning all the prep work I had envisioned, certain aspects of my attendance were a failure. To be brutally honest, I set myself up for failure from the get-go.

I’m talking about networking here. Deciding that I could do a complete 360˚ personality turn and dive head first into networking with less than 4 weeks to prepare is up there on the list of Dumbest Ideas Ever. Worst though, is the fact that I didn’t actually end up making time to prepare in that small space of time, so I turned myself into a sleep deprived head case for the festival.

I psyched myself out, got barely any sleep in the weeks (and especially the couple of days) leading up to WWC, and couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do. Have you any idea how hard it is to be outgoing, friendly, and cognisant on no sleep? Usually I’m ok with very little sleep, but I was EXHAUSTED when I arrived at the conference on Friday. I was barely functional, and it just got worse from the moment of my arrival on.

I designed new business cards…whoopty doo, when I couldn’t even strike up the energy to place myself in situations where the exchange of said cards would be appropriate.

I went in with the semblance of a game plan…whoopty doo when I went and hovered by Kate’s merchant spot any time I didn’t have a panel.

I went in with the mental mantra that I was going to talk to lots of people…whoopty doo when I was so tired I kept avoiding eye contact because I was petrified of trying to maintain my end of a conversation thread.

Yes, I’m being hard on myself, but I’m so unimpressed right now. At least I can identify where I went wrong.

The weekend was not a total bust. I did manage to meet a couple of new people, and I had lunch with a group on Saturday, and I managed not to make a colossal ass of myself though there were a couple of moments where I really put my foot in my mouth hard. Such is my state of existence though on a regular day.

Sunday was by far my best day of attendance because I had really given up on networking by that point so I was much more relaxed –funny that that’s the day I had more conversations with people. I crack myself up sometimes.

There is a light side to this dark mess I created. I now have business cards I’m not reticent to hand out. I now know that I need to start working on networking right now so that I’m ready come next year (my whole day job point in my last post ignored the fact that at my job people come to me and strike up conversation, not the other way around). I now have a couple of ins I need to figure out how to utilize come next year. And I need to remember to bloody relax.

The front of my new cards.

The front of my new cards.

And the back.

And the back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You win some, you lose some. I’m glad I’ve walked away from this year’s festival with the knowledge of what does not work for me, and a new plan for aspects of my business that will help me with networking next year. It’s all a matter of starting small and letting that snowball build up on itself without me desperately trying to push it up a hill.

If you attended this year how did your plans go and what did you think of WWC? I also have a post on Anxiety Ink with a few more specifics of my own attendance than I mentioned here.

Prepping for When Words Collide 2016

As I’m sure you know, every year I attend the local (to Calgary) readercon When Words Collide. This will be my fourth year attending and I’m hoping to shake up my experience this time around; with August fast approaching I decided discussing my aspirations here will transform into a plan and help me to get my butt in gear.

In 2013 and 2015 I attended the offered pre-festival workshops featuring Patricia Briggs and Faith Hunter. Those were writing-life altering experiences. This year the master classes didn’t call to me, so I’m simply attending the festival, though that itself is rife with more information than any writer brain can process quickly.

All the writerly wisdom gathering aside, my focus this year is networking. I am a terrible networker. Atrocious really. My social anxiety, coupled with my doing-my-darnedest-to-be-punctual-but-rarely-am stress, and my myriad issues with strangers means that when I’m not inside a presentation or with someone I know, my brain is in defensive mode. Defensive mode is not the best head-space for trying to chat people up.

I was largely on my own last year because Kate, who is my WWC compatriot, had multiple presentations to prep for and attend and a merchant table she helped out with, among other things. I was pretty exhausted, but I did damn alright on my own –I even had lunch with someone I met outside the little café I was eyeballing.

I’m betting this year will be largely the same since Kate has her own merchant spot to handle on top of everything else she likes to tackle. I don’t mind the alone time at all, but I want to do more than mentally bolster myself during that time.

So, with a little under four weeks to prepare (as of the day of me writing this post, 10 days from it going live), I am going to do my best to learn how to network in such a setting!

I feel better armoured since I know in advance that I’m going to be largely on my own, and my day job in customer service has made me a pro at small talk, plus never underestimate the bolstering power of a professional persona. E.V. O’Day is much better in such a setting over the long haul than Elisa is any day.

Wish me luck! And I will absolutely be passing along my results and knowledge!

Oh, and I hope to see you at WWC!