I’ve come up with a new way to explain anxiety to folks who aren’t intimately familiar with it from the inside out. Here goes:
You’re walking on a very thin balance beam that’s been laid across a mat of thousands of teeny sharp spikes. Now and again, you stumble, because nobody can hold themselves steady forever, and this is a lifelong balancing act that everyone goes through. Folks unaffected by chronic depression and anxiety usually don’t see their balance beam, because theirs is about five feet wide where yours is six inches at best.
You also have no shoes on. So when you stagger sideways onto the spikes, it fucking hurts. And your balance beam occasionally gets really narrow without warning, forcing you over onto the spikes.
Sometimes you’re so startled by the pain that you fall over onto the spikes. That, my friends, is a very very bad day indeed.
Therapy improves your balance, but it doesn’t fix the narrowness of the beam or do much for the spikes below. One medication widens the balance beam to be close to what “most people” expect to find underfoot. Another medication gives you shoes and a thin layer of armor, so the spikes don’t destroy you when you land on them.
Regular meditation helps you walk more slowly and carefully. Friends with sturdy shoes can walk alongside you on either side, holding you steady on that narrow strip of wood. Pets. Hobbies. There are a thousand strategies, and you’ll need them all.
It’s up to you to keep walking. Every step, every day, aware that the spikes are there, waiting for you to lose your balance. You have to come up with a reason to keep walking, to risk that pain. Every. Fucking. Day. You have to find enough joy and love and passion in your life to make that constant strain, that recurring pain, worth it.
Sometimes you wonder if it will ever be worth it.
Sometimes, on really good days, you dance along that beam, defying gravity, flipping off the spikes, leaping into the air, singing, laughing, living. And you know the answer is: hell yes, living is worthwhile. This is a beautiful world and I’m a gorgeous part of it.
Even then, you never forget that tomorrow, you’ll be doing a face plant on those spikes again, and it will fucking hurt. So you live as brightly as you can while the going is good, and you store the memories like a battery to get you through the bad times, and you just. keep. walking. forward.
Keep walking. Keep fighting. Keep trying. No matter what.
The world is beautiful.
You are a gorgeous part of a beautiful world.
It gets better. Keep walking forward.
If you don’t suffer from anxiety, take a moment right now to reach out to someone in your life who does. A postcard, an email, a flower on their doorstep, home-baked cookies, anything that will reach through and let them hold their balance for just one more step.
I’m going to close this post with a huge shout out of thanks to several folks who keep me moving forward: my husband, my mom, my close friends–you know who you are!–my readers, my editors, fellow writers and artists and creative people of all paths. I’m extremely fortunate to be a part of such a fabulous group of supportive, loving people.
Thank you for helping me remember how to dance.
I’ve done it again. I dug out an old story, polished it a bit, and decided to put it up here for my readers. May I present, for your Friday enjoyment . . . my take on a classic plot:
So you’ve got this huge toolbox. Packed with wrenches and hammers and screwdrivers and every imaginable item of easily portable handyman apparatus you can think of.
It’s a magical toolbox. Actually, a better word would be cursed. Every time you grab a tool, there’s a chance it’s not the right one for the job after all. You want an allen wrench, you grab an allen wrench, but then it doesn’t fit the bolt. You realize that you need a crescent wrench instead. So you put the allen back and grab a crescent–but wait! Now the bolt has become a Phillips screw. You desperately yank the screwdriver from the toolbox, praying that the damn thing will stop morphing long enough that you can finish this part and move on to the next.
Sound like a nightmare? Yeah. Welcome to being creative.
One thing almost all creative folks have in common is that we are constantly scrambling to find new tools for the current work in progress. Some folks manage to lock into a routine that, repeated into rock-solid habit, provides a reliable path through the maze.
That’s not my style, in case you’re wondering.
I’ve tried doing the set schedule–up at eight, writing by nine, break at eleven, every day, no matter what–doesn’t do anything but mess me up with guilt over not doing it “right” when I inevitably sleep in after a night of insomniac hell. I’ve come to accept that I have no real control over my mornings. If I’m awake before ten it’s a miracle. If I’m awake before noon it’s a damn good start to the day. Trying to arrange a regular writing time for early afternoon fails just as hard, because inevitably that time gets eaten up with email, paying bills, phone calls, grocery store trips, doctor appointments, you name it. Mostly I wind up writing in the late evening, in bits and pieces, in-between shutting everything down for the day. It’s a bit of a chaotic approach.
Same thing with the various routines–keeping a journal, freewriting for ten minutes, going for a walk, exercising, moving away from my desk to write–that are in many people’s toolboxes. Sometimes that stuff helps; other times it’s an allen wrench for a phillips screwdriver job. I never know until I try it.
Three tactics have proven solidly reliable over the years, though. One is to read a chapter–any chapter–of the work in progress just before I go to bed. Another is to make specific notes about what I want to tackle next–a particular scene, adding in a cool visual I just thought of, checking for possible anachronism–and have those notes sitting beside my keyboard so I have to face them when I get up.
The third is to end at a really interesting spot before I go to bed. One of my current favorite scene-ending WIP lines is a character demanding: You ruined my entire fucking life for Cafad Scratha? I couldn’t wait to come back and write the followup scene to that!
It can also mean writing a tense line that begins a scene–then walk away and let it roll around in my head overnight. I did that last night: His hands burned as though being strangled by a hangman’s noose, each finger wrapped in aching spirals of strain. I’m side-eyeing that line this morning, but it’s been percolating all night. Meaning I’ve been thinking about the story all night. And I’ll be thinking about it all day today. So when I sit down to actually write that scene, there’s a good chance it’s already mapped itself out in the back of my head.
Basically, my best success starts with the ending: where I choose to stop at the end of the day defines my road for the following day’s work. Ironically, the toughest part of writing a blog post, for me, is figuring out the last few lines. I never quite feel like I’ve wrapped things up properly. Maybe I should end on a cliffhanger for blog posts too?
…I’ve been a bit distracted with this n’ that in the past few days, so I neglected to change the price on the Small Price to Pay e-story. It’s still at .99 … and, well, I don’t feel right arbitrarily changing that, so I’m going to extend that price through the end of the month instead. So through the end of February, you can download this wonderfully nasty little story about the teyanain for under a buck.
By the way. Yes. The story is on sale through Smashwords. I used to look down on Smashwords. But you know what? For an author? It is a SERIOUSLY GREAT SETUP.
I’m getting just over half that dollar in my pocket–about .56, if I recall correctly. Which is a really good percentage! But it’s still not a lot of money. (looks in change jar, rattles it mournfully) 🙁
So if you really like the story and think supporting it (and my writing career) is worth more than a buck, please do swing by The Scribbling Lion and drop the difference into the donation box. It’s discreetly located at the bottom of the home page, because, yanno, I hate to beg. But the Lion’s out of funds, and the only way I’m going out to conventions and events this and next year is if something very positive happens on that front.
Going to a convention as a writer guest is SO great, and SO useful, and absolutely worthwhile yadda yadda BUT–I can’t absorb the entire expense right now. Which means vending. Which means needing cash inflow. So go buy A Small Price To Pay, and enjoy the hell out of it, and tell your friends to buy their very own copy. And then swing by The Scribbling Lion and see if there’s anything in inventory you’d like. (There will be.) And tell your friends about those things. And so on. You know the bloody drill, you’ve heard it a zillion times from every other broke writer and artist and musician out there.
But more important than anything else, to me, is that you read great fiction–mine, or someone else’s–oh, hell, all right, MINE. 😀
Remember. Until the end of February 2016: .99 for a very fun and cruel story. Then the price (gasp) doubles….
…oh the horror, I’m totally pricing myself out of the market, what am I thinking, AUGH….
Go read already, damnit. There’s a huge chunk of it available as a free sample, even.
…and more seriously, tongue now firmly back out of cheek, thank you. Thank you now and forever for caring enough to read this far, and for giving a flaming gerho fart about anything I write. You rock. 😀 <3
In the world of Leona R. Wisoker’s Children of the Desert series, the teyanain are a mysterious, insular tribe who control the major access point between the northern kingdom and the southern desert Families. Outsiders know little to nothing about the teyanain; the less one knows, the better, is common wisdom. The further one gets pulled into politics, however, the more likely one is to face the teyanain; for all their reclusiveness, they meddle in politics constantly.
This short story offers a rare glimpse into the world behind the curtain as Cuna, an ambitious young woman, breaks with permitted gender roles and risks her life to become nitta-hei: an elite teyanain assassin-spy. Her choices, and the escalating price tag, have long-ranging consequences that echo into the final book of the Children of the Desert series.
Like the previous release, Fallen City, this story fills in background detail intended to enrich the reader’s enjoyment of the overall series.
This story is available for only $0.99 for pre-orders through Smashwords and will be delivered to the public at large on January 30, 2016.
Personal note: I had a lot of fun writing this one. That may well indicate, given the overall arc, that there is something dreadfully wrong with me. Or it may just confirm that I’m a writer. You decide. 😀
Cover art by the indomitable Mike McPhail of eSpec Books.