Time to Level Up

I took a sip of the champagne—the good, imported stuff. This was a celebration and I couldn’t have been prouder of my husband for getting the raise and soon, the title, he’d worked so hard for. Still, the thought tickled the back of my brain like the bubbles tickled the back of my throat: I need to level up in my career.

Let me take a moment to acknowledge that what follows is the sappy song of someone who got everything she wanted in life; the kind of stuff that rolls eyes the internet over. It does not provide any concrete solutions to anyone’s problem. It will neither be discussed as sage wisdom in the forums of accomplished women, nor taught in the halls of learned men, though it may get a few hate shares (a click is a click). So, if you’re not rolling out the guillotine yet…

The day job. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s the job that pays the bills while you’re working on the career, particularly a creative career. I’ve taken a lot of criticism over the years about how I balance the day job with creative endeavors, and it has mostly come from creative circles. From barely audible side comments and “just sayin’” observations, to dramatic tales of sacrifices made for art, I’ve lost count of the ways people tactlessly opined that I put far too much energy into the corporate resume and not enough into honing my craft. That these observations often coincided with something the observers wanted me to do for them is perhaps why I continued doing what I needed to do to live up to my own standards as a grown woman. The bills weren’t going to pay themselves, and it seemed better to work towards a job I could tolerate than to keep bouncing from something I hated to something I was about to hate in the interest of conserving energy for art (or using misery to fuel it).

What I got for my effort was a resume full of day jobs that led to good jobs in my field, which I shaped into the corporate side of my career overall. On the corporate side, I have enough experience that I’m in demand but not so much that it works against me. I like what I do and I’m good at it. I even really like my current position, which I get to fulfill from my home office. Things are going well.

The problem is the self-induced career stagnation. When an opportunity to advance the corporate side comes along, I think, If I throw my hat in the ring and it works out, then that’s what I will be—not a dark fiction writer. Though I am no more correct than the critics I’m able to ignore, when the thought is my own I tend to give it more attention than it’s worth, and that can lead to missed opportunities. This phenomenon is not unique to me; I’ve been discussing it with fellow creative people for a long time. In fact, many of the people who’ve criticized my balance of steady jobs with creative pursuits have also confessed to experiencing this same phenomenon, and I wonder if their criticism comes from not being 100% pleased with their own decisions (or indecision) on the matter.

Yet, there I was, trying to make a crossroads out of a clear path, when my husband called to tell me he got his raise and to give me the details about pending promotions. Now, I don’t really believe in signs. It stands more to reason that we see the signs we want to see based on the decisions we’ve already made, but if I had been waiting for a sign that it was time to level up, that would have been it.

As I said, I clearly don’t have any answers or concrete formulas on how to manage a career (I was literally just talking about signs). If there’s a point at all, it’s that:

No one can determine your path, assign your priorities, or define your success but you, and it’s perfectly fine to ignore anyone else who tries.

And THAT’S how we do motivational posters around here.

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Excuses, Excuses!

“What’s your excuse, now?” you might be asking, and you’d be within your rights. After all, every time I’ve been quiet on the blog, or the internet as a whole for that matter, I’ve come back with some flimsy excuse as to where I’ve been, but this time the excuse is a good one. I promise.

Yes, I’ve been trying to find balance in my writing life again, but this time it’s because I’ve landed a new paying day gig. It’s a technical content writing job and it’s actually kind of perfect for me. It is also particularly significant because landing a full-time job was the final piece of the puzzle before feeling like I really live here. Driver’s license and registration updated: check. Registered to vote: check. Employed by a company in the Greater Seattle Area: check. Though I rarely have to commute (working remotely is nice, I’ve got to admit), there’s something about being able to complain about the traffic with the other commuters that just makes me feel like part of the community. Of course, I realize that as a transplant, I’m actually a part of the traffic problem we face.

There’s also the issue of getting the most out of the few remaining days of summer. It’s no secret that I hate going to the gym. I’d much rather get my exercise from an outdoor activity. So while I still have enough daylight to hike a trail or skate (inline) around the park after work, you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it. There are plenty of short, cold and rainy days on the horizon that will find me on a treadmill or a stationary bike.

Or maybe I can just suck it up and learn to be cold and wet in the dark.

I really hate the gym.

But time marches on. Summer is almost over and autumn is upon us. Aside of perhaps having to return to the gym (I say “perhaps” because I’m seriously considering that cold and wet in the dark thing), I’m excited for fall. I’m ready for hot cider and Halloween. Fall is also my most inspired and prolific time of year, which is good because I have a lot to do.

And if I can find that elusive little critter called balance, you might actually get to hear about it.

One Day

Photo Credit: Kelly Rowles,
Pix|elation Photography
(link below)

I am living a lie.

It’s not an interesting lie. I’m not an international spy. I don’t have some second family secreted away in another state. I’m not a princess playing a peasant. No, it’s much more mundane than that. I just had the privilege of learning that the life I’m living is not the life for which I was meant.

Last weekend (so yes, I am a bit late on this post), I had the extreme pleasure of getting to model my gorgeous wedding gown at the MayFaire Moon Corsets and Costumes fashion show at Dorian’s Parlor. On that one day, I met some incredibly talented, beautiful, and overall wonderful people who embrace—no—live their creativity. It was that creativity, buzzing like an alarm clock all around me that woke me up to the fact that I’ve lost my creative self in the day to day life that I’ve been living. On that one day, the Universe bestowed upon me a moment of clarity necessary to change my perspective.

Right now, my life is very much about the daily grind, and getting done with everything that needs to be done to pay bills or keep promises. It’s not that my daily life is that bad.  But what became so clear to me in the presence of all of those fabulous people, is that they truly live their creativity while I always seem to put mine on the back burner. The life I keep telling myself I’m working toward is the one for which I never seem to have time. At the end of the day, after all of the other deadlines and expectations that my daily life requires are met, my own expectations are the only ones I can blow off without any repercussions.

Or can I?

The repercussions are that I’ve not met the goals that I’ve made for myself. Blowing myself off is why 13 Morbid Tales still isn’t finished. Blowing myself off is why I can’t lose that last 10 pounds (okay 15). Blowing myself off is how I’ve created a life in which all I have to look forward to is more of the daily grind that was never meant to be anything more than a means to an end. Blowing myself off is the reason that I look in the mirror and see that I’m a stranger in my own life, feeling trapped like a prisoner by that damned daily grind!  And this goes beyond finding balance. I tell myself that if I’d just “find a balance” all of this would work out, but it doesn’t. Telling myself this lie is just another way of making light of the issue and giving myself permission to blow myself off even further, as if finding balance is a simple fix that I have all the time in the world to make. And while I continue to tell myself this lie, the life I want continues to pass me by.

I’d like to make some declarative statement that “I’m done with this!” and move on, but this is something I frequently struggle with, and I tend to find myself in need of that one day to put it all back into perspective. I am so grateful that every now and then I get that one day to put me back on track. I owe a very special thank you to all of the amazing and creative people in my life who never fail to make that one day possible when I need it the most.

Now for the end-of-blog-post questions we have all come to expect, recognize, and dare I say, love: What is your ideal one day? What kind of things help get you back on track?

Also, please give some love to these fabulous people:

Photography – Pix|elation Photography
Clothing – MayFaire Moon Corsets & Costumes
MUA – The Changeling Room

Random Thoughts About Writing

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been absent from my blog for quite some time again lately.  This is not actually for lack of trying.  Pages of illegible scribbles in my notebook, numerous one-paragraph-long Word documents, and emails to myself (because sometimes inspiration strikes me at the day job, and a “remember this idea” email is the best I can do at the time), will all prove otherwise.  But not one thought materialized into what I would call a publishable blog.  This happens to me a lot.  It’s my thinkin’ ’bout stuff phase.  But I know if I don’t write something, I’ll just sit and think myself to death.  So I bring you…

Random Thoughts About Writing

1. Technical writing is not the same as writing writing.

To translate my thought for those lucky enough not to be living in my brain: Technical writing is not the same as creative writing.

Well, duh!

Some of you may know that I’m a technical writer as a day gig.  On a good day, I really like it.  On a so-so day, I tolerate it.  On a bad day, well…On the chance that someone from the place that puts food on my table is reading this, I’ll refrain from writing how I feel on the bad days. This, by the way, is not how tech writing is different from creative writing.  I have good, mediocre, and bad days with that too.  In fact, I’ve most likely had worse days with creative writing than I have tech writing. After all, I haven’t been collapsed on the floor sobbing about how badly I suck and how no one in their right mind should ever read or publish my atrocious work at the office yet.

One of the biggest differences between creative writing and technical writing (besides the obvious ones, of course), is how foreign technical writing still feels to me sometimes. While I’ve picked it up quickly—as it turns out, every time I’ve written “Proven ability to adapt to new editorial styles quickly and efficiently” on a cover letter, I wasn’t just talking myself up—it sometimes feels like I’m playing in a world I don’t fully grasp.  The best way I can think of to describe it is buying a shirt that says “yacht club” from the $5 rack at Wal-Mart. I can look the part.  I can play the part.  And I’m very good at my job.  But some part of me will always know that I’m a great big poser where technical writing is concerned.  It just isn’t my world.

2. Am I too rebellious to be a successful writer?

Some of you may be looking at that thought and asking yourself, “WTF?”  But stick with me.

I’ve always loved reading. I read all the time.  I think back to high school when, yes, I read all the time—just not necessarily what was assigned. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the literature I was assigned. It’s that it was assigned in the first place. I was told to do it, and so I did it grudgingly at best. At worst, I refused with the panache that only a poor, put-upon teen can muster.

Now I’m a grown-up and so I follow the rules because I’ve worked too hard and have too much to lose not to, but in a lot of ways, I’m still like that teenager I once was. Tell me not to do something; you best believe that’s all I’m going to want to do. Order me to do that very same thing; it’s the last thing I’m going to want to do. (Just so you know, asking nicely goes a long way with me.)

I, like most struggling writers (and what I mean by “struggling” here is that we still need day jobs and probably will for a very long time), dream of the day when my job is simply to write.  But what happens if and when that day comes?  What happens when I’m given a deadline to write precisely the stuff I like to write, and told to just do it? Will I still love writing as much as I claim to? Will I wake up in the morning excited for my day, or will I come to hate it simply because it’s what I’ve been told to do?

For the record, I’m pretty certain I’d still love it in spite of my rebellious nature, but since this thought kept me awake one night, it was worth addressing.

3. What in the hell kind of god am I?

“Whoa! WTF did she just write?”  But again, stick with me.  I’m not a weirdo. Well, actually, I am.  I’m just not that brand of weirdo. And truly, this thought isn’t even all that original.

Writers create worlds and they create the inhabitants of those worlds.  So as far as Word files and stacks of paper are concerned, writers are gods. That’s all I’m saying. And, like I said, it’s not even an original comparison. So, moving on…

What in the hell kind of god am I?  It’s actually a conscious decision that must be made.  If a piece is to be character driven (as the best pieces are), that means giving the characters free will.  Okay, got that.  So what if one of my favorites, my chosen (okay, maybe I am having a little too much fun with this metaphor) does something stupid that could get them killed? Do I let them die, or do I step in and throw them a bone?  And what made that character my favorite to begin with?  Was that character the most godly (the one most like me)?  And what about the characters I had no problem offing?  Am I a vengeful god? Did they have it coming? Did I create them solely for the purpose of being offensive enough to kill? And if so, what does that say about me?

And what about those characters I’ve abandoned altogether?  I have tons of work that just wasn’t working so it’s been put aside. Do my characters lament being abandoned by their god when I’m not working?

Like I said, I’m not that kind of weirdo. I am aware that my characters live only in my mind and on paper, and so I would have to write characters lamenting for them to do so. But it’s a fun little brain teaser for the next time you’re lying awake thinking about a writing project.  There are endless questions that can be considered along this line of thought. So I invite you to examine them for yourself, unless, of course, you actually want to get some sleep.

So that’s what’s been going on in my head lately.  Aren’t you glad I didn’t try to make any one of these topics its own blog?