All posts by Julia Muldoon (PiscesMuse)

About Julia Muldoon (PiscesMuse)

Lover of exclamation marks, YA novels, tea, and knitting. Nerd enthusiast. Aspiring writer. Advocator of JamieJam Sundays. All around procrastinator with a long to do list.

Crushing anxiety and a haunting pile of TBR

How Out of Control Is Your TBR PileI was writing a blog post in my head on my way back from lunch to work, and low and behold I forgot what it was. Then I go into my feed for blogs, and there is one by Epic Reads and its 16 must read books releasing in July.  And I was just like, OMG, like I know I read more than the average reader, but 16 in one month, that’s a LOT!  That’s a book read every 1.875 Days.  There are no book hangover days in there, you finish a book, you pick up the next one.  No wonder I feel overwhelmed when it comes to reading.

And then I remembered my blog post idea.

It was about reading.

So at home, I have bookcases, like any good reader does. Notice that it’s plural, more than one bookcase.  My dreams is that all my walls are covered in them some day.  My dream is that I’ve read everything on my shelves.  My dream is that when a new book releases I can concentrate on that book, and not feel like there are a million books I haven’t read haunting me from my TBR shelf.   Seriously if unread books that I own where ghosts, I would have a serious problem.  I would be like Hogwarts dudes.  And I’m not sure all those ghosts are friendly like Casper.

However, sometimes I like to think of my bookcase and all of the books I haven’t read as comforting. I could literally finish a book, and I have soooo many options for what to read next.   Especially by favorite authors. Sometimes I like to keep a book as unread, because once you read it, then you don’t have more.  But sitting on the shelf unread, the author is an old friend, but the book is a new friend yet to be discovered.  There is a certain comfort to that.  I can curl up and know that I’m in good hands.  It’s kind of magical knowing all the worlds of possibilities I have yet to slip into.

But new book releases. Those things are the devil. I want to read them right now, but then I think at all the books I’ve shelved.  And I feel bad.  But read it now!  But old books!  It’s this infinite loop.  I try to balance an old book by a new book.  It just feels like this slow avalanche of never winning, even though I literally read 50+ books a year.

I don’t know how other people do it.

At some point though it’s like looking at your life at all the things you haven’t done, and being completely overwhelmed by that, but not taking into consideration all the things you have accomplished. Or it’s measuring everything you have done as being not enough compared to what you have yet to do.  At some point you need to sit back and be like, dude, stop with this madness.  Appreciate everything you have done.  That’s big on its own.  Relish in that.  It’s the same for the TBR pile.  Think of all the books you have read!

I need to stop and consider everything I have done as being enough. I need to enjoy that.  This driving myself crazy by looking at the list of never ending, it’s adding anxiety I don’t need in my life.  I think that’s also where I’m feeling panicked in my writing.  It’s all the things I want, and feeling like I should be doing more, and being paralyzed to act by how much there is still to accomplish compared to where I am.  Getting to where we want to be starts off small, and we have to learn that effort is worth it.  We have to appreciate the effort we put in, and we have to stop being so damned hard on ourselves.

This post started off inspired by my TBR pile bur really it’s about anxiety that we give ourselves over the things we haven’t done yet. You have to start somewhere.  You have to praise yourself for what you’ve done, instead of heaping on the pressure about all the things you haven’t yet.  We have to stop being so damned hard on ourselves. We have to appreciate where we are, and tell ourselves that as long as we are working on it, that has to be enough for now.  Our journey is our journey.  We have to stop comparing ourselves to everyone else, and only measure ourselves against ourselves.  The other way lies crushing anxiety.  Trust me, I’m on the other side with the anxiety pile on, trying to come back to the self-appreciation of I am enough.

Repeat after me. I am enough.

Let that be your mantra.

Writing is Hard

good-writing-is-hard-workTrying to be an author is hard.  It is so freaking hard. I remember when I first started out words felt easy.  I would write with reckless abandon, never stoping to pause if that was the right way to take the story, if I had enough description, too much description, enough back story, not enough back story.  I just wrote.  It was glorious.  That mad dash of creativity was an addictive high.

Now though, I find the more I want it the more paralyzed with self doubt I feel.  I’m coming at a project that feels bigger than myself, and the intensity with which I want it, is overwhelming.  I want it to be GOOD.  Not good.  But GOOD.

I want it to be the thing that people take notice of.  I want it to be the thing people go wow she can write, she deserves this.  The more I want it, the higher I pile those self expectations on, the harder the writing becomes.  The easier it is to find reasons to not get to the page.  I don’t have the time or the energy to give this what it needs, become default values in my vocabulary.

I try different methods.  I try small daily word counts.  I try large swaths of time on the weekend.  I try deadlines.  I try no deadlines.  I try getting up early. I try staying up late.  I try taking notes when inspired.  I try getting a writing group together.  I try sitting in the comfy creativity chair.  Thus far the chair works. Some things work for a little while, others not at all.

Sometimes the math looks like 2438 words, 1 finished scene, and 5 hours of writing time.  Creating feels strangely disproportional to the time and effort put into it.  It’s like a black hole.  On one hand I feel incredibly accomplished for the word count.  On the other hand the time spent on it, I feel like I should have gotten more.  A younger version of myself might have gotten more, but this version of myself, has a scene she loves, that will require very little work to polish later.  A scene with far less gaps, and far better writing, than a younger me could have ever produced.

The truth is that the better you get, the more you realize how much harder doing it right is.  How much more time and effort it takes. And that time and effort can act as barriers, and ad to the anxiety of wanting it now, in a world where we have fast rewards.  However, writing a novel is like training for a marathon.  It’s a long term goal.

So, this is me, plugging away at a thing that I love, that a younger me tried and failed writing many many moons ago, that I finally, finally feel I have the skill to tackle.  It’s hard, but hard is worth it.  That’s the thing we need to remember.  Is that just because a thing is difficult, does not mean it is not worth the effort.   This writing thing, will always be worth it for me.

Ideas are like Unicorns

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When I first started out on this writing quest one of my first questions was how does one get ideas?  And what I seamed to find from seasoned writers, who deemed this a worthy question to answer, was that ideas where a dime a dozen.  Literally, I swear that’s what they said.  They couldn’t even come up with a better metaphor.  They used a recycled one to describe how they came up with ideas.  This kind of sort of maddened me, like a lot. Because when you are in that beginning stage, you are so earnest with your quest for knowledge, that this is a lot of sass, maybe too much sass, for such a fragile creature as a new hopeful writer to handle.

However, as I’m not a new hopeful writer any longer, I can say with absolute certainty that they where not wrong.  Sometimes there is no easy way of saying that ideas are easy. However, the caveat being that you have to be aware of them, and how to filter them.

When you are in that boring mundane life, and you are looking across the fence to that creative playground, your brain isn’t yet trained in the pursuit of creative exercise.  It’s a damned muscle, and like learning a sport, you need to use it to get better at it.  So at first, ideas feel like sparse creatures, like unicorns you are trying to tame out in the wild.  You sit and you wait, and you wait, and then oh look it’s gone again.  Or you capture it and it’s a damned rhino and that is not what you had in mind.  It is not shinny and pretty and magical. It is clunky, and grey, and stinks.

After awhile you get better at idea hunting.  You learn how to stalk them.  You learn where there hunting ground is, and you hunt them there.  You capture one, but because it is so damned rare you treasure the thing.  You build it up to be more than it is.  You do this with the next one, and the one after that, thinking that all of these captured ideas are separate projects.  That there need for space is apart from the last one you caught.

But after awhile you learn too that this is incorrect.  The ideas morph into mosquitoes.  They buzz, and they suck the life out of you. They become kind of pesky.  The buzz about you when your working on something else, demanding your attention.  Sometimes you gotta squash them.   You’re like no, you are not the magical unicorn I’m hunting, you are a distraction, swat, swat, swat.

The last stage, or maybe it’s not, maybe it’s a cycle, but this is where I am, is when you have found their lair.  When you can walk amongst the unicorns, and they take you as part of their tribe.  You can revel at how unique they are, and how they work well together at the same time.  You live in a forest, sleeping in tress, or behind waterfalls, and it’s really like Avatar at night, where everything is alight, and completely surreal and wonderful.  You learn how the ideas are a larger part of a whole, an ecosystem supporting creativity.

So when someone says ideas are a dime a dozen, what they mean is you need to train your brain like any other muscle.  You need to show up, and go through the slog. Ideas are a skill set, and you need to work out at it, like going to the gym.  You need to learn how to hunt them.   They are a dime a dozen, to the trained veteran, but to those new folk they are magical mystical unicorns, and the only way to find the hunting ground and the lair, is to do the time and the work.

When I’m not writing, I’m writing.

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 (The tree in my front yard in full bloom.  Wish it stayed like this year round)

Things that are writing that don’t actually look like writing.

  1. Taking my dogs for a walk.  Whereby I run through scenes trying to figure out the mechanics and flow of them.  Then I get home and promptly all those fine laid points going fleeing out of my ming.
  2. Going to watch Cowboys band play at a bar.  I sit, I film, I knit, I think about that German Heavy Metal book I was working on, and figure out where the plot went wrong.  Also don’t take notes and try to trust my mind to remember it.  Sigh…
  3. Texting a friend to come out and watch Cowboy play, and have them criticize the bar for being sketchy.  Shrugging it off, because I actually find the place charming.  Realizing that I am that girlfriend who goes to all the performances, no matter how sketchy the bar, or the local (one time I was at a biker festival, camping in the middle of nowhere in some guys field).  Thinking about the juxtaposition of me and my summer dresses and knitting, and thinking of bar band girlfriends, and how I could work that in to a story.
  4. Driving home late late at night and seeing all the crab apple trees in bloom, and how they look so much different from day to night.  Like ghosts haunting the road side, standing sentinel.  Wanting to use that in a novel.
  5. Walking into work and having ideas on plot points and scribbling them madly on scrap paper, and stuffing them into a pocket to get back to later.
  6. Watching movies, or TV, and thinking oh I like how they did that scene. I could use that type of style in my storytelling.
  7. Reading a book and thinking man I like how they do descriptions.  I need to pay attention to the correlation they make.
  8. Hanging out on twitter, and seeing the political discourse, and thinking about my roll in it, and how that could cross over to my writing.  What do I want to say in response to current events, that will have a long outreach.
  9. Talking about the day job, and how we react to change, and how we can be slow moving, and have to weigh the cost of change against the potential additional problems it will create.  Realizing that I can use this in my writing, and world building.
  10. Living my own love story.  The years of how a relationship builds, seeing the tentpoles of story against the mundane backdrop of every day life, and how that could be written.

Writing doesn’t look like sitting at a keyboard all day.  It’s life experience adding up. It’s reading and consuming stories, and thinking of how those stories are told, and what you can learn from them. It’s quiet moments, or loud moments, away from story, as you let your mind roam over those finer points.  The key is being open to these moments, to observing them and letting them seep in. It’s keeping your writer brain turned on all the time, despite the day job, and whatever else is happening around you.  It’s being open and receptive.  Writers are sponges.  Soak it in, and figure how to filter it out.

Good words, writing peeps.

How I am a Writer.

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I was going to write a blog post as a warm up exercise to getting back into my WIP.  However, I’m glad I ditched that idea and did the writing first.

I have not been working on my WIP as diligently as a girl who wants to get professionally published should.  I have a long list of reasons why but really what it comes down to is I’m damned scared.  Wanting a thing, and then getting the thing, are two different things.  What a piece of clothing looks like on a hanger VS when you try it on, are two different things.  Expectation VS reality, and I’m scared that it’s going to be harder than I thought, and not live up to the warm fuzzy feeling I want it to be.

So here are some things I have learnt about me and writing on this journey.

  1. First I must do all the chores and then I can write. Using writing as a reward, but then making my to do list so monumental that even where I to get it all done I would be so burnt out I wouldn’t have any energy left for the writing.  Writing needs to be put on the to do list, and not as the last item.  As the first.
  2. I need to eat first. I really do need to make sure I have some foods before I get to the writing.  Empty stomach is an empty brain.
  3. I need large swaths of time to do the writing.  Large swaths of time are nice, especially if I hit my mojo and want to keep going.  However, large swaths of time can also be overwhelming.  Looking at all those hours stacked up in front of me, thinking I should be writing but being paralyzed by their magnitude.  Fifteen minutes is a great way to get started.  Setting a timer for distraction free writing time, is a great way to make sure I start.  Starting is the hard part.
  4. I had a really great 10k day this one time, and I want to recreate that magic.  I can’t.  Somedays are 10K days, and somedays are 500 word days.  Each get to be celebrated.  Set a minimum goal and as long as I meet that, I’ve won.
  5. I need to write every day. I find when I’m writing every day, all of a sudden it’s like I’ve gone from a frozen tundra, to spring time.  It’s snow melting, and rivers overflowing and flooding with ideas.  It’s like training a muscle, I have to be there training every day.  It doesn’t get stronger without the practice.
  6. The writing is a mess, and it’s overwhelming.  It’s like my house and it needs to be cleaned up now. But I need a lot of time to do this.  Yes, and no.   A lot of time is overwhelming.  Take a little bit of time each day to clean it up, and keep it as organized as possible as you go.  It turns out I’m an edit as you go type person.  Know yourself and your writing style.
  7. Just draft.  See above.  This is not you. Yes drafting is hella fun.  Writing snappy dialogue back and forth, is so much fun.  But also I need to take the time to add tags and scenery.  Don’t let that build or I feel buried by it. However I can draft a scene one day, and clean it up the next. It doesn’t have to be perfect all in one day.  This is a WIP in progress after all.
  8. I need to have a complete outline before I progress.  Not true.  This is delay tactics for me.  My brain doesn’t work that way. I have to know my end point and my starting point yes, and I have to have some cool ideas for the middle, but every single inch and detail about the world, save some surprises for the writing.
  9. Know my own process. Not the writer next door, but my own damned process. My process is not their process, and stop measuring myself against them.  Write the best damned book I can write.
  10. Know that I am a work in progress as much as the thing I am writing is.  The more I do, the better I’ll get at it.  Accept the journey.

P.S. So Sorry for skipping out last week.  I caught a cold or a flue, or some sort of snot infested virus that had my head feeling like a bobble head doll while being completely congested.  Mostly I watched TV and knit, and even that was a little too overwhelming and required muchos naps.

#AdAstra2017

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 (Sylvie, Me, Aura, – part of our writing group the Underground Writers)

This is my fourth Ad Astra (I think).  The first one I just felt so new I didn’t know what to do with myself.  The panelists felt like gods, and I didn’t know how to talk to them, and mostly I was just a little star struck.  I also only wanted to travel in packs, and had a hard time going off on my own – a fear I don’t much have anymore, but it’s always nice having someone you know sit in the audience with you.

My first Ad Astra, I distinctly remember being out in the hall telling a woman I loved her shoes, or was it a hair piece?  I can’t remember, but I do know I paid her a compliment, and then we get in the room and she was a panelist.  And I was kind of like OMG I just talked to her, enter panic mode, try to keep it cool.  That woman was Leah Bobet.

There was another panel that first time where they where talking about the end of the world.  It got into the survivalist area, and I was there for the zombie talk personally.  So we have two older gentlemen, who start preaching about a thing they are passionate about, but perhaps a little too intense know it all style, and a lot off topic from where we where supped to be.  Then there is this breath of fresh air on the panel, this woman named Karina Sumner Smith.  Who through quip put these guys back in there place.

Side note, when I meet you as an author my brain will always give you what’s on your book for your name, all of it, always.  Example E.K. Johnston, is still E.K. Johnston, even though I know she prefers to go by Kate.  My brain is wired a certain way, and even getting to know authors I still sort of think of them as magicians, because that’s what it feels like when I’m writing.  I’m conjuring nothing into something.

Leah and Karina where my first two authors, except at the time, they where on the brink of publication.  They where at that almost stage. I met them at the beginning of their journey, and it has been amazing to follow them since.  To get to know them, and feel not just like the girl on the outside looking in, but the girl who can have a conversation with them about ideas for writing, or the world in general, and who we are in it.

This convention was different, and by far my favourite (yes, I know even topping the year I met E.K Johnston and totally fangirled over her book recs, and fell in love with her writing).  Maybe it’s because I had been going for a few years, and I had an idea of how this would play out.  I knew the landscape of the con, and I knew how it worked best to pace ourselves. Maybe it’s because I had been writing for some time now, and I know my craft a lot better, I felt more like I could talk at their level.  Maybe it’s because I follow my industry and have done my research, and I knew what the journey would look like, so I didn’t need to ask them the basics and make those newbie faux pas.  What I can tell you is that I met a bunch of amazing young woman, doing what I want to be doing, and willing to have those conversations between panels and hang out.

It started with Friday evening, and walking into the panel Gender Terminology in Science Fiction and Fantasy, and I thought oh no, there she is.  There is a person who ends up on panels that says things that are so dated and condescending to the category she writes for, I have a hard time listening to her opinions.  She writes YA, but how she talks about it is like an authority figure who needs to shove a moral down your throat because they are right and you are wrong.  But at this panel an amazing thing happened.  The panelist and the people in the room came out and where like, I don’t agree with what you are saying, and this is why. It brought out the best in everyone around her.  New rules, use this woman whom we don’t like as a barometer on Friday evening panels to find out how everyone around them reacts, and those who show gumption with good ideas, follow them.  Follow them hard! (sorry no pic for this panel. I forgot.)

(As a side note Christina Vasilevski, was on the gender panel, and held her ground and was willing to take the conversation where it needed to go.  She also wrote an amazing blog post about her experience of ad astra this year.  I feel you when you talk about the gravitational pull you felt at the con, and the friendships formed there.  I got to catch up with her a bit more on Saturday.)

I had a game plan with panels that sounded interesting. I even have some names I know that I avoid, so I already had a couple of panels crossed off because I couldn’t take their opinions.  But I also left room for flexibility.  There where three things I was not missing come hell or high water, and I made sure I got to those.  But everything else was in flux.  This made it so I could adjust my schedule to the panelist, or to having a bit more social time in-between, or shopping time, or food, or in this one case a nap. This is what works best for me, knowing what I want to do, but leaving space for be flexible as needed.  The true gem of this conventions are the people you meet and connect with because holla, you all love the same thing.

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(On my forearms, part of the look I was rocking on Saturday – these are temporary, and sadly almost all gone now.  Though I am thinking of getting Knit Punk on one arm, and Book Dragon on the other.  Will ruminate more on making it permanent.)

Saturday I took a little extra time to get ready, and look badass, and when I walked off the elevator, there stood Leah Bobet and Karina Sumner Smith, and the rest of my writing group.  It was like a light had split the sky, and said today is going to be awesome, watch out, I gift you with this great start to the day. I mean I had panels I wanted to go to, but grabbed a coffee so we could sit and chat with these lovely ladies instead.  It was not a mistake.  It was a great conversation and really set the tone for the day.  Leah Bobbett is one of those amazing souls who we follow each other on twitter and Instagram, and who smiles and welcomes me every time I see her.  I keep thinking of her as this magical feisty character, something I could evolve into some day.  She is kind, but fierce.  Also her writing is amazeballs.  It’s an amazing feeling being able to call her a friend (and a small part of me is like, is that too presumptuous?).

At noon I bowed out and ran off to the YA Revolution panel where I got to see these women in action.

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 Rebecca Diem, L.E.  Sterling, Amanda Sun, Alyxandra Harvey, Deanna Laver (this last one I’m not 100% on).

If you want to know a good moderator (and I can’t believe this is her first Ad Astra, because she was a total pro at it), Rebecca Diem was on it.  She had questions for the panelists, brought her own introspection, helped lead the conversation without dominating it, and in general was absolutely lovely.  I asked a few questions at the end, and having intelligent questions to ask, opened up room for conversation with these women later. Also the combination of Alyxandra and Rebecca’s bangs made me want bangs, and I know it’s a bad idea, but I’m easily susceptible to chopping my hair off at will.

Also, if you ever see me post writing on Wattpad, it will be because L.E. Sterling tipped the scale, and asked if I had posted anything there before, and suggested it’s a great place to build audience.  I don’t know if I will blame or give her credit, but now it’s an itch in the back of my mind, that I’m thinking about.

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L.E. Sterling signed Sylvie’s book, and I think that is the best compliment for our group ever.

The other panels that where total highlights for me where:

IMG_2843 Space Opera and New Directions (Derek Kunsken, Andrew Barton, Christina Vasilevski, Jon Oliver) Derek has a book coming out in fall of 2018 which was described as a Space Opera heist, a cross between Oceans 11 and Guardians of the Galaxy, and I am so disappointed I have to wait that long to read it.

 

IMG_2854Reading Revolution (Selena Middleton, Leah Bobet, Amanda Sun, Alyxandra Harvey Rebecca Diem, L.E.  Sterling)

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Leah Bobet’s Reading (Totally jealous of her writing voice, but in a good kind of way, the kind that is in awe.  Her descriptions, emotional connection to her characters, and world building, in just that one scene was SOOO GOOD.  I mean yes, I like the concept, but the writing alone is enough for me to tear through that. KEEP WRITING IT!)

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Disrupting the Narrative (Left to Right: Rebecca Diem, Carolyn CharronEli K.P. William, Charlotte AshleyVanessa Ricci-Thode).  The book recs on this panel where through the roof.  Also we nominate N.K. Jemisin as the next GOH for Ad Astra. (I also caught up with Vanessa the Saturday evening in the con suite, who has amazing geektastic fashion sense, and a love of dogs)

Turns out that 90% of the panels I had selected had those amazing YA authors on them.  It was like continuing one great conversation leading into the next. I could have just happy sighed my way through the entire convention.

Going back through the schedule on Saturday, while it felt so happy and productive while I was there, I noticed that I didn’t go to as many panels as I had intended.  Still it was a reassuringly soul filling day.  Don’t get me wrong panels are great, and a good launching pad for ideas and connecting with others  However, it’s the conversations we have and the people we meet, that really opened it up for me.  I talked to authors and panelists between panels, continuing to share ideas.  I talked to authors and vendors in the merch room and connected with them there. I posted on twitter throughout the convention taking pics, and being witty, and garnered new followers (who I also followed back, because you are my people).  I had ideas for how to improve my stories, and those aha moments you search for.  We went to the con suites in the evening, danced with a storm trooped, had drinks with not just our group, but welcomed others into the conversation.  To cap off this wild crazy day, I even made it to the dance before crawling up to my hotel room. However, through it all, the thing that shined the most for me where those connections, the people and conversations.

Our Storm Trooped both in and out of costume.  You can find her on Twitter.

I don’t know if I have told you this but I HATE the word networking.  It sounds so dirty, like the only reason you are talking to someone is to use them, because they have something you want.  There is a distinct lack of respect for the person, instead treating them like goods or services.

One could look at my weekend, and be like, hey Julia, you networked.  Technically they would be true.  But I prefer to think I connected with people passionately over a shared interest.  I prefer to think that we planted the seeds for friendships, or at least friendly acquaintances the next time we see each other at an event.  The type of people you follow back on twitter or Instagram and cheer on their successes, or like their jam making, or lipstick selfies, or dog photos.  The type of people you can gush over a good book, or grab a beer with when you are in town.

This event, I felt comfortable in my own skin, and who I am becoming.  I used to look at life as a series of goals, achievements, a once I get there, I will be fully made kind of thing.  Now I recognize that this is just one long road trip of learning about yourself.  As long as I’m comfortable with being a changing being, it makes it easier to accept who I am, and be that person comfortably around others. This is me now, this is me learning, this is me – a work in progress.

These woman that I met this weekend, these are what I want to grow into. They are magical badass wordsmith warriors. They are also kind, and willing to make those acquaintances and friendships.  They don’t snob off above you, but rather reach down and lift you up. The example they set is high, but worthy of achieving.  Thank you ladies for everything, you made this weekend for me.

P.S.  Seriously GO to Ad Astra, it’s got great content, and has a very intimate feel.  This blog post only captures the tip of the iceberg of what actually being there is like.  Experiences may very.

Here’s to growing old together….

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This is Cowboy.  This is the person that I met doing community theatre, who always had a guitar backstage, who let little kids hang all over him like a jungle gym, who had crazy facial hair for the play, and glorious long hair, and was tall and so very attractive.  I knew that he was who I wanted to be with, but of course knowing that about a person and starting a relationship with them and having it work out, that’s like winning the lottery.

I won the lottery.

Cowboy is the type of person…

  • Who gave me a house key to his apartment, and I spent the time I wasn’t in school or working, at his place, and that was okay.
  • Who moves out with me after a year of dating and tried out a new city and a new place together.
  • Who after that year, moved back to my home city because I wanted to be close to family and start a life together that involved buying a house and having kids, and we needed a support system in place for that.
  • Who when I bought the first 4 Twilight books in hardcover, and only the last three came in drove me to a bookstore, to pick up the paperback so I could start the series right away.  It didn’t matter that the bookstore was half an hour away, or that we would be buying the same book twice, it mattered only that I could start reading the series I had my heart set on.
  • Who bought me my first laptop to write a novel on.
  • Who bought me my second laptop when that first one was dying, and I hadn’t yet finished writing a full novel, but had many drafts abandoned and gone, and still believed in my writing.
  • Who bought me my first iPad, and my second one, as supplemental tools to my writing craft.
  • Who when I finally finished a complete draft of a project after years and years of trying out different writing projects, and I stared at him as he walked in the door after a music practice and told him I finished it, and I was having the feels, knew that what I needed most was for him to just hold me.
  • Who we got our first dog together, and convinced me to get a second, and now we have such a  culture around our dogs in our house, we wouldn’t know how to be without them.
  • Who when making himself a peanut butter sandwich will also make me one, and bring a glass of milk even though I didn’t ask, but he knows I’ll want it.
  • Who this one time when we had a fight and he was out of town working, played a song on guitar and recorded it and tagged me in it as he posted it to Facebook (not the one above, no fight to get that lovely piece of him performing).
  • Who works out of town because that’s what we need to make ends meet in order to take care of the life we have created.
  • Who buys the dogs all of the extra dog treats when I’m being miserly and just getting the basics.
  • Who will drive me to and from Toronto  (4 hour drive there, and then 4 hour drive back) so I can go to an author signing for a favourite author the day before a big interview for me, so I can sleep in the car on the way home.
  • Who brings me into mosh pits, and always has my back, even when I’m threatening people twice my size for getting in my way.
  • Who we bought our first vehicle, and second, and third vehicle together. Who we bought our first house together.
  • Who when things get tight because the economy is hard and he’s out of a job, cleans out his music room so we can rent it to a student, to make ends meet.  Who volunteers his extra space, when I said we could use mine.
  • Who buys my sister LuLu lemon gym clothes for Christmas, even after I bought her Christmas presents, because he wants to buy her something too, and spoil her a little.
  • Who alway makes sure we are up to date in our Disney movie collection.
  • Who ran away with me and built a life with me.  Who gave me the space I needed to finish growing up, and becoming the person I am.  He provided a place to escape to when I needed it most.  Who provided the understanding and kindness needed to find my way through.

Cowboy is the person I fell in love with 12 years ago, who while I look back at that initial love story, and I see how young and untested it was, but still had the seeds to grow into something completely amazing. Cowboy kept with me, and I with him. We went through those tests of a relationship you’re not quite sure you’ll get through until you’re faced with them, and you do, and you look back and say we’ve got this.  We’ve got each other, and we’re going to be okay.

We need different words for love, that describe Love in all of it’s capacity.  There is shinny new love, when you know you have the potential for greatness but you just aren’t there yet.  There is love for friends that stands the years of distance and time.  There is love for family in all there trials and tribulations.  There is love for our pets, and watching them grow old, and knowing they are going to break your heart, and loving them more anyways regardless.  And then there is the love that is forged between two people who have built a life together, and love and respect each other, and know how to work together as a team, and support each other.  Who have gotten through all of it.  And still come out the other side closer and stronger.

I’ve had all of these loves with Cowboy in my life.

Happy 12ish years.  Here is to growing old together, and finding even more reasons to love each other.

A letter to my younger self

635824296266974225-1322718153_38637623_c8baa1d51d_o_imgopt1000x70Dear Younger Me,

Today I looked in the mirror and I had crow’s feet from smiling too much. We are in our early 30’s and you know I don’t think we are doing too bad.  Sure there are things we are still striving for, but overall, you’re going to be okay kid.

Once upon a time you said something along the lines of “If the guy I’m with has longer hair than me, then we have a problem.” But the thing is you like long haired dudes, then and now.  So clearly it could only mean a criticism on yourself, needing to have the longest hair to win.  I don’t know what you would be winning, because really life isn’t win or lose, but you get to knowing that eventually despite how you grew up.  What you will also learn is that you really love having shorter bob style hair.  This works for you on so many levels, so screw beauty standards, and go ahead and get the shorter haircut.  You’ll thank me for it later.

Also your hubby/boyfriend/life partner will have long hair and play a guitar. He is also an incredibly kind person.  I know younger us was totally into long hair and guitar, so you are totally winning there, but it’s the kindness that will melt your heart every time.  The way he takes you into consideration, and knows you, is what’s worth the most in the end.  And yes, he keeps his hair long because he loves you.

We have perfectionist issues, and we will struggle with this for a very long time. It comes from trying to avoid unnecessary ‘lectures’.  The lectures come regardless, and while they feel deeply personal, they are less about you, and more about the person doing the lecturing.  It’s hard though, and I know how we feel like a trapped rabbit. Conflict will always leave you feeling that way, but we do get better at operating past that.

I would recommend that we start seeing a therapist sooner. We definitely have issues, but also we need to let go of stuff too.  We need to stop letting others people voices guide us, when we know they are wrong.  Things like you don’t air your dirty laundry, those are just suppression techniques of a bygone generation.  Let them be bygone.  To be honest, we aren’t in therapy yet, we still have trust issues with authority, and opening up and letting someone in who can turn around and use all your vulnerabilities against you.  However, I think we will get there, so let’s have some faith in us, okay.

Reading/writing are deeply personal for you. They have always been your escape.  But we are at a point where we have carved out a corner of the world just for ourselves, and you can’t start sharing this amazing dream with others.  We have to start writing, and it’s going to be so freaking personal, but you can do it.  You’ll find your people, and they are amazing.  They are warm and enthusiastic and incredible.  They’ll show you love and respect in a million tiny ways, and they will help build you up and show you a different way of being that you only dreamed existed.

Oh Younger Me, you have a sad soul filled with fire. You know the world is unjust, and you want to run away so badly.   You hang in there and survive it, and you find your people in the end.  You are going to be okay, because you have smile lines girl.  You go about being you, the only way you know how in that situation.  I promise I do not hold any of our past decisions against us.  However, we still have a lot of life ahead of us, and I just wanted to check in and let you know, that despite all of our challenges, and trust me there will be challenges, you make it through.  You are going to be Okay.

Okay, feels like such a small word when you want to light the world on fire. But in this version, okay is a good thing, and no way a cop out for mediocrity.  It means some days you are bursting with happiness, and some days there is sadness, but you come to terms with the range of emotions you go through, for it makes you human.  Okay means you have amazing people in your life.  Okay means you are comfortable and safe.  Okay means you are well loved.  Okay means you have dogs that make you smile, and bring so much joy.  Okay means you have an amazing partner, who you wouldn’t trade for the world.  Okay feels like warm blankets by a cozy fire, with a good book and dog tucked into your side. Okay feels like lazy Sunday mornings with Cowboy, and the sun tipping in through the bedroom window in the house you bought together.  Okay means, you’ve got this.

Love Always,

Future You.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

It’s Going to be Okay

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I have been up for a job that I’m not sure I’m going to get.  It’s been three weeks since the initial interview.

Cowboy had a job interview, and it looked like everything was going great, and then they decided to not proceed any further.

I’m in the middle of some family drama, that hasn’t yet been resolved, but that has been eating away at my conscious.

Last week I remember this moment of Zen, thinking okay, we are in the great abyss of the unknown, I was still waiting to hear about my job application, Cowboy was still waiting to hear about his job application, and the family drama hadn’t hit.  But I was thinking, things are potentially looking up, life will be good.  Cowboy will get the thing, I will get the thing, we will be on an upward swing.  I was in that stage of utter hopefulness.

Then the family drama hit like a bulldozer coming into my blind spot.  I had to take some time to journal my way through it, and because I am who I am, things tend to play on repeat through my mind.  All those times and spaces in-between, walking my dogs, walking to and from work to my vehicle, driving, all of those times, my brain is like let’s roll play this out.  Rewind, repeat, change angles, try again.  Over and over and over.  It’s a vicious loop.  Sometimes this is helpful as a processing tool.  But I can get stuck, like bogged down in mud, and my brain feels like it’s thinking through a soupy fog.  That’s not good.

Then I found out Cowboy didn’t get the job.  Like it was looking very promising.  We were waiting on a start date, that’s how promising it looked.  And then an email to say we won’t be perusing you further.  Glowing references, a piss test he passed.  And then the letdown.  It was heartbreaking for both of us.

And I’m still waiting to hear about the job for me.  I’m still in limbo on that one.

Sometimes when I’m in a slump I also feel like I’m never going to get to where I want to be, a published writer.  That other people are so much more successful than I am.  Look at all those book cover releases.  Look at that author who I started following from the beginning of their career now be in their umpteenth book.  Look that those movie deals for book rights.  Look, look, look.  And I feel like I’m pilling more on myself than I need to take on.

I freeze.  My writing comes to a halt.  I want to curl in a whole, and ignore the world.  Pile on the blankets, eat pizza, and let time tick by.  Do nothing, because I am paralyzed by not being good enough.

But somehow I always manage to get to the other side of it.  I’ll journal my way through it.  I’ll go for a run.  I’ll play out all the situations, and realize that even if I don’t get what I want, I can still be okay on the other side of this.  I’ll come up with a game plan.

Sometimes that game plan looks like a fierce fighting fire in my gut.  That is part of the process too.  That is the Julia who is putting on her boxing gloves, and is going to get through this come hell or high water, because I will do what needs to be done, regardless.  I will persevere.  Fighting Julia is fierce.  That girl’s hair is flame red, and her lips taste like blood.  But she too is transient.

That’s the thing, all versions of me, all stages, are transient.  We flux.  We go from Zen, to turned on our heads, to fighting fierce, to Zen, and sometimes it’s not in that mix at all.  Sometimes we add weeping in there too.

Today though we are back to Zen.  Today I found myself smiling at the prospect of a meaty spreadsheet at work, and a good audiobook.  Sure, my life doesn’t look exactly how I want it to, but that doesn’t mean I give up and stop trying.  It means I figure out how to process, and keep moving forward.  And therein lies the secret to happiness, continually movement, and goal setting.  Keep going.  Take the time, then pick yourself up, find the things that make you happy, and keep going.  Life is not linear, but accepting that it is transient, certainly helps in the getting through all of it.  Also smile, and enjoy those moments when you have that Zen, that inner peace.  Stop pause, and say, wow.

Today is a stop pause and smile day, even amidst the chaos, and the uncertainty, I feel like I’ve got this.