Friday, November 23, 2018

Do You Feel Tired All The Time? Do You Fall Asleep at the Wheel?

I do. When I'm driving my car, I sometimes hold my eyelids open with my fingers. If it's really bad, I pull over, take a nap for 10 to 20 minutes, then get back on the road. And my commute is only 20 to 35 minutes long. I have been falling asleep a lot the past 18-24 months - at the wheel, in my office, while watching TV or movies, while reading, while writing at my laptop... just all the damn time.

Regular Writing Time Is Regular.


It is the backbone of any practice. My routine is different every day, but tends to have larger patterns over weeks or months. Historically, my writing practice has looked like this, after years of development:

  • Sunday: Write at Starbucks from about 3pm (sometimes 4 or 5) til 7 or 9pm.
  • Monday: Make copies of work for my Monday Night Writers Group feedback read
  • Tuesday: May write between my massage therapy sessions, depending on time
  • Wednesday: Day off
  • Thursday: Often write between sessions or after work for an hour or two.
  • Friday: Depending on schedule, may write here and there between sessions at work.
  • Saturday: Write for about 2 hours after work. 
Additionally, I keep a dream journal that I write in every day that I recall my dreams...
I also keep a log on my phone (I use Evernote) of story ideas, character names, inspiring prompts, etc. to work with in the writing hours.

But this past year (or longer), my energy is been at a serious low. I sit down to write in between sessions at work, and within minutes have closed the laptop and gone into napping. I force myself to get out of bed at the last possible minute before I have to go to work or wherever I need to be; otherwise, I will just stay in bed and sleep...for hours - 10, 12, 15, 20...however long I can get away with. 

I have felt guilty about my lack of productivity. My fitness and exercise, housework chores, my business upkeep (newsletters, mailings, contacting colleagues, clients/patients, etc.), my reading, and my writing have all suffered. I just can't seem to make myself stay awake and get stuff done.

I have always tried my best to listen to my body, tend to my self-care, and respond to signals as best I can. For the past two years, I continued to ask myself these questions:
  • Is this normal? Obviously not. 
  • Am I depressed? I have no history of clinical depression. I am a fairly self-motivated, positive thinker, with a ton of ideas and inspiration sources. I know depression is not tied to our will or desire, but other than all the excessive sleeping, I do not feel depressed.
  • Is it politically driven? Oh yeah, except for the fact that I am a woman in tRump's America...that is pretty damn depressing. Every day is a battle for equal rights, civil discourse, freedom of the press, freedom of/from religion, freedom of speech minus the spew of hate, body sovereignty, clean air, clean water, protection for endangered animals and nature, and more. The news is depressing, infuriating, and unbelievable. Ignorance and intolerance is rampant, and these fossil fuel pawns and anti-science dweebs ate destroying our very planet. So, I ask myself once again: am I depressed?

  • Is my erratic sleep schedule to blame? I basically live like a vampire.
  • I have always been a night owl - I come from a long lineage of night owls - but it has gotten way out of hand. Instead of going to bed by 5 am, I have been going to bed/sleep at 7 am, 8 am, 9 am, sometimes on a day off not til 10 am. I sleep as long as I can - maybe 3 hours, maybe 2 or 4 or 5. 6 is the minimum best, but even when I sleep 9 hours, I still wake up tired, so what difference does it make? I know regular (-ish) sleep hours are the best for health, and I experienced the effects of sleep deprivation firsthand when I was in massage school in 1998 and working two jobs and only sleeping 4 to 6  hours per night. Even with naps, I was not getting enough sleep, and my brain was unable to think a way out of that. I also gained fifty pounds that year... definitely a side effect of not enough sleep. 
  • So, have I allowed myself to create this exhaustion cycle myself? Why can't I just go the eff to bed? Once I'm in bed, I usually fall fast asleep, so it's not insomnia. I am awake, in the living room, either reading, or writing, or watching TV or movies, or chatting with friends in other time zones, or whatever. My brain is very awake and active (even if my body is not) between midnight and 6 am.
  • Is this related to my Adderall use? I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and have been trying to find the sweet spot for dosage for a few years now. It's all trial and error. Since spring of this year, I've mostly been taking 15 mg when I first get up/have breakfast, then another 15mg 4 to 6 hours later.

    But Adderall can affect sleep. I don't take it anywhere near my "bedtime" but I wonder if it could be affecting my sleep, anyway?

I spoke to my doctor once again in October about my exhaustion and lack of energy and motivation. This time, she noticed just how pale I am, and decided to do a blood test on me for anemia. 

Two days later, the results are in: I am full-blown anemic! My iron level was 5, which basically means I had five red blood cells (not really, but may as well have been). The healthy range (according to allopathic western medicine; naturopathy and eastern medicine have more detailed ranges and meaning) is 15 - 150. Mine was 5. My other levels were low, too, and my doc told me to take iron supplements twice a day for three months and then get a follow-up blood test. She also told me to take vitamin C to help my body absorb the iron. 

I have been taking the iron and C twice every day for just over a month, now. I definitely feel the difference - I noticed I am more chatty, for one thing! I do recall wanting to tell someone some story or other over the past year, and thinking to myself, "meh, it's just not worth the effort." I have had several mornings where I wake up before the alarm clock and don't go back to sleep! I am excited at the prospect of being alert and having more awake time to be productive. Maybe I can get back to more exercise? Perhaps even the morning workouts at home I used to do? 

As of the diagnosis of anemia, I had only read 19 books (in 10 months?). I usually read about fifty to sixty a year, so I was behind by half. I can now stay awake and read more than 2 pages, so I'm happy about that, too. Especially since my book-BUYING rate has not slowed down this year... so much to catch up on!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

When Excuses for Not Writing are More Than Just Excuses...

2018 seems to speeding by. Here we are, on the eve of Labor Day Weekend, and the proverbial end of summer.

Do you, or did you, have summer writing goals? Did you meet them?

Do you have a writing schedule for the year?
(When to write, when to revise, when to query, submissions deadlines, etc.)
Have you stayed on schedule?

Has your writing been clear? Easy? Or difficult, and muddled?

Have you been able to keep up on anything you planned this season?

If your answer is "yes" - congratulations! Job well done. I'm looking forward to seeing your progress in print!

If your answer was "no" or "not really" - welcome to my world. Join the club. I do believe a number of us are feeling down about this unfinished business in our heads...

I have been working on my memoirs, still, but in smaller and smaller spurts as the summer continued. I feel so behind on everything! Writing projects, travel plans, class scheduling plans, housework, shopping, reading...basically, life.

I don't know... it seems like I keep repeating myself, but my main obstacles to being more productive are:

1. Lack of writing space.
I've been working all year with an organizer to go through my apartment, pare down my stuff, reorganize my space, but I have not yet gotten to the office area. The current goal date is before my trip at the end of October.

The coffeeshops that I have always written in have all changed their hours, and I have been even more of a vampire with my own schedule, and I just haven't found a consistent time and place to work. When I force myself to do it at home, the bad seating gives me body pains. Must get the right new desk set up!

How I sit at a good cafe table, like my Starbucks...

Positions I end up at home, that make me ache!

2. I'm just busy, gah! 
This is true. I have stayed busy at my day job of massage therapist, in months when I usually have slowed down in the past. I'm grateful for the work, though! My social schedule has also been busier than other times of the year - lots of music concerts and events, several extra events for writers and even some extra group projects to take on. More on those another time...

I haven't been able to keep up with my book reading and editing schedule, either.

3. Smoke gets in my eyes...
Yeah, so living in the PNW, we are surrounded by wildfires. Especially the 800 or so fires on Vancouver Island... they make our air hazy, and also our brains!
Photo from KING5 News

Thank goodness the air has cleared in the past day or two, with wind and rain. Today, I saw clouds in a blue sky. But the mild headache all month, the need for hours of sleep (because the quality of sleep is not great), the fuzzy inability to focus (it's not just me!) and think clearly... all of this has cut into my productivity, and I need to accept that I am not fully responsible for this. These factors are real, and while I am feeling bad about not getting stuff done, I have to just get the rest, take the time, and know that it won't last. Already feeling clearer-minded, and here I am, at least writing this blog entry!

Know when to take responsibility for your work or lack thereof, and know when to stop fighting the negative influences of time management (don't lose sleep over losing writing time!), air quaility, health issues, and other unforeseen events. 

DO what you CAN, WHEN you CAN: if it's fifteen minutes of journaling, or five minutes of jotting down an idea for your story, or researching where to submit to publish instead of writing at that moment, DO IT. Any action taken towards bettering yourself as a writer, as a person, is a worthwhile effort. 

Don't kick yourself over what you didn't get done, be proud of what you did. Plan on writing a 15-page chapter this week but only get 1 page done? That's one more page than you had before! Move on. 

I have to constantly battle the voices that say I am lazy, or I never finish anything.... Just Keep Going. I keep a running resume of pieces I have finished, and pieces I've gotten published. See? The voice is wrong!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Life With Adult ADD: Things (Not) To Do Before Leaving on a Trip


Let's see... I need to leave for the airport in three hours, so let's do a checklist of where I'm at in the process of preparation at 2 am:

  • Packed suitcase - mostly - 85% done
  • Packed carry-on - mostly - 75% done
  • Continue to update and check off packing lists...
  • Followed up on last minute emails, updates, etc. Even did my newsletter last night!
  • Updated monthly budget - does this need to be done now? Sure? 97% done (as much as able)
  • Petted the cats relentlessly - mostly done - 80%
  • Done Annual Periodic Expenses - Why? Why now? But, yup - 90% done
  • Started reading a new book on Non-Fiction Publishing Markets - Started- NO! WHY? Stop.
  • Ate a snack. 100% done. (But there is still food in will go bad...FAIL!)
  • Painted toes... nope, will take polish on trip.
  • Laundry - done! 
  • Sorted wallet - done!
  • Changed purses - mostly done - 97%?
  • Revisited work-in-progress for editing - NO! Save that for some other time! Don't you want sleep? A nap??? 
  • A bath... when?
  • Breakfast? 
  • COffee? How soon? Now? At 4? Let's start a new book...NO!
  • Should I sleep a tad? Or just stay awake and sleep on the plane, as is my usual routine? How much did I sleep last night? 2 hours?? 
  • 2:06 am - Update blog - done!

Monday, January 22, 2018

2018: New Year's Resolutions

January is nearly done.

Every year, I do a series of meditations on my life goals and world hopes. I make a vision board (I don't care how hokey you think it sounds, I like it) of what I want to focus on. I revisit last year's resolutions list, see how I've done, figure out what I did or didn't do and why, reassess, and make a new list of goals for the coming year.

As 2017 came to a close, I did none of that.

We're three weeks into 2018, and I just did the list look-over, and have started a new Pinterest board for 2018 goals, but that's all.

Basically, this was 2017:

My tolerance for bullshit is .002%. 
My interest in the news is -400%, but I maintain...I do enough to know what's up in Congress, call and email my reps and senators, and hang on to a thread of my hope and sanity. 

It hasn't done much for my creativity.

I just looked at the list of resolutions for 2016. There were just five, as opposed to my usual 17.
  1. ✅ Sleep better - Well, it turns out I have an allergy to wheat (or whatever chemicals they are calling wheat these days) so a gluten-free diet has solved those pesky sleeping and breathing problems. And my random rashes, yay...
  2. ✔𝗑𝗑 Writing goals - the only one I did was work on the Allan ms - not done, though.
  3. ✔   Massage networking - a little... but business has been busy, so yay, there.
  4.  🆇  IRA - nope, but still in the plans...
  5. ✅ Support Journalistic Integrity - I did this one! I paid for subscriptions to quality news outlets like The Guardian and Washington Post. I donated to several causes involving public interest, education, and the arts.
So far, this is my plan for 2018:
  1. Organize home. I already have an organizer hired. Today will be our second session.
  2. Make a writing area at home. 
    Ok, it won't look like this because I live in a small apartment, but the atmosphere is close...
  3. Finish 1989 memoirs.
  4. Finish draft of Baltimore Boys.
  5. Do some performing - Storytellers, Moth, Salon, etc.
  6. Make two submissions.
  7. Read 30 books. Include classics by non-white authors, new releases, and both fic & nonfic.

    Last year I aimed for 52, but felt rushed. I need time to absorb. I also need time to read manuscripts for my writers group, and to write, myself!
  8. Seek teaching opportunities. Work on panel submissions and written material. 
  9. Get involved. Find ways... politics?, writing, cons, community arts, etc.
  10. Travel. Victoria, Florida, Italy. 
That's my list so far. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Word Splurge! Writing Time!

As you may recall, I have a very hard time writing the past six months or so. No writer's block, here, just a conundrum of not having the "stars" align... and by stars, I mean the necessary components of good writing:

  1. Time
  2. Space
  3. Energy
  4. Mental acuity
Nope, that's not a breakdown of one of Einstein's theories, it's a very simple list that I have not been able to complete simultaneously lately. 

But, today... I had a cancellation at work and a long block of errand-running-time that I co-opted into writing time. And, believe it or not, I DIDN'T TAKE A NAP! I always fall asleep when I meant to write or read at my nice, warm, cozy massage office with the soft lighting, soothing music, and warm blankets and pillows at my disposal. But not today! I wrote! 
First I did a couple of massage office related things that needed to get done. But, that didn't take me very long, so I opened up a blank page and wrote about my first car! It's crap! But I wrote it! On another day, I will go in and re-order the content to make it less crap. It's called clay...I have a big six page pile of clay! It feels good. In fact, it felt so good, I started another one. It will be an important part of my larger work, the memoir, but for now, it has three opening sentences and a few paragraphs about my godmother. WONDERFUL! I am truly excited to get back to the page. 

I met with a woman yesterday to plan a home organization and de-cluttering. We start tomorrow, and I wonder if that action nudged me into action in this other area of my life that has been cluttered with busywork and other tasks...? Hmm...

Sunday, December 17, 2017

I Miss Writing

Hello, laptop. I've missed you. I carry you with me nearly every day, but rarely interact with you, anymore. I see you, across the room, while I'm doing my work as a massage therapist, and I think, "soon." Yet, there's never any time. When I do have time, either in between sessions, or at the end of the day, I'm too tired, or fried, or sore, or behind on other tasks to pick you up. I miss you.

I miss writing my newsletters. I miss scouring calls for submissions and browsing my writing morgue, looking for that spark to write a new tale. I miss the thrill of the pressure of meeting a deadline, of racking up those resume points, of exploring my own ideas. I haven't even been journaling... the few dreams I can recall, I jot down in highlights and bullet points. Less than satisfying.

This month, too, is already filled...with work, with work, with work, with parties, with shopping, with wrapping, with holiday cards, with exhaustion, with sleep.

Maybe in January...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

How Do You Make Up For Lost Writing Time?

I can't believe it's nearly November. Seems like I am always in disbelief at the speed of time, anymore, but there it is. Here's the short list update since my last post, in June.

  • I am competing in NYC Midnight's Flash Fiction (1000 words or less) contest for the first time. There are more than twice as many contestants in this one than in the Short Story Contest that I have done several times.

    Everyone writes for two rounds, and points are tallied to progress towards Rounds 3 & 4. My assignments were:

    Round One:
    Genre - Drama
    Setting - Beauty Pageant
    Object - Cash Register

    Of course, I kept having to rewrite it with less humor. I was less than enthused with my elements...I wanted to write it funny! So, then what happened?

    Round Two:
    Genre - Comedy
    Setting - Superstore
    Object - Parrot

    Great, comedy! But, a parrot? My mind was clouded with images of Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch. I wrote my first story (1800 words) but it was not funny. My second story (1200 words) was funny, but had no story or plot, to speak of. I sketched out a few other possibilities, and finally wrote one that centered on a thief and a talking parrot (1550 words). I cut it down to 996 words and submitted it in the final hour. Of course, the next night at my writers group, I read it and notices a handful of typos and errors...sigh. Hopefully, I will make it into the third round, anyway.
  • My Microsoft Surface, which had been finicky about accepting a power charge since at least February, wouldn't charge at all after Round One of the contest, in late July. A month later, I replaced it with a Lenovo Yoga laptop/tablet. I really never use the Tablet function, but I love the lightweight and small size of these convertible things. Another month later, I got my lost files retrieved (OneDrive snafu) via the help of a friend. That was this week...
  • I am so behind on everything. I feel like I barely get anything done, every time I sit down to do all the things I need to do. (These include budget updating, newsletter writing, meetup upkeep, editing, reading, collating information for working writing projects, writing, editing, submitting, querying, posting on this blog, etc.) Today, I updated my meetup calendar, posted in the Nanowrimo forum, and finished my massage newsletter from July...finally! (But so much I didn't get to, and I'm running out of time, so I decided to do this blog post!) Plus, my day job has been soooo busy that I haven't had many writing sessions set aside. I work, eat, pass out, repeat.
Work, eat, pass out, repeat.

Okay, so my plan is to write a novel this November, as a participant in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the TENTH year. I am undecided on the story, as of yet, but will be going through some brainstorming and notes this week.

That's it for now. Join me at NaNoWriMo! @divinerebel