Blog

2018: What the F%#k was that?? Part Two

We relocated to Coolangatta on the Southern Gold Coast in early September 2018, and this was the hardest house move I have ever done. Greg helped where he could, but he was extremely limited because of his injury and pain. It was mostly up to me to get the place packed up. I also performed the bond clean, with help from my mum and aunty.

After the move I resigned from Jeanswest. The performance expectation placed on staff is high, and I felt that the company was somewhat out of touch with the impact of these tasks and expectations on frontline team members, and personally I would like to see the company place more value on the health and wellbeing of store staff. My expenses had been reduced by the move, and so there was space for me to leave and find something more suitable. By moving house I was purging many stress contributors from my life, and that job was just another stressor I did not need.

Once we had settled in to our new place at Coolangatta, I was keen to get back on track with my writing projects, however it was not as easy as I had thought it would be. I just could not get myself back into routine, and was finding it so hard to get organised and motivated.

In October I started to revise The New Neighbours, my short story collection. This was a task I had on my to-do list for some time, and I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it, but it needed to be done. Everything was going well. I was excited. The afternoon wore on, and time started running out. Before I knew it, it was dinnertime. Panic set in, as well as a looming sense of incompletion. By 8pm, I was in tears.

I despised the incomplete nature of writing in general. I hated the stories being in pieces. A big idea or change is exciting at first, but then the impact if that change, and the state of incompleteness it leaves the story, is often traumatizing for me. I’m clearly in the wrong game.

No matter how amazingly transformative to the story these big changes are, I don’t handle them very well. Especially when its to a book I’ve previously finished and published. I feel like I’m pulling apart something that is perfectly complete. The perfectionist in me HATES that.

And then I feel scared that in trying to make the book better, I’ve actually made it worse.

This revise has been on my to-do list for months. I haven’t raced to do it. I’d much rather be working on something fresh and new. But the book needs a revise, and I want a book I can feel truly confident about.

I’m trying to sprint through this, whilst also doing a thorough job. But like the process of writing a book, the revise is a marathon, NOT a sprint.

After a few tears, I have reviewed my efforts for the day. I listed the small accomplishment of the day: I got the changes made to the last few stories in the collection. That is what I set out to do, and I did it.

When undertaking such a big task as writing or revising a story, it’s so important to recognize the little achievements. It gives you a sense of accomplishment when the end seems so far off.

But what I thought would only take me a week or so blew out into a complete overhaul of the book and all its stories. I hated every minute of it, and it actually caused me significant anxiety. I created absurd and unrealistic timelines to have it all finished. In my haste to get this job over and done with, I was also obsessing over the detail, fearing that I was overlooking mistakes and compromising the revision altogether.

I was craving to work on something new, and once again I denied myself that joy, even for a few minutes a day. Everything I did had to be productive; I couldn’t just write for fun. In the wake of the chaos that had unfolded throughout the year, I felt as if my life was falling apart. My writing was the only aspect I felt I had control over, and I was chanelling that anxiety into the revise of my books. I knew that it wasn’t working, and I was forcing something that not meant to be. My neurotic behaviour was makign me hate writing, turning a joyful activity into a toxic one. But still I pushed and pushed- I needed to feel as if I had achieeved something ths year. I started uploading the short stories individually to Kindle Direct Publishing, with a view to upload the whole collection soon after. I would then press on with the revises of my four other books. And then one day in early November, I received a dreaded email from Kindle Direct Publishing informing me that my account had been disabled.

Some of you may recall last year, two days before Christmas, I recieved an email from Kindle Direct Publishing informing me that they had identified ‘malicious activity’ linked to my books/account, which they refused to expand on. There was no warning and my account was immediately terminated. To this day I still have no idea what happened, if it was something I did (I hadn’t even touched my KDP account for months except for adjusting a few book prices) or if it was the work of spammers.

I have been on the publishing journey since 2011, when I published my first book, The Wilted Rose, through assisted self publishing. That was not sustainable for me because of the cost, which can reach $1000 plus for one title.

In 2016 I started publishing through CreateSpace/KDP, Amazon’s self publishing tools. Everything was fine for two years until last December, when I was shut down the first time.

I started a new account with new details in January this year. This was against KDP’s terms and conditions, but Amazon clearly didn’t have my best interests as an author in mind, so I didn’t care for theirs. They didn’t want to play fair, so why should I? But they’ve obviously made the connection, and once again I find myself in this position.

Once again I was devastated. Since I started my publishing journey, all I had ever wanted to do was share my writing with the world. But I was so sick and tired of the struggle of being an independent author through Amazon. It had been nothing but difficult for the past year.

This second shut down absolutely floored me. I had no idea what I was going to do next. I was back at square one. And just like back then, I still didn’t have $1000s to spend on assisted self publishing. And I was banned for life from publishing on the world’s biggest online retailer. I was devastated and demotivated. This all happened three days before I was scheduled for a book signing at a local bookstore here on the Gold Coast, and I thought seriously about cancelling the event. Why promote my books if I couldn’t produce and distribute them? But I was so glad I did. Everyone reassured me that there are plenty of other avenues, they may not be the biggest, but they do the job and they’re far easier to use and deal with, and they actually care about authors.

I also remembered that while the biggest online bookstore didn’t care, the small independent bookstore I was sitting in WAS supporting me, and so many others like me! I am so truly fortunate to be part of such a wonderful writers community here on the Gold Coast.

I’d had a goal to transition my work over to IngramSpark for awhile, and now that the Amazon/KDP door had slammed firmly shut, I knew it was time. But it is a lot of new information to learn, and being so close to the end of the year, I decided to leave trying to republish my books until 2019.

For the remainder of the year I was going to work on getting the first of my Irish crime novels finished. This book was an ongoing project I’d been working on sporadically for two years. It was my ‘life’s work’, my passion project, the book I was born to write. I knew I would benefit from the burst of creativity. However, I quickly found myself spiralling back down the same obsessive, neurotic rabbit hole I’d fallen into throughout the New Neighbours revise. This project was so far from completion, and I hated that. I found myself in a love/hate relationship with the novel. A year ago I never wanted to stop working on it. Well my wish came true, because just when I thought I was getting closer to finishing, there was more research to be done, more scenes to be written.
Sometimes I felt totally sick of it and wanted to throw it out the window. Some days the story just wouldn’t flow, and ideas constantly contradicted each other. There were nights I’ve stayed awake sobbing over pen and paper trying to draw water from the stone of writer’s block. The perfectionist control freak in me unable to walk away until I finish something, but pushing things doesn’t work. If anything it makes it worse.

By Christmas, I felt completely and utterly depleted. Over the year, bit by bit, the joy of writing had been chipped away. Everything I did in 2018 seemed to be met by challenge and failure, and I wondered whether I was meant to be doing any of it. Maybe I wasn’t destined to be the successful author I aspire to be.

I had gotten to the stage where even the smallest task, or even the shortest amount of writing time, made me feel overwhelmed and incomplete. My self worth has always been wrapped up in writing. If I wasn’t happy with something to do with my writing, I wasn’t happy in myself. I don’t know who I am outside of writing, and I am reluctant to let myself be anything other than that. This is all I’ve ever known. This is what I’ve worked so hard for. I have had to overcome so much criticism of my life’s chosen path, and I feel like if I let myself be anything else, that my critics would be right. Now, the whole framework of my book publishing, everything I have built and become familiar with, has come undone, and I have been forced to see who I am when I am not writing.

I don’t like being demoted back to the start. I’ve always strived to be the best in whatever I was doing. I wanted to be a professional. I had to do this to feel like the sacrifice of taking a ‘normal, more reliable path was justified.

In the weeks leading up to the New Year, I’ve wanted to start setting some goals for 2019, but I have felt so apprehensive. So scared, so resistant to be vulnerable to the excitement and enthusiasm associated with new projects, out of fear it will all just be trampled on. That I will once again be shown exactly why I have locked myself up in recent times, and should not let myself be vulnerable to excitement and enthusiasm of new plans.

The truth is there has been no magical epiphany upon which I have suddenly found all the inspiration, motivation and energy I need to pick myself up out of this funk. Any time I feel anything slightly resembling enthusiasm, my fearful ego swoops in to protect me from the potential disappointment. I know I am the only one who can put a stop to this thinking, and it will be a matter of small habits, step by step, gradually allowing myself to be vulnerable to life again. The lesson that I can see working its way through to the surface is to go bravely for my 2019 goals, but to be prepared for things to not always work out when and how I want. That life is not punishing but redirecting.

A big struggle for me has been putting positive expectations ahead of what I can see in my current reality. Ahead of every piece of evidence I have for the contrary. To put my faith in the notion that good is on its way, before I can see it. When life is collapsing around you, it is hard to put your thoughts ahead of what is happening in your current reality, especially when there is no guarantee that your being vulnerable won’t hurt. I guess I am going into 2019 with a more rational optimism than previous years. I’ve seen how life’s difficulties can take you down a path so much worse than what you expected. But there is still enough spark in me to not want to give up. I want to discover more of who I am without the external factors, the foundation that has held me together when all else has been stripped away.

Thank-you for coming with me on this crazy journey over the past twelve months, and I look forward to your company in 2019. Happy New Year!

Blog

2018: What The F%#k was That??

I’m sitting here writing this on Sunday December 30th, at the exit station of this rollercoaster of a year. Looking back in exhausted bewilderment at the 365 days just gone. Thinking ‘What the f%#k was that?’

For me, 2018 has proved to be a major evolutionary stage. I’m still coming to terms with this transformation and allowing it to integrate into my life, and so I have decided to sit down and write these posts to process the year just past. Life has its trials and tribulations, and I am reflecting on the events of the year, and how they have impacted me, particularly as a writer. I have chosen to share my experiences in the hope that anyone, especially other writers, that have had similar experiences will know they are not alone in their challenges.

I don’t know about you, but for me this year was purely about survival. Getting by, month by month, week by week, day by day, hour by hour, second by second. This year was merciless. I could never have imagined the relentless stream of challenges that 2018 would present: uncertainty and fear in every aspect of my life, including employment, finances and health.

This year I battled with the basics- staying positive, clearing my energy, practicing forgiveness. I’ve been shown who I am without resources and help, and although I know I have been strong to get through it, I have still felt so weak. 2018 has completely broken me down. I know this is so that I can be born anew on the other side, but at the moment I’m still feeling dazed and confused!

I’ve worked hard to keep my writing goals afloat throughout 2018. Being young with no children, no mortgage, little debt and relatively few responsibilities, my writing time has never been challenged. Up until this point in my life I had lots of spare time to write, and this is how most of my days off work were spent. This all changed when my fiance suffered a debilitating back injury at work in 2017. I’ve posted about my experience as his carer if you’d like to read it HERE.

My passion for the written word has never known challenges like it has in 2018. I did my best to keep pursuing my writing goals, I found I was being met with blockages in everything I tried to did. During my unemployment between January and April, I barely worked on any writing at all. I treated job searching as an absolute priority, and even after spending all day applying for countless jobs, I didn’t allow myself any writing time. My energy was depleted by the mundane and soul-destroying task of searching and applying for jobs, and writing was the one activity I could draw some joy from amidst all the ongoing stress and instability. But I had also convinced myself that dedicating any time to writing- even just a few minutes at the end of the day- would be irresponsible.

Thankfully, this didn’t last long. After awhile of denying myself the joyful reprieve of writing, I realised I could no longer stand to endure another day without indulging in the written word, and I began chipping away at some ongoing projects.

In January 2018 I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety and sought professional help. I was just about to leave my Christmas casual position at The Body Shop, and was once again looking down the barrel of unemployment, whilst also dealing with the physical, mental and emotional impact of Greg’s injury on us as individuals and as a couple.

It was this year that the stress of our situation started to show physical symptoms in my body. I was suffering severe tension headaches, which became so bad I was physically sick on a number of occasions. One particularly intense episode sent me to the emergency room. I went to the doctor who sent me for an X-Ray, but the follow-up appointment would reveal an unexpected health scare.

While the X-rays showed no problems with my neck and back, a recent Pap Smear test had returned am abnormal result. While this is common and does not mean you have cancer, it is still scary, even more so as I have known of two women who had sadly passed away from the disease. I was referred for a colposcopy, an exploratory procedure for which I would wait four months for an appointment. Despite the doctor’s reassurances, it was a nerve-wracking wait.

My neck and pack pain persisted, but MRI tests showed no complications with my VP shunt and no fluid retention in my brain. After all those tests, these symptoms were put down to stress-related muscle tension. I sought out a physiotherapist who specialised in treating headaches, and I have been receiving progressively positive results.

These health scares were a big wake up call to me to ensure I was looking after myself properly.

In April, after almost two months of unemployment, I took a month-long temporary casual position at Typo during the Commonwealth Games, and just as that was finishing up I was offered a position with Jeanswest. During my time working there I gained substantial skills and confidence and worked with some genuinely wonderful people, however unfortunately my overall experience with the company was negative. Overall, I felt very unsupported by some members of management. I not only felt that my questions were not answered, but also that management were actively resistant toward training and supporting new staff. I felt the high expectation of performance and customer service placed on store staff by the company was not matched by training and support from management.

In July I was given the all-clear for my colposcopy, which was a huge relief. On the 20th of that month I published Paid To Dance: Asha’s Story Part Two, the third and final book in the series I had been working on since 2016. It was the end of an era, but I was ready to get started on something fresh.

In that same month Greg and I were given a notice to leave our apartment at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast. The owners wanted to renovate the property, so we had to move out. It was at this time I decided to take a break from writing and publishing. There were some pressing non-writing matters that were increasingly demanding my attention. Since leaving my full-time job in September 2017 my attention had been reduced from all things creative to merely surviving financially, emotionally and mentally. But I didn’t want to just survive anymore. I needed to re-establish stability so that I could properly focus on my passion again.

So I decided to take a break until mid-late September. I wasn’t not going to stop writing completely- I simply couldn’t! I was just going to take a step back from blogging and social media. I was not going to be launching any new books in 2018, however I had planned to republish all of my short stories as individual Kindle ebooks.

I never thought I would take a ‘break’ from writing and publishing, but for some time I’d felt the increasing need to pause. I had pushed through the challenges and was determined to stay on track with my writing, publishing, marketing and promotion. Trying to maintain consistency. I wanted to take some time to review my strategies, to ensure I was making the most of these platforms and not wasting time.

We relocated to Coolangatta on the Southern Gold Coast in early September, and this was the hardest house move I have ever done. Greg helped where he could, but he was extremely limited because of his injury and pain. It was mostly up to me to get the place packed up. I also performed the bond clean, with help from my mum and aunty.

After the move I resigned from Jeanswest. The performance expectation placed on staff was high, and I felt that the company was somewhat out of touch with the impact of these tasks and expectations on frontline team members, and personally I would like to see the company place more value on the health and wellbeing of store staff. My expenses had been reduced by the move, and so there was space for me to leave and find something more suitable. By moving house I was purging many stress contributors from my life, and that job was just another stressor I simply did not need and could do without.

Once we had settled in to our new place at Coolangatta, I was keen to get back on track with my writing projects, however it was not as easy as I had thought it would be. In my next post I will share with you the challenges I faced trying to re-establish my writing routine, and how this paved the way for a complete transformation of myself as a writer and as a person.