From one writer to another…

I read a post (you can read it here) recently by the brilliantly talented Heather Mackey that got the wheels turning inside my head, and had me evaluating myself as a writer and as a person. Heather explains, using the example of a memorable Chinese story, how she learned about herself throughout her writing journey, and how she has come to appreciate those lessons now that her book, Dreamwood, is becoming a reality for her.

[As a side note, I’d like to congratulate Heather Mackey. I look forward to reading Dreamwood, and I’m proud of your accomplishment after all the hard work you’ve poured into this book. As a writer, I can understand the struggle, and I want you to know that your contribution is appreciated, and your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed; at least with this writer.]

Recognizing Your Value

One of the hardest things I struggled with as a writer, was recognizing my value as a writer. Like Heather, I heard dozens of times, “Oh, wow…you’re really good at this.” Of course, I brushed that off most of the time, assuming that the person complimenting me was just being nice or trying to spare my feelings. Even winning awards and scholarships since elementary school for my writing, and scoring well on every writing test I sat for over the years, it didn’t seem that I would ever recognize my worth as a writer. I still struggle with this, and with the overwhelming sense that no matter what I say, it isn’t worth hearing to the rest of the world.

Heather goes on to explain her struggles, even after securing some recognition from within the industry. I feel I will probably be the same. I know that regardless of how well I write my manuscript, there will be a flaw, there will be a problem, there will be an inconsistency within my story that some editor will point out–and I’ll feel like the world’s worst writer. I’m my own worst critic. Truly, I hate everything I write, only because I know better than anyone that it isn’t perfect. Heather’s story encourages me to write anyway, and to keep the self-abuse down to a minimum whenever possible.

Knowing What is Truly Important

This post taught me more than the simple lesson that I’ll never be perfect. I already knew that. In fact, I think that’s what I crave more than anything–someone to tell me WHAT’S WRONG with my story. When I get reader input on my manuscript, I’m always secretly hoping there is something so glaringly insufficient in my writing that I’ll be forced to go back and do a better job. The worst part is that I consistently get the same response; “This is incredible. Now, where’s the rest?”

However, Heather taught me something I hadn’t expected to learn, and something I haven’t yet experienced enough to have learned on my own. [Another personal side note: Thank you, Heather. I’ll hug your neck one day for this.] I knew that writing was a lot of work. I knew it was, like any career, more about the effort you put in than the skill or talent you possess. In the same way that two musicians can sit side-by-side, playing the same piece perfectly, and sometimes you can’t tell which player began studying the instrument at the age of three and which one started playing in middle school…sometimes you can’t tell the “natural” writers from the ones that have put a lot of time, money, studying, and effort into their craft.

Becoming A Student

In a nutshell, I’ve learned that I must learn. I must become a student of writing in my everyday life if I want to truly succeed as a writer. If I want to reap any sort of reward from my hard work, I have to keep working at being a writer. I have to keep practicing, and I have to keep learning. I will never learn everything there is to know about writing, and I’ll never be “the best writer in the world.” However, I will be the best writer for the stories I tell, and I will do the best job I can for the audience that wants to read the stories I give them.

So, remember that you’re a student. No matter your profession, keep learning. It’s the only way to be sure that you’re doing the best you can.

Back at it…

Sunset in Lake Wales, Florida

(c) 2014 Jennifer Welch

Getting Healthy

It may have taken me longer than expected, but finally…I’m on the road to recovery. I finally have medication that seems to alleviate the majority of my seizures, and the ones I do have are not nearly as bad and don’t last as long. It’s nice to finally be able to get through the day without the awful feeling of being unwell. I still have trouble now and then with communication (something that isn’t exactly good for a writer) but for the most part, I’m able to get my thoughts out verbally without having a mental breakdown from the inability to vocalize the overwhelming sensations caused by my temporal lobe seizures. The absence seizures are almost gone, and as I said, even the ones I have aren’t that bad. They last less than a minute (so I guess they aren’t technically classified as seizures…I could be wrong so don’t quote me on that). Anyway, the point is…I’m healthier than I was, it’s just unfortunate that this couldn’t have happened sooner.

Personal Lives Exploding

My personal life exploded around me at the end of April. Without sharing the details, I can give you a general idea of the situation as it stands now. I’m sure some of my family and friends are wondering what in the world happened, but it isn’t as simple as picking a place or time where things collapsed. It was a series of instances that finally gathered into one pile of crap that I just couldn’t ignore any longer. I’m aware that everyone will have their opinions about this whole thing, and rest assured that I respect and value your opinion. However, simply put, you weren’t there. You don’t have the necessary information to assess who is right or who is wrong, and honestly it has nothing to do with you. Even more important, I don’t want you (or anyone else) to decide who is right or who is wrong. It’s irrelevant. This isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about two people that simply can’t be together. As I’ve said from the beginning, I don’t want anyone picking sides. It isn’t fair to him, or me, or you. So just don’t do it.

In the same way that a marriage is between two people, a divorce is also between those two people. If you weren’t in the marriage, how can you possibly understand the divorce? I’m comfortable taking responsibility for this, so don’t think that I’m going to spout some “we decided…” crap at you. Let me make this perfectly clear so there are no misunderstandings later: TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE, HE DID NOT WANT THIS. I wanted this. I needed this. It was a decision I made with God’s guidance, and whether you believe that or not is irrelevant. I knew my relationship with God, and my husband, when I made the decision. So, WE (my husband and I) didn’t decide to divorce.

No, we didn’t decide anything. Unfortunately, that’s part of the reason I chose to leave. Suffice it to say that I finally made a decision though…it just wasn’t the one anyone was expecting. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I expected this decision either. I almost didn’t realize I was leaving until I was gone, but once it was done (and my heart was finally done) there were no regrets. I don’t regret walking away. I don’t regret following my God away from something that I knew wasn’t pleasing to Him. He called me for something better, and I was ready to follow Him and find out what that something could possibly be; and I’m so glad I did.

Moving On…Not Like I Expected

God seems to have a sense of humor, and I don’t think anyone can argue that point with me. When I walked away from my marriage, I truly didn’t know what to expect and I knew that this was going to be a journey unlike any I’d ever experienced. I spent the first few days reflecting on my life, learning more about myself in those few days than I thought possible. I tried to help my children understand what was happening, I prayed a lot, and tried to build a home at my mother’s house for myself and my precious babies. I knew it still wasn’t enough.

I got a job with a friend I’d made during the previous month as I’d been searching for answers from God that He seemed unwilling to give. Like most people I’ve met in my life, Warren fell into my acquaintance and became my friend before I’d even made the decision to be friends with him. I started working for Warren (he owns Warren Cleaning, and if you’re in the Tampa/St. Pete or Polk County, FL area and need a cleaner, I highly recommend him) within days of leaving my husband. However, it simply wasn’t going to be enough, so I had to search out other employment options as well.

I called on another friend, and that’s where the story starts to get interesting. He’d offered me a job before I left my husband, but for various personal reasons this situation wasn’t going to work. I declined because of these personal reasons and never gave it another thought…until Warren told me, “You know, this is only going to be for a couple of days a week, so you might want to look into another job as well. Maybe one at night…” He just confirmed my fears that this job was not going to be enough for me to support myself and the four beautiful creatures depending on me. That’s when I remembered the job I’d been offered before. It was 7 days a week, technically in my chosen field (for a newspaper), and the work was done at night. I could do that job and still keep my “day job.” So, I came home that day–the last day of work for that week–and started trying to call my friend, Andrew.

What was intended as a job opportunity turned into so much more–and I’m perfectly okay with that. Just two weeks after leaving my husband, I came to realize that Andrew was quickly turning into more than a friend. We’d hit it off as friends so quickly that now I don’t see how I didn’t realize the potential was there for more way before it ever started. I know there are people that will try to say that Andrew is the reason I left my husband, and while those opinions are not going to cause me to lose any sleep, I want to publicly address the issue now, before it gets out of hand.

So…Here’s Where We Stand

As of today, I am separated from my husband. I am writing. I’m seriously healthier than I have been in the previous ten years of my life. I miss my children, but I’m hopeful because my God is with me. I’ve moved out of the only home I had left in my hometown because of some circumstances beyond my control that I can’t share with you until after my divorce is finalized. I’ve moved to Gainesville, Florida where I’ll be starting classes at Santa Fe College as soon as my transcripts arrive. I’m living with a couple that opened their home to me when they didn’t have to, showing me more Christian kindness than I’ve met with in a very long time. Yes, I am dating Andrew. No, I never saw him in that role prior to my separation. If you don’t believe that, I don’t care. God knows. However, if you need proof, I can point you in the direction of half a dozen (probably more) witnesses who can and will attest to the fact that prior to my separation I had made it clear to this man that he didn’t have a shot–and I was usually really mean about that fact when verbalizing this to him. He never had a chance. I’d told him on many occasions that he would never have a chance with me, we were only friends, and we’d only ever be friends. Apparently, God thinks that is the best place for a relationship to start.

I’m following my God, learning what REAL relationships look like, and I love it. I’m starting with Him, and letting Him show me where everyone (my parents, my brothers, my children, and even Andrew) belongs. I’m done trying to figure things out without Him. I think that was kind of His point all along. He had to get me completely alone before I’d let Him lead the way. I’m stubborn, but we already knew that, didn’t we?

How tough is motherhood?

Beautiful. It’s just great.

Mummy Says...

I’m forced awake before 6am everyday for another round of this thing that is life. I’m always woken by screams after a night of perhaps five broken hours of sleep. I tend to the basic necessities of two small human beings – I feed, wash and clothe them. I express my love for them. Over the next couple of hours, I lift one or both of them continuously, I reason with the larger one using negotiating skills that would make my country proud. I settle disputes, I calm anger, I kiss away pain. I make decisions for them, I make choices about the things that matter most in their lives. At the time that most London office workers sit down at their desks for the day, I drink my second cup of cold but strong coffee. No-one ever says thank you.

This is motherhood. It is not the world’s hardest…

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St George’s Day Celebration

Hey Jesse, let’s celebrate this next year. Deal? Bethany can come too. Maybe, Eddie.

Don Charisma

We like celebrating the past over here in England, and what better way than dressing up a St George (even if you are a woman), and wheeling your best mate around in a wheel-barrow race. The race was strictly for over 18’s as both the wheeler and the wheelie had to down a 1/2 pint of beer on passing a pub, and there are about 4 on this short 200m high street. Oh, and they had to do the course twice, most of it uphill.

Sound like fun to me, so long as you don’t fall off the barrow.

St George, or Georgina as she's called these days St George, or Georgina as she’s called these days

Here comes the dragon Here comes the dragon

Fun in a wheel barrow Fun in a wheel barrow

Normal night out for the rugby lads Normal night out for the rugby lads

Taken in London, UK © dannyboybroderick



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Picture of the Day: A Satellite View of Earth on Earth Day

So cool…I had to share.

TwistedSifter

A SATELLITE VIEW OF EARTH ON EARTH DAY

EARTH FROM SPACE ON EARTH DAY 2014 NASA

Satellite Image by NASA

NOAA’s GOES-East satellite captured this stunning view of the Americas on Earth Day, April 22, 2014 at 11:45 UTC/7:45 a.m. EDT. The data from GOES-East was made into an image by the NASA/NOAA GOES Project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

In North America, clouds associated with a cold front stretch from Montreal, Canada, south through the Tennessee Valley, and southwest to southern Texas bringing rain east of the front today. A low pressure area in the Pacific Northwest is expected to bring rainfall in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, stretching into the upper Midwest, according to NOAA’s National Weather Service. That low is also expected to bring precipitation north into the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. Another Pacific low is moving over southern Nevada and the National Weather Service expects rain from that system…

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Who’s the April fool?

We were going to introduce Jesse this month.

We were going to cover the release of (N)ception‘s new album.

There were lots of plans.

There’s really no excuse for not doing your job, unless that excuse is seizures…I hope.

I hope that’s enough for everyone to realize WHY this stuff isn’t happening.

As I sit here, tapping out words on this frustrating keyboard, it takes me about twice as long as usual. I’m trying to kick my brain into high gear. It isn’t working.

I woke up on the couch. No clue how I got there. If I was 20, I wouldn’t worry, but I’m not. At my age, waking up and having no idea where you are or how you got there is scary. I’m terrified I’ll wake up one day and not recognize my family.

So, there is content coming…I promise. I just have to deal with a seizure disorder first.

If I disappear, you know why, but I am getting a few others ready to go today so they can start posting for you too! Hope you guys are having a great week. Prayers appreciated. Facing lots of invasive and uncomfortable procedures.

Life=Mankind 101

Life. Let’s break it down.

Life (yours specifically) can be broken into smaller stories in several different ways. First, you were an infant. Then, you became a toddler. After that, I’ll bet you probably became a child. At some point, childhood drifted away and you moved up in graduating class at Life University. Eventually, you become a teenager, and this is where we run into some problems. Some grow out of that, and some don’t. Some people seem to drop out of life around this age, while others seem to keep trying, but in some areas they lag behind and never reach the next set of courses. In each set of divisions, we begin to see more and more “break-downs” of humanity. We don’t just have children in the world. We have children that are healthy, some that aren’t, some are girls, and some are boys, but the point here is that each human being is tasked with the lessons and experiences that were specifically designed (in this writer’s opinion) for them.

Understanding the goal.

When you enter high school or college, there is one goal. Graduation. The thing we forget sometimes is that we didn’t just graduate from a high school or university. Before that, some of us graduated from preschool. Then, we finished elementary school. Middle school was next, and this is where most of the people I know were introduced to the idea of graduation or commencement. Some lucky people were graduated in formal ceremonies from preschool and beyond, but this is a practice that was rare until recently (as standards for preschoolers entering kindergarten were raised, a celebration of their achievement was introduced). Unfortunately, we tend to forget that regardless of the number of degrees you hold from Life University, we’re all studying for the final exams, the final degree…Ph.D in Death.

Live to learn, learn to live.

If we focus our attention on our studies, we’ll be able to look back over our various degrees when we finally stand at the front of the class to accept our Ph.D in Death and be proud of all that we accomplished. There will be no mourning the loss of time and attention, we won’t wonder if we might have been something greater and we certainly won’t care about the mistakes we made during “class” or the exams we failed. It won’t matter that you didn’t learn how to fold a fitted sheet, and nobody will care that you never learned how to speak another language. It won’t matter one bit if you didn’t make it all the way to Paris, and nobody will contest your right to the Ph.D in Death just because you didn’t vote Republican in that one election. Your choices don’t make you who you are, contrary to popular belief. Your reaction to life is what makes you who you are, and if you aren’t learning something from the coursework of your life, then you might be facing regrets later on, and making the rest of your coursework more difficult.

How to earn extra credit.

The easiest way to earn extra credit at Life University is to study individuals while you study Humanity 101. We all have to learn about humans. We learn that some are wonderful, some are terrible, some love power, some love people, some don’t care about anyone but themselves, and the list goes on and on. There are more than seven billion distinct individuals in this world, all with a different set of challenges to complete before they graduate to the next level in life. Pick one. Help them achieve the next goal. Help them study, and watch them graduate to the next set of courses. Don’t do anything that would hinder their progress. Offer help when you can, encouragement when it’s needed, and don’t forget to ask lots of questions. Asking questions is how we all learn. Also, remember that just because someone asks you a question, it doesn’t mean you’re obligated to answer. However, our overall goal is to learn, and helping others do that by being a study buddy is the best way to earn extra credit. It won’t help you get that Ph.D sooner (but really…who wants it soon?) and it won’t make you better than anyone else, but it’s an extra lesson. It’s more learning. It’s more experience to enhance all those degrees you’re carrying around. What’s the point in having a degree in fishing if you never have a fish fry with your friends? Why earn that degree in sewing if you hide that sewing machine and never make a blanket for a baby in need? Be intentional about being in people’s lives, and you will be exercising the skills you have while building a new skill set. Not to mention you’ll make some friends along the way, and your mutual studies will help both of you in the end. In other words, be a teacher and a student. We’ll all get further that way.

Humanity 101 and you.

Be aware of what your story (your life, choices, reactions, etc) teaches. At the end of the day, people are learning something from you. Whether they learn how to overcome or how to fail at life is entirely up to you. Pay close attention to what you say, do, think, feel, and how you behave in every situation. Learn to deal with your emotions in the appropriate ways, and learn how to use your struggles to strengthen yourself and others. When you make mistakes, learn how to share those as well, because sometimes the easiest lessons we learn are the ones we learn from other people’s mistakes. For example, I watched my father struggle through drug addiction. This persisted through my entire life. I learned early that I didn’t want that. I bypassed the practical exam, and took the written test instead. However, I am pleased to add that my father is now clean and sober. He’s healed, after years of abuse…because someone shared their story. Someone helped him finish that course in Life University. He put in the hard work to complete it. [Congratulations, Daddy. I’ve always been proud of you, but now I have proof that my dad is a rockstar…because he beat addiction’s butt.]

Life will go on.

As you journey from one class to the next, from one set of trials and tests to another, just remember that your “grade” doesn’t matter. What matters most is what you took from the lesson. Did you learn something? Did you help someone else learn something? Do you know now the things you need to work on so you can accomplish that goal and graduate that class the next time your cosmic teacher (in my case…God) hands you another pop quiz? Keep learning. Keep living. Don’t give up. If you miss a lesson now, it could hurt you later (think of trying to do algebra if you had never learned to count). If you aren’t learning and growing…you are missing out and asking for trouble. Keep going forward, and grab a few hands along the way.

 

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