Thursday, August 28, 2008
I get up between 6:30 and 7, and go through my morning routine, which involves taking the dog out, dressing, making the bed, feeding the dog, training the dog, sweeping the floor, and putting a load of laundry in the washing machine.
Then it's time to eat, during which I enter my first dink around period. I intend to get right to work on the book, but instead, keep getting pulled off into other directions. For example, I go into the bedroom to get a pen, see the rubber stamp on the desk and decide to finish stamping my three new Hero Arts DesignBlock stamps into my catalog. Done with the first stamp, I discover the stamp cleaning pad is dirty and I have to clean it before I can go on. In the process of that, I discover something else and somehow... two hours disappear. Then I go in and start working. And may get sidetracked again by reading email and blogs.
Maybe another hour disappears. Then, annoyed with myself for all the dinking around I finally Get To Work. I concentrate for awhile, do some heavy thinking, tinkering, analysis. Figure out what exactly is happening, what exactly is bad, and maybe what I need to do about it. Or more often, just that I do need to do something, but not what I actually need to do. Then there might be more sidetracking. Walking about. Lying on the couch watching penguins.
At some point I hang out the clothes, brush Quigley and bring him in and this is always good for at least a half hour of distraction. I usually put him on an 8 minute stay sometime in there (we're working our way to half an hour) And I eat lunch.
Then more work interspersed with who knows what. Finally, Quigley hits his active stage and has to be put back outside because he's too annoying inside. Then it's time for Bible Class.
After that I start dinner and we go off to walk Quigley or visit the dog park. Then it's home, eat dinner and do the dishes amidst much moving of Quigley from the house to the back yard, to the house, to the yard, etc. (depending on his behavior, which is often bad in the evening). During this time I try to get a blog post in. Which maybe makes it obvious why sometimes I just can't get it together to do one.
Have a great Labor Day Weekend. We're in for lots of rain. (We're having a big thunderstorm right now, in fact.) I still love the rain, but I am very ready for all this humidity to GO AWAY.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Anyway, here's another view on burnout/creative exhaustion by SF/F writer Kate Elliott who, according to the bio on the site, "is the author of Spirit Gate, coming in October 2006. She has also written Crown of Stars, a seven volume fantasy novel starting with King’s Dragon, and The Novels of the Jaran, and has co-authored The Golden Key with Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson. In her real life as Alis Rasmussen, she is particularly interested in history, archaeology, religion, exercise, and the joy of twins and schnauzers. Or you could talk to her about leyning. She lives in Hawaii."
I've read Jaran, years and years ago, the first in her Novels of the Jaran. I remember scenes from it, but no context and recall it in a favorable light, but after that, memory fails me.
Anyway, she has some interesting things to say about Burnout and Creative Exhaustion, which I found both encouraging and supportive of my own situation -- in that I need to be careful and not get on that "I'm going to FORCE myself to write no matter what." (And I could have today, but given that I'm simmering a new version of Chapter 6, I didn't)
I like what she has to say about writing versus creating: "An experienced writer possesses the skill set to produce words, but the ability to CREATE is not always present."
I also liked her connection between real world exhaustion and creative exhaustion, particularly in the realm of real world responsibilities eating up creative energy.
Much food for thought, for me anyway.
Here's the link: http://www.deepgenre.com/wordpress/kateelliott/craft/burnout
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Of course from Quigley's position you can see the teeth in the bear's open mouth, so perhaps this accounted for his alarm.
Today I worked my way through the end of chapter 5. It was difficult, but I think it's close to being "right". Then I looked through chapter 6 and it's here where things are going to get really difficult. For one thing, I don't think there's much of anything in chapter 6 that amounts to anything. So I'm going to have to do some cutting and shifting and figuring. What I hope to do is move some elements forward from where they are currently in the story. Or if not that, I could develop my pov character and her friend a bit more than I have. I'll have to see where the Lord leads.
Oh, and in yesterday's post I tried to show how Pastor Rory Clark had personalized one of his concepts using these little arrows or whatever they are: <
What it should have said (and I've fixed it on the blog itself) is:
God considers [insert your problem here] to be His responsibility.
Just wanted to clarify that because the line has been one I've really enjoyed these last few days. And one I've used all the time.
Monday, August 25, 2008
The funny thing is that I was talking about burnout to one of my friends last week, likening it to a spider spinning his web out of his very guts. When the web is spun, the spider is literally empty. Then the next morning, I found this web. I know writing has been compared by others to web spinning, both in the complexity of the stories, and in the fact that you use something inside yourself to do it. And when you are done, you can be emotionally, mentally and even physically "empty."
Sometimes the web doesn't work out for whatever reason (eg, it was constructed in the wrong place) and has to be redone. To really bring home the point, right after I took this shot, Quigley ran under the web and tore free on of the lines that anchored it to the ground, effectively destroying the whole thing. It was a little bit shocking to me that it could have so easily and casually been destroyed.
But that is the world we live in. And it's cool to go from that to the fact that what we have in Christ is not going to be destroyed. The anchor line there is secure and nothing will ever be able to destroy it.
This has been a very cool day, literally (it's rained all day) and figuratively. I had a lot of good reminders that none of this is up to me. God is the one who does the promoting, He's the one who's going to do the tasks He's assigned me, and I should slamming all my cares, all of them, every-stinkin'-one ALL of them on Him. And then stop fretting about them, stop thinking about them.
1 Peter 5:6,7 Humble yourself therefore under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting ALL your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.
In last Friday's lesson, guest pastor Rory Clark pointed out that the English "He cares for you" does not do justice to the real meaning in the Greek idiom. A better translation would be, "He considers all your problems to be His responsibility." Pastor Rory had us personalize it:
"God considers (insert your problem here)
God considers Quigley's dietary indiscretions to be His responsibility.
God considers the fate of my books to be His responsibility.
God considers the writing of Enclave to be His responsibility.
How cool is that? Speaking of Enclave, I did email my editor and she called me this morning. We had a great talk, and I am so blessed to be writing for Bethany House. Sometimes I can't believe what a great deal I've got going here! Anyway, I have a new deadline, Nov 30. And I have a fair degree of confidence now that this book is going to work out okay. Already I'm seeing great improvement, and more and more ideas are rolling in, more and more connections are being made. What I want now is to find the elements that are going to cause me to fall in love with this book. With Arena it didn't happen until one of the later drafts (maybe the next to last one), and really I've only just begun to work on Enclave, despite the fact I've been "working" on it for a year.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I don't think that was an accident. I remembered some of the things I'd read about it, and more than that I recalled the experience of another novelist, a woman who had been writing something like two books a year for ten years. One day she just could not go on. Could not write a word. No matter how she tried. So she took a year off.
It occurred to me that that was very much like what I'd experienced after I turned in the first draft of The Enclave last June. In fact, it wasn't just that I couldn't write anything, I couldn't much do anything else, either. There was all that sitting around, staring out of windows, and then it took me a long time before I could even bear to think about working on this book again. Even though I got the editor feedback in the early part of July, it wasn't for another two weeks or so that I could make myself get back to it.
Of course there were lots of other things going on around that time, but it seemed odd that I was literally unable to make myself get to it.
So recalling all of that, last week I decided to research burnout. What I learned was interesting. The Internet article, "Preventing Burnout," describes it as
"a state of emotional and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It can occur when you feel overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest or motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces your productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly hopeless, powerless, cynical and resentful."
"Burnout and stress are not the same. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and pyschologically. Stressrd people can still imagine though, that if they can just get everything under control they'll feel better.
"Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don't see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress is like drowning in responsiblitites, burnout is being all dried up."
For a good part of the summer, that's how I felt: dried up, especially when it came to words.
The articles said that burnout is a gradual process, and that recovering from it takes almost as long as its development. Symptoms include cognitive and motor difficulties including lack of concentration and restlessness, and turning to escapist behaviors such as... shopping binges (hmm... like buying rubber stamps?? thinking about buying stamps? making cards?) to escape your feelings of reduced personal accomplishment. (resulting perhaps from your actual reduced accomplishment since you're spending all your time thinking about buying stamps. ) Because another of the symptoms is a definitely a reduction of productivity.
For awhile I thought maybe I was close to being burned out. But I don't feel hopeless, and I don't feel cynical, and my motivation is returning. I think creatively I was just exhausted and am probably still depleated.
Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday I got in some good work on Enclave. ...but it was slow, exacting, mentally taxing work. I revised chapter 4, paying special attention to motivations of the principle characters (not just the pov), and to the concepts of scene and sequel. What was the story goal? What was the scene goal? Does the conflict in the scene actually reflect these goals? What is his thought process in this sequel?
I ran into lots of inconsistencies and areas I'd not considered before. Things like having my hero assume things that, now that I thought it through he would never assume given everything he'd seen to that point. Which meant I had to change the thinking and the decisions and the conversation and the scene goal... But the changes resulted in definite improvements.
The next day I did the same for chapter 5, except that some of the changes that came out of that work sent me back to 4 for another pass. Then back to 5 for its second pass, more cutting (there's been lots of that) more focus, more thinking. Sometimes I'd get to the point where I just could not think anymore. I couldn't hold two thoughts together in my mind. Couldn't generate any thoughts at all relative to the issue, subject or problem. If I tried, everything snarled and ended in blankness. So I had to get up and do something else.
And I'm not getting on my case for not going back to it real fast, either, if I don't feel like it. (Or just get distracted -- I figure I need the distraction) I'm also trying to just focus on today's work and not hurry myself through it. In the past I've not wanted to do the kind of slow, close work I've been doing because "there wasn't time." Well, there still might not be time, but it's what the work needs. And I think it's what I need, too.
However, given the scope of what needs to be done and thought through and worked out on this manuscript, I seriously doubt I'll be able to do it all in the month I have remaining. Of course, God could always work a miracle... But I probably better let my editor know.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
"God's been preparing all of us as a body of Believers to learn the importance of one word -- love. We all need to recognize and improve the love we have for one another. It begins with you taking care of your own soul first, your relationship with God,. Then you worry about your relationship with your family, church, ministry, nation...
"Do you have a problem loving others? It's because you don't really love yourself.
"People who recognize their own sins, their own flaws, faults and failures are those who make the best ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Those who're forgiven much recognize how much they have been forgiven. When you see all the ways you fail, you'll have the ability to love others.
"We must take care of those areas closest to us before we can take care of those who are at a distance.
Song of Solomon 1:6 says, "Do not stare at me becuase I am swarth, for the sun has burned me. My mother's sons were angry with me; they made me caretaker of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own vineyard."
"burned" here refers to a believer who is burnt out, who hasn't set aside enough time for himself -- for studying the word, prayer, time with God. If you're going to lay down your life for others, you must first take care of yourself.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
It already seems like an age ago. At church today people asked how my week was, and I could hardly remember. Well, there's been a continuing issue with Quigley. He is acting all fine and lively but his digestive tract has not been right for days, so I've been cooking a lot of rice and examining a lot of droppings.
Tomorrow (Monday) I take my mother for her third chemo session. This time we are bringing our lunches since I expect they will want to go very slowly with the infusion to avoid a repeat of the reaction she had last time.
Here is a snippet from my conference notes that I especiall liked:
Every day when I wake up, I should say, "What does God have planned for me today? What will happen in my life that I can learn of the Lord Jesus Christ and how He responded to life and to His father."
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Quigley came home from his walk with Stu last night just fine, and Stu had gotten another stool sample, similar to the one I had, but in more quantity. Quigley drank and we gave him a bit of Pepto-Bismol as per Internet advice. Then he ate a small bit of rice and chicken, and was much more alert and lively than he'd been all day, playing around and generally being a nice dog. Right before bed he ate another bit of rice and chicken and we decided we didn't need to bring him in this morning (Thursday).
I do think, however, based on the way he's acting today, that he really wasn't feeling well yesterday and was indeed more lethargic than normal. Today he's been very interested in food, hanging around the kitchen, pressing himself against me as he tries to get close to the counter, pouncing on bits of ice if they fall from the freezer, none of which he did yesterday. Today I've already had to lock him in his crate for chewing on the rug, and just now had to chase him out of the office for trying to chew the cardboard boxes of my bookmarks. Whereupon he went outside and wrestled with a large, plastic dog-biscuit can. Again, not how he had behaved yesterday. He's also eaten three times already, and ends by looking for more.
Yesterday, he literally just lay around, getting up only to change rooms. When I put him outside, he lay down where he was.
Also, I have to fill in a bit of back story regarding my experiences with dogs and diarrhea. Our first dog got colonitis one summer when we were staying in Flagstaff -- squirted puddles of bloody diarrhea and had to spend a couple days in the hospital. Our third dog had bloody diarrhea from parvo and had to spend a day in the hospital. Most recently, Bear had diarrhea and vomiting during an acute attack of kidney failure on a Saturday, and I was advised to withhold water and food and wait for the doctor on Monday, when it turned out what I should have done was bring him in immediately for sub-Q fluids. So I'm kinda prepped to get weird about diarrhea that's bloody and doesn't end.
Not that that's any excuse for freaking out, just that I can see I have a weakness there. Of course I have a bigger weakness in repeatedly thinking I have to solve the problems and head off the disasters I'm envisioning, when I should be bringing them to the Lord.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
So I got home Monday night, we took Quigley on his walk and he had runny, watery diarrhea. Well, maybe it was stress, we thought. Or something he ate. No biggie. He seems to get diarrhea somewhat regularly, though not usually all watery.
All of you are now going to face brand new challenges, especially from our best friend's enemy - BEWARE!
The conference has not ended; THE CONFERENCE HAS JUST BEGUN.
But the next day, he still had it. Sometimes it was thicker than others and in late afternoon he left one that had blood in it. So we fed him a bland diet of rice and chicken. He loves rice and chicken and gets all excited just when I'm making the rice. He gobbled down a whole batch of it last night. Then we took him on his walk and though he stopped frequently, he never left enough to even pick up.
This morning when things were a little bit more formed in his first two droppings, with no blood n them, I thought he was getting better. Then he refused to eat. No rice, no chicken, no yogurt (which he loves) -- he wasn't even very interested in the treats during our (very brief) training session. And he seemed very lethargic. Finally I called the vet, and was told to withhold food for the rest of the day and bring in a stool sample this afternoon or tomorrow (Thursday) morning.
Well, when I went out around three o'clock and found he'd just had another squirt, and it was very runny with blood now mixed throughout, I collected as much of it with a spoon as I could (about a tsp) and put into a ziplock bag and took it to the clinic for sampling.
Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to do both parts of the test, though the part that was done didn't show any bacteria or parasites (the other part still could, which means we still don't know anything) (which seems to be the story of my life when it comes to medical tests, both for myself and for my dogs). When I was asked if Quigley was being normal in all respects except for this, I said no, and told about his lack of interest in eating, the lethargy, and the limited drinking. That wasn't good, and I was advised to bring him in tomorrow, along with another stool sample, because he might need to be watched or get fluids.
The additional complicating factor in all this is that it turns out my husband doesn't think Quigley's acting particularly lethargic. Apparently he's been acting like this for the whole week I was away. If he's still eager to take his walk, and able to do so, then he's behaving as he has been for the last 9 days. If that is so, then we don't need to bring him in tomorrow (Thursday) and have him watched and get fluids but can go ahead with our original plan to wait until Thursday night/Friday morning to see if he's going to get better before going in to the vet at all. Arg.
I can soooo see that this little affair has been orchestrated to produce maximum uncertainty and confusion and distraction. Why am I not surprised? (Our battle is not against blood and flesh...) If I'd not been gone a week before this happened, and Quigley had suddenly gotten the diarrhea and starting acting like this, then it would have been different, because the behavior is strikingly different from what it was before I left. If he'd not gotten the diarrhea and was acting all mellow and stodgy like he is, then it would be easy to believe that he is finally "maturing" into a typical adult hound. (Even the not eating wouldn't be all that alarming because sometimes in the morning he doesn't eat much) Instead... we have confusion, inconclusive tests, disagreement from different perspectives, the pressure to try to see into the future and from that predict the best course of action, tension, the huge temptation to worry... DISTRACTION!
Well, I was warned. And now have opportunity to apply all the doctrines I've learned, especially last week. And what I know is... I have no clue. I don't know what's wrong with him. I don't know what is going to happen. I don't know what he needs. I don't know what to do. I can't stand not knowing, and I can't stand all the waiting in uncertainty. Which is probably why this test is here. Again.
So I have to put it all into God's hands and not think about it. Even if I make wrong decisions, He can still take care of things. It's His plan that matters, not mine. One of the things we learned last week was the importance of really focusing on and believing and living in the fact that He loves us. That He loves me. Personally. Specifically.
When you know that you are loved with the kind of love He has for us, that would drive Him to send His Son to the cross, that would drive His Son to agree to GO to the cross -- and that this One who loves you is the creator and ruler of the Universe -- what can there possibly be to worry about? He will handle it. He wants you ... He wants ME to trust Him with all of this and forget about trying to work it out myself. He really and truly does not need me to help Him with all my attempts to peer into the future and make the "right" decisions so as to avoid a possible disaster, to demand we do things my way because "I am right." How do I know I'm right? Maybe I'm not. I have no clue.
What I do know is that while I definitely do not have all the facts, He does. What I know is that nothing happens in my life that He did not choose, down to the smallest detail, to be a part of His perfect and wonderful plan that provides ultimately only His highest and best for me. If I don't understand, well, that's part of it. Because more than anything He just wants that trust. He wants me to know who He is and then to trust Him in that, regardless of what sight says. And He wants me to bring to Him all my concerns by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving...
So right now I have no idea what is going to happen. Except that I think I'm going to go eat dinner now, and maybe I'll manage to get in a bit more work on Enclave this evening before it's time for bed. As for tomorrow? One day at a time.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
It was amazing. First because the members of the local assembly there made incredible provisions for us, their guests (I don't know how many people came from other states and nations, but there were a lot of us -- a rough count of the folks I know of tallies at 97.) They provided us breakfast and lunch every day, the foods mostly prepared by members of the congregation, which meant we got to taste an array of the kind of food that the local people actually ate. It was all yummy, but I'm still blown away. There was also an abundance of drinks, and in the breaks, coffee, tea, and various other treats, snacks, hors d'oeuvres. The last night at a "Raptard Party" (that's a party for the Rapture retards -- those of us who believe the Rapture is coming in the next few years) they served lobster. I've never eaten lobster, so that was quite an experience. Very good. Very messy. Very fun.
There was also a lot of rain, which those of us from the desert appreciated. And it was cold. Which I also appreciated despite the fact I wasn't prepared for it. When I packed, I couldn't even conceive of what cold felt like. Should I bring more of the short sleeved tees or the sleeveless? It never occurred to me I might want something long sleeved. But despite the fact that I was able to wear only a portion of what I'd brought, I the cold was a welcome reprieve.
Of course we didn't travel all that way just to enjoy cool weather and rain, nor even to sample local foods. We came for a spiritual feast and a great reuinon of royal family. And boy did we have both!
If the physical food was fantastic, the spiritual food was even better. Amazing. Phenomenal.
The conference was on relationships and there were a number of speakers -- we had about five hours of teaching every day -- and all of them seemed to be on the same pages, teaching various aspects of the same message even though they hadn't in most cases talked to one another or coordinated what they were going to teach on. The Holy Spirit was thus very much in evidence, His hand seen in the almost eerie orchestration of all the messages and songs.
The central theme was relationships, but the one thought that seemed to me to have been most repeated was that you must get your relationship with God in order first, and only then can you get your relationships with people in order.
I'll have more to say on it all tomorrow, but right now I'm still getting unpacked and caught up on all the things that didn't get done while I was away. And trying to recuperate from all the excitement, late nights, three hour time zone shift, and five hours of sitting on a plane.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
I wrote the other day about how accomplishment in life (even in a day) does bring pleasure and satisfaction. It's a blessing from God. The problem is in seeing it that way and not as something I can obtain if I strive enough, or am disciplined enough. (And isn't that funny, to think that all that discipline and hard work is actually motivated by a desire to feel good about oneself!).
Of course, it's not really something one can always obtain if you just "do things right," because sometimes things don't work out so you have the accomplishment. You work all day, and the card ends up a disaster. You scrub the kitchen floor and in minutes the dog and other arrivals trash it. You spend hours pouring over the manuscript and can't seem to change one word, though you are very aware that it is in dire need of changing. Or someone needs help. Or something breaks. Or, Heaven forbid, you have to do something new on the computer! (that's good for about six hours) Or you get sick... Or you just can't seem to get yourself to settle down and focus.
Then you have no accomplishment. If you think it's up to you, then you feel bad. But all it is, really, is a pleasure denied, not an indictment. Probably something God allows so we'll remember it's not up to us and not about us. He gives the accomplishment for our blessing, or He doesn't.
And really the other way of thinking is a form of legalism. In fact, it's a slave mentality. Here's a quote from one of my pastor's sermons of some time ago:
"When believers seek satisfaction about who they are and acceptance through accomplishment, it's legalism. We don't have to seek acceptance. We already are accepted. We don't have to seek satisfaction; God already is."
And if He is, shouldn't we be?
"Instead of life bringing forth service, we turn it around to make service the life. If you serve and hustle and accomplish and feel happy and accepted (and satisfied), then fail to do any of that and feel awful, you're in the trap. This is the relationship of the slave/servant to his master. We are to serve others, but we're not to have a servant mentality because according to Gal 4:7, we are no longer slaves. We are heirs."
So all this going through the day with my mental list of "what I have to do" or "what should be done" and the perpetual urgency, racing through each task to get to the next so I can accomplish things, get everything done (or thinking I should be doing B while I'm doing A, or A while I'm doing B -- which I also do) -- all that without enjoying any of it... it's just legalism. (And as I said before, Heaven forbid that anything should come up to hinder me in my pursuit of accomplishment). The Law in this case is that of my sin nature and my old human viewpoint thinking: You must get these things done or I'll make you feel rotten!"
When I should be focusing on each thing the Lord has chosen for me to do today. Every day is one He has made, for me to learn more of Him, see more of Him, enjoy whatever He has for me, no matter how mundane.