How I Found Joy in Negativity

 

globe-sig

 

In the midst of some recent turmoil, there was one blessed day of balance.

The Autumnal Equinox.

I thought there was no way I would be able to share in the wonder of this day.

During an equinox, when the sun passes directly over the equator, day and night are of equal length—we have the same amount of light and dark. It is a time of balance.

That elusive balance.

I don’t actively seek it because, as I’ve said before, I believe it’s unattainable—a recipe for frustration and resentment. But I do look for it in small quantities, for certain situations.

And every autumn, I have welcomed balance when it arrives on my doorstep, asking politely, with the light of the harvest moon, to be let inside.

September 22nd was smack in the middle of a mess, and I knew that day would go just as badly as the rest of the week had gone. I knew. No matter what I planned or how hard I tried, it was going to be bad. Horrible.

I also knew I was being extremely negative but I couldn’t muster any optimism.

At the time, my attitude seemed reasonable and the terrible outcome more than a little likely.

But the world keeps spinning, seasons change, time moves on. No matter what’s happening in your life, there is always something larger than you.

Taking a simple walk or standing under a tree often gives me this much-needed shift in my thinking.

The equinox provides me perspective. The Earth turns, continuing its cycle whether I’m prepared for it or not.

I tend to get highly disappointed when my grand plans go awry but am delightfully surprised when I anticipate trouble and don’t find it. Negativity in general? Not something I’d recommend. But, once in a while, it’s helpful.

There are two things I need to keep in mind.

The first is that forcing a good day rarely, if ever, works. Often, it backfires. The second is that acknowledging my day will not be as wonderful as I want it to be allows me to let go of all expectations.

And that, gentle readers, is how I stumbled over the roots of a genuinely good day, finding balance and joy in the midst of chaos.

 

Happy Autumn!

Yes, you’re now officially allowed to break out the pumpkin spiced beer, muffins, coffee, scones, etc. (And, as always, Happy Spring to my friends in the southern hemisphere.)

 

Can you force yourself to have a good day with positive thinking? Do your positive thoughts keep you going even if things aren’t perfect? Or do you find that your expectations are impossible to meet? If you expect the worst, are you pleasantly surprised or do you dwell in that negativity?

 

* Apologies for all the post questions. I’m having a yin/yang, light/dark, positivity/negativity bit of a time here and wondering how others deal.

 

Where Do You Write?

 

where-do-you-write-sig

 

I may get an opportunity to have a few hours to myself each week.

Time to myself, people! Every. Week.

I’m ecstatic.

Because I’m going to use this time to write.

Here’s the catch. (You knew there was a catch, right?)

If I do the whole “drop-off, drive home, drive back, pick-up” thing, I’ll lose an hour.

So, I need to stay put. I need to be out of my house while I’m writing. I’ve never done this. Correction. I’ve never successfully done this.

I’ve tried coffee shops, tea shops, shoe shops, sweet shops. (No, really, not a sweet shop. In those, I just annoy my kids with how I used to buy Raisinets and Nerds in regular sized packages not the sugar-rush, vomit-inducing size they sell now.)

I don’t understand how people can write in coffee shops or whatnot. I can barely write my name never mind a scene or chapter in those places.

I’m so distracted by the noise and commotion, I can’t concentrate long enough to read the sugar packet I just dumped in my coffee.

I could use some advice. Or an alternative. I’m open to anything. Mostly. Let’s not get crazy.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

ThoughtBubble

 

Can you write outside your house? Where do you go? How do you concentrate? Do you have any other ideas? I’m willing to sit in my car if need be.

 

 

Don’t Tell Me Not to Sweat the Small Stuff

 

towel-1-sig

 

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”?

Dude, I’m damp. I am sweating all the small stuff. It’s what I do.

Please don’t tell me how small the stuff is (I know this) and how, when it comes down to it, it’s all small stuff (it can’t all be small), and not to sweat any of it (now I need a towel) because all you are doing is stressing me the hell right out.

There is strain, tension, external pressure in our lives. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have it.

We all react differently, of course, but it seems that those who tend to feel uncomfortable about this are vilified by those who do not.

When people stress, we are often told to “relax” or “take it easy”. Yet, when someone does not stress, we don’t tell them to “get upset” or “freak out”.

How is this fair?

When people announce how laid-back they are, it’s annoying. I mean, I can either see that you are or I can see that you’re trying to convince me (or yourself) that you are. Either way, it’s unnecessary information.

If you don’t mind, skip the pleasantries and just get the salt shaker and start pouring it into the wound. It is patronizing to tell someone who is distressed to “calm down”.

It’s so incredibly wonderful that people can be calm, cool, and collected in the face of a stressful situation. It’s good for their health and lovely for those around them.

I recognize that this works for a lot of people. What I’d absolutely love is for them to realize not everyone has the ability to do that.

And, as far as I know, people don’t enjoy being stressed.

Next time you see someone in distress, instead of telling them to “lighten up”, try asking them “what’s up?”

 

How many times has, “Just calm down” worked for you or, rather, for the person you’re saying it to? Do they calm down? If so, is it immediate? Be honest here…has it ever worked?

 

Cover Reveal (with a Little Help from My Friends)

 

I have a few books simmering on the burners. But my short story/flash collection is the one I’m closest to torturing the world with. And it needs a cover, as these things go.

Anyway, there are many choices and it’s overwhelming. I’ve narrowed it down. A lot.

I write kind of “dark” fiction but it’s not horror. It’s not thriller. It’s not really any genre. It’s just sort of…dark. Sad? No idea. But I don’t want to mislead readers with a cover that screams, “Horror!”

That was fun.

I want something that represents the darkness while also retaining some softness. If you’ve read my flash, you know what I mean. Without further ado…

Would you, could you, pretty please (with a cherry on top) take a look at these and vote for your favorite?

The font type, color, size, and placement can be changed. Any suggestions/ideas in the comments would be much appreciated. 

Thank you, gentle readers. I am so very grateful.

 

Brentyn_Cover1 poll

Cover 1

 

Brentyn_Cover2 poll

Cover 2

 

Brentyn_Cover3 poll

Cover 3

 

Brentyn_Cover4 poll

Cover 4

 

Brentyn_Cover5 poll

Cover 5

 

Cover 6

Cover 6

 

Cover 7

Cover 7

 

The lovely Rachael Ritchey, author of Chronicles of the Twelve Realms and founder of BlogBattle, designed these for me. I asked her for some advice after reading her post about cover design in her Indie Publishing series and, before I knew it, I had 500 designs in my inbox. I jest. There were only 400. She enjoys designing covers. And is really good at it. And is most generous with her time and talent. 

 

 

All images copyright Sarah Brentyn

Being in the Moment

 

Bee & Flower - Sarah B sig

 

It’s funny to me how many people write about being in the moment.

Writers are never truly in the moment because, when we have a moment, we’re thinking about writing that moment.

Take my Pause and Smell the Roses post. I was thoroughly enjoying that morning but then I came in and wrote about it. Ideas were floating around my head even as I sipped my coffee and watched the chipmunks.

Actually, I kind of felt like a chipmunk—savoring birdseed and suet while darting back and forth and running in circles. Because, really, that’s what I was doing—mentally running from the outdoors to the notebook in my head and back again.

It’s a crazy writer thing. It is.

Yet here I am, again, about to describe a lovely afternoon I experienced. Blue sky, butterflies, shapes in clouds, the whole nine yards. It was gorgeous and relaxing. Of course…I’m writing about it now.

I’m not exactly sure how this works, but, while I was appreciating sunshine and flowers, thoughts and words were buzzing in my brain.

Was I writing the entire time or did I actually get to pause and smell the roses?

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

 

ThoughtBubble

Are you able to truly be in the moment? (Think about this for a minute…) And, if you are, do you write about it after?


 

 

Window Shopping for Book Covers

 

Silly Book Cover

 

I know I’m getting ahead of myself, putting the cart before the horse and all that, but I like browsing through pictures and playing around in Paint with images that could possibly be my book cover. And there are tons of sites with pre-made covers to set my imagination on fire.

If I have a working title, not just any old working title but one I might actually use, I’m much more likely to talk about my book, think about it, and, most importantly, work on it.

It’s also nice when someone asks me what I’m writing. I can say, “Cool Title” instead of prattling on about the characters, what I think the genre might be, where the story may or may not be heading because I’m really not exactly sure, explaining that I’m a pantser (and then explaining what a pantser is).

If I have a cover? I’m completely inspired.

I write more. Because, now, my book is like Pinocchio. Someday he’ll be a real boy, right? It’s the same thing. Someday it’ll be a real book.

Many will say this is ridiculous. You have to know what your story is about before you can find an image to reflect that. True. But if a visual encourages me to keep writing, it’s well worth the time spent.

And I might find one of the reasons I was sifting through photos was because I needed a break from my writing and now I’m back to it. With gusto.

Whether I wind up using the cover or not, I have one now. In this moment. I can see it in all its glory. The title, my name, an image that speaks to me (literally or figuratively—you make the call).

Window shopping a waste of time? Perhaps. But it’s a helluva lot of fun and fabulous motivation.

 

 

Do you design your book cover before you finish your book? (Before you’ve reached page 10?)

 

* Just so nobody asks, I’ve created a picture for this post (at the top) to answer the question of whether or not I will design my own cover. The answer, quite obviously, is “No”. A resounding NO. 

 

Balancing Blogging and Writing (Or not…)

 

Blogging and Writing -sig

 

There’s a blog trend happening.

Lots of people are leaving, taking a break, or slowing down—some for personal reasons, some to write.

I thought, “Huh. That’s cool. They’re writing. I could write. I’m a writer. I write things.”

And they’re announcing it. Which is nice. Unlike me. With people emailing to ask where I am. And by “people”, I mean like two. Two people. Since I’m small potatoes in the stew of the blogosphere, most probably didn’t even notice.

I haven’t so much stopped as slowed my pace. I haven’t been able to manage a balance.

I’m still blogging a bit but have relaxed my posting, not participated in some of my regular writing challenges, not been as active in reading your blogs. (Apologies.)

See, I’m working on stuff. Secret stuff.

No, it’s not secret. I’m writing. I do that sometimes. And not just on my blog.

Also, I’m stressing about life and loving life. Dealing with responsibilities and enjoying summer sunsets.

It’s all good. Writing is a thing we writers do that makes us happy. Maybe “happy” is a strong word. How about “alive”.

I’m writing, gentle readers, and sharing it with the world.

You have been warned.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

ThoughtBubble

Have you taken a blogging break/slowed down or have you kept up your usual pace? Are you working on a writing project? (If you’ve managed to balance blogging and writing, please share in the comments. Inquiring minds want to know.)

 

How Should I Write My Book?

 

Red Maple - sig

 

There is so much writing advice out there. Tips and tricks, instruction and direction, ways to plot and ways to pants.

We want to read all that advice. It’s a conundrum. We can’t stop learning (and who would want to?) but we must, eventually, get on with it.

If I’m spending weeks (okay, months years) reading about how to write, I’m not writing. It’s really that simple.

Some will say it’s self-doubt. Some that it’s fear of failure (or success). Eh. It’s certainly possible.

I think part of it is “the writer’s mind”.

We want to educate ourselves on all sorts of things. We want to know what’s what with the age group we’re targeting – what our audience will respond to. Or learn as much as we can about the setting of our story. Or what the hospital procedure would be for our character who’s just been brought in with a knife wound.

Admittedly, there’s a bit of Am I doing this right? but that’s to be expected and, honestly, I’m not sure how much of that can be blamed on self-doubt. I guess it depends. Because “the writer’s mind” is a tricky thing.

Listen to yourself and your tone: How should I write my book?

That is kind of a huge question. It’s also an interesting one. How are you saying it? Why are you asking it?

That can be a self-doubter’s dream. It puts off the actual writing part of writing your book.

Is this a good opening? I like to just write but so-and-so says I should outline. I should really learn to outline. But I recently read that article about how to plot as a pantser. I should read that again. Or maybe I should listen to that podcast about…oh, yeah, that agent is having a Q&A on Twitter today! I should totally do that.

Then again, it’s smart. It gives you much-needed info about the process, category, and genre, among other things.

How many pages does a MG novel have to be? Can I use swears? Is kissing allowed for this age group? Actually…is this MG or YA?

These are valid questions. Definitely do some research. But, then, sit down and start typing. It might be a good idea to set aside a bit of time for even more research as the market changes or unexpected scenes pop up in your book. But don’t get sidetracked. I’ve noticed (from personal experience) writers love to read about writing, write about writing, and talk about writing.

That’s awesome. All of it. But we also need to write.

So, once you’ve read and learned and researched and read some more, the question How Should I Write My Book? is quite easily answered: Sit down and write.

 

Is this an issue for you? Do you put off your writing to read about writing?

 

How Do You Like Them Apples?

 

 

Scrivener App

 

I was wavering, trying to decide which program to use for my writing.

So, naturally, I wrote about it, hoping readers would help. They did. That post generated quite a few comments. I learned a lot. I also made a decision to at least try Scrivener because I need the organization.

However.

My main problem with it was that you had to download it to your laptop and leave it there. That did not work for me.

Here are some of my replies from that post:

Can you use Scrivener on different devices or only one? iPad, iPhone…?

 Awesome! And, please let [Scrivener] come out with an app. Please! *fingers crossed*

No, no, no! Say it ain’t so. This is my main issue with Scrivener. I’m a total tech floozie, too. (Nice accidental alliteration there, if I do say so myself.) I use different devices and need a program that is available on all. I can’t imagine this isn’t an issue for many writers. Why on earth hasn’t Scrivener…created an app?

Exactly. I use two different laptops plus type a lot on my phone (I know, but it’s convenient if not a bit tricky). I’m going to do the trial but this was my main problem with it. *shouts* “Fix this, Scrivener techies!”

A lot of writers had the same issue. They used more than one device (because, really, who doesn’t?) and/or wrote when they had a second between errands, taking care of kids, work, commuting, sleeping, eating…

Hang on to your hats.

If you haven’t heard, I’m delighted freaking out that Scrivener now offers an Apple app for iPads, iPhones, and any other iThing you want to use it for.

They advertise that you can “Write Anywhere”.

Thank you, Scrivener, we already do.

But now lots of us writers will buy your program to “write anywhere” with. How do you like them Apples?

 

Those of you who use Scrivener, are you going to get the app? Those of you who didn’t (specifically because you used different devices) are you rethinking using Scrivener?

 

Deflecting Compliments (Like a Ninja)

 

Ninja Thank You - sig

 

Why do I apologize for myself?

This goes so far beyond not being able to take a compliment, I can’t even see the coastline anymore. I’m floating out there in the vast sea of self-deprecation. Clinging desperately to a belittlement buoy.

I actually get defensive when someone says something nice.

It’s ludicrous.

Last week, I was minding my own business, milling around a store, when a clerk grabbed my hand (because girls can do that—it’s weird) and said, “Oh! I love your nails!”

Weapons at the ready, I started my self-defense.

“Oh! I only did that for the summer solstice, I mean…my kids…it’s like a fairy thing, sort of…it’s a fun…” By then, she had let go of my hand and was backing away nodding. And no wonder.

I have an inability to accept compliments. But this need to make excuses for pretty much everything I am—from my clothes to my hair to my voice to, apparently, my fingernail polish—this has got to stop.

It’s a seemingly simple fix because, really, all I need to do is smile and say “Thank you”.

But when I bring out my sparring swords, we have a problem.

 

My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.

ThoughtBubble

It’s bad enough to become self-deprecating when someone insults you but, when given a compliment, it’s truly bizarre. How do you react when someone gives you a compliment? Have you ever gone so far as to make excuses for yourself?

Can you take a compliment? (If so, is this something you developed later in life or something you’ve always been able to do? I’m wicked curious about this.)