Writing to prompt: Amanda Socci called me a Brainiac!

So, first things first:

Amanda is participating, with Nina Amir, in the NaNoWriMo alternative, Write Non-Fiction in November, or WNFIN 🙂

Here’s the lovely pic:

Write Non-Fiction in November

Write Non-Fiction in November

As part of the lead up and promotion, Amanda has gone plum prompt crazy!  She’s even giving us prompt-interviews!  I think it’s a fabulous idea (that’s why she’s the Creative Idea Gal).  For those of you who may not have perused my pages, it’ll give us a chance to get better acquainted. Plus some of the answers won’t be found on my pages, so bonus info!

Here’s what Amanda posted on Wednesday.

Here are my answers 🙂

(1) Does the title of your blog, Writerly Goodness, have a special significance?

Writerly Goodness is my creative alter ego.  In my day job, I work in the corporate learning and development world, which is related to, but distinct from, the creative work I do in the evenings and on weekends.  I need to compartmentalize and separate my two working worlds and so, like a pseudo-super hero, I “change costumes” and transform into Writerly Goodness, which is also what I hope to produce 😉  I address this in a post: Do you dress for success?

I’m also an introvert.  Big time.  It’s another part of my daily transformation.  I have to put on the extrovert for my work, especially when I deliver training, and just need to hole up when I get home.  Fortunately, the interwebz give me the virtual distance to engage all my online friends and family without distress.  I haven’t written a lot about introversion yet, but I’ve just finished Susan Cain’s Quiet, and will begin to share some of the insights I’ve gained in the reading.

I joke in my welcome message that I might have a multiple personality disorder, which is more appropriately called a dissociative identity disorder, but while that is not true, I am host to other mental illnesses, most notably depression.  I actually talk about mental illness quite a bit, what experiences have contributed to my condition, how mental illness intersects with creativity, and what I’ve learned in the process of managing my depression.

Finally, Writerly Goodness has a decidedly canine aspect to her: loyal, patient, dedicated.  I can tell her to “fetch, girl!” and she will inevitably return with the words I need 🙂  So maybe WG is the embodiment of my muse?  Oooh!  Hadn’t thought of that before.  Thanks, Amanda!

(2) You write frequently about Caturday Quickies. What does that mean? What is Caturday?

Caturday emerged from a web site called I can has cheezburger?  It’s one of the original sites where LOLcats can be found (cute pictures and animated gifs of cats, or kittehs, as they’re called, with humorous captions).  The site’s mascot is a gorgeous Russian Blue with a hopeful look on his (or her) fuzzy face and with the caption that eventually became the name of the site.

Instead of Saturday, the day became Caturday.

I used to visit “I can has” every day for my feline fix, and eventually their sister-site, I has a hotdog (which gave rise to Sundog instead of Sunday in the same way) for my puppeh pick-me-up.  Eventually, I couldn’t keep up with the number of new posts in a day and realized it was more of an addiction than an entertainment.  Now, I see enough of the shared memes on social media to keep me happy.

I’m an animal lover and I used to own serve two cats. Right now, I have my dog, Nuala, but more on her in a bit.

(3) Are you inspired by your training coordinator job? Do you write about your job?

My day job intersects interestingly with my creative work.  As a writer, I always think stories should educate as well as entertain, and the things that I learn as a trainer contribute to my stories.

Also, my writing translates into instructional design.  I’m a fan of story-based instructional design (surprise, surprise) and I’ve been able to help write a course that won me and my team a Silver Award of Excellence in 2012.

More recently, my grammar Nazi nature has been able to come out and play as I’ve taught five sessions of Business Writing Made Easy to participants in two different business lines.  The second last one was a training-for-trainers version of the course, where I was introducing colleagues to the training material so they, in turn, could deliver it to other staff members.

As a training coordinator, I’m constantly writing reports, training plans, proposals, and briefing notes.  It’s completely different work than writing a story, poetry, or a novel, and my background in rhetoric (BA, Laurentian University 1995, cum laude) has come into play.

I have a category devoted to my learning and development (L&D) side: the Learning Mutt.  As you’ve been so kind as to ask me about that, I’ll write to that point more directly later on.

(4) Why do you call yourself a writing geek? Why do you call yourself a keener?

I’m a writing geek for many reasons, only a few of which I’ll mention here (don’t want to bore y’all).

I love words.  In my university years, I took several courses on the history of the language, old English, middle English, Shakespeare, and 18th Century literature (the days of the first dictionaries).  I love etymology.  I love the evolution of the language—English is such a mutt language, we’ve stolen from or been contributed to by nearly every language at one time or another.

I love the physicality of language, where the sounds are produced.  It’s different for each stage/evolution of English: back in the throat, up in the nose, forward in the mouth, up front through the teeth.

I love accents and dialects.  I love pidgin languages.

You can smell the smoke when I start thinking about words 🙂

I adore the writing process, mine and others.  Nothing makes me more #furiouslyhappy than to read the posts of other writers who share their workspaces, work habits, revision strategies, etc.  I’ve been glued to Elissa Field’s blog while she’s been writing about her revisions.  Endlessly fascinating.

I also love learning about writing.  I’m constantly doing it, even though I have an MA in English literature and creative writing.  I read craft books (and everything else I can get my hands on—I’m a book addict) and I read like a writer, looking for clues, analyzing structure, teasing out the reasoning behind creative choices.

I’ve got a subscription to Writer’s Digest Tutorials and have recently started taking courses, from Dan Blank’s Platform Building course, to a selection of Wana International webinars.

I follow Grammar Girl.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

(5) How does being an experiential learner affect your writing?

This is going to be a short one: I learn by doing.

I write, therefore I am.

The only way to improve is to write, and to write every day.

(6) You mentioned that learning and writing go hand in hand. Can you describe how you tie both into one on your blog?

I think I addressed this in my answer to question 3, above, but here’s a little more about it:

When I was back in university, I was amazed at how everything I was learning, from astronomy and biology, through philosophy and psychology, to English, music, and art, intersected in bizarre and wonderful ways.

I find this to be true with my work, as well.

Besides, if I’m going to spend most of my waking hours doing something that is not writing, it better feed my muse in some way.  I just stay open to the possibilities.  Mental popcorn.  Wheee!

(7) You list several cultural references on your blog (Ukrainian Christmas, Algonkian conference, etc.). What inspires you to write about those cultures?

I think the reference to Ukranian Christmas was probably about a friend of mine, who celebrates it, or in my discussion about how I developed my religions/spirituality for my fantasy novel.

The Algonkian Conference is actually a pitch conference that has nothing to do with the Algonquin people.  Though I may have referred to the Ojibwe and Cree nations in my discussion of how I invented some of my languages for my work in progress.

In general, I’m very open to religion and spirituality.  I was raised Christian (Lutheran, specifically) but now identify as agnostic with pagan leanings.  I don’t blog about it too much, though, because I think that both religion and spirituality are very personal things, and while I admire the devout of faith, I don’t think that anyone has the right to tell anyone else what to believe.  That is between the individual and the God of their understanding.

I think I’ll shut up now, before I offend anyone :0

(8) What is the learning mutt side of your brain? How does that impact your learning or writing?

The learning mutt is my day job personality, but it’s more than that.  It’s the part of me that watches the Discovery Channel, follows Bad Astronomer Phil Plait, and was enthralled by Commander Hadfield’s social media campaign from space.  It’s the part of me that reads.  It’s the part of me that takes courses and webinars.  It’s the part of me that wants more, more, MOAR knowledge, regardless of what it might be.

I’m a pop culture junkie, a trivia queen (maybe princess), and creative connections pop out at me from everywhere (mental popcorn mention above).

I don’t have an eidetic memory, or speed-read, or anything, but my brain just wants to fill itself with everything out there, so it is very much like a mutt: a little bit of everything goes into it.

I hope most of it stays there too, another reason I try to keep learning 😉

(9) Does your pup-child Nuala inspire your work? Have you considered writing a non-fiction book about dogs?

All of my dependant quadrupeds, feline or canine, have held special places in my heart.  My husband and I are childless-by-choice, and in a way our pets fill the place of children in our lives.

I also believe that dogs, in particular, are here to teach us how to love unconditionally.

I haven’t thought about writing a non-fiction book about dogs yet.  I don’t think I have enough experiences to fill up a book right now.

I do have an idea for a middle grade book that features a dog as its protagonist, though.  It’s kind of like a Desmond the Dog Detective meets Watership Down, with maybe just a dash of Animal Farm.

Yup, that’s the kind of thing I think up 😛

(10) Your curriculum vitae is impressive! It is also a non-traditional addition to a blog. Has posting your c.v. helped you get noticed, get writing work, be featured on other blogs?

Thank you, but actually, it hasn’t resulted in any of that good stuff.  Nobody’s even “liked” it yet.

When I started my blog, I didn’t have any books that I could promote, so I thought the CV would speak for my experience as a writer.  It was key to my application for professional membership to the Canadian Authors Association.  Maybe when I start querying, agents will start looking me up?  One can only hope 😀

I’ve since added a page to feature the two anthologies including my poetry of which the publisher still has copies to sell, but that hasn’t really resulted in much action either.  At least the publisher hasn’t let me know that he’s run out of copies, or that my page has, in any way, influenced the poetry-reading public 😉

This must be tempered with the fact that a poetry best-seller in Canada means 500 copies sold.  NeoVerse accomplished that goal, if nothing else.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity, Amanda!  This was fun!

What do the rest of you think?  Did you enjoy finding out more about me, or did it leave you cold?  Regardless, I’d love to hear from you.

And please do visit/participate in WNFIN if you are so moved.  That’s Write Non-Fiction in November with Amanda Socci and Nina Amir, just in case you forgot 😉  It’s been a while (long post, whew!).

Tomorrow: Review of Dead Air, and sommat about my trip last weekend.

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A life sentence with mortal punctuation: part 7

Last week: It takes sixteen years, but finally, I see the light.

Sorry this is a bit late.  I was actually WRITING today and I lost track of time.  It’s been a very good day 🙂

So that’s what it’s called

The Way Out, or Suicidal Ideation: George Grie...

The Way Out, or Suicidal Ideation: George Grie, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I learned a new term last week: Ideation.  I didn’t know that those pesky and persistent thoughts of self-harm and violence had an actual name attached to them.  Specifically, it’s called suicidal ideation.

Thanks to a friend for that.

How I deal with my depression

This week, I just wanted to go over a few of my symptoms and the strategies I’ve developed to deal with them.  Some issues I still don’t have under control, but I’ll share how I’m working through them and my progress to date.

What I don’t do

I have chosen not to go through extensive therapy and after the Paxil, I chose not to take any other kinds of medication.  I know people who struggled for years to find the right medication or combination of them to address their symptoms and in some cases, they still become accustomed to a particular dosage or formulation/combination and have to search for and acclimate to new medications.

This takes a lot of time that I have decided I can’t afford to take.

Everything that I do, I do on my own, and I know that for some of you, that will make you uncomfortable.  It may mean for others that I think I know more than you do.  I assure you: I do not.  I only know what works for me and share it in the hope that others will be able to benefit from my experience.

Others still may feel that my depression can’t be that bad if I can manage without talk therapy or psychoanalysis, medications, or a combination of all of the above.  You are welcome to your opinion, but please do not abuse me for holding to mine.

How I learned

When my father had his breakdown, I was scared to death.  I’d heard that depression and other mental illnesses had a genetic component.  If nothing else, it might predispose you to developing the disease, or other diseases yourself.

I started to pay attention to my father and to what my mother said about him.  I started to pay attention to my friends who had other kinds of mental illness, and the behaviours they exhibited.  I started to ask questions about how they dealt with their diseases and to think about whether their strategies would work for me or not.

When I got into my self-help phase, one of the exercises in one of the many books on the subject indicated that you needed to examine your life and the past events that may have contributed to your depression.  I did this in detail, repeatedly.  The greater part of at least one journal is filled with it.

As life went on and I continued to experience symptoms and the fall-out resulting from them, I continued to adapt and refine my strategies.

Having a mental illness of any kind can seem like having another person inside of you.  Have you ever heard one partner say of another, ‘That’s not her talking.  It’s the depression.’?  It can be very true.

As you might do with any other person, adult or child, you have to treat your illness with respect.  You have to take the time to get to know and understand it.

As with anything, mindfulness is the key.  Be aware in the moment and hold the lesson of it close in your heart and mind.

Mellie’s deadlies

  1. Ideation
    I’ll start with this because I already mentioned last week a bit about how I handle these unwelcome thoughts and feelings.  First, acknowledge them.  If you try to ignore them, they’ll only come back more persistently.  Then, accept them.  They are a part of you because they are a part of your illness.  They are thoughts.  You don’t have to act on them and you certainly don’t have to fear them.  Fear will give them power.  You don’t want that.  Finally, thank them.  I’m serious.  They’ve made you aware of something important about you and the nature of your disease.  Once they feel this respect, they will go on their merry way of their own accord.
  2. Exhaustion
    I am tired all the time.  Most days, I feel like I could stay in bed all day.  On the occasional bad day, I might.  My depression is only one cause of this.  Insomnia is another.  Hormones are another.  My malignant hyperthermia (MH) may be yet another cause.  Ultimately, they are likely all connected.  MH is a funny condition.  I’ve read of some people who show symptoms of what used to be called chronic fatigue syndrome, and others who are largely bed-ridden because of their symptoms.  One of my relatives suffers from the much-debated fibromyalgia.  I believe that this may be an affect of the MH.  Regardless of the cause, several things have helped.  Regular sleeping habits.  Because of work, I have to get up at a particular time.  I find that I wake up about this time whether I’m working or not, and whether I choose to stay in bed or not.  I’ve tried sleeping pills for the insomnia and didn’t like their side affects.  I’ve always felt nervous using medication to solve a problem.  Naps don’t work for me.  I used to nap all the time, but if I sleep during the day, I’m more likely to have trouble sleeping at night.  I’ve tried herbal remedies, warm milk, keeping the bedroom dark and quiet, but the thing that seems to help the most is going to bed at a set time and waking up at a set time.  Exercise.  I find that if I’ve exercised, even just walking, at any time during the day, then I’m more likely to fall asleep quickly and sleep through the night.  Getting used to it.  This may seem a little harsh, but you can function when you’re tired.  I do it every day.  I’m very aware of my physical state and I can see the signs of when I’m getting too exhausted.  This will be an individual thing, but it’s important to know your limits and the difference between functional tired and dysfunctional tired.  When I fall into the latter situation, it may well be time for a day off.
  3. Rage
    In general, I’m a laid back person, so laid back, in fact, that sometimes I don’t react in the way people expect.  I never express it, but part of my depression is rage.  This is where some people find talk therapy helpful.  They can unload all the unpleasant baggage they’ve been carrying around and have someone tell then that it’s alright, that it’s normal to have these feelings.  I find this to be similar to ideation, but I substitute my journal for a therapist.  Like a therapist, my journal doesn’t judge.  It just accepts.  I don’t need the reassurance of anyone else.  I know that the rage is one of the effects of my depression.  Journaling my rage allows me to unload in a healthy way and unlike talk therapy I have an artefact that I can refer to.  I can return and examine my thoughts and feelings and see if there’s a pattern.  Because I journal about my dreams, creative ideas, and other everyday events, I can often connect trigger events to my written episodes of rage.  There was a period of several years where I had a lot of rage to vent.  Now, not so much.  I think my journaling has helped me immensely in this regard.
  4. Self-doubt
    This is related to number five, but finds its source more in the friend wars and in the negative experiences I’ve had as a creative person.  Since I’m socially awkward, I can get the feeling that nobody likes me, even though I know this isn’t true.  I try to keep a few central truths in mind.  First, the people in your life are there because they are equipped in some way to handle your shit.  This means that they are true friends and accept you even when you act like an idiot or say something strange or unkind.  They love you regardless.  Trust them.  Have faith in them.  The opinions of people who don’t ‘get it’ are not worth your time or energy.  By and large, I try not to care what people think of me, but I find that, when I look at it objectively, I am generally well-thought-of.  Creatively, I keep in mind that I have been published and not just by one source or in one genre.  Many of the rejections I get are encouraging ones.  I have also claimed my identity as a writer.  I’ve been writing since I was a child and I’ll continue to write until I die.  It’s who I am.  Publication is a wonderful validation, but I don’t need it to feel good about what I do, or to keep doing it every chance I get.  Writing is a healthy addiction.
  5. Self-hatred
    This is the biggie for me and strangely, I’ll spend the fewest words on it.  My version of hell is to be confronted with all the things that I’ve said or done that have hurt someone else.  At heart, I feel that I’m a terrible person and I don’t have to look far to find confirmation of this.  I don’t have to look far to find confirmation of the opposite either.  I have few, but intensely loyal friends, a small, but deeply loving family.  It may sound bizarre to some of you, but I’ve had a string of wonderful pets in my life that have all taught me what it is to love unconditionally.  My self-hatred is born of fear.  Striving for self-love is an act of courage.  I try to be brave every day.
  6. Emotional instability
    Though my crying-at-the-drop-of-a-hat days are long over, I can still be a basket-case from time to time.  Some of this I attribute to hormones.  I first noticed when I was younger and on birth control that my emotional instability was at its worst.  In the years since, I have occasionally had need to go on the pill again for various reasons, and though I’ve tried a number of different formulations, without fail, I become weepy.  Even without artificial hormones, I can still take a maudlin turn at certain points in my cycle.  The early years of my relationship to Phil were the worst.  The smallest things would send me into an ‘end-of-the-world’ funk for days, sometimes weeks, and Phil has confessed to me since that there were times when he thought we wouldn’t make it as a result.  Phil was, in part, my salvation though.  His intelligence stimulated and inspired me, his keen and twisted sense of humour, so like my own, has kept me laughing all these years.  He can make me laugh until my cheeks and stomach are sore, until my eyes tear up.  It’s amazing what a good belly-laugh can do for you.  We have several values in common and I trust him implicitly.  We are the best of friends.  We just happen to be married 😉

Above all, writing has been my best therapist, my best medication, and my best spiritual balm.  It was only when I started to write regularly that I really started to get my emotional house in order.  Much of my journey feeds into my writing and I continue to explore the themes of my life in the pages of my stories and novels.

There is something of me in every one of my characters and often pieces of the people I’ve known and loved.

Have you been able to turn an illness to your favour?  Have you mined your life and experiences for your stories?

This is not the end of the story, though it will be the end of this thread of the tapestry.  Next week I will return to my narrative where I had to leave it to discuss my depression in more depth.  This has been a story within a story that had to reach its conclusion before I could continue.

I hope these stories have served some purpose and will continue to do so.

Good night and I hope everyone had a happy Easter.