News, Publishing

Box Jumps Make Me Cry

I swear this does relate to writing. No, really. I promise. Just stick with me here.

box-jumps<–You see this? This, right here, has become a tool of torture. The CrossFit box. Evil, evil, horrid thing. This assemblage of wood has become the bane of my existence, and a metaphor for my entire life right now.

When I first joined the local CrossFit gym back in February (CFPR Family ftw!), I was watching all these amazing athletes jumping up onto boxes, utterly fascinated and envious that they could do such a thing. At the time, I was a total exercise newbie and lacked the strength, coordination, and confidence to try this whole jumping-up-onto-a-box thing, and was firmly stuck in Step-Up Land. Then, one day, I finally managed a box jump. Just a 12″ tall box, but I was stoked. I’d done it. I’d done a box jump.

After that, I LOVED box jumps. They were fun. Exciting. I could do them! Soon, I was adding weight plates on top of that little 12″ box, doing a little bit higher jump, and then a little bit higher. One day, I was going to finally Rx that thing, I could feel it.

Then, it all came crashing down. Almost literally. We were doing burpee box jumps, and partway through the workout, I got so tired that I kept slipping every time I tried to jump. After that, my confidence tanked, and I couldn’t fathom ever getting 15″ off the ground again.

Why? I’d done this. Lots of times. I knew I could do it. But suddenly I couldn’t. I got so pissed off at myself that I punched the wall and almost quit the workout. As it was, my workout time was pathetic because I kept having to walk it off between jumps, just to get my head back in the game.

A few days later, I was determined to get back on the horse, and stayed late after a workout to try the dreaded box jumps again. I jumped and jumped and jumped, and ultimately managed to work my way up to 18″. I was stoked! Only problem was, there was no time pressure. So once there was, once box jumps came up again in a scheduled workout, I froze. I couldn’t do it again. I stared at that damned box and just. Couldn’t. Jump.

Now, any time box jumps show up on a posted workout, I freak. I try to psych myself up for it, and it doesn’t work. I even tried modifying back down to a 12″ box, and couldn’t even do that. 12″! That’s barely a hop off the ground. But my head kept telling me it was impossible. So I keep giving up and walking out.

It doesn’t help that my mental state is not brilliant right now, and my attitude toward box jumps is pretty much my attitude to my whole life at the moment.

In the process of selling my house so that I can afford to leave my day job and try to be a full-time writer, the excitement is tapering off and the reality is setting in. I’m actually going to have to leave my house. Logically, I knew that, but now it’s becoming real, instead of just a plan. I’m going to have to leave this home that I made for myself, and try to find that same sense of home and sanctuary elsewhere.

This house got me through the roughest time of my life. It was my escape from the world, my sanctuary, the place I could run away to when things got to be too much. It was the thing I needed while I was dealing with my parents divorcing, getting used to having a stepmother, and of course going through all the mental trauma of having been raped. Tied to the latter, it was also the place where I started writing. It was in that second bedroom, on my little, rickety student desk, that I opened up my laptop and started writing out the most vivid of my rape memories just to get it out of my head. That one scene turned into a novel, which turned into three novels, which turned into…

Well, now it’s spun entirely out of control, and I have more novel ideas in my head than I know what to do with, and it gave me something I’m passionate about and want to do with my life — something I was sorely lacking all through my school days.

And I’m giving up this house just so I can leave my job (that is how badly I hate my work).

But now that it’s real, now that it’s actually happening, now that my house is in escrow and I have the next few weeks to find an apartment and pack up and move and try to get used to a new space, I feel stuck.

I’ve done box jumps, but now I feel like I can’t do them.

I’ve done apartment living, but now it feels impossible.

I’ve done moving, but now it seems like too much to handle.

And I’ve done writing. Lots and lots of writing. But, right now, I can’t write a thing. At all. It just won’t come. And there are days when I feel like I might never write again.

I know that’s not true. Reason tells me that once I’m moved and settled in, I’ll get into a routine and a new comfort zone, and once the day job is behind me, I’ll have a clear head with which to write. I know that there’s just so much else going on right now that my brain doesn’t have much room for writing. I know all that. But I still have this dreaded sense that I’ll never write again.

Just like I have this dreaded sense that I won’t find home again.

Just like I have this sense I’ll never do a box jump again.

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I Novel, Inspiration, JA Wood, Publishing, Shifting Isles

Writing Therapy

I’m feeling a bit like a failure as a writer lately. Well, for months, actually. I’ve been more or less stuck on Book 4 of the Shifting Isles series since last November, and it’s driving me insane. I deleted 50,000 words, regained a fresh set of 50,000, and now even those aren’t quite working for me. I know exactly where the story needs to go, but I can’t seem to make the words travel from my brain to my fingers to the computer screen, and I don’t know why.

In the meantime, though, I’ve been writing a lot (well, comparatively speaking) in future projects, primarily in the J.A. Wood Series. Considering those books won’t be out for at least three years, and I’ve got a deadline set for Shifting Isles Book 4 in just about five months, you’d think I’d have my attention where it should be, but I can’t seem to drag myself that direction.

And just about the only thing I’ve written with any real urgency in the last several months was inspired by some real-life pain.

I’ve posted before about the fact that I originally got into writing as a means of dealing with the aftermath of having been raped. Putting those words down on paper was by far the best way for me to handle the trauma and get back to some semblance of a normal life. It was a much more effective technique than any session with a therapist ever was.

It seems like any time something bad happens, if I can get it down on paper, throw the problem at my characters, it becomes a more manageable and survivable thing.

Aubbie 3-13-01 to 7-13-15
Aubbie: 3-13-01 to 7-13-15

Last week, we lost our Jack Russell. She was 14 years old, and came to work with us every day. It was sudden, so we had no time to prepare. The void it left was devastating. No more little dog sitting on my lap on the way in to work, no more old lady chasing after her toy in the office and keeping the customers entertained. No more dog-sitting for Dad and having the little cuddle bug snuggled up against me all night in bed. No more belly rubs and rolling around on the floor. No more happy little smiling pant.

I sit here at my work desk, with her bed and her favorite toy right beside me, and I just can’t stand it.

But what did my mind automatically do? It threw the problem at my characters. In the midst of all the crying I did (and thank the gods, I apparently actually can cry!), I started writing a new scene that involved a character suddenly losing his dog the same way.

I felt like a bit of a fool at first, thinking the whole mental exercise was highly inappropriate, but after a few days of thinking it over, I simply had to get it down on my computer.

The problem automatically went to my go-to characters, Will and Alex. They’ve been with me from the very beginning of my writing experience, and someday they will actually see existence in print (in I: An Unconventional Love Story), but for now, they’re sort of this ever-present conscience and motivator and emotion dump for all things I can’t figure out on my own. I’ve probably sounded like a crazy person over the years, talking about Will and Alex as though they’re real people, but it’s simply what I have to do just to cope sometimes. To each, his own, right?

So I dumped the grief on my characters, wrote out the scenes, and instantly felt better. The pain was more manageable, the grief less debilitating. It was a way to channel the pain, acknowledge it, and honor the memories all at once.

And now I’ve also got a new element to tie into the J.A. Wood series, since Will and Alex make appearances in those books as well…

Yeah. My entire world pretty much revolves around my stories, if you couldn’t tell. There are days I’m really not sure how I even keep it all straight in my head. Now if only Will and Alex could kick my ass a little bit and get me back on track with Shifting Isles Book 4…

Inspiration, Publishing

Write To Live

A running theme in several conversations I’ve had lately is the overabundance of people who work at jobs they hate (but pay the bills) and would rather be working at something they love (but likely wouldn’t be able to make a living that way).

I know this very intimately.

When I first started working at the family auto repair shop (6 June 2000; I was 16 at the time), I absolutely loved my job. Loved it. I was excited for the new skills, the new responsibilities, the chance to prove myself and earn an income. As an introvert, I wasn’t too keen on the constant interaction with the general public, but as time went on I got to become acquainted with these people, learn their stories, share their hopes and woes — all the little things that get discussed in and around the process of writing up repair orders.

Time passed, and the more I continued at this job, the more I became frightfully aware of the big, looming monster always hiding in the shadowy corners of the room. The more I learned, and the more responsibilities I was given, the more I discovered all of the ever-present negative sides to my employment:

Taxes. Regulation. Taxes. Fees. Restrictions. More regulations. And did I mention taxes?

And, over time, these things only got worse. And worse. And worse.

Coming up on fourteen years at this job, I’m so completely burned-out and disgusted by the limitations that I find myself now operating on autopilot rather than being eager to come in to the office everyday. From the moment I walk in the door to the moment I leave, my coworkers and I are so hemmed-in by financial burdens (due to taxes, licenses, fees, etc.) and legal burdens (having to word a repair order just so, having to store items just so, having to constantly fill out any number of reports and forms for the State, etc.) that it just makes work a burden rather than a pleasure.

I now literally despise my job.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not ungrateful. I am very thankful to have a job. I know a lot of people today are out of work and would probably be eager to take my place. I know that, very well. I am exceedingly thankful for being employed and being able to (just barely) pay the mortgage that keeps my sanctuary intact. I am also exceedingly grateful that the conditions of my employment are such that I am permitted to write in my downtime. Still, because of all the governmental interference into my workplace, I just can’t stand being here.

Thus, writing — my love, my passion — is my solace, and keeps me sane when my paid work leaves me feeling empty and meaningless.

And it seems as though a lot of people are in the same boat. Work is not exciting and fulfilling. It’s no longer a chance to learn and grow. It’s just a paycheck — nothing more.

I look back on my high school years and recall all the constant pressure from teachers and counselors to figure out a career path, to determine a passion, to find a direction in life. Back then, I had absolutely no passions whatsoever. I had not a single clue what I wanted to do with my life. I had no direction, no desires, no goals except to go to college and continue getting straight A’s — but in what field, I couldn’t even begin to decide. Thus, like many of my peers, I took a job that paid the bills and kept waiting for inspiration to hit.

And waiting.

And waiting.

And still nothing struck me. I just kept going to work everyday, and waiting for a passion to strike me. My job didn’t inspire any ideas, nor did college. I found myself mechanically wandering through existence — not life, but mere existence — and wondering what was the point of it all.

Then came the best and worst thing to ever happen in my life: I was raped.

I know, right now you’re thinking, “Best and worst?!” Let me explain.

Obviously, rape is traumatic — in that sense, literally the worst thing that had ever happened in my life. Immediately after it happened, I slipped into an even more mindless existence, turning into an emotionless robot that simply went through the motions of working and feeding and bathing, but not actually feeling anything or engaging in life. I could go on for hours about the aftermath, though it’s not particularly relevant here (though, of course, I am writing a book about it all — surprise, surprise). The important part, though, is why this traumatic evil turned into the best thing in my life.

When medication and psychotherapy failed me, I sat down one evening and started writing about what happened to me. I’d never been prone to writing in journals or doing anything with the written word other than for school assignments, but once I got that first page down, describing the most vivid memory I had of being raped, suddenly I found that I couldn’t stop.

The words just wouldn’t stop coming.

In five weeks, I had a 300-page novel on my hands, and a couple months after that, I had a 600-page sequel, and a few hundred odd pages of scraps of ideas for a third. Then came ideas for another book, and another, and another, and before I knew it, I wound up with something like twenty novel ideas stored on my computer. The high school math wiz had suddenly turned into a wordsmith.

And I was happy. I’d found my passion. I’d found my purpose. Without even the slightest inkling of ever actually publishing anything, I kept writing, and kept getting story ideas. I just couldn’t stop.

Writing brought me back to life, gave me something to love, and gave me a reason to live. It’s all I want to do, and though it’ll probably never be an income source sufficient to pay the bills, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. In and around doing my day job, my mind is always on my stories, working out plot lines and figuring out characters. It’s darn near all I think about in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, and all I think about in the evenings while I’m exercising or having dinner. When I’m not reading someone else’s book, you can be sure my mind is on one of my own.

I feel free, and alive, and whole when I’m writing. The day job will have to stay, since I still have to pay the bills, but now I’ve got something more, something worthwhile.

I love to write. And I write to live.