Tag Archives: personal

Starving Artists

Some days I feel like those singers they used to feature on American Idol. The ones who had been told their whole lives they had the “voice of an angel,” but when the angel sang it sounded like a wounded cat.

Except with writing instead of singing.

I read through these elegantly-crafted blogs and even just social media posts and I question whether I am capable of conveying emotions and meaning in the same way. I have been writing, professionally, for twenty years, casually for thirty-five. But there are still moments when I feel like I no longer control the words in my mind. I can no longer guide them to the page in the ways I once did.

I have never wanted anything more than to entertain people with my work, to give them an escape from the mundanity of their everyday lives. But then I hear people talking about books they have read, emoting over the prose, choking back tears at the beauty of the story, the tragedy of the characters, and I don’t believe I am capable of eliciting such a response.

I see other authors gushing their gratitude over the number of books they have sold solely to their Booktok community or their Bookstagram community and I doubt the potential for that to be me. Because I am not writing books that touch people’s souls or change their lives. I never wanted to. But is that the reason I feel like I am back in the third, fourth, fifth grades, listening to my teachers tell my parents, “She’s just not living up to her full potential.”

But, is this my potential? Am I only meant to watch from the outside while others succeed at the dreams I have had, both consciously and unconsciously, from before I even started school?

Without even knowing what was happening, I grew up in a generation compelled to create. Previous generations have all given birth to creative compulsives, this is not new. But somehow the Xennial/Millennial generation has reared ourselves flying a bold middle finger at convention. We saw futures as starving artists and said yes, please. We are bringing back the concept of “patron of the arts,” in the form of crowdfunding, pay what you want models, and subscription services. We are figuring out ways to forge our paths while bucking convention. We have chosen to be hungry and homeless in favor of creation, in hopes of one day “making it” with our Etsy shops and our Bandcamps.

And for some, it’s working.

Just not for me.

Bored

What do you do when you can’t even figure out what content to produce to keep yourself entertained?

I have lamented this on here before (which is part of the problem) but I don’t know what to share with people. I have no interest in producing MORE writing tips or editing tips; the internet is saturated with them.

I don’t feel like I get any engagement from behind the scenes content–research bits, character sketches, that sort of thing–and lack of engagement is the quickest way to reinforce my belief that I am a boring human.

I think that’s it, ultimately. I am boring. People tell me that I’m interesting, that I have a lot to say, but when I ask them for guidance, they just repeat themselves. “You’re not boring!” Okay, but I think I am so tell me what it is about me that makes you think I’m not boring? Maybe the thing that you find interesting would be interesting to other people. I might still think it’s dumb but at least having someone say it’s interesting to them gives me hope that I just think I’m boring because I have to spend all day every day listening to the same stupid stories.

I know that those same stupid stories are new to other people and I can’t accurately gauge their entertainment value. But in this case, no news is not good news. No engagement IS engagement. No engagement is rejection of my offerings from the vox populi.

Sometimes it’s an algorithm thing. But my anxiety doesn’t understand that word. My anxiety says, “No one liked this, that means it was terrible. Whatever you do, do NOT repeat this.”

If I post too many more of these, this is going to be my brand. At least in this arena. WordPress is going to start marketing me as the Debbie Downer who has nothing valid to say. Because I keep presenting myself in that light.

I have things to say. I have A LOT of things to say. I’m just not sure if anyone wants to hear them.


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Overwhelm and Too Many Irons

I set up this blog because I have previous experience with WordPress blogs being pretty discoverable. The free ones. The paid ones are not and I am still striving for passive organic growth. I need platforms I can just water occasionally and let them grow on their own while I focus on everything else.

I close out every one of these with a link to my Patreon and I’m pretty sure that’s getting me nowhere. I’m a pretty realistic person and I understand that supporting a Patreon, even at the rate of $3/month is not something you enter into lightly. Reading a free blog is one thing. Subscribing to a free blog is one thing. Giving money to someone every month is a whole other ballgame entirely.

So I get it.

What I don’t get is what I’m supposed to be posting.

I have yet to find a groove with this free platform that will bring in the traffic my previous attempts brought in while also engaging people enough that they will want to go off campus to check out something else. And I have a lot of free content on my Patreon.

I don’t produce enough fiction to be able to spread it around like peanut butter. I would love to. I really would. I would love to have some kind of serial work running on every platform. Something here, something on Patreon. Something on Radish, Kindle Unlimited, Wattpad. While also finishing novels on the side.

What I want is to be able to produce the amount of text that my fingers are able to type. Which would be the equivalent of two full manuscripts each and every five-day work week.

HA!

I know that’s not realistic. Danielle Steel does it but she’s a machine and has been doing it longer than I have been alive. Stephen King is probably close.* But the rest of us have to also work day jobs and . . . sleep.

I actually don’t need that much sleep. And a lot of the time I need sleep because of my day job.

Ideally, I would love to have enough content and support to cut back on my day job. I can’t give it up entirely. I am an extrovert. I need people to stay healthy. But if I could work three days a week in a salon then write the rest of the time, that would be an enormous step in a different direction toward “full-time author.”

I just need to figure out what people want from me. What kinds of content am I supposed to be sharing in each place to get the people to follow me?

Until I figure that out, I guess continue watching me fumble along in the dark.


* Danielle Steel writes up to 20 hours a day on a manual typewriter. The woman is a machine. I don’t have the same statistics for Stephen King (I got the Danielle Steel stats from Jeopardy!) but I do know he’s a pantser like me which is both encouraging and DIScouraging at the same time.


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Regrets

January, 2015 – I faced a pretty big fear and started a conversation with someone on whom I developed a crush over the course of our then three year friendship. It was the first real one-on-one conversation we had had in private and it was one of the most comfortable and easy conversations I had had in a long time.

January, 2017 – I still hadn’t told him how I felt and got that thrown back in my face when he became “Facebook official” with a new girl.

January, 2018 – He started the new year sharing Queen’s Somebody to Love and changing his relationship status back to “single.” I decided to give him some space to heal. Time . . . got away from me.

January, 2019 – He publicly confessed to a lifelong struggle with mental illness and shared that he was starting medication and therapy for it. He told me he’d always be there for me if I needed him. He self isolated, shutting down his social media accounts.

January, 2020 – I signed a contract to publish a book series in which he is the inspiration for one of the main characters. He doesn’t know. Maybe never will.

January, 2021 – I haven’t talked to him in two years and my heart still hurts for him every day. I worry about how he’s doing, all things considered. I worry about his health as someone who seemed to get the flu at least twice every season. I hope he’s happy. For his sake even if that means he’s happy not with me. I hope he’s still doing what he loves. I still miss his voice. I still miss his intelligence, his wisdom, and his humor.

I am still angry with myself for keeping quiet. I’m a strong person but when it comes to offering up my heart to get it broken, I am a frightened child. I’ve been betrayed, manipulated, and abused. I have been blamed for the breakdown of someone’s mental health. I have been cheated on and cheated with. When I rejected the advances of a childhood friend, I learned he was never a friend at all.

I am not harder for it. I still love with everything I have. I’m just the jerk who does it from a distance.

I know that my desire and ability to love someone is not a reason for them to love me back. And them not loving me back does not negate my feelings. I still love him. I hope I’ll see him again some day. I’m not holding my breath for it to happen but maybe I won’t run from it either.


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Out With the Old

I am not a proponent of new years resolutions, generally speaking. While I’m not an extremist zealot about it, I do, sometimes, think seriously about the ridiculousness of time and dates.

Last year was a constant barrage of how horrible 2020 was and talk of yelling Jumanji instead of Happy New Year at midnight and the more those talks continued, the more I thought about this arbitrary thing we call a year.

At 11:59 pm, November 1, 2001, I was not mature enough to drink alcohol. At midnight, sixty seconds later, I magically matured. I feel like New Years Eve is the same concept. 12:01 am January 1, everything resets and all the problems of the previous year are erased.

So I don’t get on board with resolutions.

Goals are a little different to resolutions, though, and I saw someone else talk about the things they are leaving behind in the coming year–everything from judgment to junk–that no longer serves them. So I thought I’d try a little of that.

First off, goals.

I obviously have two books coming out this year. I heard a lot of excuses regarding the status of the first one and why C0VID was to blame for it’s low performance but truly I hope it’s because it’s the first of a series and people are waiting until they can get all three. Because I don’t find comfort in the idea that in a year of homebound free time, the reason people, who are boasting about reading 2-300 books in 2020, did not buy mine.

No, I’m far more comforted by the idea that sales will jump in September with the release of the third book.

But in addition to that, I want to put out some short fiction.

I don’t know that I want to get involved in more anthologies. They are a lot of work for what amounts to “exposure” in the long run.

Sure I have awards from Dragons Within and an LGBTQ bestseller for Fractured Realities but …

A lot of work for very little pay off.

That’s not saying I won’t take the opportunity if the right one comes along; I just don’t plan to seek them out.

In terms of what I want to leave behind–I have taken on a great deal of anger in 2020 and I don’t like it. I am not an angry person but circumstances–

I have absolutely heard people outright refuse to be vaccinated then in the next breath suggest none of this is ever going to end; masks and isolation are life now, concerts and festivals and conventions will never come back. Well yeah, Karen, if you refuse to get a FREE AND SAFE vaccine, then, yes, you’re correct. It will never end.

But I don’t want to be angry. I am a positive, kind, pleasant person. My customer service voice IS my normal voice. I want to be that person again.

So I guess that’s my how we’re starting 2021 post. If you want to follow along on these quests, follow me here and join me on Patreon.

A Season of Gift Giving

When I was a teenager, my parents committed some horrible atrocity.

I don’t remember what it was, now, but there was a gift for some gift-giving holiday that did not meet my teenaged girl standards. Probably shoes that were the wrong color or a knock-off of some overpriced brand name thing. Anyway, I was given a gift about which I was less than thrilled and that started a law in my family.

No gifts without a wish list.

For anyone. I made a list, Mom made a list, Dad made a list. And we shopped from the list. No deviation.

Well, some deviation but as long as we shopped 90% from the list, everything was peaceful.

This is not some spoiled teen thing. Even today, if I buy something for my mother that is of my own accord, not something she specifically requested, the response is often mixed. There is some level of gratitude but there’s always some level of “why did you buy me this?” or “why did you think I wanted that?”

This applies to objects as well as even just showing up with treats. “I saw these candies I thought you might like to try.”

The thing is—and the point of this story—I make the lists, even still, but if something happens and the items requested cannot be purchased, I might get a gift card or cash instead. Which is fine, except then I have trouble buying the things that were on the list.

I don’t have an explanation for it. But, let’s look at this year’s list. I asked for charcoal pastels—charcoal, not oil; I don’t like the oil kind. If I don’t get them but get, say, a gift card to Michael’s, I will not go straight away and buy the pastels I wanted. I will put the card away until such a time when I want to make a big purchase that I wouldn’t make otherwise.

Which means the card will stay put away, indefinitely, and I’ll never get the pastels.

If someone could explain this to me—or even tell me that you can relate—I would greatly appreciate it.

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Twenty years of linkin park

I have had a busy day.

Though that’s not really a valid excuse for not having this finished sooner. I think it was just too big for me. It still is.

Every time a celebrity death sends shockwaves through the populace, I remember a quote I read once: We don’t mourn the death of a celebrity because we knew them but because they helped us to know ourselves.

I have gone through a lot of these in the last few years. Robin Williams, Tom Petty, Prince, Chris Cornell. But none have made this statement more true than Chester Bennington.

His voice still hurts my heart.

I didn’t jump on the Linkin Park train right away. I got on a couple years later—2002, probably—with Meteora, but when I fell, I fell hard. Early on, with those first two albums, Linkin Park was my go-to angry music. In college, in my early twenties, I had times when I needed angry music.

And some of my angry music doubled as pump up music, getting ready for something big.

It wasn’t until later when I really started to feel the impact of the music.

To say I went through a messy breakup at the end of my senior year of university would be a gross understatement. I went through a soul-crushing, devastating breakup at the end of my senior year of university. In the year I was supposed to be planning for my future, my plans had grown up around our relationship. I didn’t have any real ties to any specific place so I was all for moving to Austin, Texas, to wait for him to finish his schooling. I wasn’t planning to move in together, just move there. Start working, hopefully in my field, and when he graduated, we’d figure out the next step.

Until that couldn’t be my plan anymore.

I couldn’t move to a city where the only people I knew were my now-ex’s friends. So I moved back home with my mother.

And that wasn’t even the devastating part. It got progressively worse.

Until I was numb. I felt nothing. Not happy, not sad, not angry, not hurt. I felt nothing. I had a couple of friends (who are still with me) who honestly worried that I would fall asleep one night and never wake up again. It’s called Broken Heart Syndrome and it is when the physical stress brought on by a person’s grief is too much for their body to handle and their organs simply shut down.

After a few months of this, I rediscovered my connection to music. He and I had had a relationship built around music so I had found it difficult to listen to anything. I just didn’t have the interest in any of it. But I found another band (not Linkin Park; another story for another day) that had no connection to my time with him and before long feelings started to come back. They were horrible feelings. Pain, sorrow, anger, but they were feelings. They took turns and when it was anger’s turn at the wheel, I looked to Linkin Park for . . . well, a lot of things. To channel the anger, to comfort the anger, to nurture the anger. After being numb, I relished the anger. I wanted to be angry. Anger was easier than pain.

Numb is not something I would ever wish on another person, ever. When someone says, “there are things worse than death,” I think they are talking about nothing. The complete absence of everything. No emotions. Creativity sapped. Energy depleted. Appetite nonexistent. Numb, I think, is worse than death.

And even in all of that, it was 2014 before I fully understood the full impact the music of Linkin Park had had on me.

At that point I had been following the band AFI for twenty years, and Linkin Park for twelve, so when I was offered a ticket to the Carnivores tour with AFI, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and Linkin Park as a gift for graduating cosmetology school, I was thrilled.

I truly believe there is no better way to experience music than live, from the front row. Even music you’ve listened to for years, for more than a decade. The live experience is so different to being at home or in your car. Especially for someone like me, an extroverted empath who feels and absorbs other people’s energy and emotion. Being among hundreds or thousands of people whose emotions are turned up to eleven is so powerful. But feeling that emotion and energy from the artists creating the music. . . it’s honestly euphoric.

But something in hearing, live, those lyrics that had brought me so much comfort from my stereo and headphones, was overwhelming. Being in the melee of the tiny GA pit with a couple hundred other people, thirty thousand in the seats behind us, supporting Mike Shinoda standing on the barricade, it was something I knew I had to do again.

That’s my concert experience. There are bands I expect to put on a good show before I go and I might spend years trying to get there. Linkin Park was one of those bands. And I know before the first song is over if it’s a show I’ll seek out again and again. Linkin Park was going to be one of those shows too.

I had been watching the tour schedules, determined to see them again, when I got the news about Chester’s death. And I am not being dramatic when I tell you, I felt my heart break. I could probably write down every lyric from their catalog that has touched me in some way and completely fill up a notebook. I don’t think I have learned more about myself from any other band, ever. Every album is it’s own therapy session, every song a deep dive into the traumas of my life.

“I wanna heal. I wanna feel what I thought was never real. I wanna let go of the pain I felt so long. I wanna heal. I wanna feel like I’m close to something real. I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along. Somewhere I belong.”

We don’t mourn the deaths of celebrities because we knew them but because they helped us to know ourselves.

*****

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