Author Archives: cmalley

About cmalley

In 2005, I was diagnosed with depression and a severe form of generalized anxiety disorder. I went on medication and two years later moved to South Korea where I met my husband and had a son. Now I'm back in the US, off medication and attempting to make the best possible life for my family.

pre-interview pep talk for the anxious soul

Today I have a major interview and teaching demo at a state college for a full-time instructor position.  I received the phone call three weeks ago and have been in a state of panic ever since, reading everything I could find about what’s expected of a teaching demo, to the kinds of questions I might be asked, what I should expect when I get there, information about the college itself, reviewing teaching theory, and on and on and on.  The past couple nights I’ve gotten little sleep for the anxiety that’s got one hand clenched around my stomach and the other gripping the back of my neck.

Last Fri I was supposed to see the doctor and at that time I was planning to ask for anti-anxiety medication.  Got down there and turned out the doctor had an emergency and so that was that… rely on nerves of rubber to get me through this.

I’ve submitted my resume to a lot of places and of all of them, this is only the 3rd interview that I’ve gotten.  The 1st two were for part-time positions and, well, I’m still unemployed so you can imagine how well those went.  The thing is, in both cases when they asked, “Why do you want to work here?” I fumbled on my answer.  Because I didn’t really want to work at those places and I hadn’t come up with a well thought out response that wouldn’t sound like I was trying to avoid, “I need to make money.”

In this case, however, I really do want the job.  It’d be a challenging position and I’m not even going to kid myself about that, but it’s also doing something that interests me and would give me the opportunity to help others better themselves which is really why I enjoy teaching.  It’s certainly not because I enjoy prolonged social contact.

Funny thing.  I don’t like social contact and yet I’m interested in people, in helping people.  How does that work?

I’ve written out a list of questions that I might be asked along with my responses, gone over the list several times over.  Have reviewed other potential questions I might be asked and even if I’m asked a variation on the theme I should hopefully not be caught off guard by anything.  The demo I’ve gone over a few times and will do so a couple more before I leave.  Got my backup handouts in case technology fails me and my clothes laid out.

There is absolutely nothing else I can do.

My aunt yesterday said to trust in God, to hand it over to God.  My family doesn’t know that I don’t believe in God, not the way they do at least.  Still, there’s a good point to it.  I can’t do anything else and all I’ve got now is this anxiety holding my body hostage.  Deep breathing isn’t doing a thing.  Distracting myself with inanity isn’t helping.  I can’t sleep.  I can try to imagine handing this over to something or someone bigger than myself, put myself in that mindset that all I can do is my best and whatever happens, happens.  The outcome is going to affect us big time, one way or the other and that’s a lot of the fear, but to sit here and ruminate definitely isn’t helping.

That’s not going to take away the anxiety but maybe if I can put myself into the moment, it’ll keep me from visibly shaking.  All I need is to remember that I’m an excellent candidate for this job, that this is something I really want to do, and that I’m just as worthy as the other interviewees who are going to be there.

I’ve dealt with massive insecurity my entire life and all I can see are the shortcomings of what I’ve done, yet if I lay it out there, it can certainly sound impressive.  That’s where I need my head to be.  Use my shortcomings as lessons and everything else is my strength.  Answer the questions honestly and don’t sell myself short.  Go into the demo confident and try not to get sidetracked.  There’s not a single thing more I can do and I’m going to have to be okay with that.

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reading the thirst away

This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for ages then the muse came to visit and demanded I work on my novel and who am I to argue with her?  I love my muse, but man does she get bitchy.

Now seems like I good time to bring this up since I’ve finished the novel’s 1st draft and I’m gearing up for the edits.  Except, I don’t feel ready.  I’m too thirsty to edit.  I need a nice, long, invigorating cup of book.  I’ve got books.  Lots of them–most of which are packed away in storage because my family and I don’t actually have our own place to live.  I go through the stack of books I do have and to my amazement every single one of them is non-fiction.  Books on writing, on spirituality, on culture… what in the world.  How do I not have a single piece of fiction?

This calls for a trip to the used bookstore with my two-year-old.  First thing I do is dig through the kids’ section to buy the boy a book, a picture encyclopedia because it contains the vital element: choo-choo trains.  It takes a lot less time to pick out my book, a 1st edition copy of Gerald’s Game.

Image

I’m a sucker for Stephen King.  Always have been. I still remember vividly the first time I read him.  It was Night Shift, a collection of short stories, and for some odd reason I found it on the 6th grade classroom bookshelf.

Last night I opened that bad boy up and sank right into its creamy, delicious folds.  Sigh.  Bliss.  I am not even kidding.

The thing is, I rarely read fiction these days.  I did read Life of Pi a few months ago, and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t related to my genre.  It inspired me to write, but I was fast forgetting how my genre sounded, felt, smelled, tasted, looked. You know what I mean, the particular five senses captured in a genre by an amazing writer.  I am not going to refer to myself as an amazing writer.  Heaven knows I have years and miles before I earn those stripes, if I ever do.  Stephen King, however, is an amazing writer.  And if I want to know how he does it, I have to read him and I have to do it in the moment.

I’ve read lots of Stephen King.  Not even close to all of his works by any means, and most definitely not to Annie Wilkes levels, but perhaps more than the casual reader.  I read other writers and genres of course, but Stephen King most closely encapsulates the mood that I want to achieve in my own writing.  If I want a fair shot at capturing a similar feel to my work then I’ve got to read him.

The reason I wanted to write this post so bad, had it on my mind for months in fact, stems from a conversation I had with a fellow writer about three years ago. She wrote short stories with dark themes. I really wanted to keep meeting with her because we were in South Korea and I didn’t have a lot of options when it came to writing partners.

When I asked her who her writing influences were she looked right at me and said, “I don’t like to read.”

I thought I must’ve misunderstood and asked for clarification.  She followed it up by explaining that other writers bored her and she had yet to pick up a book that she could finish.

“Since you write short stories, what about looking for anthologies?”

She demurred and said something along the lines that she might find something.  It was evident she wasn’t that interested.

I was blown away.  Really.  I couldn’t wrap my head around this.  How does a writer who doesn’t read know what good writing is?  That killed our writing relationship right there. If a person writes and isn’t willing to pick up a single book, we can’t hang out. It’s as simple as that. And the entire reason is that I can’t let her read my writing in good conscience since she won’t read anyone else.

It goes beyond that of course. Even if someone can’t find a writer who blows her away, then I’d urge her to at least pick up something in her genre anyway to see what she doesn’t like, what she ought to avoid.  This way she can be familiar with what other writers of her genre are doing and see what affect those techniques are having on her as a reader. At the very least, when she hits the inevitable, dreaded Writer’s Block, she’ll have nourishment to sustain her as she performs the hard work of tearing that asshole down.

I could feel the dryness of not reading while working through my first draft. Now that I’ve got a book in hand, I’m no longer working through a dry, gaping, text-less void. I’m invigorated. I’m inspired. I’m nourished. I’m ready to break open that manuscript and start on the journey ahead.


1st drafts can happen

I’m breaking the blog silence so I can memorialize this moment: Yesterday I completed the 1st draft of my novel!  Throw the confetti and uncork the champagne!

Now I’ve got a major exam to take this Saturday so I’m going to be devoting the rest of the week to study because, you know, jobs with  a paycheck and all, but once that’s passed I’ll be hopping back to it for my 1st round of editing/revising.  This is by far the most I’ve written of a single story.  I think the longest previous work I’ve done was around 50,000 so yeah, this feels pretty darned amazing, and I’m sure after it goes through several revisions it’ll be a more respectable length (shooting for 75k-85k).

Lots of frustration wrapped up in this work and I’m sure more to come.  At the moment let me bask in the thought, ‘Yes, no matter the challenges, I can totally do this.’


it’s raining words

My blog has collected a fine coating of dust. It turns out that I can’t balance my time between this and a novel.

The good news is that I’m working on the novel again, and even though I’m not in love with anything I’m writing at the moment, it’s broken the dry spell.

The only way novel writing was going to happen was if I rearranged my day. In my case this has meant going to bed and waking up earlier, regardless of the rest of the household’s schedule.

Actually, I might have to thank the cold virus I’m fighting for making it so easy to follow the early to bed, early to rise schedule. My body hasn’t been letting me stay up late. It’s awesome. I get a full night’s rest and then I get up and have plenty of time to work. The trick will be in maintaining this schedule once I’m healthy.

It’s a short post today. I just wanted to get something up here so I don’t let this blog go to rubbish.

One day I’ll blog something of substance but for now I’ve got a novel to write!


resistance

I read somewhere (or many somewhere) that if you find yourself continuously unable to write, you might want look at more than your external circumstances. You might want to take a hard look at yourself.

Ever since I moved back to the US, I haven’t been able to write.  For a couple months that was probably valid.  There was a lot going on and little peace or space to be found.  But as time marches on and I’m still not writing, I start to wonder if I shouldn’t be complaining about my externals and looking a bit more at what’s going on in my own head.

This morning I finally get out of bed and now I’ve got this moment of quiet.  It’s perfect.  I decide that this is the day I open up my novel and jump back into it.  So, I open it.  It’s an older copy.  I search for the last update of it and can’t find it in my cloud account or email.  Right.  It’s on the hard drive of the other computer which would mean having to turn on that computer, waiting for it to boot, and jeez… that’s just too much fuss, right?

I mean, by the time I get all that done the baby will surely be awake and what’s the point?

That’s the entire problem with my approach to writing these days.

There is–always–an–excuse.

I can no longer say, “I don’t have space.  I don’t have time.  I don’t have the ultra perfectly magical setup.”

Because BS.  BS.  BS.

I do have space and every now and then I get the time.  And who the hell, save those kissed by the writing gods, has the perfect setup?

Those are my issues manifesting through don’t want to write, don’t make me write.

If I examine myself, I have a laundry list of reasons for the resistance.

The Inner Critic

The big one for writers is that inner critical voice that points out how goofy that last sentence sounded, the punctuation or spelling isn’t right, this isn’t the correct word, etc.  I was hoping that blogging would help temper that voice since I write these entries in one draft with a couple quick edits after it’s done.  Yet this… blogging is somehow an entirely different animal from novel writing.  Maybe this is because so much time–years in the case of this freaking book–has been poured into it.  Even though the blog is introspective and connected to me in that matter, each entry only gets about an hour maximum of my time.  If it reads poorly I can shrug my shoulders and go, “Yeah, well, I didn’t exactly labor over it.”

Not so with that book because I gave up a huge chunk of my life to it.  The thought that someone would tell me it’s bad wrenches my stomach.

I need that first draft and know that.  The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect.  I know that.  At one point, I was completely okay with that and could write a shitty first draft.  Now… I just can’t.  Which brings me to point #2.

Vulnerability

I’m in a far more vulnerable place of my life now than I was a few months ago.  I made the decision to move here.  I can’t put this on my husband at all.  I wanted to move here and he followed me because he wants me to be happy.  If we can’t make a life in the US then this is on me.  This weighs on me every single day that we don’t find work.

The writing suddenly becomes this silly dream where at one point, back when I was employed, therefore solid income, it was a dear passion.

I carry that vulnerability with me everywhere and when I open the word processor, it follows me there, too.

It’s a word akin to another ‘v’ word: vampire

The protagonist exposes her neck to the vampire.  What if it hurts?  What if he takes advantage? What if he drains her to the brink of death?  Over?  

I’m afraid….

Hiding

I brought this up in a previous entry and the more thought I give to it, the more I realize how much this hinders me.

See, I was brought up in a rather black and white world.

It took me moving halfway across the world to break free completely of the thought models that had been imposed on my worldview.  I was already pushing away from them quite some time before I went but moving away allowed me to really, truly, completely live as myself and not in disguise.

That was when I was able to transform the book into what it was always supposed to be about.  Those heavy eyes weren’t weighing down on me.

Now I’m back in that same sphere and even though I’m a transformed person, I’m already falling back into old patterns of hiding.

It’s a supernatural novel with ghosts, psychic vampires, super powers, and the like. It’s also a novel about two young men wrestling with their identity, being honest to themselves and others about who they really are.

How many times have I thought to myself what a hypocrite I am to use this as my theme when I have to hide what matters to me?

 

This should no longer matter and I need to get to a place in my mind where it doesn’t.

There are other reasons for this resistance I could discuss but I’ll save those for another time.  It’s enough that I’ve acknowledged this much.  Maybe it’ll be enough rubble cleared to move forward.


kids and writing

There must be some trick to writing with a small child about foot.  I woke up earlier than I typically would thinking, ‘Good.  I’ve got at least an hour to sit down and belt out something.  Maybe even open up that novel.’

The novel must be thick with electronic dust by now.

I go in to make a pot of coffee and notice that the refrigerator door is jammed and won’t close.  As I’m fiddling with it, baby boy starts to cry and my heart sinks.

Not today either.

I’ve turned on Saturday morning cartoons in an attempt to buy myself some time.  It works to some degree. My child, though, he likes to crawl up on my lap where I’ve got the computer sitting and is presently pressed against my leg as he watches the colorful puppets and lively humans on screen.  Every now and then he tries to scramble up onto my lap.

Most mornings I’d let him and I feel some guilt that I’m not this morning. 

I don’t know how to find time to write when my best attempt is to wake up early and hope that he doesn’t get up for another hour.  That he’s watching TV gives me a chance but I just don’t know how I can do any writing of significance when every five minutes he’s attempting to scale me.  How do I do this?

My step-mother brought up putting him in daycare so I could get work done.  I’m a little hesitant since my husband and I still don’t have work and this will just eat away at our savings.  Is it worth it?

Meanwhile I lie in bed at night and think about the novel I’m not working on.


honesty then it flows

It’s some of the most common advice given to writers: Write what you know.

I’ve read that so many times, across so many writing books, that it’s practically hammered into to me and then I became afraid to stray from its path.

Well… what do I know?  Not a great lot actually because I’ve led a fairly sheltered, adventure less life.

That’s fine.  That’s why we have google and TV.

I do stand behind “write what you know” and it’s true that it makes writing a heckuva lot easier, but I want to tweak it just a tad.  How about we say “write what you want“?

Confession: I’ve been working on a novel with the exact same characters for the past twenty years.  I have tweaked and fussed with and prodded that stupid thing until it’s barely recognizable in its original form.   I’ve even come close to finishing it before demolishing the whole thing because I simply didn’t like it.  Oh us writers with our thin, brittle skin.

While living in Korea (all right, I’ve had a few adventures), something incredible happened.  I met some of the most free-spirited, authentic people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.  It’s not saying there aren’t a lot of this sort out there, but I don’t get out much and socializing isn’t my forte, so yeah, it was pretty eye-opening.  What this did for me is to take a second look at that novel that had been giving me trouble since I was in middle school and to ask myself, what gives?  What’s stopping me from completing this when I’ve invested so much of myself into it?

Wait.  So much of myself?  Really?

It was wrong.  Completely wrong.  I looked at the main male character, Adrian, and then I looked at his (male) best friend and his (female) love interest and thought, ‘I’ve never been particularly interested in her.  He doesn’t act all that interested in her.  She’s boring to write.’  But the best friend, he inspired me.  I’ve always been a little in love with him and… hold up… so has Adrian.

Wow.  That’s what happened.  I wasn’t writing what I really wanted and I knew it.  I wasn’t telling the story that I had been itching to tell.  That’s how I was sabotaging the story.  It wasn’t the story that needed to be told.  It wasn’t the story I even wanted to tell.  Instead I was writing what was safe, what would be acceptable to general mainstream audiences and that isn’t fair to me, the book, or my characters.

And this is all a little scary when you want to write something that could receive backlash, or goes against the grain of how you were raised, and come out and admit it.  I have to admit it though.  The only way the story will be completed is that I’m honest to myself about what I want to write.

As soon as I admitted who the characters are, I was able to write a full detailed outline, enough that I now have a thorough idea of the story from start to finish.  Once I get a desk and more than thirty minutes in the morning to write, I’m into that book like a stay at home mom with her red wine.  That wine is sure to make me all the more honest after all.