Mental Health, Writing

Writers Not Writing Tag – Tag Tuesday

Lovingly stolen from Jessica Rachow’s blog!

Do you have a day job?

I currently work as a Style Advisor at a luxury department store, selling shoes that cost more than my rent!

Are you a reader?

Of course! It’s how I learned to write. I am definitely of the generation that was inspired by JK Rowling to become a reader, and it’s never gone away.

Currently reading Borne by Jeff Vandermeer…slowly…

What are your other hobbies?

Theatre is a major passion of mine. It’s my degree, but I don’t spend a lot of time doing it. Last night, I finally attended my first audition in five years, thanks to the encouragement of my BFF Christine. It’s a huge deal for me and my self-confidence!

Tea or coffee?

All about that coffee life. ☕️

What are you passionate about?

Musical theatre is life. While I stopped performing as much as I used to, I definitely still have a Spotify full of Original Broadway casts.

Do you have any pets?

This angry looking dork is Cleo. I’m obsessed with her little moustache.

What was your dream job as a child/when you were younger?

What wasn’t my dream job? I’m pretty sure it was a long list of every single career I was aware of at the time.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

Bicheno, Tasmania. It’s a little seaside town on the East coast that shows up in most of my writing, because I think about it every day. It’s the calmest, most gorgeous place on the entire planet.

Do you speak foreign languages?

My Grandmother is from Barcelona, and my cousins are Mexican, so I had to start learning Spanish eventually. This is the first year I’ve taken it as seriously as I’d like, and the improvement is huge. I’m able to speak Spanish with customers and understand conversations between my cousins, which is huge for me.

What music would we find in your collection?

Again, it’s more a question of what you won’t find! I’m a big top 40 girl when it comes to commute music, and often download the Spotify lists at the start of the week. My favourite band is A Great Big World! I’ve seen them 3 times in concert and even got to meet them last year! It’s the most cheerful, gorgeous music, mixing everything I love from theatrical and pop music.

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Writing

The problem with strong female characters

Author: I don’t write “female characters” I just write people

Male character: I have to avenge my father

Male character: I have to stop being a boy and finally become a MAN

Male character: I have to assert my masculinity by seducing as many women as possible whilst telling them they deserve a real man like me

Female character: I am a strong, intelligent woman like my mother before m

Author: NO HOW DARE YOU YOU ARE NOT A WOMAN YOU ARE JUST A PERSON NOT LIMITED TO THEIR GENDER WHICH IN MY MIND MEANS YOU ARE BASICALLY A MAN WITH A VAGINA NOW MAN THE FUCK UP AND GO PLAY WITH THE BIG BOYS PS NO FEMALE FRIENDS AND PLEASE SCREW THE LEAD

Writing

The WIP Tag – Tag Tuesday

I discovered this tag on The Shameful Narcisissist Speaks‘ blog! Seems to be open for anyone, and since I’ve always loved tags, I’ll share some stuff about my current work-in-progress!

1. What is the working title of your book?

The Andromeda Man. I’m one of those writers who comes up with the title before I write the book, so this has been the title for a very long time. It’s rare that I start something without a title, but I do occasionally change them.

2. Where did the idea come from?

The story has gone through a lot of different incarnations. First it was just a thought about time dilation, and whether we might be the most advanced species in the universe. It was a simple story about a girl on MSN messenger with a boy from the Andromeda galaxy.

Then I came up with a setting slightly in the future, where citizens are limited to one form of social media, and considered how that would split the world.

The character of Sarah was a homeless character from a short story that didn’t pan out. She’s definitely been through a lot since!

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Oh geez, this is the most difficult question for me. It’s somewhere between soft science fiction and speculative fiction, but it’s very character driven. I would even go so far as to say my story is magical realism, but that’s a very vague descriptor.

4. Which actors would play your characters in the movie adaptation?

I don’t have somebody for all of my characters, but I certainly have a few celebrity faces in there.

Clemence Poesy is my face-character for Sarah, a high-powered business woman who starts to receive messages from a mysterious person. Except Sarah isn’t French, so we’re really just going off the looks here. I love the thoughtful look she has, like she’s seeking something.

Scott Evans is who I originally thought of as Bill, but to be honest, Bill looks completely different to me now. Bill is Sarah’s fiancé, a social media obsessed marketing bro. It’s the boyish charm that I’m drawn to in Evans, but I imagine Bill as a little more bro-y.

And Cito – a man that appears in Sarah’s premonitions – looks exactly like Latin actor Gonzalo Vega Jr, because I found the actor and was, like, yep!

Bonus marks to Oscar Isaac as Reyes, a tech mogul in my 2048 universe. Because how can you not include Oscar Isaac?

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

First of all, how dare you. 

I’ve attempted this a few times, to various levels of success. Currently, I’ve got:

In a near future where society is divided by their favoured form of Social Media, a high-powered business woman is reliving the final 62 days of her life. 

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft?

A hundred years. Okay, not literally. I wrote the basic first draft during NaNoWriMo in November of last year, but it wasn’t totally complete. There were a lot of holes, and to be honest, I’m still filling some of those in. At least it has a full, complete plot at the moment, but there are a couple of subplots I still want to add.

8. What other books will you compare your book to?

I actually got a great recommendation from my BETA reader! The Circle, by Dave Eggers. Both are set in just a slightly future world, and both use Social Media as a primary theme.

I was heavily inspired by Slaughterhouse-Five, however, and initially my book even used the same type of time jumps as Vonnegut’s does.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I always had the basic premise, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I found the central character’s journey. I wanted to write about different people from different time zones on more than a global scale, but an inter-dimensional one.

What if there’s another time that’s way further ahead than we are, or what if we’re the most advanced species in the universe? That’s where my central question started, and it’s gone through a lot of upheaval since then.

I guess, based on my obsessions with physics and the universe, I have to attribute my inspiration to Neil Degrasse Tyson. Keep looking up!

10. What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?

Do you like sexy love stories? I’ve got a sexy love story.

Too bad about all the lying and cheating and mental breakdowns to go along with it…

I tag everyone reading this, because sometimes it’s hard to get started in this whole blogging thing! Let me know if you do it, so I can read all about your work-in-progress!

Mental Health

I failed CBT (and why that’s okay) – Mental Health Monday

I recently wrote a blog post about writing and mental health, and I mentioned my own struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD.

My OCD manifests in the form of intrusive thoughts, a common form of the disorder which is rarely discussed. It receives very little attention, particularly in media like books and film, probably because it is less cinematic than, say, someone obsessively reorganizing a stack of papers.

Recently, John Green published a novel called “Turtles All the Way Down”, which I would say is amongst one of the best representations of OCD in media. It’s a very real way the disorder manifests, in little anxieties and unrealistic worries, and I was really impressed with the book as a whole. A definitely recommendation for YA-lovers and mental health enthusiasts alike!

Today, I’d like to talk about a popular treatment for OCD, called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT.

Before we start, I want to pop a disclaimer on here: literally everything I’m writing from this point onward is from MY EXPERIENCE ONLY. My CBT experience has nothing to do with anyone else’s, and what works for one person will not work for another. For me, I love reading about other OCD-heads’ experiences, and I find it empowering to watch others go through the same struggles I’ve faced. So there!

Now we can continue…

CBT is a popular treatment because it forces the patient to “face their fears”, as it were. It teaches the patient to create coping strategies for their intrusive thoughts an compulsions, giving them the tools to move forward with a healthier lifestyle.

It’s a way to accept your disorder and manage it, and I believe it’s a really valuable tool for those suffering.

And I totally failed at it.

I began a CBT course in January. I had signed up for CBT the previous March, after an OCD episode, and with no word about the wait list by November, decided to ask my family doctor if she knew another route. It turned out that another doctor at the same clinic practiced CBT as well, and I was in by January 2nd.

Amazing, right? Except…

…I wasn’t ready.

Let’s be clear that, at this point, my mental health was basically stable. I had received the most amazing emergency care after my episode, and anti-depressants had been incredibly helpful in managing my illness. I was good.

But when I found out all the different lifestyle changes I’d have to make, I was overwhelmed. I had to change my diet, come up with an exercise routine and do it EVERY DAY, quit drinking cold turkey, have a bedtime and wake-up time, and do a lot more journaling than I was accustomed to doing.

It was a lot, but I felt as though I’d be letting someone down if I didn’t commit right away, so I signed up.

I was an abject failure. While the reading and journaling came pretty easily to me, the lifestyle changes did not. I thought I had to do everything all at once, and whenever I met with my doctor, I totally cheated on my homework. I would claim workouts that never happened, and I was definitely still going out for drinks with my friends.

I was learning so much from those sessions, though. I found that I was really using the various coping strategies in my every day life, and I’m still using them now. CBT was teaching me to take a step back from my anxieties, and see them as the lies they were.

As far as the program went, I still sucked. I met the most amazing women who had graduated from it, and I was so impressed with their ability to commit.

A few months later, I rescheduled one too many appointments, and decided to fail out. I wanted to give up my spot to someone who would be just as committed as the graduates I met, and let them have a go.

And you know what? I don’t regret quitting. CBT is a fantastic, useful, important therapy, but I wasn’t in the right place in my life to commit to it. I work shifts, making the standard daily schedules basically impossible. Instead of thinking about journaling, my head was filled with dreams of my novel. I was just… not there.

I am mentally healthier than I’ve been in years, and I still failed CBT. And that’s okay, because I can try again. And maybe I’ll fail again, but that was always going to be part of my OCD journey.

To those of you who struggle with your mental health, hats off, because I know how hard it can be. I know how alone you can feel, and how difficult it is to get motivated.

But help is out there, and if you’re committed to getting healthy, I promise that you can.

Bookish Content, Writing

21 unnecessary journals that every writer totally needs

1. The “it’s so pretty I could cry” journal

2. The “I should start a bullet journal” journal

3. The “this is for THIS ONE NOVEL ONLY” journal

4. The “it’s on sale I might need one later” journal

5. The “purse” journal

6. The “couch” journal

7. The “car” journal

8. The “work” journal

9. The “I haven’t opened this since 2007” journal

10. The “ideas I might write someday” journal

11. The “is this how you write a diary?” journal

12. The “I found this under the bed” journal

13. The “wreck this journal” journal

14. The “it’s a gift for a friend but ooops I kept it for myself” journal

15. The “daily prompt” journal

16. The “mysteriously empty after several years of ownership” journal

17. The “spare paper” journal

18. The “real leather-bound” journal

19. The “it has an elephant on the cover I love elephants” journal

20. The “I actually used this journal” journal

And finally:

21. The “journal I’m going to buy next” journal

How many of these journals do YOU have?

Bookish Content, books, Mental Health, Writing

May Post Round-Up!

A list of all my posts from May, all in on place! Whether you’re a writer, a reader, or something in between, you’re sure to find something you like!

WRITING TIPS

Why I low-key hate The Handmaid’s Tale (and why you need well developed characters)

Beta reading, from a beginner

Stop strangling your novel!

I’m an underwriter (and so can you!)

How to write an original story

I’m cheating on my novel (and other thoughts on focus)!

AND EVERYTHING ELSE!

The Author Catastrophizes (a look at mental health)

Neville Longbottom would have done well in Hufflepuff

Lulu Self-Publishing (print review)

Re-Reading Harry Potter (a cinematic experience)

Cover creation (an adventure)

Bookish Content, Writing

Why I low-key hate The Handmaid’s Tale (and why you need well-developed characters)

I have a dirty little secret.

No, really, it’s bad.

Shameful, truly.

I am a woman, and I hate The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Not only am I a woman, I’m a Canadian woman with a love of reading. I especially love post-apocalyptic stories. What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I like this book?

I’ve given it enough chances. I read the book in high school, and again as the TV series first came out. I’ve seen the 90’s movie, and I have to admit, I’m obsessed with the story itself. It’s an interesting world that’s well-developed within the novel, and the premise completely draws me in.

And I love other Atwood novels. Oryx and Crake rocks. The Iliad was an awesome part of my college experience. Her stories and worldview are fully in my wheelhouse.

What’s the problem?

The problem, and those of you who have only seen the show might not get it, is Offred.

Again, we’re talking about the novel. Offred is not June in the novel. She’s just… Offred. June was an unassigned name in the book that the show gave the character, based on fan speculation. A real name gives June a persona, and allows a character to build.

But Offred is all pain, and tragedy, and wanting to escape. And that’s it. Her backstory is deliberately vague: an insert character for the reader. The woman who didn’t see. The woman who didn’t stand up for her rights until it was too late.

a concept might be a character, but she still needs a soul. (1) - copy

Offred is a concept, and a concept might be a character, but she still needs a soul.

That’s why I love the show, and even the movie. Maybe it’s the visual element: I can see what Offred is feeling, instead of being told how to feel. Having an actress as good as Elizabeth Moss in the role gives it so much more depth, and allows me to fight for her.

I never got that from the novel. I only got the world, and the horrors of that world. I had to provide the rest. I had to put myself in her shoes.

The author needs to develop their character to the point that they could feasibly exist. They require research, time, a backstory. That creates representation. But Offred isn’t about representing one woman, she’s about representing all women.

Well, all white women. Let’s be honest: the purpose of the Handmaid’s Tale is to put white women in the shoes of women around the world, to feel the horrors they’re experiencing right now. That’s not a bad idea, but she still needs to be someone.

I want to see myself in literature, but it needs to be earned. A faceless avatar doesn’t count.

None of this means anything. After all, who am I to tell Margaret Atwood how to write a novel? Because Offred’s non-characterness was a choice. We’re supposed to be Offred. It didn’t work for me, but it did for countless other readers, and that’s what makes it great. A book that inspires discussion is a great one.

So, I’ve read a great book. Twice. And I still don’t like it.

But you oughta check it out.