Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Persistence’ Category

Writing, Hand Issues, and More Frustration…

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Folks, you probably have noticed that I haven’t written a blog in nearly a week.

There is a reason for that. Three of them, to be exact: Hand issues. Frustration. And lots of editing.

My writing has taken a big-time backseat to all of this.

Now, as for the hand issues? I have tendinitis in both hands and wrists. (Until recently, I was told this was carpal tunnel syndrome, but now, the diagnosis has been revised.) Typing is painful at the moment. Using my arms at all is painful, too. I’m going to hand therapy, using heat, ultrasound, and doing various exercises, all so I can continue to use my hands as best I can.

Why am I so worried about my hands? (This may seem basic, but please bear with me.) Without my hands, I can’t work. As being an editor pays most of my bills, I need to do this despite the pain.

That’s why writing, for the moment, is taking a backseat, even though I don’t like it much. I just can’t concentrate on my stories right now, because everything I’ve got is going either into the hand therapy, my editing, or just living day-to-day life.**

In addition, I have another concert to play in a week and a half with the Racine Concert Band as a saxophonist. My part won’t be very difficult; I will have no solos, I will not have any exposed parts, and I will be someone that most people won’t even realize is playing. Yet the conductor and other members of the band would notice if I didn’t show up, and thus I’m going to go and do my best.

Even though it hurts.

I’ve persisted through a lot in my life. I’ve endured divorces, deaths, health problems, financial distress, floods, earthquakes, and probably a number of other things I’m forgetting right now. So you can assume I’m going to persist through this obstacle, too.

Do I wish things were easier right now? You’d better believe it.

But I’m glad I can still type. I’m glad that I can still play my saxophone, even if it’s not at the level I want, even if I don’t have solos anymore, even if for the most part I’ll probably never again be someone most people in the crowd think about when they go see a concert.

I’m doing what I can. I have to take comfort in that.

No matter how frustrating I find this situation to be, I will not give up.

I just have to pick and choose my spots for a while. That’s all.

——

**Note that I am still thinking about my stories. I have written down some prose notes. I have talked with other writers, and am doing what I can to re-read the works in progress, and keep going as best I can with my thought process overall. I know that my mind never stops working, so maybe being hindered will eventually produce some better, richer, deeper stories…one can only hope, right?

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 11, 2017 at 3:47 am

How to Wait Out “Life, Interrupted”

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Folks, I continue to be in a holding pattern due to what I’m going to call “life, interrupted.” As there’s a lot of stuff going on here that I can’t talk about, I’d rather talk about my coping strategies to deal with all the stress (the “life, interrupted” stuff), in the hopes that if one of you ever has a similar situation, maybe you’ll remember that you’re not alone.

I want to write every day. Most of the time, I have a lot of other stuff to do, including  editing, trying to help family, supporting friends, taking care of my health, and so forth. Writing is very important, so when all these other things crowd it out during a crisis, I get extremely frustrated because I’m not able to do very much due to the circumstances at hand.

What do I do to try to combat this frustration?

Mostly, I wait it out. Once the stressful situation passes, I can do more.

But how I wait it out may be of interest.

If I get a story idea, I write it down. I write down whatever I have, which usually is the idea itself, maybe a bit of dialogue or description, and a potential title. These things help me go back and figure out what it was that so captivated me, and actually work on it later.

In addition, I think a lot about my stories. I don’t just say, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Instead, I think about what I want to do next. What seems to be going on with my stories. What needs to be done, and how am I going to go about doing it?

So I at least stay in the mental frame of mind that I need to be in, hoping I can get a few minutes here or there to work on it.

Finally, I try to be good to myself and realize I’m not staying away from my writing because I’m slow, stupid, or anything like that. It’s that I truly am under stress and just cannot devote enough time to get writing done at such a time. (Big stressors include people in the hospital, myself undergoing medical tests, being sick to the point all I can do is sleep, etc.)

Why do I mention the last part? Because I really hate not doing anything. It annoys me something fierce.

But sometimes, the best thing you do to help yourself is to rest. Once you rest, you should have enough energy to do what needs to be done…and at the top of the list for any writer (not just me) is writing.

My view is simple: If you need to rest, do it. If you are under stress, admit it. And if you can do anything about your writing at such a time, including planning, thinking hard about what to do next, or actually getting some words written, count that as a major victory.

And then, when the big stressor passes (as big stressors invariably do, one way or another), get back to work on your work(s)-in-progress.

That’s what works for me.

So, what works for you as a coping strategy to deal with stress? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

May 2, 2017 at 12:39 pm

When Life Gives You Lemons…

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You all know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?”

Sometimes, that lemonade can be sour, even bitter to the taste. But eventually, you will learn to tolerate that taste…and you might even begin to crave it.

Why?

Because it means you’re still trying. It means you haven’t given up. It means you know, deep down in your soul, you are doing everything in your power you can to make the world a better place.

You might be wondering what brought this on.

I’ve been dealing with a family health crisis this past week, and I’ve been running back and forth to the hospital. While I’d rather be doing just about anything else, I’m very glad to do this.

Why?

It means my family member is still alive, still fighting, getting better and doing whatever is possible to improve her health.

That’s a good thing.

See, the connections I have with my family and friends are essential. I want them to be happy, healthy, and to enjoy life to the fullest.

But no one can do that while sitting in a hospital bed.

Even though this week didn’t go at all according to plan, I’m glad that I was able to do something to try to help those who are important to me.

One final thought:

Sometimes, it feels like we’re not doing very much during a crisis. This is very human, but somehow we need to throw those feelings to the side.

Why?

Because self-forgiveness — which I’ve discussed before — is essential at times like this. We are not saints, and we can’t expect ourselves to act as if we are. All we can do is be ourselves, try our best, and do whatever we can to make life a little better place.

Including visiting those who are ill (if they’re up to visits), talking with them, and letting them know we care.

That’s what’s important.

Don’t lose sight of it. (Please?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 29, 2017 at 11:33 pm

Dealing with Disappointment, Part the Nth

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Folks, I know I’ve written about dealing with disappointment before. It’s one of those fundamental things that everyone has to face from time to time; we will be disappointed in something, even if it’s something tangential to us like the performance of our favorite sports team. (I’m looking at you, Milwaukee Brewers.)

Right now, I’m feeling discouraged, disappointed, however you want to put it, in nearly every aspect. And it’s hard to create that way; it’s hard to even function.

My energy level is not there, and I’m fighting hard to get it back. (Yes, my doctor knows about this. I get to see her soon.) My drive is not there, either…it’s almost as if I’m having a life crisis (I won’t say “mid-life crisis,” as I have no idea how long anyone will live, much less me).

So, what can I do about it?

Mostly, I remind myself that today may be bad, yesterday may have been bad, too, but tomorrow can still be different.

Yeah, I may never be known as a writer. (I knew that when I got into this field.) All I can do is control what I can, which is to write the books I feel compelled to write, keep working on my craft, and hope I touch at least a few folks with my stories so they’ll maybe remember them past the moment they’re read and consumed.

So, even though today’s one of those days that turning my face to the wall seems like the right action, I’m not going to do it.

Nope.

Instead, I’m going to keep trying, even if it’s slow; even if I have to rest more; even if I need to take more breaks; even if I have to adjust my diet again and cut out every processed food (I hope I don’t have to go that far, but it may come to that)…and I’m going to try to keep my friends in the loop, ’cause that’s important.

So, I deal with disappointment, roughly, by trying to get through it and remembering we all have days like this.

And so long as I keep trying, I cannot fail…because I refuse to allow myself to fail.

How do you deal with it? What tips and tricks would you like to share?

Tell me in the comments.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm

Collaboration with a Purpose: Losing My Husband Changed Everything

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Folks, I’m one of ten bloggers talking about various forms of loss today in Collaboration with a Purpose.

Blogger Tajwarr Fatma (of https://lifeaswehaveneverknownit.wordpress.com) came up with this idea (do visit her blog, OK?), and our joint purpose is to try to help others by letting them know they aren’t alone. We all have to deal with significant losses at some point, and the thought was that ten different bloggers might have ten different takes on the subject.

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The theme is loss. How did you overcome it? How did you deal with it?

My topic is how I continue to deal with the catastrophic loss of my late husband Michael. He died in 2004, but without his influence on my life, and without the love he shared with me, I doubt I’d still be trying to make it as an author.

Why?

Michael was the most positive person I’ve ever been around, and he made me believe that I could do anything I put my mind to…I just had to keep after it, and keep trying, and not stop until the wall fell down, that’s all.

So, one day, I had the best and most supportive husband on the planet, someone who understood me and appreciated me and was into me, a wonderful and giving and caring man who also wrote and edited and was creative.

And the next, well, he had four massive heart attacks in one day over the course of ten hours. He couldn’t survive that, and he died.

His loss was devastating.

Even now, after so many years, I don’t have the words to express just how incalculable the loss of my husband actually was. Michael was my rock, my soul mate, and often my co-writer, and when he was with me, I felt whole. Loved. Understood. Appreciated for myself. And valued, not because I was a writer or a musician or anything, but because I was and am myself.

Michael even understood my health issues, and helped me work through them, so I could get more done with less wasted energy and effort.

When he died, all of that went away.

Or did it?

See, how I deal with Michael’s loss every day is to think about how much I love him.

Still. Always. Forever.

I love that man, and I feel his love for me, and it helps me go on.

No, he’s not here to make me dinners, or give me a backrub, or complain about politics (we both loved to do this), or come up with new stories, or edit anything I’ve got going, or help share the load with regards to paying work.

But his influence continues. I keep trying. I remember. I know how he felt about me. And it makes a difference.

In this life, I’ve met only a handful of people who truly have understood me, but none have understood me as well as Michael. He was my best friend, my everything…and all I can do to keep going is to tell myself that someday, in the positive afterlife (whatever shape or form that takes), I’ll see him again. And when I do, I want him to recognize me, and to know that I’m still the same person.

See, I can either celebrate his life, and do the best I can, or I can turn my face to the wall. I don’t see any benefit to turning my face to the wall, so I keep trying.

But yeah, some days, I do look at that wall, and say, “Hmm. Maybe today, I will stop trying.” Then I shake myself into sense, think, “Nah,” and go on and do what I was going to do anyway.

That’s what I learned from Michael. Accept that you feel lousy. Know why you feel terrible, even. But do what you were going to do anyway.

If it takes a little longer because of health issues or whatnot, so what? Keep going, keep trying, and do the best you can.

So, if you’re dealing with a significant loss like the loss of your husband, or a treasured friend, or someone you cared about deeply, try to be good to yourself. Realize there will be good days and bad days.

And most importantly, don’t listen to other people if they tell you that you’ve grieved long enough. It’s not up to them; it’s up to you what you do. If you need to grieve until you feel like you can take a step forward, you need to listen to yourself and do what you feel is right.

Just do your best. That’s all you can do.

But know that you aren’t alone. There are others on the same path as you, even if not at the same time, even if not in the exact same way.

As Buddha said (an apocryphal story, granted), there’s no one who’s not known loss. Every single person has known it, in one way or another.

May we use that knowledge to make us wiser, more compassionate, and more caring, eh?

Now, go take a look at the other bloggers’ takes on the same subject, will you?

SADAF SIDDIQUI
https://heartattachsite.wordpress.com
ADDISON D’MARKO
http://addisondmarko.com
AJIBOLA SUNDAY
https://ajibolasunday.wordpress.com
IPUNA BLACK
http://Ipunablack.com
ALTEA ADDISON
https://addisoniswriting.wordpress.com
JOTHISH JOSEPH
https://Jothishjoseph.wordpress.com
JANE LOVE
http://harmoniousjoy.com/
NICOLLE
https://storiesofahsi.wordpress.com

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 19, 2017 at 10:00 am

#SundayBlogShare: When Writing Is Like Gardening…

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Folks, I recently took part in the Authors in Bloom blog hop, where the subject was either gardening or recipes. I talked about how I don’t garden (because I’m bad at gardening), but that got me to thinking…isn’t writing like gardening, too?

Think about it for a moment.

In farming, you get your plot of land, and you make sure it’s fertilized before you plant anything. Then you put your initial seeds in the ground and wait.

But in writing, this is when inspiration strikes, or when you first get an idea you can’t ignore. You get as much down as you can, knowing tomorrow you will keep building on your idea as you see fit.

So, you have to water, nurture, and weed your garden, just as you have to water, nurture, and weed your writing. (The weeding, in this case, would be self-editing.) Both are long-term projects that require a great deal of time, effort, and understanding in order to get anything done, and if you make a big enough mistake, your garden (or your writing) will not turn out the way you’d hoped.

Fortunately, you can correct your big mistakes with some forethought, nine times out of ten. And that tenth time, where you can’t, you can use for future reference as a guidepost of “what not to do,” so you still get something out of the experience…albeit not what you’d hoped for in the first place.

But life is like that, isn’t it? We don’t always get what we’d planned on. (In fact, we get what we’d planned on so rarely, it’s a miracle any of us still plan. But I digress.) We have to roll with the punches, whether it’s too much rain (too many distractions or life-interruptions), too little rain (not enough time for ourselves, maybe), too much fertilizer (we edited too much out), too little fertilizer (we haven’t edited enough)…the list goes on and on.

How do we grow anything worth eating, then? (Or how do we write anything readable?)

I think it’s a matter of trial and error on the one hand, and sheer bloody-mindedness on the other. We keep working at it until we find a process that seems to make sense, and then we go with that. And if one way doesn’t work, try, try, try again until you find a way that does.

That, to my mind, is how gardening and writing are alike.

What d’you think? Tell me about it in the comments!

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 2, 2017 at 3:20 pm

#MondayMotivation: Write for You

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Folks, I’m going to take a time-out on my book promotion activities with regards to CHANGING FACES (if you want a copy, just follow the pages backward and you’ll be able to get one) and talk about one of the things that motivates me, it being Monday and all.

So, without further ado…what motivates Barb Caffrey as a writer?

So many things, actually. I want to tell stories with heart, that matter, that feel real, that have empathy, that maybe shed light on the human condition in new ways…of course, all of that sounds quite profound, doesn’t it?

Really, I write for me.

(Picture my big, evil grin here.)

Seriously. I write for me. I’ve done this since I was small, on and off…I wanted to read stories that I didn’t see anywhere, but knew had power and resonance. And the only way to read those stories, under the circumstances, was to find a way to write them myself.

I think a lot of writers are that way, actually. We have a need to read stories that aren’t out there yet. We get a germ of an idea, and we keep going until the idea is finished.

Yeah, it seems to take me longer than some novelists to finish my ideas. (If I had to judge myself against my friend Chris Nuttall, for example, and how fast he can write a novel, I’d quail at ever writing another word.) But I’m not the only one out there who takes a bit of time with a concept to get it right.

For example, I know two writers very well who have had to take long periods of time to finish a novel, albeit for different reasons. In one case, my friend needed to take time out for health concerns, but she had a third novel in her in a series and she wanted to tell it. It took her a number of extra years to do this, but she didn’t let her health concerns defeat her; in the end, her novel was published, to wide acclaim, and now there is hope that she’ll have a fourth book (or at least novelette) in the series available soon.

In the other, my friend tried for years to get his novel to come clear for him, but for whatever reason it didn’t quite feel right. He published several other things, including a couple of acclaimed short stories and several co-written novels along with some other solo works, but he kept coming back to this particular novel because he needed to tell that story and wanted to get it right. And now, that book is out, and he’s got a contract for a couple more in the series, with readers saying, “More, please…” and not understanding he has a day job.

But I digress.

Or am I?

This is Monday Motivation, after all, and me talking about two of my friends and how they’ve persisted in telling the stories they need to tell does matter. They didn’t give up, and they got out books that readers love, that are helping to build their names and careers, and are continuing on with their efforts to write more stories that they absolutely have a burning need to tell.

Good for them.

I know I have tried to do that, too. The Elfy novels took over ten years to find a publisher, but I didn’t give up. CHANGING FACES went through at least five major revisions and a late-round revision and updating I’ve gone into multiple times in the past year before it finally came out earlier this month, over fourteen years after it was started.

See, if you have a story that is inside you, you have to tell it. Or you aren’t being true to yourself.

So write for you. Tell that story. Don’t give up, no matter how long it takes, nor how many revisions you need to go through, nor even whether it seems like it won’t matter ’cause sales aren’t brisk and you aren’t making a dent.

Do it anyway.

Do it for yourself.

Written by Barb Caffrey

February 13, 2017 at 11:21 am