Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Headlights and Lightbulb Moments

A couple weeks ago I set about restoring my yellowed, cloudy, dim headlights with a kit I bought off Amazon.

Halfway through the process it began to rain. It is Seattle, after all. And even if I was willing to get wet for the sake of finishing up, the process still requires a 6-hour cure time to complete with no rain, no direct sunlight and no driving. Such restrictions un-garaged folk like me at a serious disadvantage.

Despite my disappointment, the headlights were much brighter for the portion I managed to complete. I reveled in my improved night vision and safety and was all happy and squeeing over it.

Then they began getting dimmer again.

In fact, before I knew it I was having so much trouble seeing I used my brights every second I could that evening of driving. A policeman noticed and followed me a while, down back country roads the Waze app was oddly directing me through, while I frantically tried to act all nonchalant under his authoritative presence.

The next day I was determined to get those headlights done. I got myself in a goodhead space for it. It was going to be awesome! They'd be all fixed up and pretty and safe! And after spending several hours working away at it, I faithfully waited for the sealant to cure all 6 hours before driving.

Finally it was done! The lenses were gorgeous! I was being all safe and responsible and I'd have plenty of light!

Then I turned the key--and noticed something was very off.

I emerged to confirm my suspicions: A headlight was out.

I burst out laughing. So that's why it was so dim the night before.

Every time I think I'm making progress... ah well.

The good news is RockAuto had a rebate on high quality GE bulbs, So with the $15 mail-in rebate I'll be paying just $16 total for a set of premium low beams, including shipping.

I'll get these headlights happening yet!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

#6 Hitting my hang-ups

DANG IT this process of writing is freakin' HARD.

There is so much mental conditioning to unravel before I'm going to be any good at this. But I want it, and I'm going for it, so let's see if I can work it out.

I've been drafting things the past 48 hours, three separate pieces on different subjects, and in each one I'm realizing that I tend to subtly censor myself with gradually increasing frequency until I shut down into full-scale writer's block.

And then no matter how hard I try to circumvent the block, the censored bits and pieces blare in my head YOU SHALL NOT PASS and I realize, with sinking dread, that it's not actually happening tonight.

For example, I'm afraid to share positively about my boyfriend sleeping peacefully beside me right now as I type these stammering phrases into the dead of night. He's relaxed for once, his breathing steady and even, giving off a most restful vibe as I try to calm my anxiety and physical discomfort enough to sleep myself.

I cannot think to write the above paragraph without freezing inside. A large number of family and friends would want to confront me on my boyfriend and I sharing the same bed. Some would be shocked; others, just "disappointed" in my lifestyle choices. All would be seeking some sort of engagement from me on the subject.

I'm not well enough to handle that. Not gracefully, not with healthy boundaries. The wounds left by conservative Christian culture are still too fresh.

But something deep inside me is finished hiding, ready or not. Because I'm not ashamed of the beautiful things in my life, even if others view them differently.

I will learn how to do this. The freedom with which I've written elsewhere, anonymously, is something I want to bring home under my name and take ownership of it. I also want to be able to write that way fresh, as Heidi Mull, in spite of all my fears about failing or looking stupid or immature compared to wherever I'll be in a few years' time. This is me right now, and it's nothing to be embarrassed about. I may be struggling but I'm working for what I want, and there's solid dignity in that fact alone.

I'm going to publish this, I'm going to hold my head high, and then I'm going get back to that list of about what I accomplished week towards making a writing career seriously happen. Because I am moving forward. It helps me to remember that on nights like these.

Friday, April 8, 2016

#5 Getting up after life knocks on your ass.

A few hours after my last post on March 28th I was driving on the freeway when there was a sudden hard jolt and the minivan spun out through two lanes of ~60mph traffic.

Turns out a speeding driver had decided to look away from the road and consequently rear-ended us.

My life has been absolute chaos since.

And as the pieces have barely begun to settle, I slowly regained the luxury of thinking back to this writing dream that I once had and how sad it was that it had been wiped out so quickly.

I cannot drive due to injury. I have no laptop. My boyfriend is on the verge of losing his job from his injuries and lawyer stuff is happening amidst a whirlwind of medical appointments without a vehicle.

Yep, it was nice while it lasted. *wistful sigh*
Do I still want it?
The thought came unbidden. I was annoyed. Of course I still want it.

But look at me. I'm a wreck. I've had four major anxiety attacks in as many days, one of them by far the worst I've ever experienced. What is it that I think I can do in this state? How can I possibly write?"
Do. I. Still. Want. It?

So...I got back to work.

I went easy on myself. I'm going to be my own boss for a good long while so it's best I learn how to be the kindly sort who still gets things done. It's my first day on the job after a major accident so taking it slow and gentle is to be expected.

To begin, I glanced over my blog and checked my email, just to get a feel for the layout again. Then I took a break to relax, exercise, and snack. Keeping myself moving tends to help me process things without getting overwhelmed. And in the process of returning to the computer to read a bit and then stepping away to digest it, I could literally feel my perspective shifting as ideas began flooding in.

For today, I decided to tackle building my portfolio from things I've already written. I'd hunt down which writings I want to eventually transfer to my platform for increased publicity and start polishing them up.

I created the folders on my thumb drive, copied over and edited through them. In total I now have three pieces pretty much ready, each one vastly different portraying the large swath of subjects and styles of writing I've done.

And that's only the beginning.

This isn't going to be pretty. The recovery is going to be slow and painful and messy and downright stupid at times. But I'm working on letting go of my perfectionist, overachiever tendencies and learning instead to just get it done.

I know writing this on an empty blog is like shouting into a tunnel to hear your own echo, but for some reason there's still validity in it. I'm doing this. A serious car accident is not going to stop me. And if I can come back from this, I can come back from darn near anything.


I...guess we'll find out.

Either way, I'm giving it my best shot.

Monday, March 28, 2016

#4 Naming what holds me back--and changing it.

I had a terrifying realization today: the thing most holding back my writing carer at the moment is the fear of coming out to family and friends.

After all, established family and friends who already follow my writings scattered across pretty much every platform except my own are basically an instant audience. I already know they like my writing style and are interested in what I have to say.

The problem? They fall into two distinct gorups: the 'wild' group doesn't know my actual name for safety reasons, and the 'conservative' group doesn't know about my wild side for sanity purposes. Combined with my established anxiety disorder, this results in feeling that writing real stuff with my real name spells real disaster.

I identified four things about myself today that are never going to change and must be reconciled somehow:

  1. I'm a writer. I'm always going to be writing somewhere, somehow, in some form.
  2. My natural writing style includes sharing about my personal life to the point of oversharing. Always has, always will.
  3. My immediate and large extensive family is extremely conservative Christians.
  4. I live a nonconventional lifestyle and identify as kinky, something that I'm passionate about discussing and being open about

As for the fourth point, such things might or might not be the focus of writing projects to come but avoiding any references whatsoever stifles my writing and ends up stalling me into serious writer's block.

This morning was a classic case of realizing why I've failed in the past. Perhaps other writers can be successful while anonymous, but I was always scared of success because the bigger it gets, the harder it is to hide.

I don't hide it because I'm ashamed of the lifestyle; I hide it because I haven't felt up to dealing with the backlash.

But now I have a specific goal in mind: become a successful writer. And I'm realized:

It doesn't work to seek publicity while hiding at the same time.

Damn, this is scary.

But it's my lesson for today. Takes a deep breath...

Sunday, March 27, 2016

#3 Rejecting standard blog advice

I don't do things the normal way.

Tell me "how it's done" and I'll be the first to protest that it's counter-intuitive and I can think of a better way, so I'm off to experiment kthanksbye.

Sometimes it works out for me and life is awesome. Most of the time, though, I end up falling flat on my face a dozen times or so before I'll admit that the standard way is better and grudgingly try it.

I'm approaching my goal to write for a living the same way.

And even though I'm aware of this tendency, I still don't want to change it.

I'm still listening when my gut screams "NO!" at standard advice and embarking instead on my own version of doing things.

Maybe that means I'll fall down more than the average writer, but I don't think that means I'll fail.

Rather, I think it means that when I succeed, my success will be uniquely mine and crafted in a way that feels natural to maintain.

Don't get me wrong, I still appreciate all the advice out there and am learning a TON of great things. There's a lot of info that I soak in like a sponge and am ready to follow it to the letter.

But, for example, "write in the 'you' voice as much as possible"? Like HELL I will! I'm not an expert yet, and won't be for a while. Simplistic how-to articles drive me nuts.

On the other hand, brutal honesty documenting my journey through life is a hallmark that has touched nearly every piece of my writing for over a decade. I like to write in a manner that emphasizes just how human I am, how fragile I can be emotionally, how sometimes I feel like a total klutz, the mistakes I make and in this case even knowingly plow forward in what others advise is the "wrong" direction.

And what I've found in the past is I cultivate an audience that can relate. That feel relieved to read my posts, because diving into the painful depths of just how human I am--yet somehow still okay--reassures them on a gut level that they're okay too.

When I make mistakes, it won't be "You should avoid this, here's my experience, learn from it." It'll just be "This was my experience and by golly that was a doozey. I won't be doing that again!"

I rely on my audience to be smart enough to put the pieces together that maybe they might want to avoid doing that thing, too. Or at least consider themselves warned.

Someone* once said, "If you're smart, you'll learn from your mistakes. If you're wise, you'll learn from the mistakes of others."

It's a good quote. In theory, I totally agree with it.

In practice? I'm more like Frankie Ballard singing "How am I ever gonna get to be old and wise if I ain't ever young and crazy?"

Young and crazy signing off!

*Original author unknown, so many claim credit for this quote in its various forms I cannot distinguish appropriate attribution.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

#2 On weathering self-doubt

Soon after my last post I began to research.

I googled "blogs on how to write" and poured through their contents.

The more I read, the more overwhelmed I became.

Finally, I had had enough. My brain was short-circuiting with information overload.

I shut the laptop and took off on a walk. Frustrated.

As I stormed the forest trail, my thoughts became deluged with doubts as muddy as my shoes. What the heck are you thinking? You've never been successful at any long-term writing stints before, what makes this one different? You're not like those other successful people. It isn't too late to take it all back. You're making a fool of yourself.

I pursed my lips and kept going.

It's never going to amount to anything, my brain continued.

I didn't try to counter it. Instead I let it roll like a good friend letting another get a rant out of their system.

Why would anyone want to listen to you, anyway?

I grit my teeth.

Eventually, the flurry had spent itself, and I continued on in peace for a bit.

Then, more thoughts surfaced.

Remember that one person that said you're an amazing writer?

...and how that other person went on and on about it?

A fleeting smile graced my lips.

And how good it feels to publish a piece you're proud of?

Now my mindset was beginning to shift, and I realized something: everyone who's ever successfully earned a living with their writing has stood in my shoes. They've doubted themselves. Felt overwhelmed. Undervalued their work. Faced logistical issues. Risked flopping.

I'm not alone.

In fact, experiences such as this are practically a rite of passage in any artistic pursuit!

My pace relaxed, no longer frantic. I've got this. It'll be okay.

Then it occurred to me, if I feel better reminding myself that I'm not alone in experiencing these things, wouldn't others too?

Words soon began flooding my brain so quickly I rushed to return so I could put them down here.

To anyone out there starting this journey who gets smacked in the face with huge pile of doubt, frustration, logistical difficulties, whatever...YOU'RE NOT ALONE. I'm right there with you fighting those same battles.

And y'know what? I think I'm going to make it.

I think you will too.

Because I want this, and if you're reading this so do you. I want it so bad that even though I felt completely done with writing work for the day, at the end of my walk I wanted nothing more to do than to come back here and write more. I was drawn to do so; it felt almost painful until the words came out.

I can't help it. I'm a writer whether I want to be or not, so I figure I may as well get good at it. If these phases of self-doubt and feeling overwhelmed come with the territory then I'll just have to get accustomed to weathering them.

I'm not alone. You're not alone. We can do this!

Friday, March 25, 2016

#1 I'm a writer... I just need to learn how.

I'm a writer.

I've always been a writer. As a kid I kept journals and wrote poetry. As a teenager I added on a few blogs and also song-writing, not that any of those were much good in my opinion of today--but every piece was an expression of myself and it felt as natural as talking.

As an adult now I shock friends who see my posts on social media or hear a song I've penned and exclaim "You're a writer! You should write a book!"

Except I'm not; not in the way that generates income, anyway.

In order to make money writing you need to be able to write when you don't feel like it.

I don't have much practice doing that.

In fact, when I've tried, it's typically made things even worse--I end up totally stressed and with a piece I can't even recognize as my own.

A major reason my previous blogs have failed is because success paralyzes me with various kinds of writer's block.

Today I decided that while I'm in this process of trying to figure out what to do with my life and identify stable sources of income, I should start here.

Instead of blogging my passion, I'm going to blog my problem. My writing skills need improvement and here's where I can experiment with what works for me without going off topic. Because it is the topic. Genius, right?

Behold, my first official step to writing professionally. Here goes!