Writing Update

I submitted a short story for the first time in a few years and my first non fiction pitch.

Both were rejected, but that’s just part of the experience.

I didn’t think I was going to get into submitting short stories again–I’m still not sure if it’s something I want to do regularly–but it provided a brain break from editing my novel.

I’ve never edited a novel before so I’m having difficulties getting over that hurdle.

We’ll see what happens next.

Changes

March has been hard for me. The 17th was the WFH anniversary for my day job. As I’ve said before, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to preserve my health. As someone who is single, whose really only social network was at work, it did not come without its side effects.

I relapsed into old coping habits. Ice cream every weekend, sometimes multiple pints. As I told a therapist, I eat my feelings — every single one. When one is in a constant state of stress from both pandemic and work, that’s a lot of feelings to eat, and eat I did.

I had low energy, and did not keep up with my boxing. There really is something about boxing with a group of other people, but no way was I going to go back to my gym, where masks were optional and the ventilation poor.

I also returned to my other go-to coping mechanism: binge watching television.

None of these things made me happy. None of these things helped me achieve my goal of being a writer, despite drafting two novel length works in the second half of 2020. I’m still editing the first one, and the first quarter of 2021 is almost over.

After some reading and light research, I realized that my lack of sleep was probably a culprit. For the first three months of the pandemic, insomnia was the bane of my existence. I ended up taking over the counter sleep aids every day for about six or seven months in an effort to sleep. And it worked, I guess.

When I discovered the long term side effects of consistent benadryl usage, I stopped, terrified the insomnia would return. It didn’t, but I still wasn’t allowing myself to get my eight hours of sleep. Another coping mechanism? Staying up late will delay the next day, even though I knew from experience it would only make it worse.

Didn’t seem to matter.

With the first dose of the vaccine (had my high BMI to thank for that, I think), it kick started my brain into realizing that I had to make some changes.

The first change I’m finally doing after talking and talking about it? Seeing a therapist. I’m still in the early stages of that, so I don’t know how that will go or if I will need to keep looking for one with whom I’ll click. The main order of business is how to learn to healthily regulate and express my emotions without relying on my unhealthy, non goal achieving coping mechanisms.

The second change was uninstalling various apps on my phone–Tumblr to be specific. I caught myself scrolling Tumblr hours on my phone, delaying bed time, delaying getting up and going on a walk, delaying writing, delaying reading.

The third change I want to implement is limiting my tv watching to the weekends. I tried to do that this week, but did not succeed due to, you guessed it, day job work stress.

But a new week is coming, and I want to challenge myself again. No television Mon-Friday. With no commute, it is easy for me to split up my days: 8 hours sleep, 8.5 hours work, 2 hours exercise, 2 hours write, 2 hours read. That leaves an hour and a half for various chores, including a commute when the time comes (my commute is less than hour there and back).

As I am struggling to wean myself off these coping mechanisms (the tv binge addiction and internet addiction are real), I’ve had to put my writing and reading in the back seat. Reading/writing, due to lack of energy, has been a real struggle anyway in my adulthood. I am prioritizing my physical health because I’ve noticed that exercise is a pretty sure way to keep insomnia at bay.

My greatest priority will be sleep, and making sure I get those 8 hours every day.

My second priority will be weaning myself off those unhealthy coping mechanisms, which makes this my official accountability post.

What goals are you trying to achieve in the upcoming months?

Announcement

A few years ago, I would “practice” writing by doing speed writes based on a random three word link.

They were the equivalent of doing scales on the piano, though unlike doing scales, they are far more pleasant to consume, featuring snippets of interesting characters and/or concepts. I won’t post every single one I do–especially if I think I can turn it into something more — but I would rather they exist to be enjoyed than collecting digital dust.

I do believe that writing doesn’t always have to be about plot, characters, and structure. I know people enjoy reading these short little pictures, but it’s very difficult to be have them published. Though I write primarily for my own enjoyment, I also write to make someone’s day brighter.

I’ve launched a Buy Me A Coffee (BMAC) page to store these little snippets — they used to be here, but I didn’t like wordpress for this particular endeavor. This is my author page, and though it may sound odd to separate my flash fiction and other endeavors from my author page, it feels more right to me. BMAC is a platform meant to support creators, and I don’t get that vibe from wordpress (which is fine! time and place for every platform).

Heretofore, a lot of my writing has been self funded. I’m lucky to be in a position to do that, but I also want to see if my writing can be something more. I’m happy to try both the self published route and the traditional path.

If you’d like to read my short fiction you can find them here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/heysonjanatasha

I did put a little button on my side column as well in case I write a particularly post that struck you.

Thanks for reading!

(feature image by by Micaela Brody)

This Thing’s On?

It’s slightly hysterical reviewing my old posts.

Half of them are titled with sentiments similar to this one: I have a blog that I forgot about.

Whoops.

Again.

I’m still going to try to kick this thing back in gear again. I know the reason I’m not updating it is because I don’t know what I want “it” to be. But that will never happen if I don’t post.

What’s up with Sonja Natasha? We’ll bullet since that’s my preferred way to keep a word count trim.

  • Finished two novel length works in the last half of 2020. Very proud of that. Have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to editing something of that word length. Makes it very difficult to keep up steam but I remind myself that fumbling through it will be better than not doing it at all.
  • Read the Locked Tomb Trilogy (or what’s released of it). Do yourself a favor and read it too.
  • Actually did a far better job at keeping up on my reading than I thought, but Locked Tomb is still my favorite.
  • Will not be delving too much into Pandemic Effects. I’m very grateful for how lucky I am to be able to work from home.

What’s up in 2021 for me?

  • Editing these two books and prepping them for submission!
  • I have one little novella/long short story on Amazon KDP, but Amazon and I are currently not on speaking terms. Need to decide what to do with this story other than taking it off Amazon. It could also use an edit since I’m matured a lot as a writer since I put that up for sale.
  • I have another novella out on submission
  • I don’t have a strong speaking voice (though it has improved being in a leadership position at my day job). I dislike doing things “for my own good” without an immediate tangible result. Spoiler alert — podcast!
  • And by podcast, I mean, I’ll be recording my serial fantasy flash fiction pieces which I will most definitely be writing on some sort of platform which is almost decided but not yet quite.
  • Reading program (more on that later)

And that’s not even counting all the real life stuff lined up for me, which usually includes doing well at my job, attempting to improve my self (long for get a therapist, sonja), and improving my physical health (resolving insomnia and fatigue issues).

How’s your 2021 shaping up to be?

White Complicity

I sometimes forget about this blog. I don’t remember when I realized that my blog had remained silent for the past several weeks, even though I had been active on other platforms. Because it does need be said,

Black Lives Matter

I wrote this up about a week ago. I initially shared this on my personal Facebook, but I believe it needs to be housed here as well. I do not want to take away from a movement, but I also want to face my mistakes rather than hiding from them. I want to encourage white people to look inwards, recognize our racism and complicity in a system, and work on dismantling that system. So I share something I don’t talk about very frequently because it does shame me, and it’s not something I can undo.

When I was married, I was married to a correctional officer. That’s fancy for prison guard. I was also a prison guard for about three months (two months training, one month actually at a facility), and I quit.Everybody in that town was either working for the prison system (google is telling me seven in town which is fewer than I remember) or you were a student (prison town masquerading as a college town) or you worked minimum wage retail. The prison paid well. I could have made more working at the prison as a guard on just the weekends than I could working full time at Walmart.

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A Little More About Me

Yeah, yeah, yeah–my About page already exists. But it’s a little more of a blurb and less of a, hey this is Sonja, and this is what I’m about.

That picture is old. I don’t wear glasses anymore. My hair is blond now. I’m also about 20 lbs heavier than when that picture was taken so we’re not posting an updated portrait. Am I working on not being self conscious about the weight? Yes, I am. But I’m not there yet. It’s a WIP.

Second member of the family would be Sayre:

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He’s definitely one of my favorite goblins. He loves belly rubs and snuggles. He does an admirable impression of a gargoyle when he’s on a bookshelf glaring down at you.

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This is my other favorite goblin, Delphinium. Her ears are curved, her legs are too long, and she’s got fur in odd little places. Her head is a little too small for her body. She’s a brat.

They are both master nappers.

My day job is mid level management. There are things I love about it: employee development, achieving goals, that sort of thing. There are things I really dislike about it too but isn’t that the case with everything.

To help burn off stress, I did something that I’m still a bit baffled by and joined a boxing club–it’s just really unlike me. Physical activity in general is unlike me. But then — I tried it, and I liked it. There really is something very satisfying about punching a 100 lb leather bag in the face after an eight hour or longer shift. Pow.

I’m really far behind in my NaNo and it is only the third. Not off to the greatest of starts, but no cause to give up yet. This year’s NaNo will be about as self indulgent as my first. A science fiction piece set in the desert. Add in a big dollop of “that’s gay” and we’re set.

My favorite line, so far, is:

“Zoe.” It wasn’t her first name, or her second, or even her third. It was her name now, though it might not be her name tomorrow or in a decade’s time.

A Fool Like Juggler

When I first started this blog, almost every single post was public. Then, a year or so back, I decided that the internet didn’t need to know that much about me.

I put almost every single post to private, and gave little thought to my writing career.

Then, not to repeat the cycle, I returned back to my dreams. I finished the draft of my novel. I thought–I need to get myself out there. I returned to this website, and put about half posts public, half posts private.

I’m not entirely sure what was more depressing: the infrequency of posting in general, or just how similar the themes went.

It would be easy to see me as someone who keeps washing out. Ha, a writer. Like they haven’t said that before. Mmhmmm. Getting published. Mmmmhmmm. Sips a cup of coffee while they listen to me rattle on, right?

I prefer to think of it more like not giving up. Like that phrase in Panic At The Disco’s Hallelujah song, “You’ll never know if you don’t ever try again, so let’s try, let’s try, let’s try.”

The main common theme was work kicking my ass. And not just like, wow every day sucks kind of way but just, I have no boundaries when it comes to work. I enjoy the work that I do. I find it fulfilling. Is it mid level management. Yeah. Are there a lot of times I find myself going, I really don’t like this part of management. Also, yeah. Do I sometimes feel like taking my boxing class after work is a good idea so I can just punch a 100 lb leather bag? Definitely yeah.

But for the most part, I can say that I am happy with my job. I have a freedom to develop policies and employees. Those are the good parts.

The part where the boundary greys is when I am thinking about work nearly every spare moment. Where I will schedule myself 11 hour shifts for the good of the team. Where slack dings on my phone and I’m reaching for it so that I’m available.

Let no one say I never answer my Tash-taken slack messages.

This was a very recurrent them in the posts I reviewed–some of them are public (again), some of them are still private.

But this is a juggle that I’ve never mastered. If life is comprised of three balls (work, hobbies, and making sure you’re getting the trash out), I’m really good about managing two of them. It’s the third, hobbies, that I suck at.

And to be frank–I don’t want writing to be a hobby. I do want to craft a career from my writing. It’s just figuring out how to kick that ball back in the air, and to keep it there.

That said, I am for the most part happy with the self improvement I have developed. I finished a draft like three years in the making, right?

Gotta count for something.

 

The Present Mental Perspective

Until most recently, I’ve struggled more with my mental health as opposed to my physical health.

My mental health, in the past few months, has gotten better even as my physical health leaves something to be desired (but I am working on that as well).

I’ve come to the realization–not for the first time, unfortunately–that I lack faith in my writing. This lends itself to a lack of discipline, which is probably why I am a better writer in the past than I am in the present.

Part of this is because fatigue–both mental and physical. I have struggled with depression for years, and I also struggle with the need to be perfect and to constantly prove myself as having value.

This is why I’m currently working seven days a week. It was supposed to be forty hours a week but my own need to make sure something gets done (and gets done right) leads to a domino train of self sabotage in the name of paying the bills: for example, I am currently working seven days a week because we are short staffed and I volunteered for it. It is not a good way to keep myself healthy, physically and mentally speaking. In fact, I have never felt so burned out in my life.

The good news is that it paid off, and I’m officially a supervisor. #awesome

The other piece of good news is clarity: I need discipline. In the same way I need to start going to the gym again and also practicing self validation on a daily basis, I need to start writing again. Not tinkering around with minor edits before attempting to sell this unsellable story, but to start writing–anything.

Unfortunately, when I reach this realization (for the umpteenth time in my life), I self-sabotage again: no one wants to read what I’m writing, I’m not improving I’m sucking, etc.

More often than not, because I’m already tired and fatigued from my emotional labors for the good of capitalism so I can pay those goddamned bills–I listen. Or I think, I’ll do it when I’m not tired.

But the thing is, I am tired all the time. I keep thinking there’s going to be a day where I’m not tired, but the reality is that day is not gonna come. So I need to push through that like I push through most things in my life.

So, I am going to start writing again, and I am going to start practicing types of writing not in my wheelhouse (like comedy). I don’t know if I’ll be posting those here or not. The thing is to just make sure they get written.

My other moment of clarity came when I realized I wanted to start doing things again. A complete list, here:

  • I want to join a local writer’s league–one that pays dues (cheap dues but dues nonetheless). I believe the enforced structure (which may not necessarily be found elsewhere) would encourage me to produce even when I don’t feel like it, and to also find a community of writers–which is honestly very important.
  • I want to start weight lifting again–usually, like writing, this gets put off because I’m too tired after work, and I muddle through the day being tired all the time. But the reality is, if I can linger at work being, and I quote, “too tired for this shit,” then I can leave work on time (for once) and be too tired for thirty minutes as I lift some weight.
  • I finally wanted to watch the fourth season of Black Sails. I had “wanted” to do this some time ago, but the desire finally translated itself into action.
  • Black Sails lead to another desire: to learn how to sword fight. I actually took fencing at the Y in my youth, and I enjoyed it (for the most part). I believe, again, this would encourage discipline and meeting people outside of work.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I frequently bite off more than I can chew and it inevitably ends in disappointment and self loathing.

So here are the goals I’m setting for myself:

  • Lift Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I’ve heard this should help my gastro issues as well.
  • Write Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
  • Permission to relax (as much as one can when one must work) on Sunday.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Life Update

I haven’t been great at updating this. It’s probably because I don’t have a mission statement or something.

Anyway, here’s what’s been going on in the past month since I updated this:

  • I read the first three volumes of Saga. I am really enjoying the series and I have volumes four, five, and six from the library waiting to be read. No thinky thoughts regarding them because I am way to tired from the capitalist hellscape for critical thought. This is escapism pure and simple.
  • Speaking of the escapism, I was promoted to Customer Service Supervisor, a new position in our growing company. Today I wondered about the gender divide between job expectation and satisfaction.
  • Continuing this journey through the capitalist hellscape, I started working seven days a week because of how understaffed we are. This was with the expectation it would still come out to around 40 hours a week. Do you hear the wild, cackling laughter in the background about how that’s not happening?
  • I developed some health issues–nothing major but definitely disruptive and uncomfortable and limiting my diet of a good chunk of the things I like and can eat. The doctor told me it was more than likely stress–telling me things I already know but not how to fix it.
  • I adopted a truly magical cat.
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  • His name is Sayre and I love him very much.