Peaks, Valleys, and Being Named

It’s disconcerting to be sitting here several years into this platform, and feel less sure of its direction than I did when I started out.

‘Poison In Lethal Doses’ was my decision to walk away from something that no longer suited me personally or served a greater purpose, and allowed me to return to my roots. It is, without question, one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s important to feel rooted in one’s self, without ego. A lot has changed from the first post to now, but I feel as though I’ve grown in leaps and bounds as a writer.

Last month, I was named “An Inspirational Writer of 2017”. I have no idea what I did to earn this acknowledgement of my efforts, as my readers don’t get to see 90% of the work I do. I have never promoted any of my works in progress because I’m not going to promote anything until it is published. It’s a strict rule of mine. but I couldn’t help but be completely overwhelmed, and emotional, to be declared an “inspirational writer”. That declaration makes me want to ask questions.

I have always felt that the smartest writers are sometimes silent; taking on causes they can truly get behind in their work, and I find peace in being silent when it’s important for me to do so. No one will ever accuse me of not using my voice for good, or say I haven’t advocated for change. It’s always obvious to me when someone is trying too hard, and over-compensating in ways I, personally, find unattractive. I have to stick to my guns and I have to stick to what’s important to me. I cannot bounce around like a heavily caffeinated Bobble head, with an over-inflated ego, desperately seeking out the approval of others. That’s not me.

Over the summer, one of the greatest compliments given to me was “You TRULY know yourself.” I loved the observation and comment SO MUCH because it is the absolute true. I know a lot of people feel lost, confused, hopeless, etc., and I’m human, so I’ve certainly felt those emotions, but for someone to say I “TRULY know myself” made me feel good. It helped set the tone for the final half of the year where I’ve likely felt a wide array of different things each day, and I openly admit, little of it was positive.

My mind is always at work, and sometimes it’s a curse, but mostly, it’s a blessing. What is the creative mind like? Anxious, because the creative mind is pulled in many different directions each day, wanting to complete the tasks it comes up with. The creative mind, one that is natural and not forced, is committed to creativity and expression. The creative mind, depending on its specific genre, wants to create something each day, even if no one else sees it. Printed paper is my canvas of choice, but so is a notebook and pen.

I inherited my creativity from generations of people who were unable to follow their dreams. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately; how much talent I come from. My parents were both talented photographers who were unable to do more than pursue it as a hobby. Whenever I snap a photo now, I am reminded to follow through on it, even if the photo isn’t perfect. My mother played two instruments, passing her love of music down to her children. My father didn’t sing, but he had a knack for hearing something once and being able to duplicate the melody. A few years ago, I noticed my brother does it, too.

I am a trained singer because a teacher called my mother one day and said “Did you know your daughter can sing?” Obviously she’d heard me sing before, but she’d never heard me be loud about it. There was a time when I tried to blend in, so as not to stand out. Gymnastics, singing, and writing changed all of that for me, slowly, but surely. They were outlets that said “Go out there and shine.”

Earlier this year, I found myself annoyed when I dumbed myself down in order to deal with my health. But at the beginning of this month, I saw a new doctor and not only did I not dumb myself down, but I was treated with kindness and compassion. I was listened to. I now have referrals to follow-up on, which I’ve physically been unable to do, thus far. I keep saying “I’ll call tomorrow.” I haven’t been feeling well. I’ve been in tremendous amounts of pain, feeling weak, often unable to get out of bed for more than a few hours at a time, but after doing a little research I felt comfortable enough to tell myself that it’s okay. I knew this would be an emotionally harsh month for me, but I made it to that appointment, and I will make phone calls for a spine specialist, a new neurologist, and another physician at the hospital where my new doctor is affiliated. I’m not happy that the Fibromyalgia pain was not addressed, but it was one appointment. The next time I go in to meet with one of her colleagues, I think I will see if I can get in to see her, too. I’d feel better if we discussed it and came up with an action plan. Because while my neck and back hurt like hell, and my migraines are definitely a serious issue, I worry that the Fibromyalgia may have caused permanent nerve damage. I desperately want to find some measure of relief for this.

2018 will have its challenges, I am sure. If I can deal with my health, finish the novel I worked on the majority of this year where I set personal records for myself during NaNoWriMo, and go back to writing dark urban fantasy, I think it will help me a lot.

I’ve never set out to inspire others by being myself, but if I have inadvertently inspired you through something I’ve written or said, then it’s the icing on the cake. I thank you for the comments you’ve left me throughout this year, and the e-mails you’ve sent my way. I thank you for acknowledging me, and I tip my hat to those who’ve remained on this journey with me.

There’s so much more to come. Of this, I have no doubts.

copyright © 2017 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Doubting Myself

All writers have moments when they feel unprepared. Me? On occasion I will say “I wish I were talented.” or “I can’t write this.” In other words, even the best of us have bad days. Or weeks. We all have a little doubt, or we’d be completely full of crap.

I hold it in really well, but I have a lot of doubt when it comes to material I haven’t been writing since day one.

When I first began writing, I did toy around with some fiction. I spent about four or five years writing it for FUN, and when I moved from one state to another, I trashed every single printed page and everything I’d saved it to. Why? Because I took a look at it, saw my growth, and realized that even though it had been fun, it was infantile compared to what I truly wanted to be writing. I didn’t ever want to come across it again because it was nonsense. I decided then that it was okay to read fiction, but it wasn’t in my best interests to be writing it. I did not personally excel in made-up worlds.

Fast-forward and I’ve since created a Dark Urban Fantasy series, which I will be refocusing on at some point in the future (Meaning not today, but soon.), and I am currently working on something I’m not completely comfortable with. However, it is allowing me to explore my emotional depth, and maybe that’s the entire point. Maybe that’s why this story haunted me for months. Maybe it is a reminder that I’m human, and that not every part of me has to be put into storage under lock and key. There are certain lines in the book that are straight out of my own life.

More than once I’ve caught myself saying “Do I have to publish it under my name?” Yes. Yes, I do. I cannot worry about the thoughts of others. I can only tell the story, and move forward. There will be good reviews, bad reviews, and middle of the road reviews. I’m used to that, because not everyone likes my writing style and plenty of people like me even less. Regardless of what people think or say, I still have to tell the story.

For the last few days, I took it upon myself to do some research. I read a lot to see if anyone had anything similar out there, as a precautionary measure. Even if I didn’t know about it, someone could still accuse me of a form of plagiarism. My determination after a few books is that after a certain point, a lot of stories start to blend into one another. Everyone tells their stories a little differently. Some are good, some aren’t, but ultimately I need to stop worrying. Comparing and contrasting isn’t my job. Writing IS.

And so I sit here today, as per usual, with a lower back and left shoulder that are in desperate need of medical treatment. Just walking yesterday killed me, and by walking I mean 3 ½ miles worth. I have no idea how I’m functioning today.

No, I’m not being stubborn. The insurance I had doesn’t cover the doctor I want to see, who is local, so I switched temporarily, just to be able to get in with ONE doctor until I can find someone to see me on the other plan. They told me it wouldn’t go into effect until May 1st, but that I am still covered regardless and not to worry. However, when I went to pick up my medication yesterday, I was already covered by the new plan. I stared at the pharmacy tech and she said “They’re SUCH liars. You can speak to five different people in a day and they’ll all tell you a different story. This happens every day, all day long with these people.” It isn’t the first time I’ve thought that in regard to this company, she just got it out of her mouth before I said something equally as honest.

Technically, I should be at Urgent Care instead of sitting here writing. Alas, this might be another one of those weeks where I don’t get to prioritize my health because of outside circumstances beyond my control. The doctor can’t see me until the end of the month/early May, so Urgent Care seemed like a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they have bankers hours and I don’t want to show up only to be told they don’t take my insurance. I’d probably lose it on someone. As it is, I have until June 29th to change my insurance AGAIN and then start over with a whole new set of doctors that will be G-d only knows where! What’s the point of having health insurance when no one is accepting new patients OR they’re so far away, it’s utterly pointless?! It’s extremely frustrating to me.

And so, I write. I write through the pain, I try to write it out of my system emotionally, and I desperately try not to sit here in tears when the pain is too much (which is 99% of the time).

There are days I’d like my original life back. One where very few doubts entered my mind, and where being able to walk, sit, stand, think, etc., were not issues because my life wasn’t chock full of agonizing pain.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Page After Page

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In less than a month, I’ve written over 220,000 words. Does that sound like a lot? It is. To do it in such a short period of time is a testament to me pushing myself to write every single day, and not to give up when I’ve felt stuck. Even if I only managed one page on a bad day, I still parked my ass in front of the file and went over it, and over it, and over it. It’s called determination, with a healthy dose of bat-shit crazy thrown into the mix.

I’ve written, rewritten, proofed, edited, done additional rewrites, changed the direction up, added new characters, strengthened characters I liked, and here I am, still trying to figure out the true direction of the story. For the first time, I wrote something 100% unplanned. I let it haunt me for three months before I said “Let’s give it a try and see how it goes.” It’s become so much bigger than what I first thought, and I’ve found most of it incredibly easy to write.

The challenge in the work is getting in touch with things I’ve personally found difficult in my life. It’s been therapeutic to work it out on the screen in front of me and allow myself to be authentic within the confines of a fictional novel. Instead of saying “That’s decent, it’ll do.” (something I never say, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my writing), I’m finding myself excited to get up each day and return to work.

During a radio interview Nora Roberts explained how she began writing under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. Her publisher had, and I’m paraphrasing here, told her to “get a hobby” because her books were selling so well. Instead of deciding to actually take that advice and learn something new or do something fun, she decided to channel it into writing something else. I remember hearing the interview and laughing, until I realized today that I’ve sort of done the same thing. Instead of staying in my comfortable world where I’m 100% writing the truth, I’ve opened a door into a new genre for myself, and have found it’s equally as comfortable, if not more so. If you had suggested this to me ten or even five years ago, I would have laughed in your face. Instead, I’m breaking personal records on what I can achieve. I feel proud of that.

I hate reading things that make me roll my eyes. I hate reading things that don’t feel realistic, to some degree. I also hate feeling like I’m writing the same shit a thousand other people are writing. It gets boring very quickly.

I hate timid characters. They annoy me. I hate the damsel-in-distress nonsense. This is the 21st century, and I don’t know a lot of weak women. Unless you’re writing a period piece set in a different century, lose the giggly, shy female that you’d either slap or kick if you were to meet her tomorrow. Let someone in junior high write that crap.

Some of what I’m writing touches on gender roles. What makes a woman truly strong? What makes a man the right person? What makes a couple work well together? How do you stay strong through difficulties, your own idiocy, lapses in judgment, etc. I prefer to focus on the humanity. What are our characters if not perfectly flawed human-beings?

I have come to realize that most of my female characters (some, not all) are a version of me. If Erika Girardi can be Erika Jayne, then I can channel aspects of who I am into characters, too. There’s nothing wrong with that. I find it incredibly empowering.

When writing male characters, I work hard at channeling the men I know. There is no such thing as the perfect person, but there is such a thing as “the right person for you”, regardless of gender. Several of my friends described me as their soul-mate, from a friendship perspective. I firmly believe we have multiple soul-mates in life that we meet at different times. Some are with us forever and others come and go, leaving their mark. That’s real life. I’m virtually incapable of writing something and not bringing real life to it.

So as I sit here this afternoon, struggling with a scene I feel is emotionally crucial to the story, I have to remind myself to just be real. Take a deep breath and push through. And when I feel like I can’t focus, then it’s time for a break, but I have to get it done. I have to finish it. Maybe not today, but as soon as I can.

Let’s face it; no one would believe I wrote it if it were emotionally false.

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Don’t Forget That You’re Human

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This is definitely where I’m at today. I’m trying to focus on the fact that I’ve written close to 450 pages in two weeks, and that it’s good work. I wish I was able to fully focus solely on the future and nothing else. Alas, I AM human and there’s a lot going on. I’m going to focus on the power of prayer for now. I need some healing energy, for sure.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! Be happy, healthy, and safe.