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The stories here change from time to time. Please return to visit often!

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: Medicine

Okay, it's confession time. Like Stephanie Burnett, I sometimes suffer from chemically-induced depression. It's a black hole, sucking me in, making me think the world is hopeless, my life is hopeless, everything is hopeless. It's nasty.

Over time my doctors have helped me to discover that this illness is based on my body's inability to produce and/or manage serotonin, an important chemical in our brains that controls all kinds of things. The serotonin imbalance, inherited from my father's family, is also the primary source of the migraines that have flattened me now and then over the years.

It's been a relief to realize that medicine can help, that the onus for "getting better" is not all on me, that it's not just a matter of trudging on.

Today I am grateful for medicine. A century ago, people with undiagnosed serotonin imbalances were considered moody or lazy or just plain nuts. Today I am functional and productive because of good medical care and pharmaceutical advances that can help my body do what it should do naturally. With my brain chemistry properly in balance, I can even overcome the primitive fears that give me resistance to writing.

I'm grateful for medicine. I'm grateful for help. I'm grateful for hope.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

All Kinds of Resistance

In my book, A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE, coming in 2013 from Covenant, I encountered all kinds of resistance: from my own fears, from writing something quite different from anything I'd ever written before, and even from my characters, who resisted sharing their problems because of their own primitive fears.

Stephanie Burnett, a 20-something daughter in the family, has experienced some serious bouts of depression; she fears she will end up like her Grandma Judith, whose intense schizophrenia caused disaster for herself and her family.

After much resistance, Steph sits down with her mother to reveal her story. Here is a small part of their conversation from Stephanie's point of view. Steph's mother, Karen, has just told the whole story of Grandma Judith's mental illness:

When she had unreeled it all, she said, “Steph, sweetheart, I can’t promise you that you’ll never have the experiences your grandmother had. You are obviously prone to depression, but it helps that you’re wise enough to understand it. You’ve already begun fighting it in some very healthy ways --”

“But, Mom –“

“Shhh, darling. Now it’s my turn.”

I quieted.

“Honey, we can get you medical help.”

“But shouldn’t I just be stronger? Just handle it on my own?” “It isn’t a question of strong, Baby.” Mom was gently stroking the scars on my arm. She looked like her heart was breaking, and I couldn’t help wishing I’d never felt the need to say any of these things. “You’re plenty strong,” she said. “Just look at you!” Despite the tears on her face, there was pride in her eyes and I was grateful. I had feared my mother’s shame.

“Mental illness is illness, Sweetheart. True, some people have behavioral problems that can look a lot the same, but real schizophrenia isn’t caused by a lack of discipline. Your grandmother couldn’t help being ill. Depression isn’t a choice, either – at least, not for most people. Why would anyone want to feel like that?”

“Mom, I ..."/p>

“Hush,” she said again, so gently. “Listen, Baby, you’ve read about chemical imbalances, right?”

“Not really.”

“Then do so, whenever you find a minute. Go to some credible web sites and read up on depression. That will help you understand some of the reasons why you occasionally feel very dark. Another thing that may help is reading the differences between depression and schizophrenia. Just because you have one problem doesn’t mean you’re in line for the other.”

You can't imagine how I resisted writing that scene -- almost as much as Stephanie resisted sharing her problem with her mother. The catharsis for both of us was wonderful.

Overcome the resistance. Tell the truth. Change the world -- or at least, your own little corner of it. Remember: Resistance is futile.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Resistance is Futile

In Monday's blog, I introduced Seth Godin's concept of writer's resistance, explaining why we don't write even when we have the time, everything we need is available, and we really think we want to get the job done.

Seth Godin is not a novelist, but an established business genius who makes money even in hard times, and he does it not through natural fearlessness, but by overcoming the resistance that would keep him from acting.

Godin's original post is geared to business people, so for today's web tip, let me lead you to a great summary and commentary on Godin's concept in a Procrastinating Writer's blog by Jennifer Blanchard.

Using the business word "ships" to suggest anything that gets the work done and on its way to others (in our case, maybe an agent, editor or publisher?), Godin gives us this bit of sterling motivation:

“You must find something SO IMPORTANT that it is worth enraging your prehistoric fears, SO IMPORTANT that you can’t sleep until it ships."

We can't take him literally. Novels take some time to write and sleep is essential to creative genius. (You may even be inspired in your dreams!) Still, you get the point: Find your passion, imbue your mind with the sure knowledge that your work is IMPORTANT! (don't forget the capitals), and follow the butt-in-chair-fingers-on-keyboard-forget-the-email formula.

Under such an onslaught of positive energy, even the Borg would suffer defeat. So repeat after me: "My work is IMPORTANT! Resistance is futile!"

There you go. My, that felt good!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Overcoming Resistance

My granddaughter Adelaide is a great example of overcoming resistance. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how Adelaide (not yet two) broke her arm and wore it in a heavy cast, but, undaunted, went on her way and did all the things two-year-olds love to do.

One-handed (and not even using the hand she prefers) she colored, she petted the kitties, she climbed on the couch, she danced, she played in the park, she climbed into her own high chair (never an easy task, even with two hands), and generally threw herself into life just the way she always had.

I wrote that blog sometime after her accident. Now the healing time is past and the cast is off. A whole new level of resistance has come into her life.

Without the support of the cast, the arm hurts. More than four weeks of inactivity have weakened the muscles and there is less support to hold up the still-healing bones. For the first few hours after the cast was removed, Adelaide held her arm in place against her body, still in the old cast position, or held her injured arm with her other hand.

The skin is rough, too. After four weeks without bathing, in a cast that had become a collection of ick, the skin is highly sensitive, easily bruised, and badly in need of high-quality lotion.

Is any of this holding my little heroine down? You already know that answer. She's everywhere, into everything, climbing and singing and dancing and playing and chasing the kitties and having a wonderful time.

If Adelaide can overcome the rather formidable resistance in her life, so can you, so can I, so can we all.

What shining examples do you have to motivate you?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Procrastinating When We Write

We're writers. We love writing. We live for words and have characters and stories popping into our heads when people around us ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" So why do we put it off? Why do we sometimes find ourselves mopping the kitchen floor on hands and knees rather than going to the keyboard?

Seth Godin (I'll give you a link on Wednesday) has written a great blog on resistance. He has a wonderful theory that connects to the amygdala in our brains and translates to primitive fear. For now, just picture George McFly, from the original "Back to the Future," refusing to send in his manuscript with the words, "What if it's not good enough? What if they don't like me?"

Excuses are like belly buttons: Everybody has one. Some of us (creative souls that we are) can come up with several. That isn't getting the writing done.

So far as I'm aware, there is one way -- and one way only -- to overcome the fear that leads to resistance, procrastination, and ultimately, failure. The answer is ... (wait for it) ... butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, mind in gear. The self-discipline necessary to sit down and go to work -- whether or not we feel inspired, whether the muse is with us, whether or not the weather is good and Mercury is properly aligned -- is the way to overcome resistance, fear, and failure.

I give myself this lecture several times a week, sometimes several times a day. Maybe it will help you, too.

What works to keep you motivated?