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Writer Life

A Quick Contemplation on Comparison

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by

Comparison is the thief of joy.
Theodore Roosevelt

Since I’ve started putting so much of my time and energy into writing, running my distro, and doing things that make me happy, I’ve felt so much better about…everything. I’m writing and mailing out more zines than ever, it seems, and I’m getting so much support and enthusiasm from everyone around me. I’m not boxed in by routine but still producing so much great stuff every day. Life feels great.

Why, then, is it still so easy for me to look at the life and work–the Instagram, the writer’s website, the published works list–of a woman I went to college with four years ago and have barely spoken to since and get so down on myself? When I look at her posts, it suddenly feels as if I’m not doing enough or not doing things “right.”

The list of questions that run through my head looks something like this:

Am I less legitimate in my work if I’m not submitting all the time? If I don’t have a list of links to web publications who have accepted me, then am I really doing anything worth bragging about? Should I be spending less time posting and even more time writing? Should I be writing different things? Why don’t I have as many followers as she does? What am I doing wrong? Am I not (cute, quirky, smart, stylish, etc.) enough?

All of this occurs in a matter of seconds, of course.

It gets my head all muddled, and I start to feel like what I want is wrong or isn’t what I really want. I wouldn’t call it jealousy because I like that she’s doing well–I want us both to be successful–but it’s also far from confident or secure. I just can’t help wondering if that’s what I should be doing; maybe there is a right way to go about this writer thing.

It’s confusion and self-doubt, and I’d like to think it will go away with time and more hard work, but I know there’s almost no chance of that happening for good. If it does, then I’ve probably gotten overly confident in myself and turned into an asshole. We don’t want that to happen.

In between all of the good days, the ones when I get compliments from friends and strangers who have just finished reading a new zine they got from me or the ones when I’m just happy, there will still be the ones when I’m asking myself if I’m doing this right or why things seem so different for me compared to others doing this. While it gets old and depressing, maybe it’s not the worst thing. Maybe it keeps me on my toes, self-evaluating and evolving over time as we all do (and should).

It’s a bummer to think that maybe someone is doing it better and to know it’s not worth fretting about but being unable to stop yourself.

What do you do when you get down like this? Let’s chat about it and lift each other’s spirits!

March 17, 2017
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Working Girl: My First Month of Self-Employment + an Office Tour

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by

I mentioned in my February wrap-up that at the beginning of last month I took my last day at the copy shop and started working from home. Over the past month or so since then, I’ve managed to put out three new zines (two minis and a perzine), plus a newsletter for Nine Lives to go out with all orders and to offer as a freebie at the upcoming Pioneer Valley Zine Fest. On top of that, I’ve been keeping up with my Patreon rewards–and I am so, so thankful to everyone who’s pledged so far!–working on a novel, working on various essays for more perzines, making a neverending list of mini zine topics, and taking care of the house. I have been one busy bee.

When I started, I was splitting my days into two parts: In the morning, I would work on my novel either until I’d hit my word count for the day or until lunchtime came. Then I’d have lunch, and in the afternoon, I’d work on just about anything else I needed to that hadn’t been done in the morning: Patreon, Facebook posts, blog work, zine orders, whatever. I kept that up for about two weeks, but then the routine started to feel stale. My approach now is to simply do what I’m in the mood for. This means I’ve been doing a lot more zine work than novel work for the past couple of weeks, but I’m enjoying it, and I’ve gotten so much done, so I have no complaints.

As part of the agreement for me to stay home, Dan and I decided that I’m in charge of keeping the house relatively clean and also working on some of the renovations (although I have to admit I haven’t done any of that yet because I’m really picky about my renovation activities). To be honest, it was mostly my idea because I would much rather be home listening to podcasts and making the house presentable than out in the world dealing with people, and it’s working quite well so far. The house feels much cleaner than it ever really has been, and it helps me to feel productive on days when I can’t get myself to write as much as I’d like.Dan has especially been helpful and supportive in the transition: he’s agreed to do so many building projects to make my office the perfect work space for me, making me a brand new desk (which I love) and some corner shelves to help organize the space; he listens to all of my crazy ideas and is always enthusiastic about them; and he’s been the most supportive voice when I’m freaking out thinking this is a horrible idea and will ruin my life. I swear, he’s not even human. It’s amazing. It’s something that I really need right now because as much as I needed the change, it was scary to leave a job I’d been at for nearly three years.

As much as I liked my job and the people I worked with, the overall environment was stressing me out far too much to justify staying any longer. One of my coworkers on my last day asked if I was excited and I just shrugged and tried not to cry because it was scary and sad. I don’t like change. I don’t like not getting a regular paycheck every two weeks. But it was a necessary big step for me to take right now.

I’m not opposed to going back to a “normal job” at some point, but for now I think things are working out well for Dan and me. I’m feeling better than I have in a long time and get to do exactly what I’ve dreamed of for years. Is it a little harder in some ways? Well, yeah. Of course. But I’m just thinking of it as, “I’m now as uncool as I was in high school,” because I could never afford the things that I thought would make me cool, which is kind of okay since I never really cared about that anyway–and I still don’t. (I’m rambling. Sorry.)

Ultimately, the worry and the fear are worth it because I’m kind of living my dream right now, and I realize how incredibly lucky that is. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this productive with my writing before, and it feels like my life has aligned in the perfect way, at least for the moment, to be everything I really need it to be.

Photos: A detail shot of my desk; my built-in bookcase and wedding bouquet; my corner shelves, which include some plants, mini zines, washi tape, and other miscellaneous decorations; my art + postcard collection above my desk as seen from the dining room; one of my favorite and most photographed corners, with my first couple of plants and my record player; and a wide shot of my built-ins, which were the main reason I wanted this house.


If you’re at all interested in helping me keep up this work-from-home habit, please consider buying some zines or pledging to my Patreon. You’re also welcome to just send a small donation to my paypal (sonyaeatszombies[at]gmail[dot]com), but it seems more fun to get something out of it, if you ask me. Remember that writing is work, so both emotional and monetary support are necessary to help me keep going.

March 6, 2017
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the trunk. | a flash fiction piece

Posted in Writer Life, Writing by

She didn’t know where she was when she woke to a world of blackness, no sound but her own breath. She sat up, gravity telling her she was on her back, and her skull collided with metal, a dull, ringing thud. Pressing a hand to her forehead, she heard the scrape of a chair’s legs across tile. “Are you awake?” A shock of light burst through a square above her face. A wince, a gasp, and she saw him. Bone white skin with oily black hair and gray eyes like slate in winter peered at her through the opening. “Good evening. You’ve slept long.” She thought he smiled, but the look was wolfish; she turned away. “No! Look at me!” His hand slammed against the top of the trunk. She refused. “Fine. Be that way you little bitch. Be that way!” The slat banged shut. She didn’t scream, didn’t beat against the top of the steel trunk. Instead, she let her hands wander across every surface as she listened and waited for her moment: If she didn’t leave alive, neither of them would.

 


If you enjoyed this piece, please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor, checking out my zine shop, or just buying me a cup of coffee to help support my writing. Every dollar makes a difference and allows me to keep plugging along at my work.

March 3, 2017
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Finding the Lessons in Author Memoirs & Biographies

My memoir and biography shelves have been growing. Since we moved into our house, I’ve gone from maybe half a shelf in my built-in bookcase to almost two shelves, and they don’t even include the books still boxed up in my parents’ basement. I don’t seem to have a certain topic that stands out on those shelves, with a mixture of feminist, nerdy, and self-improvement books (and some combinations of those), but as a writer, I’d call the ones by authors my favorite, the ones in which we learn about their writing lives and processes.

I’ve always had an interest in the lives of writers. It began with Sylvia Plath’s story and the autobiographical aspects of The Bell Jar and advanced to include Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. My interests seemed to branch out from just biography to biography with a good helping of how-to. Most recently, I ordered books by and about Joyce Carol Oates and David Foster Wallace. I had downloaded Oates’ essay colleciton, The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age, in the fall and quickly realized that it was one I’d both love and need to own to devote my full attention to it. When I found it on Book Outlet in early January, I also did a quick search for David Foster Wallace’s essay collections and found Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace. I knew I needed both.The thing I love about these kinds of books, the kind that give you some insight into a person (a writer), isn’t just the overt lessons they can teach–like in On Writing and Bird by Bird–but also the things we learn just by hearing their stories. They teach us how the writer dealt with some kind of adversity in their life and their field, whether it was lack of support from others or confidence in themselves, or the pace at which they managed to reach their point of success (if at all). To me, they’re not only resonant on a human level, but also on a writer level. In so many biographies we read about a person’s struggles and how they pushed through; we know they did because we already see how the story ends–in this case, in publication. But it’s the journey that we can learn from and, in some cases, emulate in our own trials.

Often the answers and actions can feel obvious–ask for help, just keep writing (drawing, working, etc.)–but so much of what makes a difference is seeing someone else experience those struggles, those negative feelings that we get, too, and succeed. It’s the very definition of inspiration. You can hear the message repeated by those around you, even those who love you, but it’s when you finally hear it through the right voice that it sticks. The right voice, for me, is other writers because I know they’ve been here.

While some of my favorite role models are my own peers and friends, the ones who sit beside me in real time, and real life, and who will hold hands with me through our challenges, it can be nothing less than inspiring to read and learn from those who have already succeeded, whatever that looks like in their eyes and mine. Maybe it’s writing their memoir. Maybe it’s writing a whole bookstore display of works. Whatever that benchmark, they’ve reached a point where they believe, even a little, that their story is necessary to tell–necessary to themselves, and necessary to others.

February 20, 2017
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Dear Stephen: A Love Letter to a Horror Master

Dear Stephen,

Carrie White was my first. I met her midway through high school, when I was also an awkward, angry teenager. She intrigued me with her pitiful self, her inability to stick up for herself against the mean girls and mean boys and abusive mother—but I also felt a deep sympathy and anger at the way those around her let her down. My tolerance for bullying is nonexistent, and every time I reread, I have to talk myself down from a rage cliff. There may be an element of the supernatural within the novel, but of all the books of yours I’ve read thus far, Carrie feels the most real.

I’ve been an avid fan ever since—though not quite to the Annie Wilkes level, thank goodness—even if I’m not the fastest. Sure, they’re not perfect novels (is there even such a thing?), but they’re damn fine entertainment.

Pennywise is my most recent.

I was, for the first time in these past nine years, driven to actual fear by one of your books: It. I spent a portion of the summer alone in my house, and in my own infinite wisdom I read the book most nights before bed, with only my fat oaf of a dog as protection, so as I’d shut the lights off and snuggle into the blankets, it was easy for my imagination to run wild. I couldn’t count the number of nights I would get up to double and triple check the locks on the doors.

It appeals to my coming-of-age cravings, the constant need I have to dive into the lives of adolescents, which I can only assume is a result of my total anxiety over my own adulthood. It takes me deep into that summer of 1958 when the Losers Club lived to tell their tell—but never did, and rightly so; who would believe this rag-tag group of pals? “They’re only telling tales and having fun,” the adults would say. And I would fear for every one of them as they drew closer to the answers and to It.

It’s masterful, that crafting of a character most commonly known only as It throughout the book. Most people, fan or not, would recognize Pennywise, but few—including myself—realize that he’s only one face of the fearsome creation lurking throughout the novel. It’s clever and even somewhat amusing to give something as grand and terrifying a name so simple. It’s exactly what you could expect from a group of eleven year olds.

My Stephen King collection is small in relation to your lengthy resume, but I can only hope it will keep growing with each year. Maybe someday I’ll even catch up.

Your Constant Reader,
Sonya

February 6, 2017
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eulogy. | a poem

Posted in Writer Life, Writing by

I see stars
and lightning bugs flying higher
until I can’t tell
which is which
in the humid dark of a July sky.
It’s true; there is beauty
still, but
I am not ready for it
tonight.

 


If you enjoyed this piece, please consider becoming a Patreon sponsor, checking out my zine shop, or just buying me a cup of coffee to help support my writing. Every dollar makes a difference and allows me to keep plugging along at my work.

February 3, 2017
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It’s Launch Day!

Posted in Writer Life by

You guys! It’s official! My Patreon is now live and ready to go. I don’t expect everyone to jump on board right away, if at all, but I will ask that you share the news with anyone who you think might be interested in supporting my work.

In an effort to make my writing accessible to as many readers as possible, starting in February, I’ll be posting pieces of poetry and flash fiction here on my blog twice a month. Much of my fiction and poetry is currently available only by paying for it, either through my zines on Etsy or through Patreon. While I write in the hope that I’ll be able to make my living from it in the future, I also write simply because I love it, and I want to share it.

Sometimes you need to show people what you’re doing before they can trust you enough to, you know, spend money on you, so for me it makes sense to share what I can. Kind of like those free samples of cheeses and dips in the grocery store, y’know?

You can head on over to the Patreon campaign page to check it out, see what I have for rewards, and maybe share the link on a couple of sites if you have a moment because I’d be indescribably grateful for it.

If you’ve got any questions, feedback, or general comments, please let me know. I’d love to hear what anyone has to say.

January 16, 2017
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To Ask or Not to Ask: Considering Patreon and Other Options

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by

I’ve been trying to set a writing routine for myself over the past few days; I fell off the wagon sometime in September, and I fell hard. The only upside to this is that I finally started reading again, but not creating is a steep price to pay for Netflix binges that have no foreseeable endpoint. The past several months, though, have been difficult. A lot of days took the life out of me, and it was all I could do to pick up a book and make a good meal for dinner.

For even longer than that, though, I’ve been eyeing Patreon as an option for my work. I learned about it shortly before I read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, and it’s intriguing. My biggest fear isn’t that people won’t use it, though. It’s not taking that step to ask with the potential of “no” as the answer. It’s the concern that I won’t be able to keep up with rewards. When I’m feeling crushed, I don’t know for how long or how hard it is until I’m in the thick of it. It’s hard to even know that it’s coming, so I’m afraid I’ll shirk my responsibilities, especially when people are paying real money for me to fulfill them.

I try to tell myself that it’ll be motivation, that creating a Patreon page for my writing will help keep me from falling apart and hold me accountable. I try to believe that it’ll be helpful in, well, all of my goals. It’ll be a good thing. It’s something I can handle. But being my habitually pessimistic self, I’m very skeptical about all of these declarations. I have a hard time believing in myself, which is rather tragic, isn’t it?

I do have a couple of rewards in mind for various pledge points, including flash fiction stories, which I’ve just started incorporating into my hourly writing sessions, in which I bounce from project to project based on what’s floating around in my brain at any given moment, and I’m considering a free option, as well, such as a newsletter-style monthly story. It’d only be one small piece per month, or maybe part of a serial (shit, that’s an awesome idea), rather than say, three stories for $5 a month or something like that, but I think I like that as an option because it could get people exposed to my writing without having to pay anything in the beginning, and then if they chose to pay for more, they could.

I feel like I’m going to go back and forth on this because it feels like such a good idea, but it’s such a scary one at the same time. I guess I’m what I’m really looking for is some feedback, so if you’ve got any thoughts, let me have ’em.

December 19, 2016
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On Skipping NaNoWriMo 2016

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by

On November 1, I was in a three-room cottage near the east coast of Ireland on my honeymoon. My heart broke a little bit that day because I knew I wouldn’t be home for almost a week, and as much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t find it in me to try NaNoWriMo this year when I would be struggling through five whole days at the very beginning. I hadn’t even brought my computer with me. Sure, I could have started writing by hand, but I think we all know it’s so much easier when the word processor can keep a word count for you.

Now it’s we’re almost through November, and I’m still disappointed. I’ve been seeing so many people working on their own NaNoWriMo projects this year, and I’m both excited for and jealous of them all. I love hearing people’s updates–and struggles–as they put their heart into something that might grow bigger come December or might not. Either way, they’re committed for at least these thirty days, and it’s wonderful and inspiring.

It is also ZineWriMo, so I am using that as inspiration to get through a new issue of Whatsername, but to an extent, it’s just not the same: it’s a smaller commitment overall, with not real word count requirement, nothing except, “Make a zine!” to push me through the month. The payoff just doesn’t feel equivalent, even if I’m excited for this issue.

It has always been a dream of mine to write a book, as I know it has been for so many people, and it’s so frustrating to feel like the past few years have been a complete struggle in this goal. Especially since publishing my chapbook, my writing has fallen by the wayside. I don’t know if it’s a result of being further and further removed from a school environment or just the fact that 2016 overall has been, let’s just say it, a shitty year. The irony is that given all the personal things I’ve dealt with this year on top of the public issues we’ve all gone through, you would think I might want to write more, might want to use it as a therapeutic tool–and I do want to. I just can’t seem to find it in myself to do that.

So I’m heartbroken to be missing out on NaNoWriMo this year, even if it’s of my own choosing. There’s not much I love more than the glide of a favorite pen on paper or hearing the quick clicking of my keyboard, and it’s something I really need right now, but it was something I just couldn’t do. Committing myself would have lead to nothing but frustration and disappointment–which I guess isn’t a whole lot different from how I’m feeling now.

The best solace I can find is in the fact that there’s no rule NaNoWriMo has to be done in November. I mean, it does to actually be NaNoWriMo, but I can commit myself to writing 1,500 words a day for thirty days any month I choose, except maybe February.

I’d like to say I have big writing goals for next year after how slow 2016 has gone for me, but I don’t. At best I have some vague ideas I would like to accomplish, but there’s nothing concrete in mind right now.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? How’s it going for you?

November 23, 2016
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The Dream Won’t Die and I Don’t Know How to Deal

Posted in Personal, Writer Life by

When I was in high school, I had an attic bedroom with hot pink, black, and lime green walls, and much of the surface was plastered with scraps of doodles and song lyrics, clippings from Rolling Stone, SPIN, and my personal favorite, Alternative Press. Oh, Alt Press, my old friend.

It wasn’t always my plan to go to college and enter the secondary education program; I made that decision only shortly after I was accepted, and it’s one I regret quite often to be honest. But this post isn’t about that; rather, it’s about the dream I’d harbored before that of signing up as a journalism major to work for a music magazine like Alt Press. I would reference their website for assignments in my high school journalism class and dream up elaborate scenarios in which I was out interviewing bands, writing up profiles on my favorites, and living this exciting life revolving around writing.

As you already know, that’s not how life turned out for me, because my seventeen-year-old self had her hopes crushed by a nitpicky journalism teacher who couldn’t be bothered to explain why he was repeatedly asking me to rewrite the articles I was working on and actually teach me something but instead just kept tweaking my focus to keep me out of his hair and from actually accomplishing a piece. (I’m not bitter. No, not at all. It’s only that I still remember fuming after each meeting we had to go over the articles I’d be working on as he would tell me to go at it from a completely different angle without explaining why. But I’m certainly not bitter, if that’s what you think.)

This is one of the things that I regret most days and don’t know how to change at this point, eight years after the fact. I still read issues of Alternative Press, now downloaded onto my tablet from the library rather than flipping through the glossy magazine pages of a subscription. I don’t cut out my favorite photos and blurbs to hang in my home office anymore. Sometimes I try to take a DIY approach with zines and blogging, especially after the creative non-fiction course I took in college–by far my favorite–and all I’ve learned about literary journalism, a genre that allows me to be a little more flowery in a nonfiction environment. But I’m beginning to feel more and more each day as if I don’t have a satisfying outlet for it. I can write the pieces–and then what? They sit in files on my laptop collecting digital dust more often than not. I’ve spent the past couple of days tossing around the idea of starting some kind of website, but why? The kind of website I would create already exists in various forms; it’s redundant. But I still want to be that cool girl writing articles about the things she loves, the things you might love, too, and telling true stories on glossy pages.

Final summation: I don’t know what to do with myself, with everything I have percolating inside me, with all the dreams I never quite let go of still clawing at the inside of my skull.

July 31, 2016
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