Holiday Madness

Yesterday, the conversation veered toward Thanksgiving plans. Makes sense since Thanksgiving is next week. When I was asked about my plans, I paused then said, “I think we’re going to do absolutely nothing this year. It’s just too much trouble in our family to deal with it and this year, I’m out.” Some at the table were in agreement, with one commenting that she wondered when it became such a traumatic nightmare for some families to be together on holidays (something like that).

Ignoring the incredibly awful commercialization of the holidays (I mean, really, who needs to go shopping for gifts at 6AM on Thanksgiving Day?! You can if you want to, I suppose and if you have nothing better to do, it’s something to do, but this holiday creep is insane) I’ve really come to dislike this time of year.

There’s the feeling that this time of year is supposed to be about being with family and that everyone is supposed be together and happy. If that could happen for everyone, that would be amazing. If you could be with your family – however you define it – and everything were as cheery as it seemed on TV, I think the world might be a better place. And if you have that, I envy you. Really, I do.

Because there seems to be this pervasive feeling that there’s something wrong with anyone who can’t get it together long enough to be around their family for the holidays. Even though, deep down we all know that not everyone lucked out in the family lottery and can’t have that. It makes great fodder for movies, the family torn apart by something, but by the end they’ve solved their problems, come together and are all enjoying some eggnog around the fire. Together, united as one big happy family.

We all know that doesn’t happen in real life, yet many of us pretend that it does. Or we suck it up and don’t say anything.

And those that do say something – for whatever reason – get “the look.” The one that says you’re the one with the problem. Or worse, you’re told “but, it’s family.” That may be true, but if being family were enough, would the problems that drove them apart exist? If being family were the be all and end all, why are there so many problems?

It’s like saying being biologically related trumps anything and everything else. Like just because you share some common DNA (or are married or adopted or however your family came to be) everything else that’s been bad about the relationship doesn’t mean anything.

Shouldn’t being related (however you are related) trump the other stuff? Shouldn’t being related mean you work these problems out? Or that they don’t happen in the first place? When did being related become and excuse for piss poor behavior? Piss poor behavior that you’re supposed to ignore because “it’s family”?

I’d love to see a movie, advertisement, even a Hallmark card that more accurately captures the essence of the season for (I’m suspecting) a lot of people out there. Perhaps Hallmark needs to have a line of holiday cards that express the sentiment of “Yeah, we’re family. So what?” (Note: new freelance idea to pursue.)

So, for all those who don’t have a loving family to hang with this holiday season, I feel you. There’s nothing wrong with it. It is what it is. I hope it gets better, but, if it doesn’t, that’s OK too. Because sometimes being family just isn’t enough.

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The Inspiration Well

I’m very glad I opted not to participate in NaNo this month.

I thought I had a very good plot outline going, then I looked it over and decided I didn’t. I was making some tweaks to it and got stuck, distracted, overwhelmed and uninspired. Among other things. And now, it’s the 17th and I’ve written exactly 0 words. Is there a badge for that?

It doesn’t really bother me in the sense that I wasn’t planning on participating (officially anyway). It does bother me that I’ve been unable to find the right way to fix what’s wrong. I know exactly what’s wrong but can’t find the words or ideas to make it work. And I planned on writing this month and it’s half over and I’ve accomplished nothing, save for irritating myself seeing how little I’ve done.

Which also doesn’t bother me, per se. I know that sometimes it takes me time to find the right idea and work it out so it makes sense. If I ever do get the hang of this writing thing, I know for certain I won’t ever be called a “prolific writer,” the kind that cranks out a book a year. Or every other year. Or every five years, I’m guessing. And I’m OK with that.

What is bothering me is the other thing that’s inspiring me right now: angry letter writing. Actually, angry email writing to be exact, but you get what I mean. There’s an issue I’m trying to deal with and it’s something I’m passionate about and if you read my last post, you probably have some idea how I feel about the whole thing.

I was sitting in the office doing what has become my afternoon ritual of listening to Pandora and beating my head against the desk, trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with my WIP when an email response finally came in to something I’ve been expecting. I waited two whole weeks for this response. That’s a long time for me to keep my mouth shut when I feel strongly about something.

I took a deep breath and a walk (and by walk I mean into the kitchen to wash the breakfast dishes with a pit stop in the laundry room to switch loads) before I responded. Fortunately (for both of us) the person I’m now dealing with seems friendly and warm and actually willing to listen to my concerns instead of hurl insults (don’t ask). But, I’m still annoyed with the foot dragging and stalling. I needed a few minutes to compose my thoughts and make sure I didn’t come off as utterly obnoxious, given “something else” has come up and now she can’t examine my stuff for another few weeks. (Side note: uh-huh. Sure, you can’t. Whatever.)

So, I’m typing the response, and it took about 30 minutes to compellingly craft a five sentence response that was kind yet firm. And that was about 25 minutes too long, in my estimation. See, my mind kept wandering, I was so inspired by writing this response that I found myself drifting to another project.

This blog post. Sigh.

I found myself composing the paragraphs for this post while I should have been working on those 5 sentences. I kept thinking about all the things I wanted to say and rant about, and how it would be an excellent blog post. It was hard, but I managed to force myself to finish the response first before I came over here to craft his amazing blog post. (I know, it’s nothing special, but I need this right now.)

Well, it’s not the WIP, and it’s not perfect, but I guess it’s something. I know that realistically, as a writer, I can’t wait for the muse to show-up (thought it would be nice if it would show up at 9AM, coffee in hand, ready to go like I am). I have to chase it. Or work without it, But my current frustration isn’t that I’m not inspired to write. I am. I just don’t want to write a bunch of jumbled nonsensical crap that I end up throwing out. I know that’s my specialty, but I’d really like to diversify.

I wonder how these prolific writers manage. How do they crank out a book a year? I know there’s rumors about ghostwriters, but assume they aren’t. How do they do it? How do people work when the muse is AWOL?

Inspiration can come in many forms, I guess. I just wish what so easily inspired this blog post could inspire the WIP. That would be nice. Less frustrating. Or, if something, anything, could easily inspire the WIP. But that doesn’t seem to be happening, so I’m back to beating my head against the desk. It helps. Happy Monday!

Tenacity or Too Aggressive?

From time to time, I freelance. Lately, I haven’t thanks to a consistent part-time job, but sometimes, when I’m feeling adventurous (or poor) I’ll pick up a gig. I much prefer the consistent part-time job these days even if it has nothing to do with writing, because it actually pays. On-time. Every pay day. I don’t have to hunt it down, make angry phone calls and send letters threatening legal action just to get paid for work I did. Which costs me even more money. It just magically shows up in my checking account each month.

This tale is something I’m confident any freelancer can relate to as they’ve likely experienced it, especially if you’re just starting out and haven’t quite learned how to spot the scammers. You learn after the first few times you get screwed.

Since I’ve been personally screwed several times, I’ve become quite good at spotting when someone is avoiding me. These are the people who somehow don’t see my email until three days after I sent it, even though I sent a response minutes after they emailed me. I mean actual, literal minutes. Time date stamps are funny that way. It’s the person that says they didn’t have access to their email because they were out of the office then forget to delete the “sent from my iPhone” at the bottom of the response.

I’m sharing this information not just to be helpful, but because I’m sitting here waiting for someone to call me back about something important (but not about money since this had nothing to do with a freelance job). It’s about a personal matter but I’m dealing with a public agency and (potentially) elected officials.

It’s a really long story, but I get the impression that the entire office has been instructed to gently ignore me. A month ago I contacted someone about an issue I noticed and I wanted to know how I could get it fixed. I went back and forth with the contact person for a while and ultimately, she was rude. I was waiting for a response to my question but she never responded to me so after a week of waiting, I wrote an e-mail to her boss (not knowing who else to go to at that point. I wasn’t trying to escalate anything. She wasn’t responding so it seemed like the next logical step).

I was passionate and logical in that email. I feel strongly about this issue. I was also wordy (because I’m a writer and wanted to make sure they understood every point) so it was about 6 pages long. And included pictures in case my words weren’t strong enough. It’s important to me, in case that wasn’t clear.

A week went by and the Assistant Supervisor person emailed me back basically stating she was now the point person on this matter. Great! I emailed her back 9 minutes later (time date stamp, you know) to state I was available that day (Halloween in case you care) at 2:30 and she could call me back at a particular number. I rushed home to take her call an she never called. OK. Technically she never confirmed. It happens.

Then, she emailed me Sunday night and said, “Sorry, didn’t see your email. When can we talk this week? I’m at a conference Monday and Tuesday.” Fabulous. I emailed her back right away and told her any time on Wednesday. She never responded. OK. I’m not thrilled about that. So, Tuesday morning, I emailed her (knowing full well she was at a conference) saying, “Want to confirm we’re on for Wednesday. What time?” It’s about 10:15 Wednesday morning as I type this, and I have no email response and no phone call.

I get that she’s busy, but so am I. I’m not waiting by the phone with baited breath over this. Because, for starters, I’m not 16 anymore. But these tactics (because I don’t know what else to call them at this point) seem startlingly familiar. See above where I described clients who are trying to avoid paying me.

Anyway, I’m debating calling her right now just to say, Hey, I get you’re busy but when can we talk? Doesn’t have to be right this second, but I’d like to nail something down so I’m not wasting every one of my day’s off waiting on you. But, I worry that I’m crossing the line. I’d even consider another email saying “Hey, did you get my last one, what’s up?” But I worry that’s pushing it, too. And, once I’ve crossed the line to “crazy ranting person” they won’t take me seriously and nothing will be accomplished. Except I’ll be labeled “that crazy ranting person.”

The 6 page letter I had sent was beautifully written (if I may say so). But, it was also very direct. I wanted to let them know up front I wasn’t willing to negotiate and that I was very angry about their decision. Also, how their office then chose to handle the situation was less than stellar and a bit offensive. I’ve been nothing but professional and respectful, but I’ve also been very direct. And I know this can be very off putting (that’s a thing, right?) to some people.

However, the flip side of me is saying that she’s using the non-paying client tactics and I should say “screw it” and call her. Because it’s clear she doesn’t want to actually talk to me and deal with the situation. Particularly because I told them I won’t negotiate. (Side note, the reason I wont’ negotiate is there can’t be any give or take in this situation. It’s impossible. It’s not like buying a house where I start at one price and you at another and we try to meet in the middle. This is an all or nothing situation, just because of what it is.) That’s not a pleasant thing to have to face. I know because I’ve been in her position, dreading making that phone call. Which is why I’m trying to be nice about this, but it’s been going on for a month and I’m wondering if they’re hoping I give up and stop trying, even though I told them that wouldn’t happen.

So, I’m sitting here, waiting, even though I’ve got stuff to do, and wondering when being “aggressive and tenacious” becomes “please don’t call us again or we’ll get a restraining order.” I should probably get in the shower, because you know that’s the exact moment she’d call. Sadly, I’m beginning to think my day will consist of sitting here, waiting, stewing and getting annoyed.