Blogging, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Happy Hump Day, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, National Novel Writing Month, Poetry, RIP, Special Occasions

Contagious

Welcome to April!
Okay, so maybe a joke or prank of some kind is expected at this juncture. Perhaps I should claim I just can’t handle the pressure or I have run out of things to say here, as my little contribution to today’s occasion, but I just can’t do it.
🙂
April Fool’s Day and I don’t understand. It’s fun for some and more power to them.
I don’t ono what it is in me that, even for a split second, I believe whatever someone says on this day of High Jinks and mayhem.
I will be the first to admit that I am highly gullible. Perhaps I have more of an autistic tendency in myself than I thought, as I am the first to believe something when someone says it, but on closer inspection I pick up on the irony, sarcasm, or total implausibility of a certain situation I know couldn’t possibly be true.
Laughter is important and I applaud anyone who can make a joke today, but we should all see it coming and I am surprised this day hasn’t lost its allure.

It’s funny how the term “going viral” has become the new thing, as far as things catching on.
There’s no rhyme or reason why one story goes viral and why so many do not.
It feels like a strange term to me though, as if the virus that travels is such a good and positive thing.
Since when is viral a thing to be sought out?
In today’s age of social media it is the thing to strive for.
I still want to wash my hands of it all, as a germophobe, and avoid catching the fever.

Today is also the start of a new month, just so happening to be April, and there are three pretty widely talked-about things going on in the blogging/writing world over the next thirty days.

NaPoWriMo/About
Following World Poetry Day last week, April is National Poetry Writing Month, an extension of National Novel Writing Month. I struggle to write one poem, let alone one for every day of an entire month. I love to follow along.

November has passed and until it comes around again there’s:
Camp NaNoWriMo/About
This happens again, as camp should be, in July.

And last but certainly not least, there’s:
A to Z April Blogging Challenge
I don’t know how I missed hearing about this one, not until over the past few months I heard about it all at once.
I am not participating. I have a lot of other things I should be focused on. I do hope to try it next year at this time. I already have a topic picked out, although I am sure if I Googled it I would find that I was not the first to think of it.
Shall leave that for now.

As for the viral stuff, so many things catch on and travel all over the Web and from blog to blog. It’s crazy that these bloggers are taking part in something that makes it a point to blog every day, except Sundays, for the entire month of April, but it really is, in a lot of ways, a bigger deal than NaNoWriMo.
As if there weren’t already enough blogs.
Not that I am complaining or anything.
🙂
I love to blog and would be a hypocrite if I were to say otherwise and I can’t wait to see what is produced.
As for my own stuff…I must make it a point to stay as authentically me as possible, to do what’s right for me and not to be tempted to follow what everyone else might be doing, in blogging and in life.
My first day of April I will not be playing a prank, but if any of you think you can get me with one, you are probably correct.

No. I am going to speak, as it is Wednesday, on a few news stories that have me thinking and pondering why people do what it is that they do.
I had a list of topics for Wednesday’s In The News And On My Mind posts, but I have not been sticking to that original schedule.
Oh well.

First there is the terrible story from last week about the plane crash in the French Alps.
This adds to my fear of flying, however remote the chances that it could be me on one of those doomed flights.
Everyone has been speculating and demanding to know what was going through that co-pilot’s head when he made that choice to end so many people’s lives and his own.
Innocent babies and young students with their whole lives ahead of them were taken way too soon and nobody can dispute that.
Mental illness has been pushed back out into the forefront of our consciousness. Why did he do something so cruel and senseless?
What could have been done to prevent this, in the chain-of-command?
We can dig and dig into this disturbed man’s past and life as far back as we want, but it won’t bring those people back and it won’t explain it all away.
All we can do is keep talking about how mental illness affects us all.
Of course, do what we can and put as many safe-guards in place for more screening of pilots. Of course.
Just don’t obsess over the why’s and the what-the-Hell’s and forget to focus on remembering the victims, while allowing anger and hatred to overwhelm.
The pilot, right now, is probably feeling like he could have or should have done more to break into that cockpit. The powers that be must be under a whole lot of scrutiny. There is a way to take preventative steps in future, without losing sight of the fact that anyone so desperate and fatalistic as this guy must have been in a whole lot of pain.
Why should we care you say? Because we are all humans and anyone can suffer. Compassion must be muster, somehow.
Were I one of the members of the lost passenger’s families, I would probably be writing some very different words, but perhaps not.

Secondly, on a slightly less serious note, there is the resignation of one of the members of a popular boy band.
This, on the surface seems much less important, but I took a second look at the situation.
“Kids these days!”
I find myself thinking that, if not saying it, at the ripe old age of thirty-one.
In the 60s there were The Beatles. In the 80s it was New Kids on the Block.
I just missed that craze myself.
Then the whole hype of The Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, and others in the early 2000s.
I never screamed uncontrollably at a concert or had these band’s posters plastered all over my bedroom walls like other girls.
I listened to other music that wasn’t,perhaps, so clamorous.
This kid, from One Direction, he is young and may have gotten lost in the madness of fame and celebrity. He may just need a breather. He may soon realize he made a big mistake. He may soon realize he misses the attention and the spectacle. OR he may not.
I heard such things as a cry to cut on Twitter.
Personally, I hope this is some sort of early April Fool joke because the idea that a bunch of girls cutting themselves, as is the serious mental illness that exists, is utterly ridiculous.
Cutting, as brutal as it sounds, won’t bring this guy back into the group.
I am not so old. I know how important music can be.
How it speaks to your soul and soothes a broken heart.
Nothing is worth hurting yourself.
Girls will be girls and they certainly love their boy bands, but there are other ways of better expressing oneself and always another song to speak to your soul.
It’s important, however, not to downplay the importance this one band might play in even one girls’ life, if she feels she is understood nowhere else.

And finally…

There’s the existence of the shirt made entirely out of hair.
This is disturbing to me on many levels, but none of them have anything to do with the fact that the hair comes from the heads of gay people.
Sometimes people try so hard to make a statement, their statement, that they end up losing all hope of sensibility and the message becomes lost in the mix.
I don’t want to think of a sweater made out of hair from anyone.
The fact that one “lucky” person can now walk down the street, sporting a sweater made entirely out of gay people’s hair is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard of in a while.
I am not one of those people who walks around calling everything “so gay”. I have never had the urge. I can see how that might grow tiresome to hear.
Yet, sometimes, as with things contagious, the cure winds up being just as radical as the disease.

And that’s my somewhat random, welcome to April, In The News and On My Mind, contagious themed post for your mid-week reading/scanning pleasure.
Any virus can and will catch on and latch on. How many of us will catch it?
I try to remain immune to the pressures and writing this blog helps a lot.
If I haven’t yet gotten my point across, it’s to A:
find compassion
and B:
to listen to what you like, to not be afraid to live because every day might be our last, to watch what we say and how it affects others,
but to please…oh please, never make a sweater out of human hair.

Okay, so it’s Wednesday and I am a bit all-over-the-place, and that is exactly why I’m not adding my own brand of madness, by attempting any of the above blogging/writing challenges. It just wouldn’t be the best idea right now.
Goodbye April fools’ and hurry up Easter weekend.
Chocolate is the only cure I need.
Here’s hoping the Easter Bunny will bring my nephew a tricycle and my niece and other nephew lots of treats.

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1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Happy Hump Day, Kerry's Causes, Memoir and Reflections

Bell Let’s Talk Day 2015: Love and Depression

Lana Del Ray, Young and Beautiful from The Great Gatsby Soundtrack, on YouTube

I had gone through episodic times where I felt pulled down by sadness and despair, mental health issues had touched my family, but never had I experienced anything like this before.

I fell in love with someone with depression.

The first six months of a new relationship are thrilling and exciting. Depression was kept at bay, at least from me, and maybe even him.

However, once real life crept in and time moved along, reality set in.

I had no real clue what to expect or any clear understanding how I would handle being the girlfriend of someone whose good days were good and whose bad days could be pretty bad. If I had been more prepared, I still don’t know how I would have prepared for the worry, the fear, and the stress. I was so far in love by the time I would learn what living every day with depression in my relationship was going to be like, that by then there was no going back and I didn’t want to.

What do you do when you care so much for someone by then? How could I turn back, how did I see our life going forward, and what was I to do when the bad days began?

If I were this weighed down by these questions, just imagine how he felt. I did and I tried, constantly. I often grew obsessed by trying so hard to put myself in his shoes, even for a moment, to feel what he might be feeling.

“I know…I know,” I continuously told myself. There was no way I could. My ability for empathy drove me crazy thinking I could truly understand, even attempt to.

There’s no real way to describe the weight of it.

One moment our love felt like enough to carry us through the dark days and the next thing I knew a wall shot up between us, boxing him away from me, somewhere I could not follow and felt unable to travel with him. I could kick and I could scream but what would be the point if the wall would not come down, only dismantled, brick by brick, by hands that were not my own.

It’s times like these that I felt his struggles and him struggle most acutely.

Helplessness would threaten to overtake me and I could feel the undertow threatening to pull him down and away from us, from himself.

I didn’t want to feel the anger, directed at nobody in particular but at myself more than anyone else.

Love, I hoped, could be the answer. I could have told myself before falling, how naive of me and just how unrealistic of a hope this was, that depression and mental illness could not be battled and defeated strictly with the love of a good woman, not even me.

While I lived day to day with these realities, on the other hand, my guilt grew with every sad day he had. Why wasn’t I enough to stem the flow of his pain? What more could I do.

How selfish of me, to think this way. This wasn’t about me, but soon love and pain became so tightly entwined that I didn’t know, some days, how to separate the two elements.

If I wasn’t careful, my guard was let down, and we would wake to one of those blue bad days.

Winter and January, following the busy days of the Christmas season and with the start of a new year, these ran into some particularly dark days, when the cold and the snow made for one long season. I could fight the stir-crazy and the cabin-fever, but easier said than done for him. Soon my fear of this time of year was very much a rational one.

Then the days would lengthen and the sun would shine. Would these environmental factors be enough?

Medication, enough sleep, enough sunshine, fresh air and exercise.

I knew the ins and outs of what could contribute, in both good and bad ways, to the harshness of depression.

Love and stress were much greyer of areas. I couldn’t be that perfect girlfriend I so wanted to be for him, one that would be the difference between being his salvation and a part of the problem.

Silly were these thoughts I started to have. I could not make anyone happy that was not happy with themselves. If there were an imbalance in our relationship or in his brain chemistry, how much control did I have over these things?

If I could only make him laugh more. If I could only make him his favourite meal or offer him the right amount of peace and serenity at the end of a long day that he told me, in the early days of dating, I had been enough to provide.

“All I could do was love him,” I would tell myself.

I would hear the soon all-to-familiar words coming out of his mouth, that he just felt blue that day, just not himself, and my stomach would drop and my heart would sink.

How was it possible to feel both my stomach and my heart all the way down in my feet?

Here we go again, but no and wait…he didn’t choose to feel like that. I just had to wait it out and it would pass.

It would pass, right?

I am using this date, January 28th, Bell Let’s Talk Day to write about these extremely difficult memories of the harder parts of love, in among the tricky minefields of depression.

I believe, though I could not make his pain and his suffering go away, that I learned how to become an even more loving, sensitive, and compassionate person for my own sake. I will take this into any future relationships, whether depression is an issue or not, and I will know what it is like to love someone, no matter what they may be living with, all the more deeply and entirely without self-absorption.

I had to get over the fact that although I hoped my own experiences living my own life with some of the extra hardships I have might have been the thing to hold us together. I had to face the fact that all the love in the world that I hoped I could give might not be the thing to ensure a for-certain future. I knew the cure for depression wasn’t in my own hands.

I can honestly say that watching someone you love go through such ups and downs of depression, when you witness the sometimes daily roller coaster, is one of the hardest experiences life can throw your way.

I wanted to write about it though, as hard as it is to talk about for me, because I feel that it’s important to speak about. I never wanted to admit I felt such guilt and anger with myself, so hard for me to admit, but these feelings are a part of a very important period of my past.

As important as it is for us to talk about mental illness, to “stop the stigma”, I know I would have benefited from hearing experiences like mine before I felt what it felt like when love and depression mix.

How could I s

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Spotlight Saturday, Writing

Spotlight On Saltz

This week’s Spotlight Saturday I am lucky to have on my blog an interview with Writer, of memoirs, and musician Alana Saltz.

You can find her on her website:

AlanaSaltz.com

as we discuss such things as creativity and mental illness, whether it’s worth getting an MFA, and how to handle rejection.

And now I hope you learn as much about writing as I did from Alana.

***

KK: First, where are you located and what is your background with writing?

AS: I’m located in Los Angeles, CA. I’ve had an interest in words since my parents started reading me bedtime stories. I loved trips to the library and bookstore as a child. At my elementary school, there were some opportunities for students to explore creative writing, like our parent-run Paw Print Press. I got to write and illustrate a couple of stories, and then they were produced into little picture books with covers made out of cardboard.

I eventually majored in English as an undergraduate, took lots of writing classes, and was an active participant in my school’s literary magazine and writing workshop. After graduating, I decided to take the next step and pursue my MFA. I’ll be graduating from Antioch University, Los Angeles this December.

KK: What skills do you think are required to be an artist, either to be a writer, musician, or both?

AS: Passion and determination are the biggest ones. I also think it helps a lot to be naturally empathetic and sensitive if you want to create art that resonates with others. You have to be willing to look inside and look at others in a deep, meaningful way to be able to capture the world and reflect it back through words, art, or music.

KK: Do you believe in the connection between artistic talent and mental illness? What do you think that connection is and how does it manifest itself for you?

AS: I don’t really believe there’s a connection between talent and mental illness. If anything, mental illness can make you more internal and sensitive, which might in turn bring new levels of perception and power to your creative work. But you can be a thoughtful, insightful person without any diagnosable mental illnesses. While mental illness has given me something to write about, it hasn’t helped me actually write. It usually prefers to get in the way through discouraged, depressed outlooks and anxious, stressed thoughts that I have to fight in order to get back to work.

KK: Do you think writing talent can be taught or learned or do you think either someone has it or they don’t?

AS: This is an interesting question; I got into a debate with my boyfriend about it just the other day. I think everyone is born with certain inherent strengths and talents. Words and language have always come naturally to me, so I embraced that side of myself, and luckily felt a passion for developing it. I think it’s possible to be good at something you don’t want to do and be bad at something you wish you could do. Writing can certainly be taught, even if a person doesn’t have a natural strength with it. But it sure helps to have that. It’s much less of an uphill battle. 

I also think that empathy and insight play a role here as well. Not everyone is naturally good at looking inside themselves or seeing the world around them with clarity and understanding. You need that to create work that resonates, and I’m not sure that can be taught.

KK: What advice do you have for a writer just starting out?

AS: Every professional writer will give the same advice: Read. Read a lot, and read widely. But everyone who will ultimately make it as a writer doesn’t need that advice because they already do. You have to love reading and stories to become and be a writer. 

Besides reading, I would recommend finding a local writing workshop/critique group, maybe taking some classes, and writing whatever interests you without worrying too much about what it is or where it will ultimately take you.

KK: What does the term memoir mean to you?

AS: Memoir is a work of autobiography that has a theme, focus, or covers a select period of a person’s life. It’s creative nonfiction, meaning that it’s based in fact and experience, but some creative liberties can and will be taken in bringing it to life.

KK: What is the difference between a writer and an author? Do you think the words are interchangeable?

AS: I define “author” as someone who has published a book. A “writer” is someone who writes. I don’t think the words are interchangeable, although an “author” is certainly a “writer.”

KK: What is your writing or creative process? Do you have a routine or do you let the inspiration strike when it will?

AS: A lot of people would probably judge my creative process. There’s a lot of emphasis on the “butt in chair” routine: sit down every day, or a least several days a week, for a specified amount of time or amount of words, and make yourself write. Eventually, something will come out. They say this is how professionals work. It’s not how I work. 

I always have ideas floating around, incubating. I often write down notes and brainstorm. I typically set out to write in the mornings, but not every morning. Sometimes the writing is just thinking or note-taking. If I’m in the middle of a project, I work on that. I’ll go several days, even a week, without writing a word, then spend 10 days straight writing thousands of words a day. I let my interests, project, and ideas guide me. Deadlines will dictate it as well. 

I don’t wait for inspiration, exactly. I have to keep my mind open and searching so I have something to say whenever I do sit down. But I tend to sit down when I feel compelled to, although I do have a nagging sense of obligation that makes me force myself now and then.

KK: What is your experience with writing programs? Do you believe it is important to be trained or can there be other ways of gaining the same wisdom and experience?

AS: I have mixed feelings about writing programs. If you just want to write for fun, take some classes here and there, maybe join a local writing workshop. If you want to teach, get an MFA or PhD. That’s necessary. If you want to write professionally, it depends. Classes and workshops are a must, but I don’t think a degree is necessary. I wanted the option to teach, and I love writing classes and workshops and being part of a community, so that’s why I pursued an MFA.

KK: What do you think is harder to write: fiction or non-fiction/memoir? Why?

AS: For me, it’s probably memoir. In fiction, you have to create a whole world from scratch, but you can dictate and structure what happens in it. In memoir, you already have the materials, the enormous, misshapen pile of clay that is your life and memories. From that, and only that, you must sculpt a beautiful statue. You have to take a million little moments and turn them into a structured, cohesive, engaging narrative that makes sense and will connect with others. And if you don’t have an amazing memory, it’s even harder. I’m glad I kept journals as a teenager, or I’m not sure I could have written mine. But both genres are tough.

KK: How do you handle rejection and what tips can you offer for dealing with it for other writers?

AS: I don’t handle it as well as I’d like, but it depends on the rejection. Individually, they aren’t so bad. One after another can be discouraging and make me question everything. I’m one of those people who can’t not write, no matter how much I get rejected, no matter how low I sink in confidence. It’s part of me. If it’s part of you too, just remember that it takes rejection to get to acceptance, and becoming a successful writer will take time and perseverance. Try not to let it get you too down in the meantime. Editors, agents, and teachers are all subjective in their tastes and feedback. Take their advice seriously, but know each one does not represent the entire world of opinion.

KK: What is your feeling about traditional publishing vs self-publishing? What do you see for the future of both?

AS: This is a tricky question. I’ll start by saying that I’m an advocate of whatever path works for you and your project. I think self/indie-publishing has an interesting and promising future ahead of it. I like the idea of writers taking our work into our own hands, maintaining creative control, and publishing on our own terms. 

That said, traditional publishing still has its place. It’s very hard to get teaching or lecturing positions as a self-published author, if that’s your goal. Publishing houses also have more resources and money for promotion than you’ll most likely have on your own, unless you’ve developed a huge following already. People say publishers make you do all your own promotion, but that isn’t true. From what I can see, you’ll spend way more time promoting as a self-publisher than a traditionally published author. If you self publish, it’s all up to you. No one is helping. And that can be really, really tough.

KK: What do you have planned for the future for your own writing?

AS: Right now, I’m querying a memoir about my struggle to overcome anxiety disorder and depression as a young adult. I also have some essays in the works to submit to blogs and magazines. I’m planning to do NaNoWriMo in November to get a new novel going. I have a couple novel drafts in my virtual drawer that I occasionally look at and revisit. So, I have a lot of different projects in the works. I’m not sure which one will take off first.

***

Thank you Alana, for your candid answers to my questions. I wish you lots of luck with NaNoWriMo next month.

For more on Alana, visit her on:

Facebook,

Twitter,

and on

Instagram.

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