Real Life

When I was a kid, summer break was an amazing thing, an escape from school and a return to my real life.  After all, when you are a kid, what is more real, running around with your friends and playing baseball in the dentist’s parking lot across the street (because I am old enough to have once had free reign that way), or sitting in a classroom memorizing dates while trying to countdown until lunch?  Even though I was too embarrassed to admit it at the time, I liked school.  But I loved summer.

Now, instead of summer being my escape, it is a logistical nightmare.  There are new activities and schedules all the time, unusual eating and sleeping schedules, and mad dashes to try and squeeze in trips before school starts.  Summer is exhausting.

This last Monday, my girls returned to school, which means I should be able to return to my real life.

It’s not going well.

It’s hard to really put into words why this year has been tough, mostly because it involves analysis of my life.  The good, the bad, and the stuff I don’t want to think about.

First things first, I love Belgium.  This is a wonderful country, and for the most part I have met nothing but kind and fun locals.  It’s a great place to live.  For someone else.

I don’t talk much about my living here with my husbands job, because there isn’t much to talk about.  I don’t ask questions about his work, unless it is something he needs to talk about or if it effects the entire family and I tell others much less than I know.  It’s a security thing. Little details can mean big trouble.

This particular assignment has been hard.  Our last base was much bigger.  I was able to work, and while living there I began attending school.  I worked hard, and I have now earned three degrees.  Unfortunately there are maybe 10 jobs out here, and while most of them are in my career field (education), I have been unable to secure any of them.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that is.  I mean, sure, there are about 50 unemployed spouses out here, but not all of them are attempting to work, and even fewer of them have Master’s degrees, or even degrees at all.  We don’t even want to discuss how many of those degrees are in a field that is even vaguely related to education.  As much as I try not to say it, it’s an open secret that out here there is a lot of politics in who gets the job.  You don’t want to make a big deal of it, because it’s not necessarily the fault of the person who gets hired, and they shouldn’t have to feel bad for getting the job.  But it’s hard.  It can make you feel bitter and angry.  And sometimes a little depressed.  Or a lot depressed.

It takes a toll on your sense of self worth to constantly hear that you are not what anyone wants.

At first I tried to tell myself this was good.  This would be my chance to throw myself in my writing.  I would finish a novel that would be amazing, get published, and fulfill my every dream.  Yeah.  I don’t think you need three guesses to figure out how that has gone.

To be fair, I haven’t attempted to send anything I wrote out in around a year.  My husband has reminded me that no one can publish my work if I don’t let them read it.  All I can think of is the fact that no one can reject my work this way either.  Let me tell you though, it’s hard to keep creative channels open when you have the idea that it doesn’t matter stuck in the back of your mind.  You just know, no one will ever read it, and even if they did, it will only be another rejection.

I’ve tried the little tricks.  Make rejection a goal, forget everyone else and write only for love, follow your muse, never let it get you down.  Whatever.

And I know, I’m suppose to end this on an upbeat note.  Blog posts like this are supposed to like an old sitcom.  Yeah, there is drama and heartbreak, but at the end of 22 minutes it’s all over and things go back to the way they were before.  But sadly, this is real life.  I cannot force myself into a better mindset simply because the post is over.  The best I can do is take a deep breath, go for a bike ride, and try again.

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The Problem with Sequels

August is here, and that means the second session of Camp NaNoWriMo is over.  As I have during both November and April, I took up the challenge and set out to write a novel in one month.  During my first attempt, I completed my novel but did not hit my word count.  The second time, I hit my word count, but did not complete my novel.  This month was the least successful for me personally as I achieved neither. My word count was short, and my story was incomplete.  Even worse, it was crap.  My problem was simple, I attempted to write a sequel.

It is a generally accepted the sequels can be iffy.  It either takes the characters and circumstances you loved and makes them better, becoming the best thing ever, or takes them, strips away all that way amazing, and kills the series.  On occasion you can be really lucky and they simply make a lateral movement, not getting better or getting worse.  It is a risk to create a sequel, and not one of my personal strengths.

For this particular attempt, I was attempting a sequel to the novel I had written in April.  You know, the one I didn’t finish.  I knew how it was going to end, but somehow I had been struggling with the words.  I had continued on, because it was a critical scene I could not seem to write.  I assumed I was just feeling the pressure to get it write and a little distance might prove to be helpful.  So, I skipped it and started working from a half finished outline.  Perhaps it should have been a clue that something was off when I couldn’t even seem to finish the outline.

Yes, there were many warning signs I should have heeded, but well.  I didn’t.  I plowed through completing 20,742 words on a story that was wrong.  I had been unable to write the ending to the first novel because it was going to end wrong.  Then, I began again from the wrong ending.

I have had problems writing sequels in the past.  Simply put, I don’t know how to do it.  The times when I felt a sequel was necessary, I began with an idea.  As I asked myself questions, forming who did what and when and how it will all end, the story gets bigger, too big for the one novel I was working on.  Instead of finishing the first novel as a complete tale, I finish it as a section of a story.  Yes, I have finished the tale I began with, but I left it open for the next part.  Instead of beginning, middle, end I know have beginning, middle of the beginning, and end of the beginning, ready to be followed by beginning of the middle or beginning of the end.  Somehow, it ends up being beginning of the awkward transition.

I have only tried two sequels at this point.  The first time, it required moving the characters to a new place, completely different from where they had been before and introducing some new characters who both fit and didn’t fit into the world.  It was so far from where the first one had been, I felt like I never found my footing.  This time, I tried to bring the characters right back to a familiar place, only to realize later, it didn’t make any sense.  They needed to go somewhere different, because the change in their life was too big for them to stay the same.

There are so many great sequels out there in the world.  Let’s be honest, every time you turn around there is another trilogy, and many of them are really good.  It’s hard to tell, am I simply doomed to only successfully write single books, or will I one day find the formula that makes a good sequel?  Either way, it is time to take a break, and work on something different.  Perhaps in time, the second book will come out.