The weather has turned cold here in Australia, as we head into winter for another year. I am singing ‘The Seasonal Blues’ and I know the tune well. Every year around this time, I start to get a little slower, a little sadder and a lot less productive. It’s taking me a ridiculous amount of time to write this post. As I layer up with clothes and fire up the heating, put away opened-toed shoes and worry less about hair removal, my mood seems to organically go on a downhill slide. In spite of my efforts to enjoy any skerrick of sunlight and remain busy, I inevitably find myself struggling.
The first thing I notice is the extraordinary effort required to get out of bed. I know…none of us like to get out of bed on a cold day and I have experienced this ‘normal’ feeling earlier on in life. It is warm and cosy – you just want five more minutes. Who would want to get up and face the day when it is single digits outside? But this is more than that. This feeling of lethargy is a physical phenomenon, like when you are coming down with the flu. I have felt like this for the past week and I am scared. In the past a great depression has followed (not hip hip hooray great), and swallowed me up for a few months. This has happened year after year. I get spat out the other side a little more broken each time.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 2 this year and started new medication during my hospital visit a few months ago. I am hoping this will be enough of a safety net to save me from falling too far. This time of year is notoriously bad for me. It usually lifts for a short while later in winter and then another severe depression visits, sometime in spring. As the years go on, I have fewer days where I can describe my mood as ‘normal.’ There always seems to be some degree of fluctuation, as well as symptoms of extreme anxiety or irritability.
On a positive note, I now have an explanation for these episodes. For many years I was told I had a recurrent depressive disorder/anxiety, but with therapy, I could recover. It made me feel like I was somehow contributing to my condition. I worked really hard to stay well – I didn’t drink, smoke or do recreational drugs and even avoided caffeine (except in chocolate, we all have our Achilles heel). When well enough, I exercised regularly and ate healthily. I attended therapy and worked on my thought patterns, communication skills and relationships. Despite all of this, I continued to get depressed. I continued to experience earth-shattering anxiety. My functioning has been impaired for years. I feel loss that my relationships, career, financial situation, social life and sense of self have all been affected by this illness. At least now it has a name. And no-one is telling me I can fix it through sheer will.
I am hoping this time, ‘The Seasonal Blues’ will only be a blip – a mere melody in the background rather than a crashing symphony. I long for the day when I might look back and think, ‘Remember when you experienced those depressions…..they sucked.’ Past tense.
Do you suffer from the seasonal blues?
Mummy is struggling with maintenance. Mummy hates her hairy legs. (Mummy isn’t sure when she started referring to herself in the third person. Maybe the lack of ‘me’ time for waxing, shaving, colouring, cutting and primping, is driving her a little mad).
As you can see from the picture, I have hairy tree trunks at the moment. This is complemented by my heels which are developing a second layer of skin – lest I need to walk through hot coals or some other activity where hardy heels would be useful. All of this is topped off by scaly calves that haven’t seen moisturiser since 2010. The weather is in my favour though, because it has turned wintery (obviously Mr Weather doesn’t own a calendar) and therefore the showing of extremities is limited. I am generally found inside and truth be told, inside these slippers.
I did have my first haircut in months this week. I popped a colour on at home first, to reduce time spent outside of the house. My regrowth was awful. You know, those short wiry pieces of white hair that spring from your head in completely different directions to your normal hair. They belong on a small dog called Scruffy, not on a human, lady-head. Well I had to cover them. I would have been mortified to get the haircut otherwise. Here I am looking slightly cross-eyed. No photoshop or makeup has been used (although I wish it had).
As for the area ‘down there?’ It now wears a sign saying ‘Under Temporary Reconstruction.’ I put it there to cover the mess. There are forests in Borneo jealous of the abundant, bushy growth in my underpants. I am totally rocking a retro fro. It’s ok. It matches the facial hair which has become more prominent and wild in the past couple of years (I blame the children). I have considered holding up a laser hair removal place, but I believe it takes a few sessions to get rid of that fuzzy lip/chin/sideburns. I think taking a beautician hostage for a period of time might be overkill. I occasionally pluck away a monobrow. The thought of doing more….too hard.
The toenails have only seen colour once in the past two and a half years and although my nails were beautiful and long the other day, I cut them back (haphazardly and quickly), because they were getting in the way of child-wrangling. I kept expecting to break one, and we all know how much that hurts. It’s not child-birth (a C-section in my case), but gee, it hurts.
Makeup-wise, I bought a brand-new mascara late last year to replace a gluggy one. I used it a couple of times. Poor, neglected mascara then sat idle for months. It is gluggy now. Not that it matters, I rarely have occasion to wear much makeup. At home, it would just feel silly. The kids really aren’t too concerned with Mummy’s appearance, just that she is available to them at all times. Going out I am too busy packing bags and bags of nappies, wipes, drinks, food, spare clothes…to worry about how I look. If I am wearing clean(ish) clothes which aren’t on inside out or back to front, it is a good day.
I am sure there are many other areas of my body (and life) requiring maintenance, but I am too tired to notice.
How is your beauty routine holding up?
I have had a lot of people ask me lately how to help someone with depression. They are the friends and family members of someone who is suffering, and it is understandable that they aren’t always sure how to handle it. It can be difficult and I have watched my husband struggle to do or say the right thing during my troubles with mental illness.
I have compiled a list of suggestions to help the family and friends of loved ones with depression.
DON’T DO THESE
Don’t tell them to ‘suck it up’
This includes any variation of ‘snap out of it’, ‘get on with it’, ‘stop moping’ or ‘swallow some cement and harden the *?!k up’. Your depressed loved one has no ability to do any of these. You may as well ask them to perform surgery on their own inflamed appendix. It is impossible and cruel.
Don’t take them out drinking
Drowning sorrows with alcohol is never the answer for someone with depression. Alcohol enhances the current mood state…so a depressed person will get (you guessed it)…more depressed.
Don’t tell them about a friend/distant relative/man on the bus, who got better using alternative therapies
I am not dismissing alternative therapies here and I have tried many. I am not saying they do or don’t work, but they are not the cornerstone of treatment for depression and can make people worse. Before I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, a Chiropractor suggested I take St John’s Wort. It was irresponsible on her part and if I had listened to her, my condition would have worsened. Ensure your loved one discusses any proposed alternative therapies with their Doctor.
Don’t tell them exercise will sort them out
The benefits of exercise are clear in mild depression. If your loved one is severely depressed, exercise is a distinct impossibility. Telling them to go for a walk will just make them feel lazy and stupid (oh, is that all I needed to do to get better?!). When I have been suffering from depression, the threat of a bomb exploding in the house wouldn’t have made me run.
Make sure they are safe
Ask them if they are having any suicidal (or ‘bad’) thoughts. If they are, contact professional help immediately and don’t leave them on their own.
Encourage get them to get help
Make an appointment for them with a Doctor and take them to the appointment. Depression sufferers feel unmotivated and if left in their own hands, may not have the capacity to get themselves there. It is also helpful to have someone with you at these visits to assist with recall. I have often walked out of the Doctor’s office and forgotten half of what they said.
Remind them it isn’t their fault
Depression is an illness. It isn’t something that can be cured by will alone. It is important that you are understanding and remind your loved one it isn’t their fault. Depression warps our thinking and even usually upbeat people can become awash with negativity. The brightest, sunny day can feel mocking and we can feel lonely in a crowd. Our thinking becomes distorted, so if they start to express guilt and negative thoughts (eg. I am a burden, I will never get better, it’s all my fault), it is the illness speaking.
Celebrate their progress
Your loved one is incredibly strong to be struggling through their ordeal and any steps made on their part are gargantuan in real terms. If they walk to the letterbox today, after not moving from the bed yesterday, it is huge progress. Remind them of their progress, because they won’t usually realise by themselves.
Tell them it is okay to take medication
If the Doctor prescribes medication, please reassure your loved one that it is okay to take them. Read through the information pamphlet for them as reading it may cause them unnecessary anxiety. If they do experience any side effects, take them back to the Doctor for review.
Help them keep a healthy routine
It is natural to be slow and stay in bed much of the time when suffering from depression. Gently encourage the person to get up and shower, even if you have to help them. If they are able to get up on their own, encourage them to stick to a routine each day. Getting up at the same time and having breakfast is a good start. Take them outside to get some sunlight early in the day. This will help set their body clock and discourage napping. Try to get them to eat regularly and go to bed at the same time each night. When we are depressed, it is easy to sleep too much and then we can also experience insomnia from our altered body clock.
Watching TV all day may be all they can do, which is fine until they start to recover. In saying that, at my absolute worst, I was not able to watch TV, even for short periods. All I could do was sleep. Be guided by the severity of their condition.
Give them practical assistance
We struggle with day-to-day activities when depressed. Encourage them to do what they can. Help them by picking up the slack where they need help. This could be cooking, shopping, cleaning and childcare.
Be there to laugh and cry with them
Don’t underestimate the importance of being there for them. Having a trusted shoulder to cry on helps them to feel less alone and gives them a reason to keep trying. You can also help them to laugh, whether by sharing a funny story or by watching a movie. I was always amazed that even in the depths of depression; my mood could be temporarily lifted in this way. If it doesn’t work for your loved one, don’t worry. They can still get better and this will pass.
Do look after yourself
Be sure to have breaks from caring for your loved one. There is no point running yourself into exhaustion and ending up in bed alongside them.
Do you have any suggestions to add to help someone with depression?
If you or a loved one needs immediate assistance, please call Lifeline 13 11 14 or dial 000.
For further information regarding depression, please call Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 (available 24/7) or visit www.beyondblue.org.au
Please call your local emergency number, mental health helpline or visit your Doctor.
Warning – This may get ranty. I try not to rant as a general rule, but I need to get this off my chest. Sorry if this seems like a pity party of one.
Things are shit. Actually, we have gone well past shit and are in danger of landing in the abyss of crapdom. There are turds everywhere. I don’t know how to fix it, but I know I need to talk about it or it may eat me alive.
To catch you up on details – We have two sons, sixteen months apart (now thirteen months and two). Two difficult pregnancies and mental health issues (mine). We moved interstate to be closer to family that could help. They could offer hubby a good job and lots of baby-help. We didn’t want to move, but we felt like we didn’t have much choice. It was a good move from a financial and support point of view.
Things were worse than anticipated when we got here with the pregnancy and mental health stuff and we are grateful we moved for these reasons. Unfortunately, hubby still had to have a lot of time off work, caring for the kids and for me. Eventually in March this year (as I went off to psychiatric hospital) they had to let him go. He had been away too much and it was unsustainable. We understood. During my hospital stay, I have a diagnosis of Bipolar II confirmed.
The fallout from the decision to relocate is resonating through our lives. In the beginning, I tried to settle in as best I could. The first year was a blur with a newborn and a toddler. My moods were up, down and all around. I had a few weeks of ‘normal’ over a whole year. That was it.
It has become apparent to me in the past six months (and really hit home today), that my husband is NEVER going to be happy here. It is the regional town where he grew up and not where he wants to live, not for one more second. When we decided to move, he mourned hardest of the two of us. But I hoped it would pass. Not because I want to live here forever, but because it was the best (only) choice.
Financially, if we weren’t still getting some help from family, we wouldn’t be surviving at this point. It is so disheartening. Hubby can’t get another job at the moment as I’m not stable enough. There is no chance of me working either. I write this blog, but there isn’t any money-making at this point and I can do it regardless of mood. I write at irregular hours and in my pyjamas or daggiest clothes (What am I talking about – they are all daggy). Spontaneously bursting into tears or wanting to rip someone’s head off is not going to affect my performance evaluation here in blogland.
We had to apply for government benefits (disability etc.) and it hasn’t come through yet, two months later. It is completely demoralising to apply for government benefits. The process is depressing. The money we will (eventually) get is a pittance in comparison to a real wage. We are now officially below the poverty line. Fuck.
My husband wants to go home. He is miserable and therefore I am miserable. We take turns being miserable, snappy and frustrated. I shudder to think if we didn’t intuitively do this dance and became these things at the same time. Our marriage is solid, but our sanity is not.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not generally a whingey person. I am the most positive depressed person you will ever meet. I am grateful for our blessings – we have each other and our two beautiful kids , who are oblivious to the pain. We have a roof over our heads and can feed our family, even if it is because of the generosity of others. But I still can’t believe how far we have fallen. Or how we begin to get back.
What to do about the terrible two’s? We are in the thick of it here. I have talked previously about the Toddler wars; the battlefield of managing two toddler boys that are simultaneously trying to kill each other and be adorable. I thought today I would focus on Master Two because we are experiencing hourly tantrums with him.
I read recently that if children have more than two tantrums per day, they should be seen by a Dr for potential ‘behavioural issues.’ Huh? Master Two has a gazillion tantrums a day. I am sure from discussing these violent displays of emotion, frustration and tears with my mummy-friends that he is within the realms of normal for his age. Two year-olds tend to tantrum…don’t they?
I have been told that some rugrats are fine at two, but really hit their stride at the Craptastic Three’s or the Fucked-up Four’s. Horses for courses (I just realised what a weird saying that is. What does it even mean?). My Master Two has always been a sensitive child. I remember the nurses saying when he was in the Special Care Nursery (born five weeks early, poor poppet), “Michelle, your son was ‘awake and demanding’ last night.” I remember feeling puzzled (might have been the c-section recovery drugs), and then he woke up, screaming loud enough to wake the other premmie babies and the surrounding suburbs. OH, this is what demanding to be fed looks like, I thought, as I fumbled with shaking hands to feed this tiny life form. He went from zero to a hundred in 0.3 seconds. He did this at every feed for a very, very long time.
He is now a happy little boy. I mean he can turn into a raving lunatic without warning, but other than that he is a lovely kid. The tantrum thing leaves Daddy and I baffled at times. The other day, I said “Which car are we going in? Mum’s car or Dad’s car?” We have done this many times and it is usually a great game. He tells me which car is which and what colour they are. This particular day, he thought he could decide on the car we would take. When we went in the wrong car, he threw a tantrum the size of Texas. Attempting to strap him into his car seat was, shall we say…challenging.
We have experienced tantrums over all manner of things. There are the usual suspects; food he would prefer not to eat, toys he doesn’t want to share and disagreements about bedtime. He never wants to come inside, even when it is cold and dinner time. He thinks he should be allowed to watch ‘Toot-toot’ (Thomas the Tank Engine) all day and howls if I give him the ‘wrong’ snuggy. Snuggy is one of those blankets with a stuffed toy head and he has had them since he was a baby. He (mostly) uses them at bedtime as a comforter and we have an assortment. I learnt early on that you should always have a back-up snuggy in case he drops it out of the pram (I traipsed from one end of town to the other looking for one early on) or spews on it. He was a chucker. Well, he has become very discerning about snuggy. Elephant snuggy is a favourite (today), with Dog snuggy a close second. Teddy snuggies (there are two) have been relegated to the ‘only if I’m desperate’ category. God forbid if you give him the wrong snuggy. There will be tears and copious amounts of snot.
As far as discipline goes, I think we are firm but fair. We don’t smack here. I am not all judgey McJudgey of people that do – I just don’t think it works long-term. I grew up in a house with smacking (not with a belt, with hands). This was pre-time outs and back then it seemed like everyone did it. At school they used the cane, but luckily I was a girl and a goody-two shoes. The guys that did get it, were repeat offenders and I don’t think it modified their behaviour at all. It became a game. How many naughty things can I do relative to the amount of swats I will get? They weighed it up as they flicked bugs at the girls and punched the shit out of the boys.
We do discipline Master Two in other ways. We know if we gave him everything he wants we would create a Godzilla-like, biscuit-munching monster. Throwing a toy at his brother – time out. Pushing his brother over when he thinks I’m not looking – time out. The beginnings of a tantrum might be ignored, or we try a distraction (Look Master Two, there is a plane/shiny object/big truck). A full-blown, screaming the house down, RAAAAAAAAA-level tantrum equals time-out. I am lucky that when he is put there, he stays there. I know if he moved, I would have to repeatedly (and silently according to Super-Nanny) put him back. I am exhausted enough just hearing his screams. That two minutes can be the longest time. I then explain what he did wrong, give him a big cuddle and off he goes, happy again. Until the next time.
Do you have a ‘Terrible Two’ (or three, four, five) at your house? How do you discipline your children?
I started this blog, Mummylovestowrite, around the time I began writing my novel. My thinking was to develop a platform as a future author – something tangible a publisher could use to gauge my ability to gain readership. I knew these days getting published is as much about marketing as it is the quality of the book. A successful blog could be a point of persuasion for an agent or publisher to sign me.
Although I started the blog with these thoughts in mind, my perception changed once I became a regular blogger. I still think it could be a powerful tool when I finish my novel, but having a regular blog has improved my life in the following ways.
I am a writer
Blogging means I am not just a wanna-be author following a far-flung dream of having a book in print. I am a writer. From the minute I sat on my butt, wrote something, and pressed ‘Publish,’ I was a writer and referred to myself as such. “Michelle Holland is a writer,” I mutter to myself while pacing the house, looking for blog post inspiration. Yes, for better or worse, I am now a writer.
The first time I had an article published in an online magazine, I was as excited as if I had discovered a natural spring of chocolate, spewing forth in my lounge room. Being published by a reputable media outlet, along with receiving positive blog comments (from people who aren’t related to me) is validating. The neurotic writer, like me, needs this to perform. Fear paralyses us and our books remain an unwritten ‘If only’ in our minds if we can’t get past it. The confidence I have gained from receiving positive feedback has helped me procrastinate less. Not completely (because I am a neurotic writer after all) but less.
The blogging community has given me much more than I ever expected. My friends on the ‘internets,’ share advice, give support and make me laugh every day. This connection helps with the isolation of writing a book and the hours spent alone in my head. We read and comment on each other’s blog posts and their inspirational writing makes me a better writer. Many of my ‘real world’ friends don’t understand what a blog is, why I write one, or how it feels to put yourself out into the world in this way. My bloggy friends do.
I think of my novel as the marathon and my blog as the regular training needed to complete it. You have to be able to run to the corner shop before you can slog it out for the duration. Both are worthy of my efforts in different ways. The blog makes me write regularly, with set days I publish and themes to those days. It also makes me think about the way I put sentences together. This sentence, for example, has been rewritten three times to make it perfect.
The blog is also a break from ‘novel world.’ When the characters and scenes become overwhelming, or my brain has been sucked dry of imagination, I
watch write a blog post. The writing here in ‘blog land’ is different, but no less valuable. If you read my first ever blog post, you will notice my writing has improved dramatically. I put this down to practise, practise, practise. mindless TV
Reading and commenting on blogs is part of sharing the love in the blogosphere. As Stephen King said (referred to in my last blog post on Writing), “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” King was talking about novels, but I think all reading is helpful in becoming a better writer. I have read varying levels of strange in my internet travels, reminding me I am reasonably sane and not a terrible writer. Bad writing teaches us as much as good writing. Great writing inspires us to create our best work.
Has blogging helped you become a better writer?
This is an excerpt of my article published in Mothers Group Magazine, April 2013. To subscribe go to Mothers Group Magazine.
Postnatal Depression effects one in eight women after the birth of a child. If you have had it once, you are more likely to experience it again and left untreated, it can last for months or even years.
I had Postnatal Depression. Twice. I was overwhelmed by the smallest things and looking after the baby was too demanding. Household chores were completed with great difficulty or not at all. My personal appearance suffered and I was just too exhausted to care. I would get irritable and upset at the baby, especially when he wouldn’t stop crying for long periods of time. There was incredible guilt. I felt I was the worst mother in the world for not being able to cope. After all, I had brought the baby into the world - why couldn’t I just get on with it?
I had panic attacks and worried about the baby dying. I couldn’t bear to be alone or leave the house. I would cry rivers of tears. I overate on sweets and carbohydrate-rich foods (I know others that can’t face a meal and lose a lot of weight).
By the time I got adequate help, my first baby was five months old. I was admitted to a mother-baby unit at a hospital and stayed there for six weeks. It was a horrible time and I hated being away from my husband. I was grateful to have my son with me and it was the best solution as I was had suicidal thoughts and worried I may harm my baby. In the hospital, I tried different medications, he was treated for reflux and they helped with settling techniques. In that way, it was a lifesaving experience.
It meant that the second time, we knew what to expect and were much better prepared. I had undergone psychological therapies in the meantime to help with negative though patterns, and we knew medication needed to be part of my treatment plan. Although my mood was still affected by childbirth, we were able to manage without a hospital visit (for the first year of his life anyway. You can read more about another hospital stay here). I have two beautiful children and I am happy to say our bonding and attachment is strong, despite my issues with PPD.
IDENTIFYING POSTNATAL DEPRESSION
Most women experience the ‘baby blues’ in the first week of giving birth and experience tearfulness and fluctuating moods. This usually only lasts a short time and is related to hormonal changes after birth. If symptoms of the baby blues last longer than two weeks, then it could be PND. Symptoms can appear any time from the first few weeks to many months after the birth of a baby.
- Difficulty sleeping – even when the baby is asleep
– Unable to cope – daily chores and caring for the baby seem insurmountable
– Irritability – snapping at others
– Anxiety – feeling scared or panicky. Can be a predominant symptom for some.
– Negative obsessive thoughts eg. unrealistic fears of something bad happening to her baby
– Fear of being alone – may need to be with someone at all times eg. partner, friends
– Having trouble concentrating
– Appetite disturbance – eating much more or much less than usual
– Crying – feeling sad and miserable a lot of the time
– Not looking forward to things
– Feeling guilty and inadequate
– May withdraw from support network, not answering calls
– Loss of self-esteem and confidence.
– Thoughts of self-harm
You don’t have to have all of these symptoms to be suffering from PND. A health professional should assess you if are experiencing any number of these.
It is very important to seek help as soon as possible. Not seeking help may affect your ongoing mental health, your relationships and your attachment to your baby. If you have symptoms for more than two weeks, please see your doctor. Treatments may include medications (such as anti-depressants), psychological treatments, or a combination of both. Anti-depressants are not considered addictive and will not change your personality.
If the case is severe and hospitalisation is necessary, admission to a mother-baby unit is recommended. This can allow the woman to get intensive treatment, stabilise on medication and get assistance with their baby.
If you need immediate assistance and are in Australia, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If overseas, please call your local emergency number or mental health helpline.
You can also contact Postpartum Support International (PSI) for further assistance in your area.
Woofy was our first baby together. He was our only concern if we were going out for the night or away for the weekend. We took leisurely walks together by a picturesque lake. He had 27 degree warm water baths with doggy day-spa shampoo. His golden retriever coat was brushed until it gleamed. Woofy’s downtime was spent laying at our feet while we watched TV and I would sometimes snuggle him in our bed – when my future husband wasn’t looking. His life was a steady diet of pats, hugs and Schmackos (Disclaimer – This post is NOT sponsored by Schmackos). Happy and content Woofy.
I got pregnant and spewed, cried and hobbled my way through the next eight months. Preeclampsia at the end meant bed rest, so Daddy was busy too. Woofy’s lifestyle changed and he had to be content with the occasional walk, bath and brushing session. Unconditional love got us through. I vowed it would get better when the baby came.
Baby number one came out screaming, and didn’t stop for six months (reflux). Mummy got depressed. Daddy got depressed. Mummy went to mental hospital. Daddy held on tight. Woofy had sleepovers at his friend’s house, who ran him until he could run no more. Despite a declining level of attention, Woofy loves the baby. He is a good egg that dog. But we are careful to keep him outside when the baby is on the ground, because silly puppy’s front end doesn’t know what the back end is doing.
Another positive pregnancy test and with it the hope of calm, yoga and regular dog walks. Round two becomes much like round one; a sea of vomit, walking with a cane and moods that change as often as Madonna’s image. Poor Woofy.
We moved interstate before the second baby was born and Woofy took a plane trip to join us. He was very excited to see us. I remember him arriving (doing circles at our feet) and thinking…that puppy needs a bath. He got one at some stage. With a cold hose and a squirt of cheap dog shampoo. Luckily it was summer.
Pre-eclampsia again and bed-rest for the last month. Hospital stay towards the very end, same as the first time. Baby number two arrives and the next few months are a blur. Daddy is stretched to breaking. Woofy is outside a lot because a newborn and a toddler are enough inside a house. I make sure he comes in every night and is played with during the day as much as possible. After I can drive again, he has a few more regular visits to the dog park. But his days of scheduled walks are a distant memory.
He is great with the kids, although a bit skittish at times. The kids are a bit loud and they have pulled his fur/ears enough for him to be cautious. I am also cautious. He has a heart of gold, but I won’t risk leaving him alone with a child, even for a moment. Woofy isn’t likely to bite, but he may stomp on them. He comes inside under controlled conditions and we go outside to throw the ball for him.
More times passes. Mummy’s mental health is up and down like a porn star and Daddy is trying to work and fill in the blanks of our lives. Woofy goes further down a long list. He is loved and cared for, just not in the same way as when he was our only child.
There is light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. Our two year old now ‘helps’ bring Woofy his dinner. He dutifully scoops the biscuits from the bag into the dog bowl and then ‘helps’ me carry it outside. He says ‘Sit Down Woofy’. It is as adorable as it sounds. The other day, I heard our youngest (now thirteen months old) squealing with delight. He was at the window in the family room and Woofy was on the other side. I realised that things can only get better from here. Our boys love their dog, as we have loved him all these years. And Woofy loves them right back.
Did life with your pets change after you had kids?
I will be publishing blog posts on a Wednesday relating to writing my first novel including, tips, resources and personal experiences.
I have always wanted to write a novel. I have been one of those people who says, “I feel like I have a book in me,” while doing nothing about it. I have made a start and am focussed on writing more than one book. But first things first. I have to finish writing a first book before I can envisage a future where my trilogy of movie rights has been sold to Hollywood (for a many-figured sum). As I said, I’ve made a start, but in my defence, my mental health issues have impeded the road to completion.
My previous writing experience includes writing bad short stories as an adult and teenage poetry filled with an appropriate level of angst. Oh, and this blog. When I decided last year to take the leap into novel writing, I read a book by Stephen King called ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.’ I recommend it for the aspiring writer. Whether you like his writing or not, he has some good points that I have taken onboard.
1. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
Adverbs – words like slowly, yesterday, now, soon, and suddenly. An adverb usually modifies a verb or a verb phrase. It provides information about the manner, place, time, frequency, certainty, or other circumstances of the activity denoted by the verb or verb phrase.
Eg, She walked slowly. The kids are playing together.
Adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs.
• You are quite right.
• She spoke quite loudly.
As a novice writer, I am guilty-as-charged with using adverbs. I was editing the earlier parts of my novel yesterday and noticed a tonne of them. I notice them when I read and when I write. They scream (to me) AMATEUR.
2. “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
King recommends reading a variety of books and he reads a huge amount every year. I agree with him. I have read a lot since childhood and other than the ‘uni years,’ it has been from various genres. I have a tendency towards commercial fiction, because that it what I enjoy reading. It is no accident that I enjoy writing it too. I think reading develops your instinct for the difference between good writing and bad writing.
3. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
I have covered ‘read a lot.’ I have dropped the ball on ‘write a lot’ in terms of concentrated novel-writing. I have gained experience through writing this blog. I think my writing has greatly improved since I started (excuse my use of an adverb there, it’s a hard habit to break).
4. “Good books don’t give up all their secrets at once.”
Another great point. I’m working on this one. I know as a reader, I like to be surprised and if a story is too predictable, it loses me.
5. “There are books full of great writing that don’t have very good stories. Read sometimes for the story… don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that. Read sometimes for the words–the language. Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that. But when you find a book that has both a good story and good words, treasure that book.”
I made a comment referencing this point today on Anna Spargo-Ryan’s post about story and whether it is important. I have read and enjoyed literary fiction for the exquisite use of language. I also love books that have plot twists, turns and amazing storytelling (even if the writing is average). The ultimate book has both. I am working on building strong characters and a captivating story. It won’t have Pulitzer prize-winning prose, but I think that is okay.
6. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.”
I made the mistake of letting my husband read the beginning of my novel, before I had done any editing. Yesterday, I started to edit this section, and I can see why he was underwhelmed. He didn’t say as much – I just had the feeling that while he was supportive, he knew that he couldn’t judge the whole novel on the first draft. A first draft is meant to be crap.
I have decided that no-one is reading my book until it has had one complete edit. With a goal of 90,000 words, this might take a while. But I have to finish writing it first.
Are you writing a book? What tips would you give other aspiring authors?