Writing Challenges, Ideas, and Being Realistic

As a writer, have you ever gotten in your own damn way? Maybe even not as a writer, but as a creative person? Over the past few years I have written four novels. Three are fully-fleshed out, while one was a side project I wanted to keep in development since I wrote it in pieces. I decided from the get-go that I would piece it together as the bulk of the story came to me; I wasn’t going to go from A to Z, I was just going to write the best scenes as they came to me.

I approach each project with different ideas and methods, so there is no magical potion involved for writing perfection. Perfection is mythology; of this I assure you. I wait to write something because a story has to haunt me for a while and live inside my head first. If it’s the kind that whispers, “Write this.”, then I will. If it goes out like a candle flame, I file it away somewhere inside my creative mind. Sometimes it will resurface, and it’ll be ten times better. That’s always the goal, but not all ideas work like that.

Have you ever become obsessed with a character you’ve created? They become a part of you; you are now living, breathing, and sleeping this character. Your thoughts are their thoughts. Maybe you subconsciously ARE this character. Who knows? It comes to the point where, when you begin writing another female character, you find yourself annoyed by her voice. You’ll catch yourself becoming frustrated. This new female is not as intense, not as strong, maybe not as fierce, or as passionate, but you feel like she could be, if you just pushed her hard enough. If you unleashed her. Except, when you go back to your completed work, you find you’ve named the character the same damn thing you named your previous female lead. Three. Separate. Times. How is that even possible? You’re dumbfounded, because you’ve got a long list of names you could be using, and somehow, you are using the one with all the power.

I’ve found that I love two very specific names for women. I don’t feel like sharing what those names are (I’m many things, but I try not to be an idiot!), outside of saying they’re short, sweet, elegant, classical, and direct, and so are these characters. These names are truly beautiful. Every time I so much as variate from the top two, it’s as if I’m possessed by some kind of naming demon. Each time, I am truly clueless as to how or when the name changed. It’s rough.

These women I’ve created are interesting characters. The kind of women you’d want to be friends with, and the kind of women you’d go to bat for. You automatically like them. Until I was 56,000 words in to a new book and realized I was writing the lead female character differently. She started off fierce and ferocious, and some idiot softened her up. I can’t decide if it was ME or if the lead male character was trying to dominate the damn story, but it stressed me out so badly. I decided I needed to get some reading and research done before revisiting the story. Ultimately, I took time to gain some perspective.

After a few days, I came at this new book with fresh eyes, and wondered how I could change things up to maybe ONE story, as opposed to two. I had considered this particular story a one and done, but when pieced together with the story that felt stalled, it’s a superior body of work. It requires a ton of time and work to achieve this.

So here I am, faced with rewrites because I have to change locations, jobs, names, and re-work things until it’s a smooth transition of combining these two stories into one; albeit one that is better, and eliminates potential cliches and comparisons which have bothered me from day one, but that I’d also worked on heavily to eliminate, which I have managed to do. All of this is to keep the main female character’s strong, intense, fierce voice. I feel pulled towards her voice because it is reasonable, emotionally intelligent, strong, smart, snarky, knowledgeable, without coming off snobby, or sounding like a know-it-all, and because she’s fiercely honest and direct; she does not play games to fill a page with wasted words. She’s got a very serious set of rules and boundaries, and she commands respect. The other female character was coming off weaker, despite similar attributes. I had to come to the realization, on my own, that I cannot write a weak female character.

I have come across this issue before. I could write a weak female, but it nauseates me, and goes against the core of who I am, so nope, not gonna do it. I can’t even tolerate weakness in myself or in others, so it would come off fake on the page. Don’t force yourself to write someone you don’t believe in. I feel that’s a great rule for all writers; if you don’t believe it, neither will anyone else.

I can, and will, do the hard work of putting together a better story. It likely means cutting things out that no longer work, which could be thirty chapters worth of work, or more. It requires me to remain focused on how much better this will be when it is truly completed. It also means, thanks to other opportunities, that it might take another year or two before it is officially done. I have to be realistic about my time, health, and also remember to factor sleep into the equation. This is a real problem for me. Every time I’m on a better path, something interrupts my sleep again! It’s awful, but I am aware of this issue beginning every three months. I am trying to stay on top of it.

The upside of insomnia is that I write between two to seven thousand words almost every night I can’t sleep, and none of it is crap (I instinctively know when I am writing filler, and will immediately delete it.). The downside is being sick and in a lot of pain, and not being able to write for sixteen hours straight. There are days I do, but they are few and far between at the moment, as I recover from a bad allergic reaction to flowers, which ultimately turned into flu-like symptoms with NO Covid symptoms. My allergies stopped responding to allergy medicine, so it was scary to suddenly become so sick from a flower arrangement. It’s never been so bad, but once the larger flowers bloomed, my skin burned, my eyes itched and burned, and my breathing was affected. I misplaced my Epi-Pen, so I was paranoid as hell while it was happening.

This whole situation where medication was useless recently turned into me making homemade cough syrup. Laugh, if you will, but it is probably the best thing for me. Every ingredient is healthy and helpful. My very first dose stopped me from coughing longer than any over-the-counter crap I’ve ever taken, and it also worked better than the codeine syrup I was prescribed, probably since the prescription no longer contains alcohol. Mine does contain a dash of two different types of alcohol I had on hand, as well as two different types of honey, but when you taste it, you are mostly getting a blast of ginger, cayenne, honey, and lemon. I didn’t follow any particular recipe for this, I just grabbed the honey and started mixing it up like a potion before pouring it into a larger container and sticking it in the fridge to give it a longer shelf life. 😉 I didn’t make a lot, so it’ll likely be gone in a day or two, but yes, it’s helped greatly. I no longer have a sore throat, and it’s breaking down congestion I didn’t even know I had. I take it, I rest, and I feel better slowly, but surely. When synthetic shit doesn’t work, go back to basics. I’ve become more dependent on homeopathic medicine than ever before. Hyland’s is helping me considerably to manage my pain levels, though I know it is a temporary fix. If it works, I’ll stick with it, because so much has not. I’d love to get back every cent I wasted trying to get CBD oil to help me. I am embarrassed I kept upping the dose to try and find some relief. 😦 I consider how much work I will have to do to recoup those funds and put them to better use.

A lot of pain patients stop speaking to me whenever I suggest they seek out alternatives which might help them. Ultimately, I believe there is an answer for every single illness humans and animals experience. I believe it is found on Earth, not necessarily inside a lab working with synthetic ingredients. Your answer might not be what works for my body, and vice versa, but I don’t roll my eyes at you and give you attitude, so I have no idea why anyone thinks that’s a workable method with me.

At this point, I feel insurance should fully cover medical marijuana and CBD products as medicine. It helps a large number of people and it has medical oversight. If the cure for something is low or high dose Scorpion venom, as an example, then I feel it should be fully covered by everyone’s health insurance provider no matter what. I already know for a fact that it is being tested on various forms of cancer and for many other things, as well. It has been successful in it’s progress of treatment with zero side effects. It is the most expensive substance on this planet. That ink well you’re looking at on my logo? It’s Scorpion venom.

It may be Thursday, but I am ready to close out this first week of 2022. I have already referred to this month twice as October. Yeah, I know. I need a vacation. Yet, here we are, with Covid stopping everything for the umpteenth time. Indoor mask mandates have come down and in many areas, they begin today. I had not stopped wearing a mask in stores (I’ve also limited my time indoors to the pharmacy, grocery shopping, and only a few others places. I do NOT look forward to returning to a medical building in twelve days. I am, however, grateful that the hospital has reduced the amount of people that can be in the building at one time, and that nine people can NOT accompany one person!), and after hearing how many people got sick before, during, or after Christmas/NYE, and seeing the 6+ hour lines at testing sites, I am glad I didn’t drop my guard. Unfortunately, a lot of people are very sick and in the hospital, or they are sick and have to quarantine, so I keep a few extra masks with me and I remember that this is temporary. But damn does cold air feel good on your skin when a mask makes you feel like you can’t breathe, or like your skin is being smothered to death! I’m sure we’ve all had those moments.

Cough syrup, a simple breakfast, and I’ll see where the day takes me. I am actually considering hitting the kitchen and whipping up some tabouleh, especially since I have the time, believe I have all the necessary ingredients, and it’s so easy to throw together. 🙂 Last night I made homemade ramen, and while very good and a great way to get vegetables and protein into my system, I was slightly frustrated by the fact that a thirty minute meal felt like it had taken hours. Chronic fatigue is a constant reminder that I am not one hundred percent. That’s okay. I’ll settle for fifty percent, if that’s the way I can get multiple things done in a day.

Ever forward, peeps. Ever forward.

copyright © 2022 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark.

Out of Time Blues

I blinked and it’s Thanksgiving week. How the hell did that happen?! The past two years have truly been a blur, and I definitely wasn’t having any fun. Yesterday was the most Friday-feeling a Monday could be. I spent the entire afternoon confused about what day it was and what the damn time was. Genuinely sad. We’ll add it to the list of things that make me feel completely fucking pathetic. 😦

I’m chalking a lot of this confusion up to burnout. Nine to ten hours of sleep most nights doesn’t really fix anything for me, either. The body needs constant rest and calm, two things I find extremely difficult to achieve long-term. I was born stressed (that’s not a joke, but an actual fact.). I’ve struggled with insomnia for so long, I don’t think about it much any more. Not until it interrupts my life and screws with my ability to be a functioning human-being. It’s doing that now; interrupting my life, and it has been for a long time. I’ve worked so hard to regulate it and get it under control. As soon as I do, and I think I’m on to something, something else happens which completely interrupts the new cycle, and then I am back at square one. I will address that with my doctor next year (In truth, I am looking for a new doctor because this one makes me contemplate evil things.).

I have been experiencing bone-deep, soul-deep exhaustion. A misdiagnosis for chronic fatigue is evident, and I’m going to confront it. The last time I made the statement about how exhausted and drained I feel, my doctor found my Vitamin D levels were almost non-existent. It has never happened to me in my entire life (Especially as someone who avoids the sun.), so he blew it off as a New England thing. Yeah, I rolled my eyes at that ridiculous explanation, only to find out it IS quite common here. He put me on a two month prescription to replenish my stores and then ordered me to take 2000 mgs every single day afterwards. Not a single change in how I feel as happened by supplementing Vitamin D, and I’m not going to keep taking them if they’re unnecessary. My other tests were normal, but the few that were questionable were also blown off. I have major organs I need to be concerned about, and a doctor who doesn’t give a shit because his agenda doesn’t involve actually helping me. The previous doctors who treated me were big on recommending Tylenol and Aleve any time my chronic pain came up. They didn’t care if I was taking a bottle a month, so long as I wasn’t talking to them about my physical pain levels, because G-d forbid a pain patient should want quality of life! This doctor had a low-key meltdown over the mere mention of Tylenol, and when we spoke, I had stopped taking it entirely. His thought process was that it was killing my organs. Gee, ya think?! Stop pushing it at pain patients like it’s 1982! We aren’t amused, and gastrointestinal bleeds are at an all-time high right now where pain sufferers are concerned. It ISN’T overdose, it’s neglect. We aren’t being given options, unless it’s to be treated like hardcore addicts at pain clinics, with monthly pill counts and drug testing. If you come up negative for the prescribed drug, you don’t even get to say, “Maybe I metabolize it faster than other people do.”, which is a real thing, because you’ll immediately be accused of selling your pills. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who regularly goes to a pain clinic. They’ve seen it all, and it scares them. A friend of mine was shamed by the doctor at a clinic because one pill a day is not helping her. She’s suffering, but was given the riot act on how she should feel like a failure if one pill a day isn’t enough. I was OUTRAGED when I heard what happened. I find the language used towards pain patients pretty despicable to begin with, so this was a new low.

I decided to set a few of my writing projects aside in order to focus on something more important, for now. I’m not going to walk away from solid opportunities, even if that means moving out of my comfort zone a little, or in this case, a lot. I caught myself being pulled in too many directions and at the end of the day, there’s only one me. Telling my brain is harder than telling myself what I am doing on any given day. The brain is slower on the uptake. If you ever assume I’m being hard on myself, it’s because I am. Harder than I care to admit.

Sometimes I don’t think other people realize how blessed they are to be in good health. They will mention minor issues to me and I’ll find myself utterly dispassionate and disinterested in such things which can easily be corrected. I openly admit to lacking empathy and compassion about a LOT of things these days. Most people don’t know me well enough to know that’s how I’m reacting, but I’m being honest about it. What bothers me day in and day out doesn’t seem to affect other people, and I slowly catch on to their behavioral changes (I love when people think I don’t notice how they’re behaving towards me. They’re underestimating my intuition.), and then make adjustments to my response system in accordance. It’s a psychological survival technique, and for some of us, it’s every day life.

Getting out of bed each day without pain is something people should be grateful for. Little things you go through with no issue or suffering… Please consider how it sounds to people who are suffering so much that they have stopped communicating how bad it is to you because they are met with disinterest. We’re glad it’s easy for you, but we’d like to be considered, too. I’ve become dispassionate as a result of the lack of support. I am not alone in my emotional responses, either. I talk to people who are experiencing the same damn thing. We’re fed up, and we only feel supported in our own communities.

This year, I’m ditching Thanksgiving entirely. I am grateful for what I have every single day of my life, and Chanukah begins on the 28th. I decided to embrace that above all else. I had the best time finding unique, handmade items for my close family members. I’m not entirely done, but I paid attention to the things that bothered them last year, and tried to find happier things for this holiday, which is my absolute FAVORITE. I boxed up a bunch of treats for my brother, which he’ll likely get in time. He’ll also be receiving some cool things from a company I found on Etsy. I did almost all of my holiday shopping by supporting small businesses on Etsy’s website. Not only were they happy to help, but they were also timely in getting things shipped out. I had to hide things in some ridiculously uncreative ways, but I’m so excited to see the joy on people’s faces when they open up something that not everyone will own. Anyone who is receiving a surprise in the mail will hopefully be delighted, as well. I tried to be thoughtful and unique in all of my choices, and it stems from years of cringing every time someone would ignore me, and give me something I’d never in a million years look at.

Is it odd that after all these years, I’d be happier with a Harry Potter memento, as opposed to a book I probably won’t read (If you follow me on Goodreads, you probably have an idea of who my top ten favorite authors might be.)? I’m only slightly furious that Pandora created all these amazing Harry Potter charms, yet made them overpriced as hell. That’s okay, though, as I don’t buy their items anyway, but if you were looking at these charms, I will say the detail is incredible. They’re beautiful. I’ve had my own Harry Potter charm bracelet since 2003. I had it custom made in Arlington, Texas and while I do have to polish it, it still means a lot to me, as does my original which is so jam-packed you can hear me coming if I wear both of them together.

Is it terrible that I don’t think Ulta gift cards EVER go out of style (They don’t, and you can tell by how I used my birthday gift cards from the brands I work with throughout the year. Asian skincare is THE BEST, but have you tried The Ordinary? Excellent product line. It’s affordable, but they don’t skimp out on quality. Their most expensive item is under $30. Since I also use 111 Skin, which is not cheap, it is very easy for you to do the math between the companies.)? If I want something badly enough, I will get it for myself or save up for it. I am the person who expects nothing from others, but gets a kick out of being the giver of gifts.

I will be staying out of big box stores this year for holiday items. I want small businesses to get the support. I plan to book an appointment at a local New Age/crystal shop, as well. I’ve become friendly with a local reader. I like her so much (You rarely hear me say I like anyone, so when I do, it’s a big deal for me.), and I’d rather support her as opposed to a total stranger who might not have the accuracy she does. That’s a gift to myself. I’ve found it’s wise to reward myself this time of year, too, especially since December is difficult as I move towards the anniversary of my Great-Uncle and father’s passing. It doesn’t get easier. Every year, the memories are so vivid for me and if I were a lesser being (As in, less emotionally intuitive and less emotionally intelligent.), it probably wouldn’t bother me, but it does. Honoring loved ones, even if the relationships weren’t what you may have hoped for, is still important. It’s my responsibility to do it as the leader for my generation. I could eschew it, but that feels wrong.

Next year, I will likely make a pilgrimage to all of the cemeteries involved since it’s important to make sure everything is cared for. My parents are low maintenance because it was their express request, but I haven’t been back to most graves in at least ten years, and I know it’s time. Especially when I consider how long it’s probably been since I’ve visited my Great-Grandparents’ graves. My Grandmother was still alive when I did it, so I know it’s been way too long. It’s depressing, but I feel a strong sense of responsibility for these things, even though they’re unpleasant parts of life, they’re also reality.

I’m sorry this is not an upbeat piece of work, but at least it’s honest. I look forward to sharing as we head toward a brand new year. 🙂

Wishing you all a good week,

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses©®™ is a copyrighted, registered trademark.

Lost Opportunities, Lost Possibilities

“Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads – at least that’s where I imagine it – there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.” ―Haruki Murakami