writing

Writing Anxiety

It’s funny how much about myself I keep learning, even though this is stuff I’ve done for a long, long, long time. I have always enjoyed writing since I was a kid. But sharing what I wrote is another story. Over time I’ve gotten more comfortable submitting my fiction stories. Yes, rejections suck, but unlike the horror stories I have seen online, I don’t remember ever getting a ‘mean’ rejection. I’ve gotten feedback that hurt, but it was still delivered kindly, and when the sting wore off, I could see it wasn’t wrong. It was helpful.

Just a little bit ago I wrote about my day job and how I maneuvered into getting to do some writing as part of my job. I recently turned in a couple blog posts, and the amount of anxiety I had about them caught me off-guard. I started to see how much I avoided working on them. How I actually had them done, but kept fiddling, afraid to turn them in. Why? That’s what I’ve been grappling with ever since. I write a monthly newsletter for work and I don’t feel this way about that, but that’s just for my co-workers, and is mainly for fun and teambuilding and such. It isn’t that my supervisor is tough to please, she has loved everything I’ve given her. She is kind and supportive. So what is it?

Years ago when my kids were small I a hoped to earn extra money from home, I tried some online writing gigs. I wrote for a pet insurance website for a little while and had similar problems. It paid well. They always loved what I turned in, but I eventually stopped doing it because of how awful I made myself feel. I don’t want the same to happen to me now. I want to keep this extra gig I have going. So I need to figure myself out.

The best I have come up with so far that makes this type of writing different from my fiction or my newsletter, or even this blog, is that I consider it more serious. I’m writing about pet health. That’s important to me, and hopefully, to the people I’m writing for. I do find myself wondering as I write these things, “What if Someone misunderstands what I’m saying? What if I’m giving advice for X, but their pet has Y, and they don’t seek treatment properly?” and similar issues. There is a weight of responsibility that I take on that might not be fully appropriate. Sure, there are good things to consider, but not enough to let them stop me writing altogether.

For that matter, I give advice all day to clients when I’m working, or explain how to follow the doctors treatment plan, or home care instructions. I don’t bat an eye at these important talks. But then I know the specific patient, and their specific needs. An article is more general. It can’t take in all situations of all pets. Yet I feel like I have to.

There might be more to it than this, but this is where I am after some reflection so far. I think knowing my stumbling blocks will hopefully help my anxiety. Instead, of stalling or avoiding the writing, I can decide to review what I have written to make sure it’s clear, and I’ve mentioned important exceptions to look out for. That sort of thing. Deal with the items that are worrying me. It can only help the finished piece.

Other writers, do you ever find yourself anxious about your writing? And what have you done to work it though?

garden

Mammoth Sunflowers are pretty big actually

I’m excited to see the flowers these beauties produce, but instead they just keep getting taller and taller. For reference, that fence is about 5′ 9 or 10″ tall. So I put the biggest sunflower at about 8′ right now. I just decided to look up how big they get (maybe should have done that before planting, but let’s be honest, I would have planted them anyway). They average 9 to 10′.

Considering how chewed up they got when they were but wee little sprouts, I think they have come a long, impressive way. You can see in the photo how bad those early, lower leaves are almost completely eaten. When I inspected the leaves, however, I never could see any pests. Several times I’ve startled away some small grey and yellow birds from the sunflowers, and since they showed up the leaves have been getting less and less holes. I assume the birds are eating whatever had been eating the leaves. I haven’t been able to identify the type of bird because they take off so fast, but if they also eat seeds, they are welcome to share the sunflower seeds for all their help.

One of the fun things the kids and I have been watching with these is the way they ‘turn’ to follow the sun, even though they don’t have flowers yet. The top of the plants still tilt toward the sun as it moves throughout the day.

cats

Experimenting with my cats

Panther in the pretend square

So I recently read this study: If I fits I sits: A citizen science investigation into illusory contour susceptibility in domestic cats (Felis silvestris catus) by Gabriella E.Smith, Philippe A.Chouinard, and Sarah-ElizabethByosiere. And since I think only the summery is freely available now, here is another article about it: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/if-i-fits-i-sits-experiment-shows-felines-also-sit-illusory-boxes-180977681/

Naturally, I wanted to try it out on my own cats, because this is partly why we have cats, right? For example, my cats couldn’t care less about zucchini, and they will happily sit in a square drawn with tape on the ground. Panther is faster to get into the fake boxes than Meeko, even though they both love a real 3-dimesional box. So I printed out the little pac-man shapes, and while I was arranging them and trying to decide if I was happy with the spacing, Panther came along. . . and the above picture happened before I had a chance to tape them in place.

Meeko had wandered over and sniffed at them, interested in what I was doing, but he generally has better manners than Panther and doesn’t interrupt what I’m working on. Although, in terms of the published study, I was doing this all wrong in that the cats should not have had access to the square as I was placing it. They should have been in a different room and only allowed in when I was ready for them. I never claimed to be rigorous in my home cat experiments, I’m just having fun. If you are interested in learning more about how cats perceive things like optical illusions, read the linked articles. They are interesting!

P.S. Shortly after this photo, Panther began batting the pieces around the floor because I never bothered taping them.

crafty things · crochet

April Temperature Blanket

April Temperature Blanket

I think it’s looking pretty. It sort of looks like April. One lone grey day in the middle of that upper green band, but otherwise I think I might be able to put away the grey yarn until fall. May will be the start of breaking into the browns.

As this is mid-May and I’m only now posting April, you might have guessed that I’m behind. The blanket has gotten big enough that it’s unwieldy to take with me to work on wile waiting for something or hanging out with the family away from home. Plus, it’s big enough to more than cover my lap, and it’s getting warm (note again the lack of grey yarn) and not exactly ‘cuddle under a heavy blanket’ weather. So while I don’t intend to neglect this project, and I’m still having fun, I doubt I’m going to do much better than staying a little behind.

Let’s go May!

books · cats · crafty things · crochet

The Crafty Kids Have Leveled Up

Black Cat with magical book pipe cleaner art by A. Hartz

My Mother’s Day gifts from the kiddos this year really blew me away. The teen who makes pipe cleaner art created this wonderful cat touching a book with their paw and magical swirls coming out. So amazing. I don’t think photographs really do justice to her sculptures. Even the tiny ears have the perfect kitty shape and bend to them if you feel them. The book pages can turn, and the paw can move.

Amigurumi llama by R. Hartz

Child, the younger, has discovered amigurumi. In the past weeks she has made a ton of cute little bees. Then, in secret, she learned to read a pattern and made this llama for me. All on her own.

I’m a proud Mama Llama today.

garden

The Unexpected Pumpkins

Tomato plant with unexpected pumpkin sprouts

So, this (in above picture) happened a few days ago. My first thought was that maybe it was zucchini from the compost. Then my husband pointed out it was probably pumpkin, and I realized he was right.

What happened:

We didn’t make jack-o-lanterns last year because of Covid. One of the two years before that we bought pumpkins, but never got around to actually carving them. The kids might have painted them, I don’t really remember. Either way, we set them next to the house in a small strip of rocks and dirt about a foot and a half wide that runs between the house and the sidewalk up to the front door. That area had at one time been covered with decorative rocks but over time they had thinned out and it was part rocks, part dirt.

Then we just left pumpkins sitting there. then they started decaying and we thought, “We should throw those out.” But didn’t do it right then. As you can imagine, it didn’t get better over time. A week later we were deliberately leaving it alone because it was a gooey mess no one wanted to touch, and over more time it was basically dirt and seeds. And it stayed that way. For years. Until I decided to use some of the ground to plant things in, cleaning up the rocks and putting down new potting soil. I didn’t bother to pick up all of the many many dozens of seeds because they had been sitting out in the sun and rain and dirt for years. Surely, if they were going to grow they would have already done so, yes? Apparently no.

A week or two after planting a little tomato seedling there, the above picture happened. Yesterday I dug the sprouts up and moved them into little pots. There were even more sprouts under the soil that had small yellow leaves and hadn’t made it to the surface (I’d added many inches of soil on top of them), so I repotted them too. I moved one a little further down past the tomato plant to an open area, and a couple over to the space where I had hoped to grow grapes. The dormant grape stick has been there over two months now with no sign of life so we are pretty well given up on it now. Any of the seedlings in the post that survives my transplanting process I will find good homes for.

In other gardening news, the sunflowers are growing amazingly well, and I can’t wait to see flowers:

Mammoth sunflowers growing! (and a dormant grape vine that isn’t).
Uncategorized

Writing and the Day Job

Many years ago I did something that I thought wouldn’t work, but has turned into something kinda great, and I wanted to tell this story so others might be able to use it. I was into writing as a serious hobby and was always thinking about it. One year, at my annual review at work I asked it I could start a staff newsletter. They said sure. Now it was only a couple extra hours a month, but it was regular paid writing and it felt wonderful.

Sometimes I really have a hard time coming up with new, interesting things to write about, and I’ll try to talk to management to see if there are topics they want me to cover, but generally I’m left alone to do what I want with it. I interview new employees to get to know them better. Run little surveys and make games out of the answers people send me. Try to throw in current news of the industry. And in the last couple years I’ve asked for book and TV show recommendations from the staff and include one a month of each.

Since I don’t get much feedback about what’s working and what isn’t, other than everyone telling me it’s great (I work with the sweetest bunch of folks!) I have lately just decided to keep myself entertained, and if I’m getting bored, then it’s time to change things.

So two months ago I decided to add a little fiction into the mix for fun. We have a hospital cat, and since we’ve been closed to the public and only doing curbside appointments she has been allowed to wander and have the run of the front office. I thought a fictionalized story of her imaginary adventure would be fun to write. This has been a huge hit with the rest of the staff. Last month, to encourage feedback, I decided to make it a choose your own adventure story and gave two options about what she would do next. I thought one choice was the obvious, fun choice so I already mentally planned out how that would roll into the next installment for this month and was kinda excited about it. Obviously, you know that means that the survey came back with 100% of responses choosing the other option. That’ll teach me to plan ahead.

The hospital owner enjoying what I’ve done has also led to me doing more writing. I did a press release when we moved into a new location and I’ve done some blog posts for the website and have been asked to do more. My biggest challenge now is myself. I get to do this writing work at home and I’m not as organized with my time as I need to be. I’ve set myself a time schedule and so far so good. I don’t always hit my goals but I’m doing much better than when I didn’t make any goals at all and would stay up into the wee hours to finish a newsletter before the end of the month. That wasn’t healthy for me and it didn’t produce my best work. This is an ever evolving place for me and if I come up with any wonderful productivity or time management tips, I will be sure to share.

I mainly wanted the throw this idea out there to other writers. I’ve learned that most other people hate to write. It’s a weird idea to me, but it’s true. If you love it, and offer to do it, people just might take you up on it.

Now to figure out how to continue that cat story. . .

crafty things · crochet

March Temperature Blanket

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March 2021 Temperature Blanket

Took this photo outside so the sunlight is making it hard to see the pink at the top. Defiantly getting into more pink and green. I had planned on predicting that I might be done with the grey categories all together until winter, but then yesterday dipped into the light grey range. So I’ll predict we’re done with dark grey until winter. Ha.

The full blanket is getting a little big to take with me places. I like to bring it to my daughter’s violin lesson. Even though I wait in the car now to minimize people near each other, I can still hear her play and it’s nice to crochet and enjoy pretty violin music and relax. It will soon become a sitting at home project and I hope I keep up with it. Although I’ve kept up for 3 months now, so I’m doing really well.

A quickie measurement at the end of March puts the length at 19 inches. Times 4 that brings me to 76 inches, but since Feb is so short, maybe I can expect to land somewhere near the 80 inch mark for a final length. I’m happy with that outcome so I’m going to be happy with the choice to go with the small moss stitch for this project. I will be putting a boarder of some type on at the end which will add some as well, and how much more I want to add will help me choose what boarder I want to use when I get there.

Onto April!

cats

Meeko enjoying the Springtime

Meeko enjoying the springtime

For some time (years?) we’ve been trying to leash train Panther because she was young and we thought that would work best. She has remained skittish and unhappy on leash no matter how many reassuring pets and treats she gets. While decluttering I stumbled onto a larger harness I’d forgotten we had. Wouldn’t it be funny we said to each other if we took Meeko out to the back yard as well.

Turns out the joke was on us. He loves it. He rolls around and soaks up the sun and he actually hissed at my daughter when she tried to bring him back inside. While that kind of sass wasn’t and won’t be tolerated, I’ve taken him out several more times to sit with me as I write or crochet in the afternoons. Who knew the old man would like it so much. Even big truck driving past the wall that separates our patio from the stores on the other side didn’t bother him. A dart toward a passing squirrel just means he won’t ever be trusted off leash. We adopted him from the pound at 8 months old and he’s turning 10 this year. He has been indoors all that time. There might be a reason that saying wasn’t about teaching things to old cats.