Posted in Life Adventures

Some Hard Truths

For the last few weeks (months if I’m going to being entirely honest) I have been struggling. I have started posts and then trashed them. I’m making this one stick.

This week I was forced to face some hard truths.

1 – I am still in mourning from the passing of my dear friend and Mentor, Aarjaun. Since she passed away at the end of January I threw myself into everything, so long as I didn’t have to feel my own emotions, and so long as I didn’t have to stop and think too much. Anything can be justified if given half a chance.
2 – I’m allowed to mourn and still enjoy the wonderful things in my life. I can appreciate all the good things, all the amazing people I have in my life, both old and new. I can also allow myself to be sad, to miss my friend, and to be overwhelmed by the good as much as overwhelmed when things are bad.
3 – I am not the robot I have tried to be. The wall I’ve put up around my feelings now has fissures and it’s time to let it crumble.
4 – I have worth, whether I am writing and contributing or not. I am enough as me, and I am allowed to say no … to myself as well as to others.

These truths were brutal and hard to face, and while I’ve half faced them for a few weeks, it was with the hopes they would run and hide once again. But coping mechanisms only work in the short term it seems.
I have always been an advocate for prioritising mental health, but I have not always been so good at following my own advice. Sound familiar?
I want to be a better role model of this for my son. Not because I think I’m supposed to, but because I want him not to have to fight the stigma in our home. I want to be transparent because I believe transparency about mental health is one of the key ingredients of destigmatizing it.

Now, I’m working on ways to ensure that I’m actively trying to help myself with these things.

1 – Allow myself to feel the absence of Aarjaun. I miss baths, which I have been avoiding because of that very thing. I think I might go have a bath tonight.
2 – Let those wonderful people in my life know that the good things don’t take away the pain, nor does the pain minimise the good things … did you read that? Look at me telling the wonderful people already 🙂
3 – Instead of taking that deep breath and burying the feelings, adding another brick on the wall, I’m going to (try to) say the words, I am hurting.
4 – I recently made a writing schedule. It was forcing me to be too busy. So no, I will not be following that schedule, I will be amending it to allow for more quiet time, more me time.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. If it helps you in anyway, I’m even more excited.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

Why I Write

I haven’t blogged a lot lately, and mostly because I haven’t felt like I have enough ‘content’. My thoughts have begun with a lot of ‘What am I teaching you wonderful readers? I need to do more learning the craft so I can help.’ and it spiral from there. It’s been a stressful thought pattern.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend and fellow author and I just about burst into tears, As we spoke the conversation came around to story telling and how sometimes we forget that’s why we are doing this in the first place. Not to have all the technicalities right, not to know how to market, not to network. Yes, these things are important, but they are often overshadowing my thoughts and peaking my anxiety.

Then last night I had an interview with a publisher (Eerie River Publishing – go check them out) to highlight me as one of their authors for PRIDE month, and some of the questions were an oomph to the chest.

Ok, world. Yes, I get it. Time to remind myself of the roots and reasons.

I have at times forgotten why I write in the first place, so I’ve decided to make a list of the top reasons I write:

To tell stories
To escape – for me and my readers
To represent and minimise isolation
To create the stories I couldn’t find growing up

While learning about writing will always be important to me, I’m not sure any of that knowledge will mean anything if I forget the reasons for why I write in the first place.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen x

Posted in Life Adventures

The Squirm in your Guts

Today I was given another reminder of the importance of following your gut, your instincts, whatever it is that makes you balk or cringe back from something. That thing that you can’t pinpoint a justifiable finger to but you know, you simply know you are not comfortable.

As I’ve gotten older (dubiously wiser) I have found myself over and over again trusting that squirm in my guts.

Throughout my life I’ve been told to ignore my feelings; stop being hysterical, you are paranoid, you can’t even way why … and the list goes on, until I started to believe that these things were all just in my head and everyone else was right.

I think we are not nearly so different, so evolve away from our instincts if only we allow ourselves to listen to them. I’m not saying that following these instincts will have you avoid all the bad you might encounter in this world, but having followed mine more and more over the years, I have seen bad situations avoided.

I am so glad I have consciously followed my instincts this year, even when it might have been considered socially uncomfortable or harder to go against the stream.

I am so grateful for the trust I’ve given myself.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen xo

Posted in Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

OK to be bad

This has been a huge mindset shift for me. It’s taken a lot of years but once I embraced it, the world opened up.

I didn’t know what it is exactly that has changed, I just know that in the last few months, my fear became the annoying buzz of a mosquito in a dark room instead of the roaring dinosaur it used to be. I found I was taking chances, putting more of my work out there and really embracing the learning of this wonderful writer’s craft.

Turns out, all these blocks I had in place came down to one thing … the misconception of perfectionism.

Fear of not being perfect at something stopped be from trying at all. I didn’t want to attempt something and realise I was BAD at it, worst of all let other people know that I was BAD at new things, any things. But like everything, to get good you have to start by being bad.

This isn’t an easy thing. If you struggle with the fear of criticism for your less than perfect wonderful self, this is a HUGE hill to climb.

I am sure there will be times where it rears its ugly head again. I’d like to think I have overcoming it once and for all, but that’s not usually how these things work. And that too is OK.

At the start of April a friend reached out, a friend who always signs up for NaNoWriMo with me most years and bails within the first week, and told me about escapril. A poetry daily challenge for April. I know as little as six months ago I would have balked at considering this challenge. Putting my writing out there every single day for a whole month … writing a poem every day to a prompt? No thanks. It’s one thing to do NaNoWriMo and input the word count you’ve done that day … but it’s an entirely different thing to put the actual words you’ve written out there.

Turns out, I’ve gotten a lot better at being bad.

And it turns out some of the poems aren’t too shabby. And each day that I manage to do the goal, I feel a little more confident in trying. A little more OK to be bad.

If you’re interested in checking out the prompted poetry of Escapril you can find them on my instagram account neenauthor.

The daily prompts for Escapril 2021

Do you struggle with perfectionism?
Have you pushed yourself and found a way to accept being bad at something?
I’d love to know

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Life Adventures

Attacked from the Inside (Living with Endometriosis)

I had a recent reminder that March is Endometriosis awareness month. So here is a blog I wrote back in 2019.

It’s hard to describe with any kind of accuracy.

I want to say it’s like a stone, strapped on to your back. That every month I feel as though I am Atlas struggling to hold up the Earth, but instead of it being strapped on my shoulders, it is inside me pushing against my blood and bones trying to force it’s way back to its intended/original size. But even that is not entirely accurate.
Below is what some months feel like (Almost all months now):

Even that can’t truly explain the pain that often seizes my body. What no image or gif can ever explain or convey is the fear of breathing. With every single breath, this world of pain throbs and beats itself against me. So I take shallow breaths. I try not to move, HA! explain that to a toddler (now energized 4 year old). It presses against my back in alternating sporadic rhythms of sharp and ache, making my body jerk and shudder.
I force myself to live as though the pain isn’t there. And at times I can fool onlookers. I can even start to fool myself with enough distraction … some minutes.
But then there I am, curled up on the nearest surface, be it bed, couch, floor, anything will do. My fists clench around and twist any material, stuffed animal, my sons sicky rag, all to try and wade through the latest burst of agony.

This is just a glimpse of my life with Endometriosis.

Since the age of eleven when I ‘became a woman’ – what a stupid fucking expression that is – I have suffered this debilitating pain. I was not allowed to wallow in it. Three sisters before me managed to tough it out, there was no getting out of school or work. So, I drugged myself up every single month, feeling less like myself, feeling like an alien inside my own body, and lying when asked if the pain killers helped.

When I had my son, I had that beautiful blossom of hope, that I would be cured of this diabolic demon, and the first few months I was lulled into a false sense of promise. It was bliss and I thought … ‘oh yes, thank you Gaia.’. Turns out she doesn’t have all that much to do with it and those months of bliss weren’t just a tease but a cruel trick, to show me what my body should have been able to do.
Since then the pain grows worse each month (yep, still getting worse) and I am loaded up on drugs, feel detached from everything and hug wheat bags as though they hold the miracle of life itself.

To anyone who suffers from endometriosis – I believe you, and I’m sorry you are suffering through this.
To anyone who hears someone say they suffer from endometriosis – believe them when they say it hurts. Help them when they have tears in their eyes and are trying desperately to continue as though it doesn’t. If you don’t know how to help, ask them what they need, because what works for one may not work for another. Don’t tell them they ‘need’ or ‘should’ do anything you know has worked for someone else. They may have already tried with different degrees of success and failure.

It’s a horrible invisible pain to go through and the lack of definitive knowledge and not being believed can be just as debilitating as the pain itself.


Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Posted in Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

Queer Imposter Syndrome: Some Candid Openness

I recently read an article/blog about Impostor Syndrome relating directly to being queer, and OOMPH how it hit right in the feels. You can find the article here.

I have written a few blogs in my past life (a.k.a. pre this blog and my website) about the struggles I have had at feeling like I belong in the LGBTQIA+ community. But reading this article I thought hey, why not go a little into the human side of this writer (me, just to clarify) and maybe it might help some of you wonderful readers.

I came out pretty early, considering I was from a small country town and dragged up Mormon. But my mum is just the best. She came into my room when I was sixteen while I was singing along to Melissa Etheridge’s ‘Mama I’m strange’ and she took the hint. Once she told me her love was unconditional and though she might struggle at times, that love is love *paraphrasing, but you get the point* it was as though the world had been opened. My mum had accepted me, so how could anyone else hurt me if they were to reject who I was?

Hmmm … well the world changes and shifts … and mine certainly did.

My partner of several years (whom I married before gay marriage was legal – we should do the legal thing one of these days) realized he was not female, despite the limits of his birth. I have been reviled as either ‘not a real lesbian’ and ‘transphobic’ for either not having left my partner and/or not changing my sexuality because of my partner’s transition.

For a long time, I pulled away from the community as a whole. Every attack or snide comment would make me shrivel more and more inside myself. I even stopped writing characters I love and adore. I ignored the characters that kept knocking and begging to have their stories told. One of the main reasons I started writing was to give those characters a voice, to create the stories I could never find when I was growing up. All for fear of rejection, for fear of crumpling against the rage people have toward those that don’t fit into the categories as they define them.

And then I began to find incredible people, incredible authors and wonderful friends both in the writing community and LGBTQIA community. It’s revived my strength to be brave and to get that tougher skin. That doesn’t mean that I don’t worry, or have the dreaded Queer Impostor Syndrome raise it’s head and sneer at me. But I solidify myself in knowing, not everyone is so rigid in their definitions.

I remember, only a year or two ago listening to the very first episode of Lesbians Who Write and bursting into tears. In an overwhelmingly good way. Clare Lydon and T.B. Markinson both talked about how ANYONE can write lesbian fiction. No matter how one defines themselves. I braved up and wrote in, and several episodes later they discussed my email and again, the tears. Because their support was vocal and absolute. So, whenever I start to worry, I re-listen to that episode. Since then I have also had wonderful support (knowingly and unknowingly) from people in the community who stand up for my rights to define myself by MY sexuality, not the gender of my partner or a definition that I do not ascribe to.

So, if you are reading this and feeling like you aren’t ‘Queer Enough’ or enough in any terms that define yourself I’m here to tell you, you are! If you feel you need that clarification, that permission from an outsider that you are enough to be allowed to define who you are anyway you choose … you have permission.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave

Posted in Life Adventures

Women I admire – the list is endless

There are so many women I admire. So many that have offered me strength and shown me ways to navigate this world. The list grows each and every year as I meet incredible women. I wish I could list them all, but really it’s an endless list. Of friends, family, and strangers.

Here are just a few of the many women I’d love to give a shout out to, they have been vital and influential in my life:

My sister – Sue. She is my best friend, my first reader, my strength, and my role model. Without my sister I would not in any way be the person I am now, and I can honestly say I am proud of who I am, and who I continue to grow and learn to be.

Pamela Jeffs – An incredible friend whom I met after fangirling over her work and then having her show up to out local writing group … I feel so privileged and honoured to call her a friend and mentor. Check out her incredible talent here.

Pamela Jeffs

Sarah Vogler – I met Sarah before the world went crazy. We were both volunteers at Oz Comicon and I met this incredible person, who turned out to be an even more incredible author … and a great friend. Her Middle grade series Poseidon’s Academy is one of the best series I’ve read. It’s so fun and exciting. I can’t wait for the fifth book. Check out all about Sarah here.

Sarah Vogler

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Aiki Flinthart. The world lost an incredible human being in her passing in January. But, she continues to inspire and motivate. Her light continues to shine, and her kindness and talent will never be forgotten.

Myself with the wonderful and much missed Aiki Flinthart

Thank you to all the wonderful friends I have found in the women I am so lucky to be surrounded by. Thank you to all of those who have reached out, who have laughed, who have listened, who have led the way in order to help me become strong, to become someone I can be proud of.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave

Posted in Life Adventures, Reading Adventures

When Reading Inspires Nostalgia

I recently finished a Young Adult book centered around the four days of a ‘geek convention’. If I had found this book while I was a young adult. I would have read it to spine breaking, pages falling out addiction. As an adult, in a world more open then it had been when I was an adolescent, I want more of the second subplot which is the one I needed and the one I can and would have related to. But it was enough to send my thoughts back.

Yesterday, while still at home with a not quite healthy enough for Kindy 4 year old I felt myself slip into nostalgia.

Naturally for me, this presented itself through music. I have very limited (read: none whatsoever) musical skills myself, but oh how it saved me time and time again throughout my adolescence.

Some things I’m being reminded of once again about younger me (there have been some laughing eye rolls and facepalms)

Most iconic musicians from my adolescence … they are so young here lol

1. I was not a subtle teenager. I really never did see the point of subtly. Definitely not when it came to my own thoughts and feelings. I look back and think well dah! Did you really think no one knew? Which makes it so understandable the ease of my coming out – maybe not so much the acceptance later but definitely the coming out – which may or may not be a story for another time.

2. It never dawned on me during this whole unsubtle expression of myself that it was brave. I just never thought about the option of hiding myself, even to the point of my own detriment.

3. I was always in love with the story teller and the worlds they weaved. Others may know the instruments and the keys. Heck, my partner could listen to instrumentals all day and be happy. Me, I always needed the story, the words to help define the whirlwind of contradictions swirling inside my chest and my head.

So of course, in true 90’s adolescent fashion, I’ve begun a playlist of some of the most important songs that I listened to until I stretched out the tapes and scratched the CDs.

What do you most think about when you listen to music? Do you have other things that send you tumbling back in time? I’d love to know.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Posted in Australia, Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

My Pros and Cons of being an Introverted Writer

You may or may not know this, but writer’s, predominantly, are introverts. It might be hard to believe if you’ve ever walked past a group of writers who are chatting excitedly, laughing, and beaming like different versions of the joker. You might even have seen online versions of these gatherings (usually written in comments where the banter comes out). Or perhaps you know some of the more extroverted authors … they aren’t myths, I know right!? But I promise you, I have friends who fit this category. When I first met them, it took awhile to lift my jaw from the floor and stop staring wondering if everyone else saw them. Was it true, they actually got recharged from other people? But as time moved on, I came to realise they are just as awesome.

I however, am NOT one of those extroverted authors. It’s true, I can be loud and chatty and even outgoing, usually around other authors. We tend to bring it out in each other, as we talk about shared passions and projects with people who just get it. But this does not automatically equate to introvert or extrovert. I learnt very young how to mingle and do the small talk thing. BUT,
do I like it? No.
Does it recharge me? No.
Do I need a plethora of alone time to recharge after a social engagement? Oh yes indeed.

For an author, this can be troublesome, to say the least. Not everything may relate to every author, or even every introverted author, but here are my latest struggles with being an introverted author:

  1. Being extroverted does tend to be the more accepted way of being in the overall society I live in. It is the skill set that people are expected to work toward, to attain.
    Example: Being quiet at a gathering you may have heard or even said something like this in the hopes of making someone feel more comfortable. It’s a really sweet sentiment … ‘It’s ok, you don’t have to be shy, we won’t bite.’ … the problem is, I am often happy just watching. I’m not being shy, I’m just being me. (creepy undertones of people watching may or may not be present). This does also implies that there is something wrong with being shy, and perhaps even that I might be the one to bite … 😉 ok, that last bit might just be me enjoying the quirk a little (horror and dark fantasy author after all). This is not to say that extroverts aren’t great to have around, or quite wonderful people. Without many of the extroverts, it might end up being quite the quiet party (secretly hopes I can pull my book out of my bag and read without weird looks). But it is something I overthink and worry about when I leave a gathering. Was I being too quiet again? Was I enjoying people watching just a little too much? Or worse, was I awkwardly trying to add to conversations that ended up killing them.
  2. I want people to read my writing. I want to be a known author, even in the smallest of spheres. Why is this a problem? Because to become known, most of the time you have to put yourself out there. And I tell you, I have been putting myself out there a lot lately. And while I’m going slow, enjoying small groups, and baby steps that don’t freak me out too much. Any growth, any spike in attention both excites and downright terrifies me. Conundrum.
  3. Can’t I just let my writing speak for itself? … It would seem not. And as an anxiety ridden introverted creative, this comes with a plethora of issues. The market is filled with books, and authors. (Thankfully – I’m a very appreciative reader). To get out there you must seek out a readership, cultivate reader/writer relationships with strangers and be seen. And try your best not to fan girl when one of your favourite authors starts following your friend, or comments/replies on one of your interactions. I epically fail, often, at this last one.
  4. Learning to pivot (from my previous post) is a skill I am continually trying to rework my brain to accept. It’s not easy, but it’s not beat me yet. When something unexpected happens (and it will, that is life and the nature of the writing career), it takes me a bit longer than other people I know to process and move on, to pivot and side step around the problem and move forward. Recently, when a huge unexpected step back happened (the need to pull/change the publication of my first Novella) every bad thought raced through my mind. Will anyone else pick it up? Will I be seen as a flaky author? Should I divulge more for the reasoning? How do I stray professional and reassure potential readers that this was unexpected and also, for myself, unavoidable? I was very lucky, I have had many friends in the writing world and community reach out and help me find my way through. But it was very draining, and the time I used to recover is not something I always have.

Note: My Novella WILL see the light of day, it is currently with two potential publishers and if it does not suit them for genre/themes/timeframe I will look at getting it out there in other ways. I am in love with this story, and it’s evolution of both story and writing with the help of incredible feedback and editing.

But here is the good news – Being a writer (actually doing the writing) is such a brilliant career for an introvert:

  1. Alone time. Writing is a solitary activity. The main part of being a writer, is writing … shocking I know. Oh, I know all too well it’s not always easy, but being allowed, being expected even, to do it alone is a wonderful freedom. It allows one to create without having your energy drained by the need to socialise as well. I personally thrive on my alone time, and I have it on good authority from many writers I know, that they do as well.
  2. Thinking. Writing is a deeply thoughtful process. Yes, it’s true there are times where it feels like the words are flowing without much conscious thought. Ah, but the subconscious never stops. And introverts are quite well known to be deep thinkers. Here is a study I found about the way introverts and extroverts think. It’s a little heavy and technical in parts, but well worth the read. While I would hazard it is not complete and focuses on old studies, I did come away with this: The researchers believed that this finding showed introverts to be more sensitive to incoming information, and also to expend more mental effort by analyzing those stimuli more deeply and carefully. We also take a while to respond as we thinking a whole train station full of thoughts before we settle on a response.
  3. Being online. This can be a bit of a two sided coin. But in the current state of the world, where more things are turning to online interactions, introverted writers (and introverts as a whole) may find themselves far more visible, without the uncomfortable expectation to appear at conventions and speak on panels, to engage in real time. Not that these things aren’t also happening online, but there is more flexibility to be present without being as drained. For me, this is a win most of the time. Yes, a social activity online can leave me drained, but I’m already home, I’m already comfortable and, I’m still allowing readers to get to know me. An added bonus of the rising need of online presence is suddenly I’m not limited to the readership of my fellow Aussies. Don’t get me wrong, I love being an Australian, and much of my writing is set and influenced by this country and my experiences in it. However, I have had one on one conversations with authors who had previously seemed in a completely different universe, not just in a country far far away.
  4. People Watching. All those times I sit back and observe the crowd, I am observing more than just the people’s words and body language, I am observing the sounds and smells that envelope us, the way the light lays around, the sway in the nearby trees. All this observing helps to create richer worlds and writing. At least, I feel it does, I mean it must, mustn’t it?

If you are an introverted author, and struggle with any of the above, just know you are not alone.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave

Posted in Life Adventures

Vale Aiki

Last night an incredible woman won her last battle against pain and the mortal realm. My dear friend and mentor, Aiki Flinthart flew to Valhalla for a beer and a song.

I met Aiki three years ago when I showed up to my local writing group with no idea what the next three years would look like. With her friendship, guidance, encouragement, and overall belief in me, I find myself doing things I thought only others did. Braver, smarter, more incredible people. She would scoff to read that, I can almost see her shaking her head and telling me emphatically that I am these things, that I can be braver. And I have been so much braver.

I feel extremely lucky, and incredibly honored to have gotten to know this incredible writer and woman. As a writer, Aiki was phenomenal. As a human being, she was so much more.

No words seem to be able to portray just how much I adored her, and how much light she cast, but in her honor I will write, I will be brave, and I will continue to do the things she always believed I could.

My heart goes out to her beautiful husband, who opened his arms to me, and her amazing son, who I can’t even imagine his pain.

Vale Aiki, your light will be missed. Save me a seat in Valhalla.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind