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Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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In which kittens are motivational
So, a writing update.

Didn't get a whole lot done over Memorial Day weekend, which my family devoted to the eating of various grilled meats. (Apparently Johnny Ray's, which became Baby Ray's after Johnny retired, because the best thing you can do with a name synonymous across the city with barbecue is to change it, no longer exists in any capacity at all. I feel like these facts are connected. We got our chopped chicken and pork at Jim & Nick's instead.)

However, I have been working through my pile of handwritten notes and drafts, because I feel like I can't move forward until I know what I wrote. A lot of them relate to traditional Chinese herbal medicine, which becomes important later in the series. A lot of times, my research approach is to go to Wikipedia (yes, shut up) and read up as much as I can to at least get a vague grasp of the subject--enough to know what I need to look for when I hit actual books or websites. I've found a book on Amazon that I think will get me through the TCM elements of the first book, once I have the funds to pick it up--plus, the idea that we're treating a supernatural ailment, which allows for some invention. But I've always thought that you need to learn the rules so you know what you're breaking, so.

(There's a new book on steampunk that I really want to get, as well as Judith Flanders' The Invention of Murder. I'm kind of glad I don't have the money for any of them at the moment, because this precise moment is not the time to stop and roll in books. I'll have a nice wallow after I get a few more things done.)

So I mentioned that manic phase last week; I think I'm on the comfortable side of that now. The thing about bipolar manic phases is that they are not necessarily the scenery-chewing you get in movies about how Crazy People Are the Only Sane People in an Insane World Omg. I mean, I'm sure someone somewhere goes through something like that, but the word "mania" and its attendant cultural baggage can be misleading. Basically, I had a really hard time getting to sleep and then staying asleep. Sometimes I was able to get things done (far more than when I'm on the sluggish ebb of the cycle); sometimes I couldn't focus. That's... pretty much it. The cycle has gotten less pleasant and more noticeable in the last four or five years, but what that means is I went from "I feel like I'm in love with no one in particular! yay writing all day" to "Do you have any Tylenol PM?"

One of the ways I decided to try to cope with this was to pull out my old collection of Black Phoenix Alchemy oils. (I dab it on the backs of my hands, because if I put it on my wrists, Lizzie's keyboard and touchpad would soon be scented with a dozen clashing smells. Instead, whatever I'm wearing wafts up to me while I type.) Someone had given me a bottle of Oneiroi they didn't want, and so help me, it works. I hadn't tried it before because I'd opened the bottle and immediately gone OH GOD WHAT IS THIS, but once I'd given it a chance, it mellowed out to a soft lavender-mugwort smell. (Apparently, it also has sandalwood, jasmine, and bergamot.) It didn't knock me out immediately or anything, but I managed to stay asleep and had really boring dreams, as opposed to my usual boringly unpleasant dreams. When I was having a hard time settling down because maybe I had a Mountain Dew look it came with a sandwich and I didn't want to waste it, I used a sample of Safari, which is an herbal lavender, to get sort of a calm focus. I don't even like lavender much, but if I works, I kind of don't care. (I think the problem is that French lavender is too sharp; I hear that Bulgarian lavender is a lot more mellow.)

Mostly I wear Siren when I'm writing, because it's a really pretty jasmine-vanilla-apricot with a big wave of !!GINGER!! on top, and ginger is my wake-up-and-get-going smell. I used High John the Conqueror and Wolf's Heart when I was writing the Movies book, which is pretty much the only thing that got me through my OMG HELP I HAVE RUN OUT OF FUNNY panics. Although I did try an old sample of Block Buster (same page) the other day, and once the sweet grass wore off, it was a nice peach that seemed to help me focus. Seriously, if aromatherapy keeps me off the great hamster wheel of writer-angst, I will do it.

Speaking of angst--see what a nice job I'm doing of rambling in an organized fashion?--I am still working on "jealousy of other writers whose only sin was ACTUALLY FINISHING SOMETHING," as I put it earlier. I've noticed that spite or even righteous determination--"I'll show you! I'LL SHOW ALL OF YOU!!"--doesn't really work as a motivator for me. I work better when I feel positive and calm and centered. Honestly, righteous indignation is an easier state to reach, but I can't sustain it; I end up meebling, "I'LL SHOW YOU! I'LL WRITE BETTER THAN ALL OF YOU! omg I'm not good enough to show you." Because, when you think about it, "showing everyone" depends on the reactions of others, and you can't control that. That's just one more thing for you to worry about, an end point you might not be able to reach. Whereas, if you strive do to something for the pleasure of doing it well by your own standards, you are already succeeding. And if that sounds to you like it ought to be on a motivational poster with kittens, shut up and find me some kittens.

Is the top one rolling his eyes?

And you know, I do want to write something that people enjoy, that makes them happy, and that is a reaction I can't control. But there's no point in trying to publish something if the endeavor is entirely based on what I think of it. You do have to worry take into account other people's opinions at some point, without getting too obsessed with it... or with other people's books. So I'm trying to say cheerful things to myself like, "Isn't it great that people love [XYZ] books so much? People loving books is good for all writers! Maybe someday I'll write a book that people will love that much!" Which is at least somewhat closer to reality than IF THEY LOVE YOUR BOOKS THEY CAN'T LOVE MINE OMG A POX ON BOTH YOUR SERIES. (I'm not talking about any particular writer here, unless you mean all of them.) Most times I genuinely mean it, because it's a matter of pushing petty fears out of the way of the better feelings they coexist with. Sometimes... I don't. But... well, practice is how you get better at something. I'll just make myself look at the bright side until I mean it. Maybe there is an aromatherapy oil for becoming a better person.

Or, I can listen to the "Immigrant Song" cover over and over again and pretend I'm a Viking. OUR ONLY GOAL WILL BE THE WEST BOOKSTORRRRRRRRRE.

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I'm now incredibly curious about aromatherapy and writing. I write really well when I have Earl Grey with me, but when I'm on a roll sometimes I'll just write and write and not be drinking it, and now I'm wondering if maybe it's the bergamot that helps and not drinking it and am wondering if I should invest in something with a bergamot smell to try to prod me to write.

Yeah, citrus in general tends to help with energy and focus. Bergamot's another of my alertness/focus scents, and I really like peach and apricot in general, so I have another one I like that's bergamot, heliotrope and peach.

I cannot tell you how much it helps that you blog about your struggles and successes in writing. I always read them and go, "What??? I'm not alone? CLEO STOLE MY FEELINGS." Or something.

What, no brisket? I am shocked and saddened.

I'm not terribly fond of lavender myself, although I like it because it's old-fashioned. Sometimes it's too strong, or comes across too sweet and musty.

Oh, there were other grilled meats. Those are just the ones we imported from outside the house.

this is one of the best posts i've seen on the internets in WEEKS.

Well, very few blog posts have as high a kitten factor as this one. (Thanks!)

Wise words. That's just how I've come to feel about writing.

My mom's an acupuncturist and traditional Chinese herbalist so if you have any questions, send 'em over. I was given a lot of weird bark and herbs to chew on whenever I had a headache as a kid, so my Advil deprivation might as well be put to some use!

Re: Chinese medicine

Oh, awesome. Willow bark, I'm guessing?

A lot of times, my research approach is to go to Wikipedia (yes, shut up) and read up as much as I can to at least get a vague grasp of the subject--enough to know what I need to look for when I hit actual books or websites.

Right there with you.

Seconded. And usually, the well-written Wiki articles have citations at the bottom, so you've already got a starting point for further research.

Echoing what others have said, but your honesty with your writing has helped me with my own block that's been going on for a year now. As writers (and anyone in the creative field), I think we're our own worst enemies and we just have to find what works for us to push through our self-doubt and JUST WRITE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

A lot of times, my research approach is to go to Wikipedia (yes, shut up) and read up as much as I can to at least get a vague grasp of the subject--enough to know what I need to look for when I hit actual books or websites.

I'm guilty of this, too. Wikipedia is good for narrowing down what you need to research, not what you should use as your research.

I work in an integrative therapies academic department, so if you want me to send the syllabus for our TCM course, point me at an email address. We have an aromatherapy course as well, if you want to see that one. :-)

It had never occurred to me to break out my BPAL scents for writing, that's a good thought.

I'm okay with taking a moment to be jealous and upset about someone who gets published- it's a sort of human thing, we can't really prevent it- but I try to get over it fast. There are times when I read about writer success stories where I'm like OH NO I'LL NEVER EVER SELL EVEN ONE TINY BOOK AND EVERYONE HATES ME but I take a break, have a cookie, cuddle my dog. Maybe play a video game whereupon I wipe out whole civilizations.

The important thing to remember is that nobody is taking any slices of your pie, that you get your very own pie. If that makes any sense.

I do want you to congratulate you for being singularly responsible for the use of the word 'meebling' in my vocabulary.

the viking kittens are the best and it always puts a smile on my face to watch it.

Oh Cleo, you have (potentially) saved me. I used to use Dream Time temple balm from Lush, which was lavender and jasmine and wonderful and made me sleep like a normal person, but recently they stopped making it. I didn't even think of BPAL, but will be looking there for something that I can use instead now. I know there is a really strong link for me between sleep and depression, so I was gutted when I couldn't get my magic sleep potion any more. Yay for hope of something just as wonderful!

I think that's exactly what Somnus is, lavender and jasmine.


Any good reccs for citrus BPAL scents?

supervillainess says above that this might be useful?


For some reason, I end up mostly with blends that either have other fruits or have bergamot as one note among many. Offhand, you might try Zephyr? ("A gentle white scent, breezes laced with the scent of springtime blooms and citrus. Lemon, lemon verbena, neroli, white musk, white florals, white sandalwood, China musk, bergamot and a drop of vanilla.")

I always enjoy your very frank posts on writing. I have similar motivations to just be finished - I constantly remind myself that it's not about the amount of time I take, but the quality of work I produce.

Also, I have to try the scent trick. When I get home from work, I have a hard time getting my energy levels up. I don't like pumping caffeine in as it affects my sleep patterns, so any other tips or tricks you reveal in future posts are most welcome.

I guess this is a good post to mention some scents I have, to see if anyone's had any experience with them. They were gifts a while back and I completely forgot I had them stashed away.
Tiger Lily
Black Dahlia
Hairy Toad Lily

Anyone find these to be particularly good/bad for anything?

Hm, I don't think I've tried any of those.