Posts Tagged ‘meditation’

The editing process can take a toll on authors’ mental health, no matter their experience.

As I’ve mentioned more than once (especially during the past few weeks), the publishing process for Rose was something of a roller coaster for me. At least, it was on the mental health scene. There were days and weeks I was feeling on top of the world, and then there were weeks where I was freaking out and wondering how the hell I would ever get this novel into a state fit for publishing.

It’s been nearly three years since Rose was released, and I’m older, wiser, and I want to say calmer. However, I know that roller coaster could start up again during the editing process of Hannah and Other Stories, so I’m writing this post. Both as a reminder to myself, and to help anyone who might go through something similar with their own upcoming books.

Here’s are some tips for getting through the editing of publishing of your upcoming book and the mental health rollercoaster that it is.

First off, remember that this is natural. There’s nothing wrong with you, you shouldn’t be expected to stay happy because you’ve got a book coming out (whether it’s your first or your 247th), and every author goes through difficult periods in life. We have human brains, and those brains, while being the most advanced supercomputers on Earth, have some quirks built in. Our neurochemicals don’t always act naturally, and life can upset those chemicals as much as genetics. So if you’re having a bad period, don’t heap further stress on yourself by being upset with yourself. Just remember that this will pass and good periods will happen as well.

Our brains. Great supercomputers, but they aren’t perfect. So these feelings are natural.

That being said, if your feelings become too much or last for prolonged periods, consult a licensed doctor/psychiatrist/therapist. They may be able to help you with medication, the talking cure, and strategies for coping with those wacky neurochemicals.

And that brings me to my next point: have a support network and coping methods in place if you can. I know everyone’s circumstances are different, but it really helps to have someone to talk to or multiple people who can come together when you’re feeling down. Having those people who will stand by you and help take your mind off of the craziness of the publishing process can make things all the more bearable.

Not to mention those coping strategies. Taking some time for self-care when you need it improves things immensely. I already have Sailor Moon DVDs awaiting me in my room and ice cream in the fridge. Those are my comfort foods and anime, and they got me through more than a few crazy nights. Not to mention that methods such as hypnosis and meditation, going for a run or dancing, a nice drive, a good book and so many other things, can really help when your mental health starts to spiral.

That being said, certain coping mechanisms should only be done sparingly. For example, I tend to eat more sugary foods and drink alcohol when I’m under stress. Not the healthiest way to deal with my feelings, so I have to be careful not to do it too much.

Okay, now that we’ve gone over the self-care stuff, here are some practical tips when it comes to the editing and publishing of the book:

  • Edit in chunks or manageable blocks. This is something BSC Publishing Group, which is publishing Hannah, is doing with their clients. Rather than sending notes for the entire book all at once, they send notes for a few chapters or a single story at a time. That way, neither author nor editor is overwhelmed by the process and it feels more collaborative.
    I kind of like it, as it means I have less of a giant workload to get through, and I can work on other projects in-between chapters. And if you like it, maybe talk to your editor or publisher to see if you can do something similar.
  • Expect big gaps without activity. You know how you have to wait several weeks or months to hear if a short story is accepted or rejected by a publisher? It’s even worse with a book. Case in point, three months would often go by between submission of a new draft of Rose and getting new notes. And the time between acceptance of Hannah and the first round of notes was about six months.
    So no, you didn’t do anything wrong. And no, the publisher isn’t ignoring you. They’re just juggling a lot of projects, and they have to devote time to all of them.
  • Approach each issue/suggestion individually. Finding out your stories has issues, such as a plot hole or a character that doesn’t make sense, or a scene that doesn’t work like you thought it would, can seem insurmountable. Just know that every novel and collection has issues that need work on, including great ones. For Rose (which I like to think is great), after I got my anxiety under control, I went after each problem individually. First I handled the main problem with the antagonist, then the issue presented with the amnesia, and then the monumental problem with the flashbacks, which led to two-thirds of the book getting rewritten.
    Hopefully that won’t happen to you (though on the plus side, it did rid the book of some problems later in the draft). But taking it one problem at a time does yield results over trying to tackle, and agonizing over, all of them at once.
  • Remember, the publisher believes in your book enough to publish it. Sometimes, editing the book and guessing what people will think of it, we tend to doubt our own abilities. But remember this: the publisher believes your book is not only good, but it’s good enough that it’ll sell copies and they won’t take a loss on it. And that’s in an unedited state with issues!
    So if you could write something that good in that state, you’re more than capable of getting it up to scratch for publication. Just keep reminding yourself that and it might boost your spirits a bit.
  • Finally, keep reading and writing. During the quiet periods in-between drafts or before you go to bed. When you’re wondering how to tackle a problem with your book or when you’re just looking for some down time. When inspiration strikes you or when the new book by your favorite author comes out. Just keep reading and writing. Do it because you love it. Because it’s nice to get lost in imaginary worlds with imaginary problems and imaginary people. Because it’s relaxing and a great way to let the problems of the world slip away.
    Plus you occasionally get insights from the stories of others to improve your own stories. But that’s not important. It’s important to just sit down and enjoy these activities, because they’re what got you into the storytelling business in the first place and have led you here. And they will lead you onwards from here too.
Rose had plenty of issues before publication, and Hannah still has its share. Still, the publishers for both believe/believed in them to publish them, and that’s an important thing to keep in mind.

Well, those are my thoughts on mental health and the publishing process. I’d include some stuff on marketing, but then we’d be here all night. Anyway, I hope you found these tips helpful. If you think of anything I missed, feel free to put it in the comments. And if you have a book you’re working to get up to snuff for publishing, I wish you the best of luck. You’re in the middle of a tough journey, but you can get through it. And if you managed to get through the trials of writing and editing the book in the first place, you can get through the trials of getting it in shape for the publisher.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Well, Wi-Fi’s back, after being off for about a week. It’s the highlight of a week that’s been rather rough on me.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I’m loving Germany. I’m getting great work experience that’ll definitely come in handy after this internship, I’ve got great prospects for afterwards, I’m learning a lot about this country, its people and the language everyone speaks. And I’m seeing and doing amazing things that some only dream of doing.

But like anything in life, there’s ups and downs and lately I’ve been getting a lot of downs. My catchphrase lately is “if it’s not one thing, it’s always another”, and it definitely applied this week when a lot of the time I felt stressed and fatigued and just plain miserable. In other words, not me. At some points I wondered if I’d made a mistake coming to Germany. At other times, I wondered if God was maybe punishing me for something I’d done (perhaps getting into Tarot was a bad idea after all).

What’s been causing this, you ask? A number of things. Work, for one. It’s good people and it’s got great benefits and I get to write articles, which is fun. But often I’m doing tasks that nobody likes doing, and they stress me out. There’s also a hundred different that for some reason or another are mixed up or unresolved and when that happens it comes back to bite me in weird ways. I only just found out that somewhere along the line, my mailbox wasn’t properly put into the system, so I wasn’t receiving any mail! You can imagine the annoyance fixing that was!

There are other problems, as well. It’s not easy to go shopping. The closest supermarket is limited in what it has (and it’s in German, so I can only get things I can make on my own), and the base’s commissary is a trip to make, so unless someone’s providing a car, I can’t go there to get the stuff I’d like to cook with. So this leads to me eating things that may not always be good for me, which affects my health (and I was starting to lose a little weight).

And you already know there was the Wi-Fi situation. For a week because of a bank error we couldn’t connect to the Internet. And let’s face it, you need Internet to live in this world. So much of our lives is invested in it these days, being cut off at home and having limited access at work was another trigger for stress.

Add in a few other things, and it got really bad for me some days. Today, I even snapped at my roommate who was trying to help me resolve a problem. I apologized right after I realized what I’d done, but it was still awful and I felt really bad for doing it. And there I was, beating myself up for that. Another problem.

As I’ve been saying from the beginning, it’s been a tough week for me.

But there are reasons to feel optimistic. For one, the weekend’s here, and our Wi-Fi’s been restored. Always a reason to rejoice there. I can relax at home and watch Netflix, or go out on the town and explore areas I haven’t seen before. And while I was without Internet, I got a lot of work done. I finished editing Video Rage, rewrote Streghe, wrote a lot of blog posts on MS Word which I would post at lunch the next day, and I wrote two outlines for short stories I plan to write before starting on the next draft of Laura Horn. Definitely not bad. Pretty prolific, actually.

Plus after kind of getting off it once I got to Germany, I’ve started meditating again. I think that made a major difference. Meditation lifts my mood, makes me calmer and helps ground me. Not doing it affected my mood, so I’m definitely trying to make it part of my life again.

And now that the Internet’s back, I can also Skype with my folks when they’re online! That’s a huge reason to celebrate right there.

And the other problems…well, I’ll resolve them somehow. I’ve got to think positive. Can’t let myself mope over them. After all, you can’t accomplish much if you spend your whole life depressed over every little thing, and I certainly don’t plan on that happening to me. I’m doing what I normally do, and I’m going to seize life by the horns. It’s how I’ve gotten this far, after all.

So wish me luck and encouragement, my Followers of Fear. After this week, I’ll need it so I don’t have a repeat next week.

Have a great weekend!

I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I do a kind of meditation called Sahaja Yoga, and I have to say, it’s been an amazing influence on my life. Not only is it really relaxing, but it’s invigorating and I feel calmer and more balanced and focused after meditation (though nothing can ever seem to take away my wild, silly side). And, during the three years I’ve been meditating, I’ve been given a lot of ideas for stories or on how to modify stories that I’ve been having trouble with.

The first time this happened was after I started learning Sahaja Yoga. I was having trouble trying to figure out this short story I was working on and make it flow as a story. I knew something was missing, but I couldn’t figure out what. At one point I just sat down, started meditating for five or six minutes, and then went out for a walk. During that walk I felt much calmer and more open minded, and I found a way to make the short story work. I went home and finished the short story within the week.

It’s been like that a lot since then, especially during classes on Sundays. I’ll meditate and while I’m cleaning chakras and relaxing, my mind will go into a very different state, in which ideas just come much more easily to me. It’s amazing. Today, I was having trouble figuring out which direction to to go with this short story I’m working on, and I was hoping that today’s class would help me figure out where to go with this story. I put myself into a meditative state and let my mind go. And about ten, twenty minutes into the class, I had it. I knew how to make this story work. And after we finished the meditation, everyone looked very happy to hear that I’d had my idea (everyone in the class is very supportive of my career, and one woman has even read all my books and reviewed one of them). I also had four other ideas for stories today, which is a bit more than usual (don’t know if they’re all related to my class, but I like to think they are).

Why does meditation make me so much more creative? Like hypnosis, meditation puts you into a different state of mind that helps you unwind, relax, and sometimes make you a bit more suggestible. I think that state of mind allows me to hold onto passing thoughts and twist and turn them into workable ideas for stories. In any case, usually after meditation I’m pulling out my little notebook and writing down my ideas, making Sunday one of my more creative days of the week.

Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that, in addition to all the other benefits of meditation I receive, Sahaja Yoga definitely makes me a much more creative person and gives me several more ideas for interesting stories. I never know when I’ll write any of them (that’s how many stories I have and how busy I am trying to get through just one story at a time), but it definitely means I’ll never run out of stories. And it’s another reason why I won’t be giving up meditation any time soon.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow’s the first day of classes, so I’m going to finish up and call it  a night. I’ve got a busy first day (2 classes, a shift at work, and a phone conference, plus Buckeyes take on Oregon tomorrow night. Go Bucks!) so I have to get as much sleep as possible if I’m going to get up tomorrow and take it all one with my usual chipper temperament. Wish me luck, and goodnight, my Followers of Fear!

Some of you know I go to a weekly meditation class on Sundays. Today at the class we had an interesting discussion about the differences between meditation and hypnosis. The discussion started while going over some of the aspects of a particular chakra. One suggestion for clearing this chakra of impurities or of other problems is to abstain from activities such as hypnosis. Because I use hypnosis a lot in my life as well as meditation and because I know how to perform hypnosis, I had to ask why one should avoid it, especially since hypnosis and meditation are very similar and have similar aims when performed (unless you’re a stage hypnotist, in which case your goal may just be to do some interesting trick).

Ultimately, the problem comes down to relying on yourself vs. relying on others. The form of meditation I do, called Sahaja Yoga, has a great emphasis on practitioners being able to do Sahaja Yoga on their own and become their own guru in order to find the answers they are looking for or to resolve the problems they are experiencing. Hypnosis, on the other hand, relies heavily on the hypnotist to help a subject, and because hypnosis is largely dependent on the hypnotist’s suggestions, there is an opportunity for abuse on the part of the hypnotist to hurt the subject or cause them to do harm onto others. For this reason, some Sahaja Yogis are very against hypnosis.

As someone who has positive associations for both practices, I saw it as almost like the science vs. religion debate: while they may seem at odds, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t work together. For example, many people are able to believe in both the Genesis story and the theory of evolution, and that’s just one example of how people have learned to reconcile religion to scientific beliefs or theories that seem to contradict each other. Also, both disciplines can be abused by those who are trained in them: a preacher could abuse his followers’ trust in him to scam them or hurt them, while some scientists used to use pseudo-science to justify racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, or homophobic beliefs (a few still do, sadly).

Hypnosis and meditation can also be like this. While some may see the two as distinctly different and that they can’t work together, others see them as very similar and that they can work together. Many researchers have found that the hypnotic state is very similar to the state of consciousness achieved during meditation, and that they can both have positive effects on the physical, mental, and emotional self. For a personal example, last semester there were a couple of weeks where I was under intense stress and was constantly worried about finishing projects and homework, my finances, and other problems. It took a very powerful combination of meditation and hypnosis to be able to get back to my normal self and handle my schoolwork without having a breakdown of any sort.

Not only that, but both hypnosis and meditation can potentially be abused by those who practice it. A hypnotist may use a client’s suggestibility to cause harm to the client or to themselves, but someone who knows some meditation can easily create their own brand of meditation and charge through the roof for lessons or even start a cult based around them and their meditation brand (when I pointed this out to my class, my first thought was, “Hey, that could make a great short story”. Believe me, I will make it into one).

Whatever you feel about hypnosis and/or meditation, it’s important to keep in mind that both aim to help people, that they are very similar in several ways, and that there are people who will swear by one, the other, or both that they are helpful disciplines. I feel that my life is enhanced by both, and I’m glad to be able to know how to do both.

If you are interested in trying either in order to better understand the issue, I’ve embedded two videos below. The first features Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, the founder of Sahaja Yoga, giving an introductory session in Sahaja Yoga to an audience in Sydney, Australia. The second video is a basic hypnotic relaxation video that gives you an idea of what a hypnotic state is like and what one can accomplish in it. All you have to do for either video is follow the instructions given (preferably while wearing headphones for best quality), and you’ll get a sense of what each is like.

What do you think of hypnosis and/or meditation? Do you think they’re incompatible or compatible? Or do you just think the whole discussion is silly?

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it on Rami Ungar the Writer, but I’m into a form of Eastern meditation known as Sahaja Yoga. It was founded in the 70’s and the goal is to awaken the dormant spiritual energy inside you so that somebody can not just correct problems in their lives they may be having, but in order to achieve Self-Realization, a form of spiritual evolution. Sahaja Yoga is very popular and easy, and it has followers in over a hundred countries.

Why do I mention this? Because just today I had some trouble with an idea for a short story and I was able to overcome that trouble with the help of Sahaja Yoga. It happened like this:

Just this morning, I woke up with an idea for a short story in my head: what if someone had lived a life, but had forgotten that life through the interference of someone else, and started remembering their former lives after several years? I’m not sure if I’d dreamed that or if I’d come up with that idea while sort-of half-asleep, but when I was fully conscious it sounded like an excellent idea.

Just the one problem: how could I write an original, exciting story with that idea without sounding like I’d stolen someone else’s idea? I sturggled with the idea, unable to come up with an exciting take or angle to work with, until I went to meditation class today. As soon as we started meditating, my mind cleared and all of a sudden my mind was filled with ideas for the story. Eventually, by the end of the meditation, a half-formed story, with names, places, a plot, and even a few lines, was in my head. I could not wait to get home and work on it. but first I thought I’d write a post about it.

Anyone else interested in Sahaja Yoga now? If you want to, there are websites that can help you learn. It’s absolutely free-of-charge to learn, and the people who are apart of it are so nice. Oh and don’t worry, it’s not like a cult: it’s more like those clubs you went to as a teenager where people dressed up as their favorite Star Trek characters, only with potential health benefits.

I’m including a link for a website used among a lot of Sahaja Yogis, and a video where the founder, Shri Mataji, teaches you the first steps to learning to do the meditation. Try it out; you may find that it helps you in your work like it helps me.