Office By Day, Writer By Night

You probably haven’t noticed that I changed the tagline of my blog. It is now the same as this title. It used it be “blog of author & poet Christina E. Lupanow” but that was wayyyy boring. I wanted something that would reflect my actual life a little bit better.

I work in an office by day, but I’m a writer by night. That’s pretty accurate.

And I want to share both worlds with the internet, so here we are. I want to illustrate what it’s like to have a full-time job that makes money and a something that isn’t a hobby but isn’t quite a job and makes no money currently and might not ever. I mean, it’s complicated. My emotions about these things are up and down all the time nearly every day. One day I’m thinking, “Yeah! I love my office job!” and then within in the same day I’m thinking, “Ugh! Not the office again!” Similarly, I’ll go from “Writing is pure joy and bliss, I don’t care that I can’t do it as a job!” to “Writing is still my favorite thing but maaaaaaaan why doesn’t it make more money?”

This means that from now on, you’ll get even more insight into my ridiculous life. Aren’t you feeling lucky?!

I guess if I was going to be annoying, I would say Writer By Night and Weekends, but that just feels way too long. Plus Writer By Night is cool and mysterious sounding.

At the moment, office life is decent. Nothing really bad, nothing really great. Mostly just the same as always. Writing life, on the other hand… is going better than usual! At the moment, going home to write is the highlight of my day.

I’m also going to start writing more blogs about books that I’m reading because who doesn’t want that? If you follow me on Goodreads, you will know that I’m usually reading at least two books at once, usually more. This is partly because I listen to audiobooks at the office. I will likely write a post about audiobooks in general quite soon – they are one of the few things where my office life and my writer life overlap. A rarity, indeed.

That is all for now. It’s lunchtime at the office & I’m thinking hellooooo break room vending, what delectable sandwiches do you have for me today? Hopefully, something that hasn’t been there too long, but you never know. This is what I get for not packing my lunches the night before.

The Amazing Totally Cheap Miracle Cure!

Are you feeling down? Is life just not what you always thought it would be? Do you feel like there’s got to be some magic switch to make everything better?

GUESS WHAT THERE IS!

AND WE’RE GONNA SELL IT TO YOU FOR THE MEASLY SUM OF ONE TRILLION DOLLARS! YOU LUCKY DOG!

*cough cough*

Sorry, sorry. I got into Crazy Infomercial Announcer mode.

When you start to feel like you’re doing Life wrong, what do you do? You look for a Quick Fix. That’s just our culture. We want everything and we want it right the hell now.

Not too long ago, I was in that state of doubt. I wanted to know what I had to do to make all of my dreams come true. I mean, I was thirty already! Shouldn’t my dreams have come true by now? Clearly, I was living life wrong somehow. I needed to find the Mysterious Key that would unlock the Dreams Come True Achievement.

Since I don’t like talking to people, I turned to books because of course I did. What genre do you read to find the Cure? Self Help, naturally.

I was convinced it had something to do with how I was thinking. How does one think correctly?

As it turns out, all the Books had to tell me was that I should love myself. Easier said than done. Their suggestion for making myself love myself was affirmations. Basically, tell yourself you love yourself all the time every day until it’s true.

I’m sorry, but that mess just did not work for me.

It’s almost heartbreaking for me to admit that reading a book did not solve my problem.

Only now do I realize that reading books did not solve my problem because those books were not the Truth I was searching for.

Maybe those were the Truths some other people have sought. But not I. I was looking for something else. I was waiting for that AHA moment. It never really showed up, but I slowly worked myself to the YEAH, OKAY moment.

So I’m here to dish out the Miracle Cure you’ve all been searching for.

Ready?

Here it is:

You are flawed. You will always be flawed. Your flaws are why people love you.

That’s it.

Yeah, I know it’s anticlimactic. I am extremely disappointed about the lack of magic spells and fairy dust. However, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the answer is about ONE TRILLION times simpler than you think. The problem with those self-help books telling you to love yourself is that they never address the fact that you need to love your flaws, too.

The thing you’ve been missing is simply the realization that you are not missing anything. Your flaws, your uncertainty, your searching hands in the darkness, these are the things that create you. Most often, these are the things people love about you.

The magic spell is acceptance. Accept yourself the way you are, right now, in this moment. Maybe you don’t have the high paying job you want. Maybe you have a tendency to overthink things to the point of causing yourself to have a panic attack. Maybe you don’t floss. It’s okay. It’s okay to love and accept these things about yourself. It won’t always be this way. Life is always changing. You need to let go of your expectations and allow yourself to be. The past taught and shaped you, but you don’t need to live there. The future is unknown and you don’t need to live there, either. You need to live right now. You need to love this moment. You need to love the fact that you are alive.

You don’t need a miracle cure because you are the miracle, exactly the way you are.

Little Magics: Used Books

Guys, I just want you to know that I have TEN drafts in my jnjnkmn  yuhjjm,.  n mjnmmmnmmmnmnnnnjmmmmjjjjjjjjjjjjnm vbnm,./

Ahem.

Sorry, I spilled coffee on my keyboard and I was trying to clean it off.

ANYWAY – I was trying to say that I have ten drafts for new blog posts just sitting around, looking sad. Will I ever finish them? No one knows.

Today I really wanted to write about why I love used books. I’m currently reading a used copy of The Silmarillion which I’m pretty sure someone brought over from England. I mean, the price on the back is only listed in pounds. It’s like a cursive Q with a line through it. I don’t have that symbol on my keyboard. I would know, I just got all up the keyboard’s grill trying to get that little drip of coffee out of the tiny space between the N key and the main plastic chunk.

This used book is cool because A. England and B. crazy illustration from the 80s on the cover. As I’ve been reading, though, I’ve noticed something else.

Whoever read this book before me was one of those people who dog-ear pages. THAT’S RIGHT YOU HEARD ME.

I can’t do anything to books. It makes me squirm. I can’t dog-ear pages, I can’t write in them, I can’t even use bookmarks that might cause dents in the pages (I’m lookin’ at you, adorable magnetic neko bookmark from Japan that I ordered off the internet). The only thing I can do is highlight and I can only do that in non-fiction, made-for-learning-a-thing books. And I can only use the bright yellow highlighters because other colors bleed through the pages and that is not okay.

I’m not mad that Previous Book Owner dog-eared the pages, though. I didn’t do it, so it doesn’t bother me. It’s the act of doing that causes me stress. Though I do have a habit of breaking spines horrifically, usually because I don’t know I’m doing it. I get all into whatever I’m reading and twist my hands around when I’m holding them. Hardcovers don’t suffer, but paperbacks get a little mangled when I’m done.

In fact, I really like finding the little creases that indicate a page has been dog-eared. I’ve noticed that Previous Book Owner, whoever he or she may be, always stopped where the text breaks, even if it isn’t the end of the chapter. You know, when the scene changes so there’s an extra space between paragraphs? That kind of break.

I usually like to finish a chapter, but if it’s super long and my alarm keeps telling me it’s bedtime (curse bedtime alarms why do I torture myself thus), I will stop in the middle of a sentence if necessary. Then I might start the chapter over or at least the page, in case I’ve missed something.

I feel like I’ve gotten to know Previous Book Owner in an odd, anonymously intimate way. Reading is very personal for me. I get wholly involved in the story, emotions and all. So it’s like I get to share, here in the future, the same pages that Previous Book Owner read through and maybe the same emotions in reaction to the story. I also get to share that little moment when they pressed down the page corner to save their place. It’s a unique feeling. I’ll never know who that person was. There is simply no way for me to ever find them. And that’s part of what makes it special.

There are many little things in life that reinforce my belief in magic and this is one of them. If you have yet to experience it, go buy a used book or just rent one from the library. There’s an untold amount of people who have read a library book. And all of you will be connected by the story you shared.

(PS – I’ve decided to turn this type of post into a series called “Little Magics” in which I document the little moments of magic that I sometimes come across.)

Why I’m Not Taking the Goodreads Challenge

Ahhh, a new year! The perfect time to COMMIT TO EVERYTHING including lofty reading goals!

For the past three years, I have signed up for the Goodreads challenge. For the unaware, this is where you choose a certain number of books that you plan to read for that year. Doesn’t matter which books or anything, all you choose is the number. Then you track the books on Goodreads as you read them so you can see how close you are to your goal.

I reached my goals, but the problem I noticed is that I would avoid BIG THICK BOOKS because I knew it would take me way too long to read them. My fifty book goal would be at two by the middle of the year. That is no good. A thousand page book and a twenty page book both equal one book.

As a Nerdy Nerd, I like to read fantasy books. And fantasy books tend to come only in Medium (400-600 pages) and Large (800-1500 pages). And that’s just the first book of the Trilogy, Quartet, or Series (which also only comes in Medium (5 books) and Large (20 books)).

So I decided this is the YEAR OF THE FANTASY EPIC which is really just LET’S SEE HOW MANY FAT BOOKS I CAN TAKE OUT IN ONE YEAR IT’S PROBABLY GOING TO BE MAYBE TWO.

I thought about making my Goodreads challenge two books this year, but I thought that might hurt my Internet Literary Nerd Cred, so I decided against it. Instead, I’m writing this ridiculous blog post about it.

First up on the list? The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien. I know, right? How can I possibly call myself a Lord of the Rings fan if I haven’t read that one? I’ve had a copy of it on my shelf for at least three years. I got a really cool old version with a beautiful cover from a used bookstore for cheap. I get excited about this kind of thing, don’t judge.

Anyway, I have to finish the two books I already started last year first and then I shall begin the epic tome. I have a list, but it’s not in order since I’ll likely just choose whatever I want from it as I go, but I have A Game of Thrones on there, too. It’s been on my Kindle for at least six years.

I have a couple on there that aren’t technically considered fantasy, though it seems 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is a bit genre-defying and could be categorized as such.

TRUTH: I am a slow reader.

I like to take my time and really immerse myself in what I’m reading, which is why it takes me much longer to read books than peeps might think.

So wish me luck, fair blog reader. If I complete The Silmarillion only, I will consider it a success. I guess we’ll see how often I get caught up in Japanese and Korean food dramas on Netflix. ‘Cause it’s been a lot lately. OOPS.

Literary Mayhem

BA HA HA HA HA HA.

I AM BACK.

That’s how I feel right now, full of villainous laughter and the feeling that I’m back to being who I’ve always been. IT FEELS GREAT.

I seriously considered ending this blog post right here, but then I thought that would be kind of mean. Though “kind of mean” totally fits with my vibe right now.

Okay so let me start with this: it’s about writing. You should not be surprised. It’s always about writing. Okay, it’s almost always about writing. The next post is gonna be about not-writing, I promise.

ANYWAY.

In case you didn’t already know, I have been really strugglingwith my writing for the past forever. It had less to do with writing and more to do with my outlook… maybe go back a post and read about Sisyphus, then you’ll get what I mean.

Basically, trying to write filled me with agony and pain and suffering. Every word, every sentence, felt like a punishment. And so whatever I wrote was also really bad. Really bad and really sad and just not at all what it used to be like when I was young and joyous and free.

Now what do you think I mean when I say I AM BACK?

Normally I write a lot of blogs during NaNoWriMo, but this year I didn’t. There were a couple of reasons. Reason number one was that writing was still painful and I honestly didn’t think I’d do much of it. Reason number two was that the story I was writing was nothing but a single character. It has since evolved into a few different things, but I was starting with practically nothing. It had been a long timesince I had done such a thing – starting a story with nothing to go on but a character. So I figured that I wasn’t going to get far and there was no point in blogging a ton about my barely there NaNo efforts.

I was right. The goal? 50,000 words. My ending total? 13,033 words.

More than I was expecting, but nowhere near the actual goal.

So I think I made the right choice not blogging about NaNo this year.

Now that it’s over, though, I’m really liking where my story is going. So I decided to keep working on it.

I just finished writing a scene for this story. And the feeling I got when I had finished was the feeling that made me want to be a writer back when I first got serious about it sixteen years ago. I get a little shiver of excitement down my spine that makes me feel like an EVIL MASTERMIND OF AUTHORIAL MADNESS and all I want to do is Evil Laugh.

Thus the BA HA HA ing at the beginning.

Not only did the scene turn out better than I expected, but a connection I needed showed up quite nicely for me.

That one character I started with? Not in this scene. This one was about a completely different character that I had made up during NaNo because I was getting bored. Their stories didn’t collide in any way that I could see. But I wasn’t trying to make it all work. I was trying to just go along with whatever happened.

I still couldn’t help trying to figure out where their stories crossed, though. I thought about it occasionally, as I went about my normal days. I even thought I might have to separate the stories.

And then tonight, as I worked on a new scene for the second character, one word that I added on some kind of whimsical writerly inspiration connected the stories. One word was all it took. And that’s when I started feeling a bit like a VILLAINOUS MAD SCIENTIST.

It didn’t help that the word also kind of made this second character really dark.

This is a feeling I’ve had before. Back when writing wasn’t painful. Back when writing was more like experiments in a lab coat with a hunch backed flunky. Back when writing was like a dark cauldron bubbling over with neon goop. Back when all I wanted to do was be a Word Wizard that would Cast Spells of Fiction over all my Unwitting Readers.

I missed this feeling. It’s why I write. I thought I lost it forever, but it turns out I just had to dump my PAIN AND SUFFERING by being my own Word Wizard and not someone else’s idea of a Word Wizard.

I’m a discovery writer, folks. That’s the long and short of it. I don’t plan. I don’t create outlines. I can and I have and I tried to make myself do it. And I was miserable.

BUT NOW I AM BACK.

Maybe one day you’ll get to read my Spells of Fiction. I know some of you have been waiting a long time.

Fear not for I sense the day is nigh! My wizardly word fingers are tingling like they haven’t tingled in years! My villanous laugh is deeper and truer than it has ever been! Prepare for literary mayhem!

BA HA HA HA HA HA!

Don’t Be a Sisyphus

Seriously, don’t do it. Sisyphus was apparently a big jerk so he got doomed to an eternity of pain and suffering.

Okay, okay, I’ll summarize Sisyphus, just in case y’all don’t remember your Greek mythology.

Sisyphus was a King in ye olde Anciente Greece. Known to be the craftiest of all, he had a habit of killing people, defying the Gods, and doing all in his power to avoid death through trickery. Eventually, though, the Gods were like, “Nuh uh,” and managed to drag him down to Tartarus after many shenanigans. Once there, Zeus enchanted a boulder so that Sisyphus would have to push it up a hill only to have it roll back down again… for all eternity. ‘Cause the Gods don’t be foolin’ around.

Sisyphus was the worst. Does he truly deserve an eternity of boulder pushing? I don’t know and it hardly matters since this is mythology we’re talking about here. Whether or not Sisyphus was an actual person, I have a hard time believing he’s still pushing a boulder in a non-existent Underworld.

However, there are loads of people who have their own metaphorical boulders that they’ve been pushing for years only to have them roll back down again. Unlike Sisyphus, they don’t understand that what they’re doing is completely pointless. They have a firm belief that they will eventually get to the top and that the boulder will someday remain there.

Allow me to crush your hopes and dreams. Your boulder? Ain’t never gonna get to the top of that hill.

The good news is that who gives a fuck? I mean, seriously. Let me give you an example of the no fucks given that should be employed in this situation.

Using my own life is always easiest, so let’s go with that.

Hello, my name is Christina, and I’m a writer. I’ve been trying to finish a novel for ages and yet have never managed to do so. My boulder always crushes me as it goes back down the hill. Very painful. I have to wait for my broken legs to mend before I can get back up to continue pushing.

My boulder? Writing a novel.

My legs? Actually my confidence in my own skill as a writer.

While I wait for the legs, I study up on boulder pushing. Or in this case, on how to write a novel.

The problem? Everybody has their own methods of boulder pushing. So I end up pushing my boulder using bits of methods from all of them. Every time I start pushing again, I change the method based on what I’ve read recently. Or sometimes I just start over and do it exactly the same way.

The result? No results. Broken legs.

Guess what, though? That boulder is really made of my insecurities. All these years, I thought I was pushing my novel up that hill. Wrong! My novel is the hill! And it’s completed manuscript is at the top! That boulder is just a wad of doubt and outside influence. That boulder is me clinging to the idea that a writer has to do things a certain way and has to be a certain person.

Upon discovering the boulder was useless, I was able to fling my fucks out the window. Unlike Sisyphus, I can leave the boulder at the bottom of the hill. I can just walk around it and climb up the hill boulder-free. And eventually get to the top, where I can hang out with a finished novel.

There is actually a second option, too. I could walk away from the hill entirely. I could decide that writing a novel is not something I care to do. I could say, what the hell why is this so tied to my own identity, I give up goodbye. I’m gonna go be a bus driver, which turns out to be my true calling.

Not really, but my point is that you could do that with your own hill if you so desired.

My recommendation? Don’t be a Sisyphus. Get rid of your boulder. Walk away, walk around, or hire a burly construction worker to jackhammer it out of existence.

More often than not, the boulder is not something you need to contend with. You don’t need to take that thing with you anywhere. Whether it’s your insecurities, as in my case, or someone else’s expectations saying you have to do this specific thing or maybe your perception of what the world wants you to be. You don’t need any of that. Look seriously at your hill. Is it something that you chose for yourself? Is that hill representing something that is a true part of you? If so, realize the boulder is just doubt trying to keep you back from being your full self and walk around it. If not, realize that this is not the hill for you and walk away.

It’s okay. It’s okay to choose your own path. You aren’t a jerk like Sisyphus, so there’s no need to torture yourself as though you were an angry Zeus.

Fat & Happy: My Reality

My grandma always used to say “Be fat and be happy!”

I don’t know if she truly believed that sentiment, but as a kid, I thought it was perfect.

However, things changed. I got older. I got different messages. I changed my outlook.

For a long time now, I’ve been trying to reconcile the ideas in my head and the feelings in my heart with the message I’ve received from the world for my entire life.

Head says, “You’re healthy. All your tests come out fine. No doctor has ever told you you’ll die if you don’t lose weight. So what does it matter? Also, have you looked at how expensive those diet programs are? Those peeps are bajillionaires so of course they’re going to tell you that your weight is a problem. Just go your own way, you’re totes fine.”

Heart says, “Yeah, what’s it to anybody else how you look? You’re beautiful, baby! Your curves are part of who you are! Why hate on yourself because you can’t maintain a supermodel body? Most of which are photoshopped anydangway? Have a donut, it’s okay.”

The world says, “Nope. Being fat is deadly, you are obese, you are lazy, you are incapable of restraining yourself from eating all kinds of foods that will obviously kill you. OH BUT here, buy some more of it because guess what it’s actually heart healthy, you know! Now hang on, don’t eat so much of that, here buy this book and this exercise program and this gym membership, that should help you, you ugly cow.”

Then my head starts saying, “Wait, what… I’m an ugly cow?? Oh my god, I’m an ugly cow, what is wrong with me, I’m the laziest and the fattest and no one will ever love me or find me attractive.”

Then the heart chimes in with, “OH GOD I FEEL BAD NOW WHERE ARE THOSE COOKIES.”

I used to care a lot about my weight because of that message from society, but lately, I’ve been really questioning it. I don’t feel unhealthy. I feel fine, physically.

 

A year ago, my doctor told me I had high cholesterol. My previous doctor had told me the same thing and she told me it was likely genetics that caused it. When my current doctor told me, my immediate response was, “Yeah, I know I need to lose weight.”

You know what she said?

She said, “Oh, it might not have anything to do with your weight.”

And guess what? It didn’t.

For the next year, I figured out what I needed to do to eat healthier. I stopped eating as much fast food. I started cooking a lot of something healthy on Sunday so I could freeze it for the whole next week or even two. My cholesterol? It went down by twenty points. (That’s a lot. My doc was impressed.) My weight? It stayed the same.

I did not lose a pound. And yet, my cholesterol (and other things that might’ve been creeping up) went down and I was healthier. So why does everybody say being fat is bad for you?

It’s either because that’s what they’ve been (falsely) taught or making other people believe being fat is bad for you is the source of their income.

Food companies? Full of shit. Don’t believe a thing those fools tell you. They pay butt loads of money to be able to say their product is “heart healthy” or whatever. They give out awards to themselves. (It’s like Kraft giving their cheese the “Healthiest Cheese” award. Kraft cheese: the Healthiest Cheese according to Kraft! I’m not making this shit up.)

SO.

Here’s the deal, my peeps. The reality is that being fat is not unhealthy. Need you more evidence? Are you wondering where I’m getting this info from? Aside from my own personal experience with cholesterol, that is?

Read this book. It has been blowing my mind. This lady is all about the science, guys. She’s done studies, she’s studied studies, and she’s got like ten Ph.D.s. My therapist recommended it to me and I’m freaking out about it.

So if being fat is not bad for you, the only reason you have left to try losing weight is that you’re concerned about how you look.

Let me lay it out for you like this (and I know I’ve written it this way somewhere before… my old blog, maybe? I don’t remember):

A supermodel chooses to be a supermodel, in most cases. It is their job. It is their livelihood. They spend their job maintaining their supermodel body. Those eight hours you’re hanging out in a cubicle? They’re doing whatever it is supermodels have to do to stay at their tiny size. And then probably the rest of the twenty-four hours on top of that.

You know who else does this kind of thing? Elton John. I mean, all musicians, but I’m just using him as an example. Now, I don’t know Elton, but my guess is that he spends quite a lot of time at the piano. He plays and he plays and he plays that’s what makes him so amazingly good at it. The time and work a supermodel puts into looking like a supermodel, Elton John puts into sounding like an amazing musician.

Do you expect yourself to be able to play the piano like Elton John while still maintaining a full-time job and living your normal day to day life? Of course not. If you could do that, you’d be some kind of super genius or something.

So why in the world would you expect yourself to have a supermodel body (or anything even close to it) under the same circumstances?

IT MAKES NO DANG SENSE.

And seriously, all those people who are like, oh man I only date supermodels because I’m clearly super gorgeous myself la la la YEAH WHATEVER FOOL.

That person is in dreamland. NOBODY IS PERFECT. WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. WE ARE ALL DIVERSE. AND WE ALL HAVE SOMETHING TO BRING INTO AND ADD TO THIS WORLD, NO MATTER WHAT WE LOOK LIKE, WHERE WE CAME FROM, OR WHAT HORRIBLE THINGS HAVE HAPPENED IN OUR PAST.

Why do you want to contribute to the fat shaming of our society by forcing yourself to conform to it? By trying to be thin when you’re just not built to be thin? By doing diets that are more harmful and actually cause you to gain more weight in the long run? By doing exercise you hate even though there is no scientific evidence that it promotes weight loss?

I’m not subscribing to that guilt trip anymore. According to our health industry (which is bought out by the big corporations, by the way, and unfortunately can’t be trusted most of the time), I’m considered obese. Fuck that.

You wanna know what I think? I think I’m beautiful. I think I’ve got a round belly and soft thighs and man I am like a freakin’ pillow. Cuddling with me is like cuddling with a cloud ’cause I’m just that soft and squishy. I’m also a creative, loving person who will giggle with anybody about unicorns and enjoy every ounce of coffee, chocolate, and french fries I consume. I don’t hate people who have issues with their body. I want to embrace them. I want to tell them that it’s okay. I want to tell them that they are wonderful just as they are. That they are not unhealthy and there is proof of that. That they are more likely to die in a car accident than by being “overweight”. And this includes everybody. I love all of you, each and every one. Whether you’re fat or skinny or somewhere in between. Whether you hate yourself or love yourself. You deserve happiness. Don’t let the lies convince you that you aren’t good enough.  You are. You’re good enough for me, at the very least. And if you look at those who love you, you’ll find they think you’re more than good enough for them. Love each other, yes? Love each other, love yourself.

Be fat and be happy.

[[DISCLAIMER: Once again, most of my info comes from the book Health At Every Size, as linked above. The author goes into A LOT of science and more detail. She discusses the role of money in the food industry, government health regulations, and the agricultural industry (which gave us the food pyramid). She also goes into the impact of weight on actual health, including various diseases normally attributed to weight gain. If anything I said above piques your interest (even if it’s that you disagree), I highly recommend checking out the book. You can also ask me and I will happily quote the book at you all day. I claim none of this info as my own except for my experience with cholesterol, the things my own doctors have said, and all that stuff which is obviously my opinion and anger at the entire situation.]]