Thursday, February 25, 2010

Facing Fear with a Pencil in Hand - ADHD in the Field

A Taste of YesteryearOn September 21st, I took part in my very first Sketchcrawl. Since no one was putting a meet together here in Salt Lake City, I thought I'd try my hand at it. I set the place and set the time, then I went there even though I knew my daughters and I were likely to be the only ones attending.
You have no idea how hard it was for me to do that. I've been lurking on the Sketchcrawl site for three years and never attended a single event. I was too petrified to draw in front of people. I knew my work would be terrible.
I've never been able to draw in front of people. Figure Drawing class at MassArt was a disaster. If I was drawing en plein air, all drawing would come to a stop as soon as somebody came around the corner. Heaven help me if they actually walked over to look at what I was doing. I gave up on public drawing in 1989. I tried again nine years ago, but it was a disaster as well. I just couldn't get into the work.
Yet scenes like the one in the photograph above called to me and begged for artistic expression on paper. As usual, I spent a considerable amount of my life beating myself up over this. As I saw it, I was an artist and I should be able to blast out masterpieces like that Happy Painter Guy without a care in the world.
Sketchcrawl #1Over time, I actually became afraid of the process because my sketches always looked so dreadful. In the studio, I could draw compitently. Outside? Travesty.
When it came time to celebrate the fifth year anniversary of Sketchcrawl, I determined I was going to attend it even if I was reduced to drawing splotches and stick figures.
I watched my daughters take to drawing with fearless enthusiasm. They tackled the largest subject matter like barns and trees and beamed in the joy of simply drawing. They sat in the middle of the walkway and weren't phased by the passing of every family as I was, nor were they distracted by the wind, or the geese flying overhead, or the worker emptying the trashcans, or the passing of clouds across the sun. Where they tackled epic scale drawings, I drew a sluice.
Sketchcrawl #2Then my eleven year old slipped and fell while trying to get to the duck pond. I had to interrupt our session and bring her home. I returned quickly and set about to work again, but ran into pen problems. I had no idea that my pen didn't work outdoors in temps below 50°F. I spent ten minutes or more trying to eke out a line on my paper, licking the nib, shaking it, tapping it, all while being irritated by the photographing families that felt they could take pictures in my subject area as long as they smiled sweetly.
Notice, though, a common thread. There was always something to distract me from actually drawing, even though I thought I was motivated. All my life it has always been one thing or another. Can you imagine my stunned surprise when I realized at that moment that my AD/HD was the root culprit of my inability to draw en plein air? Visual and audio distractions kept me outside of the process. I felt as if my brain fell through the bottom of my skull and landed in my feet. Why hadn't I noticed this before?
I have known for years that I cannot draw unless I become immersed in the experience. I have known that was related to AD/HD, but never extended that knowledge to understanding why attempting to draw in front of people was so difficult. All motion and commotion served to pull my attention away from the act of drawing. No wonder my drawings suffered.
Sketchcrawl #3Ditching the pen, I sharped my pencil, plugged my headphones in, and tuned out the world. Then I drew. Knowing what was getting in my way helped me overcome it. If you compare the truck drawn in pen with the truck drawn in pencil you can see the noticeable difference. I was so emboldened by the success, I immediately sought out a challenging subject: live cows. Those smelly beasties moved about an awful lot, and that was indeed as challenging as it was distracting, but instead of loathing my work I was pleased with it. I had experienced a changing epiphany.

This Saturday is the 26th Worldwide Sketchcrawl. Assuming I am not still sick with my current virus, I will return to Wheeler Farm and DRAW. I know the name and shape of my obstacle now. I can get around it. I'll tune out the distractions. I will draw with confidence. I will enjoy myself.
I am appalled that low self-esteem told me I just couldn't do it, when I could do it if I simply concentrated differently. This one infernal byproduct of ADHD has robbed me of so much joy in my life. Makes me wonder what other failures in my life I blame myself for that can be overcome. I'm certainly going to be looking over my writing process for these stumbling blocks.
I never dreamed that so much of how I view myself was born of poor self-esteem due to years of ADHD induced failure. I never realized that overcoming all that simply takes an attitude adjustment and the knowledge that I can.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Writing Novels with the Apple iPad? Am I Insane?

Generally speaking, I'm constantly short on cash and must save up over a long period of time for my toys. So I find myself in a quandary. My daughter heads off to college with my MacBook in April (as I promised her), but my savings account isn't quite MacBook Pro/Air ready yet. What to do?

iPad Option TwoApple, sensing my need, released the iPad upon the world. The clouds parted. The tech was slick. It was only $499. I was set. Or was I? Had I found my solution, or was I just on another ADHD fueled hunt again?

I use my MacBook for reading news, researching my novel, reading news, blogging, writing my novel, and reading news. I also manage my network & files with it, as well as download an obscene amount of TV content from all over the world. The iPad can easily let me read news, research, and with a VNC app, it can even let me manage my files remotely from my Mac mini, but can I write a book on it? I asked myself that very question weeks ago.

The first problem I conceived was the input method. Even before I saw the iPad or knew what it would be called, I was holding cardboard rectangles of various rumored dimensions and imagining how I'd weld the thing. I even tried to type on the replicas and found the wobbling was going to be a problem. Then hands on reports started to come forward.

On January 28th, John Gruber over at said:

The on-screen iPad keyboard is not bad at all, for what it is, but it’s exactly what you think — it’s for pecking not typing. If you want to do actual writing, you’re going to want a hardware keyboard.

The next day Engadget added more to the conversation:

Typing on the iPad can be a little difficult. Holding it in your lap is fairly easy, but as you can see in our video up above, when it's flat on its back on a table, it tends to move around a bit given that it's curved. If you're holding the device in portrait mode, it's possible (though not that easy) to type with your thumbs, but you're more likely to be hunting and pecking with a single hand (unless you have some large paws). Luckily, when it comes to holding it, Apple provides that large bezel around the side, so you're not actually touching the screen when you're gripping it.

Other people were puzzling over this as I was. Some even created mock-ups of proposed improvements, like Dan Provost and his excellent Typing on the iPad article on January 31st:

In this case the iPhone style keyboard doesn’t scale very gracefully. It sits in an unfortunately middle ground: way too cramped to type with both hands, but too large to be able to comfortably “thumb type”.

Dan proposed splitting the iPad keyboard in half to make the thumb reach easier.

Lastly, on February 2nd Andy Ihnatko's thorough review in the Sun-Times explored the virtual keyboard on an iPad as well as the keyboard dock:

The iPad has soft keyboards available in both landscape and portrait modes. I tried typing on it in landscape mode, where the keyboard is almost full-sized. I have to say that it’s more touch-tappable than touch-typeable. Typing at my normal speed was ... unproductive. But if I slowed down, I could type very fast using both hands. It’s fine for writing emails, but probably poor for writing an essay or a column. Nonetheless I’m certain that I could do a whole 800-word column on the virtual keyboard without suffering too much…

One disappointment: the keyboard dock doesn’t fold flat for travel. I suspect that on-the-go iPad users will want to give it a miss and either buy the Bluetooth keyboard, or wait for an enterprising third party to design a more travel-studly option.

iPad Option OneAlthough I hadn't physically used an iPad, my concerns were being corroborated by those who had. Clearly, the only way to effectively type on the iPad was to purchase the keyboard dock, or at least the easel-ready iPad case.

The other aspect to consider was the available software. Apple has their word processor/desktop publisher, Pages, but I am used to using MarsEdit for blogging and CopyWrite for my novel. They're more than word processors. They organize and archive. I'd have to create a separate document on the iPad and import it into the other apps every day just to keep them in sync. There could be formatting issues, sync conflicts, viruses uploaded by Jeff Goldblum, and no end of headaches.

I then contacted the makers of these apps. Only Red Sweater, the makers of MarsEdit, replied. They have plans to port over to the iPhone, and now the iPad. In fact, it is a certainty. They just need to make the time. Not likely by launch, in my opinion.

So there you have it. The complete state of typing on the iPad without ever typing on one. As things stand now, I might be making a mistake to purchase an iPad as my replacement productivity machine. With all that's going wrong in my head, why make life harder for myself?

Then again, what is more disruptive? A less than perfect solution in the iPad, or no laptop computer at all?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Tell ADHD People Where To Stick It!

(cc) My Toolkit for Reading by wenxinIf you haven't had a chance yet, you might want to head on over to my ADDaboy! blog and check out Post It! Stick It! Remember It! Thanks to a reader comment here on this blog, I decided to explore how useful Post-it notes are, both physical and virtual.

Sometimes ADHD has me so funnel visioned that I don't fully understand a comment somebody says to me. Ever experience that? So focused on one thing you misunderstand what you read or hear? In this case, reader Sy raved about Post-It notes. I don't use Post-It notes. I used to, but stopped years ago. I go into why over at ADDaboy!

So I responded to Sy's comment as if it was a good idea for other people. But as I thought about it, I realized I use a wide variety of Post-It-esque apps and have since 1994. They're just on my computers. Then I realized I actually do use Post-Its, but in their flag form! Where was my head? Where it usually is. Off in orbit around Pluto.

These two products are my absolute favorites:

Bright Color Arrow Flags

Post-it Flag Pen

What do you use around the house? Are you more of a virtual or physical Post-it note user?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Reading “truly, madly” by Heather Webber

I recently had the chance to read an advanced reader copy of Heather Webber’s “truly, madly”

This book was a delightful read. I enjoyed the characters right from the first chapter, but I enjoyed the premise even more. Lucy Valentine’s family has long been able to matchmake by use of their psychic skills to read auras, and they amassed a fortune in the process. Unfortunately, Lucy lost this power when she was fourteen due to an electric shock. Ever since then her psychic power has been to locate lost items. Hardly the talent needed to run a matchmaking business, yet that’s exactly what she has to do when her father takes an unexpected leave out of the country.

The dialogue was snappy and sassy, the romance keen, and the plot moved along quickly. Webber balanced the pacing well without bogging the story down with the different plot lines. There was a smattering of vulgar language, giving this novel a strong PG rating. The novel also dealt with sexual tension, but in a sensual, teasing way, never smutty. Think more like Castle and Moonlighting, less like Gossip Girl. Webber also had a good command of language, especially regarding humor. I found myself often studying the way she delivered punchlines.

As Lucy’s character dealt with the mysteries she tried to solve, and the ramifications of using her talent publicly, Webber stepped up the pace of the story and moved events along quickly. I will be surprised if this novel doesn’t have its movie rights optioned. It seemed made for the jump to the screen, either silver or plasma.

I have to admit that the girlish cover colors had me nervous, but I was determined to open my horizons this year and read something out of my box. I was happily surprised to find myself in love with the characters and enjoying their escapades. This is how I would like my books to affect readers. I want them to forget about their difficult lives and their hang ups and baggage while reading my stories. I’m not sure I’ll ever write great literature. I honestly don’t think it’s within me, but if I can write a book that entertains the way this one entertained me, I will consider that a great accomplishment.

There were a few downsides I encountered while reading “truly, madly”. The descriptions often felt flat and uninspired to me, as if Webber was transcribing notes instead of painting a scene. Also, the scene where Lucy damaged her feet seemed to come out of the blue. I reread the text several times and could find no reference to what caused her injuries. I just assume it happened while she ATVed through the woods without shoes on. Or I could have missed it. I imagine this hole was caught and addressed in the final release.

Overall, a good read. If you are looking for a meaningful exploration of father/daughter relationships and the dynamics of tradition and expectations upon the youth of dynasties, then this isn’t the book for you. If you are in the mood for a light hearted romance with a smattering of mystery, suspense, and adventure thrown in, this book might be just what you’re looking for. Sometimes we just want to be entertained.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Time To Sleep & Dream of Writing

Cascading Light

I had a mixed day today. Some ups; some downs. I finally got over the sickness that's been pounding me down like a tent peg. I had a wonderful conversation with my oldest daughter about her college opportunities. Then I forgot to pick up my second oldest daughter because I was talking with the oldest daughter. I guess that's what they call a wash.

I spent my writing time in Barnes & Noble struggling with their WiFi and then writing a flippant letter in reply to a sarcastic one I received from some customer support worker bee. On the surface, not such a great day. There were other failures as well.

But I don't care about any of that. I worked in my chapter book today(!) and pulled myself out of the bog of revision I had been stuck in for weeks. I wrote new material and became excited about the story again. This was a delightful development. I also prewrote my two columns for ADDaboy! for next week—a major accomplishment. I will have no writing now except for my own all next week until Friday. This is exactly as I planned the juggling act from the beginning. I have high hopes I will continue.

Having ADHD, Depression, and a tic disorder often makes for difficult times, as you can imagine. Worst is not being able to stick to plans. Today, the plan stuck to me. It may be 6:29am, but I am going to sleep with a weight off my shoulders for a change.

Perchance I will dream as well tonight and find new things to write about.

Friday, February 19, 2010

ADDaboy! Tips to Help You Not Forget Things Like I Did Last Night

(cc) Douglas CooteyIn the spirit of self-mockery that I have upkept over the years here, I wrote: Keep Tabs on Your Goods with the ADHD Fuddy Duddy System™

I cover two simple steps that I mostly follow (when I remember) to keep track of my goodies without leaving them behind in train stations, school rooms, and parking lots. Or Target electronics counters. A cane is a three foot long shiny piece of wood, yet I left it and my keys on the counter as I walked away with my purchase. My fifteen year old came up behind me with them and had a good laugh at my expense. I would have noticed they were gone…when I couldn't get into my car.

That reminds me. I have no idea where all my Ray Ban Wayfarer IIs went. Expensive little things. I finally stopped replacing them in the mid 90s. Then I went to work for Dillard's part-time in 2002 and could buy a pair on a discount. I saved up, made my purchase, and dropped them on the pavement a few days later. Wouldn't you know they sought out the roughest part of the pavement on their way down? Somehow I scratched them on the INSIDE. To this day I do not know how I did it. I wore them anyway, but always with a tinge of sadness. The scratch created a blurry patch on my inside right eye which drove me mad when the sun caught it just right. Now they sit in a drawer because I can't wear contacts. But they're not lost! That's an upside, right?

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the article.

This week's goal has been in trying to get my sleep schedule under control. I haven't written in my work in progress at all. I'm looking forward to changing that today. I also plan on writing next week's ADDaboy! articles today. I am tired of remembering I have to write those at 4am the day they are due. With luck, I'll update this blog again later with my progress.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ADDaboy! - 6 TIps to Help Your ADHD Loved One Not Be So Forgetful

Up on ADDaboy! is my latest article for Six Ways to Help Your ADHD Loved One's Forgetfulness

Last week I wrote to people who might be reluctant to believe in this so called ADHD stuff. I used the evidence that is my life to prove that ADHD is real and that we couldn't remember something if it was taped to our nose and blocked our vision. This week I had some tips for them to try to reach through the fog and connect with the few working brain cells of their ADHD loved ones to help them not be so forgetful. Well, the loved ones are going to be forgetful. That much is a lost cause. But there are ways to remind them that are more effective than others. I think you might like the article. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

In the meantime, I am heading off to bed. Sickness has ravaged my body like old age through a nursing home. When I awake, I will write in my work in progress and be happy. But for now, I am feeling several dozen different kinds of blah.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Arose by Any Other Name Would Still Be Defeat

(cc) Douglas CooteyClearer and clearer I am seeing my sleep difficulties as my greatest obstacle towards reaching my writing goals. Although I accomplished much last night, I am paying the cost today.

I missed attending Life, the Universe, and Everything this year. I missed seeing friends, old and new. I missed great discussions and fascinating presentations. I may even miss the date tonight with my wife. Beyond just being upside down from the rest of the world, I am fatigued and listless—ill equipped to fight off illness, both physical & mental.

I sit here absolutely loopy, unable to do much more than interact with family as they buzz around me while I pour thoughts out into my Twitter timeline. How did I get to this pitiful state?

In brief, I was up until 6am because I watched Groundhog Day, Smallville, read Saun Tan's Tales of Suburbia, trolled the web briefly, and spent some time painting a small surprise for my wife. I then laid in bed staring at the ceiling for an hour. Sometime after 7:30am I fell asleep, slept through my alarms, and awoke after 1pm, thoroughly missing my good friend's presentation on Family Friendly Anime. Apparently, the hose on my CPAP had detached. I have no idea how long I slept in that unrestful stupor—too awake to sleep well, but too tired to realize I was suffocating.

Three hours later I sit here, flushed and woozy, most likely in the throes of yet another virus this year. It can all be traced to poor sleep. I was already fighting off a cold before yesterday. After last night, a new bug has taken up residence and booted rest and recuperation out onto the floor. Sleep is as elusive to me as fairy gold. I can't obtain it when I need it. I can't keep it when I have it. When I do get to hold onto sleep, it fades away with the sun leaving no trace.

Since my wife is as ill as I am, I will not be expected to ballroom dance with her tonight. We will not be going out. She loved my little painting, so the Valentine's Day Disaster of 2010 was averted. However, I was looking forward to dinner with her while a 20 piece big band orchestra played in the background. I also thought it would be fun to learn how to ballroom dance. She's already made alternative plans now with our daughters. I will have to rethink my evening and try to chisel out some semblance of personal success so I can let myself fall asleep tonight.

Perhaps "chisel" is too energetic a word. I became tired just typing it. If I type it a few more times, I may even fall asleep right where I sit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pics & Links - Tabs Can Be Happy Things.

Save a Bunch

While I work on my Words Per Day article (where I interviewed various authors about their daily goals), I thought I'd post a photo and some links.

I was surprised how empty Target was when I took this shot. If anything shows the downturn in the economy, this 9:45pm shot does. Target is usually hopping until closing. It' a metaphor for my life at the moment: All stocked up with no action. I need to infuse some life back into my existence. That's why I've decided to attend Life, the Universe, and Everything this Friday & Saturday. I haven't attended that symposium since at least 1997. I figure I should have the first chapter of Sneakers finished and under my belt by Thursday night. It's a good goal.

Building Communities - You've probably read lots of articles on how to create phenomenal blog popularity, but have you seen the advice hand drawn and illustrated? I love Suzanne Cabrera's work. So spontaneous and fresh. I would give my eye teeth and two left cheeks to be able to draw like that, but then I'd look really odd in family photos. Maybe I'll just draw more instead.

The Doctor is…Distracted - A doctor with ADHD? He found his strengths, identified his weaknesses, then tailored his life to fit. Inspirational. Every adult with ADHD needs to do the same if they want to succeed and find happiness.

The writer and self-esteem - How did Janette Rallison know I needed to read this? Warm, funny, insightful article.

I Insist it's Good to Know the Odds When You're Navigating the Publishing World - Brodi Ashton likes to know what she's up against when taking on the publishing world. The greater the odds, the sweeter the victory. Great attitude, and applicable to all matters in life.

Here's to a good day. Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 08, 2010

And the Winner Is…

I want to thank all who participated in The Dark Divine giveaway contest. Your answers were interesting & entertaining. I wish I had more copies to give away. I put your names in my virtual hat and pulled out "Nihon Joe". Congratulations!

Fortunately, Nihon Joe is a local reader and I was able to hand the winning book off to him on Saturday. Now to scrounge up some change and mail off the other books that were won by readers. If you are one of the winners, please harass me via email so that I remember to get your book out to you.

Today I will begin working on my middle grade novel which I have labelled #snkrz. It's short for "Sneakers", who is a cat of unique abilities. Look for tweets with that hashtag as I chart my progress. My goal is to have a first draft done in time for the UVU Forum on Children's Literature.

Depression Came in Through the Back Door

Update 2016: This article was featured in my book "Saying NO to Suicide", with added commentary.

Feeling Blue (cc) Douglas CooteyThere are times when life can be overwhelming. Usually, trauma, injury, death, or heartbreak can knock normally upbeat people off their stride. Then there are people such as myself whose brains are wired in curious, but dysfunctional, ways. We tend to get knocked off our stride if the wind’s blowing the wrong way. Speaking for myself, I am often frustrated how fragile my mind seems. Not hearty or rugged, but delicate and easily crumpled. This tends to make me angry at myself, so I overcompensate in some alpha male way like exercising or attacking a pile of clutter.

This leads me to something I came across last month. There’s been a tab I’ve kept up in my browser for weeks. I’ve wanted to write about it here, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. It’s an article about Depression and fanboys and coping with reality. The problem was that my blog isn't just about mental health anymore. It's about overcoming my obstacles to become an author.

That being said, I believe I now understand how regular folks see people like me. Let me introduce you to Avatar Movie Blues, where fans try to cope with reality after experiencing the heightened utopia of Pandora. I read the article with my mouth agape. I smirked. I snickered. My eyebrows went up and down like two caterpillars having a belly laugh. Could these people be for real? Could they seriously want to commit suicide because reality paled in comparison to Cameron’s 3D fantasy? Only a few paragraphs were read in chuckle, but then I was quite troubled by what I read.

There, but for the grace of God, goes Douglas Cootey.

Truthfully, most of my sardonic mirth came from the fact that the authors of the article mined a fan site’s forum for comments in order to write their article. Fans are known for their hyperbolic drama. Obviously, these fans were experiencing cognitive dissonance. But a real crisis? It all seemed a bit silly until I realized that triggers for Depression are unique to the individual. I may be baffled at the idea of a CG movie pushing a person towards suicide, but then who was I to judge?

I was depressed myself, and I didn’t even know it. The rejection hit me harder than I had planned. So much for reaching an important milestone… Coupled with illness and insomnia, the rejection tipped the scales for me and I spent most of last week in a funk.

I wasn’t depressed because I was rejected. I see a difference between disappointment, which would have been expected, and Depression, which is like having my brain knocked of its track. The rejection was simply a trigger for the Depression, which always lurks underneath. Others who suffer from Depression as I know all too well of this lurker. Sometimes the chemicals are off for no reason at all, but many times there is a trigger that causes the blackness to sneak in like fog in the night.

I haven’t lost a week to Depression in a very long while. I don’t ask to be Depressed. I don’t choose to lose days to sadness. In fact, I get quite upset with myself when it happens. I can, however, choose to compensate for Depression and lift my spirits in some way. It’s hard work, but I have learned that the results are worth the labor.

When I figured out what was happening in my head by Friday evening, I started playing snappy music, and cleaned my studio—took me hours—but the end result was that I had made a mental shift for the better. I’m not exactly cheery yet, but I’m determined to get there.

Now I know for certain that my “Avatar” this year will be the rejection. I’ve received rejections before with no troubles. In fact, I received that rejection with no trouble, but I was apparently vulnerable this last time. Once I slipped into Depression I began to doubt myself. I know not to expect good news with each reply, but the rejection fed into the Depression until I began to feel I had no worth. So silly, I know. As I said before, it’s not logical. I certainly don’t feel that way now. It was a trick of the mind.

I’ll simply have to mentally prepare for disappointment in the future. I know that there will be many more rejections coming my way. That’s the nature of the business. I can’t have random binary packets of disappointment triggering bouts of Depression. I’ll have to have certain safeguards in place just in case I am down on the day a rejection arrives.

I dropped my guard this time. I haven’t been bowled over this badly in a long while. I aim to not let that happen again.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Enough Is Enough

Last night at this time I was standing in line to get a burger. Tonight I'm lying down in bed trying to turn my sleep schedule around.

If you follow me here or on Twitter, you know what a raving insomniac I am. After a bout of sickness last December, my schedule was flipped far out of control—even worse than the moon in Space: 1999. Without the benefit of a cute Mia with mannish sideburns to magically fix things, I've been left to my upside down fate. 

I've worked hard on the project this month, and that has only made the schedule worse as I did all my heavy writing in the still hours of the night and made a habit of it. But I can't keep on this way. This is why I've stayed up for 26 hours. I'm finally tired and ready to crash. It seems to me that I will need to make flipping my schedule a priority for the next few days. I truly feel my insomnia is a key obstacle in my life.

Sleep fatigue makes ADHD & my motor tic disorder worse. It dampens my writing as well. Perhaps with better sleep I'll also feel more like myself again. A lot of life has lost its savor for me lately.

How do you deal with insomnia? Do you use medications to regulate it, or do you live with the upside down schedule?

UPDATE: Only five hours of sleep. I can address the going to bed part of insomnia, but I'm not sure what to do about the staying asleep part.

Dang, That Was Fast!

(cc) Douglas CooteyFirst thing I saw when I woke up yesterday was a new email from the agent. Unfortunately, it is not good news. Turns out that although the agent agrees with me that my revisions have improved the story, he isn't sure my story is strong enough to capture a publisher's attention, which could simply mean he's not that excited about representing the story. Or the story isn't his cup of tea. Or the story stinks. There were no more helpful suggestions. End of the road with this particular agent. I will be getting a lot of this kind of news throughout the year if I'm serious about this project.

Since I manage Depression I am always on the lookout for triggers. Events that might disappoint a person with a healthy mind may send a depressive into a deep well of misery. By keeping tabs on my feelings I can prevent myself from slipping into a funk when I recognize the signs. It wasn't until this afternoon as I read the rejection that I suddenly realized I had set myself up for a world of hurt this year. Most successful authors received dozens upon dozens of rejections before making it. If each rejection triggers an depressive episode, I'm in trouble.

We can't have that. In the spirit of managing my Depression by shining a light on it, I've made the above graphic to announce my failure. That may seem counterintuitive, but I found the process cathartic. Why hide and sulk when I can stand on a desk and announce it boldly? I am determined to see this project to the end. Depression and low self-esteem will not rob me of success again.

Now to write for ADDaboy!. I mustn't lose a beat in my progress. Then later I will choose three agents to mail my story out to. I may revisit #tkahk again down the road, but for now I need to let it rest and move on to #snkrz, my early middle grade novel. This will be challenging to remember to continually send out #tkahk while trying to keep positive so that I write in #snkrz daily. Despite my ADHD, it is a necessary skill to develop.

Got any tips? Leave them below in the comments and I'll write them up in an article later for others to learn from.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Rejections as Therapy - Opportunities to Think Positive

Pretty DirtyAs my little nightowls retire to their nests, the home becomes my silent domain again. In the quiet, I can finally think.

Tonight I am thinking about the manuscript I finished on Saturday. I polished it throughout the day, then again at night. I felt confident enough about the story to email it to the agent who gave me suggestions last time. I don't know why, but this feels different than my magazine and web page gigs. The funny thing is that the manuscript is a short, wee sprig of words. My last article was nine times longer, a veritable tree in comparison. What's to worry about? It's not as if I've never heard "No thanks" before.

In the past, however, I would worry. Adults with ADHD tend to have low self-esteem, robbing them of the tools they need to succeed. I'll be writing about this problem over at ADDaboy! later this week. Thankfully, I'm not having a problem with self-esteem. I'm actually quite excited. When I received the rejection for #tkahk four weeks ago, I mused at what a different person I had become.

For comparison, I'll start with a rejection I received from Dragon Magazine seventeen years ago. I had just finished a fourteen month gig as a partner in a fantasy gaming company. I was the artist. Our layout dictated that all our images fit within a 5"x5" area. Since I had made dozens of illustrations, I sent the best to various magazines, including Dragon. I received form rejections from all except Dragon, which was hand written. In short, I was rejected because the art director felt their artists needed to draw in more than a square format.

Silly, I know, but I was so angry about at the time. How insulting, I thought. And stupid. I ranted to everyone who would listen. Then I sent off my portfolio to another magazine and received another rejection. At that time, I had just become disabled. I took the rejections hard and stopped drawing fantasy art altogether.

A few years ago my subconscious mind had a question for me. "Why didn't I ever send that art director more illustrations proving I could draw outside of a box?" I was gobsmacked. An art director had written to me personally. Fine, he didn't make any sense at the time, but how hard would it have been to send him more work? I had my foot in the door. Instead, I walked away.

I learned later how ADHD and Depression affected self-esteem. It is one thing to have a diagnosis, but completely another thing to understand how the neurological maladies affect you—to actually see the effects that ADHD and Depression had on my psyche and how those effects don't have to be lasting. I started then to mend the wrong pathways in my mind that had been heavily tread since youth. That is why, when I received a rejection from that agent four weeks ago, I didn't walk away. I leapt forward at the opportunity:

Dear Mr. Cootey:

Thanks for sharing your manuscript with me. I think you have the spirit
of a beginning reader, short sentences and rhythm and a positive, encouraging tone. But I think there needs to be more of a story. Do the young hikers meet any creatures? Is there one vista in particular that is beautiful? It needs more of a story arc…

Almost two decades ago I would have focused only on the negatives in that letter. Ten years ago, they would have stood out in my mind in 50 point type. Even five years ago, I would have downplayed the kind, encouraging words. I am so relieved that I have successfully retrained myself to think positively and to have greater faith in myself.

I'm writing about this today because I felt it was an important milestone for me to have reached and thought others might learn from it. We don't have to be victims of ADHD, Depression, or of other neurological ailments. We may never be free of them, but we don't need to let them be shackles on our self-esteem.

I looked at that email, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. It took me four weeks, and I don't know if he'll like what I've done, but I know the story is better for his input. I can't express enough how happy I am to be given a chance at success again, especially considering how many opportunities I let pass me by due to past low self-esteem. This opportunity may not amount to anything. The agent could still reject the manuscript. But I know now that I've truly crossed a threshold, whereas before I only hoped that I had.

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