Thursday, April 14, 2016

Guest Post with author Shauna Roberts

More than Death and Taxes by Shauna Roberts
“In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes,” Benjamin Franklin wrote to a correspondent in a time when uncertainties—plagues and other contagions, the dangers of childbirth, the dangers of travel, confusion about the causes of diseases and how to treat them, even lack of confidence about the safety of food and water—caused the most worry and anxiety.

The world has changed. As writers, we become experts in the uncertainties of publishing. We become comfortable tapdancing on the razor’s edge between success and failure; otherwise, sleepless nights and painful stomachs end our writing careers.

Franklin, a writer and publisher among many other things, would be astonished that certainties, not uncertainties, prevail today as our bugaboos, at least for writers. In addition to deaths and taxes, writing must pushed aside for time-consuming, but now considered necessary, good-health habits such as exercising; getting a full night’s sleep; eating a healthy diet; and, in my case, frequent visits to doctors, dentists, blood labs, and pharmacies. At least these interruptions yield benefits, such as lengthening our writing life and making it more pleasant.

More annoyingly, vexations that didn’t exist when I—and perhaps you—started writing now are part of my daily routine, day after frustrating day: the phone rings many times, and caller i.d. reveals the callers to be pollsters, fundraisers, and companies that want to renovate our house; messages that in the past would not have merited a phone call or letter now flood my email box; maintenance of a social media presence is now considered essential for a writer; an avalanche of junk postal mail that requires opening to remove the nonrecyclables arrives; I must visit specialists for illnesses that didn’t even have names 30 years ago.

I once wrote routinely from 9 am to 5 or 6 pm. The 21st-century certainties of constant interruptions and personal-care obligations now make a writing routine a nostalgic dream.

Perhaps your tolerance for these new daily obligations is higher than mine. They hang around my neck like millstones, and I must fight to keep them from dragging me down. My newest weapon in this battle is the discovery that, with effort, one can establish other certainties, other daily routines, that enhance writing and daily life instead of degrading them.

You may be wiser than me and have already learned this truth. But until recently I was too overburdened with unpleasant daily tasks and unwanted obligations to recognize that some routines can be enjoyable, even fun.

Then, with drought in California and resulting restrictions in water use, I turned the parcel of yard outside my office window and that outside my husband’s into xeriscaped gardens to attract birds, bees, and butterflies.

The octave-doubled, pentatonic-tuned wind chimes I hung outside my office window awoke me to the pleasant possibilities of certainties. The chimes tinkle almost constantly in the relentless desert wind, and I love it. The wind is no longer just something that drives dust into the house and blows over trees, trashcans, and flower pots; it also produces soothing background music.

Similarly, I long resisted daily aerobic exercise because it would take so much time out of my writing day. But soon after I finally started, I stopped feeling guilty because those 40 minutes on the elliptical benefited my writing: I gained a clearer head, amped-up energy, and guaranteed time for the reading all writers should do.

The xeriscaped gardens created another certainty good certainty in my life. Anytime I look outside, birds or squirrels are eating, playing, fighting, sunning, or bathing. In a 5-minute break, I am sure to see something that makes me smile or laugh.

Now I am pondering other possible routines that might be both beneficial and pleasant. Here are my goals for daily practices so far:

* Meditate every day (10–15 minutes) to create energy and reduce stress.

* When the weather is good, meditate in one of the xeriscaped gardens with birdsong all around.

* Clean off my desk and keep it clean (not the fun part of this goal) to create the certainty that I can find whatever I’m looking for (definitely fun, with the bonus of more writing time).

* Spend at least 2 hours each week doing something creative to refill the well.

* Tell my husband I love him every day.

* Call one of my siblings at least once a month.

* Do a “daily act of kindness” even on days I don’t leave the house by using social media to encourage or praise a fellow writer or spread news of their new book or story.

Have you also ever gotten into the rut of one Sisyphean day after another, with nothing to look forward to except going to bed? What practices or routines did you implement to reduce the burden of 21st-century obligations and have more fun? I look forward to reading your comments.

Shauna Roberts writes science fiction, fantasy, romance, and historical fiction and is a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, and bellydancing. Her historical novels Like Mayflies in a Stream and Claimed by the Enemy are set in ancient Mesopotamia, the world’s first civilization. Claimed by the Enemy won the 2014 National Readers Choice Award for Novel with Romantic Elements and the 2015 Romancing the Novel contest in the “Ancient/Medieval/Renaissance” category. Her new fantasy novel, Ice Magic, Fire Magic, takes place in a sentient land in which women wield the magic of creation, and men have the magic of destruction.

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About Ice Magic, Fire Magic:

In the sentient land of Veridia, Fila dreams of a simple future: using her women’s magic of creation to help the Toiler people of the countryside. But when Veridia loses its Servant—the human conduit linking Veridia and its peoples—it chooses Fila as its new Servant.

Mourning her lost dreams and doubting her worthiness, Fila sets out for the capital to be invested. On her trip, assassins attack, sent by a usurper with corrupted magic. Fila escapes, barely, with the help of two unlikely allies: Celatu, a secretive scholar who has renounced his male magic of destruction, and Shadow, an ancient evil spirit who is eager to help Fila . . . for a price.
When those she trusts most betray her, Fila must draw on her own resources to reach the capital and fight the usurper to attain her destiny as Servant . . . a destiny she doesn’t even want.

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