Archive for the ‘Career Angst’ Category

Change: pt. 2

by on Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

My husband and I have been cleaning house. He has a new job, investment building, and he needs more space in his office. We have been purging old paperwork, making room for receipts and invoices, blueprints and design ideas. We both got new computers. There is more purge-of-the-old in transferring my life onto an new laptop. [Funny story: My husband thought that all my documents and computer stuff would fit on a thumb-drive. I was a little horrified to think that my entire life, a 9 year old computer, would fill such a small thing. Was that all that I was worth? Anyway, it didn’t. The photos alone filled the little driver. My music needed to be transferred to a hard drive. And then there were my books. All my writing filled another drive. I AM worth more that a thumb-drive!]

In the face of all the change-ness coming, I am also re-inventing myself as a writer. My perspective is changing, so is my image of the out-ward me.

My Turn To Grow Up has been a great venue for me to express my fears and loves. It  has been a place to vent and cry, explain and reason. But like an old notebook, it’s time to close the cover on these worn out pages. It’s time for me to turn over a new leaf. (I love this grounding platitude.)

Today I have a new website. I am no longer hiding behind a nameless entity, I am coming out to the world as Tracey Strohm Phillips, Author. In embracing my maiden name, there is a lot of fear coming up. There are issues I need to face involving my dad and brother. Issues that won’t be resolved painlessly. My need to write is growing. I have two new thrillers bouncing around in my head. Thrillers that are trying to escape. Thrillers that want to be written.

In the process, I feel like I’m bouncing off walls in a pitch dark room.

Tummy Trouble

by on Sunday, June 21st, 2015

Having esophagus issues- in metaphysics- means life is hard for you to swallow. Hard to get down. At the same time, lungs fill with possibilities. Or they don’t. When there are too many possibilities, or not enough, it becomes difficult to breathe. These are just 2 of the physical symptoms my mom is suffering from these days.

In an attempt to come to terms with all the physical issues that are plaguing my mother, I see the metaphysical reasons for the illness. Good or bad, I see how her personality caused her physical disabilities. The list is too extensive to tell all here,  but includes auto-immune disease of the connective tissue, asthma and mico-bacterial infection of her lungs and hiatal hernia. She has issues swallowing, breathing and now moving. She’s been on prednisone  for going on 4 years.

You may not agree with me, but I believe that we are our own creators. I believe that for what ever reason, we prove ourselves right. Our thoughts manifest in our bodies.

I have been unable to digest it all and have caused myself some difficulty in the process. I’m working on taking it in: processing. I can handle this. Life changes. I will find a way to get everything done.

I tell myself, “Take it slow. Take it with a spoon of sugar…or a dose of enzymes.”

New Dawn

by on Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Just when you have a plan…This Spring has been a whirlwind. Between conferences and recitals, I finished editing Elements with a professional editor. I’ve sent pitches to twenty agents. While waiting for those responses, I’ve been planting tomatoes (24), lettuce (12) and herbs. I planted cucumbers (4) and zucchini (4)  too. Flowerpots (Six 18″ and 3 small ones) and hostas (25). I’m taking up a new career as a two piano player with a friend and have begun practicing new piano pieces. I started to do re-writes to Sumac. And just when I thought things would settle down and give me time, my Mom got sick again.

In the past 2 weeks I’ve been back to Indy to help her get back on her feet. It will be a long road for her and I’m infinitely worried. Mike took me to Chicago for my birthday after that. A splash of fun after a week of helping out Mom. But I’ll save the details of that for another blog.

I haven’t written a single new thing since April.

My summer schedule starts next week…that only means that I start earlier 2 days a week, but I get done earlier too. I’m doing yoga 4x a week to clear my head and give some sanity back. We have plans to go to Concerts on the Square and American Players Theater.  We have plans to go to Culver with my family again in July…a lake trip at the old family cottage. And in August, I have the Police Academy for Writers.

Things aren’t slowing down.

On top of that, Mike has begun a project with friends, building four houses. He will be working hard, long hours. We have a deck to stain and trim to get hung. We have windows to paint and yard-work to do. And I doesn’t stop there. The garage needs to be gutted, I swear there are raccoons living in a back corner underneath all the piles of trash. And the wind has taken it’s anger out on the trees over our driveway.

I haven’t been to Bujinkan training since May. Before that, once in April. I guess something had to give. If I’ve given that up, you can’t believe what it took for me to get here today.

When I woke up, I planned on putting my fingers to the type pad, but kept thinking of all the other things that need doing. I had to drag myself away from email and work communications. My fingers are fighting it now. Words come like pulling healthy teeth. Without pain killers. With the pliers in my own hands.

Now my teeth hurt.

I’ll get there. Life gets thick with to-do lists sometimes. Then, like a refreshing morning dawn, all those things clear out of the way and make room for what I want to do. Life will settle down. I have to keep telling myself that for sanity’s sake. I have to have hope.

Maybe today is the day of new dawn.


by on Friday, October 3rd, 2014

“No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, … and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire.”

Sometimes, having a sick day means taking time off of writing too…Nope. Not really. Not for the writer in me. So far I’ve written a new chapter in the YA fiction, and a post on one of my blogs…Now this post. None of it means a thing, just getting junk out of my head.

I’m close. Really close to finishing Sumac. I’m in a (almost) final editing stage, eliminating chapters that are unnecessary, adding new ones to propel the plot forward. The goal is to ‘git her done’ by the end of October. Then I’ll put some of it out there. a few of you may be asked to read it and provide valuable feedback. Then I’ll do another round of editing and send it out to the world to become another turned down manuscript. I may take it to New York next summer when I go to Thriller Fest.

All of this is speculation of course, because today I am PROCRASTINATING.

TOP TEN ways to procrastinate if you are a writer…

10)Clean bathrooms. Bathrooms, at least in my house, are always in need of cleaning.

9) Clean the kitchen. The same goes for this particular room.

8) Call your mom. She would love to hear all the valuable and productive ways you are spending  your time.

7) Weed pulling. Depending on the season, but even in WI this can be done 3 out of 4 seasons during the year.

6) Any random errands that need to be done?

5) Walk the dog. The dog actually loves to help in this capacity.

4)Reading. Anything works here, books not written by you, articles about writing…

3) Facebook. This also falls into the category of reading, but it’s more useless information that won’t help you get anywhere.

2) Twitter. I’m not a professional tweeter yet, but could see how this can suck up tons of valuable time.

1)Blogging. Although it seems like writing, it’s actually the best, most efficient use of procrastination time.

Angsty Artist

by on Friday, June 20th, 2014

An agent has asked to read my book!!! …the whole book! I got the email yesterday, she enjoyed the first 50 pages and wants to delve deeper! I jumped for joy:) I jumped in the living room, I screamed and hollered “Yes, yes, yes!!!” I jumped up and down in the parking lot of Menards, and down the isles, and called my friends and patted myself on the back. I was so excited! I made it past the first phase to the next level. I have worked hard for this moment, I’ve worked very hard! Though even as I jumped for joy, I realize that it, the book that is, could still be rejected. I am prepared for that. I think.

But at least I have made an impression on someone and she’s willing to read the whole thing. What ever feedback she has will be invaluable.

And yet…and yet I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat wondering, “What will become of me.”

And “What have I done?”

I sent it to her this morning.

“What have I done.”

Mike and I discussed how this could be the next 50 Shades, my novel takes the concept to the next level (Yea, I noticed the parallel too, I like the game analogy a lot). But…

What have I done.

I realize that you haven’t read my book. You couldn’t possibly understand that I will want to remain anonymous. That I need to remain anonymous. I have a pen name, and nope…I won’t tell you that either. But getting an agent is prime! It could propel my career into the ozone. Or not. The whole thing is, it’s hard to say. I’ve done enough research on the industry to know that it is terribly hard to make a living as a writer. Even harder to be seen in a sea of millions of books. Only a select few ever make it to the top, to stardom, to become household words. Or get made into movies.

So why should I worry???

I don’t really understand why I have so much angst over this book. You saw the post on adrenaline? I’ve admitted I’m a junkie, and I’ll get it any way I can!

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve spent my whole life worrying about what other people  think…Oh yea, then I realize that I have. Seems like a ridiculous thing to be so concerned about. But isn’t that the sense of good and bad that we all have? The sense not to harm or get in someone elses’ way? I guess not everyone has those values, now that I think about it.

I could go into a very lengthy discussion about why I am this way, but it would bore you to tears. It bores me now. So I need to get to the point and move past this obstacle.

I don’t want to lose my job teaching piano, but in contrast, I would be happy to switch over to a writing career. I love teaching piano, (I had 5 new students yesterday) and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. But would love the opportunity to make a career writing! Dual personality me. The twins of Gemini are making themselves very prominent in my life right now. Sure, I’ve always been good at doing two things at once, and having two careers could be a perfect fit. Somehow I need to make it work.

Here’s a crazy thing. I finished book two of the dark trilogy and just as I have quit that and moved on to something else…Just as I’ve begun work on my YA fiction again for the next Writer’s Conference, (something that I can feel good about and tell everyone that I’m writing) this agent has thrown me back into the world of Elements. And given a ray of hope that it could make it to publication. Or was it a ray of horror?

What have I done. It is my mind on display.

Angsty artist.

Social Skills Lacking: Formal Apology to Mr. Bransford

by on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

I am showing signs of ADHD. Or at my advancing age, probably Alzheimer’s. Well, probably not. This weekend I was at a writer’s conference here in Madison. It was Fantastic! The classes and information, the one on one sessions with industry professionals.  My head was spinning with information by the end of the first day…twirling by the end of the second and I was dizzy, holding on to solid objects by the end of the third. I guess I can cut myself a little slack for the story I’m about to tell you.

For the past two days I’ve been processing the information, dreaming about it and rewriting parts of my book in my head. And for some reason, one particular exchange keeps coming back to me. And I want to apologize formally to the poor victim of my advancing forgetfulness. Blame it on the weekend. Blame it on ‘brain too full to operate optimally’.

Formal Apology here: I am sorry, Nathan Bransford.

On the afternoon of the second day, I walked into the book sellers room seeking more…something. Insight, beautiful musings from fellow writers, inspiration. My head was packed with ideas and I had just come from lunch with another local writer, and having connected with her, I was feeling pretty high on myself. I was probably talking to myself. In fact, I can’t remember if I was talking on the phone at the time, or texting with my husband, or just conversing in my mind as I sometimes do…with myself.

So I entered this room, and right front and center, was this individual, a speaker from the conference, whose writings regarding the publishing world, and about writing in general, I have been following since last year at this same conference where he was also a speaker and highly touted individual whose progressive ideas were wowing the local community. That was a very long sentence.

As I was saying, he was front and center standing behind a tiny table where his books (fresh off the press) were stacked. How to write a Novel. He was rearranging them, restacking them. For some reason, as if we had been talking all along, or as if he had any idea who in the hell I was, I walked up and said to him, “Oh. Rearranging your piles, not a good sign.” There must have been some hidden (in fact so well hidden that the Hubble telescope couldn’t find it) irony there that he would miraculously see. I picked up his book and began to look it over. [This is where I should have asked how his stay in Madison had been.] Or [I could have told him that I was a big fan of his blog.] Revisionist history also prompts me to say, [Nathan, I really enjoyed your speech yesterday morning, my name is Tracey.] But no. The next thing I remembered saying was, “So, you’ve got a book on writing that you’re selling to writers.”

Could I dig myself a little grave now?

The poor Mr. Bransford did not answer,  perhaps too stupefied by my inappropriateness.  I looked over the book and did in fact purchase it, for he is much more knowledgable than I on the subject. And almost forgot to have him sign it. He probably thought I didn’t want it signed.  I behaved so badly.

Well, just in case Nathan Bransford ever reads this blog I want him to know that I sincerely apologize for my inability to communicate at that particular moment. You are highly reguarded by me, even if I can’t spell the word. I took to heart your advice at the beginning of the conference, and especially loved number nine, “Be thankful for what you have.” It reminded me what an adult student said to me a few months ago, “Tracey, you are living the dream.” At the time I was surprised by his statement, and doubted the veracity. But I know it to be true now.

So thank you, Mr. Bransford, from the stupid woman at the writer’s conference. I hope I am better at putting words together on a page than I appeared to be in social situations. I am loving your book and referencing it, it helps to keep me sane.

Don’t Be an Eyesore

by on Friday, February 21st, 2014

Isn’t it funny? Been a weird week. I can’t be sure if it’s just my freaking hormones, or more. I spend too much time alone. Thinking. Processing.

So what is it about 2014 that everything is starting new. New accounting systems. New bathroom and remodeling. New carpet, new porch. New contacts…and a first time eye prescription for me. New ways of doing things. New book to work on. New problems, and new solutions. And I’ve found out I’m to receive a new (for me) piano. With that comes new music, and new expectations. New things to practice, and new arrangements of furniture. Also, it brings back the old.

I was wondering today, if maybe, behind everything…the thing that really made my mom and aunt sick in the first place was unspoken expectations. (In meta physics the lungs stand for possibilities.) Was there pressure to be someone that they’re not? I feel it. I’ve felt it all my life. THIS is who you are. THIS is who you represent. Live up to it, or live in the dog house.

And now the piano. (first of 2) Although it seems like I passive/ aggressively asked for it by telling her flat out that she should not give it to the university, I could not have anticipated that she would give it to me. I was never worthy. In many ways I did not live up to her expectations, and she has told me so.  A long time ago. But apparently now I do. She is finished with it and wants to retire, and doing so in such a way that she won’t have to accept any more requests to play two piano pieces with anyone anymore. I respect that. I hope I have such presence of mind when I am 95.

I’m feeling pressured by it though. Unspoken pressure to fulfill some destiny that she has in mind for me. A destiny that I don’t want. Honestly, I will never be able to live up to that.  Never. I hope she never asks to hear me play her piano. I’ve never been good enough to fulfill her expectations. The only ones who can are good enough are concert pianists and APA winners. I am not that person.

Ugh. Add to that that I’ve been beating myself up hard for this crazy phych thriller that I’m writing. I am two people right now. I am the piano teacher, and I am writer of darkness. This second book is taking a toll on me, but I can’t stop it. It’s a story that’s been inside me for decades, needing to be told. Perhaps its that story bringing me down. I’m getting too into my characters. Too connected to them and their dark destinies.

I feel singed, and overly sensitized. Beaten. I feel pressure of wanting to finish, wanting to fulfill a destiny that I have chosen, even though that destiny seems  so hard to reach right now. But I guess that it makes sense that the obstacles placed in my way are obstacles of my own choosing. Yet they have always been there. It will finally be up to me to move around them or be buried by them. Just like having two pianos in my living room, figure it out, or they become obstacles. Big ones.

But for me right now, the biggest obstacle, burden, weight around my neck…is how to tell the story that I need to tell without becoming a pariah. Be the writer. But be a music teacher too.  Perhaps the books will never be published, Perhaps they need only to be finished.

Apologies Due

by on Friday, September 13th, 2013

Writing is a dangerous sport. Blogging, even more so. I should have realized that last year when my love read over the first draft of my book. He told me that he liked it…but that was the grain of salt that came with weeks of fighting over the criticism due to my poor writing style.  It was all good in the end, everything he said was exactly what I needed to hear, but I just hadn’t wanted to hear it from him.  Goddess bless him, he has not wanted to read any more of my verbal spillage since then. I can’t blame him for that.

My husband, my lover, my best friend. The man I cannot imagine a life without, not even in my wildest fantasies. So he had some things to say about the organisation of the novel, and the character development and the plot, and the grammar, and well, just about everything. I know, I know, but he liked it. Criticism is hardest when it comes from the ones you love. I of all people should know that the best. My family is famous for their “tough love.” That’s putting it in nice terms for those of you who don’t know them.

But a few days ago I posted a blog entry titled Air Confined. Deleted now, I posted it without editing it and without thinking much about what I was saying.  For some odd reason, after a year of ignoring my pleas to read some of my junk, my dearest husband decided to read the unbridled hurtful entry.  I realize now that remarks I made therein made it seem that I was preparing for some disastrous event, or worse, preparing to leave Michael. That is not at all the case.

The words (rearranged, these letters also spell a different word, which could be substituted here: sword) which poured from my fingertips were actually interrupted stream of consciousness. Typically when I write in the morning, I go back and forth between emails, and discussing the day with my beloved, getting breakfast and tending to the dog. Many interruptions. This particular entry was about me and what I have discovered about my nature. That I am an air sign, (read, ‘head in the clouds’) tied to the earth by lots of grounding Taurus (read, ‘feet planted, stubbornly’). I am not fire, burning with desire, or water, able to flow or carve out a new path. This is what I know about myself.

What I wrote didn’t seem to be new information to anyone who has known me for a long time, rather, I thought it was more of a clarification. A clarification to myself. I never in a million years expected Mike to read what I now realize was disjointed thoughts, gummed together in a way that missed the mark entirely. And worse, was easily misconstrued.

We are in the midst of change, Michael and I. Our children have moved out, we are getting some things done to the house. Our furniture is being moved all about and when it is done, it will seem like we are beginning an entirely new life together. With a new future. It feels good, really good to be going that road together, finally. But it’s hard for me to sit and wait for it when I can easily envision what I fore see as our future. I love changes and long for them ultimately. I find it fun and exhilarating too, as hard as it is for me to move my feet.

In that last entry I described myself as a tree, rooted to the ground, with my head in the clouds. It fits, I am comfortable with that description.  And I hope to stay rooted to Michael, in our very grounding relationship, forevermore. He completes me. Where I am lacking, he fills me in. Where I am deficient, he pours in love. I can only hope that I do as much for him, though after causing him so much pain, I really don’t think that’s possible.

I love you “mon sweet.” I am sorry.




by on Monday, August 12th, 2013

Be careful what you wish for…A lesson I’ve seen and heard about. Some times the results are humerus, or God forbid, painful.  The lesson for me this time was an honor, bestowed heavily on my conscience. A responsibility so great that I fear I will never live up to it.

For many years I have burned with jealousy and bitterness that my grandmother didn’t have enough faith in me to pass along her pianos to me. She willed them to an institution which has in the past few years shown her so little respect after she has gifted them hundreds of thousands of dollars, and supported their programs for Choirs and Symphony with donations like a concert grand Steinway piano: a gift which they thanked her for by scheduling the grand unveiling of it while she was away on vacation.  The way they treated her, showing so little respect, has made me very angry. I could not believe that she still held out hope that they would honor her gift, a rare pair of matched Steinway Grand Pianos, and treat them with any kind of respect that honored her last wishes.

Finally this summer, she has had it with them and their disrespect. They refused to let the APA program director use a room with a piano to celebrate her 95th birthday. They wanted to charge $1500 to her. My mom and her sister were irate over this. After all my grandmother had done for them, they refused this one small concession, a room for two hours.

No one wanted them to receive that gift any more. Not my mom, not my aunt, and especially not me.

I was shocked and stunned at how quickly she changed her mind over it. With the speed and quickness that had me reeling on the floor, my grandmother told me that I would be inheriting those two pianos. Shock followed. Gratefulness. Tears. I had always thought I wanted them. I can’t remember not wanting them, and I can’t even remember not feeling bitter. That she didn’t think I could handle them or take care of them the way she wanted. That she didn’t want me to have them. That I didn’t live up to her standards.

Since they can’t really be separated, she wants them to go to one person. Now, that person is me.

I am honored. I am grateful. I’m humbled into speechlessness.  I can only hope that I live up to it. Be careful what you ask for…

Ongoing Saga of the Lost Writing Career

by on Monday, June 24th, 2013

Happy Birthday Karissa Knight! You are one year old today!

It has been difficult to keep up. Though I’ve heard nothing from the other two agents I’ve submitted my work to, I’ve been so  busy with teaching this month that I’ve had very little time to sit and write. I’ve taken 6 new students while a few are still fazing out, quitting lessons, so my workload has been enormous. Not to mention the fact that no one is on vacation yet.  I did complete my latest draft of Elements, and I feel it is the very best yet. Still, I haven’t been able to find anyone to read it. I think my friend, another aspiring writer and I will begin partnering up. Meaning, I’ll read her’s and she’ll read mine, beginning later this summer, if she has time. She still has one child at home, in high school…she’s standing at the doorway to freedom.

So I’ve begun working on Elements of Submission. With the limited amount of time I have in the mornings now, I’ve found it difficult to sit down for any length of time and be creative. Hense the lack of entries in this journal as well. The book will start out with a bang though, that’s something I’ve figured out from my first year of writing. The other thing I’ve figured out is, of the 40 pages I wrote of Submission last winter, 80% was crap. I believe I’ve come a long way in improving my technique and style, for the better, hopefully. Proceeding slowly. Cautiously.

The next step will be submitting to 4 more agents. Finding the time for researching who and contacting them will be another issue…for July. It’s been a year. Book two is coming.