Week 13: A New Sound

This week my something new is one I have been resisting for months (maybe even years if I’m honest). Before I get into it, here’s a little background. I am hard of hearing, and as a result I have had to wear hearing aids for over a decade. I have a love/hate relationship with my hearing aids. On the one hand, I am very thankful they exist, that they enable me to hear things I otherwise would miss, and I am thankful I am in a position in life where I am able to get them. On the other, I hate the ringing I hear when a particular tone causes feedback, or when something gets too close to my head (such as when someone hugs me). I hate when the battery starts to die in the middle of a conversation causing me to miss part of what was said and then stop the conversation to change the battery. I hate how much they cost and the fact that they are not covered by my insurance, (I could go on a very long rant on that topic, so we will leave it there for now), and I hate how when I go to the audiologist office to get my hearing aids services, the posters on the wall are all of people clearly of retirement age. It would be nice to have someone my age who wears hearing aids to talk to, someone who can relate…
Anyway, I have always worn in-the-ear aids, I’ve had to update them a couple times as my hearing has worsened, but over the past several months, maybe even years, the problem has clearly worsened to the point where the hearing aids just weren’t working enough. The last time I got new hearing aids, the over-the-ear aid was suggested, but I resisted. In my mind, it was bad enough I had to wear hearing aids, but to wear aids that people could see was just not a step I was ready to take. So, a couple months ago, I discussed the option of an over-the-ear aid and finally I decided the daily misery and isolation I was feeling from not being able to hear normal conversations was worse than the idea of an over-the-ear hearing aid, so I got them. I had to wait a couple weeks for them to be customized and delivered, but I got them the day before the writing conference I wrote about in my previous entry.
I still don’t love the fact that I need hearing aids, but I definitely love my new hearing aids. With the technology currently available for my over-the-ear aids, I can adjust the sound with an app on my phone, they have Bluetooth, so I can listen to music and take calls on my phone without came without needing to take my aids out and put headphones in. That was always frustrating when I was around people and we were doing separate things. If I was listening to music, then they said something, I’d have to take out the headphones, put in my hearing aids, and by then the moment had passed. It was frustrating for all involved. My new aids also came with an accessory that is basically a directional mic that the person I’m talking with can clip to their shirt, which makes it easier to hear them in crowded, noisy situations.
I feel like my whole attitude is changing now that I am not struggling to hear every day. I used to have to ask “what?” multiple times in every conversation because I couldn’t hear what people were saying, and engaging in group conversations was so frustrating that I would just tune out and remove myself from the conversation entirely because that was less stressful than not hearing what was happening around me.

Now I don’t have to ask people to repeat themselves because I can hear them the first time. It so much easier, not just for me but for the people I’m talking to. I can ask questions and engage in conversations because I am not using all my energy to piece together bits of what the other person is saying. I had no idea of how much I was truly missing before. People have noticed I seem happier, that they don’t have to talk as loud, that I’m not talking as loud and that the TV isn’t turned up as loud as it used to be. Best of all, I’m happy.
There are still things I’m getting used to, sometimes the sound is tinny when I’m using the Bluetooth function, and since I use these more than my old aids, the batteries go faster, but overall this is definitely a change for the better, and one I’m very thankful I made.

Week 12: The Writing Conference

Hey everyone!  I know I’m still behind, so let’s get right into it.  Week 12 was very exciting for me because I got to attend my first writing conference, California Dreamin’.  California Dreamin’ is a small conference for romance writers held in Southern California every other year.  To be honest, I didn’t realize it was for romance writers when I first signed up, I only figured that out afterwards upon researching the agents and editors I wanted to pitch my manuscript to.  Well, the manuscript is still far from finished, but considering it was a murder mystery and not a romance, it probably wouldn’t be right for the agents or editors attending anyway.

Despite not having a completed manuscript, and not really being a romance writer, the conference was an amazing experience.  I attended so many educational workshops, got a bunch of free books, and best of all got to talk to dozens of other people who love writing.  The people attending varied from the unpublished, aspiring writers like me, all the way to the successful authors who make a living with their writing.  It was so cool to actually get to talk to so many people about writing.  I was surprised to see that the people who presented at the workshops also attended them alongside people like me.  It might seem silly, but being about to sit and talk with everyone made me realize that writers really are people just like me.  Whether they had published books or not, everyone was there to learn from and interact with each other.  It made me realize that becoming an author really is a process not a destination.  That’s one of those words of wisdom that I have heard often in regards to writing (and life in general) but the conference helped me understand it in a different way.

My focus at the conference was forcing myself to talk to people and attending workshops.  Many of the workshops I went to focused on self-publishing, and the marketing involved.  Holy Geeze!  I knew marketing books was hard work, but hearing real world examples of what authors have to do in order to achieve any amount of publishing success in the form of sales is daunting to say the least.  I hear about websites, and social media presence, newsletters, blogging, blog tours, book signings, having extra content you can give away as incentive for buying your book, and more.  It sounded insane, and very scary.  However, at the same time, it helped to have it all laid out in front of me; especially when book sales were presented in graph form and the presenter could tell me what the author did at each point in time that resulted in an increase in book sales.  Those workshops helped give me a more realistic vision of how long it takes to for an author achieve sales success.  Obviously, this is all hypothetical, I have to finish a book, have it edited, and decide if I even want to self-publish before I think too hard on all of this, but still, it’s nice to be aware.  By knowing what is required, I can better prepare for it once I get closer to finishing my book.

I also attended workshops on editing, the Hero’s Journey (that was probably my favorite because I loved learning about it so much in school), what agents look for in manuscripts, and more.  The hardest part was deciding which workshops to go to because there were so many offered, and it was impossible to go to all of them (literally impossible since they held multiple workshops at the same time all three days of the conference).  I liked some better than others, I definitely preferred the ones where the speakers maintained control and didn’t let the audience take over by asking story specific questions.  I also loved the ones where we did writing exercises.  When I have a story idea, sometimes I waste so much time trying to find the perfect way to start it, or to say something that I never actually get the story out.  When you’re doing an exercise with a defined time limit, you can’t think, you just have to write.  I think I am going to force myself to begin my regular writing sessions like that, or with some type of exercise to loosen up the writing muscles and just get the fingers typing.  I’ll let you know how that goes once I try it.

In all those workshops I heard mountains of advice, but one specific piece of advice several people gave me is that I should join my local chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA).  They said it would be invaluable even though romance is not my primary genre.  Now, I have often thought about joining a writer’s group.  I’ve wanted to join one as a way to make friends, network, learn and practice writing.  In the past, something has always stopped me, either I’m working when the meetings take place, or they take place early in the morning before I want to be awake, they’re too far away, etc., excuse after excuse.  But after hearing the same suggestion from so many people, I looked up the local chapter info for RWA; they meet once a month for half a day pretty close to where I live.  They have speakers who come to present, author meet-and-greets, and quite a few people I spoke with are members, which gave me hope that I could go and make some friends who share a love of writing.  That will be another new thing that I’m already looking forward to trying.

I am so happy that I had such a positive experience at the conference.  Being around and speaking with so many people who all share a love of writing and a desire to share with each other was so inspiring.  It renewed by desire to make my publishing dreams a reality, which is perhaps the best takeaway of all. Have a good one and keep trying something new!

Week 11: A New Remedy

Hey everyone!  I hope you all are doing well.  In this entry, we get to the reason why I fell so far behind with my blogging after my vacation.  The simple reason is, I got sick.  Now, you would think what got me sick was being on a cruise ship with thousands of strangers who may or may not follow good hygiene practices.  We all know how quickly germs and viruses can spread in closed quarters.  However, considering that I was fine the two days after I got back, I believe in this case the culprit behind my sickness was my brother.  He was in town just for a couple days to go to a shower for his friend who is getting married, but he was also getting over a cold.  I’m guessing the mistake I made was giving him a couple high-fives when he, my mom and I were playing a card game because the next day I woke up feeling like crap.

It probably would have been smart for me to stay home from work that day, but I didn’t want it to look like I was just extending my vacation, so I went in, everyone could see how sick I was, and then I called out the next two days and stayed in bed hardly able to breathe with my nose stuffed and throat all closed up.  I did go to the doctor and got the good news that I did not have strep throat (yay!) however that meant instead of getting antibiotics, I just had to wait it out (boo!).  To help dull the agony of waiting it out, they gave me medicine for my throat.  That was my something new for this week, because it wasn’t a regular pill or liquid that you swallow.  This one was a thick gooey liquid that I had to measure out, then gargle.  Basically, all it did was make my throat and mouth completely numb for a while.  It felt exactly the way Novocaine feels when the dentist uses it before a filling.  It was weird.  It did nothing to make my throat better, but it did numb the pain for a while, which was nice.  Still, I’d rather not go through that again.

Even after I went back to work I was still feeling under the weather, and I could hardly speak because my throat was so blocked and I was coughing all the time.  But none of that would have stopped me from going to the writing conference the week after.  That was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world, and one I will tell you all about in my next entry.