Making things worse to make them better

Jetty going out over a lake with the moon in the night sky. Text: There's always dark before the light. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt


to get to a bigger, better place.

The mold is a comfortable place.

Okay, not so comfortable: it has flaws. You are just used to the flaws.

Until the day when the flaws add up to something so large it can’t be improved.

Only destroyed.

I’m trying to get settled in the new, larger mold.

It’s just taking a lot more work, and a lot more time, than I told myself before the move (if you don’t do that, minimize the cost of the change, you can never get unstuck from the mold).

If you focus too hard on the cost of change, you don’t change. You CAN’T change.

Because change is very expensive, and not just in money.

I’m impatient.

Everyone tells me to ‘give it time,’ and tells me how long it was before they were settled in our new community, before they had unpacked all their boxes, before they knew enough people, before they reconstructed their new life.

But after the change, the invoice shows up and demands to be paid.

As the pain of the move diminishes, and becomes, like all memories, a series of amusing vignettes you recount at the dinner table to people you hope will become new friends, and whom you are now entertaining so they will know you’re not just a complainer (deadly) or a bore (deadly), the pain of the new become more evident: you are not there yet.

For me, it has been the amount of time I am still not writing new fiction.

I’ve spent a decent proportion of time with the internet blocked off, NOT writing new fiction.


I sure hope it’s ‘yet.’

You see, I also moved to improve the body.

I have started the PT I so desperately wanted, and which was one of the main reasons for coming to this particular place. PT is downstairs. An elevator ride and a couple of corridors worth of distance.

And next to the pool, so I can just pop into the warm water afterward, and then take a nice shower, and then…

Go back to the temporary home and find myself completely ragged out for the day.

And the next day the sacroiliac joint has given me a day of intense deep aching. So I do the exercises for that…

It’s necessary. Now is the best time. And it has plopped the next barrier to writing right in front of me.

People recommend patience

and not being too hard on myself.

And not expecting too much, possibly even now, since we’re beginning the process of working with Facilities to fix our permanent abode in Independent Living from being gutted, to having a place for everything and everything in its place, a state we are NOT achieving here (doesn’t feel worth the work when you’re going to have to do it all again soon).

But they don’t have the itchy feeling of how much of my identity is tied up in being a writer – and actually writing.

So many accomplished folk here, with long resumes of happy productive lives, whether involved in work for pay or in bringing up happy and successful children, and it serves to emphasize the many things I could not do due to illness, the may experiences I will now never have.

I didn’t expect that part.

Many of them are still doing the wonderful trips and community service and voter registration and visiting schools…

The ones who are past that are often quite a bit older.

And even the ones who are now disabled who are living here often have not been that way for long.

Only now I meet more people than in my previous isolated state

and have had, metaphorically speaking (and without any ill intent on their part – this all comes out in conversations), my nose rubbed in it.

I used to be better at ignoring the fact that I was ill and isolated, and the rest of the world had lives. Problems, yes, but lives.

By a determined cheerfulness in my own life, so that I did not alienate those I still knew, I kept the worst of it under wraps most of the time. It gets very boring to listen to complaining, however justified. I preferred to spend my time with my husband, far-flung kids, and small coterie of friends enjoying their presence and company when I had it.

I made ignorance – avoidance – my bliss.

And I wrote. Things other people can’t. Don’t. Don’t even want to. But which make me unique.

And clamped down on envy as unproductive.

I’m confronting all this a third time.

Fourth? Fifth? All in a bunch, everything repressed comes back to be dealt with in a new stage of life.

I really hope it’s the last time. But it can’t be.

It gets boring, even to me.

The light will return. Proof of that is that I keep trying. If I’d stopped trying, I’d really worry.

This may be one of those raw adjustment times you put behind you once things are to a new normal. But it’s daunting to think it may total a year by the time we’re in the ‘forever home,’ and I get back to really working.

Another very good sign is that I’m aware of it. I’m not happy about the uncertain period, but I still crave writing something coherent, and even more, writing something I’m satisfied with. I know I’m not where I want to be, and that the steps we’re taking should, with a bit more of that patience stuff, put me in a better writing place.

Life moves on, inexorably

I’d just like to think that the effort for change results in a better working environment, and is a net gain.

Ask me in a couple of years.

Meanwhile, this is a recording of the current state of mind.

I have gone back into my own posts, that now number well over 500, to find things I almost don’t remember writing – and I only started blogging in 2012!

Nothing very new yet

except that I realized how sparse even the blogging has gotten, and feel compelled (by me, not my lovely readers and commenters) to put out at least an update+what I’ve been thinking post every once in a while, until I have more substantive ‘content.’

And, looked at in hindsight, there has been an awfully large amount of change survived.

Please pray for rain for California, and no rain in some other places – that has been, after the elections, another huge concern: we are right in the plume of the Camp Fire, and yesterday were in the ‘hazardous’ category. Worrying about the firefighters, and all those who have lost lives, family, and homes. And wildlife. And what happens after.

And, as usual, not being able to do a darned thing.

Be well. Write when you have a moment.



16 thoughts on “Making things worse to make them better

  1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    I’m excited to hear about the 2-bedroom coming available and the options that effective PT may make possible to you. Wonderful things coming your way.

    But I hear you on longing for the writing.

    I decided that I was going to try doing the production (proofreading, formatting, ordering a cover, etc.) on the finished WIP (A Talisman Arcane) at the same time as I started writing the new WIP (The Sovereign’s Labyrinth), precisely because I couldn’t face another long hiatus of no-writing.

    I am *managing*, but it’s hard. I now see very clearly why I used to just focus on the production until it was done, and *then* start writing the next book. But I am so happy writing that I can’t truly regret trying to juggle both. I’m hoping that I might get better at doing both with practice.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      The writing is NECESSARY.

      The only reason I do the production part (other than the cover, which I prefer), is that the back and forth with someone else over every little detail, as I micromanaged, would drive me wild!

      If you can do both at the same time – since you have a lot of experience with doing both – I see no reason why you can’t work at a writing task for a long time, and then, if you have the energy, go do some production task on the other book.

      I’m pretty sure I can’t, but, with one volume finished, it would be possible to give someone a copy of my ebook and my print book, and say, “Here. JUST like this. In every detail.”

      In fact, I may do just that. I was more interested in developing what I wanted, and I want to maintain a uniform look across the trilogy, so that might even work.

      And the reason for me, now, would be that everything has changed in my work environment, from a new version of Scrivener and Pixelmator and OSX, through the Createspace death and KDPP ‘resurrection,’ to some of my choices for how to spend my time (PT, pool, social life). Which means, when I publish NETHERWORLD, I will have a lot of relearning, and new learning, to do. Not sure I have the heart for it, at least not soon. But then again, NETHERWORLD will NOT be finished soon at the current pace. Sigh.

      I admire you for being able to do both books – and I’m sure you will manage it, with an appropriate ebb and flow.


    2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      You will. Plus, because your books are closer, much of what you figure out doesn’t change between books, and you’re keeping up the graphics skills, whether you use them for the final covers or not. It’s still better to give an artist a good mockup than a few words.


      1. J.M. Ney-Grimm

        …because your books are closer, much of what you figure out doesn’t change between books…

        So true about systems changing between books! Mine are just close enough together that the software is the same, but just far enough apart that I actually do forget some of the details, and I fear that I’ve forgotten enough that getting back up to speed will be tortuous. So far, once I set about remembering, it has proven not to be too bad.

        Right now, I’m also juggling marketing. It makes me a little crazy. Each time I dream up some new thing to try, I get to thinking that it will really increase my sales. And then when it doesn’t, I crash a bit. I was just crashing earlier today, but I seem to have recovered my equilibrium now. (I hate those plunges into disappointment though.)

        …with one volume finished, it would be possible to give someone a copy of my ebook and my print book, and say, “Here. JUST like this. In every detail.”

        That’s a great idea! There are enough service providers these days that I’ll bet you could find someone really good to do exactly that.

        I’m sure your pace will pick up as you get more settled. As other folks here have said, I have faith in you!


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          I believe I will get over this hill – but they keep putting snipers on the summit! With Kalashnikovs.

          Once I have a California driver license, and all the home choices have been locked down in writing, maybe I can start focusing. Right now we worry that not having made the choices means the contractor can’t proceed at top velocity, and we’re holding up our own best interests.

          But I look back, and see how much we’ve done, how much husband has accomplished, and how I was able to use what I have to participate, and it ain’t shabby.


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  3. Janna G. Noelle

    It looks like you’ve already heard and given yourself all the best advice in this post, so I’ll just add that I understand this feeling of having writing wrapped up in your identity. I feel the same way too, and fully recognize the convoluted ways this can often manifest as not writing. I believe in you, though. You are passionate and tenacious; just look at this huge undertaking (moving) you just orchestrated. Really just give yourself time and believe in yourself as well. It will come back when the time is right.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I believe in me, but I’m getting a little concerned at this slowness, this lassitude which accompanies the still-stressful and unsettled situation.

      I GOT what I wanted. I don’t want to go back. I had no other good choices. But I would feel a lot better if I were writing, even a bit daily, fiction.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Can’t swear too much, can’t swear at staff at all, can’t swear at spouse, don’t want to be known as the foul-mouthed new person! Honestly, trying to be pleasant and calm is half the burden.

      And the stupid sacroiliac joint pain is making me even more fractious.

      I’m recording this all so I can look back and laugh at myself, preferably soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. marianallen

    You’re doing heroic work, carrying us through your transition, with all its frustrations and impatience. This openness of the heart is one of the things I love most about your writing, whether fiction or non-fiction (blogging). ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      ‘The most heroic thing a creative person can do is to live and orderly life so the work can get done,’ Cary Tennis. Haven’t quite gotten to the orderly life yet, but I understand the concept.

      Broadway actors rehearse for very long times to have what they need to be ‘spontaneous’ night after night on stage.

      I tell myself that what I write is boringly obvious, and I won’t be unhappy if someone doesn’t read it, or all of it. But I need to record, and the format helps. Thanks for your kind words!


  5. Catana

    The problem with friendly advice is that it doesn’t address how to cope when you’re prevented from doing something that is part of your identity. If you can’t work on voting issues, you can do something else. It’s comparatively easy to fill your time and feel a sense of accomplishment when you can simply substitute one thing for another.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      That’s it exactly! Identity is non-negotiable. Here many women have let themselves be reduced to a convenient First Name/ Last Name on the nametag – and I’m not going to let them do that to me. Your name is a huge part of your identity: either you like ‘Jim’ or you say, ‘my name is James.’

      Writing is key to what’s left of my dreams and aspirations for life, and I’m good at it, and I moved to make it EASIER. I’d be a lot further along (and past this pesky scene), if I hadn’t forced the move.

      I want my payback!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

    Thanks, Joey. It’s all true – and I have had all those things more than I can complain about.

    I don’t complain – nobody listens anyway – because that spends energy in a place that contributes nothing to my life.

    I prefer the life-affirming things.

    But I sometimes ponder the irritants when they get ornery and refuse to resolve on their own. In writing.


  7. joey

    Well, here’s the thing: I have been in transitions countless times, and they’re painful, particularly when you’re eager for them to end. But as they say, I have grown and learned from each of them, especially the “holding pattern” ones.
    For all those years I was home, I always felt snubbed not being ’employed’ and as if people put way too much emphasis on their jobs. I still think this, but I realized I was Fulfilled. I did what I wanted. It was both a blessing and a curse, but I have no regrets.
    Busyness isn’t a life, fulfillment is.
    What you’re focusing on now is what’s important now. This is best.
    I work in an office where everyone is older than me, and most everyone is… how shall we say? Broken? Impaired? Chronically injured? The oldest person in our office is in her 70s and she’s the Healthiest? one. I find it immensely comforting that we are all aware of and therefore respect the limitations of others, but we don’t have to talk about it.
    You’re not just a writer. You’re a learned woman, a woman who educates, sings, and swims — you are a wife and a mother and a sister and a friend. Don’t let this feeling of not being enough haunt you or deter you from your own goals. I promise, you are enough. You will never be defined BY your limitations.

    Liked by 2 people


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