Hey, Welcome to LOVING THE STRANGE, where we celebrate the weird and embrace the heck out of it.
This week, in honor of Shaun Farrar, our own Florida man, we are talking about Florida men.
In ancient times, so back in 2013, Florida man became a meme because there were just so many weird and bizarre news articles (mostly police beats) about Florida men doing weird and criminal and often dumb things.
Both CNN and the Miami News Times claim that Florida men aren’t that naughty or bizarre compared to their equivalents in other states, but it’s just because the freedom of information laws in that state make it pretty easy to peruse police beat.
The Columbia Journalism Review says that Florida Man is “one of journalism’s darkest and most lucrative cottage industries”, because “stories tend to stand as exemplars of the mythical hyper-weirdness of the Sunshine State, but more often simply document the travails of the drug-addicted, mentally ill, and homeless.”
It’s 2021 and people are burnt out. There’s COVID-19. There’s political strife. Systemic bigotries and biases. There’s meanies at the grocery store and there’s that never-ending effort for some of us to pay for food, shelter, and health care, right?
On Carrie’s blog, http://www.carriejonesbooks.blog, she talked about how you can burnout on self care even, but also how writers seem super susceptible to burnout and why she was a bit burnt out for awhile.
First, let’s put some definitions out there.
Writer’s block is when you can’t figure out what to write.
Writer’s burnout is when you are super stressed and completely mentally and physically exhausted. You have zero motivation.
And surprise surprise this pandemic has burnt out a lot of people–not just writers.
Not feeling attached to anything, especially your work
In Valcour’s article, she pulls out four things you can do to combat burnout.
Shift your perspective.
Reduce exposure to job stressors.
Seek out connections.
Easier said than done, right?
Over on the blog, TOO MUCH ON HER PLATE, Dr. Melissa writes
Taking care of YOU is not a luxury.
Which makes sense because if you don’t take care of yourself and your basic needs, you die.
But I think she’s talking a bit beyond those basic needs and writes what happens when you don’t take care of yourself! Yes, we’re talking to you!
You have less energy and motivation to follow through on your goals
You are more easily distracted and less focused
Many people tend to turn to “vices” to fill in the gaps that aren’t being filled with in quality ways. Stress eating and other kinds of emotional eating, smoking, drinking too much, wasting time surfing the internet—these are a few things that tend to show up, waste more of your time and energy, distract you, and contribute to a vicious cycle of decreased happiness and less effectiveness.
Stress levels are higher
Sleep is often impaired (or sacrificed)
It’s common to feel deprived, irritable, more easily frustrated, or impatient
Creativity suffers and life usually includes less play and fun
Health is negatively affected
So how do you take care of yourself without burning out on taking care of yourself?
Spoiler: Carrie is burnt out on daily five-minute arm exercise videos.
Spoiler: Shaun is burnt out listening to Carrie do those five-minute arm exercise videos.
Anyway, how do you take care of you? Again, Dr. Melissa has some lovely advice:
Start claiming 10-15 minutes a day for yourself. Use this time to connect with yourself and to pay attention to how you feel and what you need. Journal, walk, meditate, soak in the tub. Try not to save this for the end of the day when you are too tired to move and your brain has stopped working. Pay yourself first or, if necessary, take a break during your day.
Adopt the following mantras: “I’m doing my best,” and “I can’t do it all.” They are true. Put them where you can see them and remind yourself of them frequently.
Create effectiveness in do-able steps. Each evening, identify your top three personal action items for the next day and decide when you will accomplish them. Think do-able. If these daily goals seem overwhelming, make them smaller. A fifteen minute walk that you take is better than the 45 minute one you couldn’t fit in. If possible, knock out your personal priorities early in the day.
Plan for food that fuels you—especially when time is tight. Don’t skip breakfast, have a plan for lunch, and don’t starve yourself before dinner. Make sure you have the groceries that you need. Choose foods that are appealing. No starvation diets.
Cut the multitasking. It stresses us out and makes us less effective. Practice focusing on doing one thing at a time. You won’t get it perfect, but that’s okay, remember step number two.
Take emotional eating seriously. It’s often a signal that life is out of balance and your personal priorities need more attention. Emotional eating happens when our spirit or our life isn’t getting fed the non-food things we need or crave. If you wonder about how to stop emotional eating, it starts with paying attention and developing ways of caring for ourselves instead of turning to food.
All pretty cool stuff, right?
A few years ago, Kellie McGann on The Write Practice blog talked about how to overcome writing burnout specifically. She said she had writer’s burnout because “I started thinking that my words didn’t matter and no one needed to hear what I had to say.”
That feeling is so common especially for pre-published writers or writers who are from oppressed groups and identities.
So how do you deal with it?
How to deal with Writing Burnout according to McGann
Recognize the Problem
Don’t Stop Writing
Find Yourself (again)
Don’t Try to Explain Yourself
What does that mean?
It means that you have to keep being persistent and putting words down even when you never want to write again if it’s your job and your dream to be a writer/author/novelist.
It means you’re allowed to be open about being burnt out, but you don’t owe other people explanations about the why of your burnout. But you don’t have to tell anyone why you aren’t putting your words out there. You get to do you.
It means you have to take the time to remember or re-remember, why you’re a writer, who you are, what your message is, what you want to say. You get to go back to the core of who you are, the real you, and your message to the world.
And it does matter. You matter. Your words matter. We need them out there.
WRITING TIP OF THE POD
Burnout is real. Take care of yourself.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Make your own mantra. Find your joy, don’t worry about that outside validation. Know your purpose and go after it. Sparty’s purpose is food. He goes after it. Even if it’s a bacon crumb under a coffee table, that dog is all in.
You’ve got this. Be like Sparty. Find people that support you and your voice.
I just published a super cool adult novel. Gasp! I know! Adult! That’s so …. grown-up?
Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.
But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor.
As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.
It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
Apalachicola is a town that remembers its ghosts and welcomes them. This town on Florida’s panhandle, is a town of oysters and celebrations, proud of its history. It’s a town where the locals have pamphlets at the cemetery explaining who is reposed in more than 40 graves.
In this town of roughly 2,500 people, the friendliness is obvious in every interaction. Even one month after Hurricane Michael ripped through it and devastated neighboring communities, Apalachicola seems – wet, but lovely.
Things aren’t right.
This town on the bay, the second oldest European settlement in Florida, is usually full of tourists spending money in the small restaurants and art galleries, going on fishing trips, filling up the rooms in hotels, inns and weekly rentals, but not this year. Even the man who comes from Maine to sell his blueberries every November is a no show.
Dan, one of the owners of Hole in the Wall Seafood, tells us this with a shake of his head. “I don’t know what happened to him. He just hasn’t shown.”
A lot of visitors haven’t shown. Maybe they are afraid of what they’ll see, Dan wonders. Some buildings look permanently shut down. Floors are buckled. Windows are holes. Squeegees and bleach can’t fix everything, but sometimes you can still get a whiff of the bleach, which is better than the stench of mold, which emanates from some of the buildings closer to the water. The storm surge was about 9.5 feet here. That’s a lot of water that sloshed through the two lower streets that run parallel to the water.
The workers at the Hole in the Wall Seafood catalogue their friends’ losses to the group of diners that come in and sit at a high table. Normally, this time of year you can’t find a spot to sit in this cozy, friendly restaurant that features oysters (of course) and cajun grouper. But nothing is normal and it’s evident by their conversation. One friend has lost a porch. Another lost their oyster building. Another lost half their roof. Someone lost a car to a tree. Someone and someone else and someone else lost their house.
“You were in Spain for the storm?” Dan asks from his station behind the bar as a woman arrives, joining her friends at that back table.
“Mm-hmm,” she says.
“Yeah,” one of them teases. “You missed a good time.”
“She just got the evacuation notice and kept on goin’. All the way to Spain,” they tease and there’s laughter all around until someone else adds, “Was a good idea.”
A month later and the words and people are still brave, but the emotion is still raw.
Apalachicola has been Florida’s oyster capitol for a long while, but the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 created a disaster for the oyster industry and its workers. A bay becoming increasingly salty has also allowed sea predators to suck out the oysters and leave just empty shells. It’s a double-whammy that has slammed the industry and its people.
The reason for the bay’s saltiness has even created a legal battle between Florida and Georgia with Florida claiming that Georgia is hogging up the water. Florida receives less fresh water and the bay becomes more and more salty. This allows sea predators like oyster drills to hang out in the estuary and eat the oysters, plundering at will in the increased salinity.
Apalachicola oysters used to be 90% of Florida’s wild supply and 10% of the United States’. That isn’t true anymore. Farm-raised oysters have taken over the industry.
The grandfathers and fathers of Apalachicola’s modern-day oystermen used to use tongs to lick up 50 or so oysters a pop. Now it takes 50 tong licks to get just a couple oysters. Instead, oyster men are trying to rebuild the oyster beds that were devastated after the oil spill and now after the hurricane.
“I don’t know what will happen,” one man announced at the bar, laughing in that bitter way that happens. “Maybe we’ll all go to Maine and lobster.”
“Freeze your balls off,” a waitress announced.
“Yeah. Forget that.” He laughed and took a swig of his beer.
And then came Michael.
They’ve had hurricanes before. There are tall stakes in the ground to estimate storm surge by hurricane category. One is right by the playground. Another waits closer to the center of town. Warnings. Memories. Ghosts of hurricanes past measured in feet and fears of hurricanes yet to come.
“Waves were breaking in my front yard,” the man at the Hole in the Wall tells us. “It came in around 2:30. I had five or six people with me on the patio. The roof sheet metal? It just started peeling off. That’s some sharp stuff. I hustled everyone in. I think my patio’s down by the raw bar now.”
He faired better than his neighbors, only losing a patio and bins full of clothes and other items. He jokes that a seaweed berm probably saved his house, shakes his head about his luck, the randomness of hurricane winds and waves.
The rest of the customers and staff go back to cataloguing their losses, their neighbors’ losses, a seemingly never-ending litany of damage. Floods took the 13-Mile processing plant, which lost its roof because the walls blew off. The two downtown streets, Commerce and Water, flooded. The neighboring town of Port Saint Joe was hit even harder than Apalachicola. But the McDonald’s there is open again even though the building was flooded out, windows are still being repaired and the toilets are in a trailer in the parking lot. Driving through the town, you see holes that shoot all the way through a house, houses moved 50 feet of their sites, sailboats jetting up towards the sky, the bottom submersed. You see mounds of debris on both sides of the roads, moldy sheet rock pulled from houses, broken trees, couches, mattresses, waiting to be disposed of.
Just driving down a street makes you a witness to destruction.
The loss of homes, of personal items, is horrific. But there’s also a loss of revenue. The Hole in the Wall estimates that it lost $30,000 in revenue for the two weeks it was closed. The second two weeks, the owners made about a quarter of what they usually make because the people just aren’t here.
Dan’s wife, our waitress, sighs and tells everyone that they could have opened sooner, but it didn’t feel right. They were busy feeding volunteers. From the Thursday after the storm through the Sunday, restaurantauers, volunteers, teachers, banned together to feed everyone, serving thousands of meals while waiting for electricity to come back to the town.
“It wouldn’t have felt right to open before that,” she says. “That would have – it just wouldn’t have been right.”
So, they helped the feed the town instead, for free.
Apalachicola seems like a town that reinvents itself to survive. Before it was Apalachicola, it was a British trading post, Cottonton. Before it was Cottonton it was a settlement of a subgroup of the Seminoles. The name Apalchicola is a combination of Hitchiti words, apalahchi and okli.
During the Civil War, the USS Sagamore captured the town, occupying it for most of the fighting.
Before the railroad was popular, Apalachicola was the third biggest seaport on the Gulf. But then railroads came. So that changed. Thanks to Greek immigrants, the sponge trade was a major economic driver. But then that changed, too.
Back in 1837, the town allegedly had 600 meters of one brick store after another on the main street, a testament to its prosperity and health. Most of those buildings were three stories high and 25 meters deep. Granite pillars adorned every one of them. It doesn’t look like that now, time and industry, hurricanes and people, have changed the landscape and the economy over and over again.
Before the oysters, it was lumber. It was sponges. It was a port city full of trade. What will it be next? That’s really the question.
And it’s a question for a lot of us and our towns, our cities. What do we become when our main industry dies? How do we reinvent ourselves, support our families and way of life when fisheries die off, when paper is no longer made, when Amazon goes under, or when climates change, when war comes? The act of reinvention, of survival, seems primary and so essential, but we never really focus enough on it, not in our daily lives, and not for our communities.
Apalachicola is impressive, not just because of the kindness of its people, but because of its capacity to change, to survive, to transform.
People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.
I’m WRITING BARN FACULTY AND THERE’S A COURSE YOU CAN TAKE!
I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!
Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?
Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.
Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here.
The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?
It’s awesome and quirky and fun.
OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!
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