Life Lately: Winter in Scotland

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This blog has fallen to the wayside lately because of full-time school, work and book writing. (Apologies.)

So, I will try to round up everything that has happened since my last Life Lately and distill it into something readable… 😉

I wasn’t prepared to be plunged into the darkness of Scotland, even though I knew it was coming. I am used to long, dark, freezing Michigan winters where seasonal depression is rampant. But the sun rising at almost 9 a.m. and setting just after 3 p.m., was more difficult than I was ready for. It felt like November to the end of January was spent entirely in the dark. But we made due.

Holiday Overseas

I’ve never spent the holidays alone before. Usually I am bustling from house-to-house, but my hubs and I made it fun. We cooked a big vegan Christmas feast and played a Lord of the Rings drinking game – Lord of the Drinks – where we took a sip of margarita each time we heard the word “ring.” 

Needless to say, I was very, VERY tipsy by the end of the extended edition of The Fellowship. So proceed with caution, friends.

The one thing that made Edinburgh feel extra holidayish was the Christmas Market. I don’t know why the U.S. doesn’t jump on that trend, but being able to wander through a market full of tasty treats, sipping warm mead or mulled wine, and checking out crafts was really fun. The light displays were also really festive.

The Edinburgh Christmas Market

On Christmas Eve we watched the sunset over Edinburgh from Calton Hill. It was so beautiful, despite the cold biting at us. I will never get over how beautiful this city is and how much ancient lore is attached to it. It was a really nice moment that I will never forget.

A Christmas Eve drink at The Barony // Husband really likes Oban whiskey

We haven’t traveled much this winter, as my sister-in-law is about to be here, then friends in April, and more family in May, plus other plans, so we were saving up for the coming travels. But we did take lots of hikes, a day-trip up to St Andrews, a jaunt down to London (where I got food poisoning — gross!), and holed up in some of our favorite pubs in the city.

Beautiful, windswept St Andrews

One in particular, Smith & Gertrude, is just a few minutes’ walk from our flat. It has such a hip, French vibe to it. They serve organic & biodynamic wine, so I am all over that. 

But mostly, this winter has been full of ups and downs. Moving overseas is full of trials and growing pains. I miss my family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love this country. It is gorgeous and wild. I feel freer here in some ways, than I ever have. But on the other hand, I also feel adrift and a bit homesick.

Sunday at Arthur’s Seat
Hiking Holyrood Park

My husband and I are both working remote full-time, now, so that means we can move anywhere.

We were planning to move back to the U.S. in August, but some opportunities have come up in both Italy and Ireland. So we are trying to figure out our next steps. As homesick as we are, we might want to stick it out in Europe for a bit longer. Alas, only time will tell.

Now, though, the days are finally growing longer. It’s crazy how much just a little extra sun can boost your mood. Spring is already in the air. We never really got a true winter, here. Hardly any snow. The plants in my garden are still green. I’ve been able to spend afternoons with my hands in the dirt in January, preparing to plant heather once the threat of snow is gone. 

A view of the cold setting in over Edinburgh from my classroom window. That’s Arthur’s Seat in the distance.

Next weekend we are taking a weekend trip up to the Highlands to get away from the city. As much as I love Edinburgh, my soul is always longing for open landscapes. The mountains and sea breathe fresh life into me. 

One of my favorite things about living in Scotland is the close proximity to the islands and Highlands. Just an hour or two outside the city and it’s easy to feel like what it could have been like 1,000 years ago.

A vegan Burns Night dinner: haggis, neeps & tatties and a red wine gravy.

Writing Updates

I am half-way through my Masters in Creative Writing programme and 60,000 words into my 100,000-word YA fantasy novel. My goal is to be done by the end of March with Draft I, so I can begin hardcore editing throughout the spring. I’m curating my new list of agents I want to submit to and studying craft theory like a madwoman. John Truby’s Anatomy of Story and John Yorke’s Into the Woods have been extraordinarily helpful to me in learning how to structure my plot.

Writing a first draft is really hard for me, I’ve found, because I am such a perfectionist. I know it’s not perfect and it kills me. (Let’s face it: what is ever ‘perfect?’) I long to be finished with the draft so I can start hacking away at it. But as V. E. Schwab says, “You cannot fix a blank page.” So, you have to write in order to edit. And so it goes. 

I’ve recently stumbled upon two amazing podcasts that I listen to on the bus to school. 88 Cups of Tea and First Draft With Sarah Enni. If you are a writer or are interested in the publishing industry, I would highly recommend both.

My goal right now, since I have work and school, is to write 5,000 words per week. I need two days off per week to refill my creative well, so I am not just writing empty words that will need to be deleted later, just to fufill a word count goal. It doesn’t seem like much, but 5,000 words per week adds up quickly.

With this draft being the third book I have written, I have learned SO MUCH. Yet, this is the first book that I have completely plotted out beginning-to-end, using a five-act structure. As a former “pantser” it has been an enlightening transition to becoming a “plotter.” I am trying to challenge and push myself to be the best possible writer I can be and tell this story in the way it deserves.

So hopefully in my spring Life Latley, I can happily report that my first draft is doneeeeee.

Overall, I am so happy winter is over here (or so it seems!) and spring is just around the corner. There is so much exciting stuff happening in the next few months and I can’t wait to spend more time outside.

How has your winter been? How do you cope with seasonal depression? I’d love to know in a comment below.

Keep on keepin’ on,

xx

Jessica

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