One of my goals for this year is to find balance in my life. While it might seem like this statement is so vague as to be entirely useless, I kind of planned it that way. I get so caught up in my goals and working on projects that I find it difficult to split my attention or to stay focused on big goals instead of little ones. So, instead of giving myself narrow, specific goals to work on or work towards, I’m keeping them general and focusing on the big picture. Instead of trying to lose weight this year or trying to prioritize my mental wellness, I want to be healthy. Instead of updating my blog every day, working on a book, or running three D&D campaigns, I want to create. Instead of trying to stay three weeks ahead in blog posts or reading a book a week, I want to find balance between work and relaxation.
Well, yesterday was also a bust. I got a couple hundred words written, but sleep deprivation and the temptation of a new Fallout game coupled with the temptation of the updated Spyro game proved too strong for me. Instead of writing, I played some Fallout 76, got Chinese food, watched my roommate relive Spyro, and then went to bed. That was plenty for yesterday, to be honest.
As you can clearly see by today’s rather late post, today isn’t much better. I’ve been trying to ride the line between cutting down on my goals for this month and getting enough rest to recover from the emotional and stress burnout resulting from the combined week of being super busy with extrovert stuff at work and dealing with the news about my grandfather’s health. As it turns out, the line between then is on the wrong side of “getting enough rest.” and I’ve actually been getting worse instead of better. Unfortunately, it took me three busy days at work and three nights without enough sleep to realize that. At least the last night of not enough rest wasn’t a dumb choice this time. I just couldn’t sleep, which is a frequent side-effect of long-lasting high-stress periods and burnout.
It took a Vlog brothers update for me to realize what was going on, too. I was under the impression that I’d just kick it into gear like I always do during periods like this and eventually get everything done. I can pull of some pretty ridiculous stuff when the situation is right, but I rarely do it when I’m already burned out and tired from previous times I pulled off something ridiculous. Like spending a week talking to people and running meetings every day that should have been spent quietly while processing the storm of emotions that comes from learning my grandpa, who gave me most of my nice clothes and my favorite jacket because we are the same size. Well, we used to be. The same grandpa who loves telling me about his coin collection and who has gotten me interested in the history and stories behind rare coins. It’s difficult to see a future without him in it, even if I’ve always know I’d get there eventually.
I always try to make excuses for continuing my writing. I often say it’s therapeutic, that it helps me work through difficult emotions and complex thoughts that need some adjusting before I can really see the shape of them. What I conveniently leave out every time I tell myself this is that the therapeutic part comes from doing free-form writing exercises, like my Sunday flash fiction, Friday poetry, or Saturday musing posts. I’m not going to get anything therapeutic from working on a story I’ve already formed without putting in the work to significantly change it. Some stories I could work it into, but not either of the ones I’m working on this month. I’d have to change them so much they’d be completely different stories and maybe even different genres. The closest I get to therapeutic writing is the reflection part of every day’s National Novel Writing Month post and part of me feels guilty for putting all this in here since I’m really not sure how much of this you all want to read. I originally planned to write about my progress here and how the writing stuff was going, but I’ve spent half of the month doing almost no writing so that’s kind of a bust.
Maybe the answer is giving up on the romance novel. I’ve barely written any of that, only a couple thousand or so words, and I’m already planning to rewrite those words entirely so it would make sense to just stop trying to do that. I already gave up on trying to do Coldheart and Iron posts every Tuesday, still. I did, however, just shift my plans so I’d do four Coldheart and Iron posts ahead of time, to be posted from December first to December fourth, so I’d be entirely caught up as of that Tuesday and so I could take a break to rest up from a month of writing like crazy. I don’t want to stop the blog because I’m really proud of my consistency here. Daily posts. Even if the post is going up at half an hour before midnight because I almost forgot and had a wedding, so all I could do is copy and paste a poem I’d been saving for an emergency into the WordPress app on my phone and then post it without fixing the weird crap WordPress does to my typical poetry formatting. This matters to me. I’ve done a year of posts, but I’d still like to be able to say “I did this thing for the entirety of 2018.” I’d also like to say that about 2019. I wouldn’t mind being able to say that about every year. It’s kind of a big deal and I can’t imagine it not having a positive impact on my life. Plus, I don’t really want to be one of those writers who lands a publishing deal that allows me to support myself on my writing who then stops doing stuff like my free blog.
I love writing. I love stringing words together and turning my ideas into stories. I love sharing my writing on the off-chance that it could help someone else and I love having a place to put this stuff that makes me feel seen, even if it’s only by one person in a day. I’d love to be able to throw sense to the wind and just pump out the rest of my writing goals in the seventeen days (counting today) I have left in the month, especially because I know I could probably do it. I also know the burnout would be catastrophic unless I took more time off of work and I really can’t afford that. Next week’s time away from work for US Thanksgiving won’t be the break it usually is, either, since I’ll be spending more time with family on account of my grandfather’s declining health. It’ll just be another weekend. My last weekend to make up for any lost time.
I have a lot of really good reasons to dial down my goals, especially considering I’ll still break ninety-thousand words this month even if I just stick to my blog and my National Novel Writing Month project. That’d be a new record of words written in a month for me, which is an admirable goal in its own right. I still want to throw my trepidation and good sense to the wind by stubbornly declaring I’ll stick to my original goals, though. Even now. I’ve actually deleted the words I wrote saying that. I need to rest and, as much as it pains me to say it, I don’t think I can do everything I said out to do this month. Just the thought of trying to do everything is overwhelming, and being overwhelmed takes more time than I’d like to give it.
This feels a lot like defeat, but it isn’t. It’s a chance to actually succeed without hurting myself. It’s going to take a lot of mental repetition to make that thought stick, but it’s true. I hope your goals are going better than my original ones are. I hope they’re going as well as my adjusted goals are, since I’m not far off track when it comes to those. Either way, I believe in your ability to do this and I wish you the best of luck today and tomorrow.
Failure is a part of life. Failure also makes for good stories because most people find characters who do nothing but succeed to be rather boring. There are a thousand proverbs and parables about learning from failure but success is often seen as the end of the road. That being said, failure can be difficult to overcome or to work through, and some people are better at it than others. How does your protagonist handle failure, big or small? If they fail, are they pushed on to try harder next time or do they feel defeated or beaten? Show your protagonist responding to failure (you can include the part where they fail, but that’s not necessary) and how it informs the way they decide to move forward in your story.
If you want some more examples of excellent storytelling, then you need to check out Hamilton. This musical is one of the best, most-clever bits of writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness and the musical itself is a work of absolute beauty. The lyrics and music are stunning, constantly referencing itself, foreshadowing future events, and so damn catchy I still haven’t gotten the music out of my head three months later. Not that I want it out, either. Even though it’s pretty sad in the end and it feeds into one of my biggest fears (of never having enough time), I still can’t stop listening to it. This is one of those things that marks a turning point in the way the world functions. After Hamilton, musical theater has a whole new dimension to it and anyone going for the standard “classic” stuff is missing out on the brand new world Lin-Manuel Miranda has opened our eyes to.
I have a really bad habit of keeping snacks and drinks on hand for when I’m writing. Which generally means keeping them on hand as distractions from writing since I usually avoid any potential for getting my keyboard messy or wet, which means stopping my writing so I can have a snack while browsing twitter on my phone. This is a bad habit since it tends to promote both overeating and procrastination. It distracts me from getting words written and adds to what is typically a rather sedentary month for me since I work at a computer in my day job and then go right to my computer after work. Today’s tip is to find something that replaces the desire to snack with something more useful. I’d suggest gum, but I can’t stand it. Instead, I keep a bag of sourdough pretzels nears my computer. Since they have no dust or crap that sticks to your fingers, they’re safe to use with a keyboard. They’re also salty and really dusty, so they’re not something I can eat a lot of in any short amount of time. I’ll eat maybe two during a few hours of writing, which is a single serving. They also make me thirsty, which is where my gallon jug of water comes in. I drink about one of those an evening which keeps me well hydrated and makes me want to focus so I can get stuff written between hourly trips to the bathroom to deal with the excess liquid. It’s a process and it works for me, since it cuts down the crap I consume and it helps me maintain my focus on writing more. I don’t know if that’ll work for you, but exploring the ideas wouldn’t hurt.
Expectations are heavy things. One or two are alright, if you’re up for them. Once you start to collect a lot of them, though, the weight can crush you. The thing is, not all of them are yours. Sure, your expectations can be problematic when you’re looking for something you probably won’t get, but other people’s are usually heavier in my experience. I can simply put my own down. If I drop someone else’s, I feel like I’m letting them down or disappointing them. They can come in the form of wonderful compliments, but that doesn’t change the fact that someone has their eyes on you. I love that I’ve inspired people, but I feel like now there’s pressure to continue inspiring people.
That’s sort of why I do this blog, though, if I’m going to set aside the main goals of “public accountability when it comes to my writing goals” and “having a place to put the stuff I write.” The reason I write the things I do and unabashedly post about my mental health and personal life is that I want to create a place where other people who are struggling can find some comfort, rest, or understanding. I know my audience isn’t huge, but I’ve got my own little corner of the internet and I’m doing my best to shout so anyone who wanders by can hear something that is supportive and hopefully helpful. If I’m inspiring people to write, that’s great! I’m so happy to be able to have a positive effect on the world (and that’s my real life goal right there). If people think of me when they hear about someone who works really hard, then I guess that’s pretty apt because I work my ass off most of the time. They might feel like expectations sometimes, but that’s my own problem to deal with. I’m the person who is taking them that way.
When I want to give up on writing, when nothing else is helping and the little voice in my head that constantly fills my thoughts with “nothing you do will ever be enough” and “there’s no point in trying because you and everything you do is worthless” is winning, I take the time to sit down and write out a list of reasons why I write. There are a lot of consistent things on the list that hearken back to my reasons for beings. Things like “to help make the world a better place” and “to give other people what my favorite books gave to me: a place escape and hide away from a world that sometimes felt like it was out to get me” are usually first. Then there are things like “because storytelling fulfills me in ways that nothing else ever has” and “I need something meaningful in my life and telling stories is more full of meaning that anything else I’ve ever considered” that come and go as the way I view my life shifts. The last things are the ones that change from one year to the next, or even one month to the next, like “because I’m going for two years of consecutive days without missing a blog post” or “I want to wrap up this project by a certain time.”
The list helps because it’s all about me and why I write. It has nothing to do with whoever reads my stuff, with people involved in my life, or what might be going on the world. It is focused entirely on the intrinsic value of writing and that little voice in my head has nothing to say about whether or not those things are true or worthwhile. Plus, it tends to lead to some really productive introspection that helps me center myself. Between yesterday and today, I think I’ve gotten my feet underneath myself again. Hopefully this next week of November will be more productive that the last.
I’m still not ready to talk about what’s going on in my life, but now it’s because I kind of want to focus on writing for a bit. There’s a time and a place for everything and sad stories that are going to require me to spend some time on emotional recovery should not be a part of trying to right the writing ship of this particular National Novel Writing Month. I’ve done almost not work on this weekend’s goals, so I’m going to forego sob stories and instead focus on trying to get a daily allotment of words written. Which is my new goal. Get words done every day. I need to dial it back while I’m getting back up to speed again. Otherwise, I’m just going to burn myself out getting nowhere. I’ll hopefully be able to write about my real progress for Monday’s blog post, but we’ll see.
I hope your weekend is off to a good start and that you’ve managed to continue making progress on your National Novel Writing Month project! I also hope your weekend continues to be good or improves and that you can make the time and energy to get some writing done. Good luck!
Action sequences can be really fun! Maybe there’s a fight brewing and your protagonist finally gets to show off their moves or maybe they drop a jar and, through a lucky combination of juggles, grabs, and kicks manages to keep it from hitting the floor. Whatever the reason there’s action, show it to us today! Write about the way the characters involved move through space, the way people respond to their movement, and make sure we know where everyone is so we can make sure that the person walking down the stairs who manages to securely catch the jar at the end actually had a clear line of effect from the person who gave it a last desperate kick to hopefully land it on the couch in the other room.
One of the most complex (in a good way), detailed stories I’ve ever read and enjoyed (sorry, Silmarillion) is Erfworld. It has been going on for ages and the amount of foreshadowing in every chapter is staggering. The attention to detail, the way every single thing in a page is important, and the fact that you’re usually right if you see something and wonder “is this important?” is mind-boggling. And the best part is that most of the twists are STILL unexpected. Or, if they’re expected, they’re still deeply satisfying. The characters are amazing and I’ve never been more hooked on a story and the characters taking part in it for as long as I can remember.
Like I mentioned above, creating a list of the reasons I write is super helpful for me when I’m having a difficult time staying focused over a long period of time or when I’m feeling particularly down. You should spend some time to do the same. It can be incredibly helpful as a mental exercise because it will hopefully help you figure out why you’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. Once you have the answer to that question, pushing through some of the bigger slumps or more difficult days will be easier because your reasons will be clear. If your reasons for writing are “to become inundated in attractive people I am sexually interested in” or “so I can make tons of money and build a bed out of hundred dollar bill” like some kind of nest-based Scrooge McDuck, then you should probably reexamine your choice since neither of those things happen to most writers. I suspect Neil Gaiman could do the former and that J.K. Rowling could do the latter, but both of them write because they love stories. The desire for money or a cadre of beautiful people isn’t really a motive that’ll help you push through a difficult day.
That being said, I’m not gonna judge you if those are your motivations since they might actually help you write. I’d just recommend setting some more reasonable expectations for the results of this month of writing.
I bit off more than I could chew yesterday. I got home and tried to focus and write for four hours and got nowhere. I wish I’d just called it after the first hour because I’d have at least done something relaxing with my time. But I just wanted to get it all done like I’d planned. Which is the downside to goals, I guess. Especially big ones like the ones I was throwing around yesterday. It’s important to know the difference between “possible” and “likely.” I leaned too hard on the possible part and paid no attention to how unlikely it was that I’d have the energy and focus to do that much writing after a full day of work and stuff. I probably need more sleep, a bit of actual relaxation, and then I’ll be good to write.
I think the goals are good, I’m just still recovering. So I’m going to dial them back a bit and aim for that. The blog post counts are pretty much going to stay the same since nothing is going to stop me from updating my blog every day, but I probably won’t pre-write all the Tips for the rest of the month. It’s a bit of a pain to try to come up with them at the end of a night of writing, but it’ll still be easier to do that once a day over this weekend than to try to jam out nineteen extra at some point in the next few days. I’ll aim for reaching fifteen thousand words in my National Novel Writing Month project, which is pretty much what I should be writing every day according to the NaNoWriMo thing, and I’ll drop my word count for the romance novel down to six thousand. Sure, I’ll have most of tomorrow afternoon and evening to write since I’m up a few hours at work, but I’ll be busy most of Saturday so I’ve really only got two days to spend on writing. Saturday, like yesterday, will be just about getting as many words done as possible before or after helping my friend move to her new house and then doing the requisite amount of hanging out before I bounce. As much as I’d love to spend some time with my friends, I would also like to get some writing done and rest up for next week. Next week is when I’m going to try to get back to it, hardcore mode.
I say “hardcore” mode like I’m going to step up my game to some new insane level, but that’s kind of the theme of the entire month. I’ve had three good days out of the last eight and I wrote twenty-three thousand words in that time. If I kept up that pace every day and wrote just my NaNoWriMo project, I’d have the whole thing done in a week.
Maybe that’s what I should do. Set aside the romance novel and just do the next forty-two thousand words of my novel over the next seven days (leaving a little room for blog writing), and then swap to my romance novel to do the same. That could work. Except for the fact that I know it won’t since seven-thousand words a day is an unsustainable pace during a work week and I still also want to do my Coldheart and Iron weekly posts, so that’s an extra two or three thousand words. Plus, as I said above, there’s a big difference between “possible” and “likely.”
So let’s just stick to my tame goals and then, when I’m rested, I’ll figure out how to fix up my plans so I can still accomplish all my goals for the month. I know I can still do it. I’ve been off to worse starts than this, percentage-wise. I doubt I’ve ever been this far off on word-counts, though. I should be at about thirty-two thousand words for the month as of the end of yesterday, but I’m only at twenty-seven thousand five hundred. Which isn’t a bad place to be, it’s just behind on all my metrics because I’ve only been consistent about blog posts and I can’t ride that minimum daily count for any longer before it starts to put me way behind. I mean, I’m only five thousand words behind schedule and that’s about five hours of work if I can focus. So who knows, maybe I’ll catch up. I feel pretty far behind, though, so I’m not sure the “projected total” and “actual total” are actually giving me the information a quick analysis says they do.
Okay, I crunched the numbers and everything’s further off. I should be at eight thousand words for my romance novel (at a minimum) and I’m only at two thousand and all those are getting tossed out because I need to fix how I’m writing it. I’m at eight thousand five hundred words in my National Novel Writing Month project and I should be at thirteenth and a third thousand words. So I’m essentially thirteen thousand words behind my word count totals. Which is about what I’d make up if I’d actually gone with the goals I stated yesterday.
I think that I’m going to keep my more reasonable goals for this weekend and just see where I am when I get there. Maybe I can push for some extra words every day to make up for being behind. An extra thousand every day would catch me up in no time. Four thousand words a day plus blog posts. Doesn’t seem like much when I say it like that, looking at my daily totals from past days, but it’s going to be difficult.
I’m going to take my advice from a few days ago and just focus on non-numeric goals. No time, no word count, just moving down the page and marking off story beats. It’s good advice. I should listen to myself more often. Anyway, I hope your day goes well, that you make good progress today, and that you can find the time to step away long enough to breathe and prepare yourself for the next dive. Good luck!
Unless you’re trying to write period literature based on stories from over one thousand years ago (if you are, I wish you the best of luck and I hope you let me know because I live stories from back then), your characters are probably going to grow and change. Maybe the entire story is about your protagonist growing and changing. Whatever part of the story it is, growth is important to show. For today, write a scene showing your protagonist growing. You could show them reflecting on a time when they would have made a difference choice or you could even show them growing by having them change the way they’re responding to whatever situation is causing their growth. It can be as little or as big as you want, but show it to us, don’t just tell us about it.
Sometimes, you just need to have an uncomplicated fun time. Most people don’t really think of Twitter when they think of places they can go for a fun time, especially considering how many nazis infest the platform these days. But me? I go check out #BadBookIdeas. Two of my Twitter friends are responsible for the resurging popularity of the hashtag and they occasionally have duels that always result in a spike of people Tweeting. It’s a great place to go for ideas. You shouldn’t use the ideas other people are posting because that’s kind of rude, but they have pun titles usually and they do a great job of getting you thinking about quick little stories. Participating is also great practice for coming up with stories ideas for your own use, so check it out and try it out!
Take some time away from your screen, typewriter, or notebook. Walks are great, but sometimes you just need to center yourself. Your mind needs to be tidied up every so often, just like the place you live, and the best way to do that is some kind of non-specific writing or expression. Maybe have an open-ended philosophical discussion with your friends. Maybe draw something or make some non-word based art. Maybe write a poem. Maybe do a little writing in your journal. Maybe meditate. You’ve got a lot of options and I’m sure you know which will work best for you. Don’t continue to push yourself when the words won’t come. Take a break, tidy up, and get your mind in order. This doesn’t mean play video games, read, or watch TV. You need to take the time to intentionally order your mind. Get things out of it. Put some of it away. All of that. It’s not always easy and it’s not always possible, but there’s usually benefit to it. I’m planning to do a bunch of it after I leave work today since I’ve been putting it off all week. I’m going to make a phone call, have a good cry about this week, and then clean up my mind. Maybe then I’ll actually be able to write what happened in my life.
Anyway, this is a bit beside the point. Take the time to reflect on what’s in your head because that’s where the stories come from. You need to clean it up and care for it if you want to keep producing. Sometimes that means not accomplishing the goals you set for yourself, but that’s okay. Your mind is your best tool and it’ll work better once you’ve put some work into caring for it.
What a fucking morning. Jesus Christ. Wake up and find out that not just all of the terrible stuff I mentioned in yesterday’s post is gonna be in the news all day, but there was also another mass shooting and Ruth Bader Ginsberg is in the hospital? I mean, is the world going for a new record number in their recent “Bad News Combo?” I feel like we’re approaching a point where everything that can go wrong will go wrong. It’s horrifying and incredibly draining. I just wanted to have a month where I could put everything else aside and shoot for some crazy-pants writing goals instead of trying to set up a sustainable writing habit like I did last November. I was so excited for those goals and now there’s so much going on in my life and my government that I can’t just tune it all out. There are so many things competing for my time and attention–I want to give my full time and attention to–that I wind up feeling pulled apart and unable to focus on anything.
I played a lot of video games last night, but that would up being less relaxing that I’d hoped. The game I’ve been playing, Pathfinder: Kingmaker, is a lot of fun and the story is great (I’m planning to review it next month, once I’ve gotten further into it), but it is nigh-impossible to get through this game with my character being a sorcerer! Spell-casting is powerful at later levels in the tabletop version of Pathfinder, but it isn’t super weak at earlier levels. It is limited, sure, but I shouldn’t be struggling this much. The real problem is how difficult it is to recover spells. Camping supplies are heavy enough that I can barely carry any since I’ve got a couple of low-strength characters in my group and they’re required for resting unless I want to let a bunch of hours fly past while someone in my party tries to hunt for food. Which doesn’t make any since because there’s also a “meal prep” section of the camping interface and you can make actual recipes if you have the raw ingredients in your inventory so I don’t know what is even going on here. Maybe they’re hunting for firewood? But there’s no fucking way that takes six hours. Honestly, I think the whole system needs to be reworked if they want to make casters a viable option. Otherwise you’re restricted to only buff casting and that gets super boring. Honestly, I might just restart my game and make a ranger or dexterity based fighter. Martial classes benefit the most from this system because very few of them have powers that get used up and health potions and such are cheap enough to buy in bulk. I mean, I have about three dozen at any given time since my cleric’s healing sucks constantly (his “rolls” for hitpoint restoration are so bad that he could use Cure Moderate Wounds and heal less than the bard casting Cure Light Wounds and has literally every time he’s done it) and the fucker keeps getting knocked unconscious because SOMEHOW, despite having a barbarian with double the movement speed who stands RIGHT NEXT TO HIM, he is ALWAYS the first person to reach melee combat so all the enemies latch onto him. I mean, fuck.
Anyway, this is what happens when you try to play a tabletop game like you play a video game. I would have loved this game if it was a turn-based game where everything moves in order like you do in the tabletop version of Pathfinder. I don’t care about grids or any of that stuff, but just being able to more easily line people up since I wouldn’t need to manage everyone at once would be nice.
I’m going back to writing tonight, once I leave work. I want to start catching up on the writing I haven’t been doing and, if I can get through today without anything horrible happening, I might be able to get some done. At the VERY LEAST, I’d like to avoid falling further behind in my goals. Sure, I’ve written a total of twenty-five thousand words this month, but I should be higher by now. That’s only twenty to twenty-five percent of what I want to do this month and I’m already past that point in the month. I know I can still recover from this. I’ve done almost thirty thousand words in a single weekend, friday night to Sunday night, before and I can do it again if that’s what it’s going to take. I just need to get my feet under me after this past week so I can start working again. If I can have a single calm day, just one, I can find a way to catch up this weekend.
Ultimately, I can’t count on that. I’d like it, but there’s too much going on right now to expect a calm day. I mean, I’m probably going to a protest at five this afternoon as a part of the public’s response to the recent shit Trump is trying to pull, and protests are generally not a part of a calm day. So I’m going to set myself some goals for the next four days, I’m going to mentally gather my power, and I’m going to do everything. I had my day of exhaustion and moping, so now it is time to work.
These are my goals to be hit by the time I go to bed on Sunday. I’m going to get my National Novel Writing Month project up to twenty thousand words. I can do fifteen hundred to two thousand words in an hour if I focus a bit and swap between projects to give myself a break. If I do that twice a day between now and Sunday, I can reach that goal without a problem. I’m going to re-write my romance novel with the tone I should have been using since the beginning and I’m going to get that up to twelve thousand words, which will also be about two hours of focused work a day between now and then. I’m going to continue updating my blog every day because nothing has made me miss a day in three hundred seventy-eight days and this isn’t going to stop me either. I’m also going to pre-write all of the “tips” for my blog posts so I don’t have to spend time figuring them out every day. Since they’re only one hundred fifty or two hundred words each, they’d make great breaks from working on my two book projects. Which means I’m going to find a way to write thirty-one thousand words in the next four days (or only thirty thousand if you exclude today’s post). That’s more than I’ve done so far this month, thanks to spending half my days trying to recover from everything going on. And it’s totally possible since I ALREADY did twenty-three thousand words in just the four days I actually worked this month.
I’m going to do this and I’ll keep you all updated on my progress as I go. I hope you can find your centers today and use it to push yourself forward as you work on your goals today, whatever they are. Good luck!
How do your protagonist’s friends view them? How does the world of your story view your protagonist? Your protagonist may have a very solid identity and you may know exactly who they are, but the world often sees people differently than they see themselves. The same is true of friends. Today, focus on the difference between the way your protagonist sees themself and the way their friends see them, along with the conflicts that can cause when a friend makes an assumption about the way the protagonist would react that clashes with the way the protagonist views themselves. These moments can be incredibly moments for growth, so don’t hold back!
My favorite video game, Breath of the Wild also tells one of my favorite stories using a wonderful and different method than most. Instead of telling most of the story through a strict narrative unlocked through steady progression through the game (like almost every video game I’ve ever played), Breath of the Wild hits the major plot points using a mission progression, but actually tells most of the story passively, as you wander through the game and learn the names of the various places on your map. Destroyed villages and overgrown ruins paint a picture of destruction generations old that most of the world is still unable to properly recover from. The people wandering through the world have kept their spirits up, but they’re constantly being attacked by monsters and, for most of them, their only recourse is to run away from the beings that destroyed their world one hundred years ago.
The act of setting goals, as evidenced above, can help you move from spinning your wheels to making progress. It’s the same idea as putting some research or part of an outline in the blank page of a new project. Once you have something, anything, to focus on, it makes it a lot easier to get started. Blank pages are terrifying, even after several years of writing I still hate coming face-to-face with them, and trying to make progress on a giant project without small steps to work on is the mental equivalent of a blank page. Break it down into steps, give yourself a time to get each of them done, and adjust your schedule and goals as time goes on and your progress requires. They’re supposed to help you motivate yourself, to change the giant task of “write a novel” into simple things like “write a full page” or “finish the chapter” that can be accomplished in a couple of hours of work. You want measurable progress and a list of goals is the best thing I’ve ever found for that.
Bonus-tip: If you need help getting fired up today like I have, listen to the first half of the Hamilton soundtrack while you’re working out your goals. Specifically, only the first half. Trust me on that.
It is difficult to reconcile the world I was raised to believe existed and the world that actually exists. Like a lot of people in my age category, I was raised to believe that I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough and that there was a benevolent being somewhere above us who loved us individually and only wanted what was best for us. A lot of it was reinforced as I grew up because I was constantly told how smart I was, how capable I was when I focused on something I really wanted, and how frequently things just worked out the way I wanted. My home life might have been difficult, I might have had some issues crop up in my family that I’m still dealing with to this day, but I pretty much just walked through my childhood and teen years without ever really being denied anything I tried to obtain. I had pretty low expectations and didn’t try for much, to be fair, but I still managed to get everything I wanted one way or another. It felt pretty believable that I was capable of anything and that there was some force watching out for me.
As I went to college and started to come to terms with what I’d endured growing up, how I felt about my family, and my own limitations, my once-strong faith was the first thing to go. I’d describe myself as agnostic now, but it’s a little more complicated than that. I really want to believe in some higher power, but I feel like higher powers get used to get out of fixing things more frequently than I’m willing to put up with. Religion is frequently used as the justification for a lot of bad things but that doesn’t make religion itself bad. It works really well for a lot of people and it appeals to me because of the frequent focus on forgiveness, love, and respect for others. I just want to focus on doing my best here and now, to help as many people as I can now, because it feels like helping and loving is more important than figuring out which faith is the right one. That always feels like a cop-out to me, but I don’t really know how to explain it any better. I just hope that whatever greater power there is out there, whatever got things going at the start of everything, either doesn’t care or understands that I was just trying to do my best by my fellow humans.
A few years after that, when I got my first permanent, post-college job, I eventually realized that not everything works out. I wasn’t even trying to believe that everything works out well, just that it eventually comes to an end and there is some kind of conclusion. Unfortunately, closure and completion aren’t always guaranteed. Sometimes things just stop and you’re left wondering if they’re over or if there’s maybe more down the line. I’ve had a couple of relationships end like that, a few moves away from jobs, and even a few friendships that abruptly ended, and I can definitely say that that’s almost never the case. Recently mending bridges with one friend is pretty much the only time that’s ever been true and it was for a friendship I thought had concluded. It was one small, simple, enormous step that showed me sometimes things “work themselves out” without really ending. But it’s one thing in a world full of times things are just over and it’s up to me to figure out what to do with the unsatisfying end.
I spent over a year denying that it was time to move on from my old job. I spent more than a few months trying to salvage a relationship that had ended mutually due to distance but blown up afterwards because of immaturity and poor communication. I spent fifteen months trying to work things out with a roommate when I’d already known it was never going to happen. I’m really bad at letting things die when they don’t have a clear-cut end or conclusion. I spend way more time and energy trying to make things work out to what feels like a real end because there’s still a part of me that believes I can do anything if I work hard enough. I know it isn’t true, I know there are real limitations to what people can accomplish based on the factors of their life, and I know that hard work is rarely enough to achieve success, but the idea of working hard is so ingrained in my soul that I usually just double-down and convince myself that all I need to do is work even harder. Then, surely, I will achieve the success I desire.
Nothing in life is guaranteed, though. Life is short and people leave yours all the time. Days are long and you could dash yourself to pieces against the wall you’re trying to break through. You could live a lifetime in two years, full of vows to change the way things had been before and to never make the same mistakes again, only to realize you’ve in a position not that different from where you started. Maybe progress is too slow to really see and you’ll wake up one day to realize everything is different. Maybe You just need a little more time or one last push to finally break through that wall. You never know. Maybe you’re one day, one conversation away from achieving your every dream. Only time will tell if you’ve pushed too hard or if you haven’t yet pushed hard enough.
I don’t think I can achieve anything and everything I put my mind to, not after failing as often and as severely as I have. I don’t think there’s some force out there trying to guide my life down the right path. I want to believe these things, still, but I feel like I’ve got something more important to focus on. I have one thing I want to do, one big goal to spend my life on. I may never be able to achieve it or find the success I want, but I’m willing to live my entire life in pursuit of it. I feel like having that pinpoint focus is a little more valuable to me in the long run than the potentially erroneous belief in my ability to succeed or to be granted the achievement when I follow the plan of some supreme being.
Today was wonderful. I woke up leisurely, lounged in bed, and only got out of bed to give my friend a ride to his car. He’d wound up staying at another friend’s house after they went out last night and I was up for a drive and some pleasant conversation. Afterwards, I stopped by the local diner for a long breakfast and some reading. When that was done, I opened all the windows and doors in the house to let in the beautiful weather, created a good background music playlist, and lounged while continuing to read the book I started at breakfast and listening to my playlist. A few hours later, my roommate and I cleaned in preparation for the night’s D&D session, did some shopping, and then settled in to wait for our friends to arrive.
D&D was tons of fun, even if it did run a little late, but it finished in time for me to remember that I STILL hadn’t update my blog. AGAIN. I think my change to my normal scheduling is making it difficult for me to remember and/or prioritize updating my blog every morning. I should probably get back to that soon. Not for another week or so, though. I still have a lot of reflecting to do and writing it out is really helping me. I should probably go back and read through all of my old posts again so I can remember everything I’ve thought. There’s just so much I can’t keep it all straight!
A little variety in my life is important. I tend to ignore it in favor of the comfortable and familiar, since I build habits easily and let my obsessive nature take control so I always stick to them. As I’ve written in previous posts, that isn’t always a good idea. It can stress me out and turn something that should be a fun and fulfilling experience into a rote recitation. A spewing of words with no value beyond the fact that they are correct and the words currently in demand. There is no thought to them.
In other words, they’re the exact opposite of what I want to feel when I write and when I post to this blog.
I think I might get my buffer back together this week. Make that my project, since there’s not much else going on right now and all the stress of last week has calmed down to the point where I’ve almost forgotten about it. I haven’t really forgotten about it. I hope I don’t. There was too much important stuff for me to think about. It just isn’t dominating my mind today, thanks to the peace and calm nature of the day. Honestly, just thinking about it now is getting me kind of wound up about it and that’s no good.
I need to find a balance between the sort of absent-minded freedom from responsibility and care that I felt today and the heavy stress and anxiety about the future I felt Friday and Saturday. That’s my goal. All of reflection and meditation is tipping me toward too much stress, even if it’s helping me manage my anxiety. Responding with an entire week away from cleaning the kitchen isn’t really a healthy response to that amount of stress. Ideally, I’d be able to clean the kitchen and maybe cut down on just how much time I spent on reflection. We’ll see how that goes.
I just need to keep myself focused on my goals, reflecting on my thoughts, and asking myself the questions I’ve been writing down that don’t have easy answers. As long as I do that, I should figure out what it is I’m expecting this period of self-reflection to produce. Hopefully.
One of the most common things you hear from people dispensing relationship or life advice is to appreciate every day and never take life (or your partner) for granted. This is good advice because people tend to get used to the way their life is and either lose appreciation for what they have or they start to believe their life will always be the same. If you fail to appreciate a romantic partner, it should not be surprising if they leave. If you do not appreciate the good things in your life, you can lose sight of them or stop doing the work necessary to maintain them. While this is great advice and something I try to keep in mind at all times, I also keep it in mind at ALL times.
You know what happens when you take this sort of thing to an extreme (well, what happens when I take it an extreme, since I can only speak for myself here)? You spend your life living in fear of losing whatever it is you’re appreciating.
Every time I meditate, I read through my little notebook of questions to ponder, things to keep in mind, and the central thoughts my meditation revolved around. Last night, when I was meditating after my review, I landed on a thought from a few days ago. I invest in people so heavily because I’m afraid of losing them. I try to appreciate every day I have with people and doing what I love because I know how quickly life can change. As I meditated, I realized I was filled with a sense of dread and quiet fear of something I couldn’t quite explain. Eventually, I linked it back to the idea that appreciating every moment carries with it the implication that you do so because you never know when it will end. If you do not moderate the thought carefully, you can wind up “appreciating” your life and your partner because you’re not sure how long you’ll have them to the point of constantly living in fear of losing them.
My OCD and anxiety routinely have a field day with the quiet implication that all the good parts of my life are only temporary. Constantly reminding myself to appreciate what I have while I have it means constantly reminding myself that it is very likely I will, eventually, no longer have it. This is a quiet thought spiral that will sit inside me and build until I’m panicking about something stupid like rescheduled plans or not having the time to work on something I wanted to do. At which point, there’s little I can do but ride out the storm and try to stay calm enough to refrain from doing anything idiotic. While I wouldn’t say that I constantly live in fear of losing what is important to me, I can say it is a stressfully frequent anxiety of mine.
The thing is, no one tells you that you should get used to having your partner or the positive things in your life around. If you continue to do the work required to maintain your relationships and the things you appreciate most in life, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be around for a while. People make commitments to each other because they want to stay as a part of the other person’s life. People don’t just go from wanting to be in your life to leaving it aside from freak accidents. There’s usually a pattern of behavior or a shift as the relationship changes before people separate. If you’re paying attention to the relationship, you can see it coming. The same is true of things that people appreciate, like jobs or hobbies. Aside from, once again, freak accidents, people don’t just lose jobs or lose access to hobbies. It takes time and plenty of warning signs.
I feel secure in my relationship. Maybe not to the point of having nothing that needs work or not worrying about whether or not I’m putting in the work I should be; the relationship is only seven months old so there’s still plenty of room for us to grow together and get to know each other better. I just don’t worry about anything legitimate. I worry about horrific things like car accidents, natural disasters, the eventual collapse of society due to socio-economic or political factors, and whether or not I’ll have had a chance to try to prevent the end of the relationship due to something extreme and unpredictable. Just like most of my anxieties and obsessions. There is no way to predict when society will collapse or if one of us is going to get struck by a car, so there’s nothing productive I can do to fend off the anxiety. All I can do is try to put it out of my mind and focus my energy elsewhere, which is a lot like trying to not think about pink and purple polka-dotted elephants. Doable, sure, but not without a lot of practice and no significant amount of mental effort that can be instantly betrayed by a single stray thought as to why I’m so forcefully blanking my mind.
Like I said in the post I linked above, I need to invest less emotional energy in the sort of panic-inducing line of thought revolving around whether or not something crazy is going to happen that will take away everything I love and enjoy. Chances are REALLY good my significant other will still be around tomorrow. And next week. If I just assume she’s going to be around forever, then I run into problems. Same is true of my writing. I will have opportunities to write tomorrow or next weekend, but I can’t just keep putting it off by thinking that I can always do it later. I need to find balance between my anxieties about losing everything and the trap of assuming there will always be more time. Being this high-strung all of the time is really time-and-energy-consuming.
One of the ways I’ve been considering pushing back against my inclination to over-invest and get caught up in disaster-focused thought spirals is to put more time and effort into choosing “me” over other people. Doing the lazy thing I want to do or advocating for the activity I’d like to do. Currently, I don’t do that very much. The past week and a half of writing reflective blog posts and not trying to write as soon as I get home from work has been pretty much the only time this year that I wasn’t caught up in trying to get something done. I’ve played more video games in the past week than in the month leading up to it. I haven’t read much more, but I’ve actually been buying books again, which is what leads to me reading books.
This is a common theme to a lot of my posts and the “what do I do about this?” part of each reflection. I need to spend more time and energy on myself. I need to value myself more and give myself the same benefit of the doubt I extend to everyone else. I need to work on living my best life and not sacrifice all of my todays on the altar of a potential, far-off tomorrow.
I wanted to make this year about writing. I wanted to write a blog post every day and work on some of my novel projects. But that’s just one thing. That’s just one part of myself and my interests that I’m address. I also want to hike more. I want to get back to reading at least a book a week. I want to continue strengthening and enjoying my relationship with my girlfriend. I want to do new things and stretch myself in ways I considered too scary or too difficult before. I want to be more than I am today. And yet all I’m doing is writing more. Yes, this is good. Yes, this is an amazing goal and getting nothing done but a year of daily blog posts would still be a huge accomplishment. None of that means anything if I’ve sacrificed every other part of myself to make it happen. I can do it for a month, to pump out a whole bunch of NaNoWriMo words, but I can’t, and shouldn’t, keep it up forever.
Every other year, after NaNoWriMo, I’ve always felt burned out and spent at least one month not writing anything. That obviously didn’t happen last year, and that was because I decided to stretch myself in a new way. Look how wonderfully that has turned out! I’ve made over two hundred consecutive daily blog posts! I never expected to make it this far without missing a day and all of this growth and new confidence is the result of a whim. A stray thought and just enough whimsy to decide to pursue it. I need to bring that dedication and discipline to the rest of my life. I need to do new things. I need to advocate for myself. I need to be open and honest with people, even if that’s scary. I need to figure out what I want out of this summer other than another ninety-two blog posts and then work on getting it.
I’m all fired up and ready to go, but I still have work to do. After work, I’ve got my weekly foam-fighting practice. Then bed and work tomorrow. I’ve already scheduled my next twenty-four hours and I can feel the thought of my ordered life draining some of the fire away from me. Pretty much every time I write one of these posts, the same thing happens. I lose the fire between finishing the post and leaving work. Then I go about my day’s activities, find a way to amuse myself for a bit, and then go to bed after meditating for a bit.
I need a way to keep that fire burning. I need to recapture the passion I once felt about everything I did. I want to be that person who used to be excited about everything and could get other people excited about stuff. Maybe trying new things and getting past the inertia from the past four years of doing less and closing myself off will help. It’ll be a real struggle, though, since I feel even more down and discouraged than I did before I got excited.
It won’t be easy, but I think it’ll be worth it.
Lately, I have enjoyed joking that my life is finally in order so now I can say that, for sure, I am the mess. There’s some truth to this expression, but it isn’t entirely fair to me. I believe that my mental issues are a part of me and that they are a significant characteristic, but they are not limitations. I am bigger than my mental illnesses. I am more than them, though I am them as well. I may be a mess right now, but I’m a fairly organized mess and I’ve got a plan for becoming a not-mess. I’m in-between bookshelf organization methods. Sure, my books are stacked all over and covering the floor, but I know each stack and where each stack needs to go. I’ve just got to do the work of putting the books away.
I’ve been having a lot of stressful weeks, lately. I’m currently trying to do everything I can to avoid feeling too depressed and wanting nothing more than to just stop doing stuff for a few days or weeks so I can rest. Dating, writing every day, blog posts, working more, and more! Then there’s been a lot of individually stressful things like a few super busy weeks at work, tax-filing, and realizing I need a strict budget. This leaves me spending my Sunday in bed, watching my Steven Universe DVDs while listening to the Steven Universe soundtrack and playing Pokemon, only leaving bed for D&D at 5 pm and a few times before that for food and the bathroom.
I don’t even know if I can say I actually enjoy days like those. I have them every so often and I know I need them, but I don’t really enjoy retreating from the world to that degree. I talk to almost no one, get nothing productive done, and make a mess in my room because I can’t even be bothered to go downstairs to put my dishes in the sink. Don’t forget the time I spend agonizing over stupid little things that shouldn’t be stressing me out as much as they are while I ignore the actually legitimate issues I should be fretting about. Sometimes I eventually work through it all and can think about the real issues, but not always.
Depression is a bitch. As John Green once said in a video (I can’t find the video so I can’t attribute it to its primary source), “Depression is melancholy, without its charm.” There’s nothing fun about this. Anxiety also sucks. Nothing ruins a day quite like feeling like you forgot to turn off the oven about literally everything. I woke up at 6:30 because I apparently don’t like to sleep and then spent the next seven hours stressed out. That was last weekend and it was the longest day I’ve had in a couple of years.
I really want to find a way to calm down and let go of my tension, but my tension is a result of constantly working on things that are good for me and that I enjoy. I want to do everything I’m doing and more, so I’ve only got myself to blame for the position I’m in. If I want the successes I’ve set as my goals for 2018, then I have to pay the price. It’d be really cool if I could just get out of my own way and no longer waste so much energy on dumb shit like freaking out about whether or not I’m going to see an increase in the daily average views for this blog or if I’ve actually got enough clean underwear for the next week (which doesn’t matter because I’ve got a washer and dryer, so I can just do laundry whenever I want).
I’m used to being able to turn my anxiety and OCD toward useful ends. Even my depression had its uses. Now, all of my worries and OCD traits feel frivolous or irksome. It is hard to enjoy the feeling of being in control engendered by the act of cleaning your space when you can’t actually get down to cleaning because your cleaning supplies need to be cleaned first
I’d like to just shrug and say I’ll figure it out in the end, but it feels difficult to maintain that level of confidence and belief in the strength of the future when I feel like I no longer have any part of my mental health problems figured out. That’s the stress and exhaustion talking, but they sure talk pretty loudly these days. They’re becoming dominant aspects of my mental landscape every week. Hopefully another quiet weekend or two, following on the tail of a quieter work week, will help me get back on my feet and feeling like I can figure it all out in due time. That’s always a nice feeling.
I’ve had a lot of big-picture goals that haven’t changed in a rather long time. Lose weight so I can have fewer excuses to give myself a hard time. Finish a novel through the editing phase and find an agent (or decide on a self-publishing method). Figure out where I want to be, physically and emotionally, by deciding who to surround myself with and how to manage my mental health issue. I’ll admit that the last one has changed a bit over the past year, at least in the way I express it.
I haven’t achieved any of those goals, though I’m pretty sure I could argue that I’m well on my way toward the last one, but I have made progress toward all of them. Mentally speaking, I’m much better off today than I was a year ago, even after the mentally exhausting bombardment of horrible stuff going on in the world. I’m more prepared and ready to continue working on my goals. Like update this blog every day.
Resolutions are great, and all, but it’s so easy to set them up as pass/fail instead of recognizing that a lot of the biggest goals are made of a lot of failures. Progress is better than giving up.
To be completely honest, I had a poem I was going to post that was going to be perfect to post almost late on the first day of the year, but I’m way too tired to finish it and it’s taken me half an hour to write this much. So I’ll post that soon. After I’ve gotten some sleep and stuff. I hope you had a great New Year and enjoyed what was hopefully a suggestion to decide to make progress rather than just acheieve your goals.