NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 16 (11/16)

Last night was a saga for the ages. I settled down at about seven-thirty to begin writing, making sure all my other chores around the place were finished so I could focus on my writing without other stuff taking up space in my mind. I started making some good progress, though it was a bit of a slower start than I’m used to. Around eight, though, I noticed my iPod was acting strangely. Normally, I plug it into my computer and use iTunes to edit playlists and stuff on it since I don’t have it synchronized with my computer. Manually managed in fine with me, since I like having that level of control anyway. The only downside is that it sometimes won’t register because, back around the time I built my current computer and subsequently lost all the data on my old hard drives (that’s a story for another day and involves personally re-learning that wiping a computer using software doesn’t necessarily clear it of all data), some of the data on the iPod corrupted. This corrupted data made it a gigantic pain in my ass to move my music library from my iPod to my new computer since it would crash windows every time it encountered a corrupted file. Which means I’ve spent the last two and a half years tempting fate with eighty gigabytes of music on my iPod that is backed up nowhere else. \

Well, last night, as I investigated why my iPod was acting so weird, I discovered that my daily schedule backup was happening at the same time. Since there was nothing else going on to explain why my iPod froze and iTunes stopped working, I decided to just unplug it and plug it back in. Which is when I was notified that my daily backup had suddenly failed. Looking into that, I discovered that it was attempting to back up my iPod. Which it had been successfully doing until I went ahead and unplugged my iPod in the middle of it communicating with my external hard drive. Excited, I got my iPod plugged back in and started the backup again. I was giddy at the idea that my external hard drive would be able to just copy the data off my iPod and then all I’d need to do is import the file from my external hard drive to iTunes. I started the backup again and went about my business as it slowly worked its way through the weird hidden files on my iPod.

After I checked on it a couple of times without seeing any real progress past a certain point, I put my writing aside in favor of investigating. Surely, it’d be a quick fix. Probably a result of the fact that I interrupted the last backup. It wasn’t. My external hard drive was encountering the same problem I had when I tried to move the files manually. There were corrupted files that crashed windows explorer (which was a significant upgrade from crashing all of windows and, as I found out, is a result of a fix that Microsoft did last summer). This time, though, I could see which file it was that caused the problem. I reasoned that, even if I kept encountering these files, it would still be easier to go in and delete them off my iPod as the backup went through its process than to try to do it manually.

I was wrong. It was not easier. In addition to reset windows explorer and unplugging my iPod to restart the copying process, which is what I wound up doing when I encountered a corrupted file while manually copying the songs, my external hard drive needed to be restarted as well, along with the software that manages it. The only way to truly do that is to restart my computer. As I was resigning myself to living out the rest of my iPod’s days in fear of its eventual death and the loss of my music library, I decided to take a look at the files I was deleting, to see if there was any common factor that would let me preemptively remove them instead of needing to trip over them. Turns out, there was. Some crappy metal album I’d gotten from a friend when I integrated his music library into mine had corrupted at some point, so none of the songs would play on my iPod and they hung every involved software application when I tried to copy them over or edit them. So I deleted every song by them off my iPod.

Buoyed by my success at finding the common link between the files, I started up the backup process again and went back to writing. Twenty minutes later, I was back to investigating since the backup had hung again. What was supposed to be an hour of poking around and letting the automatic copy process of my external hard drive turned into me manually copying every song off my iPod and cramming in what writing I could during the minute I had during a successful copy and paste. I finished it, though, at about half past one in the morning and I even got my writing minimum done. All-in-all, it was a successful night. I’ve copied the music somewhere it will be safe and my iPod should be ready to back up to the external hard drive now. I’ll be able to finally scan and repair my iPod like Windows constantly wants me to do. I’ll be able to restore it like iTunes wants me to. It is done and I never need to worry about it again since I’ll never be so foolish as to rely on my iPod as my music backup.

Even if I didn’t make the progress I wanted, I still made progress and fell no further behind. It may have been weird, frustrating, and exhausting (on account of only getting 4 hours of sleep last night), but last night was a good night. I don’t know how today will go seeing as I’ve got a thing I’m doing with my friends tonight, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’ll have a chance to do my minimum writing before the event and time afterwards to do more if I want. As long as my neighbor doesn’t keep me up with his music again, I’ll be good. I hope today is going well for you! We’re officially in the second half of the month and now’s the time to start hunkering down to work if you’ve been putting it off. If you’re on schedule or a head, that’s great, but don’t get complacent! There are still a lot of days left before the end of the month. Plenty enough to fall behind or catch up still. Good luck!

 

Daily Prompt

Who is your protagonist’s best friend? What part do they play in the narrative unfolding this month? Is it a good part, or are they holding the protagonist back? For today, trying writing about your protagonist’s closest friend and their part in the story you’re telling. Maybe they’re absent and the hole they left in the protagonist’s life is part of what drives them to act. Maybe they’re a voice of restraint and fear when the protagonist wishes to boldly push forward. Maybe they’re a voice of reason and a calm voice to help slow the protagonist down. Maybe they’re wildly emotional and one of the forces pushing the protagonist forward. You have a lot of options and it would be great to see how the protagonist’s closest friend affects the story.

 

Sharing Inspiration

I love art. Good art is like a feast for your eyes, fighting back against brain starvation and defeating the haunting spectre of white (or off-white) interrupted by splats of black in the shape of tiny little symbols that start to lose all meaning when you’ve been staring at them for well over twelve hours a day. No, I’m not going insane from spending all my free time writing and spending all day at my job staring at text because I’m a software tester and there’s way more of that than you’d think. But that’s mostly because I’ve surrounded my home computer with good art and my friend Carolyn’s art features heavily because she has a mastery of color and detail I find refreshing after looking at a text all day. Her stuff also looks amazing on a computer screen, so click that link up there and check it out! Maybe buy some prints to hand around your desk so you can pretend you’re not sitting in the same spot for a couple hundred hours this month.

 

Helpful Tips

If you’ve been working every day this month, then you’ve officially been working on the same project for sixteen days. That’s a long time to be doing any one thing. I know we’ve already gone over taking breaks, going for walks, and getting proper rest, bu it would also be a good idea to take some time to work on a different project for a bit. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I work better if I take occasional breaks to do something else. That’s why I have two projects for this month. If I swap between projects every hour, it is easier for me to stay focused or work through difficult spots because I’ve got something else to focus on while my mind works it way through whatever problem came up in the previous project. So find something else to do that’s constructive an engaging! Build a Lego set! Plan a dungeon! Reorganize your bookshelves! Draw some art! Write blog updates! Whatever it is, so long as it is constructive, just go do it!

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 8 (11/08)

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!

 

Daily Prompt

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!

 

Sharing Inspiration

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.

 

Helpful Tips

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.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 2 (11/02)

Well, Day 1 went pretty well. I got my daily word count in for my NaNoWriMo project and did about three thousand other words of writing. By the time I’m done with this post and whatever else I do before bed, I’ll probably have done about six thousand words today. Which isn’t as much as I’d have liked since that’s a whole day of writing and only 50% more writing than I need to do during my average day if I wind up closer to my maximum word count than my minimum one. Which is going to be my daily goal because I’d hate to get to the end of the month at ninety-five thousand words only to have fallen short of actually finishing the romance novel or updating my blog every day. Plus, it’s usually better to front-load so long as you’re not pushing yourself past the point of sustainability.

To be entirely fair to myself, I didn’t start writing right away. My whole morning was off because I had to deal with the maintenance guy coming to fix the broken garage door motor, feeling loopy and slightly disassociated from tiredness because I slept like crap and stayed up until past three in the morning, and I then had to leave to meet my friend for lunch right away so I didn’t get ANYTHING written until after 4pm. Because I also had to spend some time playing video games with a friend (oh no, poor me) since I’d promised to join him and, honestly, I need to not spend all of my time working on stuff. I did that for a month and a half just recently. I was so burned out that I needed three full days of rest and gaming to recover at all. So I got a lot done yesterday, all things considered. Even if I didn’t make it to bed right when I wanted to last night, I still did better than I expected in total words and in boxes filled-in on my to-do list.

I did outlines for both projects, but I had to do them by story beats rather than chapters because I’m not as firm on my National Novel Writing Month story or the romance novel story as I was on Coldheart and Iron (the story I did my first chapter-by-chapter outline for). I wish I was, but Coldheart and Iron started as a dream and I rarely get to see an entire story unfold like that before I write it down. Even with all that, it changed significantly as I went, with half again as many chapters added in as I went and a lot of shifts to the events of the story to make it fit with how I was writing it. “What You Know You Need,” which is what I’m calling my NaNoWriMo project, is still evolving and solidifying. I know most of the major points of the story and have some ideas about what I’d like to be in there, but nothing is certain yet. I have never written a romance story, so “Spicing Things Up” is still a giant mess of nothing but story beats as well. I mean, I barely even read romance novels so I fully expect this to be a travesty that changes as I write it and read actual romance novels for reference. Neither one of my stories can afford to be pinned down right now.

Finishing up the outlines (well, turning them into outlines instead of plot summaries) was one of my big tasks for yesterday, along with writing as many of the Inspiration posts ahead of time as I could. I’ve got two weeks of them finished and all of the writing prompts already done, so now I’m trying to get the rest finished and start in on daily progress on my novel projects. I also need to think about this month’s four Coldheart and Iron posts since I want to keep those up as well so I can finish it by Christmas Day. Which means I still have plenty to do with my weekends and days off. Today is my last planned day off, so I’m going to do my best to make the most of it. Maybe I can knock out my daily novel projects early and then pump out two big Coldheart and Iron posts. That’d be nearly ten thousand words for the day right there. I’d at least like to get one done. Hopefully two since I’m going to be incredibly busy next weekend. I’ve still got this weekend free, so who knows what all I can get done. Maybe I’ll get all four Coldheart and Iron posts done, get the Tips pre-written as well, and even get a few days ahead in my novel projects.

It’s nice to imagine. I’ll be happy just getting my daily allotment in so long as I can also get some work down on the Coldheart and Iron post. I’m going to be really busy most evenings for the next month.

 

Daily Prompt

Today, think about where your story is happening. Develop a setting. Set a scene. Write a little about the world it takes place in–how it differs or is similar to our world. Maybe just set the stage rather than set a scene. You can always add more detail later or change how “present” the world is, but you the writer need to know a lot about the world that will inform the characters’ actions. These thoughts, this knowledge, doesn’t need to be anything other than notes to yourself that you’ll pull out when you edit it so you can focus on what’s important to your story, but it’ll make your job a lot easier if you write this stuff down somewhere so it doesn’t need to constantly tumble around in your head. Free up some space and just jot it down in the margins.

 

Sharing Inspiration

One of the best books I’ve read this year, if not the best, is “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green. If you have not read it, you should read it. It appealed to me on a lot of levels and it was one of the first good books I’ve read of what I believe is an emerging genre (which I am also trying to write in for my project this month) of 20-something literature. I see it like a sort of second coming-of-age that is more focused on learning to live in the world we have rather than the world we were promised instead of simply accepting responsibility for oneself or being “an adult.” Beyond that, it also made me feel like a part of something larger than myself as someone who uses the internet. It had a positive effect in that it has reminded me that we can do good and that Human connection is still a goal for the internet.

 

Helpful Tips

Yesterday, you started writing. Or maybe you’re playing catch up today since you were too busy yesterday. Whatever you’re doing, however much you’ve done, remember to cut yourself some slack. No one has ever sat down to start a project and magically produced 40,000 actual words of a story in a single day. You could do that if you copy and pasted a bunch of words, but that’s not even close to the same thing. People like me take years to get to the point where we can sit down for forty-five minutes and write our daily allotment of words. I literally practiced writing every day for a year to get to this point, and that’s not counting all of the words I wrote in my life leading up to the start of that challenge. I have spent literally half my lifetime working on this. So, seriously, cut yourself some slack. Don’t measure your accomplishments against other people, especially not people like me. Measure it against the person you want to be and the person you were before you started this challenge. As long as you’re making progress, then you’re doing a great job! Keep it up! I never would have dreamt of doing something like this when I was starting out. Believe in yourself and take things at your own pace. As long as you work on it every day, you will get there. Persistence is key.

Saturday Morning Musing

The best decision I made in the past year was to start writing every day. It was also the dumbest. And the wisest. Probably not the most lucrative but definitely the most valuable. And it’s been nearly a year since I started, even if I’m still a month and a week short of the decision to keep what I started for National Novel Writing Month 2017 going for an entire year. I planned a month of blog updates: thirty posts about writing, what inspires me, and prompts to help people get working on their own National Novel Writing Month projects. This upcoming Wednesday’s review, the one that will go up on October thirty-first, will be the 365th post. I have a hard time believing I’ve almost done it and, at the same time, it doesn’t feel like a big deal.

I literally put everything (well, everything but the bare minimum I need to keep my life going) behind writing and posting to my blog every day. I haven’t played more than a couple of hours of video games a week since early September so I could make sure my blog got updated every day and I wrote every day even when I was working twelve-hour days. Because of this level of dedication over the course of a year, now the idea of not updating my blog or not writing every day feels foreign. I didn’t even stop to consider no longer updating this blog every day once the year was up, I just started planning all of my November blog posts so I could get some of them out of the way ahead of time and put more of my energy toward getting my National Novel Writing Month challenges done.

I have made zero money as a result of this writing, so far, and I doubt I’ll ever make much off this blog, even if I decide to add advertisements. That’s alright, though, because being able to write every day and to have writing projects to work on every day has lent my life an incredibly amount of meaning and satisfaction. The only thing that compares to a day of writing or posting a popular piece that gets a comment or two is what I felt when I played through Breath of the Wild for the first time, in March of 2017. I have gotten more, personally, out of my decision to push my limits like this than out of any other writing project I’ve ever done. It feels really good to have a purpose and a goal every day, even when work is slow or so busy I feel like I’m just being swept along by the tidal wave of work that needs to be done. Something that feels like forward progress when I can’t seem to make any in the other parts of my life.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t handle free time well. I suck at doing nothing and I will probably have a mental breakdown if I’m ever forced to just tend to my house or do small bits of gardening or whatever when I retire. I need projects. I need challenges. I need to feel like I’m growing or improving myself in order to enjoy my day-to-day life. Without that stuff, I start to feel like I’m stagnating or like I’m wasting my time. Most of that comes from my anxiety and isn’t reflective of my actual life in any way, and it would probably be more healthy for me to address the root of why I feel this way rather than fill my time with things to do, but finding projects is easier than analyzing my deepest mental health issues. Plus, I can do both. Analysis takes a long time and constructive projects within reason aren’t a bad coping mechanism. Working myself to the point where I’m too depressed and burned out to feel anything but tired is a bad coping mechanism. It’s also something I do far more frequently than I should. It’s also why I have several days off over the next week, because I pushed myself that far and a couple of friends plus my therapist all agreed that I really need to let myself take a break. Hell, even I agreed I need a break once I started being caught up in my own dumb attempts to convince myself and them that I was doing just fine.

I think I’m going to add a little bit more to my “writing every day – year two edition” challenge. I’m going to try to increase my efficiency so that I still have time for other stuff, like exercising every day and having downtime for stuff like playing video games or spending time with my roommates. Or dating again. Haven’t had time for that in a couple of months. Which is unfortunate because that was around when my desire to date came back following my breakup at the beginning of the summer. I haven’t had the time for a lot of stuff, like dealing with the four stacks of books on my floor, shredding junk mail, or cleaning out my closet. I’ve taken the time to keep all of those things orderly and organized at least, but I am getting a little tired of needing to step carefully through my bedroom door so I don’t accidentally trip on one of the stacks of books and knock over one of my bookshelves on the way down. For the next year, I’m going to take the time to do all that stuff and keep writing. I’m even getting started now! I’ve measure the one bit of open space I’ve got and I’m going to be using my vacation time to go find a shelf that will fit in that space. Maybe get my oil changed or, shit, get a haircut. I haven’t gotten a haircut in two years, as of this week, and I’m getting really sick of the whole “long hair” thing because ponytail headaches are the bane of my existence.

All that aside, I really do believe that writing every day was the best decision I’ve made in years. I feel excited by the prospect of working on all the projects I’ve got tumbling around my head, and I’m ecstatic to see the comments from my editor (whose advice and guidance is responsible for most of my growth as a writer) go from big notes about story structures and character details (especially about female characters) to minor comments about typing “then” instead of “them.” Without her support and assistance, I’d probably have given up on this daily writing thing a long time ago. But here I am. Four posts short of a full year. It’s a good feeling and I’m excited to show what I’ve got in store for my 365th post. You haven’t got long to wait, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I have been.

That is the point, though. Ultimately, anyway. I do this for myself and I’m enjoying the shit out of it, even if I’m so exhausted I dozed off while writing this half a dozen time.

Moderation Itself Can be a Kind of Extreme

If you’ve been following my reflections, you’ve probably noticed a lot of common themes. Stuff like “advocate for myself” and “communicate openly” are repeatedly featured, though they’re often worded differently or an implicit part of one of my other themes or self-directives. I’ve been trying to put them into practice and, between last night’s meditation (that quickly turned into sleep since I made the mistake of sitting in bed to do it) and this morning’s reflection, I’ve noticed a lot of interesting results.

Thanks to the way I’ve focused on the direction of my thoughts, the meanings and sources behind my various anxieties and moods, and the reminders I’ve written to myself, I think my overall mood is more positive. Maybe not in a major way, but I’d say the change is statistically significant. I don’t feel much better from moment to moment, but I have noticed I’m less likely to get caught up in my once-frequent small thought spirals or anxiety dust devils. Unfortunately, not a whole lot has helped my depression other than the exploration of my metaphor for talking about my mental illnesses and that only really helped me be more precise in seeing how my mood changes happen.

It’s too soon to see a lot of results, since I’m still trying to open up to people and advocate for what I want more often instead of trying to be constantly accommodating, but it feels nice to be making progress again. In today’s therapy session, I was able to tell my psychologist about all of the progress I’ve been making, thanks to the meditation and tracking everything in this little notebook I’ve got. Having her affirm my progress and talking about the things we can do to help me continue to make progress felt wonderful.

When I was seeing a psychologist in college, back when I was at the peak of my reflection and self-management game, most of my sessions would be me trying to convince myself that what I knew was the right solution was the wrong solution and my psychologist patiently backing up the part of me that knew what the right thing was. Once he pointed out what I was doing, we wound up meeting less frequently since I was good at figuring my own shit out. I still occasionally needed official confirmation or a bit of help when I couldn’t figure out what was really wrong or what to do about what was going on in my head. If I’d continued to see a psychologist after moving to Madison, I’m fairly certain I’d have maintained that skill and maybe have avoided some of the problems I ran into. By the time I started seeing a psychologist again, I was so caught up in how awful I felt and how my life felt like it was being taken over by my OCD, anxiety, and depression that I didn’t realize I was no longer certain of what was going on in my head on even the best of days.

Now, I feel like I’m getting back there. I feel like I’m starting to get a grasp on what is going on behind the veil of my thoughts and can start making progress at working on fixing what I want to fix. There’s a lot these days, but I feel confident I can keep making progress and that I’ll get there eventually. Since I’m making progress on my own and more effectively managing my moods as a result of being even more conscious of my thought processes and how to constructively combat the thoughts that come from my mental health issues, it lets my therapist and I work on some other stuff during our sessions. While I’m a bit concerned about keeping everything straight in my head and how much reading I’m going to wind up doing before meditating two weeks from now (I’ve already got almost two dozen pages of notes and reflection questions to review).

Progress is good, but I’m also worried about getting so wrapped up in trying to make progress and keep track of everything that I lose sight of what I’m trying to do. I want to be better, yes, but I don’t want to sacrifice everything else going on in my life. I want to write more, I want to get out more, I was to improve my mental health, I want to improve my ability to manage myself, I want to get back to working out regularly, I want to enjoy my summer by going camping or taking trips to the beach, and I want to keep paying down my debts.

As soon as I start lumping everything into one phrase like “making progress,” I run the risk of losing sight of the trees because of the forest. Sure, it’s mostly semantics when you really think about it, but semantics and framing are really important to how I handle things. “Progress” requires measurable change every day, but I can’t go camping and write more. I can’t pay down my debts by taking a day off to go to the beach. I can’t work out if I’m spending hours meditating and reflecting. Daily progress isn’t possible when it comes to collectively addressing my goals for this summer, so I need to focus on them individually and incremental progress. I can easily plan a trip after spending time reflecting, or figure out how to make a camping trip cost-effective so it doesn’t break my budget. If I work toward at least one goal a day and make sure to track everything with a checklist, then I can avoid feeling like I’m floundering or panicking because I’m trying to do too much.

As I’ve repeated many times in different words, I have a tendency to let obsession replace discipline. I need to proceed thoroughly and carefully. I need to exercise restrain and caution so I do not get over-invested in a particular way of doing things or in how I expect things to work out so I can avoid the crash that accompanies flawed expectations. That was the result of today’s reflection and something I am repeatedly emphasizing to myself. After all, what is the point of trying to improve myself and work on my goals if I just transfer my unhealthy habits from where they are currently to the idea of getting rid of unhealthy habits? It may seem like an impossible oxymoron, but I’ve already done it before and that level of recursion creates mental hurricanes when it gets disrupted by sensibility reasserting itself.

It can be an incredibly frustrating balancing act and just trying to sort it out in a way I feel explains it well is giving me a headache. I know what I’m trying to do and, even if I can’t properly explain it here, I know how to do it. That’ll have to be enough for now. Maybe I’ll figure out the perfect explanation at some point. Maybe I should meditate on that tonight, since I feel asleep while trying to think about it last night. We’ll see. I’ve got a long weekend to work on it.

This whole thing is kind of funny. It reminds me of the lyrics to one of my favorite Andrew Bird songs, “Lull.”

“I’m all for moderation but sometimes it seems
Moderation itself can be a kind of extreme”

I can take anything to an extreme. Moderation is key and moderating myself requires I do it moderately. Talk about meta.

Write Anything *In Progress*

They told me I could write anything
And foolishly I believed them.
They ooh’d and aah’d at every word

Does “them” have any non-awful rhymes?

In the years since my accolades
I’ve learned a difficult lesson

Teachers say to write what you know
But I know about as much as Jon Snow
And though I’d hate to let these lines go
They don’t fit into this poem, so…

 

Writing about only hetero white dudes
Gets super friggin’ boring
If I did only that
All my readers would be snoring

(Turn the above ideas
Into something that fits
The poetic form
Of the previous bits)

 

Witty lines to point out my growth
That reference a fresh meme

 

I’ve learned I can’t write everything
So I wrote this poem instead.

 

Intertia

Inertia rules my existence.
It wears the crown and bears the scepter,
Commanding me to march and obey.
I’m no conscientious objector.
I would gladly march like a toy soldier
To keep away depression’s specter.

So long as I am moving forward
I can pretend everything is fine.

If I take a break or push too hard
I will fall into a self-made mine
Where crystallized despair waits for me
Like an old god sitting in its shrine.

Do enough to be making progress
But not so much I will fall apart.
With fiery determination
And bone-deep weariness in my heart
I know I’ll someday find my balance
Even if I don’t know where to start.

Saturday Morning Musing

Rejection is hard. Few people enjoy it. I spent all of last weekend resting because of it. I did my first submission of 2018 and got a form email rejecting my submissions, so I decided to spend my weekend reading, gaming, and resting.

Rejection is something I’m still not used to facing. It has become familiar, but I don’t know that it will ever become something I am used to. I’ve faced it numerous times, as a writer and in other parts of my life. I didn’t exactly spend the four years between my relationships not asking women out. I didn’t just quietly hate my old job and the way things worked at my old company. I’m an action-oriented person. I do things. I ask people out, take risks, and try to affect change when I think it needs to happen. I submit at least one creative piece a month, and used to apply to any conference I thought was relevant in college. I have seen a lot of rejection and I’ve gotten good at processing it.

I was actually planning to not submit anything this year. I’ve got a lot on my plate with daily blog update, trying to figure out how twitter works (I think I’ve gotten the first couple steps down, but tips are always welcome!), and trying to get back into the swing of working on my books. There isn’t much time in there for me after you factor in my job, self-care like sleep and working out, and dating. But I guess I’m back to it? There’s no reason not to submit if I’ve got a contest or magazine and something appropriate sitting in the wings. Except, you know, rejection.

These days, rejection is a lot like a bee sting. It is painful and uncomfortable, but hardly fatal (I’m not allergic, so the analogy works for me) and the pain will diminish as time passes. Before long, all you remember is that you were stung. That’s what these rejections were. Painful and not something I wanted four of at once, but I handled it fine and I’m alright now. Honestly, the most frustrating part, and the only thing with any emotional bite left to it, is the lack of feedback.

Feedback is super useful when getting rejected because it means the reader like your stuff enough to make suggestions, even if it wasn’t what they were looking for. I don’t remember where I read it, but someone wrote that the process of getting published follows a pattern. First, you get form rejections. Then, once you have improved your craft, you start getting rejections with feedback. After that, you start getting a few small acceptances mixed into the rejections with feedback.

I know the above process is hardly something I can count on and not even an unlikely expectation, but it still sucks to not have gained anything from the stress and work of preparing something for submission and submitting. As annoyed as I felt, I felt even worse for my friend who had written an entire short story to submit and gotten a form rejection. I just took some poems, wrestled with my doubts, cleaned them up, and sent them off. Took about five or so hours, all told. My alpha reader spent several days working on this story, getting feedback, and turning it into something I honestly thought was a perfect fit.

While I didn’t enjoy it, I am thankful for this rejection. It forced me to slow down and take a break. I keep myself running at a high level of stress to maintain my focus, but I have a tendency to not let go of my tension when I need a break. I hold onto it and ruin my ability to enjoy whatever rest I’m allowing myself. Thanks to the rejection, I’m spending more time on taking care of myself and prioritizing doing things to recharge. I had someone contact me via my blog to recommend a game and I started playing that last weekend. I’m loving the game so far and enjoying having something super rewarding and engaging to invest my time in. I’m planning to review it for next week’s review day, so hang tight and you’ll get to read about a game that wound up being thematically appropriate to me and my life right when I started playing it.

The rejection sucked. The rest was good. Today, I feel more ready for the future than I’ve felt in well over a year. I am doing new things every week, constantly expanding my capabilities, and improving myself. I’m just over two months into 2018 and I really feel like this is going to be my year. I don’t know what it will bring, but I’m ready for it.

Saturday Morning Musing

The older I get, the more I feel like my life is made up of big moments separated by spans of time spent either recovering from the last big moment or preparing for the next one. Time passage is hard for me to gauge over long spans despite the fact that I’m really good at tracking it over short spans. Over a six-hour period, I can usually guess the time within five minutes. Beyond that, it gets trickier. I routinely have weeks that feel long or days that feel short. Variation in the perception of the passage of time is a common thing for most people, sure, but I feel especially bad at the larger-scale stuff. Until I actually think about it, I’d swear that I was just recently in college. At the same time, I feel like high school and the problems of my childhood are so old that they might as well have happened to someone else.

This isn’t earth-shattering or super special. People feel like this all the time. I’m just focusing on it a lot right now because I’m at this point in my life were things are starting to come together, but the one thing I want more than anything is still going to take a while. I’d give up almost anything to be a writer full-time, but I can’t throw aside my debt obligations for that super-useful degree I got in English Literature (that sounds way more bitter than I feel, but I have my moments where that feels absolutely true) because that’d hurt my dad, who co-signed some of my loans. I need to keep working and making payments in the hope of one day being free of this mountain of debt. Having a wonderful girlfriend is amazing. Having two roommates who respect me, whose company I enjoy, and who share my interests enough to at least nod along while I talk at them is the best living situation I’ve ever had. Being able to support myself AND start paying down some debts by working 45 hours a week is something I thought wasn’t possible a year and a half ago. I have so much to be thankful for that I feel horrible that I can’t stop thinking about how disappointed I am that I can’t write all the time.

I’m in my mid-to-late twenties. It is possible that only a quarter of my life has passed so far. A huge chunk of my favorite creators, including all of the ones who influenced me the most, didn’t get their start until, sometimes, as much as a decade after they were my age. There is still so much I can do. Even if it takes me another ten years to get to the point where I can write full-time, I’ll still have so much time to write and create. I just feel like part of me is missing when I’m at work, testing software, and trying to stay focused so that ideas of what I want to be writing don’t cause me to run the same test case multiple times without once actually seeing the results.

If you start discussing romance or relationships with someone, the idea of soulmates is going to come up at some point. Generally speaking, people fall into one of two camps. Either soulmates are bullshit and love is about building something with someone you’ve picked or soulmates are a thing and you’re destined for someone. While I’m not willing to rule anything out and I generally don’t call people out for relatively harmless beliefs, I get frustrated when the soulmate idea is expressed as the idea that people are incomplete without their soulmate.  There’s tons of philosophy and even some religious teachings that supports this idea. I don’t think that’s true and I feel like the idea of needing another person to be complete places a lot of responsibility and emotional labor for your well-being on someone else’s shoulders. I don’t need another person to feel complete. When I get lost in my writing, no where I am or what I’m writing about, I feel whole.

That is all I need. All I want. Just this little thing. Just this enormous, seemingly impossible achievement.

I’m working toward it. Updating this blog every day, working a few extra hours a week to reach a state of financial stability, and trying to make time to work on my novels in between it all. This all helps. Writing every day makes time feel a little more real. I can count the days between November 1st, 2017, and today. I can remember most of my posts. I’ve got a record of living all of those days and the act of sitting down to write each night helps me feel like I’m going to eventually get where I want to be. Hopefully, by the time I’m done with my year and a month of daily posts, I’ll be able to see how much closer I’ve gotten.

New Year, Same Goals

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.