Sleeping with the Window Open

I used to sleep with the window open.


The washed out yellow street light
Standing sentinel at the corner next to my driveway
Throws wild shadows on my shelves and walls
That are occasionally stretched into thin waving lines
As the bright pale blue light of the patrolling cop’s
Fluorescent headlights roll past my yard.
The silent murmur of the woods holds sway
Broken by a passing car on a distant highway,
The echoing sirens of a police car needed somewhere quick,
Or the mournful blare of a train lost somewhere in the hills.

Continue reading

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 28 (11/28)

Well, I’ve had another productive evening. I’m pretty sure a lot of my good mood was the caffeine since it disappeared once I had dinner and there was something in my stomach to dilute the coffee. It was a big dinner, which was nice since I love cooking, but I’ve learned that baking a ten pound ham is something I can do on a whim and that’s dangerous knowledge. I mean, loved glazed ham growing up and I was always frustrated that my family had put it solidly in the “special occasion” category of foods. I remember thinking that, when I was an adult, I was going to buy and prepare a giant friggin’ ham whenever I damn well pleased. Turns out, it took a few years after graduating from college for me to remember that this was a thing I could do and it wasn’t so much that I remembered I could do it as I saw a giant spiral-cut ham I could take home when I went to the grocery store to find something that would go with the stuffing I’d brought back from Thanksgiving. It was super expensive since the local grocery is exorbitantly overpriced, so it’s probably not a whim I’ll be indulging very frequently, but now I remember my love for glazed ham and I’ve learned it’s really quite simple to prepare since all you need to do is warm it up to a desirable temperature. Or, you know, eat it cold. Whatever works for you.

I meant to do writing sprints between trips to the kitchen to check on it, but I hit this weird point in my caffeine parabola where I was a bit over caffeinated and kinda loopy. I think I might be getting sick since I’m also rather congested, which wouldn’t surprise me given how high my stress levels have been lately and how crazy the weather has been this month. It’s a mini-miracle that I haven’t already come down with something before this week. I leveraged the uncertain future to push myself to write more last night, gradually working my way up to a nice three thousand six hundred words on my National Novel Writing Month project, but I think staying up past midnight is what is going to leave me sick enough to be glad I worked ahead. As I write this, I’ve only got six thousand more words to write for my project this month and I’m anticipating finishing on Thursday so I can catch a break from all this on Friday. Except for the blog post, of course. Can’t let that lapse. And the pre-writing of blog posts for the weekend so I can hopefully rest during those days. Which I probably won’t do because I’ve got a great idea for a parody of a song I want to write out.

Thus the cycle continues. Stay up too late working on something I’m passionate about, get too little sleep to stay healthy or function properly during the day, lean on copious amounts of caffeine to make it through the day, wind up energized and awake late into the night no matter how early I consume my afternoon caffeine. At least it’ll hopefully end soon. I can go from four thousand words a day to one or two thousand. You know, back to normal. At least for a little bit. I’m planning to actually keep some of this other, non-blog writing going after the month has ended. I’m not sure what, yet, but I know I’m not ready to go back to my lower writing numbers. I really enjoy having high “words written in a month” totals. This tracking is most to help me map out my writing habits, but I do love numbers and statistics, so I admit I probably spend too much time tweaking my number tracking charts and report outputs. At the end of year two, I’ll be able to tell just how many words of poetry I’ve written in a year. Or how many words I’ve written about video games. How many words of reviews I’ve done. I’ll be able to pick out my wordiest days of the weeks since I track what day the writing happens on, not just when the writing is supposed to go up here.

As much as I complain, this is working for me right now. I can always sleep in another hour or two if I need it and I’m almost caught up in my daily word count for National Novel Writing Month. It may not be the most relaxed way to do things, but I’m still getting there, which is what I’ll settle for given this month. I’ve done at least a little writing every day of the month and I will be able to end the month meeting most of my original goals. I’m going to be low on sleep, but I’ll have a whole weekend to catch up on that and unwind with updates to one of my favorite video games. I’ve even got a whole other pile of games for the Switch that I’m still working my way through, and they’re all proving to be quite relaxing. I like the movement of the smaller, simpler games to the Switch. Night in the Woods is way more fun when I can pick it up or put it down at will. The sleep mode functionality of the Switch makes it a godsend for games like that which aren’t super conducive to a gaming binge. I will never stop saying how great the Switch is as a handheld gaming console. This may be the sleep deprivation talking, but I honestly think going handheld was the smartest move Nintendo has ever made. I’m still a little upset about the reliance on motion controls for a lot of games, though. I dislike motion controls because I don’t have steady hands and that makes motion controls next to impossible for me to use for anything requiring accuracy or precision.

I’d like to get more sleep and needing only two thousand words a day to finish on time will be incredibly helpful for that, unless I wind up pushing myself to cram them all into tonight like I’ve kind of been doing the last few days. I could totally just not write a bunch extra and instead get some sleep. I told myself that last night as well, but I clearly stayed up late to get to a milestone and then stayed up even later to write this post. Sorry for how ramble-y it is.

Anyway, we’ve got three days left in National Novel Writing Month and we’re so close I can taste it! I hope you’re nearing your goal and that your last few days go well for you. Good luck!


Daily Prompt

Toward the end of a story, there’s a moment when everything comes together and the story reaches its peak. The conflict at the heart of the story is brought to the front and either resolved or circumvented. What comes next is largely up to you. You can take the Andy Weir approach and just end the story once the protagonist has been rescued with no wrap-up, or you can go around tying up loose threads like the hero of an RPG finishes all the sidequests after defeating the Big Bad Evil Guy. Or anything in between. For today, write about what comes after the climax of your story. Show us what you intend to do with your readers and either wrap things up neatly or slowly ease us out of the story by revisiting all the characters as they adjust to life after the conflict has been resolved.


Sharing Inspiration

My favorite storytelling medium besides writing is Dungeons and Dragons. I love the ability to make up and adjust stories on the fly, the chance to connect directly with my audience so I can tailor the experience directly to them and their investments, and the framework it gives me for detailed adventures filled with puzzles and audience interaction. Even if my players fail to unlock all the parts of the story I’ve created because they fail a skill check or decide to proceed in a different manner, I still love having the opportunity to create a game for them. I will always appreciate Dungeons and Dragons for giving me a chance to tell different stories and practice my framing on a regular basis. Being a Dungeon Master has probably helped me grow as a storyteller more than anything but my past year of daily writing.


Helpful Tips

If you can avoid looking at what you just wrote, I suggest you do so. As you’re trying to cram in your last few days of writing, now is the time to create new words rather than focusing on how to improve old ones. Editing is an important part of the process and there are a lot of people who edit as they go, but I think that there’s a lot of value in just charging ahead until the story is done. That method works pretty well for a lot of people, even if they prefer to do consistent and nearly constant editing. I prefer to write in what I call the “lapping” method. I review the work I did during the previous two days and then focus down on adding another day’s work behind it. I find most of my errors that way and it makes it a lot easier to stay consistent when I’m constantly reminding myself of what just happened. When it comes to pumping out new words, either for the last part of the lapping method or for a long-term writing marathon like National Novel Writing Month, I try to just focus in on adding more words and let Future Chris worry about whether or not they’re any good. There are always a lot of changes to be made after the fact, but it gets the job done. I suggest you experiment with both and then focus on whichever one suits you best.


NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 19 (11/19)

I meant to only do my daily minimum and then go to bed, but I wound up staying awake super late as I wrote an extra fourteen hundred words. I hadn’t done much writing yesterday since my ill-fated trip to a coffee shop ended in disaster. Not a real disaster, mind you, just the “I wasted an hour and a half of my time on this” kind of disaster. The place was super crowded, full of kids, and louder than I thought possible. By the time I’d realized how bad it was–it takes a while for noise and crowd levels to permeate my pre-caffeine brain–I’d already ordered a coffee and a breakfast sandwich, so I couldn’t just leave. I had to sit and wait for them to come up, eat them, and then figure out what I was going to do about the crowds and noise. Which was leave. I wound up leaving after trying to write and complaining to my friends about the noise for a while.

I was then going to go home and write at my desk, but I started playing Pokemon Let’s Go and got caught up in that until it was time to run Dungeons and Dragons. I was going to stop it at eight, but they were making such good progress I extended the session until ten. Then, finally, after six hours of Dungeons and Dragons, I finally got down to writing. Except I got super caught up in trying to get my iPod to fully back up on my external drive and subsequently spent an hour fiddling with its settings and some of the songs on it that stalled the backup process. The hour was spread out over three, from ten until one. I was going to go to bed at that point, but I told myself I’d just round my word count up to the nearest thousand since I was only three hundred words away. The next time I checked my word total, I’d written more than a full-page and was fewer than five hundred words away from three thousand, so I just rounded up again and went to bed.

It was an experience. A good one, mostly. I forgot how tiring Dungeons and Dragons can be since it’s been almost three months since I ran this particular campaign, but it felt good to run it again. I missed playing with those guys and the story we were telling. Pokemon was super fun and very relaxing, since it has a lot of the elements of the game that I enjoy plus some new interesting mechanics behind finding shiny or rare Pokemon. The only problem is that there’s a monetary restriction on how much leveling up you can do since getting XP from wild Pokemon encounters requires catching Pokemon. Poke Balls are cheaper than ever, but they still cost a lot and I’ve already gone through over one hundred of them and I only just got to the first gym. The catch combo mechanic the most fun since it increases the amount of XP you get per subsequent catch of the same Pokemon and because it also increases the chance of encountering shiny Pokemon. It will also make rare Pokemon start to spawn if you get it high enough, like my beloved Cabbage the Bulbasaur from the Viridian Forest. I’ll go into it more once I’ve gotten a chance to play more of the game and have the time for reviews on here again.

Honestly, the only part of this past weekend that rankled was the fact I stayed up until two in the morning last night and the absolutely unproductive nature of my Sunday coffee shop trip. The first was good, if not terribly productive, because I got to spend some time with my friend, but the second just felt like a waste of time since I pushed myself to get up and out the door in the morning for what turned out to be nothing but noise and chaos. I have coffee, breakfast foods, and apple cider I can heat up at home. There was nothing I gained by going out except for being able to say I left my home at least once yesterday. That’s valuable, sure, but there are other places I could have gone, other things I could have done that would have added more value that sitting in an overfull coffee shop in the sunniest table I’ve ever found inside a building.

It’s really quite difficult to try to manage my time without descending into panic and neurotically measuring the time I spend on everything in such a way that I never actually enjoy anything I do. If I’m super litigious about how I spend my time, I get stressed out and wind up getting nothing done as all my time goes to analyzing how I spend my time, recriminating myself for wasting time, and breaks from all that to browse the internet since I’m clearly too stressed out to work. If I’m super lax about it, I don’t do anything until the last-minute and wind up sacrificing sleep. It’s funny, actually, since I’m doing a project at work about increasing efficiency and managing our processes so we never wind up pushing up against our deadlines in such a way that we need to cut things in order to make it. I really should treat my life-like this work process stuff, break it down, and figure out what is keeping me from actually making timely progress on any of my projects. It’s definitely not a result of a lack of planning and preparation on my part.

It’s probably the fact that I tend to be impulsive when it comes to spending my own time and I’m the first to sacrifice my own sleep on the altar of getting something done, even if that something is video games. From there, it devolves further because even a single night of inadequate sleep makes the next day more difficult and time-consuming. It reminds me of something one of my professors in college said. “If you do you best work the night before your paper is due, you don’t do any work at other times.” I heard it enough times that it stuck and discovered, in my senior year, that I was way better at writing papers if I spread them out over the course of a few weeks than if I crammed them into the last couple days before they were due. The same is true of sleep. I’ll probably be a lot better at writing and being productive if I’m well-rested.

That’s kind of the theme of my blog lately, isn’t it? “I need to sleep more! But I’ve got so much to do! I’m not doing a good job of staying focused while I work on all of these projects, I wonder what the reason is for that?” I know the reason, I just don’t like admitting I need rest. I also extremely dislike laying awake at night, unable to sleep, with nothing to contemplate but my life, existence, and the universe. That is one of my least favorite things. I even wrote a whole poem about it. I wouldn’t mind a less complicated relationship with sleep, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I hope your day is going well! I hope you’re making good progress on your writing goals and that you’re staying strong as we approach the end of the middle third of the month. We’ve got twelve days left for writing, so keep it up! You’ve still got plenty of time left. Good luck!


Daily Prompt

Do the characters in your world us the bathroom? A lot of stories tend to gloss over things like toiletries and waste disposal, but not all of them do. Maybe their use of a bathroom is a setup for someone catching them unawares because people are often are their most vulnerable when they’re eliminating waste. Maybe no one uses the bathroom in your world because that’s just not how humans work. Maybe it’s not really something you care about and just want to avoid it because it’s often an unimportant detour (I’m looking at you, Wheel of Time series. How many times do people need to brush their teeth or hair while they dissect everything that just happened to them? I mean, I usually turn my brain off and just veg while brushing my teeth or combing my hair after my shower to the point where I sometimes hit places twice because I can’t remember if I’ve gotten that particular spot yet. I know a lot of people probably think, but no one reflects on the minute details of the past two weeks of their lives while poking at their teeth with a friggin soft/green twig. Jesus.). Whatever you decide to do, try to avoid inspiring rants like that one.


Sharing Inspiration

Lately, I’ve been revisiting an old favorite TV show during my relaxation/recovery hours. Community, an amazing show recommended by my friend Carolyn (mentioned a few days ago) follows the exploits of an unlikely group of study partners at a local community college. They bond over all the things that make them the same despite being a diverse group of races, political alignments, religions, and mental aptitudes/wellness. They struggle with the same kinds of problems we are struggle with when we’re part of a group that spends all our time together and, despite being characters, feel remarkably human. The show is a comedy, but that doesn’t stop it from telling some really great stories about the human condition and how we all just want to connect with each other. Honestly, the first three seasons are some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen and, while the show runner was brought back after a disastrous fourth season, there was no real recovering from it. It took two more seasons after that for it to die.


Helpful Tips

Being able to manage your diet and caffeine intake is incredibly important if you have a marathon of high-stress like National Novel Writing Month done in conjunction with pretty much anything else. Knowing what kind of fuel your body handles best can mean the difference between being sleepy after every meal or spending all your time between meals snacking. I need a decent amount of protein every day to stay full and empty carbohydrates like most snack foods and breads don’t keep me feeling full for very long, so I try to avoid snacking on anything that isn’t meat. Preserved meats like jerky and the various “snack sticks” are my go-to. When it comes to caffeine, you really need to do some experimenting yourself. Finding out how much caffeine you need for a reaction varies from person to person. For instance, my roommate drinks a cup of coffee and that’s all he needs. He even has to drink it slow to stay sane. I drink a cup of the same coffee and need another. At the same time, he doesn’t react any differently with a soda but I can’t drink soda for anything but caffeine withdrawal relief because it hits me quick and then leaves. Once you know how much caffeine you need, you should set some rules on it and stick to them so you don’t start wrecking your ability to sleep or making yourself unable to function because you’re constantly flirting with over-caffeination.


NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 18 (11/18)

Yesterday went alright. I got exactly three thousand words write for my National Novel Writing Month project, which was a ton of fun to realize. I hadn’t planned it, but when I went to update my word total on their website at midnight, I discovered I’d written exactly three thousand words. That felt like a good place to stop since I’m not under any particular crunch other than the “I want to catch up before the end of the month” crunch that I’m familiar with. I’m only about six thousand words behind at this point, so a dozen days of five hundred extra words will do it. I know I can handle an extra five hundred words a day, no problem, and I’ve still got thirteen days to go so it should be easily handled. I may try to do more today than I did yesterday, but I’m not going to push it. I’d like to do more, but I definitely need to avoid over committing myself to things like I usually do.

Despite how crazy things have been lately, yesterday was actually pretty calm and normal. I needed that. In fact, my only complaint about yesterday is that I spent most of it with an incredibly sore neck as a result of spending most of my night scrunched up against my headboard. I have no idea why, but that happens sometimes and I always wake up with a headache, sore neck, and stiff shoulders. I should probably look into the ways I sleep and actually get a good mattress, but those are both long-term tasks. Neither of them will be simple solutions since it’s difficult to figure out the physical aspects of my sleep since I’m, you know, asleep for their duration. Getting a good mattress requires a lot of research and some time spent investigating at a mattress store so I can figure out if I prefer more firm or less firm. So far, my mattress buying has been entirely driven by prices and convenience. I’d like to get an actually good mattress just to see if it can help me deal with my various sleep issues. I’ve got enough of them that I’m willing to try just about anything for a while, to see if it helps.

I should probably try “go to bed at a reasonable hour” since I haven’t gone to bed before one in the morning since… I honestly don’t know. It’s definitely been more than a week. I think. A lack of adequate sleep is really bad for your short-term memory so there are something things that have faded from my mind a bit…

I joke. I don’t always check the clock before bed and, without an actual hard number to attach to the thought of going to bed, I lose most of my sense of when it was beyond “late” or “reasonable.” I really should work on not pushing myself below a minimum of six hours a night, since I’ve managed to handle it this past week without too much of a problem but I can’t explain why. Unless, of course, therapy lights help deal with sleep deprivation side effects. Or maybe most of my tiredness from not sleeping enough was tied to my depression and, since the light helps lessen that, my exhaustion levels never got quite as high as they usually do.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t matter. I know I need six hours of sleep a night at a minimum. I shouldn’t be starting these posts at midnight, I should be finished with them and in bed by midnight. I shouldn’t put off my daily NaNoWriMo writing until ten at night, I should be doing it right away when I get home from work. Video games can wait and they’re a bit easier to stop doing. Aside from, you know, that Pathfinder Kingmaker game I’ve been playing that kept me up until three and two in the morning on subsequent nights. That was a really poor choice on my part and I will own up to that. Nowadays, I’m sticking to Pokemon games with a focus on the new one, Pokemon: Let’s Go. It’s pretty fun, but I wouldn’t recommend playing it if you want a new experience. If you want to relive the Kanto region, already own a Nintendo Switch, and can have a realistic reaction to something that resembles something else, in that you don’t immediately hate it because it’s different, you should play Pokemon: Let’s Go. If all of those things are not true, then you probably shouldn’t play it. Especially if the last one is true. No one wants to deal with that, so just avoid the game.

I am optimistic about how much I’ll get done today. Yesterday wasn’t amazing, by any means, but it was a solid day. I’m hoping today will be similar. I’ve got Dungeons and Dragons planned for the late afternoon and early evening, so that’ll be fun. It has been a long time since we’ve played, for various reasons. Some of them have been my fault, some of them have been the fault of one or more of the players, but we’re finally ready to play again. We were at a good pausing point since the party returned to their caravan, so  it should be a relatively painless restarted. There will be hiccups because there always are, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to take up a good chunk of my day, about four hours of running the game and at least two of preparation since I’ll need to refamiliarize myself with all the notes I wrote during previous sessions in addition to planning what we’ll do tomorrow. Rough plans are good enough for most sessions, but I need to have a more solid one since this is our first session in a while. The smoother it goes, the more likely it is that we’ll actually get through this chapter of the campaign by New Year’s Day.

Anyway, I hope your day goes well! I hope you’re all caught up on your goals and that you’ve been enjoying this chance to rest and recharge for another week of writing and, for the people of the US, navigating the difficulty that is the holidays. Whatever the problems are, whatever petty bullshit comes up, just remind yourself that you’ve got a story to tell. Plotting and working through scenes makes for a great distraction from the messily unfolding drama that often shows up during the holidays. I hope your day is great and I wish you the best of luck!


Daily Prompt

What are your protagonists hobbies? What are they interested in? The things that hold our attention and that we care about influence the way we think. I enjoy video games, so I tend to view most of the stories in my head as a cross between a video game and a movie. I can pause and move the camera around to look everywhere, but the story is happening on it’s own so I can miss it if I look away. It influences the way we talk, the metaphors we use, and how we relate to people. How does your protagonist’s interests influence their interactions with other people? Write a scene showing them bonding with someone over a shared interest or perhaps them struggling to connect with people who are disinterested (or maybe even people who dislike) what they care about.


Sharing Inspiration

I’ve been working at this crap for over a year and, let me tell you, believing in yourself will only get you so far. There will be a day when that belief runs out, when you have nothing left to push yourself forward. For those days, I have a few things to remind me that I’m not the only person who believes in me. One is the speech my creative writing professor gave when she awarded me a scholarship for creative writing and fellowship. The other is a birthday card from a good friend filled with heartfelt words. The first I only have in electronic format, but I’ve memorized it so I can recall it at will. The later is pinned above my desk so I all I have to do is look up to be reminded that I’m not working in a vacuum. There are people out there who see how hard I’m working and are excited to see where I’m going to go. Believing in yourself is important and should be your main goal if you’re just getting started. Having someone else who believes in you is super helpful for getting there, though.


Helpful Tips

I know you probably have a place you like to write, with a specific ambiance and location, but you can write at pretty much any time. Bring a notebook if you prefer to write by hand, and take whatever time you have during your day to write down some ideas or make a big of quick progress on your National Novel Writing Month project. If you don’t really care how you take notes or work through things, set up a writing application on your phone and just type it out there. I’ve got Google Drive set up on my phone and most of my writing projects are stored as documents in my Google Drive. Two aren’t, but that’s because they’re so big they cause my browser to crash or hang when it tries to do the whole “dynamic saving” thing that google documents likes to do. It apparently doesn’t like anything that passes one hundred thousand words since that’s when it starts to get buggy. But it’s still great for quick edits, taking notes, or having an easily accessible place to do some five-minute bursts of writing throughout my day. I suggest you check it out to see if it will help you.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 11 (11/11)

Well, yesterday was a bit more productive than the last few days have been. I was super wiped by the time midnight rolled around so I didn’t stay up much, but I still got plenty done. I’m only scratching the surface of making up for the days I’ve barely written anything, but I’ll take any progress I can get right now. I need to get the ball rolling again and last night went a long ways towards that. Hopefully, but the time this posts, I’ll have gotten some more writing done, but who knows. I am dozing off as I write this, so it’s entirely possible that I wound up sleeping in super late to make sure I get a full eight hours of sleep. I need it pretty badly at this point, thanks to spending the day helping my friend move and my neighbor playing really loud music again until well past midnight.

I did most of my writing in my National Novel Writing Month project, “What You Know You Need,” instead of in the romance novel. I need a good deal more clarity to figure out how I want to restart that but being half-asleep makes it a littler easier to keep the worlds rolling on a project that’s better established, like “WYKYN.” As long as I don’t actually fall asleep, being half-asleep means getting more words written because the aware parts of my brain shut down a bit. My fingers know my keyboard well enough that I can maintain my typing pace easily enough, even with my eyes closed and my mind approaching dreamland. I can’t always understand exactly what I meant when I review whatever it was that I wrote, but it usually sounds pretty interesting. Take, for instance, the original end of this paragraph that I wrote while falling asleep last night. “but I can be surprisingly coherent most of the time, when it comes to killing stuff and staying alive.”

Classic sleepy Chris writing. If I was writing anything other than a blog post for tomorrow, that would be great. I’m pretty sure I was thinking about the video game I spent most of yesterday’s free time playing. That’s all I’ve played lately when it comes to killing stuff and staying alive, so that would make sense. Well, as much sense as any of this makes.

When it comes down to it, all I’m really trying to do every day is get more words written. I try to avoid staying up so late that I start to feel loopy and in danger of falling asleep at my desk, but sometimes I’ve just got a lot of momentum going and I want to get just a few more words in. I was making such good progress on “What You Know You Need” and I’ve finally gotten through a difficult scene so I just kept writing until I’d eventually done two thousand five hundred words for the night. That’s a good number to end on for a day of getting back into the swing of things, you know. I’d also dozed off in my chair three times, but I still got my words written and they seem to make sense so far. I then wrote this post and dozed off another handful of times, but I still got it done in what I hope is a sensible pattern.

Anyway, I hope day eleven of National Novel Writing Month is going well for you. I hope you’re getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself. I hope you’re making progress on your goals, at least, if you wound up deciding to forego sleep for more writing like I did tonight. Whatever you’re doing, good luck!



Daily Prompt

The idea that you need to appeal to the five senses is just as much bullshit as every other writing rule (they’re more suggestions that rules since none of them apply absolutely), plus a little bit all its own. There are way more than five senses and you can really add to the reader’s suspension of disbelief (the way readers voluntarily choose to believe the story you’re creating) if you appeal to them. Sense of balance is a good one. The sense of where your hands are when your eyes are closed that lets you touch your nose on the first try. Sense of temperature, sense of the passage of time, sense of thirst or hunger, even! Throw in as many senses as you can! But not all at the same time, or else you’re going to be slowing down the story a lot.


Sharing Inspiration

As someone who tends toward negativity in my internal narrative, I often turn toward upbeat music to help shake me out of it or get me working on stuff when I don’t feel like doing anything. My favorite musician for that is Kyle Andrews. His music is reliably upbeat and even the slower stuff still has a cheerful vibe to it. Even when you start listening to the lyrics and realizing the cheerful Christmas song is about breaking up with your girlfriend and burning everything she ever gave you to fight off the chill you feel as a result of her treatment of you. It’s great! They’re clever and actually thoughtful songs, on top of all that. They very much adopt the attitude of “this is bad, but that isn’t the end of the world” and I need that sometimes. There’s even a song literally about that. Check him out if you need that. Or just want some good electronic pop/rock.


Helpful Tips

There are a lot of things that get in the way of writing every day. Some of them are the unfortunate requirements of life. Things like your day job, paying bills, doctor’s appointments, and grocery shopping all need to happen no matter how much writing you have to do still. Identifying these things and building time into your schedule for them can go a long way to mitigating how interruptive they can be. The biggest problem involved is actually figuring out all of the things that interrupt you or take time away from writing. The best way to find these things is to journal your days. If you keep a careful record of what you do and how it impacts your schedule over the course of a few weeks, a pattern will eventually emerge that could give you some interesting insight into how your mind or days work. For instance, my neighbor playing loud music late at night has the most impact on my schedule since it essentially renders me useless for the entire day after he does it. On the other hand, trying to play Pokemon Go actually makes me more productive because it’s something distracting that gets me out of the house for some exercise every day. Thanks to three months of journaling, which has used up half a notebook, I’m finding a lot of interesting patterns in my life. I hope you find some as well if you take the time to journal.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 4 (11/04)

Well, I’ve been pretty derailed. Yesterday was not the day I had hoped it would be. A combination of only getting four hours of sleep, from seven to eleven in the morning, set me up for a bad day. My nieghbor’s music was loud and non-stop until four in the morning and then I was too upset and frustrated to go to sleep for three hours. Also, four hours isn’t enough sleep when that’s more or less the amount I’d gotten for each of the two previous nights as well. After that… well, I got the precursor to some bad news right when I woke up, got the bad news half and hour later, and then, around two in the afternoon, finally got the context for the bad news so I could properly appreciate how bad it was.

And that was pretty much it for the day. I was just waking up enough to be able to write at that point and then I got the context for the bad news and I pretty much gave up. I still tried to write, but I packed it in around six and just played video games until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. The only reason I’m in any kind of shape to write is momentum built up by starting with easy stuff like showering, breakfast, and laundry, along with the eight hours of sleep I got thanks to the start of Daylight Saving Time. I still feel like absolutely crap, but I’ve worked through worse. Maybe. I don’t really know. It’s not like there’s a translation table for “effort required to keep doing stuff” between the various kinds of awful stuff that can happen to people. I’ve felt worse from my own depression and kept writing, but I’ve also been dealing with my depression for over a decade. This… This is new. I’ve experience similar things before, but not this.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of what it was, but I will say that my health and life are just fine. The biggest impact this will have is the negative impact on my mood. And my focus. Right now, I very much do not want to be in my own head and it is incredibly difficult to avoid being in your head while writing. My current strategy revolves around partitioning things and trying to be a little more forgiving when I need to go do something that pulls me out of my head quickly. I’m also leaning heavily on one of my YouTube playlists. It’s full of music that has a calming effect on me and that’s super helpful because it is basically shrinking the size of the stuff I’m trying to avoid in my head which gives me more room for trying to write stuff.

Which I’m still going to do. I cancelled D&D because my heart just isn’t in… well, anything. It isn’t in anything right now and I don’t want to run a game I’m not going to enjoy because I’ve learned that’s a really good way to run a game no one will enjoy. Hell, I won’t even really be able to get into it. I played games all evening yesterday and I kept getting pulled out of it by what’s going on in my head. But I’m still going to try to write today. I owe it to myself to do the best I can to continue working on my goals because those goals haven’t changed, my plans haven’t changed, and my life still needs to continue. I can’t let this stress and emotional turmoil just bring it to a halt. So I’m going to try again today and I’ll hopefully be able to get more done today than I did yesterday. I’ve got all day, still. Twelve hours until Monday. Ten until I should go to bed (since I need more than one night of decent sleep if I’m going to survive the upcoming week). That should be enough to scrap out one thousand six hundred sixty-seven words of main National Novel Writing Month project, one thousand words of romance novel, two blog entries (since I am supposed to write the next day’s post during the last hour of the prior evening and I didn’t do that yesterday), and a bunch of reading. Ideally, I’d also get a draft of Coldheart and Iron: Part 36 done since I still plan to post that on Tuesday, but I’ll take progress on it instead of the whole thing. I’m not picky.

In fact, I’m trying to be realistic. It’s entirely possible I’ll do none of those things at all. Maybe I’ll just do a few hundred words and pack it in for the day because trying to force myself to write right now was too tortuous. Anyway, I hope your National Novel Writing Month is going well and that you had a chance to make some good progress this weekend!

Daily Prompt

Unless you’re Andy Weir, your protagonist needs someone to interact with. A friend to go to for advice, a student to mentor, a foil to highlight their strengths and weaknesses, a rival to compete against, or so on. There’s someone (or multiple someones if you want an “all-of-the-above” situation) in the world of your story who will be the main focus for the protagonist. Maybe they’re part of the reason the protagonist is driving the plot or maybe they’re helping drive the plot so the protagonist can figure out how to solve it. Whyever they’re there, your protagonist needs them to shake up your descriptions with some dialogue. Today, introduce the protagonist’s main source of interaction and give a scene that establishes their relationship with the protagonist.


Sharing Inspiration

One of the best stories I’ve experience this year, though it’s not as good as “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” was the anime, My Hero Academia. What I thought was going to be just another “people with powers in high school fighting stuff” show turned out to be one the most complex and well-written anime I have ever seen. The only one that compares is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and that only came together that well because the fans demanded a faithful adaptation of the manga after it was finished. I love the way it tells complex stories using an anime genre that is notorious for simple stories about gaining more power to beat the bad guys. There’s still plenty of that in this anime, but that’s not all there is to it. It constantly defies my expectations and I love any story that can surprise me in a good way.


Helpful Tips

Don’t be afraid to take a break if you need one. You can always make up for it in the future or you have probably over-written on a few previous days so you’re not even really missing a full day of progress. The most important thing you can do this month is maintain your mental and physical health. Writing is great, and finishing a story feels great, but none of that matters if you make yourself incredibly sick as a result of pushing yourself too hard. So take breaks, take a day off when you need it, or, at the very least, don’t hold yourself to a word goal for a day. Try to write a little bit and be content with getting anything out instead of being disappointed that you fell short of your goal. Take it from me, building a daily writing habit is more important than writing the same amount every day and keeping yourself from getting sick or over-stressed is more important than both. Figure out what your hierarchy of needs is and make sure to stick to it as well as you can.


Sometimes, I Make Myself Sick

Literally. As a result of six weeks of long days at work, late nights writing, trying to get back into the things I care about, and reorganizing my life in a way that works for me, I’ve finally hit the point where I’ve stressed and pushed my body to the point where it has decided I am sick. Well, I’m pretty sure I pushed myself past that point because usually all I need is a good night’s sleep to not feel sick and this time, I’m actually sick despite sleeping a ridiculous amount.

Usually, I’m pretty good at maintaining my level of stress so I don’t actually go this far. I recognize when I’m getting close to this point and I pull it back. I take a night or two off from writing or trying to keep up with my friends in the various games we play together. I go to bed early and I actually get seven or eight hours of sleep at night. But I haven’t done that consistently in the past six weeks and now I’m paying for it. My head is pounding and congested, my throat feels like it’s lined with sandpaper that grates against it every time I swallow, and I’m just miserably sick enough to make everything sound worse than it is because my combination of symptoms is difficult to relieve without opting for something that’s going to make me sleepy. As I’ve already slept more hours since last than I’ve slept in any two nights this week, I think I’d rather do some reading, play a game, or watch a TV show. I mean, my roommate’s cat is being super needy and I’d really love to just occupy the couch for a few hours of cat snuggling and anime watching. But that’s hard to enjoy when all your day-time medication does is clear your congestion a bit.

Anyway, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on what lead me here between dreams about being a badass post-apocalyptic warrior using magic spears that can turn into magic axes or, when turned into on giant magic sword, can shoot giant pillars of holy fire at the evil scum I’m destroying so my people can be safe. If the swords, spears, and sword weren’t taken from fantasy games and books I’ve been reading, I’d seriously write that story. It’s a really good one. I still might, if I come up with a fun way to change it. Maybe that’ll be the next serial story once Coldheart and Iron is finished. It’d be fun to write since apparently I have a thing for apocalyptic stories turning up in my dreams.

Back to the topic at hand, though. My reflections have led me to believe I missed a lot of the warning signs I usually see. Because of the success I’ve been having lately, I’ve been feeling more fired up and ready to push toward my goals than ever. I’m only halfway through August and, thanks to a couple (mostly this one) reviews that got shared by the creators of the comics I reviewed, I’m only a couple of days away from having my best views month ever, despite the fact that my daily views have dropped into the single digits for the first time in over a month. In addition, the long hours at work have been paying off and I can finally see the light at the end of the debt-tunnel. I’m six days away from paying off my car loan and I’ve finally gotten my finances into order so I can guarantee a delightfully high minimum monthly payment. I’m working my way back into being socially active online after a mental health break that turned from two weeks into three months and I’ve been able to perform well in the video games I play with my friends thanks to a few things finally clicking for me.

I’ve had a lot of successes, lately, even if they’re really only small wins in the war for a big win, but they’ve been all I needed to keep relentlessly pushing forward. I’m pretty sure part of me recognized a fall was coming, though. This whole week I’ve been preoccupied with trying to figure out where all of my time is going since I feel like I’m not writing as much as I could be and I’m definitely not sleeping enough. I even bought a whole pile of notebooks so I can start journaling and tracking what I do/how I feel every day in an effort to find any habits I can improve. I think that’s going to pay dividends eventually, when I can look back through it and find out what stuff might be affecting my mood over the long-term. In the short-term, I’m hoping it’ll help with productivity because I’ll actually be writing out everything I want to get done, both at work and at home. Tangible to-do lists always seem to hold more sway in my mind than intangible ones on the computer screen.

I’m on day two of journaling and I’ve already had to move some to-dos around thanks to being sick. I don’t have the mental fortitude to write a poem right now and I obviously didn’t go to work so I can’t do any of my work tasks. They’ll carry over until Monday, though, and I’ll have a decent chunk of writing time this weekend, when I’m watching my youngest sister. Our parents are doing some traveling so us older kids are taking turns keeping the youngest one company. Thankfully, most of my siblings live around Chicago right now, so I won’t have to travel much to help. Just this one weekend.

Which is why I’m just gonna go back to bed now. I’m already tired again and I have a lot of driving to do over the next two days, so the more I rest now, the healthier I’ll be for the weekend. I hope you have a great day! Check back tomorrow for a return to our regularly scheduled programming!

What A Headache

Ed woke with his head throbbing in pain. Someone was banging on something, but he couldn’t tell where it was coming from, so he looked for the source.

His shelves held their usual dusty allotment of trophies and books. His dresser was covered in dirty clothes and the TV on it was showing the logo of his DVD player, as it always did after he fell asleep watching it. His desk was covered in junk mail he hadn’t gotten around to shredding and a neat stack of bills he hadn’t paid yet.

Guilt picked at him, but he dismissed it. He already tried to get extensions and they’d work it out eventually. It’s not like he had much they could take.

The banging hadn’t gone away, so Ed climbed to his feet to go looking for it. When he stood up, his foot caught on something. As he turned to look, his door burst open and his roommate flew in.

“Dammit, Ed!”

Ed winced. “Even if I don’t have rent yet, that’s no reason to break down my door.”

Matthew dashed past him and Ed turned around to see Matthew start giving CPR to someone. A wave of shock swept through him as he realized Matthew was giving CPR to him, but it quickly passed.

Ed watched, curious despite himself, and unable to muster up more than vague apprehension about Matthew’s attempts to save his life. After a minute, Matthew’s screams for an ambulance and demands that Ed stay faded to grunts. A few minutes later, when the EMTs arrived, Ed realized what had happened.

“Sleep apnea.” Ed shook his head. “I really should have gotten that checked out.” Ed drifted towards the window to watch his body get hauled away. “At least I don’t have to pay my bills.”

Sleep Deprived

I no longer sleep because I think of you.

I can sleep no longer
              because I think of you

My weary eyes refuse to shut again
And all my dreams reach fever-pitch
Before I lurch awake
                           clutching sheets
That have tangled me in my sleep

Weary eyes with constant crusts
              forming at the corners
Unblinking and blankly stare
At my desk while I try to work

I speak in stifled yawns to my own hands
As my bleary eyes plod through the day
              and bits of conversation
                             lose all
                                                        and meaning

I speak in stifled yawns and bleary eyes
As I vaguely try to find my notebook
So I can write down each of the replies
I’ll no longer remember tomorrow
No one knows what to make of this
And all I can tell them is it will be fine
              at some point in the future
For now
              I trace big lines on paper
              where I was supposed to write words
And      drift away         until I can leave
To find myself a moor for the evening.

A Little Change Can Go a Long Way

Last night, I got caught up reading a book. I was already up late because of D&D and remembering to update my blog, but deciding to read for a bit before going to sleep definitely kept me up for another two hours on top of all that. I’m running on about three and a half hours of sleep today. For now, I’m managing alright, despite having spent most of Saturday in a big-group social situation. Weddings are great, but they really wipe me out. Meeting tons of new people and being around that much energy takes a lot of effort for me. If it wasn’t for how wonderfully restful Sunday was (prior to staying up three extra hours, anyway), I’d be dead on my feet.

I don’t regret my decision. Matthew Colville is a wonderful author and I’m excited to review his two books, Priest and Thief. They’re an absolute joy to read so far and I find it incredibly frustrating (in the best way) that the third book is not yet visible on the horizon. The man has been incredibly busy lately, with his usual YouTube video series about running Dungeons and Dragons called “Running the Game” and working on the incredible Kickstarter he ran only a few months ago. Setting up an office and writing a D&D supplement take a lot of work and he’s managed to do them both without dropping any of his other plates, so I am willing to cut him some slack when it comes to working on his book series.

Staying up late can be a lot of fun. As long as I’m staying engaged and enjoying myself, I don’t mind doing it once every so often. It only becomes a problem if I start to make a habit of it and wind up leaning on caffeine to see me through the day. That’s never a healthy habit and it is an easy one for me to fall into since I feel the most awake and alert in the evening and night, no matter how little I’ve slept.

Thankfully, getting better sleep has been easier since I’ve gotten a “new” (owned by a friend, but still in way better condition than my previous mattress) mattress. It is some kind of foam and, while sitting on the edge causes it to sink alarmingly, it does a much better job of supporting my back than my old spring mattress did. My lower back pain is much diminished and might even totally disappear in time and all of my joints feel way better which is a benefit I didn’t expect. Six hours of sleep now feels like eight or more hours of sleep on a good night with my old mattress.

It was amazing to realize just how much my old crappy mattress contributed to the problems in my life. Low-quality sleep, aching joints and muscles, constant lower back pain, and little desire to actually go to sleep all added up to a certain degree of constant irritation or frustration that now seems so clearly tied to my old crappy mattress that I’d been putting off replacing for over a year. Almost a year and a half, actually. I probably would have continued to put it off if it wasn’t for the fact that one of my friends just happened to be moving and my girlfriend made a few comments about how my back pain was clearly tied to my creaky, dented, shitty mattress.

It is amazing how changing one relatively little thing I’d been ignoring for a long time made my life so much better. Even a return to “neutral” in terms of what sleeping did for me was a huge boon. Last week was super stressful and exhausting for a lot of reasons and in a lot of ways. If I’d been sleeping on my old crappy mattress, I’d probably be depressed, exhausted, and on the verge of tears/a panic attack at this point. Instead, I’m tired but ready to go play D&D again. I don’t need another evening of rest before I feel up for tackling another social situation.

That’s not to say I don’t want to rest. I would love to get to sleep early tonight and try for a lovely eight hours. I might actually wind up feeling properly rested if I could do that for a few nights in a row. I haven’t felt properly rested in a long time and it is now so easy to see why. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard to convince myself not to spend money on a new mattress. It was definitely worth what I spent and then some.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what else might be a seemingly insignificant thing that could have a huge impact on the quality of my life. Working out more springs to mind, as does putting more effort into ensuring my diet is well-rounded instead of the “eat food and just make sure it includes fruit and veggies” thing I’m currently doing. Neither of those are really insignificant, though. They’d both take a fair amount of discipline and effort every day, but the potential benefits should outweigh the costs. Back when I was more active in regards to maintaining my physical health, I felt better than I have since I stopped. Combining that with the benefit of a non-shitty mattress could have an incredible positive impact on my life. Likely will have. Should have. I don’t really know and I won’t until I try it out.

I’m going to keep thinking of more things I can try as well. I’m still trying to fit all the puzzle pieces from the past two weeks of meditation together, so something else to focus on for a bit should help me wrangle everything into place. We’ll see. I feel like I say that a lot. It’s kind of exciting to know that there’s the potential for so much positive change, but also kind of scary. Thing could wind up being incredibly different and, while I one-hundred-percent support myself getting into better physical and mental health, I’m not sure I’m ready for all the changes that might entail. Thankfully, I’m not on a schedule.

Do you like supporting charities that are helping to make the world a better place? Check out the Geeks Doing Good event being put on by the Worldbuilders charity! Worldbuilders is a charity started by fantasy author Patrick Rothfuss that works with Heifer International to help eliminate poverty. Buy some cool stuff and help keep the charity running so they can continue to make a difference in the world!