I’m No Hypocrite

“I turned off that part of my brain”
            I say, trying to not sound proud
“I just write words and put them up.
            I say, planning my next post.
“Good job. Mission accomplished.”
            I say, checking the stats page again.
“I haven’t missed a day in over a year.”
            I say, searching for affirmation.
“I’m no hypocrite.”
            I say, facing the mirror
            As I look for reassurance
            In a face that doesn’t believe
            The words on my lips.

Saturday Afternoon Musing

National Novel Writing Month is coming up. That’s a bit of big deal for me because I’ve at least participated every year since 2013 and won every year but 2016 when I was applying and interviewing for a new job. I also created a challenge for myself, to raise the stakes, every year since 2014 when I found myself a little bored with just writing 50,000 words again. The year after that, I wrote an entire story in a month (which is big deal for me since I am anything but concise). Last year, I wrote 50,000 words of a new story that wound up being more foresight than fiction, ran a support group for my friends who were trying National Novel Writing Month, and updated my blog every day of the month (which was a part of the support since it was stuff about writing, about what inspires me, and some prompts to help them push through when they feel stuck). This year, though, I’m struggling with what my extra challenge should be.

The support group could be fun to do again, but the only people I know who are doing National Novel Writing Month are people who have been doing it as long as I have been, or longer, and who don’t really need support to write. A space for us to connect and talk about writing is always good, but I won’t really need to actively support them. I still plan to do the blog posts, but that’s just the same thing as last year. There’s nothing new to this challenge, which means it isn’t challenge. It’s just the same thing all over again and that means I’m not actually going to try my best.

I could make the argument that I’ve never been this burned out, worn down, and just all-around-exhausted when starting a National Novel Writing Month before, so it’ll be difficult enough for me to get anything done on time or according to whatever plan I come up with (as evidenced by the fact that half my blog posts are “late” these days, showing up in the afternoon instead of their typical nine or eleven in the morning time). That feels like a cop-out. I dislike cop-outs. It gets to easy to let them slide in the future if you start using them now and I am all about staying firm and focused on my goals. I didn’t get to almost a year of writing every day and posting on my blog every day by letting myself compromise, so doing that literally the day after I hit 365 consecutive posts would feel like I was spitting in the face of my own accomplishment.

One of my friends suggested I write a humorous romance novel and, upon hearing that, the rest of them took up the call. Suggestions from something involving characters from a D&D campaign that ended a while ago to a romance novel about a modern male protagonist trying to live his normal 20-something modern life while his girlfriend is someone out of a highly-sexual romance novel that pokes fun at the sort of contrived situations involved in a lot of cornier (and absolutely amazing sounding) romance novels. Seriously, there’s a whole series about some vampire/angel/insert-monster-template-here brothers who kill vampire demons and are actually immortal vikings who sometimes time travel. How is that not a story you gotta hear? I can’t find the link my friends provided while trying to convince me to write a romance novel, but it was a riot. It would definitely be a challenge since I’ve read only a handful of romance novels and it isn’t something I’m normally interesting in writing. Being able to stay focused and working on a project that isn’t something I’m terribly interested in would be a good skill to have, though, since a lot of good writers wind up writing what the publisher wants rather than strictly what they want. Being able to do “made to order” fiction would be a good skill to work on.

All of my other ideas have something to do with my blog. For instance, I could keep up with daily posts with National Novel Writing Month support and encouragement posts, but also include my serial science fiction story and reviews. Maybe even throw in my flash fiction updates, too. Basically just keep up the popular part of my blog, the fun part of my blog, and the only story I’ll have ever finished if I keep at it. If I keep that up, I’ll probably finish Coldheart and Iron on Christmas Day and post the epilogue on New Years Day, which feels like a damn fine way to start 2019.

Of course, I could also do this regardless of my National Novel Writing Month. If I work my ass off over during the rest of October, I could have all my blog posts written. That’s only 50,000 words in addition to the 14,000 I have to do for this month’s blog posts. Totally possible to do all that in eleven days. I mean, that’s only six thousand words a day! Easy-peasy! No sweat! I could do that in my sleep! I mean, I’ve basically signed up for 50,000 plus 30,000 plus whatever my extra challenge is for next month unless I find a way to work ahead this month. All on top of my normal work hours, my usual obligations, and the fact that I’m going to need to work out or at least go on a long walk every day so I don’t turn into a pile of pudding. I really suck at taking it easy, don’t I?

But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? This isn’t supposed to be easy. I’m supposed to be working on stuff in order to grow as a writer. I want to widen my horizons, improve my skills, and try things I wouldn’t normally try. Fifty thousand words is all well and good, but I’ve done that five times so far. I want to do something new, try to push myself in a new direction, and maybe lose myself in something bigger than my own problems. I’m going to struggle with my mental health, but I always do. I may need to find better ways to cope with what’s going on in my head, but that also means I won’t be able to let it have as much sway as it does on days like today since I won’t be able to spend four hours writing a blog post that’s just over one thousand words.

As I’ve learned throughout my live, and during the past year especially, I work best when I don’t have room for error. Pass or fail scenarios are my jam, even if the chances of passing are small. I’m going to pick some dumb, ridiculously huge goal, try to cram a month’s of writing into eleven days so all my blog posts are written ahead of time, and then I’m going to create a made-to-order romance novel in order to force myself to improve my ability to write things that aren’t necessarily something that thrills me.

To that end, here are my three ideas:

  • Something based on some D&D characters from a really old game (that happens in a D&D world, with quantifiable numbers and stuff, rather than a “typical” fantasy world).
  • Aggressive Romance Novel Woman meets normal 20-something dude and worlds collide. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Astronaut/Werewolf/Demon/Mole-Person man meets Basic “Becky” and falls madly in love, but only during Pumpkin Spice season.
  • Air-Force Pilot/Old-School Vampire/Faerie/Lizard-woman falls in love with a hipster trying to French press his coffee in his yurt in the woods.

Comment your preferred option(s)! You can pick as many as you like.

For Now

I’m not all I want to be.

I do my best to listen and to look
As I follow each hook and crook
And read every single book
While I do my best to cook
Up some kind of understanding.

I don’t think that’s too demanding
A task for me to stick the landing,
But here I am, stuck standing
With nothing more commanding
Than a sense of appreciation.

It fills me with frustration
That I can’t form the foundation
Of a simple proclamation
Because I’m stuck with the realization
That I can only speak for me.

I can’t just let that idea be
So I try my best to truly see
But I think we can all agree
There is no guarantee
I will ever get the words out.

Constant fear and niggling doubt
Cause both a flood and a drought
Of words as I try to write about
A path without knowing the route
It takes from beginning to end.

No matter what I intend,
There is no way for me to bend
My experience so I can pretend
That I have anything to append
To what someone else has said.

At night, while I lie awake in bed,
I dream of a time when my head
Is no longer filled with things unsaid
But, right now, I see instead
That I’m not yet all I want to be.

So, for now, I can only speak for me.

Chasing Down Words

Some days, I just run out of words.
I watch them flee like a flock of birds
Thrown to wing by some hidden fear
As deafening silence draws near.

Some days, I only catch a few.
The rest stay just out of view
As I spend my time hunting down
That one specific hidden noun.

Some days, I catch all I could want.
I walk away feeling nonchalant
Only to eventually find
The empty pen they left behind.

Some days, I build elaborate traps.
I make complex plans and draw maps
So I can make sure I get my fill
Even if they’re mostly swill.

Some days, I catch words with ease.
I can have as many as I please
Because they cluster around me
As if they just want some company.

Some days, there are too many to stand.
They tug and pull and angrily demand
Everything I have to give,
Like they don’t care if I die or live.

Chasing down words is a lot of work.
Even if I choose to wait and lurk
Instead of constantly giving chase
I always wind up in a race.

Eventually, I have to make do
With whatever words I could accrue
In my day’s painstaking labor.
Some days, I just run short.

At End of Day

When the day is done and the fire’s stoked,
When the night is fresh and the world is cloaked
In star-soft mantle of darkening blue
I still have one last job to do.
I compile the words I have found,
Feeling out their shape and sound
As I sort them into categories
In preparation for all the stories
I haven’t had the chance to tell,
Until the fire’s down to a sullen swell
And the first glimmers of morning sun
Tell me that my work is done.

Auto-Complete

These words
           have been made by people
           who were born with their own lives.
My words
           are not the same as the words
           that other people have made.
Using their words
           is not the right thing for me to do,
           but I’m still trying to find my own.
I write
           a lot on the subject, but I’m
           not sure how to make it any easier.
My stories
           come from a different place than I do,
           but I’ve always thought
           it would work
           out.
Borrowing these words
           only means I can’t afford
           to use my own.
Filling in the blanks
           was my original
           goal, but I’m still not sure I understand
           what this means.
Someday
           I might make my own words to say
           Something
           I want you to hear,
But I think
           you should know
           that this was made
           from someone else’s
           words.

Captured in Words

Once, I wanted to try to find
The words to say how I felt.

All I found were little phrases
That didn’t serve my needs
And quiet thoughts that lived
Past the edge of speaking.

I would have liked to continue,
Trying as hard as I could,
Just to see,
If I could have ever figured it out.

I never could find a way
To talk about the wonder
I felt when I looked at you.

I wouldn’t have minded
Spending the rest of my life looking.

Now, all I have left are memories
Of what I once wanted
And echoes of a feeling
I once felt resonate.

Maybe, if I can capture this in words,
I can stop feeling it
And finally let it go.

What Do You Think Would Happen?

What do you think would happen
If I stopped restraining my tongue
And voiced my inner thoughts aloud:
­             If I put aside all the careful filters
             And ignored all sensible precaution,
             Telling everyone who can hear
             What I felt or thought
             Instead of what I knew
             Was the correct thing to say?

Would people know the difference
Or am I the only one who spends
Most of my time in silence,
­­             
Weighing every little word
­­             
On a set of scales
­­             
I’ve spent my life constructing
­             
To be fair and just to all?

Would anyone but me even care
Beyond the initial shock
Of a direct response
In a culture that values
Hidden agendas and vague
References to minutiae?

If I told you what first ran through my mind
When you told me your story,
Would you have listened to me?
­             
Or would I still have to spend time
­             
Learning to phrase things so your mind listens
­             
Even when your ears refuse to?

If I spoke more truthfully of my mind,
Would you value my silence less
And decide to come to me for more
Than just the slice of my truth you need
­             
Or would you learn to value my truth less
­             
Because I was dispensing it
­             
To anyone who was near enough to take it?

If I stopped restraining my tongue
And voiced my inner thoughts aloud,
­             
Would people finally hear me
­­­­             Instead of just the words I say?

 

Lost for Words

What do you do when you’re a writer and you’re lost for words?
What do you do when every word feels empty and flat:
When your lexicon fails to provide
And your tongue hangs in your mouth, empty, sluggish, and fat?

What do you do when you’re a writer and no word fits?
What do you do when you have a hole in your heart:
When you can’t fill the space
And every single page, paragraph and sentence falls apart?

What do you do when you’re a writer and you can’t explain?
What do you do when you can’t seem to speak:
When the air hangs empty
And yet full enough to make even the strongest person weak?

What do you do when you’re a writer and your tongue is tied?
What do you do when the words are there but cannot escape:
When you know what to say
And yet the words hide inside and refuse to take shape?

What do you do when you’re a writer and you want to quit?
What do you do when the words stop coming:
When you want to work
And thoughts in your head will not stop running?

So what do you do when you’re a writer and you’re lost for words?
When the words are stuck, do you start writing?
Do you stare down an empty page
And, with words that feel like drops of your own blood, keep fighting?

Love or Idolatry

One of my favorite songs from Steven Universe is the end credits song, “Love Like You.” Throughout the show, it is played in short snippets as the credits roll and it takes almost two entire seasons to go through the entire song. The song’s creator, who also created the show, has gone on the record in recent years, to talk about it. When the soundtrack of the show came out, compiling most of the show’s songs up to that point, Rebecca Sugar said that, initially, the song was about an alien who wanted to be able to love the Human she was in relationship with the way he loved her. She wanted to feel how he felt and surmised that if she could return his feelings, then maybe she would no longer feel like she falls short of how he sees her.

The lyrics paint a picture of someone who doesn’t understand the idea of love, except in the context of the way it makes the singer’s partner act around her or see her. The singer doesn’t think very highly of herself and is constantly measuring herself up against the way her partner sees her and, in her eyes, falling short. It’s almost heartbreaking. “I wish that I knew what makes you think I’m so special.” It gets me any time I actually listen to the song instead of just letting it play in the background. As someone with self-esteem issues and a history of difficulty making meaningful, lasting connections with people, the song resonates rather strongly.

After spending the evening with my girlfriend, this song came on the radio (well, my iPod was plugged into my car radio and the playlist eventually cycled to it) and it made me think about the nature of love, the way we think people see us, and how we see ourselves. Love can be great because it can show us how we look to someone and, sometimes, even let us catch a glimpse of the person our partner sees us as. At the same time, if we feel like our partner is not actually seeing us but some false version of us or they gloss over any problems, it can be discouraging to constantly be compared to this version of ourselves that we feel isn’t grounded in reality. That could easily make self-esteem or self-value problems worse.

A while after giving the initial interview about “Love Like You,” Rebecca Sugar has said she now views the song as being more about her relationship with all of the Steven Universe fans she has met as the show grows in popularity. Because she has created this show and so many people feel so strongly about it, they transfer some of that attention and love to her, the show’s creator. She said that she feels like she can’t measure up to the sort of almost worshipful adulation they heap on her and that the song now speaks more to the way she wishes she could return all that love but can’t figure out how to.

From what I’ve read, a lot of popular creators feel like this, but particularly the ones who spend a lot of time meeting fans, such as show creators, voice actors, writers, and so on. I wouldn’t be surprised if musicians felt this way as well. It can probably be rather alienating, to be worshiped by almost everyone you meet. To be loved so strongly and so enthusiastically by someone who doesn’t actually know you that you can’t help but feel the weight of their expectations settle more heavily on your shoulders with each new person who gushes about how much they love you.

I think I can sometimes have that effect on people. And not just celebrities or creators I admire. People in my day-to-day life. As I’ve mentioned in the past few days, I have a tendency to invest completely and quickly in relationships. I think that can probably be overwhelming for a lot of people because they start to feel like I’m loving the person they act like they are rather than the person they see themselves as. I think some of my past relationships fell apart for exactly this reason, even if other reasons were given. I mean, how can you communicate honestly with someone who you feel doesn’t really understand you?

I’m pretty sure I do that to my girlfriend sometimes, too. We often have a communication issue where we use different words to say the same thing and get frustrated because we can’t seem to make the other person understand what we mean or it seems like they’re being intentionally obstinate. We usually figure it out pretty quickly, thankfully, but it can be discombobulating when it happens multiple times in a conversation.

I like to think that I look for the best in people and try to appreciate them for who they try to be or who they want to be. I like looking for the good in people and trying to look for the positive aspects of people’s lives. I don’t like being negative when I can avoid it, since I have a tendency to be gloomy and melancholic at the drop of a hat, but I think I can understand how this would be frustrating to people I’m close to. Sometimes, you don’t want people to always see the light in you. Sometimes you want someone to acknowledge the darkness. Not because you want them to fix it, but because you want them understand and love all of you, not just the golden idol they seem to worship.

Which isn’t to say that I’m worshiping some perfect form of my girlfriend. As I said, I only THINK I do it SOMETIMES. This was just what I thought about during my meditation when I woke up in the middle of the night thanks to a leg cramp and had to spend half an hour stretching my muscles and drinking water. Personally, I don’t think I worship perfect versions of people, I just love strongly and love people as they are. But I know exactly what I mean when I say things and I know the intentions behind my every action. I’m not always that great at letting other people know those things right away. I have a tendency toward muted reactions, very little emoting, and not making myself clear when I speak because I get my thoughts jumbled up and miss the important bits that would have made it all sensible.

I want people to see themselves the way I see them. I want to see myself the way I see other people. But I think that, when it comes to other people, all that comes across is the love and not enough of the projection of how I see them. When it comes to myself, all I get is the projection of how I see myself and not enough of the love. I need to work on letting people see my emotions a little more and doing a better job of communicating my feelings in their entirety, rather than just the snippet conveyed by the words coming out of my mouth.

I don’t know if you’ve put together the pieces from past blog entries or, I don’t know, the title of my blog, but I have a hard time getting the right words out when it comes to talking. Or, at least, I feel like I do. This is going to be hard, but I think it’ll be worth it if I ever figure it out.

Too bad I can’t just write everything I want to say to people and have them treat it like I just spoke it to them… It works fine until someone needs a response right away. Writing it correctly takes time and effort away from a conversation. It isn’t exactly plausible if you’re trying to communicate with a partner or a close friend when something is going down.

At least trying something is better than silence. I always try to express myself rather than sit in silence. I’ll give myself that much credit. Sometimes, though, it feels like silence would have been better. It can be difficult to tell.