No NaNoWriMo This Year, But I Think I Wrote More This Year Than Any Other

I’ve been avoiding the topic for a while now because I don’t really want to think about it that much, but I decided not to do National Novel Writing Month this year. Which means it is the first time in ten years that I haven’t even attempted it. It will be the second time in that period that I didn’t succeed. The last time I didn’t complete NaNoWriMo was back in 2016 while the election and its results were happening on top of job hunting and dealing with an increasingly difficult roommate situation. I realized after only a couple days that I couldn’t handle writing on top of everything else that was going on, so I stopped. This year, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do it a few days before the month started and resigned myself to skipping it.

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The Hardest Part Is Hitting Post

Maintaining a blog like this is a difficult task sometimes. Not because of the amount of effort required to write five posts a week and, at present, do either one special post or one relatively long chapter of a story once a week. That’s definitely a lot of effort, but it’s effort I find fulfilling and rewarding. I wouldn’t really describe it as “difficult” since it feels better to do it than not do it. The difficult part is maintaining a healthy relationship with the blog itself, my expectations for the blog, and my expectations for people I know interacting with the blog. One of things that made blogging long-term unsustainable back in 2018 (even though I managed to keep it up daily for over a year), was that I got lost in the numbers. Another was that I got incredibly focused on how social media and my behavior (by which I mean posting habits and content posted) drew people to my blog. I also was going through a lot toward the end there, so maintaining a one week buffer was not something I really had the time, energy, or creative focus to do. Now it feels easy. Not effortless, of course, but I don’t have to put much effort into actually doing the work.

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I Am So Tired But Will Not Stop To Rest

After some initial bumpiness that involved scheduling sessions 3 weeks out, the Dungeons and Dragons campaign that used to be my Sunday game is now sorta back on track. It’s only been a coupla sessions of more regular playing, but it seems like it having the flexibility to schedule around busy weekend days should get us up from once every three and a half-ish weeks to every other week on average. Maybe a little less frequent than that, but not by much. I would enjoy that, even if it would be exhausting and stressful to be running that campaign on top of whatever winds up taking place weekly on Sundays, not to mention the Friday game I run or play in (it alternates irregularly these days), my coworker game on every second or third Tuesday, and the game I play in on Thursdays. And that doesn’t even mention my busy work schedule with my job, my non-tabletop roleplaying game obligations, and the endless labor that goes into being an adult with a household I must maintain. Honestly, as I look to the future (especially in light of the work news we all got today that makes it look like I might wind up doing more overtime than ever), I feel myself already growing tired and exhausted.

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I’ve Been Doing This For A Year Now

When this post goes up, it will be the last main post of July. There will be one more “Recorded and Reposted” poem going up tomorrow, but that’s been scheduled for well over a month now. More than a couple months, actually, come to think of it. My next post will be the first post of August, which will mean I’ve been doing this for a year. One whole year passed since I started updating this blog again and I did over three hundred new posts. With a few reposts of update poems with attached audio clips. Looking back at 2021, I feel like I’ve made progress in some areas but lost progress in others, but I am fairly certain that’s just my perception tainted by my anxiety.

I would be lying if I said that I don’t feel different. I feel incredibly different. Some of that is just due to my perception of the passage of time. Though it was only about a year ago that I started updating this blog again, it feels like several years have passed. I’m pretty sure I’ve aged five years in the one that passed, thanks to the stress of living in modern US society as our rights are slowly eroded, income equality worsens, and the entire planet continues to glide toward fascism and collapse. Most of the improvements have been in my personal life. I’ve finally started exploring an aspect of my identity that I’ve known about my entire life after finally being able to silence the voices in my head (my parents’ voices) that told me nothing mattered except being the person they’d taught me to be. Aside from one poem I wrote in high school, I’d never expressed any of this stuff to anyone else and barely even allowed myself to think it.

I’m still not sure I’m ready to write about all that any more specifically on my blog, all of the stuff behind why I am to be referred to using they/them pronouns and my explorations of my own identity, but I’m doing a lot of work on that. It’s been nice to take a break from processing trauma in every therapy session to focus on exploring who I am to myself and talk through how to reconcile the first thirty years of my life with my life after that. After all, my sort of blind acceptance of the person I was (as dictated by my parents) also meant that I was able to accept everything I went through in a way I’m struggling to now that I finally FEEL that what my brother and my parents did to me was unacceptable.

I think that working through all of that again is going to be ultimately helpful, since I’ll be properly processing it and accepting myself as having lived through that stuff rather than just accepting that it happened. The former is critical and doesn’t let anyone off the hook while the latter is unquestioning and lets everyone off the hook. Not that it matters much since there’s little that can be done in terms of accountability other than preventing any of them from being a part of my life going forward.

So a lot has happened. I’ve grown a bunch. I hate myself less frequently and while I’m not quite to the point of liking myself that much, I do accept myself most of the time, now. And I’m getting better at speaking up, though the events of the last few days prove that I still have work to do. I need to get better at correcting people. Though I’ve spoken up in a few incredibly difficult situations at work, I’m still having a hard time doing that around my friends. I know they don’t mean it, you know? And I don’t want to make it a thing when most of the time I’m just so damn tired. Still, it’s worth doing and only by correcting people will the need to correct people eventually disappear. After that, anyone using the wrong pronouns in reference to me will be doing it on purpose and I’ll know what kind of person they are as a result. Good stuff.

I still struggle to stick to my creative goals from one week to the next, but I’m defintely more creatively active than I used to. I still actually make monthly progress on my main projects rather than having to speak about yearly progress since I used to go multiple months in a row with no progress. I’m going to keep working on that and hopefully some continued focus on rest and careful spoon management will get me in a position to create more. Or maybe I’ll win the lottery, quit my job, and just create all the time non-stop. What a life that would be.

Anyway, I’ve reflected and muttered on long enough. Here’s to one year completed and the start of a new year after. After all, regardless of everything else that has happened in my life, one of my core character traits has been and will always be a refusal to actually give up. Stop, yes. Give up, no. A small distinction to some people, but an incredibly important one to me.

The Power of Influence and the Folly of Originality

As a person interested in creating my own stories, worlds, and whatnot, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to create something “original.” In terms of criticism, I think the word has been so bandied about and overused that it has lost most of its meaning, leavied as it has been against everything from creative works acknowledging their influences to entirely unrelated and unconnected works that coincidentally had similar themes. In this vast, wide world of ours, it is not unthinkable that two incredibly different people might have similar ideas. Not everything alike is a copy or partial copy, and there’s nothing wrong with copying something if you’re planning to build off it.

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I Struggle With Writing Short Fiction

I have a vacation coming up in a week and a half. I’ll have access to the internet and my laptop with me (I plan to work on some editing projects since I can’t just NOT do anything), but I still plan to double my usual blog buffer so I can just ignore my blog every day that I’m away. My current intention is to do five Flash Fiction posts in the place of my usual content, as a nice compromise between writing five normal posts and letting my blog sit empty for a full week, but I’m running into the same problem that I always do when I’m trying to produce new flash fiction. I just don’t know what stories to tell in so short a format!

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The Perils of Creative Expression

I’ve been working on a new poem (goes up tomorrow). I got a draft done pretty quickly, forty-five lines across three pairs of stanzas, lots of nice imagery, all of that in about twenty-five minutes. I had a super clear image, a theme to work with, and a form that rapdily emerged from the way the thing arranged itself in my head. Not my fastest work, but still pretty good for a first draft. I spent another five minutes over the rest of the day reading it and making small adjustments and then sent it off to a reader for a quick review. I was expecting a comment about the end, that it would feel very abrupt or like it shouldn’t have been the end, and that’s the comment I got back. See, I had more I wanted to say, but I couldn’t find a way to say it, so I tried to wrap it up there. After all, not everything needs to go into one poem. But clearly it was missing something, so I decided I’d spend some time today to work on it.

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Illusions of the Past and Flash Fiction

I kind of miss the old way I used to run this blog, with a different type of content for every day of the week. It was a very creatively enriching time in my life and I really feel like I grew as a writer during that period. I was also at my healthiest, mentally speaking, during that period. My inclination is to chalk all of this up to a wide variety of writing, heavy structure, active participation in numerous creative projects that included working with people for feedback, and the rewarding feeling of sharing it all someplace other people could see it and respond to it. Unfortunately, things aren’t actually so simple as that. Like most things, the truth of the matter is more complicated.

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Worldbuilding Is Only Done When The Campaign Is Over

I have created an entire Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting (multiple major and minor plots included) from nothing but a pile of unrelated notes that aren’t even from the same genre in about a week. It was an exhausting, draining, and incredibly focused week of non-stop effort, but I managed to get it all done. It helped that it was similar to some other ideas I’d been wanting to explore, so I managed to swing the perfect trifecta of “interested,” “excited,” and “well-rested” required for a feat like that. Most of the time, it takes me a bit longer than that to get a campaign off the ground, from concept to ready for the first session (Session 0), but it rarely takes more than a few weeks. That said, the settings are never done. There’s always more work to do, more research and development to continue to chip away at, and so many basic ideas that need to be fleshed out.

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Generous Reading On The Internet

There is this idea in literary criticism (also writing education and peer-to-peer creative writing) frequently called “generous reading.” The basic idea is that you assumed the best as you read something. You don’t ignore flaws or pass over opportunities to provide the writer with suggestions on how to improve, you just lead with the assumption that the writer is being satirical rather than an idiot. That someone writing about a topic that is typically deeply personal has knowledge of that topic in their own lives. The basic idea has started to creep into some of the more positive social media spheres I’m in, and I think there’s a lot to be said by reading the things people post and say on social media in a generous way.

I won’t deny that generous reading can be abused. It absolutely can and a lot of the worst elements of the internet rely on at least a fragment of it as a tool to bludgeon people who called them out for their clearly shitty opinions. As a result, practicing generous reading on social media can be dangerous if you’re not caught up on all the latest dogwhistles and trolling techniques. Even at my most hopeful, I always suggest taking the time to review a social media user’s history to make sure they don’t have a track record of awful behavior before extending the such generosity if you’re unsure whether or not they’re being an asshole while trying to pretend they’re not an asshole.

Most of the time I think it should be more liberally applied is in the lengthier writings of people on the internet. Blog posts, super long twitter threads, articles, and the various other places media is shared should all get a bit more generosity than most social media, since posting those places requires a good deal more effort. Which isn’t to say people don’t abuse those platforms to hide their dogwhistles and assholery, just that it’s usually easier to tell when they’re actually being awful and someone is less likely to build a whole website around the idea of being able to dogwhistle while flying under the radar.

There’s no hard and fast rule on whether or not you should read something generously, unfortunately. It is difficult to detect satire when it is done well and the longer the internet survives, the more it seems like the people being satirized are just taking the satire as a challenge. I’ve seen articles from The Onion that have passed from “clear satire” into “barely scraping the surface of the awful things we’ve seen in reality” in just the last decade. I spend a lot of time trying to decide if I’m willing to be generous in a reading on social media and I frequently find myself deciding against it. After all, it has been abundantly clear for years now how any attention is good attention on social media, so sharing things in order to dunk on them only helps the thing or person you’re trying to dunk on.

In longer-form media, though, I find it a lot easier. So often, readers know almost nothing about the writer of a work they’re enjoying. Only in recent decades has information about an author become readily available, and that looks like it might not last much longer as more and more writers turn toward anonymity and pen names in order to protect their identities from trolls and the various mobs of the internet. I feel like it is worth giving people the benefit of the doubt by default and only changing my mind when I find a reason they don’t deserve it rather than making them earn it in the first place. After all, we’ve seen countless examples on the internet of people being hunted down and castigated for something a group of people decided was inappropriate only to eventually learn that this person had every right to say what they said. Or that maybe they were right the entire time and people shouldn’t have been so quick to cast judgment.

I just think that trying to feel superior to other people is not a great way to use the internet, even though it seems to be the way most poeple use the internet. I prefer a bit of empathy and extending everyone the grace and generosity I hope they’d extend to me in turn. I just think that maybe most people trying to share something they thought important enough to make a specific statement about should maybe be given the benefit of the doubt about what they’ve said. I know I mess up and stick my foot in my mouth sometimes so I generally like to assume that other people do it as well.