End-of-Year Changes

My annual end-of-year contemplation almost always includes Getting Rid Of Things. Whether it’s physical, mental or emotional, it’s something worth returning to and reviewing what’s gone on over the past several months and deciding if I really need to keep such things in my life. I know, I could do this at any point in time, but this works just fine for me so I’m sticking with it.

I’ve been thinking a little more about why I put Theadia and Queen Ophelia on hiatus, and it occurs to me that unlike the Bridgetown Trilogy, it’s not about having writer’s block due to life changes. I merely felt that while I like these story ideas, emotionally they’re not who I am right now and I don’t feel right in continuing the work. They’re good stories but they’re not the direction I need to go in.

I’ve also been thinking about what that particular direction should be. I don’t want to write another story out of frustration or desperation, nor do I want to passively write an I have no plan but let’s see where this goes story either. I’ve done enough of those over the years.

I need to find out what it is that will resonate with me. Something that excites my creativity. Mind you, I don’t want to fall back into the trap of trying to recreate the same writing mood that I had with the Trilogy, because I’ve done enough of that as well. What will that be, though? Who knows?

Still, I’ve been taking this time to figure it all out. I’ve also been taking the time to adjust how I do that, being well aware of the obstacles and trip-ups I’ve had or made over the years. Don’t be a perfectionist, but do attempt your best. Don’t build up so many barriers, but allow yourself a bit of comfort. Don’t overexplain everything but feel free to deep-dive when necessary. Be aware of the situation but don’t be so self-conscious about it. Find a new voice and figure out how it sounds.

Changes are always a good thing when they make life and creativity even better.

Coming Up on Year’s End

Today’s Black Friday and I’ll be at work by the time this posts — I open the store on Fridays and Saturdays bright and early at 6am — but from what the store manager says, he doubts it’s going to be a mad rush considering we’re not that kind of store. Still, the day after Thanksgiving does tend to be seen as Q4’s final stretch. Just a few more weeks of frantic buying before things go back to normal.

I’ve been thinking about my writing this year and I’ve made peace with the fact that I didn’t release anything this year. And that’s because I’ve actually made a lot of progress with a lot of other things! I finished off an almost-complete composition book of poetry and lyrics, which is great considering that particular well had been dry for years pre-pandemic. Although I didn’t finish Queen Ophelia or Theadia, I did get within a few chapters of finishing both before putting them on hiatus. I started making notes for my romcom idea. I’m relatively consistent with my blogging. And I’ve even revived writing new words on the 750Words site! So it all works out: I’ve been a busy bee, even after starting a new Day Job!

I’ve got a few ideas for what I’d like to do in 2023, and I’m tasking myself to come up with some plans and schedules by the end of December. As always, these plans are more like guidelines than concrete assignments as I am always prone to coming up with new ideas and unexpected detours when it comes to my writing. If anything, my goal is to maintain this consistency I’ve held over the last several months. I’m at a level I’m comfortable with, one I can handle with minimal stress or worry.

And to top it off, I’ve already decided that I’ll be spending most of December not stressing out about productivity. If I have a super productive day followed by a few days of laziness, I’m fine with that. I’ve earned it. It’s healthier to just let those days go by than try to force it when it’s not going to come.

What does come in 2023 is probably going to surprise me as much as it’ll surprise you!

Nothing’s Gonna Change My (Social) World

[Posted this last week at Walk in Silence and am reposting here to cover bases.]

Meanwhile here in San Francisco, the social media birdsite may either be transforming into something altogether different or it may be going down in flames, and either way it’s going in real time as its New Owner experiences…er…growing pains?

ANYWAY. If said birdsite crashes and burns epically, you can always find me at the following fine internet establishments:

BLOGS:
Welcome to Bridgetown (this here blog about writing and personal things): https://welcometobridgetown.com/
Walk in Silence (my music blog): https://jonchaisson.com
Drunken Owls and Other Delights (Dreamwidth, where I post personal stuff): https://jon-chaisson.dreamwidth.org/

SOCIAL:
Discord: joncwriter#3974
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jon.chaisson.7
Instagram (where I post all sorts of pictures of local scenery as well as our cats): https://www.instagram.com/joncwriter/
Twitter (until it implodes or all my friends leave): https://twitter.com/joncwriter
Hive (I’ve just signed up and I haven’t quite played around with it yet): JChaisson
[I have not yet tinkered with Mastodon although I think I have an account there? It’s just too fiddly for me to bother dealing with right now.]

I shall update this as necessary over the next few days or until I remember I have other sites that I’d forgotten I had!

More on putting my novels on hiatus

Okay, so maybe I’m not torching my work. That’s not my style! No, this is just a follow-up from last week’s mention that I’m putting Theadia and Queen Ophelia on hiatus.

To put it bluntly, these were both Pandemic Novels.

Theadia was my novel about my frustrations with the Former Day Job. I’d started it in the final months of that particular position, when I’d been forced to head back into the office four days a week. The novel, on the whole, was about Terrible Managerial Decisions versus Doing the Right Thing, set as an unconventional space opera. There’s a lot of that job in this novel…trying to squeeze actual answers out of an ineffectual manager (in this case, a colonel), questioning bad decisions and getting a shrug and a what can you do? as an answer, and of course choosing to do the right thing because no one else will, and the list goes on. I also wrote it because I’d become worried that I no longer had any further stories in me to write because the Former Day Job had become that overbearing over time, and I knew I had to write something before I started to believe that. This was my ‘this is now fucking aggravating this job has become’ outlet.

Queen Ophelia, on the other hand, was my novel about going on a personal journey of discovery. I’d started that one in the first couple of months into the pandemic, when I’d left the Former Day Job and chosen to do some long overdue cleaning out of my anxieties, bad habits and personal issues. This novel, on the whole, was about Giving Yourself a Blank Canvas. The main character, literally an artist with nothing important and no projects weighing down his life at the moment, is offered the chance to learn about his mother who’d left him and his father when he was a baby. Come to find out, she is not just a beast from another world but royalty as well. This was my ‘you’re free, you can be and do anything you want now’ outlet.

Thing is, I no longer need these novels as personal outlets. They were my therapy for those two strange years and they served me well, but now I’ve moved past that need for them. That was the problem with The Balance of Light as well, the third Bridgetown Trilogy book; I no longer needed that trilogy as an outlet or as therapy by 2004 and I felt a bit creatively lost because of it. But also like that novel, I plan on returning to them after some time and distance. I still believe in them, I just have to see them as the entities and creations they are.

In the meantime, I and my creations are both a blank canvas once more, ready to discover new things.

Back to Q4 Retail

After a decade and a half of banking, I am once again back in the retail sector during fourth quarter. Our store has had its Christmas decorations up for a good couple of weeks now (having set them up a few weeks before Halloween) and our aisles are now crammed with cardboard standees selling wares such as chocolate Santas, boutique candies, various toys, and everything else in between. Apparently our company doesn’t do the holiday season half-assed.

Am I dreading the craziness of fourth quarter shenanigans, high volume and constantly running out of paper bags up front? Not really! As exhausting as the last couple months of the year can be, there’s also a special warmth that comes along with it. I do enjoy talking with our regulars (and they are definitely such — some stopping by twice a day on the daily) end even more with new customers who are pleasantly surprised by how unique and accessible our store is. Sure, we’ll have the days with unending lines and short staff, but we survive it. And I’m old enough to remind myself not to let those particular days eat at me.

Sure, it affects my writing time sometimes, but not in the ways the bank used to. The mental and emotional exhaustion just isn’t as prevalent. Banking is very exhausting for the brain, whereas working retail, not so much. At least not for me anymore, anyway. Sometimes dealing with the front end is a bit like herding cats — coworkers and customers alike, when I’m assigned the Front End Manager position for the day — but I try not to bring it home. As long as I dedicate time to the writing, that’s all that matters.

Besides, working in retail means I get some sweet deals for the home!

How can someone so young sing words so sad?

So the original idea came to me after reading multiple romcoms in a row: what about an older woman who, after a successful career in the late 80s and early 90s as a young pop singer and an adulthood stuck in terrible relationships and bad business decisions, has a meet-cute with an equally jaded John Cusack type of guy who runs a record store in the small town she escapes to?

I bring this up as I’m feeling incredibly burned out from my work on Theadia and Queen Ophelia, both of which probably need complete rewrites. As I said to a friend this morning, there comes a time when it feels more like I’m shoveling mud than actually making a sculpture, y’know? It’s obvious that my writing sessions for both are becoming infrequent enough and hardly any work is being done (cat-sitting aside) that it’s obvious that I’m not happy with the stories at all. Added to that, I do nightly rereads of passages as part of my revision process, and lately it’s felt like I’d rather be reading something else. I don’t hate these projects, they’re just not where I need them to be right now, and I’m not ready to devote even more time and brainspace for it. I need to take a break.

That said…the possibility of me writing a meet-cute romcom filled with 80s and 90s easter eggs, music references and other goofy things is something I think might work. And here I thought Meet the Lidwells was my nerdiest story idea…

(Image courtesy of K-On!, by the way. I really need to start watching that series.)

Changing Things Around

Cat Update: Jules has been here for one week and thinks she’s got seniority, but new cat (and sister) Cali has proven otherwise by refusing to give in so easily. It’s been a few days together and they’re not playfighting nearly as much, though they’ll have bouts of chasing each other down our long hallway in full noisy gallop. I think we’ve cured them of waking us up for 2am playtime, but they’ve exchanged that with the 9pm tussling under our bed and the 5am Why Aren’t You Awake Yet. It’s a learning curve for everyone, I guess.

Anyway! As you can well imagine, my writing schedule is falling short due to Watching the Cats (to make sure they settle in well in their new home) and waking up early for the Day Job. It is what it is, and given that it’s also Q4, I will not be surprised if I eventually feel burnout in the next couple of weeks.

BUT! I refuse to let the writing fall by the wayside. I just have to keep focusing on it with the time that I do have. Twitter is currently having its New Owner Dumpster Fire Event which is keeping me from doomscrolling over there. I’ve got my close friends on Discord (we now have a dedicated channel just for our cat pictures, by the way) to keep me company. And of course I still have KEXP to listen to while working in Spare Oom.

It is what it is. I’m used to my writing schedule going all kinds of wonky during Q4. And considering I’m now working retail, the exhausting chaos will be ramping up very soon. I’m only thankful my job frowns on forced overtime (thank you, UFCW Local 648!) and our store is small compared to other outlets. It’ll be busy but not always overwhelmingly so. I’ll always have time to get at least something done each day if I put my mind to it.

And thankfully, the cats are currently sleeping in the cat tree so I can have some me time!

In Need of Distance…?

I’m at the point in Theadia where I think I’m hyperfocusing too much. I do this at least once with every project I’ve ever worked on: I’ll eventually arrive at a point where I’m not sure if I’m making it better or making it worse. Sometimes it’s because I’ve been working on the same chapter or scene for far too many days and I need to let it go and move on (and fix it properly at a later time). Sometimes it’s because I’m working on a scene that’s full of tension that I’ve become so familiar with that I don’t feel said tension anymore.

There’s also the fact that I’ve been a bit distracted by Real Life Stuff lately, and I just don’t have the spoons to connect with it on an emotional level at the moment.

Either way, this is where I need to make a decision: power through until the issues go away, or step away and work on something else for a little bit. Powering through essentially means getting rid of those Don’t Wanna/Oh Hey A Distraction urges, which works really well for me. Stepping away works too, but I usually reserve that for when I’m truly frustrated or physically/mentally exhausted and need the break.

So yeah, looks like I’ll have to soldier through!

A new(ish) monitor arrives!

Okay, so it’s a few years old, but it was A’s at that point before her new job provided her with a new one. And as you can see, it’s partially blocking the whiteboard schedule and the clipboard. I’m probably going to take the latter down as I rarely use it, and move the whiteboard up a few inches and rearrange all those ‘I Power KEXP’ stickers I’ve accumulated. Most everything on the desk can easily be shifted around to make this work.

So what’s different here? I mentioned at my Dreamwidth account that I’m now facing the desk directly instead of at an angle, and after adjusting the armrests of my chair (again, formerly A’s before she bought a new one) I’m now enjoying much better posture. Especially now that the mouse and pad are off to the right, so I’m no longer crinching up my shoulder to use them. I’m not slouching or leaning in this chair, nor am I craning my neck at weird angles when I’m working with documents and suchlike. [I’ve also noticed that the sound quality in the music I listen to is different as well, now that I’m facing the speakers directly instead of mostly in my right ear. I’m posting separately about that over at Walk in Silence.]

I’m using the new monitor for internet browsing and my writing and the old one for my music player and other media software. Sure, the older monitor is bigger and you’d think that would be useful for writing, but after so many years I think it’s a little too big. Useful for watching movies and music videos, but probably not for extended periods of editing. The smaller monitor helps me focus on the work at hand instead of getting lost in all that workspace.

They’re simple adjustments, sure, but I’m already noticing how big of a difference they’ve made, and that’s always a good thing.