A year of difference

A strange year needs a strange anime gif. Source: Nichijou.

It’s definitely been an interesting year for most people. As mentioned over at Walk in Silence, I started 2020 off in a terrible mood, primarily due to the (now Former) Day Job situation. It had taken a lot out of me since returning to the office in November 2019: I was suddenly stripped of most of the quality time I normally used for writing, I was wasting at least two-plus hours on the road a day (not to mention roughly $70 a week on gas and tolls), and to top it all off, the “We’re All a Big Happy Family” Return Plan had actually been more of an “Extremely Poorly Thought Out (If at All) But We Still Have to Hit This Tight Deadline and Be Active On Day One Or Upper Management Will Be Pissed And Oh By the Way Your Desk Is WAY Over In the Middle of F*cking Nowhere and Far Away from the Rest of Your Team and It’s Not Set Up at All and What’s That Noise Oh Yes It’s the Building’s HVAC Fans Right at Your Feet” Plan. It was a complete shitshow and I’d lost almost all faith in the company at that point. By the start of 2020 I was saying hell with it, applying for jobs on my phone, and using the 750 Words site for my writing at work because I just didn’t give a shit anymore.

And then of course, the pandemic happened, and (Former) Day Job couldn’t even handle that right. I gave my two weeks, just as the city, state and country started hunkering down for who knew what. I mean, I’d been wanting to take some mental time off from the job for a few years now (let’s be real, the four weeks of vacation a year really wasn’t cutting it at this point), but I hadn’t expected to have that handed to me like this.

Still. I spent three months not writing. I stopped blogging, journaling, and I closed down the second (paid) 750 Words account. I did some spot-cleaning of Diwa & Kaffi, but that was about it.

I knew I still needed that mental leave of absence, so instead of keeping busy, I decided, let’s not continue the daily stress of having the weight of it all on me if I didn’t need to carry it anymore. I continued to send out the occasional job applications and do a lot of household errands. We went for walks around the neighborhood. We followed the right emergency health guidelines (as did both of our families, thankfully). I knew I was lucky and privileged to be able to pull that off, so I spent that time the best I could. I did a lot of extremely overdue mental, emotional and creative housecleaning.

I picked up the writing again some months later, restarting the 750, the blogs, poetry, artwork, and the journaling. It felt right to do it then, now that my mind and heart were a lot clearer. I started toying around with some story ideas I’d come up with during those final (Former) Day Job days. I found I could focus on my creativity at the levels I wanted and needed to have them at. And I started rethinking about what I’d do for the next Day Job.

So yeah. On the one hand, I could easily say that 2020 was an utter failure because of such low word counts, lack of productivity and not consistently releasing one self-published book a year like I had for the last five years.

But on the other hand, I’d done so much more that was just as important, if not more so: I let myself have a clear mind and a calm heart again. I’d say I still came out on top, which is all I could ask for.

I have some interesting plans for 2021, and I’m looking forward to making them a reality!

Updates and whatnot

First on the docket: FREE BOOKS!

Yes, it’s that time of year again, and all five of my ebooks are available for free until the first of January over at Smashwords! Here are the links:

In My Blue World
Meet the Lidwells! A Rock n’ Roll Family Memoir
The Mendaihu Universe Book 1: A Division of Souls
The Mendaihu Universe Book 2: The Persistence of Memories
The Mendaihu Universe Book 3: The Balance of Light

All five books are available in multiple formats, so you can read on any PC, laptop, or ereader! Because I like looking out for y’all.

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Second of all: chances are I might not have too much to ramble on about in the next few weeks as I’m most likely going to just keep busy offline with my other projects as well as celebrating the holidays, so if you don’t see any posts in the next few Monday/Friday go-rounds, that’s the reason. It’s not that I’m busy, it’s that I’m enjoying not being busy!

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I’m happy to say that late last night I came up with an idea that could significantly improve the opening of MU4, which I’ve been struggling with the last few weeks. As usual, it revolves around my penchant for starting the story at the wrong time! Of course, I’d already logged off, and had even turned off the bedside light to go to sleep when it came to me, but thankfully I was able to remember it this morning, so that will be part of today’s work. Yay for breaking through a block!

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I’m still plowing through my music bios and it looks like I’m down to maybe 15 unread books at this point, which blows my mind. I never thought I’d be that caught up! Speaking of reading, I’ve done a factory reset of my e-reader (somehow the keyboard had stopped working) which wiped a number of apps that I’d had on there that I probably didn’t need and never used, but on the plus side, I’ve filled it up with a number of cheap or free e-books that I plan on hitting next year. My average books-per-year has hovered around 70 or so and I’d like to up that. (Why so low? Primarily because over the last few years I’ve been spending a considerable amount of reading-in-bed time doing project revision, and that can take up to a few weeks at a time. I currently do not have any projects at that level at this point.) I can zip through a good-sized book in a few days so for next year’s GoodReads challenge I think I’ll set it at 100 and see how far I get.

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Speaking of reading, what was my favorite books I read this year? Good question. I’ll need to refer to my GoodReads list and get back to you on that. That could be a good post in itself!

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…and that’s all I have for now. Hope everyone has a lovely Christmas holiday!

Wintertime

Back in the early 00s, I made it a point to head down to my basement writing nook to get my words done, whatever the weather. I would do this even in the dead of winter, bundled up in layers and a small space heater pointed directly under the desk at my feet. Nothing could stop me from getting my daily thousand words done!

Okay, maybe there were a few days when it was just too cold to stay down there. Those were the days when I’d use the family computer upstairs tucked away in the kitchen pantry. It was a bit uncomfortable as the only chair there was a stool and I slouch terribly when I sit, and I wasn’t always as productive, but at least I was warmer.

Nowadays I’m here in Spare Oom, and it’s one of the coolest rooms in the house at any time of year. The one window faces north so it never gets direct sun, and if there’s any breeze coming off the bay, it hits me first. This is fine during the summer, but in the winter my fingers can get a bit numb. Right now it’s 49 F, I’ve got the floor radiator on, and I’m wearing my house sneakers and the sweater A knitted for me. I’m about to head into the kitchen to make a other pot of coffee in hopes that it’ll help me warm up.

Sure, I’m lucky, considering we don’t get snow, nor does it drop below 40 degrees. No unplowed roads and crappy visibility. (Imagine if it did snow here…this city would be the king of cars-sliding-sideways-down-hilly-streets-and-crashing-into-each-other videos.) I definitely don’t miss any of that at all. We just get a biting chill that we feel in our bones because of the winds coming straight from the Pacific Ocean. One unexpected plus to wearing a pandemic mask outside is that it doubles as a muffler during days like this!

Still, it’s nice to be in a warm room, bashing away at the PC as I try to make those daily words.

Back to life, back to reality

Okay, I’ve goofed off enough. Vacation’s over. Time to get back to work. Well, it wasn’t exactly goofing off, but the point remains that I have things I need to do! Revision! New words! New novels! Blog posts! Artwork! Music practice! Errands! Plant watering! Etc!

Fine, maybe not all of them at once. One at a time, one after the other, is just fine. Put on some music, open up those documents, and close those social media browser tabs. Let’s get crackin’.

Plus, there’s only three weeks left of this crazy year, and I should probably think about my year-end playlists, retrospectives and 2021 plans. This past year may have been intensely weird, stressful and occasionally frightening, but it’s also been eye-opening, revealing and uplifting as well. Never a dull moment, at least.

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting a few of those things: my favorite songs and albums of the year, my end of year mixtape, future plans. Working on where I am and where I’m going. In the new year, I’ll be working on getting Diwa & Kaffi out into the world one way or another. I’ll be working on new projects and finishing old ones. Getting better at my other creative outlets. Starting a new career. And maybe even changing up my lifestyle a bit.

Yeah, I know, time is relative and why wait until New Year’s Day to start a new life when I could just start it now? But one thing I’ve learned this year is that assigning dates and schedules to the things in my life actually serve to help me, not hinder me. It puts my life and my thoughts and emotions in order, and it keeps a clear path ahead. Works fine for me.

Besides, I like a bit of denouement at the end of the year, where the past gets a bit of well-paced closure once and for all.

End of year vacation

As A had scheduled a year-end week’s vacation this week, we’ve been spending the time walking all over the place while the weather is still nice. (It’s raining today, so our walk consisted of a quick jaunt to the local post office to mail out one last Christmas package and then a short circuit around a few neighborhood blocks.)

Wednesday’s was a wonderful, if windy, jaunt of almost five miles from the Presidio marching grounds to Crissy Field and up towards the Golden Gate Bridge. There we saw All The Doggos, many birds, and even a few surfers! I’m quite happy with how the above picture came out. We live in a ridiculously photogenic city. I managed to get quite a few lovely pictures from various places this week!

So. Did I actually get any writing done? Or revision, or art for that matter? Well, I did pick up my guitar to noodle around on it for a few moments here and there, but other than that, I really didn’t get much done at all. And I’m okay with that. I thought it would be fun to just spend the week doing some last minute shopping, watching multiple Jane Austen films, and getting our exercise in. Writing this entry is the most I’ve worked on this week. Which means that starting Monday, she’ll be back at work and I’ll be back to my writing projects, year-end lists and all that fun stuff.

See you next week!

Slow Going

Source: Makoto Shinkai

Some days it feels like I’m going in the right direction…but still I’m waiting for the train to actually leave the station. It’s not really a sense of impatience, more like a deliberate slow start to get up to speed. I know I’ll get there eventually, I just want to do it right and with minimal failure or distraction.

I’m pretty sure that part of this comes in response to how I lived for most of the 90s: no idea where I was going, jumping on any bandwagon that sounded cool, throwing everything at the wall to see if it sticks. I made a lot of mistakes. Some easily fixable, but a lot of remorse and embarrassment as well. I knew I was doing it wrong but had no other way, no other frame of reference to learn from. By the end of the decade I’d learned some, but there was still a long way to go.

Here at the end of 2020, I’m starting off what I’d like to think is a new wave of writing. The way I look at my own works has changed considerably; there’s a bit more clarity and a lot more patience and control. I’m deliberately not running headlong into these new projects without a plan or even a solid plot. If this means I take a day not writing, so be it. I know that I’m not avoiding the project, I’m merely not clearcutting my way into a destructive mess. I can pick it up in the next day or so. Five hundred words, even two hundred, is better than trying to force a thousand when they’re not there in the first place.

Lately I’ve been feeling as though I’m at a crucial point in my creative and personal lives; that point where the next steps are going to be a whole new world. Am I afraid of that? Maybe so. I kinda sorta know what I’m doing? I think? But that’s okay; the more important thing here is that I trust myself. I trust myself to move forward, knowing what I’m doing and where I’m going. That helps me overcome those fears. And soon those fears will lessen and not be so overwhelming.

It’s slow going, but it’s going.

Exercising

Source: Nichijou

Thanksgiving is over, the tryptophan/carb coma has worn off, and we have finally finished up all the turkey in the house. It’s also getting colder, which means that, since I am an Old, they are starting to ache. Which means it’s time for me to start moving again. We made sure to get some good neighborhood walking in over the extended weekend, so I’m not worried about being a lazy butt…it’s more that I don’t want to fall into the classic trap of ‘there, I walked a mile, happy now? *becomes a slug for the next three weeks*’ we all fall into around this time of year. I’ve been putting off the daily exercises and stretches I’d been doing in the past (sometimes for legit reasons, but mostly because of laziness, alas), so starting today I want to get back into that again. I’ve never been one for spending hours dedicated to high-level pro-athlete weights and exercises, but I do really miss hitting the gym and getting a good thirty minutes on the treadmill as I listen to tunage and think about new story ideas. Since the YMCA is currently closed, we’re making do by walking the streets of our neighborhood. [Our current fun thing to do is count how many doggos we meet on our walk. Current record is 35!] I need to get back into the habit of taking a few minutes during the day to do a few stretches, crunches and extensions, however.

This also means it’s time for me to get back on my writing schedule. Last week was kind of a washout due to multiple errands and shopping to take care of, but I kind of expected that to happen. I don’t feel too guilty about that. The whiteboard schedule is staring me in the face as I type this, expecting me to make good on my daily assignments. These are writing exercises and projects that I’ve broken down into easily manageable segments (see my recent posts about focusing smaller), so it’s not as if they’ll take up a considerable amount of time out of my day.

Interestingly, I’ve kept my break schedule that I used to have at the Former Day Job, and that seems to give all of this some structure. My morning break was at 9:30am, and currently I’ll still use that time to back away from the PC and write in my personal journal. Noontime is still for lunch so A and I can chat, catch up on our Twitter feeds, and do whatever non-work things that need doing. I use my 2:30pm break for stretches, going downstairs to get the mail, or zipping up the street for any quick errands at the corner shop. And the both of us will clock out at 4pm to take our afternoon walk around the neighborhood. All that time in between, in roughly two hour blocks, is perfect for me to hit things like these posts, daily words, and so on.

I’ll admit that getting myself motivated is sometimes an issue — I mean, who hasn’t been distracted to some level during these political and pandemic seasons? — but once I get myself started, I can usually keep the momentum going until the end of the day. I still get that thrill of finishing a writing assignment like finishing off a chapter or a scene, leaving me one step closer to my goals.

As long as I keep moving!

Reading and Publishing

I really need to get myself back in the habit of reading more genre fiction again. I mean, not that I’ve been wasting my time at night — my music bio backlog is considerably smaller now — but I’m thinking that I really need to start reading more SF/F. I’ve been kind of avoiding it over the past few years, to be honest. I didn’t plan on it, it just happened that way. I don’t think it’s negatively impacted my genre writing to any serious degree, but it wouldn’t hurt to return to the source again.

One thing I’ve been meaning to do for a while is read more ebooks, and in particular, more indie publications. The other day I decided I was finally going to make good on that by downloading titles from B&N and elsewhere. Most of these are quite cheap and, like my Bridgetown Trilogy, the first book in a series is often free!

You know what I also haven’t done in ages? Self-publishing! I’ve been thinking about it a lot this past year, since I’ve been focused on submitting Diwa & Kaffi. I truly do miss the DIY aspect of it — creating covers, toying with photo editing software, making postcard freebies, and all that — and I’d love to return to that. I’m thinking in 2021 I may in fact do so, especially if I can get one or two of my stories prepped and ready to go. I especially would love to take my photography a lot more seriously again. I do have a creator’s account with Shutterstock that’s currently not doing anything, so perhaps it’s high time I reactivate that as well.

I suppose these two things could be the start of my New Year’s Plans. Sure, why not? I mean, I can start working on a lot of this whenever I like; no reason I actually need to wait until the first of January. [In fact, the other day I jumpstarted the ebook buying and spent $6 on four books and one book bundle!] I have most of what I need to make it all happen, so all I need to do is take the next steps.

Let’s make this happen. Pandemic or not, time to make it all happen.

On keeping the rest of the office clean

I know it sounds silly, but I’ve been waiting for today for at least a month now. Why is that? Well, it’s because I was finally able to get an appointment to donate six rather heavy boxes of books that have been piled up here in Spare Oom since before the pandemic started.

Now, normally I wouldn’t worry about that sort of thing, as in the past I’d have just found time on the weekend to drive the donations over to the drop-off site in Fort Mason. However, the pandemic put the kibosh on that — not only did they stop donations there, they closed down the shop/café. I now have to drive over to Potrero Hill — doable, in a kind of haphazard way that takes a bit of time — to the main donation center. And in order to do that, I’d had to sign up for an appointment…and they were full up at least a month or so ahead when I tried in early October.

Still, I’m happy that I’m able to drop these things off and open up some floor space again. I mean, they weren’t taking up a large amount of space, just the area in front of the closet doors and next to the loveseat. And I’m sure that within the next six months, we’ll have yet another treasure trove of books to donate.

It took ages for me to get rid of the Goodwill donation pile (same reason, all the donation spots were closed due to the pandemic) but thankfully I took care of that last week. The only thing there right now is some boxes and shopping bags that I’m holding onto temporarily for holiday mailing purposes. It’s no longer completely blocking the bottom of one of the book shelves.

Well, you know me…I like keeping things relatively tidy. Not spotless, mind you, just clean enough that I know where everything is, and I don’t have to waste time excavating to find it. (Yes, I am a KonMari fan.) I think part of this comes from having far too much stuff during my Belfry days and getting withering glances from family when I had to pull twelve things out to get at something behind it. And it’s also from my somewhat obsessive way of keeping my music library in order.

This system works for the most part…every other month or so I’ll adjust the systems as need be, or if I feel the urge to shake things up a bit, but right now I’m good with how Spare Oom works. Maximum floor space, ease of accessibility, and a clear seat for relaxing. Keeps a writer happy!