Year’s End View VI: Fin

Image courtesy of Weathering with You

So. With all that talk about the past year, I suppose it’s only fitting that I finish out the year (and this series of posts) looking ahead, yes?

I’m writing this just as yet another wave of COVID is making its way across the world, and this time out A and I know a few people who have been struck by it. They’re all okay from what I’ve been told, but this time it’s definitely cutting a bit close to home, and I do sometimes wonder how long this pandemic will continue to go on. Still…A and I are also taking the best steps we can to avoid it, masks and all. And I’m refusing to feel cynical or afraid or angry about it. [If anything, I am angry to the extent that there are those going out of their way to refuse to take any responsibility in helping stop this pandemic.] Whatever else is going on out there in the world that crashes into us — the strange weather patterns and destructive wildfires, the hateful words of bigots and the Ponzi schemes of cryptobros, and everything else — I continue to be well aware of it, but I choose not to let it bury me. I survive how I can.

I’m also writing this on the cusp of wondering what the next year will be like.

What will happen in my writing career? It’ll be what I make of it, of course. Whether I continue with my small band of readers or if by some chance one of my novels is a success I won’t know unless I try, anyway. And then there’s new projects to think about: I’m always fascinated at how they pop up unbidden. At this point last year, I hadn’t even come up with Queen Ophelia — I’d come up with that in March. My writing career has never been about reaching a certain point and surfing from there on in. One, it’s not productive, and Two, I’d get bored easily. Writing taught me to look at life and realize that I can stay safe, or I can say sure, why the hell not?

And what of my personal life? Well, as they say, it’s a work in progress. Making peace with issues I’d long ignored. Learning more about what makes me tick. Embracing new phases of my life. Finding and starting a new day job. It’s been a while since I left that last place, and the me of late 2019 and the me of New Year’s Eve 2021 are very different people indeed. I think I was getting to this point, but I had to clear a hell of a lot of detritus that was in my way first. Most of that is now gone and I am surely glad of that. Whatever I do next, I can do so with a lot more determination and self-trust.

I don’t have many particular resolutions other than to make my life better in certain ways. Whether it’s health-related, mind-related or otherwise, as long as I’m going in the right direction. There will always be some form of obstacle that’ll present itself in one way or another, but with a bit of patience and knowledge and a lot more self-confidence that I’ve had in the past, I should be able to overcome them.

I can do this, one way or another.

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I’m hoping all of you have a safe New Year’s Eve, and a safe and healthier 2022. We still have a ways to go, but we can do it together.

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(PS – I’ll be taking the first week of the new year off just to relax, and maybe kick off a few new things in my life. See ya on the flip side!)

Year’s End View V

First things first: END OF YEAR BOOK SALE!

Want some free e-books? My novels are currently available for free over at Smashwords until the end of the year! That’s all three books in the Bridgetown TrilogyMeet the Lidwells!, and In My Blue World, available in all formats. Go on, you know you want them!

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I’ve been thinking, along with everything else, about where I want my writing career to go in 2022. I haven’t self-published anything new since In My Blue World in 2019, and I need to catch up on my plan of (at least) one self-pubbed project a year. I’ll give myself a break, though, considering what the pandemic has done to the publishing arena over the last couple of years. My initial plan of submitting Diwa & Kaffi to agents and publishers was put on the sidelines because of it, so I chose to use the ensuing wait time wisely by writing Queen Ophelia and Theadia. One (or both? or all three?) may be released in e-book form sometime next year, depending on where we are in revision and cover art.

Meanwhile, back in November I joked to A that maybe for next year’s NaNoWriMo I should write a Christmas romcom. (A did kind of give me an ‘oookay, where did this come from?’ look, but come on, romances are often a guaranteed seller no matter how much nonbelievers want to make fun of them.) I’ve actually been meaning to read more romances anyway to expand my reading and writing horizons. This in turn kicked off an immersive reading binge of romances and romance/mysteries, and I’m thinking this is indeed a viable avenue for me, not to mention another genre for me to read so I’m not stuck in the same reading groove. We both found Sarah Morganthaler’s Moose Springs, Alaska series really good fun, and it also has excellent doggo content. This kind of setup seems to resonate with my style of humor and plot, so I’m thinking this might be a good start.

This, of course, led to another semi-related conversation about pen names. I tend to think my given name is pretty plain and easy to pronounce (though I’ve heard my last name mangled many times over the years), but I’ve often thought about toying with a pen name anyway. I know of a few writers who’ve used them for one reason or another, whether it’s to revive a flagging career, kickstart a new one, or to keep different styles and genres separate. I do have a few thoughts about this that I may toy with in the new year. In a way I kind of like the idea, considering that I’ve put said career on pause over the last couple years. Starting off fresh across the board does have a certain appeal.

There’s something to be said about creating a new self-image, especially when you’ve been thinking about it over a long period of time and it’s something that’s long overdue. This is another one of the paradoxes in my life: while I might be a creature of comforting habits, there’s also this consistent undercurrent that I need to change things up now and again, especially when it’s desperately needed.

And in my writing career, while I’m happy that I’ve been coming up with these new stories, many that I’m proud of, I still get the feeling that I’m limiting myself somehow. Whether it’s by self-censoring or avoidance, I know when it happens because that’s when I get irritated with my work. Why am I writing all these non-action scenes? Why am I avoiding writing conflict? Why am I finding it so hard to face those scenes? It’s that paradox: I feel comfortable avoiding the conflict, but I know that does not make a good story.

I kind of blame writing Diwa & Kaffi for this, really. That project, while near and dear to my heart, was partly an exercise in writing conflict that specifically wasn’t based on protagonists and antagonists. The conflict in that story is within: learning to trust oneself and others, and learning how to believe in oneself. This in turn kind of skittered my own life into an unexpected direction: I realized these were conflicts I was avoiding in my own life. Writing that kind of story is one thing, but dealing it in reality is quite another. And it took me a while to realize just how badly I was limiting myself, not just as a writer but as a person.

While writing Theadia and Queen Ophelia this year, I chose to face that. I prepped myself by having a relatively strong outline I could work from, but I had to learn to trust myself with these stories. Let them go where they needed to go, even if they went in unexpected directions. This wasn’t just the “steadily increasing the volume” action style I used for the Bridgetown Trilogy…this was about immersing myself in these stories. Putting myself into them, but also letting the characters shine as much as possible. While they’re still a bit of a pre-revision mess, they’re probably the strongest stories and the most realistic characters I’ve written. I trust these stories implicitly enough that revision will only make them shine even brighter.

Which brings me back to the theme of this whole series of posts: I’ve been running in rough draft mode for far too long. Sure, there are moments in my life, professional and personal, where I’ll shine when my strengths are at their peak, but everything else definitely needed a fuckton of work. And that work is what I’d done over the last year and a half during this weird pandemic season. And I think, finally, I’m ready to emerge in a much better edition of myself.

Year’s End View IV

Image courtesy of K-On!

First things first: END OF YEAR BOOK SALE!

Want some free e-books? My novels are currently available for free over at Smashwords until the end of the year! That’s all three books in the Bridgetown TrilogyMeet the Lidwells!, and In My Blue World, available in all formats. Go on, you know you want them!

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I’ve been thinking about new year’s resolutions lately. I mean, I always think of them this time of year, as one usually does, and wonder about which ones I’ve reached with confidence, ones that fell by the wayside for one reason or another, ones I’d completely forgotten about before the year was up, and ones I’m still working on. Some years it’s on a personal and soulful level: getting out of an emotional, mental or professional rut I’d found myself in, training myself not to fall so easily into bitter moods, things like that. And some years it’s goal-oriented: finishing and self-publishing that novel, submitting that story, uploading those pictures, expanding my musical or writing knowledge.

One resolution I thought of recently was about facing personal fears and breaking myself out of the habit of the reactions they cause. Whether it’s about job searching or submitting my novels, or hell, even outwardly showing more emotions than I have in the past, I know a lot of these are what I call stupid fears. Things I could easily face and conquer, if only I break out of the lifelong habit of automatically sliding into them. Sure, some of it is due to patriarchal training (the ‘boys aren’t supposed to show weakness’ of yore) and self-destructive listlessness (the ‘why even bother’ response, in other words), but come on: these are things I could break myself out of if I tried. And kept at it.

I’d like to think that I’ve done a lot of that over the years and I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be, but yeah, those reactions are still there, partly out of passivity and partly because I’m so used to it that I slide into it before I can even stop myself. And yes, this is why one of my personal mantras has been just shut the fuck up and DO it already. It’s amazing what I can accomplish if I just tell that passive, negative, stoic and fearful side of me to zip it and take the plunge in the next breath.

I suppose I could say that will be one of my resolutions for 2022. I don’t really have an exact wording for it, but I don’t think it’s something that I need to give a name to. It’s something I know is there and it’s something I’m tired of leaning on, and it’s time for it to be gone. And there’s a secondary part to that equation as well: what takes its place? Confidence? Sure, but what kind? I think the kind I’m looking for is the one where I don’t need it to prove anything to anyone, or to get away with something, or any other kind like that. Just a simple and positive ‘yeah, let’s make this happen’ kind.

As long as it points me in the right direction.

Year’s End View III

First things first: END OF YEAR BOOK SALE!

Want some free e-books? My novels are currently available for free over at Smashwords until the end of the year! That’s all three books in the Bridgetown TrilogyMeet the Lidwells!, and In My Blue World, available in all formats. Go on, you know you want them!

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Some ends of the year have a feeling of finality, while others tend to feel more like transition points, at least for me, anyway. I was thinking about December of 2001 the other day of all things, still trying to process recent lifechanging events while still continuing my ongoing habit of stopping at Newbury Comics for cd purchases. The single for The Church’s “Numbers” pops into mind, the first cd I’d bought that actually said “(c) 2002” even though it had dropped a few weeks before New Year’s Eve. I suppose I thought of it because it signified a sign of something new.

I still embrace using New Year’s Eve and Day as a way to kick off personal change of some sort. I’m not about making Best Laid Plan resolutions, nor am I one to do the “maybe I’ll learn a new language/teach myself chess/climb Mount Everest/etc” bucket list sort of resolution, either. My resolutions are more about allowing myself the time, patience and headspace to start some kind of new process or project I’ve been wanting to start. They’re also about bettering myself on personal levels, usually working via my whiteboard calendar and daily schedule.

I’d say the end of 2021 has felt more like a transition point than a finality. I mean, my life’s always felt like that, really, but this time out it’s been much more like I know what journey I’m on right now instead of flailing my way in some vague direction. I spent a lot of 2021 knowing what I wanted to do, what I wanted to achieve. I didn’t finish any of it, at least in the sense that I’m still working on it. What’s important here is that they’re moving.

As long as I keep moving, I’m going in the right direction.

Year’s End View II

First things first: END OF YEAR BOOK SALE!

Want some free e-books? My novels are currently available for free over at Smashwords until the end of the year! That’s all three books in the Bridgetown Trilogy, Meet the Lidwells!, and In My Blue World, available in all formats. Go on, you know you want them!

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So. What else has been on my mind this year? Well, something dark and dreary. With sunlight at the end.

I have an extremely terrible and self-sabotaging habit of planning (and often overplanning, and overthinking) but not always following through. Most times I will, but when it truly counts it doesn’t always measure up to the hype I try to make myself believe. Whether it’s high standards, perfectly nailing the landing or realizing there’s a shit-ton more work I need to do before I get to where I’m happy with it, it rarely pans out the way I hope. I’ll get frustrated and wonder why I’m even trying. Or the opposite: I’ll think I’m at a really great level but get told that my standards need to be higher.

I also have an extremely terrible and self-sabotaging habit of deferring to the happiness of others, often to the detriment of my own. I know I’ve spoken of this before. It’s just the way I wired myself as a kid and I’ve spent most of my life ignoring it or working around it instead of trying to do a major rewiring job instead. Because, y’know, feeling guilty about changing myself might bother someone else’s image of me. Big words, coming from someone who’s been a big fan of nonconformity since they first discovered college radio as a teenager in the 80s, yeah? It’s one of my life’s biggest paradoxes.

So what does this have to do with 2021? I gave it a name this year: anxiety. I decided, why not call it what it is, instead of trying to paint it as something else less scary? It isn’t crippling, thankfully. At least not anymore. [There’s a reason I don’t talk or think about the details of my life in the early to mid 90s all that much other than when music is involved, or just to acknowledge that yeah, that was a dark time for me.] It’s a part of me I’ve always thought was a bit broken. Not dangerously so, and I’ve created healthy workarounds that keep me running at a decent speed. Not always at everyone else’s most of the time, but enough to keep up when needed. I don’t take anything for this, as I don’t feel I need to, though I do notice that my blood pressure meds did somewhat chill it out a bit, which helps.

My point being: I’ve played mental and emotional games with myself for years to remain functional. And in the last four or five years I’ve fixed a lot of those issues, and 2021 was the year in which a lot of those games finally came to a close. I don’t need to depend on them anymore. I can face whatever personal demons that might still linger, and I feel all the better for it when I’ve conquered them, or sent them packing. Or more often, just let them vanish like ash in the wind.

I still have a long way to go. I still have a few self-built barriers that need to be torn down. But the way keeps getting clearer as time goes on, and that makes it so much easier.

End of Year Planning

Image courtesy of 5 Centimeters Per Second

It’s now December, which means that I should start thinking seriously about what I want to do for 2022. I’ve got writing plans, of course…I’ll have two books to revise plus a third to shop around, and I’m open for more projects as they arise. I’d really like to drop a few more self-published novels and really sink my teeth into properly marketing them this time out as well. And I’ve been looking into writing-related jobs online as well, and while they’ve kind of been thin on the ground during this season, I’ll be looking deeper and further afield for positions I can handle remotely.

On a personal note, yeah, I’m sure I have a few things I’d like to follow up on. Our local YMCA has just reopened this week (we’re going later on today!) and we’d like to get back into the rhythm of stopping there a few times a week. We still enjoy our walks after work, but it’ll be good to get back to the gym again. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this soon enough…

And I do of course need to get my end-of-year lists and mixtapes together! Every Spotify user has been posting theirs over the last couple of days, but since I so rarely use it, I’ll have to make my own. [Does Media Monkey show me the most plays? Good question, I’ll have to look into that.] And maybe just for fun, I’ll look at my GoodReads list and pick out my favorites of the year. You know me…I always enjoy the year-end countdowns and best-of lists!

In the meantime, however, I’ll keep on working at the pace I’m currently at. It’s well-balanced, keeps me busy during the day, and I’m getting some serious word count done. Maybe a few shifts in the daily schedule here and there, but nothing major. As long as I keep writing!

Post-Holiday Readjustment

Image courtesy of One Piece

The extended holiday weekend is over and, depending on how you look at it, things are either going back to normal or ramping up. It’s now officially the Christmas season. Local listen-at-work station KOIT has officially gone 24/7 Holiday Music, as they do every December until New Year’s Day. One of our neighbors got their Christmas tree on Sunday and I know this because there’s a trail of needles heading from the front door to the elevator. We’ve yet to put up our own tree (ours is fake and lives in the back closet most of the year), but I’ll most likely do that this week. And we are so well-stocked on turkey leftovers that we’ve been eating turkey wraps the last few days. (Not that I’m complaining.)

Also, I haven’t written any new words at all since last Tuesday, and I’m really itching to get back to it. I’ve been doing another read-through of Theadia (and will most likely do one of Queen Ophelia after I’m done with that one) the last few days and I can’t wait to get back to work. It’s also that time of year where I start thinking about my year-end music lists and mixtapes (I am woefully behind on mixtapes in general, so I may do a few of those this week as well). And it’s time for me to think about what I want and need to do come 2022, personally and professionally.

So it’s not so much post-holiday readjustment as it is mid-holiday readjustment, I suppose. I’m so used to my Decembers being busy as hell so I see no reason why I shouldn’t be busy creatively while I have the time and ability. With the old Former Day Jobs I’d survive them by hyperfocusing on whatever I need to do at that moment — get the new cd releases security-tagged and price-tagged, lay out the pallets for the 8,374,621 candle boxes that will come down only my lane in the next five minutes, figure out whose UrgentPLZHALP email needs to be looked at first, and so on — so I’ve done the same with my writing projects. That way I can start the new year fresh and already revved up and excited to get going.

Whatever is coming next, I’m ready for it.

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!

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.