Starting off on a positive note

Wishes for 2021 courtesy of a sidewalk artist in our neighborhood.

I’ve been doing pretty good for the last few months, even despite the pandemic, the news, and everything else. I’ve learned to establish my own personal boundaries and stick to them, and know when to push myself when needed. It’s by no means a perfect setup, but it’s what works for me and keeps me sane.

I suppose I could post what my 2021 plans are here, but to be honest, I don’t have too many right now. At least none that I think are worth posting on Day One, at any rate; some of them can wait until I’m good and ready. What I do plan on doing in 2021 is to be more outwardly positive. It’s still far too easy for me to let the latest news affect me, still too easy for me to fall into cynicism. If it tires me to hear myself go on about it, I imagine it would annoy the hell out of everyone else even more.

I didn’t make any major updates on the whiteboard schedule, instead keeping with the one I’d created when I started writing again some months ago. It still works well for me, so there’s no need to change it up just yet:

Sunday: blog post for Dreamwidth, music practice
Monday: 750 Words, art practice, blog post for Welcome to Bridgetown
Tuesday: 750 Words, art practice, blog post for Walk in Silence
Wednesday: 750 Words, art practice, music practice
Thursday: 750 Words, art practice, Walk in Silence
Friday: 750 Words, art practice, Welcome to Bridgetown
Saturday: poetry, music practice

Right now the “music practice” and “art practice” consist of mere basics: guitar and bass noodling, and simple storyboarding for my novels. At this point it’s more about consistency and getting used to the processes again, and not worrying too much about perfection. I’ve ignored those two for far too long, so it’s time for me to pick them up again.

As for the 750, I don’t have any specific projects I’m working on with them, so instead I’m using it to get back into the habit of ‘writing for fun’. It’s been a while since I opened up that site to just write microfiction or expand on vague ideas, none of which happen to relate to any major project I might be working on. Besides, I sometimes come up with neat ideas for future projects that way!

Anyway…it’s a new year, I’m starting off on a positive note, and I plan on keeping it that way as much as I can.

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!

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.

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.

Okay, now what?

Source: Beastars

I let myself have the rest of last week off to get used to the idea of being out of work (and to a larger extent, no longer tied to a company I’d been employed by since 2006), though I think it’s going to take a little more time than that for it to truly sink in. It’s been a very weird couple of weeks and the most I could do is just take each moment as it comes, with a calm and stable mind, and my eyes and thoughts already towards the future.

Right now I’m not even sure what my next writing projects will be, considering. I mean, I have a few possible ideas that I’ve been toying with, but this particular situation has given me a much larger playing field to work with. A much larger playing field. Some of these ideas seem a bit…small, in comparison. I’ve been given time to reach further. Go further. Be better. [Mind you, being successful, while up there on the list of things to achieve as a writer, it’s not the only thing on the list, and it’s certainly not on top. Being better, in my eyes, means being able to write stories that I’m proud of. Right now I feel I’m almost there, but not quite. There’s just a bit more to go.]

I don’t really know what I’m going to do next, other than do all I can to change this life and this writing career as much as I’d really like to.

Telling a visual story

Yesterday over at Walk in Silence I talked about using this free time I suddenly have to finally work on all those creative endeavors. You know, the “if I only had time to do (x)” things. Since that’s my music blog, I talked a bit out making more time for my guitar playing and getting better at it.

As for the writing side of things, I’ve been thinking a lot about artwork. I mean, a lot. Back in the pre-pandemic days when we went to the gym, I’d find myself listening to the same things over and over on my mp3 player, because I was working out specific scenes of my novels in my head. This is a super-old writing process that I used as a teenager, first starting out. It was how the Infamous War Novel was written.

One scene in particular that I’d work through during those gym sessions is the final scene/credits sequence of Diwa & Kaffi. The novel itself ends with the two taking off and flying towards home, with their two friends watching them, proud of what they’ve become. But there’s a bit more that follows, a purely visual segment, that’s not in the book. Set to The Sound of Arrows’ “Stay Free”, it starts with their liftoff and progresses through multiple shots of them feeling the pure joy and freedom of flying, interspersed with flashbacks and flashforwards of their lives at their apartment complex. There’s also a section of this where they fly alongside a train containing their tenants, returning back to the estate by land, showing that they are also bonded to their neighbors. [Picture credits flashing or rolling throughout, of course.]

Once I was free of the Day Job, I thought: you know, I have this film studies background that I’m not using…and I’ve been told by numerous people that I’m a very visual storyteller (“I can see this as a movie” is a common phrase — to which I secretly pump my fist, as that was my plan all along). And I also follow a lot of artists and animators on Twitter and elsewhere, so I can check out how they do their work. [Side note: Natalie Nourigat’s I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation is a wonderful short graphic novel about exactly this, and I highly recommend it both for the information and the enjoyment.]

So. Why not learn how to storyboard?

I mean — why the hell not, right? I’m a visual storyteller, I have the general knowledge of film, the practice of screenwriting, and I understand how it all works as a whole. And thanks to the artists and animators I follow, I don’t feel too self-conscious that I’m not the best artist right now — it’s been repeated by many that it’s not the artistry that pushes storyboards but the way the format’s used. Knowledge of how to visualize a story well is more important than getting every sketch perfect.

I have no idea how this will pan out, but what the hell, right? It combines my love of writing and my love of drawing, and that’s certainly a start.

Let’s see what happens.

So now what?

Source: Beastars

I’m still trying to get used to the fact that my tenure at the Day Job is ending next Tuesday on the 31st of this month. I mean, I figured I’d be bailing sooner or later, but the fact that I’m leaving on a less than peaceful note is not something I’d planned. I’ve only done that once before, way back in 1994. Most every other job I left was out of mutual agreement or due to Life Changes.

But either way, I’ve been handed an opening. One that I’d kind of hoped would come sooner or later, and I’m not about to let it pass me by. I don’t know what my next Day Job will be, whether it be at another bank, or doing AP/AR work for a company, or even something unrelated to finance. My only hard and fast rule, as it’s always been, is that I need to be able to balance it with my writing career.

I know it’ll be tough, considering everything going on in the world at the moment, but I’m not going to let that stop me. It’s reminding me of things that I’d been thinking at the end of 2018, when I was posting about saying goodbye to things. Positive leave-taking of things I should have said goodbye to ages ago. I should have done this years ago, fought past my inclination for comfort and avoidance of conflict and moved forward, but now that it’s here I’m ready for it and I’m not afraid.

I can do this.

What’s Going On?

That’s a very good question indeed, because I’d like to know myself. I’m kind of hovering at the moment, providing nearly all of my writing focus on the editing and revision of Diwa and Kaffi and doing very little in terms of anything new. I mean, I always want to have a new project going, but I’m purposely not doing that for the reason I just stated.

I’m not going to complain, I’m kind of enjoying this break from Writing All the Things. I’m forcing myself to try new creative avenues, which was part of my plan. I’m picking up my guitar more, thinking about songs to write…hell, I’ve even started noodling around on our keyboard after ages of ignoring it or using it as a temporary storage table! I’ve churned out so many words over the last five years that it’s time for me to give that a break and have some fun.

I don’t plan on making my music a professional thing, as I don’t see myself at that level. Maybe putting stuff out on Bandcamp if I ever get a full song down? Sure, why not? I’d essentially be self-publishing my music and I already have a background on that, so I think that would be groovy.

What about the other avenue, you ask? My art? Good question. I’m winding down a few small projects at the moment and will be finding more time to doodle. I’m not sure what — it could be my usual map drawing, perhaps my Murph comics, maybe trying out new styles. I have the sketchbook and the pens and pencils, I just need to start doing it. I’ve always found drawing to be quite calming, so I’m looking forward to doing that again.

But yeah, the writing, after D&K is out and away? Good question. I have plans there, but they’re not set in stone, and they’re not on any kind of schedule. For the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m just going to not think about it for a while…

1: On Saying Goodbye…?

When I was ten or so, I was just starting to develop my tastes in music by listening to all sorts of things: my sisters’ records, the local radio stations, albums taken from the library, and so on. During one particular family party at my uncle’s house, I asked if I could listen to his eight-track tape collection. He sensed that I was already a big fan of music, handed me a pair of super heavy aviator headphones, and let me have at it.

I remember hearing Alan Parsons Project’s “Time” (from their 1980 album The Turn of a Friendly Card) during that little listening session, because the song stuck with me. I remember hearing the words, and thinking to myself: what if that happens to me? I’d gone past the song’s intended maudlin idea of leaving and unknown future; instead I went even further and imagined what it would feel like to truly say goodbye for a final time, fully knowing I’d never see them again, whether it was someone moving on or passing away. How would I handle that? Pretty heavy shit for a ten year old…

Decades later and here I am, writing this in the last days of 2018, and thinking: I think it’s time for me to say goodbye to a few things. I’ve been vague-posting about this for a few months now, and though I’m really not going to go into much detail here (because, y’know, it’s personal), I can say that it will be a positive leave-taking. It’s me finally letting go of the Old Me. I’ve done a lot of life-cleaning over the years, and I’ve finally come to the point where there are just a few final barriers that I’ve left for last. Personal and emotional barriers I put up a long time ago that I no longer need. It’s time to pull them down once and for all and become the New Me in the process.

Some of this is related to my creative outlets; some of it is related to personal things. It’s not going to be a simple Magical Transformation come January 1, of course, and that’s not what I’m expecting anyway. This is more about getting rid of the defaults I’ve kept myself in for ages. It’s about saying goodbye to old habits and distractions. It’s about taking the next step into something much bigger and more important.

It’s kind of weird and I feel a bit vulnerable about it, but that’s what happens when you decide to take major steps in your life. Especially if they’re ones you’d been avoiding for most of it.

SO! That said, I’ll be making good on my idea of taking a blogging hiatus for a little while in 2019. I’d like to spend some time offline working through all of this. I’ll be working on the post-production of In My Blue World and the Apartment Complex story, but I have no major projects after that, giving me some long-delayed time to focus on other creative avenues for a while.

It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. But despite all its ups and downs, I’m ending it on a positive note, knowing that I’m going into the new year with the same positivity.

Thank you all for following over the past few years! I’ll still post here now and again, but I won’t be on any strict schedule for a while. I wish all of you a happy and creative 2019!!