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!

Working on it

The Theadia project is turning out to be a tougher nut to crack than I’d expected, but at least I’ve learned from experience now that I shouldn’t let that bother me too much. I’ve been spending some of my Daily Words playing around with the plot and searching for the right story that needs telling. It’s very similar to the issues I had with Diwa & Kaffi.

So instead of forcing the story into shape against its will, I’m going the alternate, less stressful route: letting it come to me naturally. And given that this is probably the third or fourth time in a row where I’ve encountered this, perhaps this has become my current style of writing and creating. It takes longer, but there are far fewer dead ends to contend with.

In the meantime, I’m letting myself play around with a few other projects, one of which has been on the Spare Oom back burner for ages, just to keep the writing muscles in shape. I’m not taking them entirely seriously — well, I am, but I haven’t assigned any deadlines or hard stops as of yet.

As long as I’m moving forward, yeah?

On Not Holding Back

image courtesy of ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse’

Some days I wonder if I’m being my own worst enemy (again) and trying too hard to control every single part of my life, including my writing. Trying to make it work out perfectly the first time. Trying not to make rookie mistakes.

I know some of this is in reaction to my former 90s life in which I reacted to everything and there was little to no self-control at all, but it’s also due to my ten-plus years at the Former Day Job in which I had to make sure everything did work the first time to avoid risk, fines and other financial nightmares.

Which, to be honest, is in opposition to how Real Life tends to work most of the time. Life is messy. Sometimes uncontrollable. Often contradictory. Rarely perfect or pure. Often times you need to just run with what you’ve got and make it work somehow.

I’ve noticed recently that whenever I have A Day with my writing, it’s because I’m trying way too damn hard to control all the moving parts, and it’s not just because of creative block. I become one of those painters forever touching up their masterpiece but never quite finishing it. I get nervous because Oh God What If I Don’t Have Any More Stories, especially after I’ve finished up a few projects I’m rather fond and proud of. I get worried because my portfolio is so thin on the ground and probably not all that impressive by professional standards. I get stressed because I fear I’ll never break through that one particular professional obstacle, forever stuck in the minor leagues.

These last few months have been a bit of a wake-up call in terms of long-game goals for me. I know I have all the tools and the mindset to start something, but I get too focused on the pessimistic what-ifs and worry that I’ll make a bad first impression and ruin my chances, or that no one will listen or care. But I’ve learned, and remembered, that the best way for me to work past all that has been something I’ve been telling myself since that summer in 1995: just shut the fuck up and DO it already.

I don’t always hear myself when I say those words, and sometimes I have to fight my way towards them, but they’ve never let me down in the past. I just need to repeat those words whenever I start doubting myself. Which, thankfully, has been happening far less often nowadays.

Let’s see where this goes.

World building when you’re not an expert

My new project takes place partly on a space waystation, but I will admit that I am certainly no expert in writing hard SF where such things would be normal. I’m pretty sure I’d need to consult a LOT of people just to get all the technical things correct.

But to be honest? That’s the least of my problems, because that’s not what the story is about. Theadia will be told from the point of view of two of its citizens who live on the bustling waystation, which has its own city, suburbs and cultures. They’re just two working class kids who aren’t all that interested in knowing how to fly a station-to-planetside transport because there’s no reason to. It’s just a form of public transportation for them. They’ve got more important things that concern them.

I was partly inspired by the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers and to a lesser but still influential degree, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy. There’s also a bit of Cowboy Bebop and Star Wars: Resistance in there as well, among other things. I liked the idea of a local space station/stargate hub being used not so much as a hard sf thriller but mostly as setting. Like Diwa & Kaffi, it’s more about the people within the station rather than the setting itself.

Of course, I do have the usual rules and regulations to follow, even though they won’t be visible in the story itself. For instance, a ship so big and in geosynchronous orbit with its local planet would of course be incapable of reshaping itself and achieving escape velocity as if it was some Robotech warship. There’s also the matter of keeping the balance of on-ship citizenry and visitor count stable, both physically and economically. I came up with similar House Rules when I wrote the trilogy as well; there are some things that can be done, some that can’t, and some that really shouldn’t. These aren’t arbitrary rules, they just make the fictional society, and the story, run a hell of a lot smoother.

Given the few ideas I have for this story so far, I don’t need to worry too much about the technical details. If I need them, well…that’s where additional research and outside assistance will come in. But for now I’m not going to burden myself with it. Right now I’m more interested in creating that on-ship society, its ‘city’ environs and even its traffic infrastructure. Most of the focus will actually be on the two characters and their friends and family anyway.

Theadia might not contain any zero-g chases or bypassing security in air-free cargo holds, but that’s okay…that’s not the story I’m planning on telling anyway. Our heroes are more fiddle-with-the-data anyway when it comes to things like that. Things that you and I might pull off. And that’s the trick, at least for me: sometimes all you really need to do is enough world building to make it realistic for your characters. The rest is just shiny and cool-looking artifice.

Sometime to Return

I ran away I walked a fine line
Wasting time only to find
You were callin’ I think finally
To remind me I am fine

Whoof. It’s been HOW LONG since I posted here? At least a couple of months. What the hell have I been doing all this time? A bit of this, a bit of that. Going at my own pace for once. Figuring a lot of personal shit out. Cleaning out the attic and the cupboards and rewiring the circuits, so to speak. I haven’t been nearly as productive as I’d like, but I have to remind myself I’d taken this hiatus precisely to break myself out of that mindset.

And now I’m back. Hell, I’ve even built up my whiteboard schedule again! It was a much-needed vacation, but now I need to get back to work. I’ve only got the barest of plans (which to be honest is kind of par for the course for me anyway), but I have the drive and the goals again. And that’s enough for now. That’s all that’s needed.

I don’t know what I’ll be working on next, other than doing the non-creative parts of Getting a Novel Out Into the World for Diwa & Kaffi, but as soon as I know, you’ll most likely be hearing about it here. In the meantime, I’m returning to the blogosphere with both Welcome to Bridgetown and Walk in Silence — same schedules for both — and I’m really looking forward to it all.

Doing the best I can
With or without a plan, I’m taking what I can get
I haven’t seen nothing yet
If one day you wake up and find what you make up
Come and get me, come and take me there

Still Here

Source: BeaStars

It’s been what, nearly three months since I’ve posted here? I posted a fly-by over at Walk in Silence not that long ago, but other than that I’ve been keeping quiet. Continuing with the job search, keeping occupied with light projects and reading, and running errands. Staying safe.

I could say I’ve been busy planning my next project, or I could say I’ve been doing research, but I’ll be honest, I haven’t been been doing much of anything creative at all. That was kind of by design, however. I desperately needed the break.

It was probably long overdue, come to think of it. I’d been angry and exhausted for months. The successful writing processes and habits I’d set up years ago were no longer working, and the more I tried to push to make them work again, the more frustrated I became. It had ceased to be enjoyable. It was a combination of a lot of things: Day Job frustration, lack of time, lack of new ideas, lack of interest, and too much repetition.

Other than following through with the post-production of Diwa & Kaffi, I decided to stop everything temporarily. The daily words, new novel projects, the blogs, even the daily personal journal. It was time to deal with Real Life stuff: leaving the Day Job of fourteen years, searching for new employment, staying healthy and avoiding COVID-19, and flushing out some old personal demons that were still kicking around. One month off has turned into multiple months, but this decision remains a positive one. Most of the heavy stress and frustration I was feeling earlier this year is almost completely gone.

I’m returning to some of these creative habits and processes again, but I’m purposely not tying them down into daily/weekly habits. I’ve taken the focus away from completion and competition and refocused on the creativity itself, where it’s supposed to be.

So. Am I working on anything right now? As a matter of fact, I am! Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing yet another reread of the Bridgetown Trilogy, for the sole reason that I’m revisiting that world for Book 4 in the Mendaihu Universe! [There may also be a secondary reason, in which Our Intrepid Author decides that maybe the trilogy needs a new re-edit and may work on this as a long-game side project.] I’m also working on an idea to gather the flash fiction I’ve written for the College Campus/D&K universe into a self-published collection. The waystation idea I’d come up with at the beginning of the year is still gestating at this point, so I’ll most likely get to that one if and when I have the time and inclination.

Will I return to blogging? Yes! Although I’m not sure how and when. Before I left the Day Job, I’d found a workable process in which I used 750 Words to write up rough drafts for these blog entries, so I may utilize that or something similar to it when I decide to fully return. I’ve wanted to revamp both blogs for a while now, and I’d like to focus a bit on that first before anything else.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and keep reading and writing!

It's been a strange week…

…and to be honest, I’m kind of glad it’s nearly over. I’ve had to remain brave and determined the entire time, standing up for principles and common sense while putting myself through an extremely stressful and life-changing situation, all while my city goes from state of emergency to shelter-in-place because of COVID-19, and everyone starts panic buying all the TP.

I’m doing just fine, by the way. Tired and strangely calm, but otherwise I’m fine.

Mayor Breed put out the shelter-in-place announcement on Monday morning, effective at midnight that evening. My company, on the other hand, had demanded that I — working from home full time for the last seven years — had to come into the office as an ‘essential worker’. I argued with upper management about it. I stated my case clearly and calmly. I followed their suggestion of going to HR — who bounced the decision back down to my management. Long and stupid story short, we were at an impasse. I refused to go into the office when there was a possibility I could catch this virus, or worse, be a carrier and give it to someone else in the building. They refused to let me stay at home.

On Tuesday, I gave my two weeks’ notice.

I think I scared them by my actions. By Wednesday they changed their tune and started letting people stay home. I took a hit for the team, but I’m glad that I won that particular fight for them.

SO.

I’m looking at it this way: this break from this Day Job was bound to come sooner or later…I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t care much for it either. It was a steady (if small) paycheck, and I got along just fine with my coworkers, that’s all. But I wasn’t exactly happy, especially after they got rid of working remotely. I needed to break free of it. I’m seeing this as a perfect opportunity to focus more on a career that’s more my style and liking. It’s the break I’ve long wanted. It’s also the perfect time for me to make some long overdue changes in my life as well, now that I can do so.

And I’m still writing just as I always have, so there’s that.

Now if we can just get past this virus pandemic and the social fallout caused by it, then we’ll be groovy.

Until the End of the World

Source: Until the End of the World, directed by Wim Wenders

I remember going to see this movie back when it came out in 1991, when it played briefly at Coolidge Corner theater in Brookline, just a short-ish trip on the T from Charlesgate dorm near Kenmore Square. I remember it being a long-ish movie — the US version was apparently two and a half hours — but for some reason I also seem to remember somehow seeing the European cut, which is closer to three hours. It’s visually gorgeous, filmed in eleven different countries.

The director’s cut, however, is closer to five hours, and I sat through it all this past weekend during our flight back from New England. And I enjoyed every single minute.

It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, but I can totally understand why others might question my sanity, as it’s not a movie for everyone’s tastes. From the beginning it has a slow and deliberate pace — not a glacial one, which quite a few European art films tend to suffer from, but a novel one. I say ‘novel’ because that’s what it feels like: reading a novel, playing it out on the screen. It takes place in the final days of 1999 when a nuclear-powered satellite is spinning out of control and threatening to crash somewhere on the planet’s surface. But the story is not about the satellite; that’s just the framework of the more personal stories that unfold. There’s Clare, a young and emotionally lost French woman trying to find meaning and stability in her own life; there’s Sam, an American on the run from the government after stealing top secret hardware; there’s Eugene, Clare’s ex and a writer who still loves her; there’s Henry, Sam’s scientist father who focuses more on his projects than his son. And there are even more secondary and tertiary characters who also have their own storylines. It’s about dreams, love, loss, and hope.

It’s kind of hard to explain everything that goes on with this story, though not because it’s confusing or convoluted; it’s more that what we think is the story is only the surface of a much deeper and more important one that involves every single person on the screen. It goes in quite a few unexpected directions but does so deliberately and always for a reason.

I was first drawn to the movie due to its fantastic soundtrack featuring numerous well-known bands of the early 90s performing songs that, on the request of director Wim Wenders, were to evoke what each band would sound like at the other end of the decade. It features songs by Depeche Mode, U2, Can, Lou Reed, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, REM, Elvis Costello, and more. The soundtrack alone is worth picking up, even if you’re not interested in the film!

I mention the movie here on my writing blog, not just because I’d sat through the marathon five-hour director’s cut (which, to Wenders’ credit, manages not to drag at all), but because one of the reasons it’s my favorite movies is because it was an extremely important influence on my writing. From this movie I learned pacing; I learned that not every story needs to be going at a tangible constant speed, nor does it even have to hit high and low points at specific times within the story. This is a slow-burner that starts off calm and introduces new plot points at a leisurely pace, until we get to a point where we suddenly realize we’ve been going at a pretty damn good clip for the last hour or so. It’s a perfect example of how pacing can help tell the story by way of playing with our emotions and expectations.

Until the End of the World has just been released as a remastered Criterion dvd, and I highly suggest watching it if you have a full weekend afternoon.

Looking for fresh inspiration

Source: Read Or Die

I’ve been having this itch to do a major book purge. I mean, I’ve done quite a few of these over the years, so this is nothing new. I’ll get rid of books I haven’t read in ages, ones I’m no longer interested in, ones I’ve had for years but never cracked open. Do I need to have these in my life? As I’ve said before, the books are donated to the library and it opens up spaces for new books. Win-win!

I’ve also been having this itch to find new inspiration for my writing. This happens now and again, especially if I spend far too long reading my own stuff for revision purposes — which I’ve been doing the last few months with Diwa & Kaffi. I’ve finished that part of the project, however, so now it’s time for me to read new things again.

But what? My tastes have definitely changed over the years, to the point where I’m not entirely sure what I’m interested in reading at the moment. There’s the manga: the intriguing and unique storytelling such as Nagabe’s Siúil, a Rún: The Girl from the Other Side or Paru Itagaki’s Beastars. There’s the countless music biographies and histories I can catch up on, such as Ed Ward’s The History of Rock and Roll Vol II (the first volume was much more enjoyable than I’d expected it to be), or Prince’s The Beautiful Ones.

But I’m also at a loss when it comes to new titles. I used to find them via Publisher’s Weekly, but I let that subscription lapse some time ago. Sometimes it’s word of mouth, sometimes it’s just a book store browse. But I haven’t really looked for anything completely new in a while now. I’m not sure if I’m just dithering or if I’m just lacking inspiration. Not much is really jumping out at me lately.

I know it’s not the titles themselves or the current trends. I’m just out of the loop and not being very active about my search. I’ve been busy with a lot of things. But now I’m not as busy, and I’m looking for something new.

And I feel like I’m no longer resonating with a lot of my old collection, either. I gave up a lot of titles some time ago, but I think it’s time for another go-round. A KonMari level purging this time: if I’m not going to read it within the next six months, chances are good I won’t be reading it at all. Time for it to go.

It’s time to open up more space on these shelves again. Time to find new inspiration. Time to find new books that will refresh and reinvigorate my creativity.

Time for something new.

New Year, New Plans

When I made my unceremonious return to the office for the Day Job, I gave myself a month. I’ve done this in the past; life throws me a curve ball that I can’t avoid no matter how hard I try. I’ll be angry and frustrated and be stuck in that feedback loop. But I’ll give myself a month to Just Get Over It.

Mind you, it’s not the same as giving up. I’m still angry about the situation and I’m still making alternate plans. But I’m not giving in. I am not making do. In fact, I’m making the best of a frustrating situation. To wit:

–I’d forgotten what it felt like to have a car commute. When was the last time I had to drive to my job? That would be the temp jobs back in 2005. (I had office jobs in 2006-2014 or so, but I could get to those via public transit.) This reminded me of a few things: how to head out early so I had a cushion of time before logging in; how to find alternate routes; how to utilize the drive time creatively. I spent most of December relearning a lot of that.

–I might be getting home anywhere between 5pm and 6pm (and believe you me, I hate the latter), but I can still work on the laptop while hanging out with A in the living room after dinner. And I still have the weekends to do things.

–I found ways to best use my time for creative endeavors, even on company time. I can write longhand (journal and poetry), my daily words (as of this moment, I can access 750 Words on my work laptop and this makes me so blissfully happy right now), and considering that I’m stuck in a cubicle without all the distractions of Spare Oom, I’m actually forced to not goof off.

–I have multiple mp3 players to keep me entertained when need be, and a lunch and two breaks if I feel the need to surf social media.

So what does this all mean? This means that I’ve realized that my situation is nowhere as dire as I was making it out to be. I spent that month getting that frustration and flailing out of my system, and spent the entirety of December thinking okay, how can I make the best out of all this?

This means that I’m going to continue with the writing schedule that worked so well for me over the last few years. Walk in Silence will be posting Tuesdays and Thursdays again, and Welcome to Bridgetown will be posting Mondays and Fridays again. I’ll be doing my daily words Monday through Friday.

Do I have any specific projects I’ll be working on? I’ve a few, but I’m holding them close right now. I’ll reveal them when the time is right. I can say that I’ll be submitting Diwa & Kaffi to publishers in the next few weeks, however, and I’m really looking forward to that particular project. It’s been too long and I think it’s time. I’m ready for it.

It’s 2020, and I know what I need to do.