Friday, April 24, 2015

Anxiety, Depression, and Running on a Bum Knee
The internet is ridiculous. Case in point: what you are about to read is a blog response to a blog response to a blog responding to a Twitter rant. We're in dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream territory, people.

Quite a while back, Chuck Wendig went on a Twitter rant about how sometimes you just have to put on your big-kid pants and get the fuck to work. This is, obviously, advice that applies to more than just writing--although that is obviously the angle he was taking. He even noted at the time that it takes a certain amount of privilege to make that claim.

Someone named Pipsqueak the Ferocious from Tumblr responded. They made the comparison that being able to take Chuck's tweets as the appropriate kick in the pants necessary to get out and write is like running with two good knees. If you've got good knees, running is no issue. But if you've got an injured knee, trying to run on it is awful. In the same vein, if your brain isn't functioning like it's supposed to, it can be difficult to write. If you've got depression or anxiety or whatever, writing can be like running on a bad knee.

Chuck wrote his own ruminations on that, and there was a moment where he landed so firmly on what life is like for me that I broke out in goosebumps.
"But the feeling of a support group can go the other way, too — you can see other folks who have suffered as you have, or have suffered somehow worse, and yet, they're managing. Maybe they're doing better. Maybe they're doing fucking awesome, which once more only makes you feel like they're running the race and you can't even find the starting line."
I am not one of those people that, when told you won't make it, burns with the determined fires of "I'll show you!" Watching people overcome adversity doesn't inspire me to buckle down and get better. It can often make me feel even shittier. I'll wallow in my own ridiculous sad-sack feelings. "Well Jesus, they don't have hands and they're actually not even a person but just a lamp with a wig on it, and they're succeeding at writing, I might as well just fucking quit."

That's not to say I don't feel very excited and proud for people who succeed. Only that the pride I feel for people I care about succeeding exists simultaneously with an impish creature that's muttering, "Well, they're doing it. What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Chuck goes on to say:
"No matter who you are, or what you have to deal with, the truth remains: if you want to be a writer, you have to write. The trick is having realistic expectations. Not ones given over to excuses, no, but also ones that are kind. Expectations that push you enough to do the work, but not so hard that you break. If you don't write for a couple days, let that be okay. But if you don't write for a couple years, then it’s worth looking back and asking why. It’s like dieting and exercise — a cheat day here and there is fine. You take Sunday to lounge around in a pile of Doritos bags while watching a marathon of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (*ooooh damnit), fuck yeah. Take that time. Be good. R&R is key. But if you take all of January and February and March to do that — then you have to find a way forward. Not backward. Not a shame-based motivational plan. But you have to take a step as soon as that bum knee lets you."
This right here has been one of the most difficult things for me to do. It always starts innocently: missing a day because of random life bullshit. It happens to everyone. Then the next day, I'm tired because I worked all day and hell, I'll just do it tomorrow. And then that becomes, "Well, I'll just make up for it on the weekends." And then that becomes, "Well, the weekends were busier than I thought, I'll just have to buckle down Monday to and get back to it." And then I start feeling guilty for putting it off for so long, so I put it off even longer. Which makes me feel guiltier. Which makes me put it off more. And then when I do sit down to write, it's been so long that things feel unnatural, clunky. Any rhythm I developed has dissipated and I can't recapture it. It's hard getting words. Like pulling teeth. And they read awkward and shitty. So I say, "I just need to let this story stew a little more. I'll try again tomorrow." But tomorrow, it's the same, and I continue the spiral of shame and avoidance.

Sometimes, what I want is for someone to read my stuff and just say, "Hey, you're doing a good job. You're not as bad at this as you think." And then I feel completely fucking stupid because who the fuck am I to need such a narcissistic thing as positive reinforcement? After all, if I get something published, the world is not going to be a child-proofed playground with all the sharp edges sanded down and cushion-covered. I'll be rejected, get bad reviews, hate mail. I need to toughen the fuck up. And then I feel guilty about that as well.

This tornado of anxiety, guilt, doubt, and depression can become so loud that I can't hear anything over the sound of my own negativity. This is often when I disappear from the internet entirely. I sit down, even just to blog, and find I'm so utterly lacking in any interest in anything that I'm in danger of imploding and becoming a person-shaped black hole.

And it's not just writing. Everything gets sucked into that twister. The house isn't clean enough. I can't stay on top of the laundry and/or the dishes. We waste too much money going out to eat. I can't stick to an exercise regiment. I can't stick to my diet.

And then, I'll sit down, and read something, and say, "you know, this isn't half bad. I might actually be an okay writer."

Or I'll put my foot down and insist that we cook something, and I'll remember how much I enjoy cooking.

Or I'll realize I'm up early and I might as well load the dishwasher and clean off the kitchen counters while I'm ahead.

Or, or, or.

And it's like the fever breaks, the storm passes, the earth stops shaking. Suddenly, I can see my bad writing's flaws and shrug it off. I can accept that not every work will be my best. I can say, "well, we haven't done that great staying in to eat, but there's no reason we can't just pick that back up starting now." I'll see the laundry and say, "you know, I can probably divide this into small jobs over the next few days and get it knocked out in no time."

And it's so fucking reasonable, so fucking rational that I wonder what the fuck I've been thinking all this time. Jesus, how hard is it to load the dishwasher? How hard is it to sit down and just write a few words on something and not think too much about them? And I'll have a good laugh at how silly I've been lately, and I'll move on with my life.

Unfortunately, the spiral will come back around eventually. It always does.

I'm trying to be less hard on myself. I'm trying to find that balance where if I fall down for a few days, it's not such a Herculean task to get back up and get back in the race. Maybe when I get like that, I should just pick one thing that's bumming me out and focus on fixing it. Maybe it means talking my feelings out to someone rather than bottling them up. Maybe it just means getting out of the house and having some fun with my wife and other people I care about.

I'm trying to figure out when my knee hurts because I've injured it, and when it hurts because I haven't used it enough. I haven't figured that out yet, but I'm trying. And that's all I can do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: My Mind Naturally Turns to Taxidermy

It's that time of week again: when I strip down, coat myself in olive oil and perform an elaborate nude umbrella dance dance on the tables of the local brewery. It's also Writing Wednesdays, where I place words in a certain order under previously defined headings to facilitate an approximation of communication.

What I'm Reading

Nothing new to place here. I'm still working on Half-Resurrection Blues and Dark Corner. I'm about halfway through HRB, and I'm about 3/4 done with DC. One or both will be finished very soon. Then I'll start contemplating the impossible decision of what to read next. (So...many...choices...)

What I'm Writing

I've decided to put "Father's Day" on the back burner for a while and let it jostle around in my mind fields for a while, gathering whatever mossy bits and sludge it might be able to collect. In the mean time, I just completed a story that is now going around on submission, which is exciting and scary, as per usual.

As it stands, I have two options in front of me: I can either revise/edit a story and get it ready for submissions as well, or I can work on something new. I've been trying to alternate between revising and new creations, but I'm leaning toward revision at this time.

What Works for Me

Beta readers. Specifically, the awesome Emma Maree agreed to beta read a story of mine (the very same one that is out on submission right now if you were wondering).

I have a tendency to rewrite things over and over and over again until I get them exactly write, which makes my output very slow. It's something I'm trying to work on so I can increase my output, but I have it on good authority that it at least results in very clean drafts! Eventually, though, I can no longer tell if I'm changing things and making them better, or if they're just changing.

I was very grateful that Emma offered to read my stuff. Having another set of eyes on my work helped twofold: it clarified places where I wasn't clear, and it pointed it bad habits that I have. Oh, and a third thing: it let me know the story wasn't the steaming pile of cow shit I thought it was.

What Else I've Been Up To

Over the weekend I got to see one of my best friends, Brooke Johnson. You can catch her on Twitter, but you're way more likely to find her on her Tumblr, and she's one of the seven people still using Google+.

It was great catching up with her. We got stupid drunk! wife, her husband, and I got stupid drunk while she remained slightly buzzed but mostly sober, which is how we managed to convince her to make us waffles at 11:30 at night.

They were delicious.

We talked about all manner of things and played our newly expanded Smash Up sets and generally had a great time.




That's all I have for now. What's new with you?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Writing Wednesdays: I'm the Cap'm, But I Don't Drive a Boat

It's Writing Wednesdays, the one day where I can actually get myself to get off my lazy ass and blog something so this place doesn't become a cobweb choked tomb to all my hopes and dreams.

What I'm Reading

You may have noticed a reading challenge that has been floating around on the internet that caused a big stink. The idea was to avoid reading straight white dudes for a year so that you can expand your palate and read more broadly. People (mostly meaning straight white dudes, go figure) pissed and moaned about the idea because if there's one thing straight white dudes can do well it's piss and moan about their fee-fees getting hurt.

While I'm not partaking in that particular challenge, I have been looking to read more broadly in general. This year I've been making an especially concerted effort thanks in part to my discovery of audiobooks, which have opened a whole new gateway for me to consume literature.

As of late, I've been really jonesing for horror, and since I've been working to try out new authors, I took a chance on an author named Brandon Massey. I'd never read anything by him before, and Dark Corner sounded right up my alley.

I'm really digging it so far, and from what little I've looked into him, he seems to work with or know Tananarive Due, which is awesome.

In addition I'm reading Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel José Older, which is a lot of fun so far as well. People buzzed about it so much on Twitter, I had to go pick it up when I got the chance. If you dig urban fantasy, you should check it out.

What I'm Writing

This week has been a bit awkward writing-wise. It's not that I don't have stuff I could be working on, it's that I can't figure out how to make it work the way I want it to. I'm working on a short story called "Father's Day," but it's changed and shifted about a thousand different ways, and I can't figure out how best to approach it. I'm about to retire it (again) and move on to something else while I let that jiggle around in my brain some more.

I've been getting a surprising number of ideas that feel like novel ideas lately, but I've just been letting these disparate parts tumble for now. Part of me doesn't feel ready to work on a novel just yet. These short stories are good practice, and it's not like I'm in writing for the money.

What Works for Me

You know what works for me? MOTHERFUCKING DITCH DIGGERS! I love this podcast. Mur Lafferty's I Should be Writing is really good for a pick me up. When I doubt myself, or I'm wanting to chew on crafty thoughts, I listen to that. But there's something about listening to these two talk about the work--the getting your hands dirty, in-the-shit, ups and downs of a writing career that actually inspires me to write. I don't know what it is.

I guess it's because they don't make writing sound like some sort of precious mystical process that will blow up in your face if you place the chalk outlines on the floor slightly out of place. Their frank discussions help me go, "Writing is just doing a job, so go make some words." It helps kick me out of my Precious Writer Headspace, which I am ashamed to admit I flutter off into more often than I should.

What Else I've Been Up To

Taxes. Ah ha. Ah ha ha ha ha. Ah HA HA HA HA HA. AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA--*weeps* *eats tax papers* *chokes* *dies*

Seriously. Fucking taxes, dude.

On more positive news, my wife and I cleaned up the house like fucking champions over the weekend. The kitchen, the living room, AND the office got cleaned up, organized, and the shit we didn't want to deal with got shoved into the guest room, also known as the, "eh, we'll deal with this later" room. And then my wife cleaned the bathroom while I did the taxes--


--sorry. I'm cool. I'm back.

My dog was so excited to see the floor in the living room and he started tossing his rawhide back and forth across the room, chasing it to and fro like an excited little kid. It totally seemed like he was saying, "Look at all the room we have for activities now!"

And I'm going to my first baseball game soon. I've never been to a baseball game, and don't particularly like sports, but what the hey. First time for everything.

And that's it from me for now. What's new with you all?

Friday, April 10, 2015

5 Years Into Our Best Decision Ever

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the day my wife took pity on a poor fool that just wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

It's funny that my wife still left the proposal up to me. She is not someone that takes a backseat in things. She is very much the take-charge person in the relationship. And this became especially apparent when she would constantly ask me, "So...when are you planning on proposing?" I would always answer "Not today." In truth, it could have been any of those days, but I could never surprise her. Any big grand gestures, big romantic dinners, rose petals leading up the steps to her dorm...all of that would have been a dead give away.

I went sneaky.

Well, actually, sneaky was my backup. I wanted to drive her out to the lake, park on the side of the road and propose to her under the streetlight with the moon hanging out over the lake, reflecting in the water's calm surface. Turned out, there were no streetlights along the entire stretch of road.

So, back to my sneaky back up plan.

I picked her up after film class. She had a headache. She was tired and cranky and had just watched a very...artsy movie that had royally pissed her off. She wouldn't let me get off the phone to drive because she was so angry she had to rant to SOMEBODY and dammit, I hadn't suffered like she had! When I picked her up, I asked if she wanted to go get a brownie abomination of some kind or another at McDonald's.

I remember very distinctly that when I suggested going to get one from McDonald's my wife's response was, "Okay, but you can't bitch about how you feel fat for a week after this okay?" Which...fair enough. I was very concerned with my weight at the time. I hadn't gained the "Freshman 15" until I was a junior.

We went to the McDonald's, ordered our brownie dealy-whoppers, and just chatted. I don't remember over what because I was convinced if I moved wrong, the box with the ring in it would fall out of my jacket pocket and the jig would be up.

After our brownie-things were gone, we were headed back to the car. I dropped my keys and stooped to get them, fumbling the box out.

She asked what I was doing.

"I dropped my keys," I said. "So anyway, I was wondering if you'd--" I popped my head up on my side of the car and looked at her across the roof, holding out the open box, "--marry me?"

She got frown on her face. She looked almost angry, like this was not a funny joke and I was an ass for making it. "Are you serious?" she scoffed.


Then, when she realized this was for real, she threw her hands to her face, looked shocked, surprised, embarrassed, excited--basically all the feelings you want associated with a wedding proposal, I assume.

This is a big anniversary in so much that our society likes to measure things in 5's and 10's. In a literal sense, the number five doesn't deserve to be celebrated any more or any differently than last year's number 4. And yet, this feels special, and because it feels that way, it is.

It feels that way partially because our marriage was come by hard. We were in a catastrophic car accident that severely hurt me and nearly killed her. She spent months in the hospital, and in rehab. She busted her ass in recovery so that we could get married 1 year to the day from when we started dating. 

I don't plan to dig all of that back up. Even 5 years on, the memories are too painful to dwell on too much. That said, each time this date comes around, I feel the need to pause and reflect. Our marriage was forged in pain and determination, and it made us examine what we meant to each other beyond just "I like it when you press your face to my face." 

We appreciate what we have very, very much because we almost didn't have it.

I love you sweetheart. Happy anniversary.

(By the way, can you load the dishwasher, I just don't feel like it.)