#Weeknotes S03 E33

It’s been awhile, folks. But I explained it all last time–life transition in progress! But the only place I have to go from last month with respect to writing is up. Heck, if put in two more days of writing, I’ll have beaten September. I’ll aim higher of course; it’s just going to take a bit to get there.

WRITING

  • This week’s writing chain: 2 days
  • Total writing days this week: 3 days
  • Pieces out on submission: 1

I remember complaining incessantly about having to reinvent the wheel every time there’s a break in my writing flow. This time I’m taking a different approach by considering the possibility that reinventing the wheel is an inevitability, just like the occassional break, and running a little experiment to see what happens if I just lean into it instead of fighting it.

I’ll let you know how all that goes next week. Until then, I’m doing something I haven’t done in years and am planning to participate in NaNoWriMo :gasp: ahead of time! I’ve even decided on a strategy, which will probably involve extensive use of The Story Engine deck.

If you’re doing NaNo too, let’s connect!

READING
I was into NEVER SAY YOU CAN’T SURIVIVE by Charlie Jane Anders until the book IF DISNEY RAN YOUR HOSPITAL was recommended to me during my sojourn into other healthcare arenas. Wish I’d had this book a few years ago but it’ll serve me well where I’m going!

IDIOT BOXING
A lot of things to tie up my brain while stressing, starting out with TIDYING UP WITH MARIE KONDO. I do not understand how anyone can give her last show shit, causing her to change it up, but at least that didn’t stop her from coming back.

I’ve been catching up on the past 4-5 years of NCIS, partly because I got sick of relying on cable reruns to catch up to where I needed to be.

I didn’t think ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING was going to be my jam, to be honest.

IN THE WILD
Couple weeks old, but it just reminded me about how I used to wear suits all the time, even when I didn’t have to.

September Writing

Despite my best efforts, I have juuuust enough residual guilt and shame to feel the need to justify September’s writing performance. But I like to think my therapist would be proud of the progress this post represents. No self-flagellation here. Just facts.

Okay, so… ::deep breath::

  • Longest Chain in September: 1 days
  • Total August days: 5 days
  • Pieces out on submission: 1
  • Total 2021 Writing days: 180

As if I haven’t had enough of the stressors listed in the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory in my life, I got to stare down two top 20 items this past month, and getting past them took up a lot of mental, emotional, and creative energy. But after some interviewing, some stylin’ and profilin’, a dash of hurry-up-and-wait, and a lot of weighing of pros and cons, I’ll be leaving the place I’ve worked for 15 years and moving to another part of the organization. Somewhere I can use everything I learned helping to move my old unit to the next level, and do the same for another.

I actually interviewed for two jobs…and I was offered both. That was another major part of the stress I was under. I was so tempted by the offer I turned down. The prospect of what I’d be facing in the job I accepted scared me a little. Which is how I knew it was the better move–after days of wrestling with it, that is.

So as far as the writing, though? I did what I could do last month. Period. I’m not pleased with it, and that’s okay. I’ll simply move forward this month. But what I won’t do anymore is beat myself up over it. I’m over that shit.

#Weeknotes S03 E32

Really short this week because I’m not feeling it. Quick content warning for talk about depression.

I’m in an all-too-familiar depressive slump right now. It’s okay though–I’m okay! Because it’s different when I treat it as a period of time I can and will pass through. And I know I’ll pass through it (eventually) because of a continued regimen of medication and therapy, as well as a year’s worth of data points that tell me so.

Doesn’t mean I’m doing great, though. By which I mean I’m “not doing great” mentally and emotionally the same way I’d be “not doing great” if I’d had the flu or a sprained ankle, or anything physical keeping me from functioning 100%. That’s not to minimize my depression, either. YMMV but for me, comparisons like that help me remember that what feels like a black hole doesn’t have to be one, like it has in the past. In my case it’s something that, all things being equal, will likely pass once the chemicals in my brain right themselves.

When I remember that, I realize I don’t have to spend every waking moment trying to fight my way through it, fail, feel like a failure, fight my way through it, rinse and repeat until it’s been three months since I’ve written anything while I’ve been decompensating in other areas of my life. And I’ll get back on the horse the way I’ve always gotten back on the horse–even when all that stuff did happen.

WRITING

  • This week’s writing chain: 1 day
  • Total writing days this week: 2 days
  • Pieces out on submission: 1

Got a story rejection the other day and I need to figure out where to send it next. That, with the other numbers do not indicate a good writing week. But I’m not complaining. Nor am I apologizing or justifying. This week was what it was.

READING
Haven’t been reading much aside from picking away at NEVER SAY YOU CAN’T SURIVIVE by Charlie Jane Anders. I wish I could say I’m focused on this book because it’s apropos for this fallow period I’m in, but the truth is I started this while I was on a writing streak. Still a recommended read, though!

IN THE WILD
This is the ultraportable writing kit. Whenever I feel like I need to strip down to basics and get out into the world with the barest minimum writing gear, it’s just a few bits of gear all centered around using my Chromebook Duet to draft a project or just poke around my brain. And that’s about all I’m good for creatively at the moment. Thing is, it’s usually the start of the way back…

#Weeknotes S03 E31

It’s a holiday weekend and I really should’ve just bagged on weeknotes altogether, but it’s okay. I wouldn’t be doing this right now if I really didn’t want to.

The tank just ran empty last week. Could be the time of year. The start of Fall semester is always rough at work, even without a pandemic. But between that, the holiday, some minor medical stuff I’m getting taken care of (see below)… well, yeah I only got as far as I got this week.

WRITING

  • This week’s writing chain: 4 days
  • Total writing days this week: 4 days
  • Pieces out on submission: 2

No word one way or the other about the pieces I have out at the moment. That’s okay. I got 4 days in and I actually got some things out of the 3 days I didn’t do anything. In fact, you could say I fucked around in order to find out if there was a better strategy for dealing with moments like this without letting it drag on for weeks and months on end, like I used to.

The first thing was finally recognizing certain cues about this mood I can fall into that makes writing feel impossible, and deciding to just sit and be with them.

There’s something else that I realized tends to happen at times like these: a huge amount random ideas that pop into my head that I write down and file away. I’m pretty sure you could correlate these non-writing times with the volume of stuff I file away in Evernote. Now, I know in my heart of hearts that at least 75% of that stuff is no good. But some of it like, “Okay, maybe… one day.” (Although I’m looking last week’s notes over and just spotted two separate entries that might have a common theme…)

Another thing is the random shit I tend to notice and document, things that could turn into a story of some kind. Like a theory about Gen X music, a random collection of words that made me stop what I was doing, or random scenes that just raise a lot of questions…

Basically, what I found out from fucking around is that maybe, just maybe I don’t have to always try to boostrap, GTD, Pomodoro, or power my way through an empty tank. That maybe I can just let it refill however it’s supposed to without trying to force it to happen, anymore than I can make myself get over a cold.

IN THE WILD
It was a week of non-invasive medical interventions involving steroids and narrow band UVB radiation. Which to a geek like me has all the makings of a superhero origin story! Or, maybe a super-villain story. Hey, either or….

That’s all I got for this week. See you next time!

August Writing

  • Longest Chain in August: 13 days
  • Total August days: 27 days
  • Pieces out on submission: 2
  • Total 2021 Writing days: 175

I will evangelize the use of data-driven decision-making because my gut tells me it’s the right thing to do.
C.L. Mah, “The Middle Manager’s Oath”

I need to look at my progress from the macro level because otherwise my brain only sees the holes on the days I don’t write . It only sees how August’s numbers are lower than July’s. It knows that there were days in August where only the bare minimum was done, especially since I log what I do in each X calendar entry.

I need more data before I can draw too, too many conclusions about my writing process. But some things are clear…

  • I’m writing more consistently over 2021 (and the last two months of 2020) than I ever have. Ever.
  • By my back of the envelope calculations, I’m writing an average of 5 days a week so far.
  • It helps that I can identify reasons for most of the gaps. I might not consider them all good reasons, but still.

I’m very curious to see what a year or two of this data will show. What sorts of patterns might reveal themselves. I feel I’m on the right track, though. At least, that’s what my gut tells me.

#Weeknotes S03 E30

I got another “7 & 7” writing week! But every day only saw the bare minimum amount of work, achieved only by the skin of my teeth. I actually shocked myself a couple of those days that I was able to do anything.

It’s been that kind of week, so this one’s going to be short.

WRITING

  • This week’s writing chain: 7 days
  • Total writing days this week: 7 days
  • Pieces out on submission: 2

Still waiting to hear on one sub while the other sub is out to its 5th market. I just have to keep remembering that right now, I’m just building my “finishing and submitting” muscles. Finish stories, get them out, and keep them out there. Publication is just icing on the cake right now!

READING
Two things grabbed my attention just by virtue of who the pieces are on and their headlines…

One thing warranted a little more attention: Vincent D’Onofrio directing a film based on Howard Waldrop’s classic “Night of the Cooters”? HERE, TAKE MY MONEY!!!

IDIOT BOXING
Wow, I really slept on GRAVITY FALLS. But I’m all caught up now thanks to Hulu!

IN THE WILD
I haven’t seen it but mark my words–there’s a version of this shirt out there where the loaf of bread is something else. Either way, it’s an accurate representation of the week.

#Weeknotes S03 E29

It’s the start of the academic year in the college town I live in. This is one of two weekends where locals tend to hole up in their homes if at all possible as students arrive like a swarm of locusts, devouring everything from all the stores and restaurants. The other weekend is at the end of the year when they leave for the summer, but this time brings the influx of people just learning their way around town. It throws the local bus system out of whack for a couple of weeks. At least one out-of-towner will drive the wrong way down a one way street. And some alum dropping off a legacy student will try to relive their heyday in one of the local bars.

It only now occurs to me that it could be that energy that’s been screwing with my sleep cycle this past week. I’ve been tossing and turning most nights, sleeping either 3-4 hours or 9-10. Last night and the night before, there was just no point being in bed before 4:00 in the morning. But life goes on, with work and writing and such.

This week I’ve been doing some experimenting with how I do copyedits, since I didn’t have a lot of time to bust out the binder I usually carry of printed story MSS. I kinda like where this is going…


And that’s how I made most of my writing progress this week.

WRITING

  • This week’s writing chain: 4 days
  • Total writing days this week: 6 days
  • Pieces out on submission: 1

One piece out because I got a rejection yesterday and I haven’t sent it out to the next market yet. Will definitely do that before the end of the day.

But in the meantime, I’m going to sit with the feeling of not being torn up over missing a writing day and how nice it feels. Not just because it’s the start of the academic year, but because fuck it, that’s why. My therapist would be proud! I’ve got several months’ worth of data showing me that my writing life doesn’t have to fall apart after missing a day here and there. Sure, I love it when I’m on a streak. I’ll fight to maintain streaks!

Some days I’ll lose, or decide I don’t need to play that day, and that’s okay!

EAR CANDY
Over the past couple of months I’ve been researching the PNW writer Tom Spanbauer and his Dangerous Writing workshop which I heard about through his former student Chuck Palahniuk’s book CONSIDER THIS: MOMENTS IN MY WRITING LIFE AFTER WHICH EVERYTHING WAS DIFFERENT.

Palauhniuk goes into some of the workshop’s concepts in the book. While perusing some old interviews, I stumbled onto this old podcast episode with Spanbauer where he seems to summarize what I understand to be at the core of his concepts.

It’s your own heart. And it’s the fear that you have in your heart, or the sadness that you have in your heart that makes us human, and if you can go to that and look at that and talk about it, you got setting, you got character, you got motivation… you got it all. The story’s here.

EYE CANDY
I can’t remember exactly how I chanced upon this, but
it occurred to me that part of what I’ve been trying to do lately is figure out for myself What Nourishes Your Writing Ecosystem?

When considering your own ecosystem, dear writer, you need to be aware of the elements that make up your life as well as the elements you’d like to make up your life. While many ecosystems have similarities, there are just as many differences, and so these specific worlds we inhabit are incredibly personal. Remember that you need to be thinking about you at your best and your writing at its best. When you are calm and easefully connected and your creativity is flowing—when your head and heart are in harmony and your breath and body feel spacious and expansive—what else is happening in your life? When you feel like you’ve hit your stride and could go miles without even becoming winded, what is your internal state? Pay attention. Make a list of these details. These are the elements of your ecosystem.

This, on the other hand, is an interview with rock critic Jessica Hopper from a place you all know I read regularly, BELT MAGAZINE.

What does it mean to be a Midwestern critic? For Jessica Hopper, the answer is simple: there’s a lot less room for bullshit, and far more attention paid to just doing the work.

Basically, I have a new book in my TBR queue now, THE FIRST COLLECTION OF CRITICISM BY A LIVING FEMALE ROCK CRITIC.

IDIOT BOXING
Caught RUROUNI KENSHIN: THE FINAL and now I feel like I want to go back to the original anime series and OVAs.

IN THE WILD
Since I’ve been actually going out in the world, I haven’t had too many pictures up of the fur children lately, though Asher Mir got the spotlight a few weeks ago. And Mazikeen is definitely the jealous type; I have the scars to prove it.

She’s actually quite content in this picture. I think…

#Weeknotes S03 E28

Happy Birthday, Julia Child, without whom we wouldn’t have any of the cooking shows I’ve come to watch (or hate watch) over the years. She’s the true G.O.A.T.!

WRITING
This week, I’ve just been continuing last week’s writing theme of “Slow and steady.” And it paid off in the form of another “7 & 7” week!

  • This week’s writing chain: 7 days
  • Total writing days this week: 7 days
  • Pieces out on submission: 2

Still have two pieces out on submission, since I was able to find a third market to submit one of my stories to after it was rejected from the second. That’s all right, though–part of the gig!

Getting my momentum back last week was like pulling teeth. Keeping it was no easy task, either. But I managed to get through a revision of the short story I’m working on, and now I’ve got a whole new draft to revise for this week. Will definitely need at least 1-2 more passes after this.

It’s a good feeling knowing (or thinking you know) how much longer a piece has until done. At least, as long as the cats don’t keep getting in the way.

READING
I’m at what I think is Act III of M. Rickert’s THE SHIPBUILDER OF BELLFAIRIE, and so far it’s every good thing that’s been said about it! I’d preordered the TPB I’ve been reading–I mean, because you always preorder friend’s books, right?–and the lovely M. sent me a copy of the gorgeous hardcover.

I know it’s Substack and all, but I couldn’t resist signing up for the free tier of Etgar Keret’s ALPHABET SOUP newsletter. Ethical lines are hard, especially when it comes to one’s second-favorite writer.

IDIOT BOXING
I knew nothing about the various RURONI KENSHIN live-action films, so I was curious when I saw two of them available on Netflix, RUROUNI KENSHIN: THE BEGINNING and RUROUNI KENSHIN: THE FINAL. I watched the former before learning it’s actually the last installment of a five-film series. Which is a prequel. In other words, THE BEGINNING is actually the final, which took place before the beginning… I think I’ve got that straight now. The point is, I’ll be hunting down the rest of them!

IN THE WILD
You find the strangest things strewn about the landscaping of local strip malls, but this seems especially Ithacan…

A red flowery bush near a painted blue rock with the words 'don't close the book when bad things happen in your life, just turn the page and begin a new chapter' on it

Stay safe out there. Stay masked. And if you can but you’re not already, get vaxxed!

#Weeknotes S03 E27

I think a corollary to “Slow and steady wins the race” is “Sometimes, just slow the fuck down.” At least that’s what I told myself this past week.

Since my return to the office, I saw my workload increase by 30% and last week, I know I’ve got a pretty big project ahead of me next week. Those aren’t complaints. Just context that I need to remind myself about to stay off my own damn back about whatever “lack” of progress I’m making.

WRITING

  • This week’s writing chain: 4 days
  • Total writing days this week: 4 days
  • Pieces out on submission: 2

This might not be the greatest start to a writing month ever, but still. I’ve got two pieces still out. One came back rejected–a personalized rejection from a major market, at that–but I turned around and sent it to another. I got a nice note about it, but I’m going to experiment with that Heinlein rule of not rewriting except to editorial demand and see how far that gets me.

I figure it’s better to focus on the progress I did make this week. Besides submitting, I did get to play around with some ideas. It’s good to play, artistically, even if the end result doesn’t get you anywhere.

In the case of something new I working on, the end result shouldn’t ever see the light of day! It started out as a satire but the more I wrote, the more it sounded like something that could be mistaken for some kind of neoreactionary screed, and nothing I could do in these early stages was going to make it any better. So in the trunk it goes. The trunk, but not the trash! One of the few writer truisms I believe in is, “Never throw anything away.” I mean, one day I might have the brainspace to shape it into what I meant it to be. Or, it’ll become part of an essay or a character in a story. Something. But only if I still have it and, gods willing and the creek don’t rise, it never gets seen in its incomplete form because… hoo, boy…

READING
It looks like that “Jia Tolentino” poem is gone. Good because whatever you might think of her or her family, that piece was just… like, what the fuck?

Came across “Not Just Frida: The Importance of Surrealist Women” and asking myself why Leonora Carrington’s story collections are still burning a hole in my TBR pile.

IN THE WILD
It’s gonna be some fun times going to work in a healthcare facility with this delta variant going around the way it is. Sure, I’m masked and everything (since OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS says we have to be), but I guess if I want to minimize the risk to me and mine, work is probably the only place I’ll be going for awhile. I mean, at least they’re regularly disinfecting the place as much as they can…

Elevator buttons still damp from being wiped down with disinfectant

July Writing

  • Longest Chain in July: 21 days
  • Total July days: 28 days
  • Pieces submitted in July: 2
  • Total 2021 Writing days: 148

Looks like I was unequivocally back on my bullshit in July. Not bad for how overwhelmed I was feeling for a spell. And not just with returning to the office, but with a bunch of ideas for stories and projects that kept coming at me faster than I could write them down. Of course, in my heart of hearts I know a lot of it is no good, but you never know until you get it all down.

But I pulled it together. Finished and submitted a short story, and put out another piece for a reprint anthology. (Fingers crossed!) That was probably my key breakthrough for the month: getting back into the joy and the pain of the submissions process…