Most years I’ve posted the wordcount for writing in the previous year right after the writing year ends. Which is November. October 31st is my last writing day of the year, typically. November got complicated and December was worse. January has been chaotic, but at least it’s a little less emotionally fraught. Work is demanding in a new and stressful way, which takes some of the energy that normally would go do daily writing or being creative or just…anything besides sitting on the couch under a blanket and watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote.
Hey, don’t hate. MSW is fucking amazing.
Anyway. It’s been cold, and Sarah and I are back in our form of quarantine because of omicron, and the world is dark all over again in new and painful ways. And everything is exhausting. Work is exhausting. CVG is exhausting. Choir is exhausting. Writing is exhausting. Trying to deal with people is exhausting. Trying to deal with people who have feelings about me is exhausting. I don’t think I’ve written a word in a week, and I don’t feel rested, either.
But I’m here. And I am trying to make good choices when I can. I’m exercising most days at least for a while. I’m drinking water when I remember. I choose to watch things with Sarah (when she’s up to it) that make me feel good. I read stories before bed that lift me up instead of feeding my insecurities. I’m looking ahead at the next job I want inside my company and working on how to get there. I’m not hating on myself when I fall down.
And that’s…about as much as I can really ask of myself right now.
Here is the writing summary for 2021. I did only write really 3 works if you count part 4 of the TMOI series as a single novel. It can also be read as 12 oneshots for 14 total works. Either way, I don’t think it matters. I managed 300k words in the second year of the world coming to an end, and that is worth celebrating.
I’ve been working on an MCU fairy tale, but then after that I want to go write another original novel. I have…40% of it figured out. Which is to say, I have my main characters, my world, and my narrative style. I’m just…lacking in plot. I’m working on it. I decided I didn’t want to go back to the urban fantasy I started previously because I just can’t get my head around parts of it. So I’m starting over.
It’s a tough time to be stretching for creativity, but I need that stretch, I think.
The one good thing I can say about *waves at everything* is that…I’m not any more scared of most things than I was before. I’m better than ever at getting shots and having blood drawn without passing out, though that may just be repetition with all the damn tests I have to get on a frequent basis for my illness. I don’t know that I have much improved my self esteem when it comes to my writing or even singing, but I don’t think it’s much worse, either. Events that rocked me to my core didn’t tip me over. I’ve questioned if I can keep on doing all the things I do, but less so whether or not I’m worthy to do them.
In a world where so many people, lives, hearts, minds, spirits are broken, where so much tragedy and fear has overwhelmed every day of the last nearly two years, I didn’t lose those things. I lost other things, lots of them. But I didn’t lose myself.
I’m having trouble getting the MCU fairy tale out of my brain, but I think that’s partially because of aforementioned exhaustion (especially the work-related stuff), and partially because I’m not sure what I need from it. Usually my writing is about saying something I believe and simultaneously feeling something I feel as deep as I can. And with this one, I don’t think I’ve figured out how to really do either.
Which, maybe I should just pause and write the original thing and feel my stuff, and then see how the MCU fits upon return. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened, even if it’s annoying. I like being able to start and end a project all at once!
Don’t mind me. I’m just fussy about myself. I hold to standards I would never so much as suggest to anyone else because I always want to push myself. I can do better. I can be better. I can work harder. I can be smarter. And if I can be, then I want to be. Even when I might be better served taking a break.
There’s a balance in here somewhere. I have no idea what it should be. I’ll keep working on it.
But that’s the trick, isn’t it? Keep working on it. Keep trying. Try harder. Keep stepping forward. Keep failing. Fail harder. Get up. Make more art. Art harder.
There’s a universe inside me. A million stars around which orbit a billion stories. And I’m going to tell them all for as long as there is breath in me.
If we’re all only as much as what we create to leave behind, then I’m going to leave a library.
I know nobody reads this thing except maybe…3 or 4 of you? So I’m ending here to see if I can churn out a few more words tonight. But I leave you with this song. I’ve spent the last several years building up playlists of music for writing, but the vast, vast majority of it has been vocal. Somehow, now I’ve turned around and I really want non-vocal music for writing. I have a playlist of 122 songs, some brand new to me, some I’ve loved for literal decades.
But one of my oldest is this. It’s the 2nd track on the first piano CD I ever owned, bought in middle school. The first track is one intimately tied to spiritual practice. But this one has always just helped me quiet down and think.
So if you need a moment of peace, here’s “Nightfall.”
I just wanted to reach out today to wish anyone who celebrates it a most blessed Samhain.
If you want to know more about what this day means to me in the context of my faith, read on. I don’t talk about it often in this forum, but today seems like a good day to challenge that for myself. So here we go!
So, what I’ve learned about my illness in the last two months is that it exists in a symbiotic relationship with me. Which follows, since the problem is inextricably linked to my immune system. Anything that impacts me could either cause or prevent a flare-up.
And since flare-ups are BAD, figuring out how to prevent them is kind of a priority right now.
The simple answer is that stress is the enemy. But what kind of stress is the more interesting question. Because I worked the convention at full speed, starting at 10am and ending around 2am, on my feet, running around, handling some really difficult stuff, and didn’t have so much as an instant of pain afterwards. So, even though I was physically very drained and exhausted, clearly that level of engagement wasn’t a trigger.
But then something happened at work right in the start of September, and while it was just a work thing, it took an emotional toll on me. I didn’t sleep well for several nights in a row and my anxiety was a constant churn in my gut. It all worked out okay in the end, and it helped me recognize some things I had been letting go that I should have dealt with more directly. But within a few days of the start of it, I got symptoms. And for the next two weeks, there I was in a flare-up.
It’s not like it used to be. Before, my hands would cramp up and I could barely hold a cup, let alone a fork or my phone. And everything would hurt. Not just moving — putting my hand in my lap instead of on a pillow would cause a shooting pain, too. But even when the pain went away, I still had other symptoms, including mono-like exhaustion. I needed naps every day, and couldn’t even sit up straight for more than an hour at a time.
So the first answer in the search for how to enhance my self-care for my current weird situation is to manage that stress. And I think it starts with sleep. If I sleep well most nights, I think I keep myself from a cycle of making my body work harder while my emotions are flooding it with stress.
Now, I’m the sort of person who gets a thought in my head and spirals with it. Had a bad interaction with a friend? I might spend a week thinking about it over and over after I settle into bed. Thinking about a difficult work project? I start to solve the problems when I should be counting sheep. I have a gift for finding ways to keep myself awake and fretting for hours and hours on a nightly basis.
I can’t do that anymore. Not and stay healthy.
I needed a way to chill out before bed. And sometimes reading helps, particularly when sleep is elusive by no fault of my overactive, hypercritical brain. I’ve always been at least a bit of an insomniac, and I’m a night owl as well. Sometimes my circadian rhythm just decides taht bedtime is 4am. But it’s different to be reading a delightful story because my body thinks it’s still party time than lying awake worrying and stressing about something when I’m tired and able to sleep.
So I have settled into a habit of writing late in the evening. 9pm or 10pm I get started (if I didn’t have the time and inclination to begin earlier) and I try to write 1,000 or 2,000 words. It forces me to put aside everything else — my day, my job, social stuff, the convention or choir — and just be in the moment with a story. It has the mindfulness of meditation, but it’s also feeding me something positive instead of just breathing everything quiet and hoping it stays that way.
And it’s working.
Once I got through the last flare-up, I’ve been sleeping particularly well. Writing every night means I fall into bed (maybe read a little) and think about the next scene to write, or the project when I finish the MCU AU. It means I climb into bed feeling accomplished and proud of myself, with more to look forward to tomorrow. And if there are work things, they’re much easier to put aside because I have something much better in the forefront of my brain.
As an added bonus, I’m putting down a ton of words every day at a time of day that isn’t usually useful for things like laundry or dishes. I’m not taking away from watching stuff with Sarah or others who hang out sometimes. I’m not cutting into my own downtime. I’m just making better use of the late evening when normally we’d be watching TV neither of us cares about or just playing on our phones.
It’s possible I might have trouble sustaining it long-term. Writing does sometimes come in an ebb and tide. But now I know something that works, so if writing stops working, it just means I have to find an alternative.
It’s been more than a year and dealing with this illness on and off has felt pretty icky. There’s a helplessness that happens when your body turns on you. If I can take back just a little control, just enough, that would be good. Baby steps.
So, onto more writing for the evening. And, probably soon, a rant about the MCU and how many words it took to set it to rights!
I haven’t been feeling well the last two weeks — a flare up of my mystery illness which we now think may be psoriatic arthritis. I’m on 2 drugs for it, both of which suppress the immune system, but every now and again either stress or really bad sleep for several days in a row get to me and my immune system powers back like it’s charging the beaches at Normandy. Sometimes typing hurts, sometimes sitting up hurts, and sometimes none of it hurts, per se, but it’s akin to having mono and just being physically wiped out and exhausted all the time.
What energy I’ve had, I’ve been pouring into writing. My goal is to finish the 4th and 5th parts of the big MCU rewrite by the end of October. It’s aggressive, and may not be possible. But I gotta try.
So, in order to save energy for writing, this is about the sum of the update. To make up for its brevity, have a song I am completely obsessed with right now by the incomparable duo of Lzzy Hale from Halestorm and The Hu:
I mean, maybe not really. I never really forgot about having the blog, but it took literal months for the world to calm down enough for me to think about it. I also slowed down writing in general precipitously at the same time, only just getting myself back to it right before the runup to CONvergence.
But now the recovery after CVG is nearly complete (it was amazing, difficult, exhausting, exhilarating, painful, wonderful, and everything else at any extreme — no middle ground here) and I’m starting to full emerge back into the world. I’ve got a writing goal to make by the end of October, and I’m committed to succeeding.
I’m also starting to rethink the fate of Dragonroe. I queried 55ish agents in 2019 and early 2020 and got only one R&R which went nowhere, so I feel I gave it a real shot in the traditional publishing world. But I was looking over it again recently and I’m starting to think maybe Dragonroe deserves a shot at the world even without a publisher. I had always been adamantly uninterested in self-publishing, and I still kind of am? But the story is good, and maybe there’s someone out there who needs it. So I’m considering.
Sarah had an amazing idea about putting it out as an ebook in places other than Amazon (because Amazon) and then creating a Patreon account to sell it directly as well. I was telling her about all the other stories I have in my head in the Dragonroe world — the history of the twins, what happens afterwards, Mercy’s backstory, etc — and she thought I could write those and dump them on Patreon in case anyone became invested in the series.
I’m never expecting to make money off this. I may never make any money from writing any more than I do from music. But I never sang at HarmCon to make money. I never wrote to make money. I sing because the music is inside me and I want to share it. I write because the stories won’t leave me alone and demand to be born into the world. I know I could put the whole of Dragonroe here on my website for free if I wanted, but the reality is that there’s only about 7 of you who read this, and probably fewer now that I went dormant for so long, so that’s not a way for it to be found. But if I put it on sites for ebooks, maybe somebody somewhere who needs my twins, or Rowan, or Caci, will find them.
I kind of want to do it, but I’m also very nervous about the how. This…is not my area. Formatting, maybe. Marketing, not a chance in hell. Self-marketing, even worse. Using social media to gain followers? Ugh, forget it. I’m not really a person suited to the work of being a self-published author. I just tell stories. So that’s a thing to consider before I make a final decision.
But, regardless, I’m moving forward again. I’m writing again. I have an eye to the future of other books I want to write and try to publish (or put online somehow). I’m even finally in remission enough to think about exercising again.
So I’m going to try to post on Fridays. Monday are just too hard. But Friday mornings seem okay. I’m not going to try to force myself to post every week, but I’ll try to build back the habit. Because maybe someday there will be more than 7 of you who want to hang out with my thoughts on the internet.
That would be pretty neat, actually.
Thanks for waiting for me. It’s good to be back.
A rant about the January 6th insurrection in Washington, DC