Waking up is hard to do

I remember when I lived in New York how much I loved and dreaded winter because it meant waking up and going home in the dark.

wakeuptunnel

Now that I live much closer to the equator, it’s not as much of an issue. Except now my start time is 0730, which means I have to wake up at 0530 to have any semblance of consciousness by the time I put my butt in a driver’s seat.

I forgot just how hard it is to wake up without the sun. It’s not even that cold right now, though it finally feels like autumn, which is a blessed relief because I’m no fan of stewing overnight in my own sweat. But when the weather’s too cold, waking up is as close to pain as not getting actually hit in the toe with a hammer will allow.

I’m also disoriented from the short week, or long weekend. It’s Tuesday, and while I did go to my swordsy thing last night, I didn’t go to work before that (holiday in Australia), so I have this strange sense of bifurcated time. Well, not strange. Well, okay, yes, strange, but not unfamiliar. (My sense of time has never been, as they say, accurate).

So, yeah. Waking up. Not even the kookaburras were in the mood to cackle me into some semblance of consciousness. It’s nice, though, because the Sock Puppet of Self Doubt seems to have an even harder time waking up so that part of my write-every-morning plan appears to be right on track. The only thing that would make things easier for me is if that freaking Windows 10 mandatory WOULD YOU LIKE TO UPDATE NOW NO REALLY YOU SHOULD DO IT NOW IT WILL BE SO SIMPLE AND WE SWEAR (snort) TO NOT HORRIBLY FUCK EVERYTHING UP FOR YOU SO UPDATE, OKAY? statement didn’t keep waking my computer out of sleep. It takes about 10 minutes for it to get up to speed, and I’m not quite capable of getting out of bed mere moments after my alarm rings, yet, so there’s wasted writing and work-before-Sock-Puppet-wakes time, too.

Of course, I usually get to bed around 10 and I don’t usually follow up a sword session with a gym session because usually I’m sensible. Usually. But anyway. It’s time for me to head out, so tomorrow is another day.

An experiment

Less of an experiment, really, and more of a thing to try to see how I go. I have a nice blog with a nice site and it sits sort of empty and to add to that I’ve got issues with sitting down at my desk to actually compose something to post. Because I sit here and think how presumptuous I’ve got to be to believe that my perspective on anything is interesting.

It’s ridiculous when you look at it in black and white.

At any rate, the culprit behind thinking who wants to read what I write is the Sock Puppet of Self Doubt (I’ve talked about him before). And with a fairly new work schedule that requires me to be up at stupid o’clock, I’m up and running before it is. It’s a narrow band of time, but it’s long enough for me to get something written.

So you get two benefits, if we’re working on the assumption that what I write here is amusing or interesting or useful (or, if I’ve really done a good job, some mix of the three). One, you get under-the-internal-censor writing, which is a little risky, because let’s face it, the Sock Puppet is a metastasized exaggeration of a mental function that once served to protect me; and two, you get what might actually be — wait for it — a post every weekday.

I can feel the anxiety building as I type! Yay!

That said, may my Australian and Kiwi readers have an ANZAC day of their preference, and may the rest of you have, um, have a day? Maybe a nice one. No, definitely a nice one.

Creative re-entry

There must be something to the notion of a creative come-down. I just spent the better part of the last 48 hours that weren’t occupied by sleeping working on characters and structure for a podcast drama project that’s been in the works for maybe a year now, with another person who came to Brisbane specifically for this (and to visit another close friend for that person’s birthday, but that person is actually involved in this project as well, so it all kind of blends together).

It’s not something I’ve done before, this kind of intense collaborative work on a single non-interactive narrative project, but it’s reminiscent of other times in my life where creativity was a much greater part of daily life (MFA studies, planning and running LARPs, that sort of thing).

And I’m a wreck right now. I feel low, rendered, defeated. Lost, maybe? Maybe not lost, because I’ve got a good vision of how to move forward with so much good stuff with so many fantastic people. I think the sense is closer to bereft, because God help me I saw an article about a stolen ’61 Impala and I just burst into tears (dad was a hot rodder and owned a … I think ’60 Impala, maybe ’61, in high school; featured in more than one yearbook page).

Again, I’m a wreck. Just writing those words, I’m a wreck. For reasons that are related to character exploration I’m not in the strongest place, feeling pretty poorly about myself, but I’m not new to that kind of emotional surfing. I do it all the time, though maybe I haven’t done it as extensively as I did it this weekend for a long time. So I may be out of practice.

So here’s a question: is there a sense of loss/bereavement at the end of a particularly fecund stretch of creative work/time? I know I’ve been through stretches that feel like this, but the circumstances were different, and it was probably 15 years ago. Is it the same thing? Have I been out of this kind of circle so long that I’ve lost the sense of the come-downs?

I know more than intellectually that there’s a lot more fun work to come, but for the moment I feel hollow and alone, and that seems like exactly the opposite of where I should be considering all the good stuff that happened yesterday and today. We’ll see how I’m going tomorrow.

Representation matters, part N of [infinite]

Representation matters, still and always. Leslie Jones tweeted in response (one of a longer thread of tweets) to people complaining that she’s been pigeonholed as the only non-scientist in the upcoming Ghostbusters film.

To be clear — I had some reservations about just that, but most of them were fairly small, especially after seeing Patty in action in the trailer. But then this Twitter thread cropped up on the interwebz. Jones talks about a message she received from  Joanna Briley, writer-performer of SWIPE THIS! MY LIFE IN TRANSIT*, who herself is an MTA token booth clerk; Briley had been asked by a reporter about her thoughts on Jones’s role in the new film.

Once Jones quoted Briley’s message, she herself added:

Jones echoes what I was hoping — that despite the negative implications of casting the only person of color as the character in the “blue-collar” role, there are still important and positive things to say. Not as a sloppy-seconds kind of thing, either; despite my tastes for advanced degrees, I do feel that the societal insistence on university education is often a scam — a way to mire people in debt, a way to force people to conform to a certain way of functioning in society. I’m not talking about the specifics of the coursework someone may or may not take, I’m talking about the overall notion that the only way you have a future is if you have a college degree, and that if you don’t have one, you’re somehow lesser. That a token boof clerk is lesser. That a bus driver or a fast food kitchen staffer is somehow lesser.

This is wrong, it’s destructive, and it’s hugely manipulative. Regular people save the world every day.

I was looking forward to the movie before — I love the original, and some of the things I love in the original I’m seeing in this rendition, too: primarily, the positive, supportive relationships among the primary characters. They have their troubles, they have their misunderstandings, but they respect and support each other through and beyond these things. Though a 2.5 minute trailer is not a whole film, I saw no evidence that any of the scientists looked down on the MTA worker, took her less seriously, or thought lesser of her. And delightfully, the MTA worker didn’t automatically assume personal inferiority in any real way. I hope that this is true for the movie as a whole. Just remember that if anyone asks you if you’re a god, you always say yes.

 

* Sadly, the show’s run is over — but any readers in the NYC area should keep an eye out as it may get workshopped or performed elsewhere.

Unholy chorus

Yeah, it’s 2016. That number is sort of meaningless in a day-to-day sense, and I suspect it is for a large number of people. Still, it’s a good milestone for taking a look back on things, even if the moment is arbitrary.

My 2015 was somewhat better than 2014, which I’m grateful for, but there’s still a lot of heavy reckoning that emerged in the latter half of ’15 that is absolutely not resolved. For some of it I have some ideas about what to do, or how to approach the problems; for others, I’m in open ocean with no life vest.

Maybe it’s ’cause I’m getting older (I can feel my metabolism shifting, which is simultaneously amusing and annoying); maybe it’s because my past has caught up with me in terms of the whole ADHD thing. Maybe it’s because this is more or less what happens to people when they hit their late 30’s/early 40’s, this re-evaluation of life and priorities and societal rules and internal assumptions. And I could take a few column inches to talk about all those things.

But I decided that I didn’t want to enter 2016 on hard ruminations, on treading the paths that, while familiar, are still difficult and will be there on January 2 and beyond. Nope, I wanted to enter the new year with a really good laugh. I mean, really good.

My friend Sam introduced me to the Duck Army a few months back, and I had the opportunity to share it with my mom today, and we both laughed (though only I laughed until I cried). That kind of catharsis sure helped me, and so I want to share it with you.

The basic premise is this: Charlie Murphy (or at least that’s the name this Vine user goes by) finds a sales bin full of rubber duck dog squeak toys. You squeeze one, it “exhales,” but on release it makes a vaguely moaning-quack noise. But he suddenly leans in and presses down on a stack of them. The resulting sound is deeply disturbing and — to me — pants-pissingly funny.

For added fun, watch Adam Savage build a contraption to cause the same kind of mayhem, with similarly satisfying results.

Happy new year!

Chunky salsa, or the agony of planning

Planning, or scheduling — the two sort of blur into one another in my mind — they’re both some of the most difficult things for me to do. There’s a physiological reason for this, but before I knew about that, I made enemies with these concepts in other ways.

As a kid, I resented these external demands on my time. I know I’m certainly not alone, but this sense that outside forces were always obligating me to do things at certain times for certain durations became a real sticking point, and that perceived childhood injustice has carried through over the years; childhood injustices often do.

Because of this resentment — people imposing their rules on my  time — I never learned how to build my own plans, or how to schedule my own time. Again, there are physiological issues making the process even harder, but because I refused to learn the procedures that others used to seemingly shove their priorities down my throat, I ended up completely unmoored when it comes to a very basic aspect of human life. Seriously, I’m like the Underpants Gnomes. There’s a void where procedure should be. A question mark. Nothing.

Seriously, no Phase 2 AT ALL.

Seriously, no Phase 2 AT ALL.

As I got older, I began to see the need for plans and procedures and schedules. But because I didn’t have the skillset (since I rejected it out of hand years before), I had to cobble a process or twelve out of thin air. For many people, that wouldn’t have been much of a problem. Maybe a bit of a learning curve, but nothing more serious. For me? It was hell. Absolute hell. The vaguely planlike things I made had no anchors, no links to the functions of the real world, so even when I was able to follow them they failed miserably.

And that made me more resentful. It took a lot of hard work to make even the most tenuous of schedules, and when they failed, I ended up hating the world — feeling like the universe was actively trying to kick me in the solar plexus.

Cut to now. Again I am made painfully aware of the need for planning, but I am now painfully aware of the short-circuits in my brain that make it impossible to do like most other people do it. Sounds awful, yeah? Well, most of me agrees. But there’s a small part of me that feels like this time I have a chance to build a process that will actually work for me. I’ll be working out some process ideas on a project I’ve been putting off for a while: making a padded vest/jacket for swordplay. I have a gambeson that almost sort kinda fits, but because I’m a fat woman I don’t fit in fat man things. Chest + hips. Always. So, time to make something that’s built for me.

Never mind that I’ve only made an article of clothing for myself once, back in high school, and if we’re being completely honest, my mom did most of the work.

So, here are my initial thoughts around making this vest.

  1. Let things happen in non-contiguous chunks. If I think about anything involved as a single contiguous process my brain static howls and I get overwhelmed and it’s pretty much over for whatever it was I wanted to do. I used to do this all the time, because I worried that if I didn’t push through and get most or all of something done in a continuous process, I’d lose the plot and not be able to competently pick up from where I left off. This worry has, on some occasions, borne itself out. So, it’s okay if a day or two, or even a week, passes by between chunks. That said, I need to find ways to keep the project present enough in my mind so I don’t just forget about it entirely. Not entirely sure how this will work, but I may designate certain times of certain days for getting things done that are related to this vest. That simple procedure has failed in the past, so I need to bolster it somehow.
  2. Look for good places to delineate chunks. For the vest, one part might be buying the things I need. Later, I can take measurements, then maybe plan them out on paper to build a pattern. However, it’s perfectly all right if drawing out the pattern becomes its own chunk later. And it’s all right if each chunk has its own chunks — concatenation. I find that if I have end states in mind, it’s easier for me to reach back and know what I need to do and in what order to achieve that end state, so for me, I look for ways to delineate chunks that offer up a clear and concise end state that I can put in a list or an outline. Even if I never write that list down, those sub-end states lead to a final end state, so I stand a better chance of remembering the process without having to resort to lists or documents that I will either lose or never look at again.
  3. Don’t hate yourself for having to chunk. I have no real idea how non-staticky people accomplish their organization. Maybe they do exactly what I’m doing — chunking, delineating, flexibly allotting time — just without constantly getting mentally derailed and spending a ton of energy to get thoughts back on track. So by going through this process of chunking, I’m not babying myself, I’m not catering to my own uselessness — I’m doing what most other people do and reducing the amount of extra effort I need to expend to simply linking up the chunks, like train cars. It still takes extra work, but at least I’m not spinning my wheels to keep my chunk train from turning into chunky salsa.

So, that’s what I have so far. I’ll keep you posted on progress with the vest (components bought, but that’s it), and throw up a blog post if I detail out my processes a bit more.

 

 

Three steps forward, two steps back

I know I talked about this around two months ago, so some of you may know that a little less than a year ago I got a diagnosis that I never would have expected, but in hindsight explains a whole lot of my life. It explains procrastination issues, it explains a decent chunk of my impostor syndrome, it explains part of my short temper and it neatly explains my utter inability to keep anything tidy or in order.

I have ADHD. I rate a little higher in hyperactivity than most women, but I mainly lie in the inattentive circle of the Venn diagram.

I’m telling you this (again?) for two reasons: one, I’m working through all of this, and it’s not easy, and I think well when I write (though I reserve the right to change my mind on conclusions in light of new thinking or information). I thought I’d been progressing reasonably well but life clattered and folded up on me over the course of the last few weeks and it’s clear I’m nowhere near any kind of resolution. The other reason is that this may be of some help to some of you out there.

I’ll clearly tag all posts related to this, so you can do a quick check, if that’s what interests you. But the reason I’m doing this is because, in all the literature available, there’s a lot of “just try these ways of organizing!” and aside from being a bit of an obvious fix, it doesn’t seem to dig much deeper than “just find new ways to keep your shit together!”

A lot of the methods presented in these books don’t work, at least not on the surface. And while everyone’s mileage may vary, I’ll share why they don’t work for me, because maybe you’ll see a little of yourselves in me, or maybe you’ll figure something out about you in contrast with my different issues. It’s all good; the main thing is that we both gain something from this exercise.

So, while I know better than to promise regular updates (we’ll be addressing underlying issues about that in a later installment), I will be posting stuff to help me clear the static in my head, or at least channel it, and you’re more than welcome to come along.

A hell of an opportunity

I know I’ve spoken in the past about GenreCon (and it’s happening again this year! GO. DO IT), and what a phenomenal experience it was for me, and all the fantastic people I met there.

I want to tell you about one of them, because she’s offering a twelve-week mentorship program centering on writing and creative exploration. Jodi Cleghorn writes:

My vision is to be the curator of a supported creative space with the benefits of one-to-one personalised attention and small group interaction.

One of the greatest things to have come from GenreCon, for me, is the discovery of a creative community of vastly different people with incredibly different talents and styles and genres, but who are united by a sense of inclusivity, generosity, and openness. And this mentorship program is a distillation of that. I imagine I’m not being terribly clear, so I’ll let Jodi explain it better:

For The Asking is a hybrid program combining direct mentorship, a writing course and elements of creative exploration. It has the flexibility to accommodate different goals while at the same time providing a shared space to connect with (or hone) the craft of writing through experimentation in style, form, voice, genre and different creative modalities, combined with thoughtful critique, self-reflection and peer interaction. Each mentee will also have the opportunity to pursue one or two writing related goals.

There are four spots, and applications close fairly soon, since successful applicants will be notified by September 6. I encourage you to check out the post and apply, because it’s an uncommon opportunity to do some uncommon creative work.

Time, Again

365-001 time flies

Time is a wicked thing. We get caught up in it, we view it as an enemy almost exclusively, we try to exert control over it knowing that we can’t, that it’s something beyond our control, fleeing and fleeting and obstinate.

Time is a big deal for me. I mean, yes, it’s a big deal for a lot of people in various ways, but I wonder if it rules my life more than it seems to affect others.

The answer is, probably not. Maybe you can tell me if I’m right or wrong.

In the past I’ve talked about not managing time well, but I think it’s not a management issue, as in my ability to be organized. I’ve talked about that, too, and how abysmal my orderliness is, but I’ve been around enough to know some strategies that make things easier and help me keep on track. But time — my relationship to it never seems to improve. And that’s the key, I think.

My relationship to it. My perceptions of it, my understandings of it. If you spend any real time (heh) talking to me, you’ll probably know that I have a serious distaste for the American/Western (capitalistic) approach to work and work ethic. This idea that you’re of no worth if you’re not earning in some way — if you’re not using your time to to maximize your profitability to your employers, to your family. Or even you! Though you come suspiciously near the bottom of the list.

So that, to me, sets up an instantly adversarial relationship. There’s guilt in spending time on oneself. An irresponsible selfishness, a disregard for others, a neglect of responsibilities and obligations.

A project I’ve slacked off on, unfortunately, that I started at the beginning of the year, was learning how to be kinder to myself. Allowing me to be kinder to myself, knowing that this kind of generosity isn’t an indulgence, it’s not an extravagance, it’s just the kind of thing we should do for ourselves.

It’s a struggle. It’s not a fight, I know better than to fight myself on this, at least, but it’s hard. It’s like getting caught up in the briars of past expectations and supposed social norms. Somehow I taught myself that the only way to be sure I live up to my responsibilities is to be hypervigilant and hyperreactive about any and all failures, and that just magnifies any sense of inadequacy I may have.

This morning, I spent time writing a letter — hand to paper, honest — to a friend who had done the same for me. For this friend, her letters were a response to social media; this person chose to withdraw from it and be more mindful about the act of communication and the things communicated. My letter was a time-consuming task, but even that phrase is far more negative than is at all accurate. Writing by hand takes time, but that grants space to think, to evaluate, to ponder. There is value in the quick response, in the reblog, in the share, in the click-to-like, but there is also value in those things that require more continuing effort to complete.

But I feel like taking that time is robbing time from somewhere else. I have a life filled with enough things to keep three people occupied, and I burn the candle at both ends. Or do I? Do we all?

The things I do, I don’t want to give up, but I worry that I can’t keep up, and when I think about not being able to keep up, then that spells only one thing: FAILURE. There’s a distaste for failure in and of itself, and there’s a deep regret when it comes to failing at any of the things in my life that are important to me. But I worry that I am. And I’m not sure how to fix it.

So maybe it does have everything to do with how I perceive time and action and accomplishment, and how I relate to those things, and learning that action can be used to describe the things I do for myself to give space to my thoughts and give room to silence. Accomplishment can include doing things that are just for me, or about me, as difficult as that is for a woman raised in the late 20th century to accept (we are never first, we never come first).

Is it like this for anyone else? I’ll let you know what conclusions I come to, if I do, as I do.

I may have neglected to mention

I may have neglected to mention that I’m in a podcast.

In fact, I’m certain I haven’t mentioned it. I’m bad at self-promotion. But I’m good at promoting other people!

So, let me introduce you to Priori, a YA fantasy podcast serial written by Emily Craven and performed by her, and several talented people, and incidentally, me. What’s the story about? I’ll let Emily tell you herself:

Hunted by the Kraken, the sinister leader of the Ruhle Empire, Beverly Jordan must control her powers, known only as the ‘Priori, to survive. Believing her powers dirty, fit only for destruction and ruin, Beverly and her brother Charlie set off on a journey to find the fabled safe-haven of Creana, an underwater world where one can learn to split the fabric of time and manipulate the Lines of Power, where winged Alaequines soar through the air and the Shadows hide, waiting for someone to release them. Will Beverly escape the grasping clutches of the Kraken? Or is she destined to become his weapon?

Every episode generally runs about 30-45 minutes long and features a brief chat with the cast, and closes off with a gag reel. It was an enormous amount of fun to perform, and story addresses the sort of themes YA is about: coming to terms with who and what adults really are, understanding one’s place in the world, the demands of responsibility, and coping with a cranky winged horse who didn’t sign up to be anyone’s pal.

That last one may be a little overspecific.

At any rate, it’s a great story told by great people, and I hope you’ll give it a listen. You can subscribe to it here.