“The trick with science fiction is not to prove that something--a machine, a technology, a history, a new way of being--would be possible. It's to temporarily convince us that it already exists.”
Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

confessions of an epicurean nature
Thu 2019-06-13 23:42:21 (single post)
  • 10 wds. long

So I'm in the bath right now. This is the sort of thing you find out about me when you read my blog. Sometimes, when I'm too cold, too tired, too reluctant or too neurotic--tonight it's the "too tired" case because of roller derby scrimmage--in order to write anything at all, I need a tub full of hot water and a selection of cold beverages. (Tonight it's a mango Waterloo and an Abita "Andygator".) As this is a habit of many years, I've perfected the process. I have a pressboard plank that sits across the tub and acts as my desk. On that desk are a wireless keyboard, a wireless mouse, and my drink de jour (de nuit?). My laptop sits on a tall stool near enough that I can read it without squinting. Oddly, no candles or beauty concoctions are involved. Sometimes a cup or two of Epsom salts, because derby, but that's it.

And eventually I do the damn writing. Something about sweating my brain out my ears in water that's just as hot as I can stand shakes something loose. Also, after so many years, the association is well and truly built up; I might as well use it.

Today was a good Doing All The Things day. Yesterday was not. Yesterday I was running on too little sleep and too many errands. Today went a lot better:

  • I revised a very short poem and sent it somewhere that particularly likes short things (compressed things, in fact). (It is not actually 10 words long. It is 10 lines long. I still need to write the if/then case into the manuscript stat box so that it says "lines" instead of "words" if the manuscript is a poem.)
  • During my freewriting session, thanks to the Writer Igniter prompt generator, I got very invested in a retelling of the folk tale known as Aarne-Thompson type 706 ("The Armless Maiden") involving an apprentice tattoo artist. It's going in the revisions queue, which means one day this millennium I might actually finish it.
  • I didn't finish the draft of this week's Friday Fictionette, but I finally figured out how to finish it.
  • I typed up the first page of the second of the November Fictionette Artifacts I want to put in the mail by the end of the week.
  • And I did this blog post. Ta-da.

Obligatory running submissions tally in handy tabulated form (copied from the source of the handy PHP page I wrote to pull up these stats from my database):

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun 2019
Submissions: 0 0 3 10 23 10 46
Rejections: 1 0 0 3 13 10 27
Acceptances: 0 0 0 0 0 1 1

Aren't you glad you asked?

piece of childhood reclaimed or something like that
Tue 2019-06-11 23:41:28 (single post)

I've been writing poems again. It feels good.

I used write poems a lot when I was in school. I mean, elementary school. When I was wee. Maybe that was the problem--as I got older, I associated the writing of poems with the production of the specific caliber of poem I wrote when I was just learning how to do creative writing at all. So maybe I got more embarrassed about it as I got older. Maybe I never felt confident in my sense of what made a poem good. But I could always tell when one of my poems was bad. I'd read it and cringe; that was how I knew.

But at least in high school and thereabouts I had teachers and other students giving me feedback. I had other people giving me the feedback I couldn't give myself, which is to say, they told me if they thought it was good. (I will always treasure the time a teacher told me, "Your poems almost always have that moment toward the end that makes me gasp." Not primarily because it was a high compliment--it was!--but because she had put her finger on something that makes a reader like a poem. She gave me a yardstick I could use. I learned to look for those "gasp" moments after that, though as always it's harder to give them to myself than to get them from others' poems.)

After I got more exclusively into short fiction workshops, I got out of the habit of writing poetry.

It may also be true that when I no longer had a regular writing workshop, I temporarily got out of the habit of writing short fiction.

I'm making headway getting back into both habits now. I'm dedicating a little time every workday to coaxing a manuscript toward publishable shape. And I dedicate one freewriting session every week specifically to poetry. I've been using the weekly poetry prompts on the Poets & Writers blog when they come out on Tuesdays, and I'm responding to them in verse. Maybe bad verse, I don't know. Maybe I'm choosing my line breaks in a sophomoric manner or falling back on cliched metaphors. Maybe there isn't enough sensory data to captivate a reader. Maybe the themes are preachy. But I don't know--that's the point. If I don't feel like I have a grasp on what makes a poem good, maybe I should be less self-assured in my sense of what makes a poems bad. Or at least, one of my poems. I generally know whether I like someone else's poem, and why.

Obviously I should be reading more poetry, too.

I'm certainly thinking in poetry a lot more now since I've dedicated Tuesday freewriting to verse. It'll sneak into my other freewriting days, too, right in there amidst the prose and the babble and the streams of consciousness along the lines of "I don't like this prompt and I don't know what I'm going to write but here are the thoughts I'm having right now."

And between yesterday and today I wrote a brand new poem. And I submitted it to a paying market. And that market turned right around and rejected it in under two hours flat. Which means I have a brand new poem that has already made a complete two-way trip to slush and back, and I can send it out again.

It feels good.

Meanwhile, I just got paid for the poem that got accepted last week. I'm told that means it will go live sometime next week. I'll be sure to let y'all know when that happens.

(Obligatory submissions tally: Submissions in June, 8; in 2019, 44. Rejections in June, 9; in 2019, 26.)

Cover art incorporates and modifies image by Pun Kaset on Pixabay
the struggle is real (more real on some days than others)
Mon 2019-06-10 23:59:09 (single post)
  • 1,011 wds. long

OK so I didn't Do All The Things on Friday. And that was disappointing. Having found a strategy that worked for three days running, it was discouraging to just fail on the fourth day. And it was a day when, supposedly, I had all the time in the world... but not, as it turns out, all the energy.

Fridays are when I bike my Boulder Food Rescue shift, and of late the bike ride's been long and the food donation on the trailer has been plentiful. By the time I get home, I'm generally on the verge of falling over. This is why the very reasonable plan I'd drawn up that morning while fresh out of bed and sipping my first mug of tea became absolutely untenable by lunchtime. So it became a matter of prioritization. I submitted a story, because I am not breaking that streak, and I produced the Friday Fictionette due on that day, because I'm going to release those on schedule from here on out no matter what. Having gotten those things done, I just forgave myself the rest of my to-do list.

(Speaking of which, the Friday Fictionette for June 7 is "Lord Alchemist's Harvest," in which magpies are both a blessing and a curse. Patrons at the $1 level can download the ebook in their preferred format (pdf, epub, mobi, and/or html); Patrons at the $3 level and above also have access to the audiobook. Non-Patrons are invited to follow the feed in order to be alerted when the monthly Fictionette Freebie is released and when the Monday Muse posts go up. The Monday Muse is where I share the writing prompt associated with that week's Fictionette so y'all can play along at home, should you feel moved to do so.)

I'm still evaluating whether Doing All The Things On A Friday is simply an advanced goal toward which I am making baby steps by at least accomplishing the do-or-die goals described above, or whether I need to just give in and accept that Fridays need a shorter to-do list.

Whatever the answer, I need to give myself space to figure that out rather than constantly excoriating myself for not doing enough. It's like what I and the other trainers were saying to our brand new Phase 2 skaters tonight, "You're learning new things, and you'll make mistakes. That hasn't changed. But now, since you're entering the full contact stage of your derby training, you're going to make those mistakes while deliberately crashing into each other. It may be awkward. It will definitely be painful. Please resolve to forgive each other for that, and also to forgive yourself."

Good advice! But it's always easier to give advice than to take it, though. I'm going to have to give myself space to screw up at that, too. At taking my own advice, I mean. To forgive myself for screwing up, is the advice I'm talking about.

Real quick before I sign off, here's the running submissions and rejections totals.

Submissions: in May, 23; in June, 7; in 2019, 43.
Rejections: in May: 13, in June: 5, in 2019, 22.

78 more rejections to make 100 in 2019! Also I Did All The Things today. So there.

add-on benefits of a daily manuscript submission practice
Thu 2019-06-06 23:18:41 (single post)

Today is Day Three of Doing All the Things On Time. More importantly, it's Day 37 (counting weekdays only) of Submitting a Manuscript Every Weekday. And besides that one acceptance (so far) and the accelerated progress toward my goal of 100 rejections in 2019 (I'm up to 20 now! Woot!), there've been some unexpected add-on benefits.

First, I am no longer avoiding my email. I have been horrible about email for a while now. Which is awkward, considering, oh, bills to pay, league business to take care of, friends looking for cat sitters this weekend who don't need to hear a month later, "Oh, I'm sorry, I just found your email..." But the thing about daily submissions is, I gotta check daily to see if there are responses to submissions. Which means not only checking email regularly but also cleaning out the spam folder regularly too, just in case. Also, I use Thunderbird's calendar function to keep track of when submission windows open and close, creating events with reminders that go off and tell me things like "Escape Pod opens to submissions in 15 days, start revising that flash story up to their minimum word count," stuff like that. And those reminders won't pop up if Thunderbird isn't running. So.

(By the way, have you met Escape Pod? They're the science fiction wing of the Escape Artists podcast network. There's also Podcastle (fantasy), Pseudopod (horror), and Cast of Wonders (young adult, all genres). From a listener perspective, they constantly publish well-produced episodes of absolutely fantastic fiction. From a writer perspective, they pay pro rates for both original and reprint fiction. But they have very definite submission windows. Hence my Thunderbird event reminders.)

I'm still not exactly wonderful about this email thing; the temptation is to check the author email inbox (the one associated with this domain here) and just ignore the email for regular personal business and household stuff (the ones associated with littlebull.com). But I am trying not to do that, OK? At least I'm opening Thunderbird regularly.

Secondly, I have reconnected with my online writer community. I'm in there reading the market reports, reporting my submissions, logging my rejections, and crowing my non-rejections. And, since I am no longer avoiding that community because of that nagging sense of guilt that comes with knowing everyone's submitting things and writing things and getting published WHAT ABOUT YOU, NIKI, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING LATELY, HUH? ...I'm hanging out in other parts of the forum in my free time, too, just having conversations with other writers about A. writing stuff, B. non-writing stuff, and C. everything else. Not to mention participating in their contests! Because I'm not failing to read the announcements until it's too late to enter!

Lastly, I'm getting all my daily shit done. I mean, this week's drive to Do All the Things On Time each day didn't begin this week. It began with the daily submissions goal. Because you don't just go from zero to 100% overnight. Well, I don't. It's been baby steps all the way. First, make sure to submit something every day. Next, find a way to submit something every day without sacrificing time to actually write--get at least one of the rest of the writing tasks in, OK? Friday Fictionettes if nothing else, since they're on a schedule? Freewriting too if you can manage it? All right, now can we add in a story revision session? We're running out of stuff to submit, here!

If I've finally managed to get to the point where I'm reliably submitting something every day and doing all of the rest of the writing tasks too, it's only because I started with this: Submit a manuscript for publication every day.

but why is this only paying off now and not like three years ago
Wed 2019-06-05 20:47:40 (single post)

Today I want to talk about short story revision. But first: check it out, two days in a row of successful adulting! That's a surprise. Usually, after a day as successful as yesterday, I crash and burn; the pressure of having to live up to the previous day just does me in. But I seem to have evaded that trap today. Once again, I got everything other than this blog post done by 5:00 PM. And because tonight did not feature any roller derby practice, I finally found myself with time to thoroughly clean that gross covering of several years' dust off the magazine rack in the hall. I've been wanting to do that for months.

But. Story revision! Story revision and creation, actually; the story I'm working doesn't really have a finished draft to revise. It has the babble draft that came out of a freewriting session in a diner in Eagle, Colorado on the night before a roller derby tournament. And that's the trouble, really. I've already done the babble draft, so I have this innate sense that I'm not allowed to babble at it anymore. What I'm supposed to do now is create a draft that is shining and perfect, the story that is everything the babble draft dreams of being. All at once. Right now.

Not going to happen, obviously, but try telling my emotions/instincts/editor-brain/gut that.

This is what I meant yesterday about being unable to drag myself away from the procrastination method du jour when short story revision is the next thing on my to-do list. That nearly happened again today. With Merge Dragons being the procrastination method and everything. The only thing that saved me was knowing I said I'd get started at three, I was supposed to get started at three, it's three-oh-seven already, would I damn well get started already? Also, the next task after that needed to be done by 5:00 PM and would easily take up the full hour and a half I'd alloted it. So please let's not make with the holdups, OK?

Note to self: this particular brain hack has now worked multiple, repeated times on this particular brain. Continue with the hacking, please.

So I got started. But I fully expected to just spend half an hour futzing around with the opening three paragraphs again. I knew, plotwise, what would happen over the course of the story, but how to write those scenes down in a graceful, artistic, and compelling manner, that was a doozy. Hell with it, said I, just write it down any old how. So I did. And in doing so I tripped over a detail I had not hitherto considered, and wound up babbling some 500 words of backstory that turned the work in progress into a very different place.

Obviously all that babble will have to be ruthlessly whittled down--more revising! revising is hard!--but it's made the rough shape of the finished story just a little clearer and future revision sessions just a little less difficult. So that's something.

The thing is--and I keep going back to this point, I know--allowing myself to just put down terrible unreadable babble is a skill I'm learning from the Friday Fictionette project. When the story is due at the end of the week, there's no time to sit there staring at the page under the mistaken impression that if I just think about the story long enough it'll come together perfectly in my head. All I can do is throw words at the wall now and trust that something will stick.

The story I'm working on right now has no particular deadline. True, it's at the head of a very long queue of short stories that need work before they can be submitted to paying markets, so there is pressure to finish it sooner rather than later, but it's all internally applied. So it doesn't have its own supply of anti-procrastination jet fuel. It was sort of strange and wonderful watching it borrow fuel from my Friday Fictionettes practice.

It would appear that I have learned a lot more than I consciously realized from writing four new stories a month for almost five years.

adulting like a boss (is the exception not the rule)
Tue 2019-06-04 23:56:16 (single post)

What I really want to do with tonight's blog post is celebrate finally having completed a workday checklist from bottom to top. All my writing tasks, done, plus a few more household tasks besides. It's been a very long time since I managed that feat. Me and time management haven't been good friends. But today I wrote myself out a schedule, complete with target times for beginning and ending each task, and I kept to that schedule, by golly. Story revision at 10:00, come hell or high water; when the clock says ten, I gotta drop whatever I'm doing and get to it. Come 1:00 PM, as long as I've actually submitted a piece somewhere, I've putzed around enough with whatever I'm putzing around with under the rubric of Submission Procedures. Put it down. Put a bookmark in it for tomorrow. Go pay the bills that are due. Freewriting's scheduled for 3:00 PM, and if I'm not finished eating lunch when 3:00 PM rolls around, then fine, I'll shovel the last bites down my gullet in between sentences.

I got it all done, on time and according to schedule. And that despite waking up late after too little sleep then having derby practice in the evening.

Except crowing about that doesn't feel very grown-up. Crowing about it means admitting that this basic adult task of getting my shit done each day has routinely been beyond me. That rather stands as evidence that I don't adult so good, right? Which is embarrassing to admit. Basically, I feel like a high-schooler bragging to her classmates about having successfully used the toilet. In my mind's eye, I see them looking at me funny and saying, "That was kinda TMI, girlfriend," and "Yes, most of us manage that several times a day without comment. Should we be worried about you?"

On the other hand, after days and days and days of late night efforts just to get to eight-five percent; of reaching the end of my ability to even sit upright three hours after travel team practice and at last resigning myself, with mingled relief and shame, to a larger failure than the failure I'd already resigned myself to; of pushing through exhaustion while chanting "Do a little if you can't do a lot, do a little--seriously, just this little bit more, OK?" ...it feels really good to come home from derby and think, "All I have left to do is a blog post, and I don't even have to do that if I don't want to. Everything else, all the hard stuff, is done."

Besides, it's worthwhile to look at the failures, and look at the successes, and look at the differences in my process between the two, and say, "All right, if I want more successes, this is what works."

What works: Getting up on time, more or less. Doing my morning pages immediately, more or less. Not even opening the computer until after morning pages are done. And using that time on the page to scan my day ahead for obstacles, to slot each task awaiting me into precisely delineated windows of time. Then following the plan as much as possible to the letter. Where deviations occur, taking notes. I've made two new columns in my daily time-sheet: "Plan" and "Outcome." Pretty self-explanatory. I fill in the "Plan" column at the beginning of the day, then, as each task is completed, I write my observations about how well I stuck to the plan in the "Outcome" column. Having to actually type out "started freewriting a few minutes late because I wanted to finish up the lunch dishes" or, heavens forfend, "Half an hour late to story revision because I couldn't pull myself away from Merge Dragons, probably because I know story revision is going to be difficult" forces a concrete sense of accountability. And it adds to the data. More data is good! More data about how I function, how I screw up, and how I succeed means a better chance of success next time around.

So, hell with it. I'll admit to my tendency to fail at being an adult. I'll put it right out there, so y'all can see how huge it is that today I actually completed my workday checklist. Go me.

why i do this to myself
Tue 2019-05-28 23:59:59 (single post)
  • 739 wds. long

Today I rediscovered why I keep plugging away at the Friday Fictionette project.

There've been times when I've wondered exactly that. The project has certainly been an additional source of stress, especially when I get behind schedule (and some aspects of it are still very, very far behind schedule). It has taken time away from other writing I could be doing. Hell, I've only just now got anywhere close to a workable, sustainable daily process that accommodates both the Friday Fictionette project and my commercial freelance goals, not to mention keeping up with this blog. And I mean just now, like, in the past week.

But every once in a while a reason to persist shines up brightly out of the mess of my day-to-day like an encouraging beacon that says "Keep it up! You're going the right way!" Or maybe it's more accurate to say it blinds me with its obviousness. WHATEVER.

Oh, there are the official reasons. It gives me practice meeting regular deadlines. It forces me to write a new thing with a beginning, middle, and end four times a month. It's motivation to meet myself on the page every day. But these are the medicine reasons, the bran flakes and lima beans reasons. The half hour of strength and endurance conditioning at the end of each roller derby practice. "Eat it up. Drink it down. Struggle through. It's good for you." I tell myself those reasons all the time, and I only kinda sorta believe them.

But there was that time last year when a Friday Fictionette release went on to be included in the Toasted Cake podcast. Nothing like listening to Tina Connolly read my little story to make me think, "I'm so glad I'm still doing this!"

And then there was that time yesterday when I realized that the fictionette I was just finishing up, three days late and counting, was a perfect fit for the themed submission call I'd been contemplating with a certain amount of despair. I kept looking sadly at the submission guidelines and lamenting, "I don't think I have anything suitable..." Well. Now I do. It just needs a bit more of a polish and a trim is all.

And would I have written it at all without the Friday Fictionette project to maintain? Well, yes. Like all fictionettes, it began with a daily freewriting session. But would I have remembered that particular freewriting session in time to write a submittable draft if I hadn't had this four-times-a-week assembly line demanding to be fed on the regular? Probably not!

To be clear, not every flash fiction market accepts reprints. And among those that do, very few accept reprints of self-published material. And then you've got the audio markets who don't care if it's been printed before or where, but if it's ever been broadcast in audio, they can't take it. So it's not like there's a lot of places I can send my short-shorts that began life as a Friday Fictionette.

So you can see I'm very pleased to find one that does, and for whose themed call my most recent release is a more or less perfect fit. And even more pleased that I've continued the Friday Fictionette project these past nearly five years.

More details later--after the submission resolves itself one way or another!

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image sourced from Pixabay.
but what is achievable is itself worthwhile, and worth celebrating
Mon 2018-08-13 20:53:09 (single post)

This week is off to a great start. I'm kind of being sarcastic here, but also not. Not sarcastic because I have been so productive! Even over the weekend! But also sarcastic because MOTHS. Awful, awful moths. Awful, awful levels of intense household cleaning required. So. Great start, week of August 13. Good job.

I should mention that last week's Friday Fictionette was released perfectly on time--and really on time, too, not just in the virtual sense but the technical one, before midnight on actual-factual Friday the 10th. It's called "Protocol for Visiting Witches," available both in ebook formats and as an audiobook. It's about right and wrong ways to do urban exploring. It's also about stories, and about who gets to be the protagonist. It will make you hungry for brownies. It might make you hungry for bad chowder and charred hamburgers, which would be OK but slightly baffling.

So that was good. Also good was doing my daily freewriting and fictionette prep work both days of the weekend, and also this morning. Productive! And I've got more stuff planned for the evening. I have a handful of rejection letters to log. I have a manuscript to send out again to a new place. I have several flash stories to revise for submission. This week is going to be great.

Except for the moths. Great.

Understand I am not talking about the kind of moths that sit on the wall with their painted wings splayed for all to admire. I'm talking about that bane of every fibercrafter's existence, the clothes moth. I had an infestation shortly before we moved two years ago, resulting in the loss of a heartbreaking amount of my stash, and now I've got another and it sucks. This time, thankfully, they don't seem to be getting into my fiber or yarn. Welllll, not this year. Last year they obliged me to thow out a couple bags of mohair a friend had given me, which was sad, but the infestation seemed to leave the house with the fleece. I did a bunch of medium-intensity cleaning in the area, just to be safe, and then winter came on, and the moths stopped appearing.

They're back this summer. They're all over the house. I squish them when I see them, and then I race into the office to peer at my black lamb fleece and my alpaca and the rest. Everything looks fine, so I breathe a sigh of relief. I assume the moths are being attracted to something else. Maybe the gunk in the sink. Maybe they're not clothes moths at all. I don't know.

Then I tidy the sheets on the futon in the office Saturday afternoon and I find honest-to-Gods larvae.

That's it! High-intensity cleaning commences. This will be my bible. With it, and through heroic, methodic, thorough effort, I will erase the scourge from my life!

It's not like I can drop everything and flash-sterilize the whole house in a day. Realistically, I can only manage high-intensity cleaning at the rate of one small bite each day. And each day, though I do my best, I know I'm missing something. So each day I repeat my mantra: Perfection is not attainable. Improvement is. I said this to myself lots of times yesterday as I wiped down a bookshelf's every surface with diluted vinegar, as I vacuumed the crevices and cracks with every attachment on the Dust Devil, as I cleaned the dust from every book before putting it back on the shelf. As I laundered the sheets for the futon in hot water and dried them on high heat. As I cleaned the futon frame. As I vacuumed the futon itself and tumble-dried the pillows on hot. Perfection is not attainable, but improvement is. And isn't it nice to have that fraction of the house clean?

Today's small bite continued cleaning efforts counterclockwise around the office walls. I emptied the brick-and-board bookshelf of all books and took it apart into its component pieces and got ready to wipe and crevice-vacuum and clean every book and--

I found the infestation.

Each of the bricks has a piece of felt glued to whatever side contacts the boards. That felt was moth-eaten. That felt housed masses of moth eggs. That felt was Ground Zero.

Today's cleaning got serious. The bricks went outside. My clothes, full of dust from moving the boards and bricks, went in the washer immediately to prevent my carrying viable moth eggs elsewhere through the house. The carpet where the bricks had been got vacuumed multiple times, once per hose attachment and then, after blotting with the vinegar-water solution, once again. Everything came off the top of the file cabinet because I wanted to increase the radius of my "small bite." The boards got wiped down with the vinegar solution. Where felt was stuck to the boards, felt was scraped off with a chisel--to hell with the wood finish. As much felt as possible got scraped off the bricks and the bricks went into the oven. New felt went into the oven too, at a temperature of 170 degrees (our oven's "keep warm" setting), to pre-treat it before gluing strips of it onto the thoroughly treated bricks (which got vinegared after they came out the oven, just in case.)

The books are still stacked up waiting to be cleaned. The bookshelf components are still waiting to be put back together. Once you glue new strips of felt down, it takes time for them to dry. If I put the boards on too soon, the felt will get stuck to them. So the office is currently a mess.

But this particular infestation is gone.

I'm not done, mind you. I won't be done even once I put the bookshelf back together. For one thing, there is probably another infestation in the bedroom; the brick-and-board bookshelf in there is simply the other half of what's in the office, all of which was next to that very first infestation at our old address. It would make sense for moths to be colonizing and feeding off the felt on those bricks, too--and it would explain why moths keep showing up in the master bedroom and bath. And even if that weren't the case, good anti-moth hygiene says you do preventative cleaning across the whole house radiating out from the infestation site. So the days to come will also have their small bites of high-intensity cleaning.

It's going to feel very good to have it all done and behind me.

Perfection is not attainable. Improvement is. And improvement is very, very satisfying.

The Friday Fictionette for July 27, 2018 is belatedly available. Cover art incorporates original photography by the author.
the good news is we don't have to go deeper
Mon 2018-07-30 23:07:41 (single post)

Today we're gonna talk about procrastination. Or, rather, avoidance; procrastination is merely a common visible symptom of avoidance, Avoidance that, in my case, leads to further avoidance. Contagious avoidance that infects previously unaffected tasks. Recursive avoidance. Self-referential avoidance. Meta avoidance.

(If you just said "Avoidance inception! We must go deeper!" then you need to go sit in the corner with a dictionary and think about what you've done. The popular Leonardo DiCaprio movie about dreams within dreams within dreams notwithstanding, all "inception" means is "the starting point." Also, when it comes to avoidance, no we must not go deeper. We do not ever want to go deeper. We'd kind of like to surface, please. Soonest. Thank you.)

The avoidance is made up of more avoidance. Hypothetical solutions to the avoidance get bitten by the avoidance bug. Take the task I'm avoiding apart into its component steps, and those steps into baby steps, and there's avoidance attached at every level, all the way down.

Avoidance, my friends, is fractal.

Here is how that works in my brain:

  1. There is a task I am avoiding.
  2. In an attempt to make myself stop avoiding it, I put it first on the day's to-do list. That means I have to do it in order to get to the rest of the day's work.
  3. Stupid monkey brain says, "So if you keep avoiding task number one, then you never have to do tasks two through fourteen, several of which you are also avoiding."
  4. NOTHING GETS DONE. I SUCK.

Ah, but I see that dynamic coming a mile away, and I want nothing to do with it. I flip things around! Back to front and upside down! But as it turns out, avoidance is not only recursive and contagious but also transitive and commutative:

  1. There is a task I am avoiding.
  2. In an attempt to salvage the rest of the day, I decide to do all the tasks I'm not avoiding first. That means at least something will get done. And maybe the uplift of "I did a thing!" will help me approach the much-avoided task at last.
  3. Stupid monkey brain says, "So if you don't do all the other tasks, you won't ever have to do the much-avoided task. You just won't ever get to it. The problem simply won't arise."
  4. Bonus: All the other tasks get tainted with the miasma of avoidance clinging to the much-avoided task. Now I have more much-avoided tasks.
  5. NOTHING GETS DONE. I SUCK.

If life were like a sudoku puzzle, the conclusion would be really depressing. See, there's this strategy for solving extremely difficult sudoku called "forcing chains." It can be summarized like so: Find a candidate in a cell and examine the consequences of it being the answer for that cell. Now examine the consequences of it not being the answer for that cell. If in both cases the same result obtains elsewhere in the puzzle, then you can confidently include that result in your solution. For instance, if a 5 in J9 forces E1 not to be a 6, and J9 not being a 5 also forces E1 not to be a 6, then you know that, whatever else may be the case, E1 simply can't be 6.

Likewise, in both the case where I put the much-avoided task first, and the case where I don't put the much-avoided task first, the same result obtains: NOTHING GETS DONE AND I SUCK. Therefore I should just resign myself to nothing getting done. And sucking.

Thank goodness life is not a sudoku puzzle.

PS. I finally uploaded the Friday Fictionette for July 27. It's "Highlights for Creator Gods." Ebook and HTML here, audiobook here. And if I am very good and it doesn't slip my mind, the freebie for July gets announced tomorrow.

PPS. I submitted another story today. I DON'T SUCK.

this must be friday i never was any good at fridays
Fri 2018-07-27 23:51:59 (single post)
  • 3,453 wds. long

This may not be news, considering how many times I've said "The Friday Fictionette for this week will be late again" (and yes, I am saying it again) but I kind of suck at Fridays.

I'm still not sure whether I suck at Fridays in an avoidable way or not.

Here's generally what happens: I wake up on a Friday morning with all of my work to do. I have time to do a very small sliver of it before heading out to bike my Boulder Food Rescue shift. This involves about an hour at the donor grocery store sorting through the produce they have for me, culling the compost and packaging the good stuff for travel. Then, because it's summer and the nearby school I usually deliver the produce to is not in session, there's a round trip bike ride of about 7.2 miles. The half of the journey with 200+ pounds of food on the trailer is mostly downhill, thank goodness, but I have to go up those hills on my return journey, which is nothing to sneeze at even unladen.

After returning BFR's bike and trailer to the rack where they live, I typically walk across the parking lot for a buffet lunch during which I will inhale about three times my weight in various curries and tandoori chicken and naan. Then, if I'm feeling particularly virtuous, I return to the donor grocery store as a customer. Then I drive home, cursing the traffic on 28th Street and, because of the deadly combination of hard exercise and too much food, trying desperately not to fall asleep at the wheel.

Once I get home, I fall down flat in bed and don't move for hours.

Eventually I get up again, still feeling sort of sick and feverish, and make a half-hearted, low-energy stab at the day's work. A very small fraction of what's waiting for me gets done. I go back to bed, this time for keeps, feeling ashamed and dispirited.

Today was pretty much like that. I had some misguided idea that shifting the whole BFR-lunch-groceries-collapse routine earlier in the day would lead to my getting out of bed and back to work sooner. Alas, no. It just meant I napped longer. I don't know what my problem is--is my endurance so minimal? (My roller derby performance would suggest that not, but then I also tend to collapse after roller derby, too. It's just less noticeable since, most of the time, that collapse coincides with bedtime.) Am I just not protecting myself enough from the sun? Must I stop rewarding myself for all my hard work with hearty, nutritious, tasty food in vast quantities? Should I just resign myself to my limitations and either A. switch to a BFR shift that isn't on Friday, or B. stop pretending I actually have Friday available as a work day? I just don't know.

But on the plus side, the fraction of the work I got done included submitting my short story to its intended market. So yay!

(Annoyingly, this involved cleaning up garbage characters from the final manuscript which 4thewords seems to insert wherever italics or certain paragraph breaks show up, and which Scrivener for Windows is ill-equipped to find and replace. I had to compile to RTF and perform some find and replace routines in Libre Office before I could convert the whole thing to plain text. Otherwise there'd be a bunch of random question marks scattered through the submission, which would certainly not help its chances at winning the editor over. There has got to be a better way. I refuse to believe that including 4TW in my workflow must inevitably result in processing the manuscript through no less than four editors and a handful of by-hand tweaks before the dang thing's ready to submit anywhere.)

So, yeah. Same old same old. Saturday is the new Friday, and I'm really good at whining. Seems like I ought to offer y'all some cheese to go with that whine, but all I bought during today's grocery run were sliced muenster and cheddar, and I am saving them for our sandwiches so you can't have any so there.

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