“A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.”
Emily Dickinson

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

on setting oneself unreasonable expectations
Fri 2018-03-09 22:08:45 (single post)

"It'll be fine," I said. "The story's almost done. I'll just finish it up in the hotel in Cincinnati."

Turns out, when you spent all day running errands and then you go to the Denver Airport and you fly across two time zones in an eastward direction so that it's midnight local when you finally check into your hotel, you don't do much of anything but sleep.

Sorry, folks. Another late Friday Fictionette coming up. Sunday, I hope; theoretically I'll be getting those two hours back. Wish us luck tomorrow!

stomach churning heart palpitating ARGH but otherwise just great
Thu 2018-02-08 00:21:14 (single post)

Hi. Wow. So, I haven't blogged under the auspices of the Actually Writing Blog for like two weeks now, maybe more. I won't bother making excuses. For the most part I don't really have a good explanation. Or rather, I do, but, as explanations go, they are well-trod subjects that would be boring to rehash. Failure to adequately absorb the impact of roller derby practice on the rest of the week, I guess, plus a large helping of avoidance. Recursive avoidance. That's where you avoid doing the thing that's no big deal, because the thing you're really avoiding comes right after. Then you start avoiding the thing before the no-big-deal thing. And so it goes, like a row of dominoes, until you don't want to get out of bed at all because starting your day will start the one-thing-after-another chain of things inevitably leading up to the thing you're dreading. The thing I'm dreading, of course, because that's who we're talking about here. Anyway, it took me several days of dread and exhaustion to finally just say, fuck the chain of things, let's just skip to the dreaded thing and rip the gods-damned band-aid off.

Also there were multiple dreaded things. Most of them are now done, and aside from the "anxiety! is this what a panic attack feels like? How interesting" aftermath, I'm feeling a lot better now.

So! Actually writing. Since the start of the year, I've written five new flash-length stories! I made the deadline for each week of the 2018 Codex "Weekend Warrior" contest, and I'm looking forward to submitting every single of them for publication in the near future. A couple are almost perfect just as they are, and need only a little tweaking before being publication-ready. (Just my opinion, of course; the editors I submit them to will have the final say.) The rest could use some real revision and probably expansion--not everything needs to be 750 words or shorter--and will probably get submitted a little later in the spring.

I did not make the deadline for the "4x4 contest" on 4thewords. I came very close, but in the last 24 hours of the contest I proceeded as though I had 48 hours remaining, which is because when the good folks behind 4thewords say "January 31 deadline" they don't mean through the 31st, as I would have expected, but rather until. But hell with it. The point of revising the novel isn't to enter its first 4,000 words into a contest. It's to have a fully revised and finished novel which may be entered in the contest that really matters, which is to say, publication. So I plan to come back to it in, I dunno, March I guess? March is the traditional month of NaNoEdMo, so that seems appropriate. Also that gives me the rest of February to decide what to do with my five fresh new flash tales.

So... that's the latest in writing. Tomorrow there will probably be stuff about cooking. (I've been cooking.)

oh hey look i stayed up all day today good job
Thu 2018-01-25 00:44:26 (single post)

The Boulder County Bombers' 2018 season is officially on. We kicked it off last week Friday and Sunday with a guest clinic led by Luz Chaos, who is fantastic in every way. She's an extraordinarily strong and agile and smart jammer, some might say supernaturally so. She was here to teach us how we, too, could be supernatural. Then, last night, we had our first actual Travel Team practice. It began with a team meeting to set the tone, and it ended, as all practices for the next three months will end, with one full hour of off-skates conditioning. Half an hour of strength training; half an hour of metabolic workout. One full body of all the sore. My quads have been letting me know about it all day, I can tell you.

I'm not really complaining. I need to get stronger, and this will make me stronger. But in the meantime, it's put me on notice. I will have to curate my energy intake and expenditures carefully in order to continue pursuing my other-than-derby interests, like writing and keeping up with the household and volunteering and actually having a life. It is hard to have much of a life while flat on one's back in bed. Which is what happens when Sunday afternoon's post-derby collapse leads to an utter failure to sleep through the night, which leads to getting little done over the next couple days, not to mention an inability to adequately prepare for or recover from the next physical effort, which is probably derby since what with all the energy mismanagement and exhaustion I'm not likely to have much of a wherewithal left for any optional physical exercise.

And so the spiraling descent continues.

Basically, it's going to come down to a rational and consistent sleep schedule, a healthy diet, and appropriate self-care before and after exercise. Also not only getting up on time but getting to work on time, so that if I fall prey to an afternoon nap attack, it's not before I've gotten the majority of my day's work done.

Discipline. I hate discipline. It doesn't like me much either. I suppose we'll have to declare a truce.

Meanwhile, our season schedule includes "structured time off" for the entire month of October, so I guess that's when my annual run-away-and-hide-in-the-mountains week is going to be. There is also a blissful lack of bout-type events in July--great news for anyone planning to go to RollerCon (the big roller derby conference in Las Vegas) but also really great news for this New Orleanian who hasn't been able to participate in the Running of the Rollerbulls for three years now. Well. Guess where I'm gonna be the second weekend in July? Yeah you right.

starting bid 48 hours, do I hear 24, do I hear--SOLD (probably) to the contractor with the two MINUTE response time
Tue 2017-12-26 23:34:35 (single post)

OK, so, derby practice was canceled. When outdoor temperatures are 10 degrees Fahrenheit at sunset, it's too dang cold to drive the roads, let alone skate in a mostly non-climate-controlled practice building where the floor gets really slick under low temperature conditions. But I am having that hot bath anyway, and not by dint of lots of stovetop activity either, but rather by the good graces of some friends we are cat-sitting for. Turns out their vacation timing was impeccable, and they are very generous with their facilities.

In order that we not have to impose on their generosity longer than necessary, I got on the phone about the dead water heater this morning.

08:30: Called EnergySmart and pled ignorance to all things water heater. They got us enrolled in their program and then talked me through my options for replacement units (tank or tankless), asked me about our furnace (which may also need replacing or at least servicing), and queried as to other related appliances in the house (yes, we have a programmable thermostat, but we would like one that is more programmable; between roller derby and working from home, a basic Honeywell of type WEEKDAY Y/N? doesn't cover all the bases). Then they sent me a list of contractors whom they have vetted as both trustworthy and having energy efficiency priorities.

EnergySmart's services are free: Boulder County tax dollars at work! And doing a brilliant job, too. A+ would pay my taxes again.

09:15: Called Save Home Heat Co first; of the contractors on the list who handled both tankless water heaters and gas furnaces, they were the company that were physically nearest to our address. After about ten rings I got patched over to their answering service. No one was in the office, doubtless because everyone was out tending to other emergencies that had cropped up during the December 25 Federal Holiday. Their answering service was professional and efficient, not to mention brusque and rapid-fire. They evinced some impatience with me for my constantly asking them to repeat that, please, more slowly? as they rattled back the info they'd interrogated me for. They told me to expect a call back as soon as someone returned to the office.

11:00 It turns out I can't get anything done while waiting for a call-back. Just another little glitch in my brain, I guess. (As though I don't have enough.) I could not seem to bring myself to tackle even a half-hour's worth of writing. Not even my morning pages. I mean, I guess I could have, if I'd exerted more willpower, but it would have been miserable. The feeling of paralysis was strong. It was like, in some mental/psychological way, being still on the phone and on hold for almost two hours.

Which is not Save Home Heat's fault nor their lookout. My brain glitches are mine to manage. Besides, EnergySmart says they ask the contractors they vet to return calls within 48 hours. That I had waited two was hardly unreasonable.

Still, I did have to manage that brain glitch if I was going to get any work done. So I went ahead and called a second contractor, Blue Valley Heating & Cooling. And their receptionist was really patient with me before patching me directly over to a tech, who was also patient and friendly. He listened to my story with sympathy, answered my questions with care (including giving me a rough price estimate on the unit I was interested in, subject of course to the details of my installation; it was about what I expected and quite reasonable for the expected lifespan of the unit, not to mention the savings in energy efficiency). Turned out that, hey, he had a call-out in Boulder tomorrow anyway; why not arrange for a consult while he was in the neighborhood? Since my plight was an uncomfortable one and shouldn't be prolonged unnecessarily, and all.

I said yes please thank you you're the best. We agreed he'd visit tomorrow around 8:30 AM. I hung up the phone. And breathed a huge sigh of relief, feeling immensely more psychologically free to get things done.

It's recommended to call multiple contractors anyway, so one can get multiple bids and make a sound economic decision. I had not been looking forward to this. It would involve multiple contractor visits which would probably entail multiple days or weeks before we could have hot running water again. But it seems like I did, in a way, get two separate bids just this morning. Only, instead of being expressed in job price, they were expressed in terms of rapid response and friendliness.

And though I got a late start on my workday, I did get to start. And continue. And finish. Which I might not have otherwise, because...

23:32 (at the time of this writing) ...I still haven't heard a peep from Save Home Heat. I guess they're just super busy and never got back to the office at all.

and andy williams can take the kids jingle belling ELSEWHERE thank you VERY much
Mon 2017-12-25 23:13:34 (single post)

When you celebrate a minority religion's holiday rather than the big mainstream federally approved one, you get problems. Some of them are petty and some of them are huge, but most of them are part of a larger issue about social justice, erasure, inclusion, assimilation, un/equal representation and respect, that sort of thing. You have this huge compelling social machine operating through every imaginable vector to push Christmas, Christmas, Christmas until everyone, Christian or non-, is warped around that one day.

My problem stems from that problem, but it is mostly a petty problem. On the scale of stubbed toe to social injustice, there's barely any hopping around and cussing at the furniture at all. Still, I'm going to whine about it. What else is a blog for, right?

Here's the problem.

Today, for me, was just a regular work day. Wake up, do the morning things, do the writing things, do the household things. But it was very, very hard to resist the siren voices of commerce and nostalgia singing "It's Christmas! It's a holiday! You don't have to work today! Sleep late, eat all the things, visit with family, open presents!"

Look, stupid voices, I already took my holiday off. I took off the two days surrounding the Winter Solstice. I ate all the things Wednesday night and I slept late Thursday. I already called family--well, I called Dad, and it was more about celebrating the Saints' total domination of the Falcons in Sunday's football game than it was about Christmas (please to Google "Lattimore" and "buttception" for maximum lols) but it counts. And wrapped presents is not a big expectation in my current social circle right now, thank the Gods. Point is, I did the holiday things. I did them during the holiday I actually celebrate. Today is not that day. Today I am working.

"But it's Christmas! No work today! Go play!"

I'm not listening to you. La la la la la...

OK, I slept in. I did do that. BUT THEN I WORKED. I did my writing, darn it. I may have done it late, but I did it. So there.

(I may also be grumpy because our water heater, which has been showing signs of being on its last legs for some weeks now, picked Christmas Eve to kick the actual bucket. Thankfully, at this address we have forced air heating rather than hot water radiators, and our furnace is working just fine. A dead water heater doesn't mean we're are actually freezing indoors. But it is very cold out there and I had to go walking out in it a lot today and I want a hot bath and I can't have one except I guess unless I boil a hell of a lot of water on the stove all at once which I may just do if the water heater isn't fixed or replaced by post-derby time tomorrow--if we even have practice, given the temperatures forecast for tomorrow. Also certain key portions of sidewalk which I rely on to get from my house to my neighbors for whom I am cat-sitting have been neglected by their respective snow removal teams. Look, it's freezing out, it snowed, it's winter, I am a southerner by birth and upbringing, I am going to be grumpy. Deal with it.)

Also, that early-wee-hour freewriting session got me my 30-day streak wings. It's my wire anniversary!
a reminder that gamification exists to serve the writer, not vice versa
Thu 2017-12-14 00:31:49 (single post)

So I've been praising 4thewords to the heavens, but I haven't mentioned, possibly because I hadn't been acutely aware of them until recently, its detrimental effects. Welllll, "detrimental effects" is putting it a little strongly. It's more that the RPG quest-and-battle style of gamification, in addition to infusing my writing tasks with extra motivation and enthusiasm, also adds complications.

For instance, I've already mentioned the challenge of choosing one's battles. I don't want to "waste" words by not being in a battle. But I don't want to end a writing task with an inconvenient amount of battle left to go. My work day turns into a sort of jigsaw puzzle, where I try to fit tasks and battles together just so. It's not a bad problem to have; generally, if I've got a bit of battle left over, I'll find there's another writing task, one I had originally planned to work on the next day, that I can instead jump on immediately. This leads to more projects making more progress more quickly.

So it's not really a problem at all, is it? It's 4thewords acting exactly as advertised. It's great.

4thewords has also improved my workday pace to no end. Instead of taking long, leisurely breaks between writing tasks, procrastinating when I ought to get back to work, and suddenly finding I've run out of day to do things in, I've begun moving more briskly from one item on my list to the next, mainly because I still have a bunch more words to go before the current monster is defeated. And I've only got 40 minutes left write them in! All right, fine, I'll take that 5-minute stretch break, I know it's good for me. But that's all! I've got to get back to beating up that Nitana! I will defeat it! It will not defeat me! I WILL TAKE ITS FEATHERS AND MAKE THEM INTO A HAT!

Besides, it's an RGP-style video game after the nature of its species. It comes with that classic temptation to keep playing just a little longer, complete just one more quest, defeat just one more monster before shutting things down. Only, in the case of 4thewords, "just one more monster" doesn't keep the player from getting back to work; it requires the player to get back to work.

So this is all wonderful. In addition to encouraging greater discipline, or at least a really convincing cargo-cult imitation of it, it's made me more often successful at getting through my task list by five or six in the afternoon. It's an amazing feeling to get to the end of a three-hour roller derby practice and remember that all my work is done. No obligations are waiting for my tired brain to tackle them. I don't have to do anything but rest, play video games, take a long bath, maybe even go to bed early. Bliss!


Except 4thewords has to complicate matters by making certain monsters only come out at night. If I am very good and do all my writing between 8 AM and 5 PM, there are monsters I will never see, whose unique battle rewards I will not get to collect. And that's tragic!

So yesterday I deliberately left myself some work to do after derby. (Mainly my blog post. Which was just as well, given the news that altered its subject matter.) And, yes, that meant I got to fight the nocturnal Mawt, the defeat of which rewards the player with Fur and Claws, which are needed to complete certain quests and craft certain objects.

And then my blog post was done and I still had like 800 words to go and it was midnight.

And that's how I got today's freewriting out of the way before 1 AM. Hooray for silver linings, I guess?

Silver lining or not, it remains that, in this particular case, 4thewords is actively working against my personal writing goals. It has put certain in-game accomplishments out of reach of my preferred writing schedule. Oh, there are workarounds, like temporarily changing my computer's time zone or clock. And I haven't ruled out experimenting with late-night sessions as my schedule (and energy level) permits. But it's still a little jarring to encounter a situation where I do have to adapt either my writing routines or my use of the gamification app to make both sets of goals coincide.

And now I have about 50 more words to write to finish off this adorable but inconveniently timed Rudakai. Blast. Guess I'll pull up the new short story and hammer away on it for a minute or two.

don't you hate it when that happens?
Tue 2017-12-05 17:24:30 (single post)

So, here's the situation.

You've just discovered the existence of a literary magazine, Riddled with Arrows, that pays semi-pro rates for flash meta-fiction and meta-poems. Writing about writing. Which is totally up your alley. Seriously, that arguably describes most of what you wrote in college. So you go rifling through your manuscripts--or, rather, you do the MySQL database version of rifling through your manuscripts, which is to say,

SELECT * FROM `manuscripts` WHERE `wordcount` <= 1500

and you scan the titles until you find something suitable. To wit: a bit of light erotica involving a guy whose lover uses him as her muse. It only needs a little bit of touch-up--there are some sentences that strike you as laughable, but for the most part, it's actually a pretty good 560-word piece.

So you spend the next hour giving it that touch-up, formatting it for submission, and getting ready to send it...

...and then you realize the current submission window, with a deadline of December 10, is actually only for submissions that fit the Winter Solstice theme, "Feasts and Families." Which this story emphatically does not.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

Or is it just me?

...It's just me, isn't it?

Oh well. It's not a total loss. The story is ready to send somewhere; I just have to figure out where. And tomorrow I may just discover a manuscript in my archives that does fit the theme. Or I'll write something brand new. I can do that! A new flash piece in five days? That's demonstrably one of my superpowers!

Meanwhile, I submitted "Sidewalks" to a market that's reprint-friendly, and I spent another half-hour noodling on the new short story. Today was not, by and large, an unsuccessful day, is what I'm saying.

The one that is all whited out and hard to see is a door in a historic house in Ann Arbor.
making awful things happen to fictional people
Tue 2017-11-21 23:51:30 (single post)

Still sick, but getting better. Better enough to take a walk down to the bank and the bookstore. Still sick enough that any pace above a leisurely amble resulted in a painful coughing fit. Three hours of roller derby practice was out of the question. Am spending the evening at home with my writing instead.

I went to the bookstore for more postcards. What with the current Postcards to Voters campaign, I'm going through them pretty fast. I've got a 100-pack of BE A VOTER! postcards winging their way to me as we speak, but in the meantime, I'm fresh out. And the Bookworm has, in addition to its spin-rack full of shiny Colorado and Boulder tourist postcards, a box full of random donated postcards and greeting cards I was looking forward to exploring. I picked out eight to get me through my current list of addresses. They were a mix of historical architecture, tourist souvenirs from assorted locations, and... cactus flowers? Also a moose.

Then, when I brought my selection up to the check-out counter, there was this amazing-looking book of 20 postcards of classic The Hobbit illustrations by various artists, just waiting for me like it knew I was coming. Why yes I snatched it up. Some Alabama voters are going to be getting some very pretty postcards early next week.

The epic word count days continue. Managed the requisite two NaNoWriMo sessions both today and yesterday; now, at 20K plus change, I am caught up through day 12. 3,300 words per day from here on out and I am set.

Last night I did a bunch of mental plotting while I was waiting to fall asleep, which helped prime the pump for today. Of course, I had to pick out and discard the bits of not-quite-asleep-but-already-dreaming nonsense that crept into the mix. Like, I'm running through the scene in which Delta and Michael first meet, and she's paying to replace his lunch (she klutzed his meal all over his clothes as a contrived meet-cute), and they're exchanging numbers, and... helping each other make squares in Two Dots? Because that's what I did before going to bed, I guess?

Hypnagogic contributions aside, last night in bed was also when I realized that, during the tragic flashback I'd written all about Michael's little brother's very short life, I'd never once mentioned his parents' kindertotems. In fact, all through my conception of the novel, I've only mentioned Michael's kindertotem. For those just joining us today, kindertotems are specific to people from Michael's country, who are born in animal form and slowly change to full biological humanity as they reach adulthood. Once they have fully outgrown their non-human morphology, an animal of the corresponding species will show up and become part of that adult's life going forward. Kindertotems enjoy a mild, mostly one-way psychic connection with their humans, and they can talk (when they wish) just like animal companions in any number of fantasy books you may have read, but they remain more or less immature as regards things like imagination and impulse control. So it's sort of like a person's "inner child" but as a concrete, living being.

So, in the flashback, seven-year-old Michael is still part cat, and poor doomed Karlkin is a kitten who's just opened his eyes--but their parents are adults, so where are their kindertotems? What are they? Even considering their come-and-go-as-they-please nature, why don't they show up at all over a several-month-long flashback? Well, I came up with some answers. They are not pleasant answers, but they are in keeping with other things I discovered/decided while writing that flashback. (Michael's father really is a piece of work, you know that?) Michael's mother's kindertotem is a canary, which probably means she herself has a tendency to sing. Or did. Until all the awfulness happened.

"But so anyway about that meet-cute in the coffee shop," she said, desperate to change the subject and lighten the mood...

curious fictions would like your eyeballs and wouldn't say no to your spare change
Mon 2017-11-20 15:36:57 (single post)
  • 6,000 wds. long

This blog post is brought to you by the twin forces of ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine, the patron saints of my staying productive while sick. Otherwise I'd be flat in bed, shivering and sniffly and sore. Hooray for modern medical science!

Incidentally, my roller derby habit has the side-effect of complicating self-diagnosis. I mean, are the muscles of my neck and upper back painfully tight because I've come down with a cold or flu, or simply because I had a contact-heavy practice last night?

(The answer, as the kids like to say these days, is, Por qué no los dos?)

Anyway. That is not what I came here to tell you. I came here to tell you about Curious Fictions.

Curious Fictions is a new undertaking by author and web designer Tanya Breshears to bring fanstastic short fiction to a wider audience while giving authors a handy option for extending the commercial life of their already-published stories. Readers can browse stories easily from their computers or mobile devices, and, having created a login and entered their credit card information into their account, can pay for what they read by means of the Stripe system. There are no ads, and the bulk of readers' payments go directly to the authors.

If you want to try it out by reading something of mine that you otherwise might not get to, my story "Lambing Season," first published in Nameless Digest, is in the Curious Fictions library. It is in the fantastic company of (just to name a few examples off the top of the weekly rotating Featured Story carousel) Gary Gibson's "Scienceville," Kate Heartfield's "The Semaphore Society," and Benjamin C. Kinney's "The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R."

And that's what I came to tell you about.

In other news, I'm afraid my weekend was underproductive as regards my hopes for clocking double days on this year's NaNoWriMo attempt. But that I did some work on it both Saturday and Sunday and didn't stint Saturday's freewriting and fictionette work isn't to be sneezed at. I have not historically been much good at getting work done on Saturdays, and I typically don't expect any writing from my Sundays at all. Well. 4thewords tells me I wrote about 5,000 words over the weekend, and by my calculations almost 3,000 of that was novel draft. Some of it was very misguided novel draft--I tore yet another big ragged hole in the plot, as it turns out--but sometimes you just have to write the misguided words to realize how misguided they are.

Today I get to correct my course. And since I'm not going anywhere tonight (I hate being sick, I was supposed to go meet our league's newest members over a round of off-skates conditioning and then help lead Phase 2, but instead I got sick so I have to stay home and I hate it), I have plenty of time to WRITE ALL THE WORDS so long as I can keep myself more or less upright.

Hooray for modern medical science indeed.

successful coping strategies are a work in progress
Wed 2017-10-18 00:46:02 (single post)

So every once in a while I question my routine. I ask myself: those things I do every morning, my "daily gottas," are they worth it? They're my whole so-called morning shift, two hours of the day's writing in fact, and other than the bit designated Submission Procedures, they do not contribute tangibly to my career. If I honestly consider how very many days I never actually get to the so-called afternoon shift, the period of time designated for the actual career writing, must I not conclude that I'm wasting all my time and energy on what amounts to warm-up routines and busywork?

I may be asking myself this because, in the back of my head, at the ripe old age of 41, I still have those toxic voices, the ones I mistook for mentors, damping down my enthusiasm:

Me: "I get to write full time now! Bliss! I get to make my own schedule! Freedom! It will look like this..."

Them: "My dear, after you've done all those 'writing practice' sessions and 'morning pages' and the rest of all that new-agey hoo-hah, when will you have time to, I don't know, actually write?"

It's tempting, on a day like this--a day when not a whole heck of a lot gets done--to feel like I'm proving those voices right.

Except I'm not, and I will tell you why. I'm going to take the long way around, but hold tight; we'll get there.

Lindsey, as in Real Name Brand Lindsey ("None of that generic crap"), has a blog post, which you will find if you go ahead and click that link right there, about depression. It is an amazing post, actually, just a really frank and honest and detailed description of experiencing severe depression. And there's a bit of it I resonate with hard.

(To be clear, this is not because I have been diagnosed with depression myself. It may be that if I took myself to see someone with the appropriate knowledge, I would be diagnosed with depression, or anxiety, or even chronic fatigue, or something else I don't even know to anticipate. I may have just about gotten to the point where I'm ready to acknowledge I should make such a visit and find out, so I can get some help devising coping strategies. But my point is, whatever I've got, it's relatively mild. I don't say that out of some valiant but misguided attempt to minimize my own struggles because others have it worse. My struggle is real, and others have it worse. These are not mutually exclusive statements. Anyway...)

I don't have the suicidal ideation she describes. I don't have that fog, that disconnect from other humans or joy and beauty. What I do have, that she and her commenters mention, is a bucket of self-loathing that drops on my head at the least provocation, this weasel-brain voice constantly telling me that I am the worst and here's why.

A huge portion of the "evidence" for the weasel-brain's argument is, as Lindsey puts it, a sporadic inability to do.

There was a time, a season, maybe half of a year, when things were very bad. Day after day, I couldn't seem to get out of bed. Anything productive I could have done with the day (i.e. writing) seemed impossible, dreadful, horrible, threatening, inconceivable. If there was something I'd promised someone else I'd do, I'd eventually drag myself upright sometime in the afternoon to do that. I'd get myself to appointments. I could be motivated by external consequences, but the internal motivation wasn't there. There was plenty angst over knowing what I should do, and plenty self-loathing when I got to the end of another day without doing it, but I couldn't seem to find the impetus to actually do.

It's hard for me to place exactly when this was happening, or how that era ended and I returned to some semblance of a productive life. My memories are vague, very much as though I were half-asleep and experiencing that time as a sort of painful, shameful fever dream. The way my memory works in general, I triangulate: X must have happened at Y time because Z was also going on. In this case, I can't identify Y because there was no Z. Hell, there was barely any X. The whole alphabet was more or less impossible.

I know this much: It was after I quit my full-time web developer job, because there's no way I could have gone through that and held down a full-time job. It might have begun while I was part time staff for that non-profit I was volunteering for at the time, such that it began eating up my days off. I know we still had the cats, because they'd curl up in bed with me through it all, and that the cats were both still healthy, because Null's intravenous fluid administrations weren't something that dragged me out of bed.

It was well before I started skating roller derby. Which isn't to say I haven't had isolated days where I only got out of bed in time to go to roller derby practice. But they've been one-offs, infrequent enough that I can tell myself that "I must have needed a day of hibernation. Well, I've rested now, and tomorrow I will work." But roller derby helps. Regular exercise is known to mitigate symptoms of depression, right? Roller derby may have been one of the factors that helped bring that era to an end. It may be a factor in preventing a new onslaught. But I can't say for sure.

Today, instead of having days upon days of inability to get out of bed, I have days--in isolation or in batches--where I experience the inability to get started. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll admit that today was one of those days.

I've adopted a strategy to help keep those days at bay, and to help limit the damage when they hit.

The strategy is to have a routine.

I have a clearly defined process involving several discrete steps, each small enough that, when avoidance/depression/anxiety hits and my brain slides right off the idea of getting writing done and into yet another hour of hitting refresh on some piece of the internet, I can say, "That's cool, I hear you. Life is hard and work is scary. That's OK. All I want you to do is this one little thing."

Just make some tea. Just water the plants. Just open up your notebook. Just get out your favorite fountain pen--isn't that nice to hold? Just jot down the time and date in the upper left corner of the page. Just write down what's on your mind. Good. Now another sentence. Now another. Now another page. Now another.

If you said "That sounds like Morning Pages!" then you win a prize.

The daily gottas are my routine. Each task follows the previous in mechanical succession, so that the automatic process of one step after another can provide its own momentum when I can't seem to provide any of my own. And that, for your information, O toxic voices from 2004, is the worth of morning pages and freewriting exercises and all that new-agey hoo-hah. It damn well is actually writing. It gets me actually writing. So you can go take a long walk off something short and made of wood that dumps you somewhere wet and full of sharks.

(And the Friday Fictionette project? That's the external-consequence-motivated activity. External consequences remain more motivating, for all practical purposes, than internal ones. But then I have this blog here for converting the internal consequences to external ones by saying HEY YOU GUYS THIS IS WHAT I PLAN TO DO and then I don't want to have to come back and say I DIDN'T DO IT I'M SORRY. So that's OK.)

So the reason I have trouble getting to commercial fiction in the afternoons is, I don't have a reliable ritual for getting back to work yet. The morning shift routine starts pretty much the moment I wake up, but the afternoon shift is... whenever I get off lunchtime chores and errands? Feeling like I haven't really had a break yet? Which makes me want to take just a little time to read blogs and play games... The train never leaves the station and avoidance corners me in the terminal.

And the reason nothing got done today at all was, the morning routine got interrupted. I had to take the Saturn in for diagnosis and maintenance. I was going to just initiate morning shift at the tea house down the street, and could have done, but somehow... didn't. Once the train gets derailed, unfortunately, avoidance/depression/anxiety/etc. sees its chance and pounces, and it's hard to get out of its clutches.

It's the failure state of all writing rituals--what happens if you lose your Special Pen, or you can't be at your Magic Desk, or you are otherwise denied the ritual? My goal is to keep tweaking the rituals until they a reliably undeniable. Until they don't depend on where I am, what time it is, or what I was just now doing. Until the ritual is, in its entirety, "Time to get to work."

Until then, I'm working on having compassion for myself, and I'm repeating the mantra, "I must have needed a day off. Well, I've rested now. Tomorrow I will work."

On the plus side, I did discover what a harmonic damper is, and why it may need replacing just shy of 200K miles on the odometer.

So that's OK.