“What is writing? Telepathy, of course.”
Stephen King

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

now i'm tired
Wed 2017-11-01 21:13:59 (single post)

So tonight I did derby. And then I made kimchi. "Now I'm tired."

I went to the Big Easy Rollergirls Rec'ing Krewe practice tonight--that's primarily their "fresh meat" class, similar I think to our Phase 1--which is why I am now exhausted and sore. One thing I've learned as a veteran skater is that circumnavigating the holes in your skating abilities is as much a skill as all the other skills. The more advanced you are, the more advanced your coping strategies. They can get so advanced that you don't even know you don't actually have plow-stops mastered, or that your cross-overs aren't as efficient as they could be, until a coach laser-focuses on the skill in question and makes you do them right. So. We did all the things and now I am sore in all the parts.

Also I did 29.5 laps in 5 minutes, which is reassuring.

Their practice space is in New Orleans East, in an area off the I-25 Louisa Street exit that my Dad identified as "the seedy part of town. One of the seediest. I'm not real happy about you driving there." In vain did I protest that BERG practices there multiple times a week without sustaining any Tragedies Due To Bad Neighborhood. He was not going to let me borrow the truck. He was instead going to drive me there, which meant I had to pin him down to a schedule and then, when we got to the neighborhood, deal with his particular style of responding to lack of street signs, which is to just keep driving until he's satisfied we've gone too far. (I would have turned around and gone back to the street that I suspected of being the right one rather than turn right on the big street that obviously wasn't it and driving down it for a mile.)

I asked Dad, before I left Boulder, about the car situation. Just the one, he said. Sure, I could borrow it. No, I didn't need to rent a car. Honestly, I don't know why I bothered--there always seems to be some reason why he'd rather drive me than just let me borrow the truck. I mean, it's nice that this means we're spending more time together, I won't deny that. And it was damn near saintly of him to be willing to drive me to the French Quarter for Halloween, despite really not liking the idea. But turning me-plans into us-plans increases the difficulty of making plans. I came in thinking I was going to be in charge of my own movements around the Greater New Orleans area, and I'm really not, and it's been kind of exhausting to have to renegotiate my itinerary.

And but so anyway, Dad made himself a martini, drove us to the BERG warehouse, and sipped his drink while watching us practice. He admits he napped a little. He was also very kind and fetched me extra water bottles from the truck when it became clear two would not suffice.

Then we went home, and Dad ordered us a pizza (sausage and pepperoni and anchovies, heaven), and I made kimchi.

So, back around Christmas 2015, I created a monster. One of Dad's friends had just outright given him a 40-pound sack of oysters, so we spent a bunch of Christmas Eve shucking oysters. And I said, "With all these oysters, I should make kimchi." Dad was unfamiliar but intrigued. He ventured that one of his hunting buddies was notorious for his taste in spicy foods, and it would be interesting to see how some homemade kimchi went over with him. So. Dad drove me out to the Asian grocery store that's on Transcontinental, we bought napa cabbage and Korean radish and Asian chives and hot pepper flakes and fish sauce and so on, and I damn well made kimchi.

And Dad shared it around with his hunting buddies--not just the guy notorious for eating ghost peppers and Carolina reapers, but everyone--and next thing you know, this becomes something they request I do every time I roll into town.

So before today's roller derby outing, we went shopping and I set the vegetables up to get salty. After today's roller derby outing, I made kimchi. I made the napa cabbage and Korean radish kimchi featured in the recipe linked above (here it is again!) and the stuffed cucumber kimchi. It was a lot more work than I am accustomed to doing in the post-derby portion of the evening. The pizza helped. Also the prospect of knowing we'll have cucumber kimchi alongside breakfast tomorrow morning.

I may complain about Dad's overprotectiveness (and also his reactionary politics but let's not go there), but I will never complain about his taste in food. He's a Cajun. He eats all the things. Kimchi at breakfast? Not a problem. Complements the venison sausage nicely. And rabbit stew is on the menu tomorrow.

we're all perfectly ok here
Tue 2017-10-31 21:02:37 (single post)

I had great plans for Halloween night. I was going to go down to the French Quarter, strap on my gear, and skate in and around and through the festive chaos for several hours. Turns out, though, that doesn't work so good if I wear myself out earlier in the afternoon. Note for the future: If I want to party all night long (on skates), I have to be a little more cautious about the prospect of using up all my oomph with a full daytime itinerary that involves a tough workout (on skates).

So instead I stayed in and binged Stranger Things 2 instead.

Some brief, spoiler-free thoughts (spoiler-free concerning Season 2, that is; you're on your own for Season 1): While I don't think it necessarily succeeds on all fronts, Stranger Things 2 makes honest attempts at some very admirable things. Primarily it's a story about families, about the dynamics of different families, the families you get and the families you choose, and struggling to find the healthiest way for a family (noun) to family (verb). It examines the ways families succeed, the ways they fail, and the ways they try again.

It's also a story about aftermath. It's a story that happens after the triumphant and bittersweet ending of the first season. It doesn't attempt to reset everyone to We're All Perfectly OK Here except maybe in the ironic sense. All the major characters, and all the families they comprise, have gone though some amount of trauma. It is clear from the very first episode of Season 2 that they're all still dealing with that trauma. I can't overstate the importance of that. The show gets so many gold stars with me just for starting there.

And, if I can get a little meta here, part of the trauma for some characters is having to keep that trauma a secret from certain of the other characters. This is an element of supernatural horror that I'm not sure I've seen as directly addressed since the first season of Torchwood (but admittedly I have a lot of TV to catch up on, so take that for what it's worth). There's so much extra pressure on a survivor if the nature of their trauma simply can't be discussed with their usual support network. It's almost as though characters like Will and Joyce and Hopper, upon escaping the Upside Down, came back to a different Rightside Up than the one inhabited by the rest of their friends and neighbors. The world of the people who consciously survived the dimensional incursion is not the same world as the one inhabited by those who only touched it briefly and/or unknowingly. Those two worlds stand in relationship to each other similarly to the relationship between the Upside Down and the Rightside Up--they're barely a breath apart and yet impenetrably separated, and the one is constantly threatening to eat the other up bones and all.

After that, the meta gets a little personal.

So, my major plan for the afternoon was to meet a high school friend for lunch in Covington, then skate the Trace from Covington to Abita Springs, then have a beer at the Abita Brew Pub. These plans were indeed enacted (mine was a Pecan Ale), and were the primary reason my Halloween Night plans pooped out. But those plans also had to absorb Dad's plans, since we only had one vehicle between us and that vehicle was his.

Thus, before we headed across the lake, we stopped to pick up Mom.

I've mentioned this before, but Mom has been on the downward slope of some sort of non-alzheimer dementia for several years now. Well, a few weeks before my visit home, Dad bowed to necessity and moved her into the memory care unit of an assisted living community.

I was already prepared for certain changes, as it's been a full year since my last visit, and I knew the dementia was progressing rapidly. Over the year, her phone conversations with me got briefer and briefer. She used to at least ask how I was doing, ask me if I'm still doing that thing, with the skates, what is it called again? and recite me her New Orleans Pelicans fan version of the Merritt doggerel. But most of this past year she seemed less enthusiastic about talking with me on the phone, even to some extent unsure about what to do on the phone. Dad would hand it to her, she'd say "Hello," I'd ask "how are you?" and she'd say, "Good. OK, let me hand you back to your Daddy." After awhile, Dad didn't try to put her on the phone because she was asleep. She was going to sleep earlier all the time, pretty much as soon as Wheel of Fortune was over.

About a week before I came to town, I heard Dad say to Mom, "Niki's on the phone, you want to talk to Niki?" and I heard her say, "No," and he said, "Do you know who Niki is?" and she said, "No."

I'd prepared myself for that, though. It wasn't a huge blow. I knew it was coming. It wasn't a landmark; the Mom I knew had already gone away long before, and I had already mourned her. What it was, was awkward. I didn't know how to address her when we picked her up at the assisted living community. Dad tells her, "This is Niki, she's your daughter," but it doesn't mean anything to her. So should I still call her Mom, or would that confuse her? Should I call her by her first name instead? Does it matter what I call her, if she doesn't really respond? Like I said, awkward. But I was prepared.

What I wasn't precisely prepared for was how old she looks now. She looks a lot like Grandmama did when we visited her in the nursing home less than ten years ago.

She likes to go for rides in the truck. Dad shows up, immediately she wants to know when we're getting in the truck and going for a drive. She follows Dad around wherever he goes, like a duckling after a mama duck, because she knows he's going to take her for a drive. Also because she just wants to be with him; that's one of the few complete sentences I heard her say: "I just want to be with you. You're so good to me."

At one point, just before we left the memory care unit, Dad remembered he needed to fetch something from Mom's room. He told her to wait with me. I held her hand--and then I had to firmly hold onto her hand to keep her from following him. That was a disconcerting first, having to physically restrain my mother, however gently.

Sometimes she says things that sound perfectly normal. Except "perfectly normal" refers to what became normal over the first few years of her noticeably exhibiting symptoms of dementia. "Normal" has changed; post-dementia Mom is the new normal. Nine times out of ten, when I dream of her, I dream of her like she is now, even in the dreams where I'm back in school and never lived anywhere but my parents' house.

I'm OK. I'm pretty sure Dad's not OK, but he puts a good face on it. He talks to Mom the way he used to talk to the kids at his pediatrics office. This is an improvement, actually, from when he talked to her the way he used to talk to my brother and I when we were young and misbehaving--frustrated and angry with us for making mistakes and expecting us to learn from them. He's very patient now and will gently repeat whatever needs repeating as many times as she needs him to.

There are moments, as we leave the building, after we've said goodbye, when I can see some of Dad's not-OK-ness glaring through. After we brought her back to the assisted living community, and as we were driving out the gate, the radio started playing a song whose main line was, "Take me back to the night we met" or "I wanna go back to the night we met." And I just about lost it, thinking about how Dad must be feeling. This is the woman he loved and wooed and wed and made a home with and raised children with--how very far time has taken her from the night they met. I stared out the window until the danger of tears had passed; I didn't want to set Dad off, or have him feel like he has to comfort me.

I guess the comparison with Stranger Things, 1 or 2, with the nearness yet almost totally separateness of the two different worlds depicted therein--of any two of the different worlds depicted within--is going to be left as an exercise for the reader.

Sorry to end on a downer. Come back to tomorrow's post for roller derby fun and games! Bonus content: a woman in her 40s will struggle to resist being compelled to regress to her teens! Also there will be kimchi! Yayyyy.

tfw you wake up in tennessee and go to bed in
Mon 2017-10-30 22:27:46 (single post)
  • 1,244 wds. long
  • 739 wds. long

Hello from Metairie, Louisiana. After two very pleasant days on trains, I have arrived. Have not done anything particularly exciting beyond biking some postcards to the post office on 17th street and piecing together a this-n-that dinner from Dad's leftovers (although that can be very exciting, because Dad's leftovers include venison sausage, crawfish boudin, and seasoned trout in wine sauce with green onions). But that's OK. The week is young yet.

I made very good use of my time in the sleeper cars. I finished up last week's Fictionette (ebook, audiobook, excerpt) in time to send it live from a pub in Chicago (Haymarket, which brews, among other beers, a robust porter and a magnificent lemon saison). I made progress on this week's Fictionette so that hopefully it will go live on time. I got a reprint flash fiction submission package together and ready to email tonight to a very nice editor. I also played a lot of Two Dots/Dots & Co. and solved today's jigsaw sudoku.

And now I am inexplicably exhausted. Aside from today's bike ride and yesterday's street-skating between Chicago Union Station and Haymarket, I have done very little since Saturday afternoon that didn't involve sitting on my butt. I guess being shuttled across the country, however passively, takes its toll. And it will be nice to sleep in a bed that isn't rocking back and forth all night long.

Big day tomorrow. Lots of driving, visiting, and skating planned. Also it'll be Halloween. I'll be out late, so tomorrow's post will come early or, more likely, not at all. You have been warned.

YPP Weekend Blockades, October 28-29: Carve a real pumpkin, get fake prizes. Not as bad a bad deal as it sounds.
Sat 2017-10-28 13:14:54 (single post)

OK so! Blockade schedule. But first, a confession: The Friday Fictionette for Oct 27 is late and, due to bad time management in the face of scheduling conflicts including traveling circumstances, won't see the light of day until Sunday, October 28. And by traveling circumstances, I mean I will be getting on a train this afternoon and won't have reliable wifi until I get to Chicago tomorrow afternoon. I will be recording the MP3 in my sleeper roomette most likely somewhere between Omaha and Galesburg. There should be some amusing and entirely irrelevant background noises, possibly including the sound of the Snowball iCE mike falling over.

There. I have confessed. I feel better now. Onward!

So we're in the midst of the annual YPP Pumpkin Carving Contest. Real pumpkins, really carved. Pixelated prizes. If pumpkins are not an option for you, the rules specify a hierarchy of replacement vegetables:

Obtain a real pumpkin. If pumpkins are not available where you live, you can try any type of gourd, squash, etc. If those aren't available, you may use a melon.

I admit I am disappointed there's no mention of turnips.

I am also, by the way, totally amused at the public statement by Flag Bang. Click through to their Flag page to see it. It's not just me, right? Y'all get the joke? Don't you? *Sigh* Nevermind.

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, October 28 ***

12:00 p.m. - Kirin Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: The Jade Empire (1)
Attacker: Till The End of Time

12:00 p.m. - Caravanserai Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Black Flag
Attacker: Ice Wyrm's Brood (4)

4:54 p.m. - Hubble's Eye, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Symonds Says
Attacker: Illuminatti

6:32 p.m. - Paihia Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Bang

8:06 p.m. - Scrimshaw Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: Minions

*** Sunday, October 29 ***

10:00 a.m. - Gauntlet Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Symonds Says
Attacker: Fleet of his Imperial Scaled Highness (3)

Subscription Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, October 28 ***

5:09 p.m. - Jorvik Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Dies Irae
Attacker: Pirates Empire of Whisky

*** Sunday, October 29 ***

10:00 a.m. - Delta Island, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Babylon
Attacker: Tyranny

10:18 a.m. - Labyrinth Moors, Cerulean Ocean
Defender: Pirates Empire of Whisky
Attacker: Red Ribbon Army

this also is a thing that can happen
Fri 2017-10-27 00:34:21 (single post)

I got an acceptance letter. It would seem I have sold a story.

Without going into details that I am not yet at liberty to share, here are a few of the thoughts (and we are differentiating those mental processes we can dignify with the term "thoughts" from the wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering with incoherent delight) that occur on such an occasion.

Oh, yeah, this is also a thing that can happen. I opened the email fully expecting it to say something like "Thank you for giving us the opportunity to read [STORY TITLE]. After careful consideration, we regret to say it does not meet our needs at this time. We wish you the best of luck finding it a home elsewhere." Because that is what emails with the subject header "Re: Story submission - '[TITLE]' - LeBoeuf" always say. I mean, once you boil it down to the practical effects. That is the only thing such emails ever say.

(See also: "Nothing good ever comes in self-addressed, stamped envelopes.")

That's a depressing habit of expectation to get into. I don't recommend it. But it's useful. It helps mitigate the disappointment around rejection letters, which I'm told will continue to outnumber the acceptances by a factor of oodles 'n oodles well into my career. It also makes the words "We love it and we want to publish it" that much more of a joyful surprise.

Still, a much more healthy habit is one of simply celebrating every rejection letter as a trophy, a tangible marker of having once more, despite all odds, gone forth and done the freelance writer thing. Every rejection letter is a response to a submission; every submission of fiction for publication is a victory. That's what's important to remember.

It's a numbers game. This is a submission that went out in August. My records tell me that I sent 13 submissions in August, kind of a high for me at that time. The more you submit, the more likely you are to get good news on the return post.

Actually, the odds are more complicated than that. It's like, number of submissions times quality of submitted work plus some modifier corresponding to how well-disposed the editor is toward liking your story on the day they read it plus also how free they are at this particular moment to say "yes." So it's kind of better and worse than a lottery.

It's really easy to diminish the accomplishment. As I write this, a little voice in the back of my head is saying, "Well, not that much wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering, right? I mean, it's only a reprint. It's not like it's a pro-paying sale of new fiction. You're just resting on your laurels, and pretty old and wilted laurels at that. I mean, you haven't written anything new, at least not that's good enough to submit anywhere, in ages. Don't give yourself airs."

And that little voice can shut its little mouth anytime now, yesterday for preference.

What do I do now? Again, all responses to submissions are expected to be rejections until proven otherwise. Which means I click on the email thinking, "Ah, [STORY TITLE] got rejected. Today my Submission Procedures activity will be to send it out again." Then the email opens up and... it's an acceptance? I'm not going to send the story elsewhere? Because it was accepted here? ...so now what do I do?"

Well, I went back through my early Fictionettes and selected another good candidate for polishing up and submitting to reprint-friendly markets, that's what I did. ("The Hound at the Heart of the Maze," if you really want to know. October 2014. Not a freebie, sorry. But $1/month gets you access to it and all the rest of the ebook archives, so there you go.)

There's always something.

If nothing else, there's more wild lizard-monkey hooting and gibbering, 'cause I seem to have sold a story! Woo-hoo!

Click through for full cover art credits.
YPP Weekend Blockades, October 21-22: Let the Halloween Games Begin
Sat 2017-10-21 13:24:23 (single post)

Blockade stuff in a moment. I gotta do the Friday Fictionette announcing thing because I failed to do it last night. Right after I uploaded the release, I had to run away to a very important skating party. So for those of y'all who aren't already getting the notifications via email due to being Patrons already, here's the details:

Title: "In the Suburbs of Good and Evil"
Links: ebook | audiobook | HTML excerpt
Synopsis: The neighborhood misfit discovers that the neighborhood darling has a dirty little secret--but who'd believe her?

Excellent. That out of the way, let's talk Puzzle Pirates.

There's a new global competition just got started yesterday in honor of the Halloween season. We're trick-ARRR-treating! Trick the brigands, collect the treats. The team with the most treats at the end of the competition wins!

In the interest of getting this post out on time, I'm going to leave it at that and just refer you to the schedule, below, for your Blockade news. Good luck all! May the best disguise win!

Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.

Doubloon Ocean Blockades

*** Saturday, October 21 ***

12:00 p.m. - Basset Island, Emerald Ocean
Brigand King attack!
Defender: Sudden Revenge
Attacker: Black Veil (2)

3:03 p.m. - Fintan Island, Meridian Ocean
Brigand King holds the island!
Defender: Chthonic Horde (1)
Attacker: Puzzleholics Anonymous

6:21 p.m. - Kasidim Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Symonds Says
Attacker: Crayon Box

6:22 p.m. - Manu Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Symonds Says
Attacker: Crayon Box

8:00 p.m. - Admiral Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Knockout
Attacker: Crayon Box

8:41 p.m. - Ambush Island, Emerald Ocean
Defender: Spoon Republic
Attacker: Cluster Service

hahahahah thursday you are not the boss of me I am the boss of you
Thu 2017-10-19 17:06:21 (single post)
  • 731 wds. long

So I did pick another fictionette to revise today and eventually submit for reprint/podcasting: "What Dreams May Hatch." The original draft of this piece happened when a daily writing prompt said to rewrite a fairy tale or nursery rhyme in the voice of another author, and I picked Humpty Dumpty and Peter S. Beagle. The released fictionette went a bit beyond that, though, and the results of today's revision crystallized things further still. I may tweak it a bit more before I submit, but for the most part I'm happy with how it reads now.

It is, by the way, another of the Fictionette Freebies, the one for September 2014. It seems to be a trend. I'm not doing it on purpose! I'm just searching my database for all manuscripts of a certain length that also count as a reprints. For some reason I've lit on these two. I suppose it's not really a coincidence; I tend to release as freebies whichever of the month's fictionette I'm most pleased with at the time. It's not surprising those would be the ones that sit up and go "Pick me! Pick me! The editors would love me!"

Anyway--two good workdays in a row, how'd that happen? Maybe that painfully introspective post on Tuesday helped me focus. I mean, it's never safe to say, "I'm totally over this unidentified mental dysfunction that keeps me from getting work done," and who knows what tomorrow will look like, but it can't not help to examine the process and get a better sense of what works and what doesn't. One thing that works is to make concrete and clear decisions about the day's schedule early on. Decisions like, "I will start my morning shift at 10," or "I will get to work on that flash-fiction revision at 2." I didn't actually get started at 10 and 2... but knowing I'd intended to, I kept myself within half an hour of the targets.

On that note (and because I'm still always justifying things), the morning pages are a great place to work out those decisions. If I get nothing else out of them, I get a great opportunity, first thing upon waking up, to plan my day. In excruciating detail. Sometimes it backfires and I get so intimidated by having made all these Great Monumental Plans that I immediately run away. But if the plans are more like Moderately Decent and Feasible Plans, then I'm less likely to flee.

Look at that. It's not even 5:00 PM yet. I don't leave for scrimmage until 5:30 (first whistle isn't until 7:00, but when you carpool with a coach you carpool early). It's a great feeling to go to scrimmage knowing that I have no work waiting for me at home because I already did it and I can just play. Or read! Or go to bed early. Whatever I like! I may be a little giddy and energetic tonight, knowing that.

some old fictionettes may be ready for their close-ups
Wed 2017-10-18 22:52:04 (single post)

Oh, hooray. Today went much better. Stuck to my routine for the morning, did the various things over a long lunch break, and got back to work in time to have a decent afternoon shift of revising short fiction before it was time to go play. (My flaggies and I on the Cerulean Ocean did a Kraken Hunt. I brought home my very first Kraken Egg! Go me.)

(If you are not familiar with Puzzle Pirates, that probably won't make much sense. Just smile and nod.)

Anyway. Short fiction! I'm getting busy with it. I've become aware recently of a bunch of podcasts newly open to submissions of short-short fiction, and they're cool with reprints.

For instance, there's Toasted Cake, that most elegant and yummy podcast by Tina Connolly. She ran a story or two every week from December 2011 to May 2016 or thereabouts. (One of them was mine, by the by. I have multiple reasons to think fondly of Toasted Cake.) Then, after 150 episodes, she had to stop for a while. But now she's back! She's accepting submissions during this month right here, October 2017, and in the meantime she's running a weekly episode now through the end of the school year.

So I'm working on a batch of three stories to send. For a moment, I thought, "What do I have? What do I possibly have? I don't think I have anything much at all..." Then I thought, Hmm, 650-1000 words. Reprints OK. Doesn't that sound like something I've been doing every week since August 2014?

So it's happening. I knew it would someday. Turns out "someday" is today. I've begun dipping into the Friday Fictionette archives for possible submissions material. The first candidate is "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," the Friday Fictionette for October 10, 2014--and, incidentally, that month's Fictionette Freebie, so if it should end up being podcast or otherwise published in the wide, wide world, you'll be able to compare and contrast the original with the new version even if you're not a Patron.

Because I did spend a good part of this afternoon revising it. Fictionettes aren't rough draft when they go up on Patreon, but they are rough. I think I'm happy with it now. It lost some 50-75 words along the way, and it gained maybe 25 words that were much better for the purpose. I think the result is tighter and more sparkly.

Now to get two more short pieces ready to go. Hopefully I'll be able to get right on that tomorrow.

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.

Yes, it is a stout.
just a minite ago it was last week where did the time go
Mon 2017-10-16 23:14:39 (single post)

I saw this great tweet this morning about how A NEW EVIL ARISES but it is MONDAY so EVIL HAS A HARD TIME GETTING OUT OF BED. It was funnier in the original, but the paraphrase will do. This goes double for the first Monday back from a week of productive and mildly adventurous out-of-town introverting.

The challenge is always to continue in ordinary life the good work practices I found room to practice during my getaway. There is less room in ordinary life for good work practices. Ordinary life has household bills and cleaning and other chores and also a 4:45 appointment and my shift on the monthly roller derby training calendar at 6:30. But I am happy to say I rose to the challenge. If I did not get to revisions on "White Noise" before having to leave the house at 4:20 PM, that's probably because I took the time to mildly polish up "The Blackbird Is Involved in What I Know" before sending it out to a pro-paying literary magazine. Can't complain.

The remainder of my mountain adventures were quiet but rewarding, and they were as follows:

Saturday morning I set my alarm so I could be at Taquería No Se Hagan Bolas right at menudo o'clock. Word is they make the best menudo for miles around, but you have to be there early, because once they run out, it's gone. So I got there shortly after they opened and, yea, I acquired menudo.

There's this one Yelp reviewer who docked them a star (thus giving them only 4 out of a possible 5) precisely because they run out of menudo by noon "while customers continue to request it all afternoon. How about making a 2nd pot?" I wondered whether this reviewer also docks stars off great donut shops because they, too, run out of product by noon. My friend, this meal is not something you just whip up another pot of if you're running low. To give y'all an idea--and this will sound delicious to fans of bone stock, and gross to everyone else--after my leftovers had cooled in the fridge (maybe 10 ounces left of the initial huge portion; a good menudo is too rich for me to finish in one sitting), they were no longer liquid but rather gelatinous, indicating thorough integration of the collagen from the bones used to make the stock. That takes hours to achieve--this article suggests overnight.

Anyway, it was delicious and I got to eat it two mornings in a row and I am docking that reviewer a star for unreasonable expectations.

Saturday afternoon I took a trip into Edwards to visit the Bookworm on the Riverwalk. After that, I went back across the river to spend some quality beer-and-Puzzle-Pirates time at Crazy Mountain Brewery. Pictured above is my favorite of the beers I tried there--and I tried the whole flight, even the IPAs and ESBs I knew I wouldn't care for. The winner is a stout. I know it doesn't look like one. They warn you it doesn't look like one. But, hell, if you can have black IPAs (when the P stands for "pale"), why not a golden stout? It was delicious.

Sunday morning I checked out of the resort. My original plan was to hang around to watch the Saints game at Bob's Place. Then I thought, I'm going to have an ice chest with things inside that should stay cold, I should just get that stuff home and put it in the fridge. Also I expect the traffic heading east on I-70 on a Sunday afternoon is worse after 2:30 than it is before 10:00. So instead I set my alarm a little earlier and got out of town by 9:00, got home by 11:30, unpacked the car, refrigerated the ice chest's contents, and headed over to the 28th Street Tavern.

This turned out to be the right choice. The bar wasn't too crowded, I had a great view of the game and a place to plug in my laptop, and John, whom I hadn't seen all week and whom I missed dearly, was able to join me midway through the third quarter about the time that things got really entertaining.

The Saints won. I'm not really sure what else to say. It was a very weird game.

So that was the rest of my Avon weekend and the beginning of my reintegration into ordinary life. Hi.

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