“I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Oh, look, an original photo for once!
All done. No more to do. Finished. Complete. FINALLY.
better late than ooh hey look shiny
Mon 2015-02-23 23:37:27 (single post)
  • 1,379 words (if poetry, lines) long

Well. It wasn't up Saturday, and it wasn't up Sunday. But it's up now: "Ink That Casts a Shadow," the Friday Fictionette for (nominally) February 20. It's totally pretentious and meta and a story whose protagonist is an author that's totally not me, totally, promise. I sure can sell these things, can't I?

In other news of lateness, we'd put off taking the listing photos until tomorrow, because we weren't sure we'd get that lovely low winter sunlight brightening up the place today. Turns out we would have, but we desperately needed the extra day to clean the house. John deserves all the kudos; he's been doggedly cleaning the bathroom walls, floor, baseboard, tile grout, and more. The place gleams. I cleaned and tidied in the office and the bedroom, streamlining them down to a sort of "minimalist cozy" aesthetic. I cleaned the mantlepiece and the hearth, then laid a new fire in the grate.

I removed almost everything from the refrigerator door. "Nothing says you're about to move out," said John, "like cleaning off the fridge." Years of greeting cards, drawings, newsletters, business cards, and magnets came down and were categorized into things to keep, things to give away, and things to dispose of.

And tomorrow morning there's still the windows to clean, everything to vacuum, a trip or two to storage, under-bed bins to buy, all before one o' clock. Panic!

Did I mention the closet doors are done? The closet doors are done. All done. All four of them: Done, done, done, done.

[We pause while the author goes hop-skippity-boing like Daffy Duck on that gold hoard.]

And then after all that, it'll be a normal working Tuesday--the first workday of a week for which I have very high expectations. No pressure or anything. I suspect, knowing me, that I will collapse for a bit between the photos and the writing, and thus end up writing quite late. Which is fine. But it's best not to be surprised by these things.

various lights sighted at the end of various tunnels
Fri 2015-02-20 23:16:59 (single post)
  • 5,389 words (if poetry, lines) long

Alas, this week's Friday Fictionette will arrive on Saturday. Today has just been one of those days, full of unforeseen things hijacking my plans. And now it is almost eleven o' clock, and the idea of doing a rush job on the PDF is simply painful.

Also, my brain just coughed up the best possibility for an ending, such as these things have endings. I want to let it percolate overnight to see what kind of prose it turns into.

Meanwhile...

  • A bit of hopping has been added to my physical therapy routine--you know the one where they have you lunge, but your back foot is on a raised block, and then you hop on your forward foot? Right. My next appointment is on March 5, at which point I will very possibly, hopefully, if all goes well, be cleared to skate. Setting my sights on a Phase One practice that Saturday!
  • The potential buyer from Thursday won't, but that was only the first showing, so, oh well and onward. Tomorrow we head to a south Boulder condo unit that's smaller but has a two-story layout separating bedrooms upstairs from common areas downstairs, no one living above or below, and a backyard. A postage stamp of a backyard, I'm sure, but still. The property we looked at Wednesday remains an option, too. There are so many options. Wheels continue turning and I am seriously visualizing myself Not At This Address Anymore.
  • The very last closet door panel is fully stained and will get finished with three coats of polycrylic per side over the weekend. I am so glad to be finally done with this project. Then there will be a flurry of house cleaning and moving things to storage so that the realtor can take pictures on Mondays for listing the place.
  • And next week will be the week of Finishing The Short Story Rewrite, Dammit. Yes, small goals, I know, but--this is ridiculous. I'm tired of it not being done. So, small goals, yes, but one small goal every few hours rather than every few days, yes?

February. The month of Getting Things Done Finally Dammit.

the wheels keep on turning and turning and turning and
Wed 2015-02-18 23:01:57 (single post)
  • 5,389 words (if poetry, lines) long

My blogging has been sparse these past two weeks, but my days have been rather full. As you know (Bob), I've been in the middle of several "sagas" for some time now. How much time? Oh, several weeks, or several months, or even a couple of years, depending on the saga. Or quest, as I like to think of it. As in, "No more quests! I do not need to embark on any more quests. I have enough quests in my life right now."

Well, significant progress has been made on all active quests recently. Here's the review!

The Quest to Move House! (since Aug. 2013) John is this close to being done repainting the kitchen. I am this close to being done refurbishing the living room closet door. The plan is to take pictures on Monday and officially list the place on Wednesday.

Yesterday we took a look at a condo unit about half a mile away from our current address, and fell rather in love with it. It's not "more house-like," as I had hoped; rather, it's like our current home but upgraded. There's 200 more square feet, which shows in the second bathroom, the spacious master bedroom with walk-in closet, the huge common area which communicates with a roomy kitchen over a sit-down countertop. Also a utility closet with washer and dryer, which would mean no more obsessing over quarters or dragging laundry up and down all those stairs.

Though the units are stacked in rows just like at our current place, the clever floor plan allows the master bedroom to receive lots of natural lighting through a west and a north window. The unit is on the "ground" floor, with nothing below us but underground parking accessible by elevator.

Also, forced air instead of radiant heating. Wood fireplace. Two sinks in the master bathroom. Half a block away from the Wonderland Path greenway trail. Across the street from a wee private lake. So many good things.

We fell in love with it and said, "Oh, if only this had come up next week instead of now!" The realtor said he'd contact the seller about timelines. The seller seems flexible. And, on top of everything, despite our place not yet being listed, we've a potential buyer coming to see it. Tomorrow. At noon.

The buyer reportedly doesn't mind that the place currently resembles a low-key construction zone, but I predict a flurry of house cleaning tomorrow around 8:30 AM.

The Quest to Get Back on Skates! (since Jan. 10, 2015) Last week Tuesday my physical therapist gave me homework that involves lateral movement. Have I mentioned this before? It's a big deal. Lateral movement was taboo up to that point.

Well, yesterday we hit another big deal: He had me do a few different jumping exercises to see how that felt. Jumping! It felt OK. A little tired-sore behind the recovering knee, but OK. He says he may give me some jumping homework after tomorrow's appointment.

Meanwhile we're spacing out my PT appointments. We started at twice a week, but we're taking next week off and then doing only one a week. I'm scheduled on the 17th, March 5, and finally March 12. Do I get to skate after that? I do not know. I can only hope, and do my PT exercises. Religiously.

The Quest to Revise That Damn Story! (since Sep. 2014) ...well, I'm getting to that. I haven't moved much on it since last week. Hopefully I manage to get it moving tonight and tomorrow. Returning to my strategy of small goals, I am setting myself the Small Goal of "Don't worry about getting it right; just get it down."

What I have before me is the task of re-homing a bit of key dialogue from the scene I'm cutting to the scene the story now starts with. "Getting it down" might simply consist of copying and pasting whole blocks of text from the previous draft. It might consist of a bunch of sentences in the style of "And then this happened and then that happened." What it doesn't consist of is creating the perfect micro-segue written with the perfect phrasing in the perfect final-draft way.

It's hard to come up with the right words on the first go. I get stuck when I try to put perfect words down on a blank page. But if I put so-so words down, and then I read them, I will then magically know what the perfect words should be. Or at least I'll know how to turn so-so words into better words, which can then be turned into even-better words, and finally into not-perfect-but-it'll-do words.

I know this. I've known this for a long time. But I keep having to learn it over again. My excuse this time is, "Well, I'm working on a revision for resubmission. I can be forgiven for thinking that what comes out my keyboard next had better by perfect." The moral of the story is, One Revision Ain't. Ain't "one" revision, I mean. Any work on a story at any stage in its life cycle involves iterations of micro-revision. There's no getting around it. I'm happier, and more productive, when I don't try to get around it.

So my goal is to get the bit I'm working on unstuck by giving myself permission to write it badly. I'll tell you tomorrow how it went.

Click through for original photo, credits, and copyright notice.
this fictionette would prefer better company, and intends to find some
Fri 2015-02-13 23:35:54 (single post)
  • 1,440 words (if poetry, lines) long

It's Friday! Barely. By the skin of its teeth. Nevertheless: Behold, a Friday Fictionette! It is called "If on a Winter's Night Two Travellers..." because I fancy that I am clever. (Honestly, it's been too long since I've read the Calvino and I've got no idea whether the allusion is appropriate. Maybe I haven't read it at all. Maybe I'm confusing it with the one about the Tarot cards.) Anyways, the excerpt is this-a-way, and includes links to become a subscriber and read the whole darn thing.

Thing is, these Fictionettes, they are not so much stories as story-like objects, and that's particularly clear when they end a little cliffhangerly, like this one did.

I've been bouncing through today to a slow, bouncing-between-tasks kind of rhythm: a little writing here, a little sanding there, a little household chores and such over here, and now back to the writing. I'm still working on getting the rhythm right, though. It doesn't work so good when it's time to bounce back to a writing task and instead I spend three hours reading the blog threads I was only going to browse over dinner. Alas.

Anyway, tomorrow's Valentine's Day. I hope you have a happy one, whatever your plans might be and whoever you might enact said plans with. Whether with a sweetheart or two or three, with family and/or friends, or with your very own worthy self, enjoy the heck out of the weekend and I'll see you on Monday.

the sun always shines on tv but we don't get cable
Thu 2015-02-12 23:23:57 (single post)
  • 5,389 words (if poetry, lines) long

I'm not at the fun part of the short story revision.

Is there a fun part? I hear that there is. But then I mostly hear that from writers who like the revision phase, so I'm not sure if I believe them. I believe it's fun for them, but I'm not sure the experience translates.

In any case, if there is a fun part, this isn't it. I'm still stuck in the segue glue. And it feels ridiculous, because the segues aren't between scenes. Microscenes, maybe. They're the transitions for getting the protagonist from one paragraph to the next, essentially. They need to be concise and perfectly worded to do two emotional tasks per sentence, and they need to either be written anew or refined out of existing draft.

Which is not easy. If it were easy, I'd have already done it, and the story wouldn't need revising.

Basically, I'm going from stuck to stuck. And it's not like getting stuck in rough draft, where getting unstuck means running for pages and pages on the new idea. No. Every "a-ha!" that gets me unstuck is good for about a sentence. Maybe two. Then I'm stuck again.

I think if I could bottle that "a-ha!" feeling and prolong it, that would be the fun part of revisions.

So, in keeping with my anti-BIC play-while-you-work strategy, I'm attacking the revision in very short sessions. Like, spend 15 minutes throwing myself at the current brick wall, then go do some unrelated thing. During that unrelated activity, something about the story will unknot itself and give me an "a-ha!" which will send me back to the revision with great joy and hope. Fifteen minutes and maybe two sentences worth keeping later, I'm making brick-shaped indentations in my forehead again and it's time to go do something else. Rinse, lather, repeat, all day long.

It's better than no progress at all, but it's not what I'd call fun.

(Which is why the unrelated thing is generally video games.)

having cross words with my bridges
Tue 2015-02-10 21:12:59 (single post)
  • 5,263 words (if poetry, lines) long

So, about that injured knee.

Today, our emphasis shifted from regaining range of motion to strength and motion training. This is good news. It is also exhausting.

Unlike previous appointments, I didn't spend any time lying on the table while the physical therapist manipulated my leg. I was a much more active participant in my recovery today. I was compelled to do a whole bunch of exercises that required standing on one leg and lifting the other in inventive ways, generally while wearing a big rubber band around my knees or ankles. There were also some squats, a few balancing acts, and a bit of shuffling back and forth. (The shuffling was especially exciting; up until now I'd been forbidden all lateral movement.)

The long and the short of it is, I needed a nap when I got home, and I am going to be very sore tomorrow. I am also going to be decently strong by the time I'm cleared to skate. The latter makes the former totally worth it.

And it can't come too soon. Yesterday I had my first impatient-to-skate dream; I was walking into the Wagon Wheel with John, holding my skates in my hand, getting ready to participate in some really simple Phase 1 style skate training (individual skating skills, no pack or contact stuff). Then I realized, "Wait, I haven't been cleared to skate yet. I could re-injure myself. Damn." So I walked back out to the car to put my skates away. At least I could watch John skate, that would be nice. I woke up before I actually got back out to the car.

Mid-March seems so very far away.

I'm walking more or less fine now, incorporating all the bent-knee and straight-leg motions of a normal walking stride, and both the knee-brace and the compression aids are on an only-as-needed basis. I actually went downtown tonight without either, which feels a little daring.

Not that I anticipate maneuvering through crowds much tonight. I've taken my work out to Lindsay's Boulder Deli for dinner and I might make my way over to Bohemian Biergarten once the trivia crowd disperses. I really enjoyed the Biergarten Saturday night, when I meant to see about the Mardi Gras party in the back, but I wound up just enjoying my food, drink, computer, and the restaurant's 80s New Wave mix in a quiet corner near the front. When I walked by tonight, the theme was more Oktoberfest Polka as far as I could tell. We'll see what it's like in an hour or so.

I appear to be doing my work these days according to the theory of productive procrastination. I've been putting off my short story revision for last while doing all my blogging first, and I put off my Boulder Writing Examiner blogging while banking a bit of elbow grease toward refurbishing the final living room closet bi-fold. And of course the whole day gets put off for about 25 minutes while I take time first thing to do my Morning Pages.

And the Morning Pages get put off by... well, by sleeping in. Because Monday morning Morning Pages means oh, Gods, another week has started, why can't it still be Sunday? OK, but aside from that...

...we do get to the story revision in the end. And with plenty of time left in the evening, too, given that I typically don't go to bed until 1:00 AM. So. Wish me luck and I'll tell you how it went tomorrow.

goblin proxies battle the brain demons - and win!
Mon 2015-02-09 23:31:35 (single post)

Again, not dead. Again, Thursday and Friday were ridiculously tiring. Unlike last week, no headaches were involved. A lot of fun was involved, so that's good. The main takeaway is, as always, don't count on the time after a derby activity to be productive time. Even if they are non-skating derby activities, like watching scrimmage or participating in a fundraiser. They will still use up all your doing-stuff ju-ju.

Speaking of Friday: Yes, the Friday Fictionette came out. On Saturday. See above.

But that's not what I came to talk to you about today. I came to talk about goblins.

At this point, some of you may be asking, "Are we talking Jim Hines goblins or Terry Prattchett goblins?" To which the answer is, yes, if you like. Either one will do. But that's not important. The important part as far as this blog post is concerned is the role goblins play in cleaning out the brain demons.

"Brain demons" is my new phrase for those unhappy and/or traumatic memories that show up by themselves in my brain and take up conscious space there. It's a good phrase. It's distinct from "monsters," which I've adopted from The Fluent Self as a way to talk about, and to, the fears that fuel avoidance. But like "monsters," it's a term which others the mental pattern--characterizes it as some other being than myself. This is important. If the unwanted memory-reliving pattern is just me having unhappy thoughts, then I say to myself things like, "Why am I having these thoughts I don't want to have? Why can't I just let them go? Am I just a failure at Having A Brain?" But if I imagine them as inimical others attacking my brain, demons who need to be banished, I can say to them, "Why are you here, still? You are someone else's stuff. Go home already."

Monsters and brain demons can tag-team you, though. The monster arrives and voices its fear. The monster's fear becomes a brain demon when it starts taking over my thoughts when I'm trying to use my brain for other things.

Just to choose an example not very much at random at all...

After writing that blog post, a monster showed up. It was the monster of You Don't Have Custody Of Your Experiences. It's the monster who says, "I know, you're hurting, someone else hurt you, I know it's not fair, but you just can't talk about it in public! You might hurt the feelings of the person who hurt you! Their feelings are always more important than yours, you know that. Besides, if you're willing to risk hurting them, well, maybe you deserved to get hurt by them?" It is the source of that creeping dread after having published a blog post that someone, somewhere, will--correctly or mistakenly--recognize themselves in the experience I relate, and be very upset that I've related it in public. They will not be mollified by my having scrupulously withheld their name and any identifying features. They will be upset. What if they call me up or email me to tell me how upset they are? How will I handle that? How will I keep that new experience from creating yet more decade-long brain demons?

Next thing I know, thoughts of that nature have taken up residence in my brain and won't leave me alone. All weekend long.

And then, at some point, it occurred to me that I could create a proxy for the what-if. Then, every time the brain demon showed up, I could transform it by means of the proxy. (Optionally while declaiming the magic word "Riddikulus".)

So... "What if someone I don't want to hear from emails me to tell me what a horrible person I am" became "What if a goblin showed up offering me a quest I don't want?"

I can see that goblin now. He's got the usual goblin traits, those blameless features that nevertheless can unsettle unwary humans: that shifty look that comes of constantly monitoring their surroundings for escape routes, that tendency to hunch that makes them resemble a crumpled-up piece of paper with ears and elbows sticking out. Nothing weird or wrong there. But he's holding something behind his back in a kinda creepy way. He just keeps telling me, "It's for you. It's only for you. You gotta take it. You don't wanna go crazy wondering what might have happened, do ya? Accept the quest and find out!"

But I am up to here with quests. I have the Quest to Regain My Skates, and the Quest to Finish That Story, and the Quest to Sell the House. And that's just for starters. Another quest foisted on me by someone else, without my say-so? That I do not need. As for regretting missed opportunities? Look, quests are a dime a dozen. For every quest that gets turned into an epic novel about a reluctant hobbit, there are ten or more quests that were firmly refused by that same reluctant hobbit, who thought no more about it. Quests show up all the time, if you know how to recognize them. I can afford to be choosy.

At which point a bunch of other goblins arrive to gently usher this one goblin away and take him home. "Sorry about that," one of them says to me. "He gets like this sometimes. It's kind of like drunk-dialing. Very embarrassing. Sorry. Are we still on for tea tomorrow? Great. I'll bring the cucumber sandwiches."

I adore her cucumber sandwiches. She makes them with butter on one side and salmon spread on the other and just the right amount of salt on the thinly sliced cucumbers. I have in mind a lovely second flush darjeeling to accompany them, along with some fresh-baked gingersnap cookies.

The quest-bringing goblin perks up. "Tea? I love tea. We can talk about this quest over tea--"

"No, bro. You're not invited. You will never get invited to tea if you don't stop pulling this shit. Now, let's get you home and cleaned up, OK? And in the morning we are going to have a serious talk about your quest problem."

I told John about the goblin proxy. He laughed, and proposed the hashtag #NotAllGoblins. As in, "#NotAllGoblins show up at 3 AM at your door with a quest you don't want. That one who does? Other goblins think he's an asshole."

Laughter! And goblin proxies! For the win! Take that, brain demons and other evildoers!

in which physical therapy supports my rage against all things ladylike
Fri 2015-02-06 00:05:45 (single post)

So here is a thing I've learned from physical therapy: Apparently one of the common precursors to an ACL injury is a tendency to stand or sit with the knees "inside of the shoes."

My therapist demonstrated, which involved temporarily taking a pose that was all too familiar to this southern gal.

You know, back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.

I was never actually forced to do the aspirin thing (though I know some women who were). But I certainly got scolded from early childhood through high school for sitting with my legs too far apart. "You want someone looking up your skirt?" "It just seems rude." "People will think I didn't raise you right." "It's not ladylike."

Well. That was the posture my therapist briefly adopted to demonstrate what he's talking about: feet planted at hip-width, knees pointing toward each other. "Even five degrees of rotation inward, we see that as a warning sign," he said. "Ten degrees is definitely a problem."

Knees collapsing to the midline of the body are the main cause behind ACL-tears, especially among women.

So now you have one more reason to despise purity culture and enforced "ladylike" behavior. In addition to being stuffed to the gills with misogyny, this crap also sets up female athletes for a higher rate of ACL injury.

That women do suffer a higher rate of ACL injury is not in dispute. However, you're unlikely to see any official reports speculating on the role that training young women in "ladylike posture" plays in helping to cause this disparity. No, officially they're all guessing it's to do with higher estrogen levels, weaker hamstrings, wider pelvises, etc. Even the article quoted above links the "knees collapsing to the midline of the body" to weaker, less-well-developed glutes. It wouldn't be the first time a difference between the genders was explained away as purely biological, while great glaring differences in social treatment were swept under the rug.

In jumping and landing women tend to land with slightly straighter legs than men who land in a more powerful squat position with knees slightly apart....

Specific skills therefore need to be learnt in landing and jumping techniques - the principle being to land with the knee forwards and not buckling to the side – inwards or outwards. For the female, this means landing with the knees slightly apart, in a more squat and perhaps un-ladylike male posture.

This author comes tragically close to the point before missing it, and so he fails to question it. To wit: Why in heaven's name are we teaching girls and young women that certain stances, postures, and movements are "unladylike" and "male" in the first place? And why the fuck are the endorsed "ladylike" stances, postures, and movements always the ones most likely to fuck up your body down the line?

but processing the stuff creates more stuff to process can i stop now
Wed 2015-02-04 23:44:23 (single post)
  • 5,263 words (if poetry, lines) long

OK, so the story gained a few hundred words this time around. Not to worry. It's all part of the process. Besides, tonight's bit didn't go as well as yesterday's, so there was some "just babble and something good will come out of it" verbiage. I'm trying to stitch in a new microscene segue and I'm trying to start incorporating elements from the deleted scene, so some temporary bloat is only to be expected.

Yesterday's post about changing associations got me thinking: It works both ways. That is, bundling play and work together not only makes the work seem more like play, but it can also help change what goes on in my brain when I play. Or so I devoutly hope.

That didn't make much sense. I can make it make sense, but it's going to get a little personal.

As anyone who's heard me babble about Puzzle Pirates knows, I tend toward mini-games, puzzle-games, and classic arcade games, and not so much for first-person shooters or story-heavy RPGs. I like my RPGs tabletop; I like my video games simple.

But here's the problem, or rather the double-edged sword, about the simple clicky games: They leave a lot of room in the brain for running on auto-pilot.

This has been a bad thing, because my brain develops ruts very easily. Honestly, I think it's a form of PTSD, if a comparatively mild one. It's such that interpersonal interactions that leave me angry, hurt, feeling betrayed, and crying at the time will repeat on me for months, even years. They'll leap into my conscious mind unbidden, at which point I'll emotionally relive the damn experience and sit there crying all over again.

And whatever I was doing at the time that the painful memory came back, that activity may become associated with the memory... so that next time I do that activity, I relive the memory again. Which only strengthens the association. And so forth.

This is why Morning Pages are kind of a crap shoot. In working through the thoughts and emotions on the page, am I going to be successfully processing them, or am I just creating a trigger for them, such that I'll relive them every time I sit down at the spiral notebook? It could go either way.

Besides, how long can one be expected to process this stuff? Some of it goes back twenty years or more. Some goes back to early childhood. "Processing" it doesn't make it go away or diminish. It just means I'm having another experience of pain and anger and helplessness. Let it go? Gee, thanks--you say that like I've made a conscious choice to hold onto this stuff. I would love to let go of this stuff. But it won't let go of me. It comes to something when Cowboy Mouth's "Let It Go" and "Easy" start to feel like victim-blaming songs, you know? Like that time I tried to explain this stuff to Dad, and he just chuckled and said, "My, you sure can hold a grudge!"

Point being, certain mini-games in Puzzle Pirates are indelibly linked to certain unfortunate memories. Treasure Haul requires very little strategizing. There is plenty of room left in my head for running down the rut one more time of why that particular guy left our role playing group and what he said about me damn near fifteen years ago.

Ditto the Bilging puzzle, and the memory of sitting in an IHOP realizing that a particular freelance writing gig--which, mind you, only paid about three cents a word--was killing my brain and my soul but I felt trapped by my honor not to resign from it when I said I'd do it, and you don't go back on your word, dammit. Even if your cat just got diagnosed with cancer, you don't go back on your word! And other forms of punishing myself for daring to consider safeguarding my mental and emotional health.

Ditto the Rumble puzzle, and the pain and betrayal of a trusted friend and mentor telling me she thinks that women aren't to blame so to speak but don't they at least share responsibility for the rape that happened when they wore that skirt, went alone late at night to the party, or say "no" loudly enough and clearly enough to revoke the consent that is assumed to be given otherwise? Aren't feminists going overboard when they say that nothing but an enthusiastic "yes" is consent? She just wanted to know what my thoughts on that were; what a slap in the face that my thoughts didn't support her brave stance against modern feminism! How dare I react to her ideas by feeling less safe around her! How dare I decide she isn't a safe person to introduce friends to, if I know those friends are rape survivors! How dare I say that her beliefs support rape culture! We're friends--she's supposed to be able to confide in me without negative repercussions!

And then it gets recursive. These days, the precise memory that reruns during the Rumble puzzle is... playing the Rumble puzzle in the lobby of the Sheraton Mountain Vista in Avon while trying to block out thoughts of that interaction. While crying over it again, of course.

It's an improvement, though. It's an extra layer of emotional distance. I went from having to watch a movie of the event, to having to reread a novelization of the movie.

Still, I would like my pleasant brainless passtimes to be pleasant, not emotional mine fields. That should not be too much to ask.

So... I have a hope that parallel-tracking Puzzle Pirates and writing will help chase out some of those associations, and replace them with other ones. It would be super cool if every time I return to the Duty Navigation puzzle, that small backburner part of my brain instead remembers, say, trying to write the micro-scene segue glue that this story rewrite requires, or working out the plot of a novel.

I do not know how to break mental associations. I only know how to replace them: by having new experiences. I am trying to create new experiences for myself.

Replace the experience of dreading the scary writing task with enjoying the fun wrting play.

Replace the experience of unwanted painful memory while I'm playing with current writing project percolating while I'm playing.

It's worth a try.

if not you can darn well add your own element of fun
Tue 2015-02-03 23:33:52 (single post)
  • 4,516 words (if poetry, lines) long

More writing. Yes! The short story revision, which was not finished by the end of January, nevertheless continues apace. Today I got through the bit with the maudlin elementary school teacher, which takes the draft just up to the threshold of the first major structural change to the scene. Which details mean very little to you at this time, dear reader, but check this out: the word count came down by another 300 today. Bringing the word count down is a large part of what the editor requested. At almost 6,000 words it struck her as a tad bloated.

Each day I'm finding it easier to get started. This should come as no surprise. All through the fall and winter I had this nasty, negative association with the story, something like "OMG there is no way this is impossible I suck I suck I suck." But each small revision session during which "impossible" and "I suck" is disproven eats away at that association, replacing it with something else, something more like "Where did I leave off? Oh yeah, I was going to do this..."

I find that most of my "stuck" has to do with negative associations, like "it's going to be hard," and "it's going to hurt," and "it's going to suck." Getting unstuck requires creating new, positive associations, like "This is fun" and "Gee, I'm clever" and "Wait, I wrote that? Wow." Which is where such strategies as "Just read it through, that's all," and "Just do that one paragraph, OK?" come from.

This is also where new, radical strategies like playing while I work come in.

Well... It's actually not all that new and radical, except in its application to writing.

For years now, I've used knitting and Puzzle Pirates to combat the deadly boredom of reading an hour of employment ads for AINC twice a week. Don't get me wrong, it's a very necessary and useful broadcast, but producing it is sort of mind-numbing. So while I'm reading the ads, I might also be knitting a sock, memorizing league points on the Jade Ocean, or earning obscene amounts of in-game currency during the latest blockade grudge match on the Emerald Ocean. It's not as complicated as all that. It just requires careful arrangement of monitor real estate so that the browser window, recording application, and YPP client are all visible and in close proximity. Then it's just a matter of glancing back and forth between the text I'm reading and the bilging combo I'm putting together.

Over the years, this has had an effect on my attitude toward reading the employment ads. When I first picked up the shift, I approached it with dread. "The next hour and a half is going to suck," I would think. And I'd put it off, and put it off, and then finally race the clock to get it done in time.

Now, I'm all, "Yay! Sunday morning reading! Which means time legitimately blocked out for playing Puzzle Pirates!"

Well. Recently, I started doing something like this to overcome a deep reluctance to do my Morning Pages. Sometimes I just don't want to do them. They're going to be three interminable pages during which I will distress myself with the contents of my head, stress myself out over the obligations of the day looming over me, and chafe at not being able to get started on said obligations because I still have to get through these three interminable pages of freehand writing. Some days, not even the cheerful bright colors I've put in my favorite fountain pen make Morning Pages look at all attractive.

It was a day like that when I got the bright idea of logging on to Second Life and essentially running around picking up spare change while doing my Morning Pages. There are a bunch of "earn Lindens for visiting sims" mechanisms in SL, most of which involve interacting with some object or other and then waiting around for some amount of time before the object pays out. It's ...not particularly fun, actually. But somehow putting that sort of thing together with the Morning Pages fulfills my need to always be doing two things at once in a satisfying way.

When I can't find a single thing about the task at hand to look forward to, I can bundle the task up with a completely unrelated element of play, and look forward to that.

It's this silly improbable trick that I play on my brain. It's similar to Havi's "proxy" theory, and it's all about replacing avoidance with interest and attraction.

I'm not doing my Morning Pages... I'm hopping traffic cones in Second Life, and passing the wait time at each traffic cone by scribbling down my thoughts in this spiral notebook here.

Sure, I have to record an hour of employment ads... but while I'm doing that, I can make a bundle buying large cannonballs at Armstrong Island and selling them at Paihia. (Emerald, not Opal. Almost always a viable trade. Check it out.)

I don't want to do freewriting for 25 minutes. How about instead I do freewriting for the time it takes to memorize Caravanserai to Kiwara on the Jade Ocean? It's not like I have to interact with the game for more than a few seconds every other minute or so. I basically complete one duty navigation puzzle and then hit pause, and wait to reach the next league point. During which time I can write the next paragraph...

OK, so some of those details won't make sense in and of themselves unless you play Puzzle Pirates too. On the other hand, those details in and of themselves aren't the point. The point is, adding a fun passtime to the dreaded task turns the dreaded task into an eagerly anticipated excuse to enjoy the fun passtime (as long as the task still gets done).

It's radically different from butt-in-chair theory. From a butt-in-chair perspective, it's heresy. But as long as the writing is still getting done, who cares?

On the other hand... I didn't need to bundle today's story revision session with playtime. I wasn't dreading the task enough to need to.

Hooray!

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