12.12.2017

Stuck

I'm going to off today's triumphant return to the lunchtime bloggy blog posts with a little haiku.
This isn't a completely original haiku. The original was regarding DNS and is rather funny if you are an IT person. I've adapted it for use in my own (admittedly warped) reality.

So, here's a little haiku to give you some insight on where this is all going.

It's not writer's block.
There's no way it's writer's block.
It was writer's block.

Yeah. You guessed it. I'm eating my words again, and I'm finding that they aren't as sweet going back down my throat.

Up until this morning I was one of those people that would happily tell you that I don't get writer's block. If I get stuck, I change stories and work on something else.

And until last night at about 8:52PM, I probably believed that wholeheartedly.

But then, as I'm sitting there last night with 3 different windows opened on three different works in progress and a fourth open on an empty blog window, I realized something.

I'm stuck.

Stuck.  I had a short story that I was working on for submission to an anthology. The cap on length for that is 10K. My story was well over 6K last night and I wasn't really even in to the meat of it at that point. So, that one is looking like a book. Which, I mean, that's cool, but it kind of derailed me.

I'm going to tell you a secret.

I don't always do so great when plans change unexpectedly. Now, admittedly, on the surface, you would probably never know it unless you know the specific tic my eye makes or how the tone in my voice wavers ever so slightly. But if I had my mind set on a thing or goal, and it suddenly gets derailed even if it's derailed by something that turns out to be better, there is still a period where my brain has to reconcile the expectation with the reality. Sometimes that's seconds. Other times that's minutes. Or, you know, with some things, years. Just happens. It's the way I'm wired. I'm working on it, but it's not an easy fix. And I'm not sure it's a bad thing. The whole process of reconciling expectations and reality has often led me to some cool conclusions and some serious "a-ha" moments in my journey of self-discovery.

When my laptop died unexpectedly last week, I got derailed. YES, I have many work-arounds. And if you read the 'Oddly OK' post you might think I was OK with those work-arounds. But I realized last night that I'm in that period of reconciliation. And that period won't have any real hope of conclusion until tomorrow night when we find out if it's truly dead dead. So, I don't know how much writing I'm going to actually get done today.

Am I blocked? No. I don't think so. I'm just...stuck. There is, in my mind, a difference. For me, true writer's block is sitting there staring at a screen with absolutely no ideas and no thought as to when you might again find those ideas.  Obviously, like everything creative, there is no single definition that works for everyone in every instance.

I have ideas. I have stories. I know where I want to go with them. The words are just stuck. Stuck somewhere between my brain and the page. Stuck somewhere beyond the wellspring where my mind normally pulls ideas from.

I think the thing that threw me the most (other than the Air dying) was the fact that I had three separate story starts for this magic-themed anthology I'm trying to get in. And the first story idea led me to the second as I was a couple thousand words in to it. The second idea led me to the third storyline. That one is the one that just grabbed me by the short hairs and said 'Dude, you seriously need to be writing this.'  And I did. I was. Until I saw the word count and realized that it would be too long. So I did the worst possible thing I could do as a writer. I stopped. I didn't abandoned the story, but I realized that it wasn't the one. As awesome as it seemed to be in my head, probably not the one.

I'm looking around now for ideas. What can I use? What can I adapt? What can I write?

The questions are floating around my brain bucket like a cork in the ocean. And there's the crux of being stuck...overthinking.

I'm thinking about this shit too much. I need to go back to what I know (or what I think I know), and just frickin' write. I need to take that last $5 on my Starbucks card and camp out tonight at my favorite 'bux and just see what the fuck happens.

Sounds goods. Sounds like a positive plan. The problem is that there are at least 4 hours between now and the time I can do that.

And now we're back to the overthinking part. I think that for me, writer's block or even being stuck comes down to somehow getting in my own way. I had this expectation that I would somehow make December another 50K month for words. And I'm on day 12 sitting at maybe 2500, if I'm lucky. It's just weird.

Not really sure that any of this actually helps anyone out there trying to figure out how to get unstuck.

Maybe just write about why you're stuck

It's probably boring as balls to someone reading it (sorry about that), but at the end of it, you might find that you have just pounded out a thousand more words than you had this morning.

Like I just did.

Guess I'm not entirely as stuck as I thought I was.

And now, since you put up with all of that shite, a picture of your intrepid author in a funny hat.




Peace out!
-Todd


12.10.2017

Oddly OK

I should, by all accounts, be freaking out right about now. Most of my friends and even my daughter are kind of freaking out for me. Which is kind of them, but completely unnecessary.

I started this post on my Alphasmart NEO2 and am finishing it on a 2009 white MacBook unibody laptop.

If you know me, you know that neither of those are my normal every day blogging tools.

Nope, that would be the Mid-2011 MacBook Air that I got September of 2016. That Air is the laptop that wrote most of my first and second book on. I got it off-lease from Micro Center.  It's got some awesome stickers on it. And a tiny bit of sentimental value based on the fact that I, you know, finished the first two books on it and all.

Thursday it died.

I was doing a reset on the SMC and it just never powered back up.  I thought that I had done it with the reset. But, after doing some research on the googles, it looks like it was just probably its time to kick the bucket.

Which sucked, but dig this...I was actually OK with it. No, really. It's crazy, but I am.

I mean, to break it down, here are the facts of the matter.
  • I have a desktop computer. Any final edits or draft revisions, hell -all of the writing-can be done on the desktop.
  • I have an Alphasmart NEO2, distraction free writing tool
  • I have about 11 typewriters I can do first drafts on 
  • I have a shit-ton (that's metric) of notebooks and pens and pencils
In short there is absolutely nothing that will prevent me from writing. Sure, I was using Ommwriter to get some drafting done on my NaNo project, so I needed a way to read the Omm files. 

I have Ommwriter on my iPad. So, that's covered too.

So, it's all covered. Which is why I was oddly OK with that laptop dying. I took it over to my computer guru Friday night (yes, even a geek needs a guru). He did some investigative work on it, tried reseating the battery and a few other things. Still dead.

There are two main things that could be fubar'd about it. The first being the logic board. If the logic board is toast, it's a few hundred dollars to repair. Which is about a few hundred dollars more than I have to spend on it. The second thing that could be dead on it is a daughter-board for I/O functions. That's about $50 to repair. Todd felt it a good idea to start with that. So, we did. 

Now, here's the thing. I am still actually OK with the situation. It's not life-ending for my writing. I think I would be freaking out a lot more if I didn't have a desktop.  

The bummer part is that I do like to do the drafting with Ommwriter (and the iPad just isn't quite the same). Fact is, for my money, there is nothing quite like an Apple laptop keyboard. I really do like typing on them. So, as OK as I am about this, I'm still a little sad to think the Air might be dead. And then I remembered this guy:
Yup. The mid-2009 MacBook that was mentioned at the start of this little bit of meandering ramblings.  I had given it to my mom when I got my MacBook Air. As luck would have it, she had given it to me to get it all updated so she could get to her writing.

So, it's going to be about 2 weeks until I know for sure if the Air is dead dead. And if it is, I'll run the Scrivener update on the desktop (since the 2009 white-body macbook won't support it). 

And if it isn't, then life is truly awesome and I get it back and everything works out.

But the beauty of it is, it is going to all work out anyway. I think that's why I wasn't freaking out about it. Because no matter what, it's all good. 

I'm going to keep writing. Even if it's fucking cocktail napkins. I'll still write. Because, you know...I pretty much have to. 

Oddly OK indeed. 

Todd


11.30.2017

Day 30 - You Forgot The Tacos, But I Forgive You

There are roughly three hours left in NaNo. And I'm fried.
Not literally because it's Ohio. And it's November.

My brain is kind of mush right now.  As I sit down to write this, I am 933 words shy of hitting 50,000 words. The goal that was not my goal. The goal that is 25,000 words less than the goal I thought I would hit. The goal that is now the bane of my existence. At least for another 2 hours and 59 minutes.

I have a couple of stories that I'm working on and started working on at the beginning of the month.

I've probably talked about them. I might talk about them some more.

There are the NaNo purists who say that blogs don't count. Are there? I mean, I have to assume there are. But, fuck'em. I'm writing. These are words. These are my thoughts.

All of those things count.

As you might have read (wait, did you?) I hit a wall yesterday. And then I got back on the horse this morning. And then I had a doctor's appointment. I mean short of having stupidly high blood pressure, ridiculously elevated blood sugars, and a silly little bout of social anxiety, I'm fine.

I'm sitting here in my favorite Starbucks (which, still just makes me giggle, that I have a favorite Starbucks. Sooooo many things wrong and wondrously funny about that statement).  I haven't been coming here enough yet for them to know me by name or what my favorite drink is yet. I give them until about Spring before that becomes a thing.

Noise cancelling headphones are a must. So are some awesome long mixes by my man Dabears. Granted, it's been about 2 1/2 years since he's (or she's) put up anything new, but what's out there is still pretty dope.

Tonight's focus was on a short story I'm working on for an Anthology with the theme of Magic that I'm going to be submitting for. Not sure if I'll get in, but I'm gonna give it a shot. I actually had two story ideas and I'm not sure which one I'm going settle on, but I plan on finishing both stories. One or both may lend themselves more naturally to something longer than 10,000 words. We'll see.

So, the first one is, what if there was one of those monthly crate services that dealt with magic (like magic tricks, etc). Only sometimes, they actually sent a truly magical item. What would that look like? How would that manifest in our world? And what would happen to the poor schmuck who got it?

The second idea is that there is a true definition of magic. Magic with a capital M. Not the magic we know from books and movies, but the secret of the one true Magic. And this secret is kept by a single person. And if that person shares the secret with another, they die and the person they shared it with becomes the new keeper. It has been that way since before there was Magic. There are all sorts of questions around this story idea that I can't post here because they would be akin to spoiler alerts.  That's the story I spent about 3500 words today writing.

The other thing, besides 14 well placed blog posts throughout the month, that I have been working on throughout NaNo is actually something that will make its way into the world in book form sometime in 2018 (you heard it hear first).  It's a romance. And the main characters is a woman who is an international best-selling author and motivational speaker with a bit of a problem, she knows she's full of shit and wonders how anyone can be motivated by her books, which are clearly satire. She falls in love with a voice on a tape recorder, not knowing that its owner may be closer than she thinks.

I can see this one being something on the Hallmark Channel. I mean, I'll probably have to edit out the 'fucks' etc. before submitting it, but still, anything is possible.

Speaking of anything being possible.

Fun fact. I said in one of these posts (or maybe it was on Facebook) at the end of 2016, that 2017 would be the year I would publish my first book.

And I did.

My first book came out on April 25th as part of the Midnight Magic Box Set. Shadow Initiate was my first book and the first book to really grab me by the short hairs and say 'guess what, dude, you are SO writing a sequel to this.'  Yes. I am. The sequel to Shadow Initiate will be released in 2018. To be clear, it will be written and then released. So yeah.  That's a thing.

And if you're reading this and you are kicking yourself because you didn't get Shadow Initiate when it was in the limited-run box set, take heart and be of good cheer. I'm going to be releasing it in December. You will be able to get your own copy.  So, that's also a thing.

If you did miss it though and you wanted it, you should learn from your misfortune and make sure you pre-order the LEGENDS AND LORE box set that comes out NEXT TUESDAY. My second published book of 2017, Ovid's Folly, is included in the set. And I have to say, guys, I'm really pretty pleased with how it turned out. I think you'll like it.

And if you don't, there will be 20 other multi-genre tales in the set. I'm sure you can find one or two more that you like besides mine.


With that, I really am done.

This blog post put me over the 50,000 word mark with 2 1/2 hours to spare.

I'm sure I have a couple posts in the near future thanking people, including you, for helping me reach this goal.

And yes, I know that ultimately the word count is just a number, it's still nice to do something that I had to fight and stretch for. Something that ultimately I want to be the norm, not just something I try to do every November.

Crap, the baristas are looking at me funny, so it's probably time to go.

And maybe get some tacos.

Much love to all of you,
Todd


And because for once, a picture actually captured exactly how I feel, this is the look of someone who is relieved that he finished, slightly crazed, and in desperate need of tacos.

you're welcome.



Caught Between A Sneeze and A Prayer

I use a Google Chrome browser plug in called "Momentum."  The first time you open Google for the day, it prompts you to put in a main focus (or several of them, like a to-do list) for the day. Like so:

For the past 24 hours (yesterday and this morning), those reminders have had to do with buckling down and finishing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those who just literally found my blog for the first time ever, today). 

Also for the past 24 hours, I have been caught in that 'almost about to sneeze' feeling. You know the one. There's a slight tickle in one or both nostrils, kind of up high, almost in the sinus, like someone is just gently rubbing your sinus from the inside. The nose starts to run. The eye that is on the same side as the affected nostril starts to water uncontrollably. No amount of nose blowing and eye rubbing seems to alleviate it and sniffling just exacerbates the issue and elevates it to the 'holy shit this is really annoying why can't I just sneeze already' level.

I am relatively certain it's just allergies. The snot is clear, not yellow or green colored as would befit the common cold. At this point, though, that is conjecture on my part. I have thus far avoided visiting WebMD. The last thing I want to be told on the last day or two of NaNo is that I have some rare Peruvian Aquatic Desert Bird Cancer or some shit.  Side note: have you ever noticed that nearly everything on WebMD might also be cancer? Did you eat something bad in the last 24 hours? You likely have food poisoning. But, in rare instances, vomiting and expelling recently digested food from both ends could also be a symptom of Peruvian Aquatic Desert Bird Cancer.  Really? Awesome. I can't even remember the last time I was in Peruvia. Hangnail? Yup, could also be Cancer.  You should really consult a medical professional before altering your entire life on a web search.

I feel like that little disclaimer is the one people miss. You know the one about the fact that WebMD is actually short for Web Medical Database, NOT Web Medical Doctor. It should have really been named WebMDb, but that's not really as cool or misleading now, is it?

So, allergies and not cancer, and finishing NaNo.

Right. 

Yesterday kinda sucked with that whole allergy having to sneeze all day thing. I hopped my self up on allergy meds and just for grins, some DayQuil too, because why not?

I got about 1100 words in yesterday morning. I was planning on another 1000 or so at lunch and a solid 2 or 3 thousand in after work. It was a good plan.

A good plan that completely went to shit. 

Lunch was a bust. I only got about 400 words in. For some reason the anxiety was on high alert yesterday so that was fucking with me. I couldn't really text anyone and tell them what was going on either, because I couldn't really find the words.  That was a common theme yesterday, not being able to find the words. 

So, I broke the pattern for the week. A pattern, mind you, that was working. Blog in the morning, write at lunch, hit Starbucks after work and bang out a couple thousand words.  Had I done that and stuck to it, I might not be penning this cautionary tale this morning. 

GAH! I just sneezed. Thought that would help. Nope. Just made it worse. 

There is a thing with runners, particularly long-distance runners where they are just chugging along and they hit what feels to their body to be a literal wall. I think it's called, cleverly enough, the "Runner's Wall."  I don't run. If you have ever seen me in real life, you would realize that the last statement was completely unnecessary and likely put in this post simply to add three more words to today's word count. 

No, I don't run. But I'm sure that what I hit yesterday was the creative's equivalent of the runner's wall. My body and mind had a little pow-wow behind my back and instead of driving to the 'bux to do some wording, I drove home. The plan was to eat some dinner and just jam on words. I didn't have to be at work early this morning since I have a doc appointment, so I was going to stay up late and smash out the remaining 6,000 words that I had left for NaNo. 

That didn't happen. 

I smashed 725 words, approximately. And I was falling asleep at my laptop. 

At eight-thirty.

I called it at that point. And I went to bed. I didn't try to go around the wall, over the wall, or even through the wall. I looked at that wall and said "fuck it, I'm taking a nap."

So that's what I did. 

And now here we are on the last day of National Novel Writing Month. I will not have a completed manuscript or even a completely short story. 

I do  have several blog posts (nearly a dozen) that should serve as (I hope) either inspiration or as cautionary tales to other writers and creative types. 

And I have to sneeze. For fuckssakes do I have to sneeze!!  Yikes.

Sitting at 900 words or thereabouts for this post. I really want to hit at least 1000 for it so I feel like I have made a good dent in what's left of the writing. 

So, you might be asking yourself, Dude. You're not going to have a draft of a book OR a short story done for NaNo, and these blog posts are kind of repetitive at this point (have you seen the page view counts??)...Why bother?

That is a good question.  I'm sure there is a logical and perhaps inspiring answer to that question. But the simple truth is, I'm stubborn. And I'm too close to finishing now to give up. 

The irony is, this month I was in very nearly the same place I was two years ago. 

In 2015, I was a full-on 100% Pantser. I didn't plot, I didn't outline. Hell, I came up with character names on the fly (and had to keep looking back to make sure I used the same name consistently moving forward). And I had a kick-ass sci-fi piece I was working on. I was really in love with the piece.   But, because I didn't have a map, I hit the wall early. I hit 25K about 18 or 19 days in to the month and just got stuck. I had no idea where the story was going or why.  And I didn't think I could finish NaNo. I put up a few half-assed blog posts to try to increase my word count (some things never change). But I was done. It was like day 20 and I was done at about 24 or 25K.

Fast forward to this year.

Day 25. I am sitting at 27,750 words heading in to a write-in.

 DAY TWENTY FIVE OF THIRTY. Just in case you missed the significance of that.

By the end of that six hour event, I had passed the 30K mark.  That meant that in 5 days, I needed to write twenty thousand words to hit the NaNo goal. 

That is roughly 4000 words a day needed. On my best days, that was a stretch.  And I knew that with  stuff coming up (work, needing to make some Christmas gifts for a party on the 2nd, and just life), it was going to be rough.  Here, let me show you what I mean:

Those are my brutally honest, no holds-barred words for the month.  Not really so stellar. So, I wasn't really sure I could do it. 

The difference, though, between 2015 and this year is simple. I have a wickedly strong support system this year that doesn't believe I will fail. When you have a group of people that have zero doubt that you can do a thing, even when doubt is dripping off of you, it helps. It seriously helps. 

I know I'm going to hit my goal.

Here is the delicious irony.  You see up there, the 75K in highlighter? THAT was the goal I was going for this year. This year where I am pep talking myself in the last 4 days of NaNo (well, today is the last day, so nut up or shut up).  But if I had only done 2500 words per day, that goal was attainable.

2500 words is a morning blog or writing, and lunchtime writing. And maybe an hour of writing in the evening.

I can so do that. 

There's always December.

Alright, I need to get ready now to head to the doctor. Gotta rule out that Peruvian Aquatic Desert Bird Cancer.

Have an awesome day and if you are participating in NaNo, finish strong. The only person you are competing against is the author you were yesterday.

See you on the other side.

Todd


1529, and counting. 

11.29.2017

Day 29 - Send Tacos

It is the 29th of November. Tomorrow will be the last day of the month. The last of November.  The last day of National Novel Writing Month.  The last day of a self-imposed torture, er I mean exercise in which I see if I actually have what it takes to be a writer.

OK, I know that's not really fair. NaNo is really more than that.

As has become my custom this week, I have been setting the alarm for 4:45 and getting up to write. My brain isn't necessarily firing on the 'work on the actual stories you should be working on' capacity yet, so I have been giving you glimpses inside my head. I don't know if they have been helping you see what a nutter I am (or think I am), or even to know what goes through my head when I'm writing.

Do they help?

Don't answer that.

In case you missed it, we had a nice little post on my particular flavor of Social Anxiety along with a tasty helping of The Doubt That Constantly Attacks Me, literally like all the time. Ironically, the post about my self-doubt got about a third as many views as the post about my social anxiety which, of course, leads to more doubts.  It's kinda funny, actually.

Petit Biscuit is playing on the Chill Electronic playlist on Amazon Music as it has every morning this week. In about an hour I'll get ready for my day job. But today's a special day, it's Wednesday which means it's the day I get to jab a needle in my stomach--yay diabetes!

What I'm doing here, to NaNo purists is pretty much called getting Rogue NaNo words. These words are not part of my NaNo Novel and they are just an attempt to hit the arbitrary number that the NaNoIsts set at the number at which you can consider yourself a real writer. Sorry. I know that's not fair. Seriously, though, did you not see the piece on self-doubt? That shit runs deep, yo.

I don't know why they picked November for this month. It's a dark, depressing month most of the time here in Ohio. The days outside match the sometimes grayness of my soul.

Fun Fact #1:  The way to tell if you should use "gray" or "grey" depends on your audience. If your audience is American, it's gray.  If they are British (i.e. English), it's grey.  Cool, huh?  Could be total bullshit, but it seems to bear out in what I have read.

Back to November. November is the month where it is dark when I drive to work and dark when I drive home. It is the month that usually makes me question just how much of that being human thing I actually have sitting in the reserve tanks. It is the month during which Christmas music is played way the fuck too early. It is the busiest month for the industry that my IT Operations team serves (retail). It is the month (4 years ago this past Saturday) that my second (and final) divorce was made official. And it is the month of my birth.

In short, it's the month where that quiet introspection dark night of the soul shit really comes around to bite me in the ass. Like, a lot.

It's probably some form of depression coupled with the social anxiety coupled with the fact that I have high blood pressure and Type II diabetes and about 100lbs that i need to lose.

Why am I telling you this? Fuck, I don't know.

Maybe to remind you that writers are just regular people.

Maybe it's to remind me that writers are just regular people.  Maybe ten years from now when I have a slew of best-sellers under my belt, I'll these posts and realize that no matter where I am in life, I'm probably just as full of shit on that day as I am on this day.

I am not brave for telling you this. I am not brave for powering through this stuff to get words down.

The truth of it is, I don't want to fucking fail. And not hitting fifty thousand words by midnight tomorrow would be a failure to me.

I am a believer in the fact that when you have done a thing you previously thought impossible, then it becomes bullshit (for the most part) to get in the mindset that you can never do that thing again.

Last year I won NaNo (as much as anyone can win--I hit the word count goal of at least 50K and thereby was a winner).  So, there really should be no reason I can't do it again, right?

Makes sense to me.

Only, if that's the case, why do I wait until November every year to do so?  This week has been something that seems like it could be fairly sustainable. Writing in the morning. Writing at lunch. Writing for a couple of hours after work.

So why don't I do it more?

Sheeeet brah. I have no frigging idea.

For real though, why November? Couldn't they have picked July? It's summer. Everyone is in good spirits. They could market it as "Getting independence from that idea in your head."  Something something fireworks.

But somewhere along the way, they chose November.

Is that because writing, for the most part, is a very solitary event? Because, if you're going to be home questioning your own existence in the darkest month of the year, you might as well drop this seemingly impossible goal in to the mix, right?

Sure. Why not?

Fun Fact #2: Do you know the difference between a grave yard and a cemetery?  A grave yard is on church property and is usually next to the church. A cemetery is a self-contained burial area (not on the grounds of any church).

If your arm chair psychology alarms are going off, don't worry. I always lean a little to the dark side anyway. I know you can't always tell that to look at me, but if you pay close enough attention, you'll see it. Just don't look too closely. That shit makes me nervous.

And I have to be honest here, you're kind of letting me down. I mean, I put tacos right there in the title of this thing and I'm sitting here listening to Tycho and sipping my diet Mtn Dew with nary a taco in sight.  I'm a little disappointed.

I have passed the thousand word goal for the morning. That leaves me with roughly something in the neighborhood of 6,500 words to right before midnight tomorrow.

I am a firm believer in going with what works. To that end, I will likely be in the Starbucks again tonight with the noise cancelling headphones tonight (they were such a godsend last night). That, or Waffle House. Or perhaps the slightest of chances that I'll make it up to Denny's on Rt. 36.

Decisions, decisions. Words, words, words.

Thank you for putting up with my ramblings. I could lie and say that this whole thing is really character research for what goes on in the mind of a creative. But you'd probably see through that. You're pretty smart that way.

But you did forget the tacos.

Until tomorrow morning,

Todd

11.28.2017

Shadow of Doubt

Alright, we are in the home stretch of National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo or NaNo or WhyTheFuckDidIThinkICouldActuallyPullThisOff if you are a writer participating in the annual event.

I am partaking of NaNo. I am close to finding a groove. It's not quite as back as Stella's but it's getting there. I have a story I like and one that I will continue to write after Thursday, the official end of the event. I'm like that guy that comes in 4 hours after the other Boston marathon runners are home chilling. I won't finish first. And I won't finish well. But if it's in my power (and it seems to be), I will finish.

I am finding that I doing a lot these kinds of posts this month. They are pseudo-pep talks. Mostly they are me sitting here trying to figure out why and how my brain works in relation to writing so that when I'm faced with something like this that actually matters (like being giving a word/time deadline by a publisher), I won't choke.

That's right, it was subtle, but if you missed it, I'll call attention to it. In the grand cheme of your writing career, NaNo doesn't actually matter. Finishing or "winning" NaNo won't make or break you as a writer.
Now before you jump my shit, let me clarify. To date, I am unaware of any publisher that will sign you as an author solely based on how well you did during NaNo. Your word count doesn't actually mean diddly.  The fact that you wrote, consistently, that is what matters.

And that is really what these posts are meant to help with. I need to get to the point where I can write when I need to, not just when I want to. So, I'm digging deep in to my brain bucket and trying to figure stuff out. Like the post the other day on social anxiety. I have it. It's fucked. And some days it really sucks. It sucks less now than it used to, but it still sucks. If you missed that post, there's a link over there on the right side, under November 2017. Or you can just click right here.

Today's topic (and let's be honest, word count filler) is the topic of doubt.

Doubt is a bastard.  And, as I am coming to realize, doubt serves absolutely no useful purpose.

Unlike it's bitch of a cousin, the ever-present Fear, doubt actually has no place in this world. Fear, while also a motherhuffer, can serve to keep you alive in certain situations. I think it is too rampant in our culture, but it does actually serve a purpose when not allowed to rule our lives.

But doubt does not. Doubt has no business at all in our lives. Especially in the lives of creative people. And yet we treat it like a billionaire's mistress. We give it legitimacy, we care for it, we cater to it, we give it a place to live. In short, we make it an indispensable part of the creative process.

Why?

Dude, fuck if I know. That's what I'm trying to figure out.  For me, it usually plays out like this.

Me: Shit. I'm not sure if I can do the thing.
Friend: You absolutely can do the thing.
Me: Thank you for believing in me, but I really don't know if I can. I am not you.
Friend: No. You are not me. You are You. And that's how I know you can do the thing.
Me: But what if I don't do the thing?
Friend: If you don't do the thing, I will still heart you. But it's moot, because you can totally do the thing.
Me (trying to do the thing):Well, I'm not sure, but if I'm going to do the thing, I need to do this other thing for like 4 days in a row.
Friend: You can do it.

Now, at this point, to bring this all home, I will tell you that the "thing" in question is hitting the NaNo goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month. When this conversation started I was at about 30,000 words with 5 days left. Meaning I had to average about 4,000 words a day in order to finish.

The doubt kicked in because I honestly thought too much about it. I thought about how much I had to do. November 30th is Thursday. I'm going to a party on Saturday. For this party I need to make a couple of gifts (they are paintings. If you're getting a gift from me this Christmas, it's probably going to be a painting, spoiler alert). And I also will be making an eclair cake for the party. So, I'm already thinking that I'm not going to sleep Friday night.

And then there is the little thing of having to go to work.

So I'm pretty much coming up with reasons that I'm going to fail. And all that is doing is feeding the beast called doubt.

That's dumb. No, it really is.

Yet, that's what I do. Maybe other creative people do it, too, but I know for a fact that I do.

So, in order to combat that a little bit, I set a tiny goal for myself. I say to myself, well, if I can hit 4000 words on Monday with life and everything else going on, then maybe it's possible. What do I do? Well, I get up at 4:45 and write for an hour before work. Get about a thousand words in. I write at lunch. I get another 1100 words in. I go to my favorite Starbucks after work and do some writing.  And roughly 90 minutes later I've written 2300 words.

4487 was the total word count for the day.

I just literally and figuratively proved to myself that I could do it. That I could actually get the words down and do the writing thing that I had been doubting.

That's awesome, right? Well, sure. If I could let myself believe it.

You see, the doubt is so deep seeded that it likes to steal the victories. Instead of looking at this as a normal thing, a thing I should be able to do all of the time (because I proved to myself that I could), the doubt firmly plants its feet and says, "Wow. Good job. I mean, it was probably a fluke, but you know, maybe you'll get lucky three more days."

Fuck you, doubt.  But honestly, that is the shadow that followed my joy about the the achievement. It's like when you're playing a video game and you beat a level boss. You don't really give yourself (and the game makers don't give you) enough time to celebrate the win before you are immediately faced with another challenge. So the brain gets in to this mode of thinking, "Wow. Cool. I won. Now I wonder what jacked up thing is coming next?"

Doubt is very much like that.

If you notice, the thoughts of doubts were not absolute statements.

If the doubt in my brain had said something like "There's no way you can do this for three more days," I could easily refute it by saying, "You're wrong. I did the thing. I have just proven to myself that I can do the thing. So, all I need to do is do the thing at least 3 more times."  At that point, the doubt has no power or hold over me.

But doubt is sneaky. It knows this. It acknowledges the win as its planting the seeds. "Oh, sure, you did the thing. But do you really think you can do the thing three more days without fucking up?"

It basically negates the proof that I can do the thing that I already proved I could do because I did it.

I think that's why doubt plagues the creative community as much as it does. I know that when I write or paint I seek validation that what I did was good or worthwhile. I want the people that I admire and love to partake of my creations and tell me that they enjoyed them. That was the hardest thing about my second marriage. All I wanted was some kind of validation from the person I loved that what I was doing was good. Do you know how hard it is to be married to someone who reads 5-7 novels a week and wonder what she thinks about your writing, because she never talks about your writing with you?  Talk about planting the seeds of doubt. It sucked.  And it's one of the reason I'm not married.

It's probably also one of the reasons that doubt has such a choke-hold on the root system of my psyche.

I'm working on it, though, really I am.

I have two books done. One was published earlier this year, and the other will be published next week (December 5th).  And I'm proud of both books. I really like them. Annnnnnd...the feedback I've received from people is that I actually might have a future at this writing thing.

All of that helps. It really does. And maybe someday it will be enough and I can just look at doubt and laugh when it starts trying to play its bullshit game. That day is not today, though. Today I still have to go through and pull out the weeds one by one. They have been there a long time. And they do not want to go without a fight. Fortunately for me, I have something that I know will help me defeat the doubt.

I have people that believe in me. People that know beyond doubt's long, cold shadow that I can do the thing.

And so can you.


Keep on doing you my friend and I have no doubt that you will rock!

-Todd

11.26.2017

I'm Not Shy, Just A Little Messed In The Head

So, I recently (Feb of 2017) started seeking treatment for my social anxiety.

Whoa, Todd. You just gonna throw that right out there in the open like that? Aren't you worried what people might think? And where exactly are you going with this? Is this something you really need to be telling us?

These are all good questions. And I'll get to them in a minute.

Now, back to the actual topic. I know I have talked about it on this blog before, but because I'm terrible at putting tags and labels on my posts, it's unlikely you'll find it, unless you already read it. Part of that is probably subconsciously intentional.

So, where was I? Oh yes. The social anxiety. I discovered, through the observations of a good friend and also through discussions with my doctor, that I had social anxiety. My particular flavor manifested in two main ways.  One, I would overthink the shit out of everything. But not actually everything, only things said to me by people I care about. I could get a text and rabbit hole for hours about the true meaning of what was said. OR, and this was even worse, if I texted someone and didn't get a reply in what I thought was a reasonable amount of time, I would automatically assume the worst. That the person was plotting a subtle way to get me out of their life because I had just annoyed them one too many times.

It was a terrible, terrible feeling. It made me miserable. And it absolutely was not fair to the other people. I was ascribing traits and thoughts to them based on my anxiety. Mind you, there was no basis in fact for the thoughts and feelings and plans and annoyances that I thought they were throwing my way. It was my own shit clouding up the water. After I sought medical help for this, I realized that not everyone responds to texts in the manner or timeliness that I do. Some of my friends only respond when they have something to say. Most all of my friends have lives, so they can't reply instantly to a message. I get that...now.

The other major facet of this social anxiety was a low-level paranoia (for lack of a better way to describe it) that reared it's ugly head when I was invited to social situations. I would spend the days prior to the event coming up with things that I needed to do instead of going to the thing. And then, if I guilted myself in to actually saying I would go (because, you know, they would probably hate me if I said no), then I would spend the hours beforehand with this inner dialog playing. It usually went something like this.

Me: You know, they are just inviting you to be nice (or because you're "XYZ's friend")

Other Me: No. That's not it at all. If they didn't want me there, they wouldn't invite me.

Me:Are you sure? Maybe they are just inviting you because they feel sorry for you.

Other Me: Why would they feel sorry for me?

Me: Because, dude, you're life is nowhere near as together as theirs. You're like the pet project in all of those movies where the super sexy people have their shit together and take pity on the nerd who doesn't.

Other Me: Fuck you. That's not...well...I mean. I guess that could be true.


Messed up, right? Dude. I know.

Here's the thing, if I could get past that inner dialog of doom and actually go out, most of the time I had fun. Or some semblance thereof. And while the doubts crept back in here and there throughout the event, mostly it was OK.

So, why bring this up now? I know, I know. Surely I could be making better use of my time than baring all of my imperfections to the interwebs, like writing for NaNo. You're right, but don't worry about that, I'm definitely counting these words.

I bring it up now because I realized that it's kind of a daily process and even though I'm on medication for my social anxiety, I have to realize that it's not a catch-all cure.  For about 2 weeks, my neighbors had been planning a 'friendsgiving' get together. At first I was looking forward to it. But as I went through the week (last week) leading up to it, I was starting to see the remnants of those old inner dialogs creeping in. Kinda like when you write on a foggy mirror after a hot shower, when the fog clears, the words are gone, but if the shower gets hot enough, you see those words again.

The weekend was supposed to go like this.  Work on Black Friday (my birthday), then drive up to Mansfield for a friendsgiving with my writing group. Then Friday evening, tacos and movie and wording with my BFF. Saturday was supposed to be another write-in with the writing group and Saturday evening was the friendsgiving with the neighbors. Sunday was D&D.

As the week wore on, I started to feel more isolated. I cancelled dinner plans Wednesday, and I really wasn't feeling the whole Thanksgiving vibe. It just felt like my routine was...off. I don't know how to explain it. As of Thursday I really was ready to just bail on the whole driving up to Northern Ohio thing Friday and Saturday. I just wanted to couch burrito. I'm sure part of it was a manifestation of the social anxiety of it being my birthday. I don't know, I don't really do well with my birthday. I haven't in a long time. With my second wife, it seemed like such a non-event, that I came to feel like I really didn't deserve to have anyone make a fuss over my birthday. And part of that still remains.

Still, I didn't sabotage the plans. I made sure I could leave work and head up north. And I did.
And you know what? It was good. I had a good time surrounded by people I love who genuinely care about me. It's a good feeling. And I needed it.

Then Saturday hits. I go to the write-in and have a KICKASS session. I get over 3,000 words in towards my NaNo goal. I'm stoked. But...I haven't heard from any of my neighbors all day. I start to think that they aren't having the get together.  As I'm on the 70 minute drive home and I'm coming up with reasons to bail on them. I'm not feeling well. I need to get words in toward my NaNo goal. Any of a half-dozen reasons that might be socially acceptable and/or believable. Everything except the truth: I'm not really sure that I believe that you want me around. 

I pull in and see the most amazing thing.  This sign:
A post shared by A.T. Skaggs (@atskaggs71) on

And I pretty much laughed my ass off. It was the perfect "OK, My neighbors get me" kind of thing. Apparently they all knew about it and were in on it. That lifted my spirits and cleared the doubt.

So, I pressed on and decided to go to the neighbor gathering. Turns out it was a potluck. Lots of food, lots of libations. Lots of laughter. I was in really good spirits and to the point where I couldn't believe that I had doubted that they wanted me to hang out with them.

And then I got in to a discussion with one of my neighbors about writing. And it felt weird to be seen as the mentor when I myself still feel like I have so much to learn. I guess the thing with that is, I'm putting myself out there. I'm not perfect. And I'm definitely not where I want to be, but I'm following my dreams. And that kind of juju is powerful. I see it in my friends who are doing the same with their writing (and that's why they inspire me to keep going).

So, all that is going on. We're hanging out and then I hear, "OK. we're gonna sing now." And a coupdl of my friends walk in from the kitchen to the living room with a candled cake and they start singing happy birthday (to Toddammit, of course). 

And I very nearly lose my shit. As a writer, my ability to form words is my currency. I can tell you in that moment, I was flat broke. I had no words.

A surprise party. They turned it into a surprise party that they had been planning for days. I was beyond touched. It is the greatest gift to feel loved by those close to you. The love I got this weekend was amazing. My cup truly runs over now.

But, I think back to a year ago. Could I have done it then?What if I had bailed? It's just odd to track how far I feel I have come.

So, I guess I'm writing this post for 3 reasons. The first is so I can get some words in for NaNo today and not feel like as much of a slacker as I do.  The second is that I feel that if I don't document something, then it's almost like it didn't happen. This way, I can come back to this post in the future and see where I am then and how far I have come from the day I wrote this.

And the third is that there is a small part of me that thinks this post might help someone else. I feel like I'm not the only one that goes through this twisted shit and thinks I'm going crazy. And it was a revelation to me when I had friends come to me last year and say "Dude, I don't have my shit together either. Get some help. Get out of the rabbit hole." I'm paraphrasing, but that was the gist.  The whole 'you are not alone' is so HUGE in this kind of thing. Humans are not meant to be solitary creatures (I say as I sit alone in my apartment), having connection is what makes us truly able to feel alive, in my humble opinion.

So, if you see me out somewhere and I seem quiet or reserved, don't think I'm shy. I'm not. Chances are, it's early on and I'm still trying to talk myself into believing that I actually belong there. When I do, though, watch out. I may be an introvert, but I can rock the shit out of a party once I get going. It's like a British Christopher Walken baby!

Alright. I need to go check on laundry and see about getting some more words in somewhere else.

Thanks for indulging me here tonight. If you identified with anything in here, know that you are not alone.

Peace,
Todd

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