Derailed & Despondent But Not Deterred

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Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Soooo…. remember my post “Making Things Happen” from two weeks ago? Yeah, I’ve already been derailed. Kind of. I’ve been working on the Faylinn organization and upload to World Anvil, although it hasn’t been as regular. I’ve been lifting my weights, although that too has not been regular.

But honestly, right now, I’m an emotional wreck.

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Making Things Happen

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

While the New Year gives us a measurable marker for change and the passing of time, it doesn’t fundamentally mean anything. The calendar may have changed, but we have not. I’ve overloaded myself before with grandiose plans and meticulous lists that end up crushing me and coming to naught. That’s pretty depressing and I really don’t need any more of that right now. With the pandemic and unsettled political climate still raging, I can’t expect the chronic, low-level stress and anxiety to go away with the turn of a page.

I need a plan.

But I am also very bad at planning.

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2020: The Year in Review

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So. Here we are. It seems appropriate that my final Cat’s Cradle entry for 2020 falls on the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, and on the day of the Great Conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. Pretty epic, right?

Like most people, 2020 has not been a particularly good year. Mine has been filled with relatively minor annoyances and constant low-level anxiety, so I’m not comparing it to the true horrors that far less privileged folk have faced. I’ve had it easier than many, but that does not mean it was easy. I learned a few things I wish I hadn’t. The level of physical and mental decay that I’ve sunk to came into stark relief. And my creativity and focus pretty much collapsed into a black hole.

The bright side is that I think I can crawl back out of it. It’s hard to make changes when you have no energy. It’s hard to plan for a future when you aren’t convinced that you’re going to have one. But there is still a small spark of resistance guttering somewhere inside me and with a few well-placed twigs and kindling, I may get it started again.

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Writing During Covid-19

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I thought I could do it.

And for about nine days I did. Consistently.

But then the fatigue set in and the stress from external pressures began to mount and so here I am, in the final week of National Novel Writing Month, 8000+ words behind where I should be. A few times the writing has been fun or enjoyable, but mostly its been a slog and I’ve used scraps of “author laments” to pad out the word count enough so that I am updating my word count every day, even if I don’t reach the goal.

Why has this been so hard?

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Falling Down, Reaching Up

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Autumn is here, a time of year that I’ve grown increasingly fond of, despite my aversion to the cold. I enjoy the colors more, the justification to wear heavy sweaters and buy cold-weather items like blankets, mugs, tea, hot chocolate, candles, and fuzzy socks. We’re also only two weeks away from National Novel Writing Month, which I’ve been part of for the last ten years (although I’ve technically only participated nine times. I did the Camp NaNoWriMos for 2013, but skipped the November NaNo for some reason I no longer remember.)

Due to my lack of focus, I don’t think I’ll be able to work on anything too heavy or serious this November. So I’ve decided to work on a lighter, more fun and childish book that’s been kicking around in my brain for a long time: DragonFriend. This is one of the stories that I used to play out parts of with my toys, so there’s a bit of absurdity to it, but also a lot of exploratory wonder, which is something I need right now. Not that there isn’t dark stuff that happens in this story (because there is) but the overall feel is more like going on an adventure than a dramatic epic. Here’s the description:

A Fairy Tale for Grownups (Or Anyone Else Who Likes To Sneak Into the “Adult” Section of the Library and Read Whatever Interests You)

This is the story of Hagan, an innkeeper’s son with a talent for languages and an interest in magical fauna. After an encounter with dragons, he decides to become a wizard and study these fantastic beasts. His travels garner him many friends, some foes, at least one reluctant ally, and a motley collection of tales from the beings he encounters.

I swear, I came up with this idea long before Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them was a thing. I might have read the first Harry Potter book at the time, and both the name of the main character and the look of the toy he’s based on bear some superficial similarities to Hagrid. But aside from their looks and a love of magical creatures, they are very different people. At least, I think so. DragonFriend will allow me to meander among all kinds of different characters and their stories, weaving them all together, so it should be a fun book to write. (And I desperately need something fun right now.)

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Trust the Art and Other Foibles

Whoops, looks like I haven’t posted here in a month. Guess my motivation is still pretty low, not to mention not having much to really talk about in September. But October is here, and now I have a little smorgasbord of topics to touch on:

INKTOBER

I’ve been participating in Inktober, which is a month-long challenge to draw a picture using ink each day. They offer a list of prompts, which I have been following so I don’t get artist block. If you’re interested, I’m posting my daily efforts on my DeviantART page and on Twitter. But there’s something I’ve learned after drawing for only a few days:

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Post-Labor Day Update

This was supposed to be written and posted yesterday on Labor Day, but… that would have involved labor, so I didn’t.

I jest. In truth, I’ve had real trouble focusing lately, and this weekend in particular, so I spent my time taking walks, eating apple pie, and playing more Okami HD. I did get a little further along in editing/polishing Okami Amaterasu as well.

But I do have a small piece of news. I submitted a short story for possible publication for the first time in almost five years. Originally I was going to write an entirely new story, “The Undead Midwife,” but my lack of focus would have made it a half-baked effort, since the deadline for submissions is tomorrow, September 9th. I’m not willing to send in a story in such a state. So instead I revised and fleshed out my flash fiction story “The Distal King” from my stint with Story-A-Day in May in 2019. It turned out pretty well and I hope the folks at Uncanny Magazine like it. I’ll find out in 2-4 weeks.

Also, I’m finally in a good enough financial position to actually help support some folk on Patreon. So I decided to support my favorite podcast, “Let’s Know Things” by Colin Wright (which I’ve been listening to since it aired in 2016) and “Synthetic Worlds” of J. Michael Straczynski who created my favorite sci-fi TV show Babylon 5 (and also has an amazing autobiography out called Becoming Superman which I highly recommend.)

I’ll try to post something with more substance next time. ^_^

Book Balls, Fan Fiction, & Other Endeavors

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Today is the last day of my vacation. Yes, I took a vacation because the low-level but persistent stress of 2020 gets tough to deal with, and fortunately, I’m in a position to actually have and use some of that accrued time.

I kicked off my vacation with the #FCPLBookBall, a virtual library fundraiser where you make a monetary donation to the library to “attend” and then just sit and read all day. It was, in a word, glorious. I highly recommend curling up someplace quiet and comfy with one of those “10 hours of ocean waves” tracks from YouTube running in the background. Since I can’t go to the beach this year, this was the closest equivalent, and it actually worked very well:

Books, pillows, tea, candle, cat, soothing ocean waves in the background… Time to settle in for the #FCPLBookBall! ^_^ #bookworm #amreading #ILikeToParty #AndByPartyIMeanReadBooks (2020-08-15 @kvclements)

I’m going to have to try to do something like this once a month or something, a dedicated “Read & Relaxation” day. It worked wonders to help calm and recenter myself. (Also, Saturday August 22nd was the Ray Bradbury Centennial, and there’s a Read-a-Thon of Fahrenheit 451 available to stream until September 5th if you want to check it out!)

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Should The Cat’s Cradle Continue?

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I wish good habits were as easy to form as bad habits. I’m really good at the latter, but terrible at the former. I didn’t write any Cat’s Cradle entries for a month, and I managed to miss the day that I was supposed to start writing them again (yesterday).

I am seriously wondering if I should even bother.

The Cat’s Cradle has been running for over nine years. June 2021 will mark the 10th anniversary. Since I like nice, round numbers, I want to keep writing entries at least until then. But I’ve been struggling for ideas and content. I feel like everything that can be said about writing, any topic I might try to tackle, has already been covered by people who are far more influential and articulate than myself. I don’t feel like I have anything new to add to the conversation. I avoid a lot of controversial topics in fiction because A) many I don’t have strong enough opinions on, B) I don’t have to knowledge to give an informed opinion, C) I don’t want to write about touchy subjects for clicks, and D) I just don’t want the hassle. And since I haven’t worked on my own novels in… well, longer than I care to think about, there isn’t anything to report on those fronts.

And does anyone really care anyway?

After nine years, this blog has little to no engagement on it. A few likes here and there, but almost no comments, shares, or anything else to show reader interest. I can’t tell if anyone is actually reading or getting anything out of it or if, like so many others, I’m just shouting into the void of the internet. The people who know me are understandably busy with their own lives and have little to no time to read these ramblings of mine. And the people who don’t know me have no real reason to care what I’m writing about.

The purpose of The Cat’s Cradle was to be a author platform, a home base to showcase my writing, my reliability, and to host things about my work once I got published. But the more I learn about the publishing process, the more daunting it becomes and the more discouraged I feel. Do I really want to go through the hassle of finding and convincing an agent to take me on and get my work published? If all I want is a physical book of my work, I could go to a private book printer or self publisher and get one made for me. The chances of making a living as a writer are slim to none, and I don’t know if I have the passion and drive to push through all of those obstacles. I don’t know if the stress is worth it with such fierce competition and in such a dismal economy.

And yet at the same time, I also see some real drivel on the shelves, which makes me think, “If this piece of puerile pap made it through traditional publishing, why can’t I do the same?”

But I’m not sure why I’m writing anymore. It isn’t regular enough to be a habit, I make no money from it, and there is a severe dearth of joy in it. I don’t know if that’s just a result of the near-constant low level of stress dogging my heels, or if depression is rearing its ugly head again… or if I’m just being lazy because it’s easier to dream about being a writer than actually writing. Or maybe it’s just the chronic stress piling up. (I may be an introvert, but the restrictions of the pandemic are getting to me too.)

I’m sorry if this sounds discouraging. Believe me, I feel pretty discouraged myself. I’ve been calling myself a writer for years and a writer writes, don’t they? This is a huge part of my sense of self, my identity if you will. And I don’t have much to show for it. Aside from blog entries, I haven’t done much of that in a while. Maybe I just need to force myself back into a habit and that will get everything working properly again. I want to create things… I just don’t know if I want to go through the publishing process. The end result may not be worth the stress.

The good thing about writing is that there isn’t a time limit. It’s not like sports or dancing where you have a narrow window of physical and mental prime and once that’s passed, you’re pretty much done. Writing (and publishing) can be done at any age; there isn’t some “point of no return” where if you haven’t published by this time, you’ never will be. But I need to sit down and ask myself some hard questions:

  • Why am I writing?
  • What is the end goal or purpose and how would I know if I reached it (or didn’t)?
  • Should I keep pouring time and energy into a blog that no one reads?
  • How much effort should I dedicate to the publishing part of things at this point?
  • Do I even want to be published?
  • Do I even want to write?
  • Can I still be a writer if I barely write?
  • Is this just a temporary funk or a genuine shift in priorities?

In the meantime, if you do read this blog, please let me know that you do in the comments, what types of topics you prefer to read about, anything to give me an idea if it’s worth continuing this venture. I will keep going until June 2021, but then I will need to decide if The Cat’s Cradle should continue… or be retired.

Writing Alternative “Facts”

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My first and pretty much only experience with the “Choose Your Own Adventure” genre of books was, unfortunately, with Goosebumps. “Reader Beware, YOU Choose the Scare!” As someone who perceives stories in a very linear way and prefers to know “what really happened,” this type of book was an exercise in frustration. This was before I was exposed to role-playing games of any kind, although I am more acclimated to this style of story-telling in video games thanks to RPGs from Bioware and otome from Steamberry Studio.

But there still is part of me that gets very frustrated with multiple storylines or multiple routes, especially with books. I don’t do well with stories that tackle multiverses, alternate timelines, or transporter accidents. I want to know the proper order of events, the single “right way” to experience the story… and that just isn’t present in that style of writing. All of the “facts” are equally plausible. (Well, at least, they are if the game or book is good.)

So imagine my surprise when I found myself writing just this kind of story for my day job.

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