Blog Archive

The meaningful versus conflict anxiety

Around my online hangouts, I have always tended to be vocal, argumentative, and long-winded. We give it a positive spin. We like to call them “debates”. It’s mostly just politely shouting at each other, though. The joy of the internet is the ease in which we can connect to a huge variety of people. That is also its downfall, because you encounter the bigots, the ignorant, and the malicious in equal amounts.

I do my best not to hold any heated discussion against a person; having a right to their own opinion and all that. Sometimes, in the middle of things, I start shaking and can’t see straight for the fact that someone won’t even look at the evidence being provided to counter their misconception, especially if it’s over something either very simple, or a misunderstanding which could cause another being harm.

But I don’t like arguing with people. It gives me no pleasure. Those of you who know me elsewhere, perhaps you’ll find that hard to believe. But it’s exhausting. The topic gets stuck on a loop in my head. I keep returning to what someone’s said, what I replied with, poking, assessing, and generally feeding my anxiety until I either purposefully depart from the discussion, or we reach a temporary end.

So I’ve never brought that here. I don’t talk about equality, women’s rights, LGBTQ issues. I don’t go into religion or politics or animal welfare. Hell, I don’t even repost things on Facebook that I support, because I want there to be some online space where I won’t automatically have someone arguing with me over the things I see as basic humanity.

Those debates do need to happen, without a doubt. I was told very recently by an observer they’re not sure how, or indeed why, people continue arguing against the known dissenters when there’s no sign of changing their opinion. The truth there is, we don’t just debate to change the other side’s perspective. We do it so those like us, or those we speak up for, know there are more people out here. They’re not alone. We see them, we hear them, we know they exist. Even if it’s not our personal fight, we will stand with them. We care.

My decision to avoid those all too common conflicts at a place like my blog is a problem of its own merit. Shouldn’t have insightful things to say? Shouldn’t I tell the world of my many strong stances about making society even better? Isn’t this the ultimate platform to promote all the good juju imaginable? I could delete comments that try and start arguments, or I could choose not to engage. And indeed, on the days when all the things filling my head are about these topics, I find I run out of other things to say. But I still don’t think I want to bring the war to my home turf. It’s okay to have a little bit of peace, to separate and not alienate myself from my own blog. Surely.


Reinterpreting my own advice

My efforts to keep writing as a significant entity are coming along swimmingly. Even with time off for the “weekend”, I’m ahead of schedule and finding it easier each day to separate from whatever else fills my time and use it to get the words done at my writing desk.

I’m doing my best to celebrate that progress, though the voice of contention has to chime in. I can pick up on the novel and produce the next pages of text without too much effort, but the summer job is keeping me from percolating on the short stories I need to write. Not enough quiet thinking time. Sometimes, writing a novel feels like throwing thousands of words into a giant hole. I can’t help the ever-so-slight sense of not doing enough, all centred around how I haven’t added anything to the short story list, even when I’m successfully exceeding my daily word quota.

Part of my drive to push a few extra hundred words in here and there stems from the inevitability that my next holiday will be writing-free. Date of departure is approaching rapidly, and I’m helpless in the face of three weeks of writing lost to being away.

Not only am I making up for those days off in advance with my extra effort now, but I’m looking ahead to what my writing plans will be when I return. One of the biggest things I tell many creative friends is to forgive themselves when life gets in the way. We’re a damn critical bunch, and harshest upon ourselves for any perceived lapse.

I’d love to believe I could keep up my excellent daily word count for the duration of my holiday, but every single other vacation has proven otherwise. There’s just not enough time or mental energy to spare when I’m out of the house. I could try and fight it, but I think this is one of the instances where forgiving myself is more important than struggling against the path of least resistance. I mean, it’s supposed to be a holiday, right?

Afterwards, though, I have to be honest, and persistent, and stubborn when vacation time is over. It’s too easy to pretend like the excuses have validity and weight when it’s “just writing”. At no point would I call my manager and tell her I can’t come back to the day job because I’m recovering from holidays. I wouldn’t give up partway through my shift because I’m tired and it’s hard to rebuild the routine. Writing is no longer a just-for-me activity. I have external expectations to meet.

So that will be the thing I fight against, and not simply forgive: the tendency to let myself cruise along as if writing is just too hard when I’ve taken a break. Yes, it is difficult to get back into the groove with a three-week-hiccup in the way, but not enough to actually matter! Step one is my mental approach. I have two jobs to come back to, end of story.

It’s one thing to be forgiving, and another to let myself wallow in lingering post-vacation laziness.


It’s that New Year kind of feeling

People all around the world are making goals for 2014. I’m not talking those “New Years Resolutions” deals, the ones destined to fall through once January slinks away and people return to their normal life habits, but more about how everyone takes stock, reassesses where they’re going, and reorients back toward where they thought they should be instead of the detour 2013 took them on (also known as the many varieties of, “ahaha, and you thought you were in control of your life, I’ll show you!”).

I don’t often get very new year-y, preferring to make constant little adjustments with each new moon. But lucky for me, the new moon falls on January 1st this/next year. So my thoughts are getting just a teensy bit caught up in everyone else’s planning. Not only for what I want in the following month, but what 2014 should do for me.

After the first flush of “success” with The Damning Moths – by which I mean a bundle of books have sold, and I’ve gotten real, live fan letters from people I don’t directly know (!!!) – the obvious goal is to power forward with the other books I need to finish creating. I don’t think that even counts as a new goal, except that November and December are super busy months and almost always represent a slump in my writing, so I’m feeling the internal pressure to write more, progress faster, and perceive myself as more productive and professional.

Starting on January 1st, I’ll be doing more to treat writing time like other work time. My real challenge there is in mindset. With the day jobs, I leave the house, do what needs to be done, and come home again. Writing is too personal for me to successfully take out into a public area like a coffee shop or library (what with the whole writing in a robe, not wearing pants thing – okay, more that I get distracted and start people-watching, plus don’t much like having an audience for my scribblings). I think I will start by carving out a small workspace in another room away from my main computer which is all tied up with being social and used for entertainment, to give myself the illusion that I am “going to work” when I sit down to write. I’ll schedule it in, just like my other job.

So there you have it. The goal at the top of my list is make a physical space to represent being a real writer. You’d think having a book published would cover those kind of feelings, but no. Maybe having a little separate desk won’t change my perspective much either, but it’s a good direction to start.


Two Days

People have asked me, in an almost constant stream, aren’t I excited about my book coming out? Even aside from the fact that I’m rather reserved with expressing my enthusiasm (I simply do not understand the people who actually scream and leap around when they are excited), I’ve had a whole lot more to take care of in the lead up to release day. I haven’t been so worried that I couldn’t still feel eager, but at the same time, most of the nervousness I’ve had is that distant roar of panic instead of glee. So little time and so much to do, and a drive to do it all well.

But I’m running out of other responsibilities. I’ve crossed almost everything off the list. The first shipment of books coming to me is taken care of. Incidental tasks are completed. The Market on The Damning Moths website works fabulously. I’ve put up sample chapters and illustrations to the delight of many readers (and once again, thank you for the wonderful feedback). A free short story was made available. I’ve remembered to send updates to the mailing list, and finalise the ebook formatting, and complete a rather intimidating amount of business-end work.

There’s nearly nothing left to distract me.

In two days, my first novel will be available. Pre-orders will be sent out. Guests will come to the launch party on Sunday. I will sign bookplates and posters (both part of the pre-order freebies), and it’s both all too real, and a little unbelievable. Sure, I’m excited, if you dig under the veil of bewilderment.

I’ve asked some of my long-time author friends: does it get easier? Does release day ever stop being this vibrating, ruffled thing of delight and fear? There’s a reason they are my friends, because they were utterly honest with me. Even someone whose novels are bestsellers and internationally renowned warned me that, no, launches don’t get less unsettling. They just become more familiar in their terrible wonder.

And yet, here I am, ready to do it all again for the subsequent books. Stars above.


Doc Mugen


You had a million names to us, all because your fur spanned twice your actual size. Under all that fine brown-grey, you were a slender cat. Doctor Fluff, Fluffer-puss, Flufftergon, Mister Fluff, and so forth. They called you “Jungle Love” at the Cat Haven. I think because you were the lovingest.

I went in search of you as a surprise gift, first seeing your picture online. A fluffy cat to be our Anniversary Cat. When they opened your cage door, you hesitated only a moment before coming out from the back and giving me what I would come to know as your customary greeting: a full-body rub, mashing your face into me, butting me as hard as you could. After such enthusiasm, we knew you approved of us. You didn’t want to ride home in the cat carrier, preferring your dad’s lap. He was your favourite person by far, and you sought him out to lay on at every opportunity.


And laying was one of the things you did the best. The first day you were free to explore the house, we found you sprawled on the bed. You knew you were home. Whenever you could find a way to climb inside of something to curl up and sleep, you would. Boxes, baskets, under the blanket with us, and even inside the rabbit’s cage in a minute of inattention from me. But particularly, you would lay on your back in our arms. If we were ever to pick you up, you would roll over and stretch as far as you could.


You had an extra sense for knowing when we had bought a rotisserie chicken and would hang out in the kitchen to give us one of your tiny, high-pitched, adorable and rare “aahh” meows, asking very nicely for us to share. Usually, we couldn’t resist and you would get a sliver of chicken. If we had let you, you would have eaten our turkey, spaghetti, and especially buttered toast as well. You would purr, stand tall, and wriggle your tail because you knew you were so beautiful. You would do the cutest little hop to ask for dinner.

Three years after we found you, almost to the day, you fell ill with urinary blockages. A week in and out of the vet hospital, and the vets couldn’t do any more for you. Though weakened, you purred for us today and we eased your suffering, taking that pain into our hearts instead. You’ll always be the Great Fluff. I love you, Doc. Be good.


Epitomising Storytelling

When I grow up, I want to be the written equivalent of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

“Hold up,” you say. “That’s based on, uh, The War of the Worlds. It’s already something that’s… you know, been written.”

Yes it is, I’m aware, and thank the gods for granting us H.G. Wells. It’s not the tale in and of itself, though. Other stories have meant so much more to me as pure stories. The tension Jeff Wayne added with the aural experience is something moving. Nostalgic and magical.

The truth is, if it weren’t for Richard Burton’s narration, I would not understand exactly how I want my words to move together. His part as The Journalist gave me the clearest vision of what lilt and flow a story should have. His voice lives on as the ultimate measure of sentence structure and word choice for me. Credit in the hands of the author for penning the the script, but the performance of Mr. Burton gives it another life.

Add in the artful pauses, the rising pressure, sudden starts and stops in the music. All the emotion. The leitmotifs and sound design. That is merely flavour to the distinct narration which encompasses what I feel storytelling should be. If I can leave my readers with a sense of sincerity amidst all that otherworldliness the way this production has always left me, I will have succeeded.

When I grow up, I want my stories to be a late 1970’s concept album. It’s not the worst goal a lady can have.


Of Baked Goods and Deadlines

Short stories, editing, formatting, website content. Obtaining reviews, merchandise set up, the postal service increased the cost of shipping by HOW MUCH?!

Touching base with customer service representatives to discuss options.

Pre-release interviews. Checking and double-checking files before uploading.

And still, I chip away at the next novel because I really like the story and it’s very satisfying to work on.

How will I fit everything in? My productive week away from the other job came to an end. The responsibilities of life don’t tend to wait politely while I’m running about trying to finish everything in the same moment. Despite prioritising and re-prioritising, I get into a cycle of doing a little here, some other thing there, and never really moving forward enough to justify the time I’ve spent on any given task.

Counter-intuitive as it may seem on those days, the best thing to do is drop everything and bake tasty treats. Just shove all those worries into the back of my mind and accept that an hour off will help calm me, then there will be good smells filling the house and delicious results for my effort. Strawberry cupcakes to go with sweet iced coffee. Fresh waffles where the fluffy batter soaks up maple syrup and stays crisp on the edges. Mars Bar slice, Rice Bubble/Krispy treats, Honey Joys.

The deadlines won’t go away. The work won’t even complete itself while I’m not looking. But I’ll have spent time doing something immediately rewarding. Just as long as I don’t burn anything – that would be apocalyptic right now.