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.

~A

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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.

~A

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.

~A

Doc Mugen

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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.

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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.

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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.

~A

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.

~A

In the world of Ashlee

Things have been happening, despite my relative silence. Of course, that should be a given. No matter how many blog posts I do or don’t write, or how many days go in between my Facebook or Twitter updates, life goes on and the world keeps spinning. Isn’t it funny how we might measure our personal existence by our presence on social media? If you can’t see me, I’m not entirely real.

Nonetheless, there were a couple of big ups and downs in the interim. No, no, nothing so big as the release of my novel. That’s still yet to come, though I have been dispensing ARCs to some very lovely people, and hearing wonderful things back. We’re looking at another month or two before I can pin down the release date. It’s hard to have delay after delay; I am not patient, but I’m forced to acknowledge this comes in part due to what has transpired through the early months of 2013. So let’s go over some of those things.

I had an author interview over at This Is Horror. If you haven’t seen it already, you can read my Meet The Writer on their website. I’ll note, it’s both fun and weird talking about yourself in the interview format.

Family and friends have gone through a number of personal trials. As a bystander for the most part, you try to support them. Show love. Remind them each of their importance in your life. Broken bones in accidents, severe illness and ongoing aftercare, a death. Little things, big things, unavoidable throughout life. Then the worldwide tragedies which have been occurring, with heart-warming tales of heroism amidst the chaos. One of these days, I’m going to stop reading the news.

I have spent the better part of two months designing and building an updated version of The Damning Moths website. It hasn’t gone live as I am still trying to muscle my way through some of the more finicky coding. I never thought myself as an especially talented web designer, but I think this will all work out rather nicely in the end. It’s just getting to the point where I am confident the site will function as best as possible.

Surviving the End received the Australian Shadows Award for Edited Publication. So far, my favourite part of being in an award winning anthology is the celebratory atmosphere with my co-contributors and the excitement our editor shared. And another hearty congratulations to us all.

I’m writing and plotting and editing all at once, which is hardly unusual, but takes a lot of attention away from other things. For the next week, I am burying my head in these stories for as many hours as anyone will let me. I’m talking very long days. See, I recently attended a course and gained accreditation for a new job. I will be starting in late May. I don’t exactly know how that will change my writing hours and energy levels, but I want to have some of this out of the way before then. What better timing than my week off work? If I manage to push hard enough, I know exactly what I can get accomplished. So here’s to a very productive week.

Lastly, I fill the gaps in between with the occasional important email, and reading. A lot of reading. Judging for the AHWA Short Story and Flash Fiction Competition, as an early reader (both requiring actual thought, assessment, and giving feedback where appropriate), and a whole pile of books being consumed unnaturally quick for pure enjoyment.

I know I’ve said it before, but I might be able to keep up with blogging again someday soon. Or you might hear from me again in a few months time. Either way, my love to you all, you’re not far from my thoughts.

~A

Writers gonna write

I’m supposed to have an endless supply of things to talk about. Great ideas to muse over, or funny anecdotes to share. Pieces of my life and observations put into words and given freely to the world. I’m meant to connect with others, to find common ground, and to express my emotions regarding the state of existence.

But all I have are half-written blog posts about things which only serve to inspire me for a moment.

I’ve started–hold up, let me count them–sixteen entries which haven’t been finished recently. There are a couple which are fully written, but I’m not quite interested in posting them yet. It’s not that I’m worried about sharing these insights so much as I’m straddling the line between introvert and extrovert, and it just takes so much more effort to put things out there.

And to be perfectly honest, I almost feel like I have to hoard it all, store it up, to prepare for when I will absolutely need to push myself out into the spotlight when I launch The Damning Moths. That will require all of this enthusiasm and charisma. I can call the energy forth when I need to, but it makes everything else seem that much heavier. A little more strain on my reclusive half.

I’ve seen so many humourous comics or captioned images lately that reflect my state of being exactly: I don’t mind going out, but that means I need to put on pants and actually see people. I like being a writer, where I can sit at home and make things up about fictional people with outrageous abilities and entertaining quirks. I get true enjoyment out of putting together unlikely scenarios then figuring out how they make perfect sense.

Surely, I should have more thoughts to share with this corner of the world, right?

The proclivity to write does not translate to finding something worth saying. I can compose dozens of things, but deciding whether to put them into this specific platform is another thing altogether. I’m not interested in this blog being political, or adding this voice to the cries of social reform; at some stage I realised I don’t want to bring my opinionated side here. I have other places to get into debates (which I do often), and I suppose, I just don’t want to invite argument in yet another location I frequent.

But sometimes, that leaves me with little to say.

~A