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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

June: The Meta and the Personal


In the life of this blog since I began it eight years ago, I have managed to keep a steady pace of posts going up even through loved ones with cancer, through terrible breakups, through moves, and even through some non-trivial illness. There were a lot of "personal updates" during those times. There were a lot of guest bloggers. There were a lot of missed posts and a lot of jazz hands, but I've never looked back on a month to do a postmortem and thought, "What the fuck just happened?"

**Looks back at May**

What the fuck just happened?

I mean, I know I don't "just suck," and my work ethic usually worries people (including doctors who want to see me not die in my fifties of heart disease from stress), so how the hell did I manage to fuck up May so badly.

I have NEVER had a month where I only got six posts up––most of them about the polls I run. (I think twice that number might still be less than previous "worst month.")

But here we are.

So.....as this blog stands as a real-time example of how to establish, have, and maintain a career as a working writer, I'm going to perform this autopsy for all to see.

Take note, would-be writers. Even those of us paying the bills with our writing have to sit down once in a while and give OURSELVES performance reviews with a lot of ticky boxes marked "Opportunity for Improvement." And then we have to synergize* with ourselves to come up with a thought shower for our holistic plan to onboard more posts and get out of the weeds because we're as far up the flag pole as dynamic symbiotic engagement can run.

(*Don't call it "touching base with yourself" unless you want to confuse people with dirty minds....which is like, ALL my friends.)

Problems (as I currently see them)
  1. That week off to work on my manuscript is a quarter of the month. That's a huge chunk.
  2. For various reasons (bite-sized thoughts, fractured attention span due to trauma response, a more political focus, reacting to news), I have put a lot of my writing time and energy into my Public Facebook Profile. That writing is usually a little less polished. A little quippier. A little more shoot-from-the-hip. A little more, "Do you feel lucky, Punk?" Because any ONE Facebook post is less time-consuming than writing a whole post, I tend to discount their impact on my writing schedule when I'm dealing with them piecemeal, but if they were to form a contiguous writing session, it would be hours a day.
  3. There was dental work. Which was preceded by non-trivial dental pain and a day of navigating dental insurance bureaucracy only to discover my current plan is worth about as much as the paper it's printed on. And then of course the day after with the good drugs and the whimpering. This successfully chewed through four days from start to finish. Pun absolutely intended. 
  4. I had a very intense emotional month even aside from current events. SOME emotion can be used and brought to the page, but overwhelming amounts are like trying to drink from a fire hose. There were incredible ups and devastating downs. And I got my heart crushed just a bit––which is interesting because I wasn't exactly sure that was still a thing that could happen. So maybe I'm not quite so broken after all. 
  5. Global Pandemics. Amirite?
  6. I don't want to center myself or my feelings, but civil uprisings are intense. I'm pretty much always on the side of the folks who end up taking police brutality on the chin (seeing as most of the time they're the white supremacists bringing AR-15s to capitol buildings are actually pretty CHUMMY with cops), and sometimes I'm even out at the protests myself. Like I said above, when there are OVERWHELMING amounts of emotions, they can't be "channeled" as easily into some sort of "jokes-about-writing" form or even fiction. It becomes almost impossible for me to stop reading and/or to write about anything else. 
  7. A certain number of posts are just going to get missed in the current climate. I'm dealing with situational stressors that are adding up to the most difficult time I've ever endured long-term. I'm pretty good at getting ONE thing done in day and maybe two, but I kind of fall apart after that. So if anything becomes more urgent than writing (like, say, shopping for food), it's a bad day. 
Solutions (each respective to the same numbered problem)
  1. I'm going to put the manuscript time on hiatus for now. Until such time as I can successfully fill in the OTHER three weeks with a block of posts, that's just going to contribute to the bad image of a given month. When I "turn it back on" (which might be when Covid-19 is mostly in our collective rearview or it may be July if I rock June like a hurricane--HERE I AM), I will dial it back to the THREE days and slowly increase the days off I take from there. 
  2. I have repeatedly tried to point people at my Facebook, and I fully admit that is some guilty jumping up and down and saying, "Look, I'm totally doing something!" but I think I'm going to start a new "Regular Bit" here where I round up a handful of the most well-received posts every couple of weeks and put them in a little compilation. That'll give me a couple of days worth of posts each month to help with the fact that a multi-paragraph thing that takes me an hour to write IS writing, and IS work. It is it is it is!  *stamps foot*
  3. I don't plan on losing any more teeth for a while, so other than going back to be given the spacer that I'll have until they start the implant, I'll probably not lose any more time to dental issues. And no other teeth are even loose so a one-year-old punching me in the face won't force the issue! (Take those small, but surprisingly impactful victories where you can get them.)
  4. I don't know if I can do anything about people* professing feelings and then retracting them, but at least it gave me a few new things to write about!  And now that the firehose of fee-fees is off, I can process the past couple of weeks and move on. And maybe June will even be better.
    (*Yes. More than ONE! What a fortnight!)
  5. I can't change the global pandemic, but I am starting to settle in a little better to a "new normal" pace. I hate to have any solution be little more than "pedal faster" when I'm usually working 60-hour weeks, but I think this problem is going to get better if I just keep suiting up and showing up and doing my best to write every day. It's not like I'm going to get Covid or lose a tooth every month......right?  Right?  RIGHT?????
  6. This is out of my control. It's not going to go away until white supremacy is dismantled and the institutions and culture of our society reflect that BLACK LIVES MATTER! And even if this uprising is suppressed, there will be others. I can't control the events, I won't sequester myself from the news, and systematic inequality won't be better after one more march or fifty. So I'll just have to keep reminding myself that this is the predictable consequence of a racist system, and that there WILL be a few days of being stuck to the breaking news and shitposting all day each and every time it happens, so I should cut myself some slack for not writing An Official Article™. 
  7. And lastly, I have to just take some deep breaths and accept that a few days are going to get past me right now. 2020 is just a fucking HORRIBLE time and everyone is having some real "productivity" problems. (I mean, at least the Murder Hornets were a nothing burger.) Maybe I won't be QUITE so "gentle with myself" that in the end I'm looking at a month of only six posts, but a missed post here or there is just going to have to be okay for a while.
  8. EXTRA. This solves no specific problem above, but should help in general. I will likely reproduce this post each month for the duration. I'm not doing appeals posts while the global economy is collapsing (though you can always become a patron if you want as I have bills to pay too), so instead I will do a bit of a meta/personal check in. I often do personal updates when something is going on, but I've done them less as a regular thing since I started making Newsletters part of my Patreon rewards. 
If I fiddle with ALL those knobs, the aggregate result should be a June I don't actually feel a little bit ashamed about. And while I know I need to take my own advice about being kind to oneself (as do all of us in such a fraught time), let me leave you with two thoughts:

1- I do not think my dedication to write a LOT as a matter of discipline and the fact that the thing most people want to know about me is how I "made it" are separate issues. I've never known a writer of any success who did not have a routine they were constantly trying to squeeze a little more out of.
2- If you pay close attention, none of my "solutions" are really added work. I didn't decide to put an extra hour in each day on the weekend or get up thirty minutes early. (I mean one of them is "don't have dental work for a while.") If anything, I just moved some things from one pile to another and told myself in my best Uncle Iroh that June is likely to be less bullshitty. So you don't in any way need to answer sub-optimal productivity with a brutal regimen that borders on self-harm. There's a pretty big difference between "Yikes I need to write more than six posts next month," and "I will work harder."

As always you do you, don't push yourself if that's not what brings you a certain kind of satisfaction (catharsis at least, if not happiness), and thread that self-care/harsh routine needle carefully and with an eye on what is reasonable, but the other eye on where you want to be and how realistic it is that you will get there at your current pace.

3 comments:

  1. Well, Chris, not to pop any bubble, but I must admit that I, for one, didn't notice that you weren't meeting your self imposed (and, quite honestly, ever changing) over the top schedule of posts. There are just a teeny few other things going on at the moment that are catching my attention. I have not stopped my pathetic patron contributions to you, nor am I likely to, based on whatever your current blog post schedule morphs into. I do follow you on facebook, which has certainly been spicier recently - and I get what you are saying about other challenges.
    Anyway, can you just PLEASE put down the damned hammer that you insist on hitting yourself with ad nauseam? Yes, there was great value in your post mortem, and lots to explain the situation. but I am just a little bit tired of your self Flagellation. You know how you keep telling us that sometimes the best bit of writing needs to be cut because it doesn't carry the story forward? Big hug. sorry about the heart-aches, though. that sucks.

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    1. I was replying to this (nothing too snarky) but it got a little long, and I think it's probably going to be a post in the not-to-distant-future.

      Short version to tide you over:

      1- You're right. It's something I struggle with, and I'm probably falling back into bad habits because of three months running of being in survival mode.
      2- An awful lot of people want to know how to turn their passion into some value of "success" and part of what this blog does is to make that overarching process more transparent.

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    2. Hey Chris, if anything I wrote sounded petulant I am sorry, not at all what I meant.
      I don't need you to stop self flagellating, if you really feel like that is helpful. I just ache for you when you do... you are transparent! you share your pains and gains. Sometimes they cause ME to go 'ouch - don't DO that to yourself!!'. That's what I was doing. Saying 'ouch'.
      And as for falling back into bad habits... well, I am not drinking again, thank heavens, and THAT is my current real success. But I sure am eating more cookies...

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