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

Monday, December 13, 2021

We Will Be Right Back After These Messages

My patrons got a version of this a week ago. They tend to get news like this sooner since it's their support that keeps the rent paid. But I still wanted to make sure that everyone reading, and maybe wondering what was going on, knows what's happening, why there have been very few posts, and what the timeline for a return to normalcy might look like. Writing About Writing isn't going away, shutting down, or going to be on break any longer than is necessary for my recovery from surgery.

If you’ve been following updates, you know that I have colon cancer. And if you’ve been following closer, you know that I have surgery scheduled for December 16th (just four days from this writing). I've become the mental and emotional equivalent of the screaming possum meme.

I think I'm about 97% unspooled at this point. I might have three percent but it actually comes and goes. Last week, I was at least keeping up a sporadic sense of togetherness (even though I wasn't having good DAYS anymore, and had begun to focus on good HOURS), but now I’m completely in crisis mode, everything is focused on just putting one foot in front of the other, and if I get twenty or thirty minutes between . I’m a mess, and I am having an impossible time writing much more than raw, unfiltered emotional splats. I think about blogging, and I stare at the blinking cursor as the hours go by.

The last thing I want to be is a crowdfunded content creator who pauses the content. That’s a very uncomfortable place for me to be as someone with exorbitant medical bills coming up. (I’ve never wanted a regular, salaried job, but AT THIS MOMENT, I sure wouldn’t mind being able to take a medical leave of absence.) But I can’t keep going right now—I have to focus on my health. I’m going to have to put the blog on a (brief) hiatus to get through the surgery and initial recovery. I’ll just have to worry when I get back about what needs to be rebuilt. 

It won’t be long before I won't have much else to do BESIDES sit in bed and write blog posts, but for now I have to focus on getting there. My surgery is the 16th. I’m in the hospital for, they hope, two nights. After that I’m home, but probably mostly out of it on pain meds for at least a week or two. Then you'll probably see some status updates, quick posts, a wrap up of our current YA horror book recommendation, and a guest post or two from my most recent call.

My hope is that after Christmas, you’ll start seeing some updates trickle in. But officially, I’m going to say that we’re on hiatus until January—maybe the second week or so if there are no complications in surgery and my recovery goes well. 


Thursday, December 2, 2021

Three Announcements (Book Recs (and Secs)/Guest Blog/Cancer Meta)

There are three major announcements today. 

First of all, please don't forget to throw in a nomination (or a second) in our Best Y.A. Book (or Series) book recommendation conversation. I haven't been able to do as many reposts on social media, so we're a little thin on nominations. I don't think I'm going to be able to run another one of these until I'm fully back from at least surgery, and possibly whatever further therapy cancer demands of me, so this might be it for at least a couple of weeks, but maybe longer.

Second, I'm about to go through this monster list of folks who want to get in on some guest blogging, and I want to remind a few of you who sent me proposals—some of which sounded incredibly interesting—that there was a way I knew if you had read those submission guidelines VERY CAREFULLY…….and a few of you didn't. If you'd like to re-submit properly, I'll take those submissions, but I'm looking at about 100+, so naturally the first ones I'm going to reject are the folks who didn't manage to follow the first set of instructions. Take it as a lesson in the harsh world of publishing—always follow the submission guidelines. No matter how good your writing is, you're still fundamentally seeking to establish a working, professional relationship with your collaborators, so they are going to want to know you can/will follow their directions.

Lastly, let me just make you aware of how things are likely to look heading into my surgery. I'm still going to keep writing, but the amount of doctor's appointments and news is impacting my writing schedule. A lot. This week alone I did a CT scan, got news that I have a dominant trait genetic disorder, and did a procedure with a multi-day recovery time. Even the good news kind of flattens me. I've been holding my breath for so long that when someone tells me I don't have any metastatic cancer, it's hours of emotional relief. I'm going to run the results of our book rec conversation (above) tomorrow, and call it a week—a very difficult week. 

Next week is the pre-op, an anesthesiologist consult, and a blood draw for hematology, and that is if absolutely nothing gets added last minute and I hear absolutely no news at all. I will probably be able to do a regular writing post or two if I only have the three appointments. Many of my posts might not be "about writing" so much as kind of cancer updates and status reports until I'm kind of back from surgery. I imagine they're going to send me home with some of the good drugs and when I've healed a bit, I'm going to have a lot of time in bed to do some writing. That's when to expect me to get back into the swing of the blog. But I want you to know I'm thinking of all of you and let those of you thinking about me know where I am.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Tuesday Report (It's About to Get Funky)

Due to a temporal anomaly in the Writing About Writing compound, this post has been brought to you from yesterday. It is possible that tomorrow's post will be brought to you from next week, and until we can clear this up, it might be best to expect the unexpected.

Reminder: I just found out that I have cancer.  And Tuesday reports are kind of going to be Cancer Update™ for a while. Treatment is about to start, so my life is about to get…funky. 

Quick Personal Update-

I got back from vacation and jumped straight back into medical crap. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that medical crap jumped ME. My GI specialist (the one that colonoscopied me) called me late on Sunday night to talk about something called Lynch syndrome, which it's likely that I have. It's a genetic condition that raises the likelihood of certain kinds of cancers—including the one I have. I don't have kids, so some of the urgency was deferred, but I'll have to do genetic counseling once I'm done with surgery.

Yesterday I had a CT scan with contrast.

Tomorrow I have a procedure that will knock me out for a couple of days.

Today was just therapy, which I restarted when I got my diagnosis, just so I can have some help dealing with everything that's coming up for me.

Surgery is scheduled for Dec 16 (so I'm probably going to be out of it until at least Monday).

I'm writing a little every day, but I'm hanging on to blogging by a thread right now. One of the things I'm dealing with is just how overwhelming this has been. It's not like I come home after an appointment or the minute I get off the phone from some bad news and just hop right back into writing. Sometimes even the good news takes a few hours of being emotional to process. Today I found out I had no lung and liver involvement (which means it's not stage four, and I don't need to START with chemo) and even though that was great news, I was out of it for most of the rest of the day—just so relieved from the breath I had been holding for weeks.

Weekly Schedule Adjustments-

Tomorrow isn't going to happen because of my procedure, but after that I won't have a lot to do BUT sit around, so the plan is to get some writing done during recovery. (Incidentally, next week has "only" three appointments, but they're all on Wednesday, so I might be able to get in one more half week before the surgery.)

I'm trying hard not to just shut everything down until post surgery. I should at least have a few good days until then and next week doesn't look two bad.

Tomorrow and Thursday are probably going to involve wrapping up our latest book recommendation conversation. I badly need an admin day to go through about a billion emails. I'm hoping I can write something significant for Friday while I convalesce, but it might be touch and go.

Novel Progress-

Old Crusty 1.0 Draft: 34, 398

I'm still not getting much fiction written. What little writing time I have is going towards the blog right now.

Behind the Scenes-

I need an admin day in the worst way. I have a stack of emails to reply to that is taller than me. I would normally take a day off, but I think that just running the book recommendation, I can at least get a quick post up and then tab over to my Gmail and roll up my sleeves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Tuesday Report

It's going to be a light fare here at Writing About Writing this week. Before my diagnosis, I'd planned and paid for a small out-of-town vacation over Thanksgiving, and my original plan was to have some articles ready to go, do some writing while I was there, and still post a full week.

Despite the gravity of the news, my partner and I decided to go forth with the vacation just to get our mind off of things for a few days. I made sure I had a week off from CT scans and consults and procedures. If I'm going to spend the next two or three months (or more) trying not to die, I'm going to spend this one week trying to live. 

However, I've also decided NOT to try to post a full week of articles, and just take the week (MOSTLY) off. With everything going on, including stress, a totally scattered brain periodically contemplating things like what a burden I'm going to be to my loved ones, and doctors' appointments, I didn't have any pre-written articles, and I don't want to spend the better part of a couple of days in the Air B&B trying to hit deadlines. So the only thing I'm really going to post is just last call and wrap up of our current book recommendation conversation. Otherwise I'm going to enjoy my time. It's going to be a LOT when I get back, and it's going to happen FAST. 

So one last hurrah….

Friday, November 19, 2021

Guest Bloggers Wanted

So for obvious reasons, I'm going to need some help with the heavy lifting in the month or two to come (and possibly longer, depending on my post-surgery prognosis). I don't want to put Writing About Writing on hiatus or take a health leave of absence as a crowd funded content creator. Thus, I'm going to try to curate some guest articles and mix those in with my own. Now is your chance to dip a toe in the water of blogging to see what it's like, help me out even though you don't have a spare dime in your budget, maybe even make a couple of dollars, promote yourself, or just get your voice out there.

I have a warning though. This time, I cannot be your kind and clement gatekeeper who holds your hand and reminds you gently that you I need you to go back and do X, Y, or Z if you want your submission to be a blog post for Writing About Writing. I have done this before, and I simply do not have the time and energy to do it this time. I'm doing this because I'm overwhelmed already. 

I've taken a lot of time and energy to make sure the submission guidelines are very clear. Please meet me halfway and take the time to understand them if you want to write for us.

Got something to say about writing, art, inspiration, creativity, motivation, process, craft, literature, reading...or possibly cheese?

Got something that writers or book lovers REALLY need to see?

Want to respond to something I've written, even if it's to completely disagree with me and tell me I smell like soup? (And the good soup that reminds you of snug childhood winters, but something with weird goat cheese and seasonings that smells a little off.)

Want to take advantage of my (currently) 40,00-60,000+ page views per month and advertise your own online endeavors in a thinly veiled self-promote-a-thon wrapped in the "sheep's clothing" of an article? (For which I will only demand a shoutout in return.)

Want to put an article or three out in the world, be read by lots of readers, but without having to start your own blog and do all that self promotion? Or just want to try blogging on for size a few times before you start one of your own?

Want to even make a couple of bucks? (Oh yes. I said it. No just "exposure" here!)

Then I want you!

Hey, I gotta get a book written. I need a day a week where someone else can do some of the heavy lifting.

Bring it!  

Read this whole page––I'll know if you didn't

Then drop me an e-mail. (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) As long as what you want to write is mostly coherent, at least obliquely about writing, no more than 82% horribly offensive to cishet white males, non-abusive to demographics typically pushed to the margins of our society, doesn't make me cry (except in the good way), contains at least one vulgarity, innuendo, or salvo of F-Bombs to maintain the steadfast and unswerving lack of decorum I maintain around here, I will consider your article.

Now paying people and having the traffic I do, does mean that I usually get about two hundred or so replies to a post like this, and I get to be a little picky, so please put on your Sunday best and read this entire post very, VERY carefully.

I'm obviously not going to host anything that is utterly shitty to me or some kind of elitist skidmark about who deserves the label of "writer" and who is a "total poseur." Miss me with that shit. More importantly, miss my readers.

I also can't promise that if you write an article on why I'm totes wrong in my Wrongface about something like writing every day or reading a lot that I won't write some kind of rebuttal, but all opinions on writing are welcome--even ones antithetical to mine. (I do reserve the right to refuse a post for any reason, but I promise that reason won't be because I disagree with you about daily writing or you think NaNo is unambiguously awesome or whatever.)

And...if you're one of my regular guest bloggers, I'll even give you your own link on The Reliquary (unless you'd rather I didn't) and let you post links to your own fiction. The magic number is FIVE regular articles to open up those privileges. (And then we'll talk ratios.)

Here are some guidelines so we don't waste each other's time. If you don't at least get through them, this isn't going to go well (and like I said above, I have a way of knowing):

  • If you send me offers to do web content, I mark your mail as spam. 
  • Personalize your email. If you're flinging out a lot of these, that's fine, but if you've got a form letter with a link, be aware that it looks EXACTLY like the spam I get four or five times a day. I don't always know when I'm looking at a legitimate offer for a guest blog.
  • If you are a robot I will mark you as spam. Unless you can do dishes. Robots that do dishes are welcome.
  • If you can't figure out what this blog is about, and offer to do articles about steam roofing or tantric sex techniques or something, I'll mark your mail as spam (although I might have some follow up questions about the tantric sex techniques). I'm not just web content here; this blog has a theme and everything.
  • Please read the paragraph below the bullet points very, very, very carefully.
  • Your writing is yours. I'm going to ask that you let the post run on my page for a while before you cross post it, but ultimately I respect that as the generator of the creative effort, your writing is yours. If you ask me to remove it, I will. If you repost it somewhere else, that's okay. IT IS YOURS! IT WILL STAY YOURS!
  • There are no author passwords to Writing About Writing–you'll submit your articles to me. I will post them if they are good enough to post.
  • The more formatting your post needs (italics, bold, underlining, bullet points, pull quotes, double tab paragraphs) the more likely it is I'm just going to copy and paste it and it will come out looking STRANGE on blogger. I honestly don't know why this happens, but the font ends up being small no matter how many times I try to fix it. It's much better if you need only a few formatting changes and I can start with fresh text and do the formatting myself. 
  • If you skipped all that dull text up above, this blog is about writing, art, inspiration, creativity, motivation, process, craft, literature, reading, and maybe cheese. Don't skip the paragraph below though.
  • Right now I'm not publishing fiction other than my own. I would be willing to publish fiction of any of our regular guest bloggers but getting that distinction takes some doing. (Five regular articles.) If you have something more creative (like someone mentioned poems about writing) run it past me. I might be up for something like that. Maybe.
  • I'm not a hardass gatekeeper—especially not about grammar—but you do have to be able to write a little and there will be competition. I am going to get a lot of responses to this post. I'd love to publish them all, but I will (at most) be picking one a week. An incoherent rant about the tyranny of grammar or something you slapped together in ten minutes probably won't be make it. Write your best shit (you should never submit less anyway), meticulously follow all the submission guidelines (you should always do this), and let loose. But don't get too nervous about whether it means you're a good writer or not. It just means there's competition and maybe some other topic fit better or you'll nail it in a year with practice. 
  • You don't have to agree with me, particularly about writing stuff, but I'm not going to post wildly divergent social positions, humor that punches down, or deeply problematic phrasing. Anything I post here isn't an "I agree with this 100%!" endorsement, but if I hit publish on it, I'm going to be the one to answer for it when I get pissed off readers in my comments. If you want to write about how the PC police are agents of "the libs," and they won't let you even use the word "XXXX" anymore, go start your own fucking blog, so I can never read it.
  • I won't make any content changes to your writing, but I may make some copy edits. If a proofreading change might change your meaning, I will run it by you.
  • Please fucking read the paragraph below.
  • When I say "I will make some edits" I want you to understand that I'm not a copy editor and wouldn't be good at it even if I wanted to be. I'm not here to fix up a post from scratch that you didn't have time to proofread. Clean it up. 
  • You may link out as much as you want (even self-promotional links) within reason, but I'm going to check them all--if they go to spammy shit, I won't publish your article. I don't have a rubric for "within reason."  If your post is more links than articles, no. If it has two dozen solid citations for the point you're making, we're still totally golden. If you have linked to six separate self-published books on your Amazon page about sex with dinosaurs..........well, it better be one great fucking article. 
  • Please, for the love of all that is holy, and in the name of Poseidon's left nipple, read the goddamned fucking paragraph below.
  • If your post is a giant ass commercial for some product, then you need to be paying me for advertising space. (I offer very reasonable rates.) And if your product isn't awesome and something I totally believe in, that's not going to happen anyway since WAW is generally ad free. Thinly veiled self promotion under the auspices of something that at least resembles an article is totally okay though–just know that it might not get a lot of hits. I only get about 200 views on articles that aren't liked or reshared through some social media. If my readers don't like something, it does NOT do very well. If they do, well they know where the like and share buttons are and it quickly goes viral.
  • Be aware of, and at least passingly comfortable with my politics and social justice posts. I absolutely do not require guest bloggers to agree with me–certainly not about every issue. However, there is nothing more desperately unprofessional than writers so happy to be published anywhere that they turn around and are shocked to see their own platform throw out a social position they can't abide by. Also, include the word sparklefuzz in your email's subject line if you want any sort of reply from me at all. This shows me how you've actually taken the time to read the guidelines, and gives me an easy way to search for them when I get buried in emails which is all the time.
  • Seriously, read the paragraph below.

The very important paragraph:

W.A.W. isn't making very much money article per article. I can't offer more than a couple of dollars (currently $10 for an article that does on average as well as the ones I write and more if it does better). Most guest bloggers ask to fold their payment back into W.A.W. as a donation, but that's never expected, and I'm happy to pay you for your writing. If your article brings in heavy traffic, we will figure something extra out so I'm not taking the hard work of a writer with nothing but the promise of "exposure." Plus of course if someone sends me a donation earmarked for a guest blogger, I will pass the money onto them and even cover the Paypal fee–that's for them, not me. It may not add up to much (unless you get millions of hits or write for me a lot) but if it came from your work, I'll make sure I'm not taking advantage of you.

Less important paragraphs, but you probably should keep paying attention if you don't want to be frustrated:

THIS PROCESS WILL TAKE TIME BECAUSE I AM A WRITER (with a second job who just got diagnosed with cancer), NOT A MANAGING EDITOR. When you email me in the appropriate way, I star the email as "important," and it may take me a week to ten days (or more) to get to it. I then send back a "form" reply to everyone who didn't spam me or pitch steam roofing articles with the next step (which involves either a sample or the article you'd like considered if it's already written). I usually never get a response to the second email. This process can take a month or more so if you're in a terrible hurry, you may need to throw down a rope and swear on the soul of your father, Domingo Montoya, that I will clear out my email cache alive. Honestly, most people just ghost me after not getting a reply immediately. If you aren't ready to be patient…..well really you shouldn't be doing submissions anyway––just go self-publish.

Of those who send me something they want published, about 10% actually make it to the blog. Now, just so you know, while I do get submissions that aren't ready for publication yet, it's actually far less common than just submissions where folks don't follow the directions. I'm not even talking about anal retentive directions that you get from most publishers like single spaced or page numbers. I mean they don't reply to the first email. Or they link me something and never tell me if that's their sample or if that's what they want me to publish. Or I ask about a biography and a pic and never hear back. Or they send me six emails in a row wondering if they can write ten to fifteen articles a day because they gotta make rent.

I know it seems like hoops and an assembly line and believe me on this end it's ten times worse, but trust me that once we're done with the hoopla, the rapport will be very informal and friendly and unless your posts get really off topic or weird, I'll give them a lot more latitude than the first one–it will be a much less stressful process once you're "in."

Also.....most of the writers who do get all the way to the publication point send me between two and four articles and then lose enthusiasm. Maybe it's just not the insta-fame they were hoping for or it turns out it's harder work than they thought to keep cranking out posts every week. So if you're serious about this, the best thing you can do is read everything carefully (like this post and the e-mails I send you), and stick with it.

Just like writing itself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Best Y.A. Horror (Last Chance for "Recs" and "Secs")

What is the best young adult horror genre book (or series)?

There's a lot happening in my life, of course, so I forgot to give this all the shout outs that most of our prior conversations get, but we still have our ongoing book recommendation post for young adult horror.

Just don't forget to pop over to the ORIGINAL PAGE to drop that recommendation or check out the rules if you're unsure of them. If you put it here or on the social media pages where I'm sharing this link, it won't get tabulated and put on our list.

Also please keep in mind that we this is about books, not their A/V media adaptations. Coraline the book and Coraline the movie are….well they're pretty close actually, but there are some differences.

I'll be tabulating results in the next couple of days.

Thank you all for joining in our Book Rec Conversation. I've really love reading all your comments about the books you treasure and why.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

If You Need Anything… (The C Word)

I'm going to do at least one more of these health and status updates instead of the regular Tuesday report. I haven't done a lot of writing beyond what I've posted here. (No fiction or Patreon stuff behind the scenes.) I've spent about 30 hours since last Tuesday in various doctors' offices for either consults or procedures, and the writing just didn't get done. But I can tell you what IS going on.

I have cancer.

The news hit Friday (after waiting for a promised call that never came on Thursday). The gastroenterologist found a mass during a colonoscopy on Wednesday (which I was undergoing to try and find the answer to why I'd suddenly become anemic). They found something during the colonoscopy. They took a biopsy and sent it to pathology. The rest is what it is.

Colon cancer. Very treatable. They're going to resect part of my colon. Bigity bam! We won't know for sure until after surgery (when the pathology comes back from the lymph nodes) what stage it is, but there are a lot of signs that we caught it early and a really good chance I won't even need chemo. The news was jarring—even frightening—at first, but like most bad news, once it settled in and put its feet up, I realized that even Everything In My Power™ was not that much, so I take those steps, and otherwise live my life around it. 

The outpouring of support from my friends, community, and extended reader base community has been absolutely breathtaking (sometimes in a gasping, literal way). I love how many people have reached out to tell me they believe in me or that they've been through something similar.

I suspect (because I've been the same way for the last forty-seven twenty-nine years of my life) that when most people say, "If you need anything—anything at all—just ask," they are probably imagining me tearfully unspooling my emotions over the phone at four in the morning about how vulnerable I feel facing my mortality.  (And don't get me wrong. There is probably going to be some of that, but I do already have people that I would lean on that hard.) But what they probably don't expect is for me to say something like, "Yeah, do you have any inside information on where I could get a PS5*?"

*Okay, I somehow got one of these due to the intervention of a dear peep who just happened to end up with an extra.

So if you're honestly wishing you could help, and you just don't know how, here's a no nonsense list of what I'm really really actually going to need.

1- Money

I hate to be crass, and like many Gen Xers raised in a largely WASP culture, I've got a lot of baggage around making this request (even as an already crowdfunded artist/entertainer), but the most useful thing to me is going to be money. The medical bills started a month ago, are already stacking up, and the surgery and hospital stay haven't even happened. Just getting an answer about what is going on has cost me nearly four figures out of pocket.

I never got sick (beyond "bed rest and fluids") before this and until this year, I kind of thought even my silver plan was sort of unnecessary. But now I'm facing out of network costs, some drugs that don't have generics (Suprep is over $100 even WITH insurance—you have to pay to have some of the worst two hours of your life), a non-trivial deductible, coinsurance; even just the damn copayments are adding up SO fast. I'm going to be in the hospital for at least two nights after going under the knife of a surgeon who probably makes my annual salary in a month. I'm switching to a gold plan next year so I have some extra help with all the follow-ups and stuff, but that won't kick in until Jan 1st, and it doesn't help me now.

This is all to say nothing of non-medical expenses that run the gamut from the cost of running all around town every day to appointments to grabbing takeout after a procedure because I don't feel like cooking. Not to mention the losses from Patreon folks who aren't as chill as most of my readers about how I'm not writing as much these days and my partner's lost wages from days taken off to be with me.

I don't want to sound like a mercenary here. Money is FAR from the only thing I need to get me through this situation, but money IS the Swiss Army Knife of problem solving in our society. If everyone here threw me a few bucks, I'd be able to get through this without stressing about how I'm going to pay all the medical bills without blowing through my retirement money, but also without stressing if the folks helping me while I convalesce are going to keep the house clean or if I can afford Panera some night I am in too much pain to cook.

If you're looking to help long term (or perhaps a bit each month until I'm through this), the best way is to become a Patron through Patreon. I wouldn't mind knowing if the patreon is going to be temporary, just so I can know what to expect from my budget when I'm fully recovered. (If that's the case, feel free to include a note or drop me an email: chris.brecheen@gmail.com, but I won't be upset or anything if you aren't able to).

If one-time financial support is more your speed, you can drop a set amount at Writing About Writing's paypal, at my Venmo (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) or even message me for Zelle information or a mailing address if you'd like to send a check.

2- Think DISTRACTION, not lachrymose

I'll admit that I felt seen the first few people who sent me a message that they were so sorry. And yet…as kind and sincere and genuine as the place is from which those sorts of sentiments come, after a while they kind of keep me quagmired in those sad and sorry feelings where I'm getting dragged back to this perspective of my diagnosis as a big tragedy that defines my life and who I am, and isn't just something I'm going through (and will probably be fully recovered in a couple of months). 

It's not that I'm not going to have moments where it all hits me and I lose it. (I've already had more than a few.) It's just that what I really want is to laugh and love and be a shitposting memelord and watch good movies and bang cute people and…. I don't want this diagnosis to be everything I am, everything people see about me, and I sure don't want it to be every conversation I have.

If you want to reach out—and I think that's great— throw me a meme. Tell me a joke. Tell me about your family member who beat the odds and that you're rooting for me, but then don't just leave it in awkward silence where I am like, "Okay….well, thank you. I ALSO hope I don't die."  Maybe add in a terrible pun. Maybe flirt shamelessly. Maybe tell me about your D&D game last Thursday. Maybe…I don't even know. Let's just talk about something—anything—else. Maybe I'm not going to call you at 3 in the morning and tell you about how vulnerable confronting my mortality makes me feel, buuuuuuut if we have the rapport from a relationship that is built on something more than just you feeling bad for me, I might feel like I can trust you when I say, "Hey, can I share something about this whole thing that is kind of hard…?"

3- Meal Train

This might be more for folks at least on my public Facebook profile* (and less everyone following the Writing About Writing page) but surgery is going to lay me up for a couple of weeks. I don't do all the cooking, but I do a lot of it, and the person who does the rest is going to be taking care of me, so a break from having to worry about what's for dinner would be wonderful. I don't know who lives around me and might be able to cook the kind of low-dairy vegetarian fare that we usually eat, and who might want to just make sure we have a Grubhub drop-off of some falafels or something, but taking on a meal would be really super helpful.

You can find the Meal Train HERE

4- Get Creative

I'm getting a lot of folks asking me if there's anything they can do.

There's lots you can do, but that question is really open-ended, and it kind of leaves it on me to not only figure out what you might be good at, but also STILL feels like I'm imposing to ask (even though the offer is there). I don't want to…like…MANAGE you. Folks who say something like, "Would you like a 'Fuck Cancer' cross stitch in your favorite color?" are MUCH easier to reply to. 

It would be rude of me to answer the question "What can I do?" with "I don't know. What CAN you do?" Or "What are you WILLING to do?" So it might be more useful to put a couple of things on the table that you are up for, and I'll let you know if they might help. Do you know medical insurance loopholes for Blue Shield? Are you a licenced massage therapist? Would you be up for a couple of volunteered house-cleaning hours? Are you willing to help someone navigate medical bureaucracy? Can you do patient advocacy? Do you have some form of art you like to share with people (that would be a lovely distraction)? Obviously some of these require you to live pretty close, but you get the idea. 

I'm sure there is something you can do, but if you want anything more than me to acknowledge that you are sweet for offering, and then we both move on, I might need some options.

5- Be patient with me

I'm getting a LOT of correspondence and, frankly, it's kind of a lot to spend an hour or two a day answering all the texts and messages and returning calls and answering questions and telling people that I'm okay. I sort have begun to feel like I'm comforting everyone else. If I take a while to return a call or get back to an email, please don't think less of me. And if I REALLY forget, it's not that I don't want to talk to you. I just lost track. Give me another nudge in a few days (please) because I want to keep up with all this—I'm just not doing a very good job right now.

6- GIF Party in the comments!

I'm going to post this one more time for my Facebook page, and I'll just mention that if you have no cash but still want to help, you can totally throw a GIF into the comment section. That'll cause the FB algorithm show it to more people than simply reacting with the like button.

I'm sorry if I've violated the social contract here by legitimately answering the question of "Is there anything I can do?/If you need anything…" If you're in the old school where I should just appreciate the offer and we both move on, consider it done, and I know your heart is in a wonderful place. But some of you seem so authentic and sincere and if you want to help, there really ARE ways…

Friday, November 12, 2021

Illness and Writing (Updates on Health and Writerly Musing)

Once upon a time, Chris went to the dentist having not really done a good job flossing for something like the last three weeks. Some shit had come up in their life, and they fell out of good habits and they walked into that appointment with their tail tucked between their legs.

"Looks great," they told Chris.

"What?" they said. "I flossed like eight times in the last three weeks. Scold me immediately!"

"It's about how you've been doing for the whole time, not during a small period."

What does this have to do with writing? My health issues? Cancer?

Writing is a lot like flossing. Life happens. Things come up. New love blooms. Suddenly you're embroiled in medical stuff, and being spit roasted (but by tubes with cameras and not in the fun way). You aren't as good about sitting down and writing (at the designated time and for a few hours) for days or a week or even a month. 

But you have good habits. You learned to look for ways to make your writing time WORK instead of looking for excuses for why you couldn't. You do it a little instead of not at all during the troubled time, and when the stress passes, you're right back there doing it like you ever were. So you're maybe just a little rusty at putting in a full day instead of completely out of writing shape.

I will probably write this post over the course of a weekish (most posts take a couple of sessions—I rarely sit down and write a draft from beginning to end), but at this exact moment I'm writing this sentence from the chair in the infusion lab where I am having iron put directly into me intravenously. I'm looking at half a dozen folks here for what I'm almost certain is chemotherapy, and trying not to let my thoughts spiral too far along the path of "extremely rare reactions" . Maybe it'll be something easy.

(Narrator's voice: It wasn't.)

The doctors appointments tend to stack pretty hard when you've got something going on. You see your primary care physician. They want you to see a couple of specialists. You consult with a specialist; they schedule a procedure. You consult with another specialist. They schedule two procedures, labs, and a follow up. Your primary care physician wants another appointment. One of the specialists finds something. You get moved from consult to procedures faster than you've ever seen the medical bureaucracy move. Suddenly every week is two or three or more appointments with a mountain of paperwork for each one, and you're losing days here and there to recovery times and weird appointments that don't fit well into your workday but were all they had.

Two days later…

I had a colonoscopy yesterday and they found something. Something big. At the moment I'm writing this paragraph, I'm waiting on the results of a biopsy—which basically means I'm waiting for someone to tell me if it's cancer*. I don't know when I'll find out, but it won't be tonight. Either way, it's big enough that I'm going to need surgery, so that consult has already been scheduled for tomorrow. 

(Edit to add: I have since been told I do have cancer.)

That makes four appointments this week (along with another stack of intake paperwork)—to say nothing of the existential angst and difficulty being productive when one is grappling with the kind of news. I keep thinking I'm okay until I try to do something, and then I just sort of stare at it for ten or fifteen minutes and either break down crying before giving up to try again later, or finally manage to accomplish one thing every ten minutes or so. 

I had hoped beyond hope that I would just need some iron, and they would send me on my merry way to get back into my writing schedule by next week. Now it seems I'm in this for a longer haul and as fast as they want to move, it could be pretty impactful in the coming weeks.

I don't know how to be anything other than a writer. I don't know how to get through the shitty moments of my life other than by writing through them. When the going gets tough, the Chris gets writing about it. It's my hobby, my therapy, my passion, my drug of choice, and my release valve all in one. I'll keep writing unless I can't. 

It's just who I am.

It's just WHAT I am.

So…let's get ready. For a while this blog might have a bunch of entries that are more like Writing About  Cancer. I may miss posts. I may not always be able to tie a day of being sick or miserably in pain from treatment into some kind of writer wisdom—or worse, I'll do it into the same old lesson of, "At least do SOMETHING." I may need to be in a painkiller haze for a few days after my operation and miss a few days or a week without so much as an apologetic peep. There are for sure going to be a couple more appeals posts than you might be used to, trying to help me put together the medical expenses that insurance couldn't cover. 

(Feel free to hit that tip jar or become a patron if you want to start helping early)

But I'll keep writing. That's my commitment to you. No hiatus. No weeks off. No "I can't do this." I'll keep writing. In a drug-addled haze. From the infusion lab trying to calm rising anxiety. From waiting rooms and from my bed during recovery. Because I don't know how else to do. 

And hopefully (since I've been "flossing" regularly), it'll still look pretty good in the end.

See that was a joke because it's in my colon…the "end"…nevermind.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Tuesday Report

Instead of my usual Tuesday report (which wouldn't look like much of anything anyway), I'm going to tell you what's going on medically. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I'm back to my regular writing schedule.

But there's a chance that in about 24 hours things will get a lot worse.

Today I have the second of my iron infusions and tomorrow morning I go in to be scoped to look for possible causes of the low iron. They're trying to "rule some things out," but of course that means they're looking for them. Some of the things they want to rule out are pretty scary.

At this point there are a couple of possibilities. If they don't find anything, it'll be another month before I start doing follow up appointments with hematology, and during that time, I'll probably be able to get back to a regular writing pace (for those of you worried about what the hell is going on here on the blog). If they find something, it might be a small fix or a lifestyle change type thing (like cutting out gluten) or it might mean I have to go into immediate treatment for cancer. And if that happens, I imagine the blog might actually take another HIT on productivity. 

But I'm going to keep trying as hard as I can.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Mailbox: Phoning It In

Mark asks:

It seems like you're phoning it in a little bit the last few weeks. I'm a patron who wants to give you money for the hard work you do, but I'm worried when I see the level of work is slipping. This is my hard earned money. You haven't even been as good about memes and stuff on your Facebook page. 

My reply:

I've ABSOLUTELY been phoning it in a little bit in the last few weeks. And there's at least one more to come—and THAT is if I'm absolutely healthy.

Let me give you some context here, Mark. On Monday I spent 2 1/2 hours at (and in transit to) an iron infusion. That's where you go to the oncology and hematology center, sit down in an infusion room surrounded mostly by people in various stages of aggressive chemotherapy, and the medical team pumps iron directly into your blood through an I.V. This procedure, though it has perked me up long term, caused me to need extra sleep immediately after. It also kept me up that night dealing with an issue of which the fewer details I share, the better. Then on Tuesday I went to a consult for another procedure that took two hours. Wednesday I got a Covid booster, and that only took 30 minutes, but I noticed I needed some extra sleep over the next day and a half—I have no idea if that was the Covid booster or ongoing from the iron infusion.

All told, I probably lost about 12-15 hours to medical stuff this week. I can write an entire "meaty," Friday-caliber article in that much time, complete with editing and some really good snarky images.

And this was actually my easiest week in nearly a month. 

Patron at at least the $3 level should have gotten the newsletter about what's going on and why I missed some post (and might miss a couple more). I'm in treatment for iron-deficient anemia AND my primary care physician has me seeing multiple specialists who are each doing doing a bunch of tests, all to see if they can figure out the underlying cause. I'm in appointments two or three times a week, getting blood drawn constantly, and before they realized I wasn't going to be able to take oral iron supplements (hence the infusion), I was in a debilitating amount of pain and having a lot of rough GI symptoms from the pills. And I'm leaving out the parts where I am stressed and nervous and having trouble focusing because one of the possibilities that might be on the table is actually cancer.

Look, one of the things I try to be super forthright about here is that you're getting to see the whole messy process. Not every day is going to be machine caliber productivity. I'm human, so you're going to get to see the ebb and the flow. (And right now is definitely the ebb.) I'll keep writing—and as much as I can—but some days/weeks/months are better than others. Shit, the last two YEARS I haven't been my best. But I have good weeks and great days and I won't be dealing with all this anemia bullshit forever.

I will be dealing with it next week, however. 

Next week is about the same number of appointments, including some "-oscopies" that I'm really not looking forward to, so I wouldn't expect things to be much better until at least mid-November, but unless those scopes find something scary, I'll be done for a while, and I'm hoping to be back to my regular schedule. I'm also planning on getting a post up on Monday (my usual day off) to make up for the missing one this week. It was going to be today's post, but your question seemed like it was something worth addressing since a few people have asked about it. 

I promise you that I'm probably more acutely aware of my productivity than most of my Patrons combined. I'm back behind the woodshed beating the crap out of myself because of internalized capitalism and the "productive = moral" culture I'm swimming in.

I know that the crowdfund model (rather than paywall and exclusive content) and being so transparent about the day-to-day obstacles mean that when something goes pear-shaped, my slow periods are going to be on gruesome display. You don't get that with most writers. They just drop a post when they have one and who knows what was going on behind the scenes.

I know from experience that some people are going to feel like I'm not doing enough during those times, or that they're not getting their money's worth because they thought my "flow" output (when I'm really cranking) was going to be a baseline and never change. And while I absolutely adore folks who make it clear that they'll stick with me as an artist through the ebbs (because they know the flows are coming), I absolutely also respect everyone who's supporting my work financially, and I absolutely support their legit right to withdraw that support when I'm going through a less prolific period. (It's the downside of being crowdfunded—I don't get medical leave.). I just sort of hope they come back when I kick it back into gear.

But if would-be writers take anything from this, let it be this: writing is a marathon, and the posts are still coming. Whatever is going on, I do not STOP writing. You can have bad days and still keep moving forward. The body of work grows. And when I'm healthy, the prolific writer some of you have come to expect will be right where they always were.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Best YA Horror (Nominations and Seconds Needed)

What is the best YA horror book (or series)?

We had a lackluster start to this set of book recs, and I don't know if it was the timing or what. (The poll was extremely popular back when we were doing polls.) If you haven't yet, please don't forget to pop over to the original page to drop a nomination, see what has been nominated already, second (all) those you agree with, as well as brush up on the rules—there are a FEW after all.

Normally our book rec stuff would go up on Wednesdays, but I'm running behind on EVERYTHING this week due to the current deluge of medical consults and procedures. 

Again, please remember to go to the original page to drop your nomination (and familiarize yourself with the rules if you haven't yet). If you put it anywhere else (including a Facebook comment on this post) it will not be counted.

Thank you all for joining in our Book Rec Conversation. I've really love reading all your comments about the books you treasure and why. I hope we get a bit more input on this particular conversation.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Tuesday—Er….WEDNESDAY Report

Reminder: The reason this "Tuesday Report" is a day late (and I'll be one post off for the duration of the week) is that I am currently going through some non-trivial medical issues. I'm trying hard to work around it, get most of my posts still done and keep creating the content my readers expect. I don't want to take some sort of "medical leave" from blogging. However, so much of Writing About Writing happens in Real Time™ that the recent deluge of medical procedures and consult appointments has cut into my writing time.

Quick Personal Update-

I had my first iron infusion on Monday. I'm not sure if it was the infusion or just last week, but I came home and slept for like a two hour nap, then slept almost nine hours that night as well. But by Tuesday morning I was mostly feeling better. In fact, I felt great even though I'm assured I couldn't possibly have derived any benefit so quickly from iron.

It's been frustrating spending so much time on medical stuff. And I'm navigating that stress between being just focusing on recovery and being a crowdfunded writer who has to generate content if I'm going to actually PAY the bills that I'm racking up. Today (later) will be my covid booster. I'm really just a little tired of having so much energy going towards medical issues.

Weekly Schedule Adjustments-

Obviously there are going to be some changes to this week's schedule—there already have been. I'm going to do Tuesday's post today, Wednesday's tomorrow, and Thursday's on Friday. Next week is likely going to be at least as bad or worse, but after THAT I have a bit of a break. 

Novel Progress-

Old Crusty 1.0 Draft: 34, 398

(No progress this week. I'm barely hanging on to get blog posts written and up with all the doctors appointments. There are more next week too—although none this weekend, so maybe I can scrape out some progress.)

Behind the Scenes-

I'm still pulling off the pictures so that I can give the selfie tier some pics of my hikes this year. I need a special app for my phone to talk to the camera, and from there I can get it uploaded. I doubt there will be any extra time, but every extra moment will go into the October's newsletter (an Inside Scoop).

Friday, October 29, 2021

Writing In Love

Ah, love. 

The sweet caress of twilight. The magic in the air.

When the muses totally saw you hit the ceiling. 

Mental synchronization so amazing that you finish each other's…sandwiches. 

And of course that complete torpedo of vasopressin, adrenaline, dopamine, and oxytocin straight to your ability to write.

~sound of record scratching~

Wait. What?

Yes, it's true. For writers and creatives and probably all kinds of folks who have certain kinds of "temporarily-half-ass-able" jobs, love can be a real threat to productivity. Yes, love is a wonderful slippery, out-of-control bliss feeling, and let's write a poem and a song (or five million) about it. But it's also a time of imbalanced brain chemistry, impulse control overpowering judgement, the same physiological biochemistry as a cocaine addiction, trying so hard to avoid symbolically being attracted to the parent(s) you had a rough relationship with so that you can "fix" the past, and oh, did we mention out-of-control? 

It's no wonder that, while some people deffo get addicted to that feeling of FALLING in love, and will even hop to a new relationship as soon as the falling feeling starts to fade, most folks (MOST folks) are actually a little relieved when the haze starts to clear and they can kind of feel themselves and think straight again.

Artists and writers have to deal with this particularly hard. As much as another human can sometimes be an artist's "muse," inspiring them to great creative heights, it is equally likely that they will fall head first into what is happening and find that focus and concentration elude them. While ideas can pop like a bag of microwavable popcorn in the second minute*, the ability to sit down and do the work takes a pretty decent hit. Suddenly you're taking all your vacation time, blowing off deadlines, and definitely phoning it in sometimes even though you know you really. Should. Not. Do. That.

(*Wow, you really worked that metaphor, Chris.)

Particularly if you're like me and you write every day (or multiple times a week) and ride those deadlines closer than the neutronium molecules in the dense core of a neutron star,* your schedule is prone to be affected in real time in a way that you can't, unlike like a writer who might work more behind the scenes or in bigger chunks. Although I've definitely heard of writers who had to tell their agents they had nothing after gloriously missing a deadline three months after they fell in love, which is probably professionally more hazardous and difficult a feeling of failure than a couple of blown articles and a few phoned in posts. But probably for the most part, we daily content creators share our goo-goo eyed walking into walls on our sleeves a bit.

(*Working those metaphors pretty hard today, eh Chris?)

I promised that this blog would be a realtime chronicle of the things I learn—both tricks that work and pitfalls to avoid. And while the best advice to a writer for their deadlines might be never fall in love, I couldn't in good conscience give such advice to anyone, particularly not an artist. You might need to write (or do whatever your craft is) with a boring, regimented discipline, but around those margins of work, life is messy and an artist isn't like most people who spend their lives trying to make it less messy. An artist tries to bury their arms in the messy up to the elbows like an unsupervised two-year-old who found the art supplies cabinet*.

(*Are you kidding me with this shit?)

Yes, some people are aromantic, and this advice is moot to them; to everyone else I say, "be not afraid." Go let your life get a little bit complicated and be the richer for the experience. I'm also ethically non-monogamous, so I might have slightly different advice than most people about falling in love if/when you happen to already BE in a relationship, but the ethical is still the important part, so if you can cleave to that, sally forth! Blow a couple of deadlines. Get carried away. Let go and be just a little bit scared of how out of control you feel. Be like Alice Walker's characters*. This is one of the most fundamental experiences of the human condition, and in ten years you won't care that you had a rough professional time for a few months, but you might care if you didn't take the leap into a life-changing experience with a resounding hell yes.

(*No one is going to get this reference. You need to stop.)

Perhaps the most important thing to remember if you find yourself a writer in love (and barely able to squeeze out a few sentences, nevermind that 40 hour pace that had come to define you) is the following comfort: 


Not the love. Not the IN love. 

Sorry, but that blast of dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin is only going to be replaced with vasopressin and oxytocin, and open up a lot of deeper and more bonded emotions. But this mind-numbing, brain-scrambling moment where you stare at a blank computer page and a blinking cursor thinking about nothing but texting them and when you see them next (when you can tear yourself away from THEM at all) will fade. That feeling that you're falling and there's nothing to grab onto, and the only thing that makes that sick feeling of missing them better at all is being in their arms…that'll at least get manageable. You'll get your brain function back. In a month or two, you'll be able to write for an hour at a time, and in about six months, you'll start finding that old spark comes right back like high-waisted denim jeans and bucket hats in a Gen X singles bar*. I'm not saying you start ignoring someone you're in love with or take them for granted in favor of writing time or anything (and if you do, you have some other problems that you might want to work through), but at the very least you should not be blasted for all of time with this profound inability to word. 

(*Jesus Fucking Christ. I'm out of here.)

Enjoy your spinning, out-of-control moment. Enjoy it because that's all you can do. 

Your writing will be waiting for you on the other side.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Best Y.A. Horror Novel (or Series)—Nominations Needed

What is the best young adult horror novel (or series)?

It's just a few more days until the SPOOPY is upon us, and in honor of the season, I want to rerun a popular poll we did (back when these recommendation lists were polls). So today we're going to talk not about the fully adult horror novels, but the ones geared towards young adults. 

Maybe they're not QUITE as scary as The Haunting of Hill House or House of Leaves but they leave an indelible mark in our minds nonetheless, either because we read them when we were younger or we can relate to the way they play on younger fears.

Remember, instead of trying to figure out what more people think is the BEST (which usually turns into which book has the coolest movie adaptation anyway), we're just going to have a nice chat about good books and all come away with some suggestions for our To Be Read Pile™. We'll still have the system of seconds (and "thirds" and "fourths" and…well, you get the idea), but all that will really determine is which goes to the top of the list when I post the results. You can go HERE to see what the results will look like when all is said and done. And I'll link out the original nomination post for folks who want to go see what people are actually saying about the book. Eventually these posts listing the results will be compiled in a massive "book recommendation" post of basically any genre.

The Rules

  1. Make two recommendations. Obviously, I can't stop anyone from making fifteen, but nothing beyond the first two will make it onto the master list. I'm a despot that way.
  2. TELL US ALL A LITTLE ABOUT WHY YOU LIKE THE BOOK although obviously do so without spoilers! If you just drop a title name and it gets all the seconds, I'm still going to list it, of course, but the whole point of this is to have a "conversation" and gush a little about the books you think are great, exciting, well written, or unforgettable and a little (spoiler-free) squee about why.
  3. For each recommendation, let us know if you're nominating it more as a BEST book in the genre or an UNDERSUNG HERO in the genre. Basically "undersung hero" is for books you think are great, tragically overlooked, NEED to be read by everyone (like…yesterday), but are maybe not necessarily the besty bestest best. They'll all end up in the list I compile, but I'll put them in different places.
  4. As always, I leave the niggling over the definition of genres to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. If you want to nominate Shadow and Bone as horror (even though it's probably better placed as fantasy), you should show your work if you desire those sweet, sweet seconds (or thirds....or fourths) and there might be a discussion thread after your comment with a lot of people writing out the "If I may…"
  5. Your book must should be aimed at young adults. Though there is no clear cut off for when a Y.A. novel becomes an adult novel and probably dozens of great titles that blur the line, if you're nominating It (Stephen King), I'm probably going to veto.
  6. You get to mention two (2) books. That's it. Two. You can do one BEST and one UNDERSUNG HERO. Or you can do two BESTS. Or you can do two UNDERSUNG HEROES. But two is the total. If you nominate three or more, I will, with unimaginable cruelty, simply ignore the third and any subsequent books. I'm sorry that I'm a stickler on this, but it's just lil ol' me compiling this list by myself and it's a pain when people drop a spinosaurus list of every single book they can remember in the entire genre. However, you list more than two books and your third or later choice gets a second, I'll consider everything. (Even though that matters a lot less than it did when I was counting seconds to see which titles made the poll––see below.)
  7. Did I mention two?
  8. You may (and absolutely should) give a second shout out to AS MANY nominations of others as you wish. There is no more poll, so this will not be a cutthroat competition to see who makes it to the semifinals. It will simply dictate which titles I list first, and it may influence which books someone considers a good recommendation. ("This one got six seconds, and that one only got two, so I think I'll start with this one.")
  9. Put your nominations HERE. I will take nominations only as comments and only on this post. (No comments on FB posts or G+ will be considered nominations.) If you can't comment for some reason because of Blogger, send me an email (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) stating exactly that and what your nomination is, and I will personally put your comment up. I am not likely to see a comment on social media even if it says you were unable to leave a comment here. 
  10. You are nominating WRITTEN fiction, not their A/V portrayals. If you thought The Shining was the greatest Stanley Kubrick movie ever, but found the book a little disjointed and TOO character driven to have a satisfying climax, please nominate something else. (I love film, but it's a different medium.) 
  11. Have a conversation, but check the typical internet assholery at the door. If someone likes something you think is terrible, it's okay to let them enjoy it. And if someone has one tight and polite bit of criticism about your recommendation ("I was not a fan of the X plot arc or the way that author writes women."), it's okay that they didn't care for it and there's no need to defend it like they have impugned you honor for seven generations.  I **WILL** delete shitty comments, and I absolutely know that's highly subjective, so better to err on the side of nice. 
  12. TWO!

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Tuesday Report

Note: I am currently going through some non-trivial medical issues. (Hopefully nothing to worry about long-term, but highly disruptive in the now.) I'm trying hard to work around it, get posts up on time (or at least get the right number of posts up weekly), and especially not take some sort of "medical leave" from blogging, but so much of Writing About Writing happens in Real Time™ that sometimes there is a high pain day or a three-hour doctor's appointment smack in the middle of my productive writing time, and I might miss a post here or there. 

Quick Personal Update-

Other than a LOT of doctor's appointments, things are actually going better than last week. I was on iron supplements that turned out to be causing more of my symptoms than the thing they were intended to treat, and the hematologist had me discontinue them and schedule an infusion instead. That's coming up, so I'm still in the gravity well of all this health crap and it's affecting my writing schedule, but I've felt much better and even got back into some jogging a couple of days ago. 

Weekly Schedule Adjustments-

I've got a good post for Friday mostly done, and this week is kind of light on doctor's appointments. (There were a lot of phone call consultations early in the week, but I'm free for now.) The week should go off without a hitch. I would have normally posted on Monday (having changed that from NORMALLY posting on Friday) but things got pretty behind with all the medical stuff last week.

Novel Progress-

Old Crusty 1.0 Draft: 34, 398

Behind the Scenes-

Dug out my camera from one of the move boxes, and I'm pulling off the pictures so that I can give the selfie tier some pics of my hikes this year. If I finish up my writing early this week, I'm going to start on an Early Access post about dialogue for that tier. 

Monday, October 18, 2021

I Hate Everything I Write (Mailbox)

Note 1: I am currently going through some non-trivial medical issues. (Nothing to worry about long-term, but highly disruptive in the now.) I'm trying hard to work around it, get posts up on time (or at least get the right number of posts up weekly), and especially not take some sort of "medical leave" from blogging, but so much of Writing About Writing happens in Real Time™ that sometimes there is a high pain day or a three-hour doctor's appointment smack in the middle of my productive writing time, and I might miss a post here or there. Trust that I'm going to feel all kinds of internalized guilt about it, and I will be posting as much as is possible. 

Note 2: Normally I take Mondays off, but this post is actually from Friday. I'm going to switch the posting day on my update schedule. My writing times haven't really changed, I'm just not usually done with an edited post on Fridays by the time the east coast audience numbers start to go way down.

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox." I will use your first name ONLY, unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. I may not have all the answers for the truest of writerly existential crises, but I will try.] 

Just a note before I jump into this question. My queue of questions isn't EMPTY, but I can kind of "see the bottom," and like a cat, I'm absolutely sure that this means I will soon run out and perish. So if you've got questions for me, now's a good time to send them.

K asks: 

I follow you on fb and I love your posts, I'm sure you get a lot of messages but if you have time I just have two questions. What advice do you have for someone who has a good story idea, wants to write and be published, but every time they sit down they can only produce complete and utter awfulness? At least in my opinion. I had people read my story and they say it's really good and engaging and I need to keep going but I just hate everything that that I come up with. Is there a way to get past that?

My reply:

First of all, K, let me just tell you that I feel this so hard. The writer (the writer putting themselves "out there" at least) has the paradoxical job of remembering their flaws and fallibilities, being willing to hear criticism, facing the tough reality that they absolutely DO need an editor of some kind, and remembering that they are not God's gift to the written word. 



It is also true that writers (writers putting themselves "out there" at least) have to have just a little bit of moxie. They have to have a voice telling them "the world needs this" that is just a TINY bit louder than the one that says "this is crap." They have to believe in their work.

It's a tough needle to thread. And all around it are the bones of those who've let either their hubris or their diffidence be their undoing.

If I had a little bit of time, K, I'd be asking you a bunch of follow-up questions, but I think I'm going to take a leap here based on a couple of the things you said, and if my advice sounds wildly off from the problem you feel like you're having, write me back and I'll let you "jump the queue" for a clarifying/more accurate question. 

Fortunately for both of us, this isn't one of those times I just sit quietly with you through your existential writer crisis, hold your hand (metaphorically) and tell you platitudes about my years on the farm. (This is especially awkward stuff since I was never really on a farm—certainly not for years.) From the way you worded the question, it sounds like you're having a specific problem and fortunately there's an actual answer. And it's not even all that Master Po search-within-yourself-ish. 

The way to get past what you're going through is to TRUST THE PROCESS. Right now you're sitting down and trying to write something good, and that's never going to happen. I don't mean that to land as shitty as it does, it's just all of us writers really have to get over the idea of writing something good on our first try. No one ever writes something good. I can't even sit down and write something good, and I've been at this (professionally) for years. With a lot of experience, you might be able to sit down and write something passable. But for now, "complete and utter awfulness" is absolutely what you're going for.

Good comes later. 

Sometimes many many drafts later.

Revision is a part of the process. A crucial part. You can't just write something good. You HAVE to write something awful, get it out, and then begin the process of revising it INTO something good. And you have to get it out first, and you have to know that part is going to suck, and you have to be ready for the process to be annoying and messy because that process has entirely to do with how many times and how much you are willing to revise to improve the awfulness. 

Peer review is also part of the process. (And it sounds like your friends are great and encouraging, but might not be giving you the kind of constructive feedback you want or need.) You need peers who are writing and reading at about your level…maybe even higher (although you might have to pay for their skills). You need them to tell you what doesn't work and what could use some extra attention. You need them to be a whetstone.

Hating what you're doing is a common thing among writers (and really all artists). But the thing that separates the artists who are able to keep going from the ones who give up and just hate their own work is that ones who keep going are able to tell they've got something there that can be drawn out, nurtured, and kindled into a flame if they just keep working at it. They know "it's not good now….but it will be." They see, even in the roughest drafts, what can be worked with and developed. Which means they (usually) skip the hating part; they just recognize that there's a lot of work still left to be done. And then they get to it.

They trust the process. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Schedule Tetris

I'll get a post up on Monday to make up for today. Given that this is the third time this has happened in a month since my big update schedule change, I'm probably going to swap out Mondays and Fridays as my day "off." At least that's what it'll look like to all of you. When the writing happens won't really change (I will still actually be taking Mondays off), but I don't seem to be ready to POST on Fridays when my non-writing responsibilities go a little topsy turvy, and I keep needing my weekend writing hours to finish up. 

It's not actually a change. It's more of knob-fiddle that does a lot superficially. I'm still getting the same amount of posts up each week (and I'm still doing the writing at the same time), it's just that Friday's is always late, so it's time to accept that's got to be part of the plan instead of something I can "pedal faster" and change.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Facebook Compilation (September)

For years, I didn't count all the bite-sized chunks of writing I was doing on Facebook as "writing." But it's a post here and a post there, and sometimes I spend an hour or more a day working on that writing, so it's high time I acknowledge the fact that it "counts."

I wasn't on social media much in September. I was in the middle of a move, living with people for the first time in years (including kids), and some big personal crap. But there were still a few gems that showed up.

Here is a collection of the BEST statuses (and a few of the most popular memes) from my public Facebook page over the period of September 1st-30th. (You're welcome to follow me there to see the not-quite-the-best ones,
but read up in the Facebook FAQ [last question] if you want to send me a friend request.) 

Everybody knows I practice ethical non-monogamy, right?

I hope this is not a plot twist for you. It’s been like 25 years. You’re not gonna talk me out of it.

You can have feels about that if you want, but I have a hard boundary if you don’t control your behavior. Unless I directly and explicitly solicit your opinion, if you slide in my PMs to give me anything other than support, a high five, sincerely ask for advice, or ask me out on a date—particularly if your opinions are married to dogmatic religion—our Facebook friendship will end before I even reply.

People lie.

And people REALLY lie about pretense and rationalization. They do what they **want** to do, and look around for the most reasonable sounding explanation afterward. So you kind of have to look at the "adjacent" issues they don't seem to care about to get a good sense of what they're actually interested in.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in lawmaking and politics. If restricting access to abortion were about reducing the NUMBER of abortions, we would see sex education, wide access to birth control, and comprehensive support after the birth so that it's not such a gut-wrenching financial or life-sacrificing decision. 

We don't see that.

If it were about the health of the fetus and those "precious baby souls," we would see mandates for more access to better prenatal care and comprehensive laws that decrease infant mortality rate outcomes in the medical industry.

We don't see that.

We also don't see laws that assign consequences to people with penises for being careless with their semen. 

What we do see—over and over—is an attempt to control the bodies of folks who have uteruses—to demand that they be nothing but incubators and that their body autonomy and right to choose be given up to be a vessel. 

These laws are about (and these politicians are talking about) taking sexual autonomy from folks with uteruses. About owning them. About treating them as things. And when you look at "adjacent" issues that laws and politicians NEVER talk about, work on, address or seem to care in the slightest about—and, in fact, will usually ALSO be opposed to—that impetus is clear as day.

Hey Texas peeps: 

If any of you have a sudden, powerful interest in a vacation to California—for, you know, whatever reason—Katie [my nesting partner] and I can help you out with travel costs. And while you're here, we can help with whatever it is you want to do. Rides. Carnivals. Places of interest. Funds for….you know, whatever the spirit moves you to do.

I'm not sure how many people I can help come to California to do….you know, whatever it is they're interested in doing. It sort of depends on how much help each person needs, but we'll keep going as long as we have the funds.

I live in a country where the people "winning" capitalism insist that Covid relief be cut off because people having their needs taken care of has driven the free market value of labor up above the below-subsistence levels. And those people winning capitalism require an inexhaustible labor force of exploitable workers in order for their business models to be profitable—a position that basically half of the government supports earnestly.

The rest of this is just smoke-filled coffee house crap.

Seriously, run a page for a couple of years if you don’t believe in systematic entitlement. Watch as it is always always ALWAYS a reliable 90% white dudes who bloviate about titles without reading articles or ignore the rules, even if they’re in the preview text.

Fucking always.

Protip: If you say, "Hey that's capitalism, baby—if it sells, it sells. If you don't like it, don't buy it" about the exploitative shit that you say you have a problem with but maybe deep down in places you don't talk about around your feminist friends, you don't have quite as much of a problem with it as you say…

Then beware:

You're going to look super, unbelievably hypocritical (and more than a little foolish) when you're out there whining like a four-year-old—who needs a nap—over the horrors of "cancel culture" when all most "cancel culture" even is is people talking to each other in the marketplace of ideas and deciding they don't want to spend their money on something—which is EXACTLY what you say capitalism and free speech is all about.

(In regards to the California recall election.)

Obviously, Gavin Newsom is a corporate tool, and the further left you go, the less any mainstream Democrat will represent you. But I still voted no recall.

And except for two midterms in my life—one when I was sick—I ALWAYS vote.

There are ways to effect change both in civic engagement, grassroots organization, and through civil disobedience. But not ONE of those things isn’t immeasurably harder under right-wing governance. Once the choice in a mainstream election comes down to a corporate tool and an anti-science dillhole party that literally makes it a part of their platform to harm my friends and loved ones, I may not be able to “get what I want,” but I can at least set the difficulty at a little less than nightmare mode.

Voting: it’s (literally) the least you can do.

Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are causing huge outbreaks that lead to overfull medical facilities—facilities so swamped that they can't handle non-Covid problems. They are getting people sick who don't have a CHOICE other than not to get vaccinated (including our children). They are driving variants that are more and more resistant to our vaccinations. (They cause the virus to spread which gives it more generations which gives it more chances to mutate.) They are literally worsening this pandemic and many of its outcomes worse and, by proxy, KILLING PEOPLE.

Quit acting like this is a twee little personal choice that pro-vaccine are giving folks guff to anti-vaxxers about because they have some broken sense of individual liberty. 

Your right to swing your fist has always ended at another person's nose.