Welcome

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Mailbox: 20 Questions (Non Writing Questions 7-9)

I'm going to post this 20 Questions in the usual format when it's all finished, but many of these questions required substantive answers, so I'm going to break up the roll-out over a few days to keep the length of each post reasonable.   

7-Where did you take your favorite hike/outdoor spot/park/venue/happy place? 

Several questions had some kind of variation on this theme, so I kind of combined them into the Power Rangers Megazord of answers. ♫♪♪Go, go, power question! ♫♪♪

This has a handful of answers because "favorite" is so hard to pin down.

My favorite common local hike is around the Lafayette Reservoir. There's a paved trail that hugs the water pretty closely and a ridge trail that goes up and down the hills around it and has some great views. I like this one because it's fairly close, has great views, and I can configure it to be between 45 minutes (inner trail) and 2.5 hours (ridge trail). It's a lovely hour (or three) and it's close and convenient. I used to do it once or twice a week when I lived there. Now it's more like every month, but I still make a point to try.

My favorite local bigger hike is Mt. Diablo. It's got gorgeous views and vistas. But it takes an ENTIRE day—between ten and twelve hours usually— and it is a very strenuous ascent. I usually do this once every couple of years, but I really enjoy it when it happens.

Moving out of town, I enjoy spending time on the beach just watching the waves come in. I could do that for hours. There are a lot of hikes north or south of San Francisco that end on a beach or go along a beach. I was recently introduced to a hike along the topside of a cliff that winds inland and then back down to the beach where there's a waterfall (Alamere Falls), and I really, REALLY like that one. 

I enjoyed Burning Man for many, many years. There was a profound quietness in my soul that I felt keenly when I was far beyond the city at some strange art installation with a long distant thump of EDM bassline pounding gently through the dust-blown air. If I could somehow separate those deeply personal moments from the entitled libertarian dillholes who have turned Burning Man from the hippie drum circle of love with funky art that it was into one of the most exclusive week-long partys on Earth, I would still be going.

In terms of parks or BIG areas, no question that the answer is Yosemite. I don't love the summer crowds, but there is no nook or cranny of that entire park that isn't just….majestic AF.  There are a lot of wonderful parks and I live in a place on earth that is particularly thick with spectacular nature, but that one is the one I want to go back to constantly. It's unfortunate that even a no-frills trip requires several hundred dollars plus lost income. I'm on a shoestring budget (and that's when I'm NOT trying to pay for cancer treatment), and it's something better done with some kind of camping buddy, so it tends to be a treat every few years.

8- When are you coming back? I mean I know you're not GONE gone, but clearly you've been out of it for a while.

I'm going to slip in this between the non-writing questions because it's kind of on the edge, and it's coming up a bit recently as folks all over are wondering why the posts are coming so slowly and patrons are reassessing their budgets—especially for any content creator who isn't producing much right while inflation rages. Besides, then I get to make some kind of "slipping it in" joke, and we all know I live for those.

A lot of my patrons know this already because I keep them up to date on what's going on behind the scenes. It's taken me a few months to recover from having cancer and a major invasive surgery to have a softball-sized tumor removed. I was very close to some REALLY huge problems. I got out of having to do chemo by the skin of my cliché and walked away with a diagnosis of a genetic disorder that will predispose me to certain cancers and means a lifetime of screenings. My body mostly recovered in about six weeks. My mind has taken a lot longer—both to get over the medical trauma, feel SAFE again, and wrap my head around my Lynch syndrome. There have been bouts of depression, severe anxiety, signs of medical trauma, and intense psychological symptoms ranging from difficulty concentrating to inability to sleep for days at a time—all of which affected my writing. It's been a real hoot.

I've crawled back to semi-functional, but the emphasis is on CRAWL. 

It would probably have just been better if I'd put the blog on hiatus for three or four months—just taken that time off and tried to pick up the pieces of whatever was left when I got back. I think most people would have understood, and there would be less resentment from the audience for a pause than for the same amount of time struggling, missing posts, weird off-topic posts and what was perceived as malingering indolence.

It probably would have caused me less stress too. As it was, every post I missed and every week I tried but failed to return to a regular posting schedule, felt like one of a thousand papercuts.

Instead I worried about lost income from my crowdfunding, so I kept trying…and failing. And while I can look back on a long enough timeline and say, "May was better than April, and WAY better than March…" I think that suiting up and showing up and then absolutely falling on my face was probably a worse optic (in terms of patrons, certainly, but also just in general) than simply taking the time off.  

It wasn't that I was wrong about being able to write when I felt like I could write. I was actually doing a pretty good job of self-assessment during those times. It was that I was SO SO SO brittle from the cancer and the surgery and one of my partners' difficult breakups (and before all that, a devastating miscarriage) that I kept getting knocked back to square one and losing days to anxiety or depression. 

So let this be one of my lessons to you from the real-time advice of Chris the Writer—a lesson in what NOT to do. Don't try to dribble SOMETHING out. It's not worth it. That's just going to irritate people who think you should be over it already, confuse people who aren't keeping up enough to know what's happening, and remind everyone else over and over of what you're NOT accomplishing. Just try to evaluate how much time you think you need (and then probably double that time you picked to be safe) and go silent. Those determined not to understand never will. Those whose generosity cannot be broken won't give up on you. And those in the middle won't be reminded over and over (and over and over) that you are falling on your face. 

9- If you had the opportunity to take the time (and invest the time) to learn how do something, what would that something be?

I would learn to play the Celtic harp. As it is, I am trying to find one I can use/borrow for a while, so that I can see if it's a flash-in-the-pan interest or a hobby that will stick, but I was really excited about it last year around this time before everything started to explode, and that interest has come back now that I'm feeling better and life is slowing down enough to make room for some leisure and hobbies.

A very very very close second would be learning fluent Spanish. I can follow a slow and easy conversation, but it's been years since I've really practiced and worked on it, and I would love to just be able to converse or read Spanish literature. (Like I know I run an irreverent blog that literally goes out of its way to use the word FUCK a little too often, but I'm a literary nerd at heart, and to be able to read Cien Años de SoledadEl Túnel, or Ficciones in their original language….**deep sigh**)

Thursday, May 5, 2022

20 Questions (Non Writing Questions) [4-6]

I'm going to post this 20 Questions in the usual format when it's all finished, but many of these questions required substantive answers, so I'm going to break up the roll-out over a few days to keep the length of each post reasonable. 

4- What has been your favorite non-writing job?

I know serving was a wonderful experience with a daily variety that defied a routine grind, invigorating pacing that my ADHD thought was scooby snacks, and immediate feedback (in the form of tips) that galvanized me, but I'm going to have to go with teaching. Day to day, I think I found serving more stimulating, but at the cliché "end of the day," it's a pretty high-stress career that burns up people's physical bodies, encourages substance abuse, and creates an emotional pressure cooker just so that customers can get a meal without waiting too long for a refill on their soda. And the struggle within fine dining for good shifts and good tables had as much politicking and sycophants as ANY office job. Honestly probably more. (There is quid pro quo harassment happening behind the scenes even at your typical mid-scale restaurant.)

There was nothing quite like building a curriculum, and then taking the students on a journey. And while I enjoyed teaching certain topics (creative writing) more than others (study skills), the parts I really liked weren't necessarily about the facts or knowledge that I was imparting, but walking through an idea about HOW they could develop a skill themselves and then watching them cultivate the skill set and confidence to be able to get there on their own. I used to imagine lesson plans for classes I wanted to teach complete with scaffolding, standards, and robust active learning—which was so absent from so many of my courses. 

I liked my middle-school students who would rather have been getting root canals. I liked my 13th graders who didn't really want to do college, but didn't have any other cromulent after-high-school plan. I liked my dedicated middle-aged returning students who took college as seriously as a cliché. I liked being handed lesson plans. I liked coming up with my own lesson plans. I really liked being given the free rein to design an entire course from the ground up.

I loved the lightbulb look when I didn't give them the answer and they struggled but figured it out on their own. I loved using whatever we were studying—whether it was puns or coordinating conjunctions—to encourage higher-order thinking. I loved when they realized, at the end of a course, how far they had come.

If I could have somehow beamed to my teaching job, I would have kept doing at least one class a semester forever. But Bay Area commutes have only gotten worse every year since I started, and I was spending two hours commuting. I miss it, but I prefer giving all my work time to writing.

5- Thoughts about your running and why you are pushing yourself to do a marathon?

How deep are we going here?

I'm absolutely sure there is some stuff going on that a first-year psych student would recognize. My body betrayed me and did something I couldn't control when it got cancer. For months it was poked, prodded, examined and didn't entirely feel like my own. It was subjected to strange sensations and didn't perform the way I had come to expect it to. It felt weak and insubordinate.

Now I am delighting in the sensation of getting it under control, and bending it to my will. I feel strong when I can make it run ten miles. I feel like I'm the one in control. I faced an existential threat, and I'm overcompensating. I'm defying that feeling.

More superficially, I've been running for about the last year, having stepped up my pandemic walks to something more vigorous. For months, there always seemed to be something or another getting in the way of progress, but whenever I could, I would return to my regimen and try to do some running. I hit a goal right before surgery (to run ten miles in under 2:30:00), and someone suggested that I not jinx my surgery survival by going into under the knife having accomplished ALL my goals, so I set a new goal that day. Within one year of my physical recovery, I would run a marathon. 

It sounded ambitious but achievable. I've always been blessed by an unswerving endurance. Even in my twenties I would try to spend my gym time doing ski machines or leg climbers for hours, and it's been trying to improve my pace rather than adding distance that has proven to be the tougher goal.

Technically, I have until February (that's when I was physically recovered from surgery), but there aren't a lot of good marathons in the winter, so I'm looking at the last few in the Fall.

6- Do you enjoy camping?

I do, but I haven't had a camping buddy for a long time, and it's really not that much fun alone. I enjoy alone time in nature, but I can get most of what I like about that in a day trip or a long hike. Sleeping in a tent and making meals alone…I'm sure it's some people's thing, but it's a bit much for me.

My ex-partner and I used to go to Burning Man every year, and that was technically camping. (Actually, most campsites I've been to had MORE amenities and usually running water.) The ex-partner didn't really like camping, but it was the cost of doing business for us since we didn't have the money to go to BM in an RV or something. 

At this point, I don't even have camping gear. Maybe someday…

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

20 Questions (Non Writing Questions) [Question 1-3]

I'm going to post this 20 Questions in the usual format when it's all finished, but many of these questions required substantive answers, so I'm going to break up the roll-out over a few days to keep the length of each post reasonable.

1-How do you think cancel culture has affected "free" speech?

I want you to pay very close attention to what I'm about to state next because there's a real sense in our society that free speech only ever means "me and the people who agree with me get to say whatever we want," and that anyone using their OWN free speech to retort/respond/reply/repudiate has somehow infringed upon the principle. Heads I win. Tails doesn't count.

Cancel culture IS free speech. Full stop.

That's all it is. It's a bunch of people exercising THEIR free speech to talk about how they feel a particular work or artist is problematic. It's a bunch of people exerting social pressure to voice their disapproval of something. That's it. There's no institutional power coming down. It's not backed by the government. Each individual can choose to keep doing whatever they want (although they might face social consequences). 

It is exactly what free speech is all about.

This sense that "you can't say certain things or you will be a social outcast" has been around for a long, long time. Ask anyone on the outside of mainstream culture how this worked before the democratization of platforms via social media. (See, once upon a time, you could just say whatever and deplatform anyone who disagreed. That's a tale as old as time. It's just usually done by gatekeepers.) It's just that, when it happens to bigots or the people in power, it gets a fancy new label; it's treated like it's some new-fangled thing because THEY'VE never experienced it the way marginalized folks have for all of forever, and suddenly you have a lot of white men crying big crocodile tears about it on conservative media. 

When actually…speech has never been freer.

Now there have been institutional efforts to curtail free speech. The government has been involved. And in a very real way, the erosion of that civil liberty is of great concern. But where we see this kind of institutional power and a codified effort to silence speech is in things like The Red Scare, or book bannings, or folks getting a visit after 9-11 when they were too critical of Bush, or Trump basically declaring war on the White House press corps for asking questions that he didn't like. Where you DON'T see this kind of institutional power is people who don't want to watch an outspoken transphobe make more money off their franchise. 

That's all this is. People who have been running the table got a taste of their own medicine (without even the government and institutional backing) and realize for the first time in their cultural awareness that they have to consider what they say. And now with runners of snot from their nose and wavering voices, they're saying how terrible it all is.

There's some nuance. There IS a regressive left. There are bully tactics on social media. There are bad actors and mob mentality sometimes. But most of the time, the people you see suggesting that cancel culture is a powerful force affecting free speech, or in fact, is anything BUT the free speech reaction to someone else's free speech are actually just whining that their speech had social consequences that they don't like.

2- Does Rhapsody know that you're cheating on her?

Every once in a while, someone finds out just enough detail about my life to gap-fill the rest and make some snap judgements that are either insulting or hilarious depending on my mood.

Rhapsody and I are non-monogamous. Specifically we practice non-hierarchical polyamory, preferably of the kitchen table variety. That's a lot of jargon-type words you might not know, but very briefly what it means is that the relationships we may form with other people aren't limited. (We don't have "veto" over the other. Nor do we limit ourselves to just fucking around.) We do this ethically with open and honest communication. 

"Cheating" means breaking agreements, and those agreements can be different to different people. In fact, being monogamous isn't going to save you from having to define cheating. One of the worst things about monogamous culture is that everyone thinks they know what cheating is. The idea that there's a default and no communication is necessary really screws a lot of relationships up. (As any monogamous couple who have had one partner get WAY into an online relationship and then face the accusation that they're having an "emotional affair" can tell you.) Is the line flirting? Heavy flirting? Some sort of emotional involvement? Or are you good if you drunkenly make out with someone but catch your breath and go home before literally PIV sex? 

I have a problem with, like, ALL of these definitions (for different reasons), but what I'm saying is that most of the time two people think being monogamous will save them from having to communicate their expectations and agreements around what cheating is…and that isn't accurate. 

You CAN cheat in a non-monogamous relationship…but I'm not. If your agreement is, "Text me before you have sex," you can cheat by not texting. If your agreements are "Don't ask. Don't tell," you can cheat by asking or telling. If your agreements are "I get to meet your other partners and approve them before you play, we only fool around—no emotions, and I get to be the only penis-haver you sleep with," you….well you should run screaming because this is fucking gross, but nonetheless you can still cheat by fucking someone before approval, falling for someone, or sleeping with someone else who has a penis. I wouldn't personally agree to any of these, but "cheating" just means you broke the rules you set. 

The whole idea that every relationship creates its own rules might seem radical, but it probably shouldn't. 

My only agreement with Rhapsody is "Disclose the S.T.I. risks you take before WE play again." I conspire with her about how my love and sex life are going because I want to. And we usually know where the other is because we coordinate on dinner most nights. But neither of us is entitled to know anything other than facts we might need to consider about our sexual health. And we absolutely have no say in what the other does.

If I fucked someone new and didn't tell Rhapsody. Or had a condom slip and deliberately didn't mention it. Or if I knew something about my partner's STI status or risky behavior, and didn't disclose it, THAT would be cheating. None of that is happening. Nor would it. If I agree to something, I do it. I may have a non-traditional relationship style, but I'm an absurdly loyal partner.

So I can only assume you took one look at non-monogamy and did the ol', "Oh…so like cheating" thing (so cliché BTW) because that's the only frame of reference your limited imagination came up with to explain what's going on when I have multiple committed partners AND hot group sex on the regular. None of which you're the slightest bit jealous of, I'm sure.

So depending on how I'm feeling that day, my answer to your question is either, "Yes, she does," "She knows that I don't," or "Fuck you."

3- How many stuffed animals do you have? And do you have a favorite? Picture please.

The two above in the preview picture are my only two. That's Winnifred (silver) and Morgan (blue). 

Winnifred is gender fluid. Sometimes Winnie. Sometimes Fred. Sometimes Winnifred. They/them will always work, but you can check in from day to day to see what they're vibing.

Morgan is gender neutral. They reject the binary completely.

Friday, April 29, 2022

20 Questions Coming

Hi folks, 

I asked for questions, and boy did y'all come though. There are so many questions! In fact, there are enough questions that I can do a 20 questions JUST from the non-writing questions.  

Those posts take a lot of time (because there are TWENTY questions), so I'm going to need to take today and probably the weekend to work on them. 

But in the meantime, enjoy some of our past offerings of 20 Questions

June 28, 2018 Theme: Personal/Meta

July 9th, 2018 Theme: Process (And leftover personals)

July 21st, 2018 Theme: Publishing/Blogging/FB and Social Media

Dec 14, 2018 Theme: Meta

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Miscarriage

CN: Miscarriage 


I've mentioned in passing a few times that among the Big Things™ I've been going through over the last year or so, there was a pregnancy and a miscarriage. It was (just) after the move, but before the health issues that turned out to be cancer started. I have not been ready to write about that before now (beyond merely the fact of it). It was just too much. I could mention it—I could acknowledge that it happened—but anything more felt like it would crack a carefully constructed dam that was (usually) letting my emotions through in a (somewhat) more measured deluge.

Rhapsody and I weren't planning on getting pregnant. We weren't ready. There was a "maaaaaaaybe wait?" thought when I mentioned getting a vasectomy, but it was just so choices weren't done that were hard to undo. It was a "let's think about this" pause. If we did, it would be perhaps a year down the line (more like this summer or fall). But also Rhapsody has Treble and Clef already, and we were not sure about resetting the timer on having little kids around. (Treble can get the TV going and get themselves some breakfast instead of waking adults up, and that is a HUGE thing when you haven't had a good night's sleep in five years.) The timing was all wrong—we were still in our first six months, and hadn't figured out what our conflict resolution and non-NRE (new relationship energy) dynamics looked like. The money was too tight. Rhapsody's pregnancies tend to be incredibly difficult, bordering on traumatic. And we didn't know this fact at the time, but I was about to get very, very sick. 

And yet…we decided to go for it. I have kids in my life, but I always wanted one of my own. I knew I would make a ridiculously wonderful parent. I was making the money for the first time in my life (from writing) to actually barely scrape by. My window for having kids—well it's really closed. I mean beyond the biological POSSIBILITY of it, it's really closed (I'm in my late forties). But I am in that brief moment just before it becomes absolutely ridiculous to be HAVING kids. And I've always been young for my age. We started to figure out finances. We planned the bedroom logistics. There were prenatal doctors appointments.

And then it was gone.

NOTHING could have prepared me for how acute that white hot clench of agony would be. It was like someone reached into the heart of me and yanked something out. It didn't matter that it was the first trimester, and we weren't supposed to get excited. It didn't matter that we tried to curb our enthusiasm. It didn't matter how common such a thing was so early. It didn't matter how many times I looked at my finances and tried to convince myself it was for the best. It didn't matter…

The world has this idea that because something is common, it shouldn't hurt. Because lots of people go through it, it's no big deal. Because a third of pregnancies end this way, it is no big deal. But Rhapsody added our due date (which would have been right around now) to three others that she will never forget. And every time she talks about it, people with uteruses come out of the woodwork to talk about just how intense the pain is.

And all of them have the dates they would have been parents burned into their minds. All of them.

We took a walk to a place Rhapsody has gone after her other miscarriages. We brought some symbols. We said a few words. We held each other. We cried. And it got better, but it didn't go away. I don't know if it ever will. 

This is what I read aloud: 

You were an idea
A potential future
A possibility
A thought so fragile, we didn't dare whisper it, or it might vanish

But you vanished regardless

Cast into an ocean of unforgiving statistics and biological realities, you never really…WERE

And yet ideas are alive

They may not have heartbeats or brainwaves, but they breathe. And their breath can build nations, crumble empires, build or destroy legacies, change the world, and transform lives utterly.

And so I stand among the crumbled empire of those thoughts too fragile to dare whisper. 
And I grieve that you have vanished. 

If there is a place were lost ideas go, I hope you find your way home.



Friday, April 22, 2022

Bawdy Running

Rhapsody has a performance tonight at Bawdy Storytelling. (If you're near San Francisco, it's a fun event.) A musical guest brings in and out the show (as well as another number after intermission). I'm actually IN the last song, but my part is tiny. This is Rhapsody's moment.  

I've been doing some rehearsal, but mostly it's been a supportive role. As an artist, and one with some stage experience myself, I'm all too well aware about how things feel in those days and hours leading up to the biggest performance of one's life. If anything, writing has been a great relief on that front. I've found a much bigger audience, and done my most impactful work through writing, but I never quite know which "performances" are going to turn out to be my most important. I don't have time to fret and stress. I just find out after the fact that twenty thousand people read something.

I also wrote a post on NOT Writing About Writing. It's about all the running I've been doing lately and introduces a new series that I'll be putting there. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Why Do You Keep Apologizing For Not Writing? Five reasons. (Mailbox)

OOOOOoooooOOOOh what'll really bake your noodle
is when you realize that I post these more for myself than
anyone else.
Note 1: I have created a composite question from "Mary," based on what a number of you have written in either my blog comments, here on Facebook, emails, social media private messages, and such. The general sentiment tends to be that I shouldn't worry about my productivity. That I should take the time I need to recover from cancer. That I should stop apologizing for weeks I barely write. I should just take time off and not worry about excuses. I write why I'm NOT writing more often than I write.  It's one of those situations where I feel pulled (hard) in a couple of different directions. There's a few very salient reasons I talk about my productivity, but maybe they're not obvious to everyone, so let me tell you the top five.

Note 2: I'm still looking for more questions, so please send them in to chris.brecheen@gmail.com

[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. You got your mailbox in my listicle. You got your listicle in my mailbox.] 

Mary asks:

Why do you apologize so much for not writing. We don't need to hear your apologies all the time. Just take some time off. It's okay. I'm actually finding the apologies more annoying than I do if you just took some time off. You seem to be writing about why you're not writing more than you're writing about writing.

My reply:

Fair enough. I could probably be better about this, but it's not behavior that exists in a vacuum either. Trust me when I tell you that I would get (and have gotten) probably just as much input (and probably more aggressive) if I were simply going quiet and NOT telling people what was going on. So it makes it super difficult to know how to handle things when I'm having a tough time.

1- I don't actually apologize….well, mostly…kinda. Okay maybe I do, but not, like, THAT much.

If you roll the tape back, I don't think you'll find I am apologizing. Okay, that's not entirely true. I'm sure you might find a few apologies in there somewhere, even after 2019 or so. (I've put words to paper in almost every mood I've been in, so I'm pretty sure I felt contrite about it at SOME point.) But mostly it's more like just telling people what's going on. And sometimes that involves admitting that I'm not going to finish what I wanted to on time.

It's like calling in sick. 

I kind of get why it might feel like I'm apologizing. The usual script for capitalism IS an apology if someone can't do the work. People say "sorry" when they call in sick as a matter of ritual, even if they aren't really all that sorry. Whether you are calling into a boss or a client or whatever, there's this sense that you're letting someone down if you aren't able to do the work, and so you must be penitent. ("I'm so sorry, but I had pneumonia, and have died. Apologies for letting down the team.") And if you think you're going to be better by next week, say so, and AREN'T, then you really owe someone some grovelling. And sometimes I feel bad that I'm not living up to even my lowered standards, or I'm disappointed in MYSELF, or I'm anxious about losing income or followers. Or I say something like "I know I said I would X, but…" I probably imply the full apology by the way I write out what's happening and why it means I'm not going to make a self-imposed deadline. But I don't mean it to be a sort of compunctuous confession. ("Oh, dear reader, please forgive me…")

More weather report. Less editorial.


2- I promised I would/This is part of the process.

I, very explicitly, want to tell you about the process of writing in real time.

That's even part of my mission statement—one of the three main things I hope to accomplish with this blog. I want you to know that even a working writer has big moments of deep and profound insecurity and is constantly struggling against the feeling that they're not doing enough. I want you to see how it isn't magic and projectile unicorn vomit rainbows that make A Writer™. We have bad days. We have bad weeks. Sometimes we even have bad months or YEARS. 

But we keep setting deadlines and showing up to do our best. And a body of work slowly grows, and when life is a little better we have the self-discipline to really be prolific.

I know that sometimes I share my anxieties about not having written—or I go on about how I feel like I should be writing. And I want to be clear about this: for every writer I have ever known that could possibly be considered successful by any bellwether, the guilt from not writing is very real. Unless they lose a limb or can't get out of bed, every day off is a particular agony. They all feel it. That sense that they've let someone down—even if it's just themselves—is acute.

This is more to show you under the hood than to ask for your forgiveness. I want you to know what being a writer is like. It's natural to feel this way, and it might even help you. Most working writers feel like they're not doing enough ALL. THE. TIME. Which leads me to my next point…


3- I'm hard on myself. Yes, I am.

I know I'm harder on me than basically anyone. I KNOW that. Even my patrons, who actually give me money to write, don't say the things to me that I say to myself about my productivity. I've even drilled down with a therapist to work on being a little LESS hard on myself. We spent weeks just talking about how perfectionism and abandonment issues have shaped my expectations of myself.

But I also know there's a needle to thread

Pause. Story time:

The question I get asked the most is how to be a working writer. How to make money. How to be read. How to achieve these milestones of "success" that I seem to have achieved. How can this person emulate my career.

The thing most people take umbrage with is the idea that writing is hard, hard work. They kind of get that idea conceptually ("Of COURSE it is! I'm no fool!"), but when you show them what "hard, hard work" actually LOOKS like, there's a lot of pushback and sticker shock. Whether that is bucking the idea of writing every day or just fiercely defending the idea that time off from writing should be liberally applied anytime one is under the weather, and anything less is being too hard on oneself.

These two facts are not unconnected. You're not going to get career-caliber results from hobby-treatment effort. Ever. If you just want to be a hobby writer, I have a whole series on why that's totally okay, and should always be for anyone. However, if you want the typical things people want when they envision a successful writing career, it's going to take more than a few days where you're writing when you don't quite feel like it.

I'm not a particularly great writer. I'm prolific (usually), and my editor can help me come off as a lot better than I deserve to. But for the most part, I get to "good" writing by doing lots of it (including having done it day after day after day for DECADES of practice) and massive revision. The reason I'm a working writer—the reason I have a career and can pay the bills doing this and have an audience and even fans—is really only because I am very, VERY careful with the line between needed self-care and the slippery slope of accepting my own excuses. Writing is my job, which means having a keen sense of when I'm "calling in" too much or really need to buckle down. I don't think I'd be here without just a little bit of overwork. Not so much that I am engaging in a socially acceptable form of self-harm, like maybe I was back before 2018 or so, but juuuuuuuuust enough that I am giving writing the effort required for the career I want to have from it.

So a lot of my posts are kind of memos to myself. I am keeping myself accountable. I'm not just taking the day off scott free. I'm reminding myself that if I do this TOO much, I'll start to pay a price.


4- I'm a crowdfunded content creator.

Art and entertainment can be tough if you can't create—even for a relatively short period of time. Only the household names can rest on their laurels for very long before the "overdue" notifications start filling up the mailbox. I don't exactly have a boss who would call me into the office and talk to me about my lagging performance. If I take too much time off, I just lose patrons (and thus money). My income starts to go down when I don't write.  And I'm already barely making ends meet here in the Bay Area. So I have to be my own boss. 

But in another way, I have a couple hundred bosses. They also won't call me into the office for an uncomfortable conversation. But they WILL just stop paying me if my performance stops matching their expectations. Often a cancelled patron is the only feedback I ever get.

Some patrons are incredibly patient and understanding. Some are at the end of their rope. Some are patrons just to support me and don't care what my update schedule is like. Some (understandably) want me to get them the rewards I promised for their tier of support.

I know we all want me to fully recover from cancer before taking back up the onus of such hard work. But I have bills to pay. So letting people know that I am actually really struggling and really trying and kind of doing the best I can. At the very least I am AWARE of how much I'm kind of taking advantage of them right now. And I have every intention of making a comeback. These things sort of help keep the folks who are paying my rent looped in on everything that's going on.


5- You may not care, but some people do.

If 90% of my patrons are patient and ten percent are done supporting me, that's a great ratio of supportive people…on a personal level.

But now think about what your life would look like if you took a ten percent pay cut. And I make kind of okay income, but in a place with an outrageous cost of living, so I'm technically only about 25% over the local poverty line. My income starts going down the MINUTE I take more than a few days in a row off.

I am surrounded by incredibly supportive people (who I adore, don't deserve, and get a little teary thinking about), but in the crappy position of worrying the most about those few who aren't.

I can see exit interviews for patrons that say things like "Sorry Chris. You have stopped writing." or "I was expecting more posts based on how much you wrote when I signed up." And those are the people who say anything at all—most just cancel. So when I write a post about why I'm not writing, sometimes it's because I'm so acutely aware of what's at stake and that simply taking one more day off might be the last straw.


Folks, I'll work on this. Obviously what I really want is just to be back in the saddle and writing prolifically again, but I love you all, and I don't want folks to feel uncomfortable because I'm talking too much about why I'm NOT writing. Maybe there's a better balance to be found between looping people in and not constantly talking about every day off with full transparency about the anxiety it causes me. There can be some real stress when I haven't put out good articles and I feel like there are reasons to keep people—particularly patrons—informed about what's going on and why I'm kind of fumbling the ball so much lately. I'd like to be doing appeals posts and gaining patrons (rather than losing them) and I REALLY feel weird about that when I haven't been knocking out some articles lately. But even just trying to hold on to what I have, I am worried about not being transparent enough. And I'm worried about being too transparent. 

And writing is hard.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

And Two Steps Back—What It Is: It's (Personal Update)

A picture from after my Tuesday
morning run. (Three miles.)
Instead of my regular Tuesday report (on Thursday), I have some discomfiting confessions to make, but I promised I would be transparent about all this writing stuff, so that people could see how it is done—that it's messy and non-linear and a whole lot of fucking work. So it's time to suck it up and show you where lately I've been slapping things together with three paper clips, a rubber band, spit, and some bailing wire…embarrassing or not.  

Last week was a massive mental health setback. It's been three steps forward and two steps back these last few months. A couple of weeks ago, I was sure I was ready to start writing again in earnest. But right around the same time, I started to deal with some brain weasels. My recovery has involved everything from worrying about my weight loss to fretting about medical bills to feeling like I frittered away those exciting moments of new relationship energy with Rhapsody by having one crisis after another instead of just enjoying each other. Normally, I could whack-a-mole these kinds of thoughts and take them as the transitory worries of a human with too vivid of an imagination, but with everything going on lately both globally and personally, I didn't have the resources to fight back, and the thoughts gained traction. The "Worry Bully" was able to kick my ass. 

Once it started, it got bad pretty quickly. I have a pretty good toolbox for dealing with anxiety from half a dozen years of therapy…but I only know how to use it when I'm awake. I self regulate, do self-care, employ some CBT therapies, I journal with pen and paper until my hand cramps, and then use positive self-talk when I'm able to really hear myself. But sometimes I wake up, and my anxiety is already at a five or a six (out of ten) and I'm panicking. The higher you go, the exponentially harder it is to calm down. You can get down from a three in five minutes, but getting down from a five or a six…I was needing an hour or more to get back to sleep and that could happen two or three times a night. I tried melatonin. I tried Unisom. And I even tried some stuff that is, strictly speaking, legal in my state but not technically in my country. Losing sleep contributed to less ability to deal with the slings and arrows of what had been some pretty dang outrageous fortune lately.

More anxiety. Less sleep. Less ability to deal. More anxiety. Less sleep. Less ability to deal. You see where this is going.

Two weeks ago I felt good. Well, I felt better. I felt ready to put down the journaling and get back into blogging. I felt primed. My ambition started writing checks. Then the anxiety weasels started their Riverdance on the inside of my head. 

Tonight Chris's mental health will be playing
the part of "The Floor."

Those checks were NOT covered by my ability to produce.

I know a million kind and wonderful people are telling me to take as long as I need to recover. Heck people are blowing up my inbox with just FLOODS of support and love every time I express concern that I'm a crowdfunded content creator who's not creating much right now. But honestly, I think I'm entering a new phase OF that recovery. 

I need to write. And I need to put down my journal and create again. Not despite my recovery, but to foster it. Writing IS recovery. 

That said, I'm not sure I am going to be able to just power back into the blog the way it used to be. At least not for a while. I think there's going to be a few more personal updates like this one for a while. I'm asking for lots of questions for the mailbox because those posts tend to be a little easier for me. I have a series of posts I'm planning for NOT Writing About Writing about long distance running and how it has helped me recover. And I know I wanted to be writing those crunchy writing articles at a clip before I made an appeals post for new patrons, but I need to replenish the income I'm losing from all the people who aren't quite so cool about me doing such little writing these last four months. So it's probably going to be just a little by the seat of my pants for a while.

We'll still get back to the old Writing About Writing. I'm just going to make it totally fucking weird for a while.

This week has been better. I got past what I was dealing with. I got some good nights of sleep. My anxiety settled back down. I even felt some honest-to-goodness inspiration after watching a Joy Oladokun concert last night. I know better than to say I'm better because this process has been NOTHING but three steps forward and two steps back, but the good days are starting to outnumber the bad ones, and it's time to start striking while the clichés are hot.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Mailbox Questions NEEDED!!

Hey all. I need questions for the mailbox. Short questions. Complicated questions. Personal questions if that's what it takes to get the ball rolling. Heck, I even answer my hate mail sometimes. Give me the questions!! 

E mail them to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the heading "Mailbox Questions" (which isn't just a gatekeeping thing—it's so I can do a keyword search for them later when ten thousand other emails have pushed them down my inbox). 

I'm struggling to get back to my pre-cancer/surgery writing pace (and ideally my pre-this whole last year writing pace—and IDEALLY ideally my pre-2016 pace), and one thing I can always count on is that questions are just a little easier for me than starting a post from scratch. They kind of break the ice and get the topic jump started. 

I'm going to start going through my email archives, but I also need new fresh-to-death questions. I can't promise I'll blog the answer to every question I get, and I really can't promise I'll get to them right away (especially if I get hundreds), but I usually try to send a link back if I've answered the question before or do a "quick answer" if I know it's going to be a while before it'll go on the blog. 

Do give a glance through the Frequently Asked Questions if you haven't been here a while.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Tuesday Report…on Wednesday (4/6/22)

Quick Personal/Health Update- 

The boys I watch are having spring break this week, which means the couple of hours I usually have to duck away and do some writing while they're in school aren't actually there. I didn't think about how that would impact my schedule, so check out the schedule adjustments (below).

I'm dealing with a lot of anxiety lately, and starting to realize just how BAD my mental health has been in the last few months since surgery/cancer. It sometimes looked reasonably sturdy from a distance, but up close, most of the scaffolding was falling apart and there was some wood rot. I'm unpacking/processing some heavy stuff this week, and realizing that I've been teetering for a while, overwhelming my support peeps, and generally not doing as well on the inside as I sometimes seem to be. The stuff I'm going through right now is NOT stuff that should be throwing me curve balls. I know I should have just put the blog on a hiatus for a few months to recover instead of dribbling out posts a couple a week. But I wanted to keep my commitment to showing everyone how writing works (and sometimes how it doesn't). Writers aren't inhuman. We don't have superpowers. We just do the work, and sometimes life makes that impossible, so we do the best we can.


Weekly Schedule Adjustments-

Like I said above, it's Spring break for the kiddos. That affects my writing schedule to the tune of about 12 hours a week. I do a lot of my writing frantically during the couple of hours Treble is in preschool. I've also been trying out a new schedule for my domestic duties that is taking some time to figure out. Next week everyone goes back to school, and I should be settled into the new schedule. 

What does that mean for the update schedule. Honestly, it means I need to put it on pause this week. I'm still writing when I can, and I think some stuff that is half written is likely to go up, but I don't think it'll have much to do with the update schedule.


Novel Progress-

Ack. I was ready to start on fiction this week, but I totally forgot about the Spring Break thing. Let's hope next week's schedule is a little kinder to my writing time.


Behind the Scenes-

I am mostly done with the Inside Scoop, but at six days late for the quarter, I'm hoping to wrap that up before I do ANYthing else. But when I get done, I am going to start on an early access post for THAT tier. 

Also, because it's been so long since I've posted ANY rewards for any tier, I'm going to be doing that thing where I let the early access tier see the Inside Scoop by way of apologies that they haven't been getting any of their own rewards.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Taxes, Sexuality, Gender, and Civil Rights/Labor Rights Activists

Today is the observance of César Chávez day (at least here in California), and that means Treble and Clef are not in school and I have extra duties on the childcare front. Today is ALSO the last day my accountant has given me to gather up my tax documents if I'm going to get that filed on time. (I class as freelance and have 1099s and a bunch of write-offs, so I always owe, it's always a lot, and it's too complicated for me to do on my own.)   

However, if you're looking for SOME content, I have updated my Buy-Me-Lunch posts about my sexuality and my gender with some important developments. They are now 2022 compliant.

Links below.


The Buy-Me-Lunch Answer About My Gender

The Buy-Me-Lunch Answer About My Sexuality

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Facebook Compilation Nov/Dec 2021

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'm way behind on posting these, but fortunately I wasn't writing much, so I can do two months at a time. By November, I knew I was sick, and the acceleration of the tests would lead to a cancer diagnosis by the end of the month. In December I had surgery (and a zillion tests and procedures leading up to it). I was really out of it both before and after the operation. So there were only a few gems, even across BOTH months.

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 Nov 1st-Dec 31st. (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.) 



Look, I love me some Holy Grail and spam skit as much as the next nerd, but now that fully half the cast of Monty Python has come out in support of TERFs, can we stop pretending they were boldly reimagining gender roles and admit that the entirety of many of their jokes amounted to: "A dude in a dress."


And once again, I'm going to NOT DIE because of the A.C.A. makes having insurance possible for me. If you're a leftist outside of a communist meet up, you might want to think hard about the optics of the message you're sending me (and millions like me) about the value of our lives by characterizing my reluctant but unswerving support of the Democratic Party as being "just as much a part of the problem."



"You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life WERE fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."

-Marcus Cole, Babylon 5

I have cancer.



Looking up the first use of the expression of "a penny for your thoughts," an inflation calculator from 1535 (when it was first known to have been written), and a currency converter from pounds to USD, Rhapsody and I have determined that you now have to pay about $2.55 for someone's thoughts.



CN Weight loss…but not as a good thing.

Them: Oh my god, Chris. How much weight have you lost?

Me: About forty pounds.

T: Wow, you look great. 

M: I'm not.

T: What's your secret?

M: I have cancer.

T:…………….oh.

Best not to assume, folks.



I cannot post every picture of this photo shoot we did for the little one I was expecting, but I will give you the link. It's a public post, so you should be able to see it even if you're not on Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/chris.brecheen/posts/10160462668096015


Today seems like a good day to kick cancer’s ass.

Let’s do that.

#evictionday



Hospital staff: Get as much rest as you can. Sleep is super important to your recovery.

Also hospital staff: ~wakes you up every 20 minutes ~



Anyone else get offended when the gmail predictive text accurately predicts what you were going to say and switch it out just to avoid being cliché?  

No? Just me then? Just a writer thing?

Carry on.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Updating the Update Schedule (2022—Apr-June at least)

While most of you just click the link I put on social media when you see that something I have written interests you, there actually IS an update schedule here, and as we enter a new phase of Covid, we are implementing perhaps the biggest, most significant update schedule change in the history of this blog. 


Note: In addition to everything below, which will set up the schedule I am trying to achieve, I am going through a number of transitions from a reorganization of childcare time to recovering fully from cancer and surgery. I'm doing the best I can, and sometimes that's coming up a little short.


I made a major change at the end of 2021. For my ongoing mental health and for my other long-term writing projects (fiction and some compilation e-books of our best articles). I am putting the days of seven posts a week and 70-hour weeks in the rear-view for good, and moving into a more quality > quantity phase of the blog. 

Yippee ki yay!

Writing About Writing consists primarily of one guy who takes care of a couple of kids, tries to keep up with some domestic stuff, is writing a novel, posts on another blog, posts a LOT on his Facebook wall, and sometimes does really wacky shit like try to play a D&D game with friends or get laid or something.

He's also a working writer, though, so he better stop making a bunch of excuses and make with the clackity clack. 

This is the schedule we will generally make an effort to keep. I say "make an effort," but I have to be honest about three things. #1- I have written posts from my bed with 102°-fever or from coffee shops out of state while on vacation or during hospital visits to people with cancer, so it is very likely that no matter what happens, you will still get more than a couple of posts a week, and I really really really do mean MAKE AN EFFORT.  #2 I am absolutely balls at keeping on top of WHAT gets updated on WHICH days, and I am likely to start Tetris-ing the posts for the week if I SNEEZE too hard. #3 I am still working through the full effects of the global pandemic, including the massive, unrelenting, fully permeated burnout that comes from 18 months of 70-hour weeks and ended spectacularly with me on an operating table having a softball sized tumor removed along with part of my colon. 

Thanks to my patrons, I have been able to quit part-time teaching, pet sitting*, and cut back on the amount of nannying I do as a side gig to focus more and more on writing. If you would like to help us write more and better updates, even a dollar a month helps me budget.

*I still have a couple of close, super-easy clients, so you might see me post about this stuff, but I don't run all over the Bay Area anymore.

Facebook Writing and Social Justice Bard

Most of my major writing ends up on this blog, but some of my more throwaway thoughts don't. If you particularly enjoyed our Social Justice Bard posts, I still have many bees in my bonnet.

I invite you to follow my Public Facebook Page (you can friend it if you send me a message, but it might be better if you follow it for a while first––unfiltered me is not everyone's cup of tea). I post somewhat more "political and partisan thoughts" there (rather than just social ISSUES) and also often post "proto-versions" of what later become full blog posts (if you're interested in seeing how those things develop). [There's also personal updates and nerdery there.]

I also have another blog called NOT Writing About Writing that I periodically update (once or more a week pre-covid, but now it's a couple of times a month in wild fits and starts), write personal updates, and post political thoughts that don't really tie into writing but that also aren't really short enough for Facebook.

Everything I ever write for any medium (and reruns of my best stuff) gets cross-posted to that Public Facebook Page, so join me there if you want to see everything I write.

Facebook Page Maintenance

Running my Facebook Page of over a 1.1 million followers as well as maintaining all the OTHER various social media (which is essential to the fact that I get to be a working writer) is basically a part-time job in and of itself. It just happens to be spread out so that the work happens in five-minute increments throughout the day, pretty much hourly, almost any time I'm not asleep. 

Mostly I've just done this AND my writing and not really acknowledged the ways in which the aggregate of all these five minutes here and there impact a weekly writing schedule. 

Prepare for More of the W.A.W Meta Plot

Just a quick note: if you've been around for a while (or have dug through a lot of the first-year articles), you may have noticed that we have sort of a running plot and bizarre cast of characters here at Writing About Writing. We're going to be getting back into these kinds of posts.

There is a shame spiral that I get into when I feel like I'm not updating enough, or significantly enough, and I feel like the meta plot posts are "too fluffy" and too fun. So I am more likely to try to push myself to post something significant. (Which is ironic because I'm then more likely to not make it and have to push back the post altogether.)

However my readers have CONSISTENTLY and UNSWERVINGLY said that they like these types of posts and that they make the experience of me writing an ongoing blog more cohesive instead of just being the occasional article they want to see. So I'm really really really going to try to shut off that part of my brain that is insisting that my meta plot posts are phoning it in, and post them more often.



THE UPDATE SCHEDULE

Monday

BEHIND THE SCENES (and an accountability post)

While I would love to get a blog up on every day that I'm clacking away in front of a computer, I also have a significant "behind the scenes" obligation to the folks who keep the lights on around here that takes time and energy. Ironically, if I give these kinds of rewards some dedicated time, I'm not only going to be better about doing them, but also about the blogging itself—they both have a way of distracting me from the other as I get overwhelmed and sit in front of my computer, unable to move in either direction because I feel like I'm letting down the other.

However, I consistently have parts of this job that don't involve dropping a forward-facing blog.
  • Once a month I cannibalize a day of blogging to write my Patrons a newsletter, and now that the pandemic is over, four times a year, I'm going to need to write TWO newsletters. (During the pandemic, I would forgo the monthly newsletter to do the quarterly one, but my goal was always to have both on those months.)
  • I absolutely need to spend a day or two every month just doing admin stuff for Writing About Writing (like catching up on emails, cleaning up menus, and the like), or it gets SO far behind, SO quickly. As it is, I sort of imagine we're going to take a year to "dig out" of the stuff I just put up.
  • My Patreon tiers are perpetually in need of their rewards. Whether it's an early-access post or just a selfie from one of my hikes, I need to attend more consistently to the folks who are devoting their financial resources to my ability to be a working writer.
  • Also, I have a couple of other writing projects that require my time and attention.
  • From time to time when we are having a VERY busy week and need a second day to clear out the admin issues so that they don't back up, you might see the easier of the two admin posts go up on a Tuesday, but mostly I'll be working hard in the background.

You WILL see an accountability post on most Mondays. I'm going to restart posting progress on other projects, and I will let everyone know what I'm working on behind the scenes. But it will be more of a bullet point memo than a post.


Tuesday

OFF!

While technically no "off" day is truly off (even the weekends) as I take my own advice and write every day, having Tuesdays off from the responsibility of posting an official blog represents all the hours I work on other jobs. I have spent far too long beating myself up because they don't "count." Not only will taking time off to acknowledge these things be better for my mental health and "overworked" meter, but they will allow me to attend to both them and my writing without feeling like I'm neglecting the other and getting overwhelmed because I'm not spinning all the plates perfectly.

So after much garment rending and self-reflection, and some deep thoughts about how much I will take on if I let myself, I have decided to take a three days off free and clear. (Although, as I mentioned, I'm always writing—this is more about the obligation of getting a post up than whether or not I actually "write every day" like the advice I give.) 

  • Of course, I would give any human being on earth the same advice and would tell them they were being too hard on themselves if they didn't take it, so this is absolutely a case of thinking basic self care doesn't count for me. However I have two work factors that impact my writing schedule:
  • Childcare side gig (10-12 hours a week)
  • Facebook Maintenance (10-12 hours a week)
  • I mean that should probably be two or three days off by the number of hours, but obviously, I'm not going to take THAT much time each week. I'll stick to one day (Tuesdays) and try not to feel too guilty about it.
  • And of course, when I say I'm "off" on Tuesdays, I mean about seven hours of childcare—which also makes getting a blog written kind of difficult.
Wednesday

We need (at least) one dedicated day a week to kind of take care of what I call "jazz hands," although it might be better described as "admin-ish stuff that HAS to get done at some point." It's not necessarily Total Fluff™, but it usually isn't exactly a new article either.

Often we have some kind of announcement or meta news about what's going on or coming up. You might also see a single entry for the long-forgotten character lists or an update to one of the menus (along the top of the page).


Thursday
We have a number of "types" of posts that are just a little lighter fare. Everything from SHORT Mailbox questions to our aforementioned meta plot posts to personal updates. Not necessarily admin or "jazz hands" but probably a little less "chewy/crunchy" than Friday posts.

Friday

Fridays, for the most part, will be The Big Post™ of the week. If you're here for the hard-hitting writing advice (with the occasional examination of how language and narrative play into broader social issues), Friday is the day to tune in. Longer Mailboxes, full craft, process, and sometimes even style articles.

NWAW

I used to write posts for NOT Writing About Writing and either drop them on my usual days off or post on both WAW and NWAW on the same day. I'm no longer going to be doing this. If I drop something on NWAW, I'll put a notice up on WAW that that is the writing for the day.

The Two-Post Commitment

Some weeks aren't going to go down like clockwork, and they might be front- or back-loaded with side gigs or other commitments. My writing career is also starting to open up occasional opportunities of interest like conventionsspeaking engagementsinterviews, or podcasts. On the advice of my doctor, I'm trying to be better about the (literally) health-shattering 60–70-hour weeks I was working, and I'm working to whittle that number down a lot closer to 40. That's a needle to thread when you are your own boss and you know that people will lower your income if they don't feel like they're getting enough of the content they want. I can't promise every week will go down as smoothly as three posts like end-of-the-week clockwork, but I will try really hard to get three posts up each week, and I can just about promise that I will at least do two. They might just be posted off schedule––landing on a Saturday or Sunday, for example—but barring illness, injury, or fabulously unforeseen circumstances, I will try hard to hit three and at least do two.

The Return of the Monthly Dedicated Novel Writing Time Increase

You may have noticed that any effort to take blogging time to give to my novel was COMPLETELY on pause during the pandemic (and then went on pause again as I recovered from cancer/surgery). But now it is back. The hardest thing I've tried doing as a blogger is keeping my fiction at a high level of priority. It's SO easy to just write a blog and call it a day. And that's what I'm getting paid for, so it's even easier.

But...as much as I've surprised even myself by discovering how much I fucking love blogging, I do want to write fiction too. Finding time as much time for both is impossible, so I have to borrow from Peter to pay Cliché. While I am getting traction out of writing an hour or so of fiction first (so that then I still have to do the blogging in order to do "a day's work"), there may still be times where the needs of fiction completely take priority over blogging.

I'm firmly in the "Write Every Day" camp. But how much I write, what I write, and what I'm impassioned to write can sometimes still be a creative ebb and flow of being at my Muse's whim.

I'm also going to try something new and interesting. Each month I'm going to take an ADDITIONAL, cumulative day off to sequester myself and work on my book (as well as possibly other fiction). This isn't the only time I'll be working on my book, but I'll be diverting my blogging time towards it as well. I'll start with one day in April, and then two in May, and three in June and four in July. I'll reevaluate how things feel to my patrons at four extra days off each month—at that point I would either be updating only twice a week (if I spread the days out) or taking a full week off every month (if I took them all at once). It might depend on how close I am to finishing or a draft or something.

Hopefully, I'll have something to show for these days off by the time Patrons might begin complaining that I'm not updating enough, but I hope that the transparency and gradualness both help in that regard.

Yule

You know that two weeks that starts a few days before Christmas and kind of goes until the third or the fourth of January? Yeah, I don't work that. It's busy enough. I can barely figure out what day it is most of the time. I'm rubbish. Don't ask me to get posts up. 

Election Week

I'm adding something that I basically realized today (I first wrote this on 3/5/2020). I'm going to take a break in our "regularly scheduled program" during election weeks. Midterms, primaries, obviously the presidential ones. I just need to acknowledge that the writing that happens will be on other blogs (like NWAW) and in other places (like my Facebook page) and that unless I am backing someone polling at 90 points, it's very, very, VERY likely I'm going to have at LEAST one day where I need to go back to bed into a pillow fort with ice cream.

We're probably done with elections for a while, but I'm leaving this here for future updates.


More posts?

There MIGHT occasionally be a fourth or even fifth (?) post in a week. Usually this will happen when I need to cover some ground on "blog business." (Like when I revise an old article so much that it deserves a fresh post, update a menu, write a new answer for our F.A.Q., or otherwise do something that needs to get done, but doesn't fit into our usual posting schedule). In this case, you might see an extra post pop up from time to time on the weekend or two in one day. Fiction will also usually go up independently of our regular schedule. It's less likely during the pandemic, but it used to happen a lot.

Reminders:
  • I'm writing this blog in real time, so there will be problems with updates in real time. I still watch kids for twelve to sixteen hours a week. Plus my host body occasionally succumbs to these pesky Earth illnesses and requires dental and medical maintenance to serve me well. And every once in a couple of blue moons I even just take a damn day off. So those three posts might not always happen like clockwork or may involve going off the rails of my usual updates. Until my Patreon pays ALL the bills, my reality is that I sometimes have to prioritize paid gigs.
  • I maintain a Facebook page for this blog that has over a million followers. From time to time a post I put up may intersect with a social issue, or just tick some people off, and then all the dillholes come out to play, and I have to spend a day basically babysitting the comments. I don't love it, but it has to be done or the bigots will chase off the people who I actually WANT to be there.
  • This flexible update schedule should also cut down on the thing where I'm apologizing to absolutely fucking nobody that it's Thursday and I've yet to put so much as a taco video up. (MMMMM tacos.) I know that some people are annoyed by how often I apologize, and the rest don't really care. But this also settles my own inner overachiever. As long as I get in all the entries that week, my readers (who have literally never said anything in six years about my update schedule) and myself can give me a break.
  • I invoke the Anything Can Happen™ real world excuse. In ordinary times, I usually have a couple of "emergency blogs" tucked away, but during the pandemic, I chew through them as fast as I tuck them away. So any bump in the road hits the blog update schedule in real time. Health complications might crop up suddenly and have me needing to do a sudden, unexpected several-hour shift or even an overnight...or maybe even more. Trust me, I'm going to feel ten times worse about missing a post than all of my readers combined. 
  • Admin Long-weekends at least once a month will still be a thing, but instead of "we might have one this month," I'm going to assume they're on and maybe we might have a POST instead. Since I'm not working Mondays and this would normally fall under the purview of a Tuesday "Behind the Scenes" post, I will take the first Wednesday of each month as an extra day if needed. 




Also......folks, if you like what I do, support your "local" artist. (In this case "local" means more independent, amateur, and two-bit than literally down the street.) The pandemic is not yet over, there's still a long phase of transition to work through, and I'm not in a financial position to completely give up my childcare side gig or pay someone to take over the admin of my Facebook page (both major time sinks that pull from my writing hours, but cannot be avoided without losing income that I don't yet have to spare). 

If you want to help me focus on writing (without all the side gigs), yeet a few dollars into that "tip jar" at the top left, or even better yet sign up to be a monthly patron through Patreon. (You'll also get in on the back-channel discussions about posting schedules, big changes, and upcoming projects.) I have bills to pay like any other starving artist, and though my schedule is a lot better than it was three years ago, even a dollar a month (just $12 a year) will go a long way.

Note: Hi there, Mr. Elephant. I guess we should address you.

So....yeah. I ABSOLUTELY KNOW that there is a pretty loud contingent of "Who Cares!" from the other side of the Internet, and I'll give you all a nod if this isn't your cup of tea. It's cool. You do you. Posts such as this one are not my least popular kinds of posts (that honor is reserved for meta posts about why there's no regular post…for some reason), but on the other hand, not every post can't be the barnburners of me replying to social justice hate mail.  

However, I'm not going to stop posting them.

Let me say that again: I'm NOT going to stop posting them.

One of our mission statements is to keep "The Process" transparent and give you updates in real time, so there will always be an occasional hat tip to the meta. I want people to understand that writers struggle with their own productivity, schedules, and discipline. We are constantly dissatisfied with how much we're writing (or not) and trying to redefine ourselves. I want folks to see that someone who is making a paycheck doesn't have all the answers. I want them to see how their work/life balance matters, and how easy it is to fall into working TOO much or not enough, and either one causes problems. I want them to see that a successful blog doesn't require nine updates a week (and, in fact, that's too many). And I want them to see how artists are constantly struggling to fiddle with the knobs and get it just right because we are at once human with our ambition and drive, but also human with our INCESSANT need to eat and have shelter. We don't just eat rainbows and shit brilliant prose. Even if a follower or fan never uses my own update schedule or productivity demands on myself as a formula for their own success, let it be a comfort realizing how flawed and human working writers can be.

I want you to see how messy and non-magical it all is.