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

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