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.