I write another letter to my brain

Dear MuseDear Muse,

I know our analytical mind can be a bit overbearing.  It can’t help itself, it’s been this way for years and is still trying to learn how to be gentler.  Please don’t take its antics seriously.  We’re all learning how to be together.  We’ll get better.  Please don’t give up on us too quickly.  Also, if you can find a way to tell me when we’re being too analytical, just like you’ll tell me when you have a great idea, then I promise I’ll try to listen and respond appropriately.  I want to build you a nice safe sandbox, and I also want to work towards making money.  Please help me out.

Thanks!

– Me

 

I write letters to my brain

Dear Analytical Mind

Dear Analytical Mind,

Please don’t judge the first output of my Muse.  Don’t hold her up to any expectations.  We should nurture her and lure her hear with treats, give her a nice sandbox to play in.  Whatever happens is what happens and shall not be expected or demanded.  We can judge our ability to construct the sandbox.  We can (later) judge the output of the sandbox with the goal of making it better, i.e. edit.  But only after she has left and her feelings won’t be hurt.  She’s sensitive and we love her and want her to be happy.

Sincerely,

Me

And now, a picture of my neighbor’s cat*

[pe2-image src=”http://lh4.ggpht.com/-tW-mT9uRFVQ/UdMQ1z95buI/AAAAAAAAF4I/3cHPAH-j9cs/s144-c-o/F7D8042C-16CA-490C-800E-14725C736CDD.JPG” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/111163203489795350875/IntLiz#5896074853827047138″ caption=”” type=”image” alt=”this cat is so comfortable, stretched on a deck chair” ]

If anyone understands comfort, this cat understands comfort.  She knows how to make anywhere comfy, and she’ll always find *the* comfiest spot.  Doesn’t she make you want to lie down on a deck chair?

 ——

* In my backyard.  I didn’t sneak over into their yard to get this picture, that would be creepy.

It’s still early

I keep getting frustrated with myself.  Bogged down, feeling like a toddler, I DON’T WANNA!  Don’t wanna get up, or decide what productive thing to do, or wash dishes, or … or … or write, of course, because that’s there too.  Or worse, I want to write, but I don’t want to tear open the vein and feel what’s there.  Or I don’t want to keep banging my head against a wall.  I dunno.

I’m trying to rewrite my vampire story, and I’m stuck on this scene.  Do I just need to bang my head on it harder?  (That’s my default assumption, it may be faulty.)  Is it the wrong scene and I can’t see it because that’s always been the scene?  Or am I just writing the wrong story right now?  What’s the right story?  How would I know?

The other morning I woke up grumpy.  I was tired (I’m always tired when I wake up), and I was thinking of all the things I haven’t done, should’ve done, should I get up and wash dishes, should I help Ben with breakfast, should I should I?  Or worse, I should I should.  And some of the grumpy got turned outward on Ben, because that’s what happens.  So then I wonder, is there some psychological reason I’m grumpy?  I should do something to get un-grumpy, because I shouldn’t be judging myself.  So now I’m judging the judging.  o_O  Seriously, my brain.

I haven’t worked on the story in days, and I haven’t worked on anything else either.  Because my brain is judging and saying “You should be finishing this vampire story!” and instead of some other part of me saying very linearly, “But that’s the wrong story” or “But I’m coming at the story wrong” or anything so useful, I just don’t want to write, and I feel miserable and grumpy.  Because the part of me that can determine whether it’s the right story isn’t linear, so it doesn’t communicate in whole ideas like that.  It just gets grumpy.  Or stubborn, and some other part of my head gets grumpy.  (When I’m in it, I can’t always tell which part of my psyche is having which reactions.  And notice the part of my brain making that sentence thinks I should be able to tell, and is judging me for that.  Oh, the judgment how it swirls.)

Anyway, so I was telling Ben about my grumpy morning, which actually started with a grumpy evening the night before, after he went to bed, but it’s not much different from the grumpy morning so I didn’t bother telling you about it before, but I was telling him about the grumpy evening and the grumpy morning.  And he said*, “I guess I’m not surprised that you’re having tough emotions and doubts at this stage in your experiment.  It’s still early.  But I have no doubt that you’re going to succeed.”  And then he went away to do something else.

And I remembered I also have confidence that I’m going to succeed.  And I have confidence that it’s going to suck sometimes, because learning a new thing always sucks, and I’m learning a whole new way of living.  It always gets rough before you make a breakthrough.  I’ve been having a lot of rough, these past few weeks, interspersed with awesome.

And today I read this blog post by Amanda Palmer, who makes awesome music, who’s married to Neil Gaiman, who makes awesome books, in which she reviews his latest book and their marriage.  Two artists married to each other.  Two artists who had long solo careers of being creative in a particular way before getting married, and not always knowing how not to hurt each other while doing their own things.  And I’m so envious of them, because they know how to do their things already.  They’ve had years and years of making art for a living, in which to discover that they work best alone, or in short bursts or long bursts or intense obsessive** weeks of Making Art, or whatever.  And I’ve had one month, half of which was actually vacation.

It’s still early, yet.

——

* He didn’t actually say it like that.  I don’t remember his words.  But these words get me to the same feeling I had when he said his words, so they’ll do.

** This word is never spelled the way I think it should be: obssessive.  Or maybe obsssesssive.  If you’re going to be obsessive, you should have tons of extra esses.  I’m just sayin’.

What is a “Good Day”?

Editor’s Note: I started composing this blog post on June 1st, but didn’t manage to post it until 10 days later. I’m behind, but it’s such a great subject that I figured you’d want to read about it anyway. 🙂 I have a couple more posts that are nearly ready to go, I just need to stuff them into the blog. I’ll try to get them up soon.

The first of June! A whole new month, and the first whole month of my new life!

Today I pose the question: what does a good day look like?

Is a good day when I’m fast-moving and productive? Sure. Is a good day when I’m upbeat or happy all day? Absolutely.

But are those things requirements for a good day? After yesterday, I am glad to conclude no.

Yesterday* I woke up sluggish. I couldn’t keep my eyes open for longer than five minutes before I was asleep again. This lasted hours. I asked Ben to set an alarm before he left for work, so I would know when to check on the cooking beans… and I slept through it beeping for about five minutes. Whenever I woke up I would think, “ugh, I really want to be moving, why can’t I stay awake?” I got up three times to check on the beans, and then headed straight back to bed, first for napping, then for mindless games on my phone. “Ughh, why am I so lazy and useless?” I asked myself. I started thinking through all the good reasons for me to be sleepy… I went to bed at a reasonable hour, I’d napped the evening before… and in the afternoon…** Well, my mom told me she slept for a week when she stopped having a job, maybe this was just a delayed reaction. I finally got up and looked around for easy breakfast to eat. “Ugh, I don’t even want to make food. At this rate I’ll be a useless person, eating fast food and sitting on the couch all day!”

Long story not quite as long, most of the day sounded like that.  Finally while I was out on a walk, I noticed that there were gorgeous roses and I’d nearly missed them because I was so focused on why I’m sluggish, instead of focusing on what’s good about the world. Dude, LOTS of things are good about the world! It was sunny, there were roses, I was moving, I had a hat to protect my eyes from the sun, I have a home, etc. As I continued walking down the hill toward the post office, I had a bounce in my step and was noticing the trees and the cars and the ocean… and then had a funny view from outside of myself as the jaunty heroine who has just lifted herself out of a dark hole, and now has a montage scene of being outside in bright colors with a smile on her face, which would be followed by her making food or going shopping or something else appropriate for a montage scene. 🙂

When I got home, I started (or resumed) puzzling over my brain, but this time without the overlay of “what’s wrong with me”. And what I finally realized is that my analytical mind (or perhaps my judgmental mind, or my Critic) spends all of its time measuring me against a ruler that only has the following marks:

  • Not Even Trying
  • Not Good Enough
  • Nice Try
  • If You Were This Effective Every Day, You’d Actually Be A Useful Person

Seriously, even when I have a great day, I judge myself for not having great days every day. No wonder I have a hard time staying motivated. So now’s my chance to completely recalibrate my ruler. What should the marks be?

  • Good Try!
  • Good Job!
  • Awesome!
  • Kicked Serious Butt!***

That ruler might be more motivating.

So yeah, large parts of the day were miserable and uncomfortable and unmotivated, but because of all that I made this huge realization about myself. Now that I can see the ruler, I can choose a different ruler. Therefore, it was a fabulous day. I should be so lucky to have more days like this.

——

* Yesterday = May 31st.  It was a Friday.

** Incidentally, this is total nonsense.  I’d woken up totally early on Thursday to have breakfast with friends, then shopped at Target for an hour and a half, and then got stuck in traffic coming home^.  I had every right to be tired from a day like that.

^ Rush hour traffic.  I always stayed at work until after the traffic was over, and now that I’m not working, why should rush hour traffic apply to me?  Sigh.  I’ll have to get used to planning around this.

*** Apparently nice me who always thinks I’m doing well is really into exclamation points. 😉

Dispatches from the other side†

Well, it’s my third day of post-employment vacation.  Yesterday I stayed in bed reading until after 10am, which I haven’t done in a few years*.  Then I got up and instead of making breakfast, I made kasha (slow, so it was for lunch or a later meal), ravioli in the last of the sun-dried tomato pesto (store-bought), and banana oat muffins with the two very brown bananas I discovered at the bottom of the fridge.  (The third incredibly brown banana was wrinkled and sad… it became an offering to the compost.)  I also offered a bunch of sad old vegetables that were beyond saving, and squeezed all the citrus in the fridge into juice, except for one lemon (which Ben used today for our cucumber and arugula salad).  Then of course I had to wash dishes… and then I sat on the couch for the next several** hours watching various TV shows.  🙂

Including Ally McBeal, which I never watched more than a scene or two of when it was originally on air.  I watched the season finale of Gray’s Anatomy, and decided I needed another show that’s overly melodramatic and unrealistic yet funny and requiring little brain power.  Ally McBeal seems to suit the purpose just fine; I watched the first four episodes.  😀  So far it really is all about sex, but I like how Ally is generally honest about the fact that she still loves her many-years-ex-boyfriend Billy, who is now married.  Yeah, there are plenty of moments of self-deception and other-people-decption, but that one is generally right out in the open.  I’m having a little trouble with how awkward and stammery she gets.  It’s a cute character flaw, but occasionally over-done.  And I adore her best friend Renée, who gets to be honest and fabulous.  Of course, they have relatively few scenes with Renée (compared to any of Ally’s coworkers), probably because she’d take over the show.  So, good choice.  And I love Vonda Shepard.  Was she anybody before she played the music on the show?  I know her music well, but I don’t remember if she was famous before Ally McBeal.

Today we got up and went to the farmer’s market and grocery store, and now we’ve made cucumber salad (see above), prepped a summer squash, broccolini floret, and onion stir-fry for later, and prepped a lentil soup with barely, summer squash, broccolini stem, onion, celery (which I despise, incidentally, but usually put into soups because it makes soup taste better), and mushroom (which I hate the texture of, so we’re going to cook the celery and mushroom in broth and then puree it, then add that to the soup).

This week, my world is centering around food, books, and TV.  That seems just right.  Next week, I’m going sewing machine shopping***.

———

† That phrase got stuck in my head and I can’t think of a better title.  So, there it is.  Speaking of the other side, my dad sent me the best email this morning, telling me that he’s proud of me for following my heart.  It made me really happy.

* So bizarre.  I used to read until 11 or noon easily on weekends.  (And occasionally on weekdays…)  Ben tends to want to get up and, you know, eat breakfast.  And then there were 7 or 8am meetings some mornings.  So I got in the habit of getting up early.  Even if I stayed in bed reading, 10 has been the latest unless I’m sick.  And, actually, I’d rather get up much earlier than 10 most days, to have plenty of time to enjoy the sunlight.  In the summer it’s not such a big deal, but come winter it’ll be important.  Another thing I’ve noticed is that I have this belief that evenings are for vegging out… even if I spent all day vegging and probably could muster the energy to be productive.  I’m not worried about it during my vacation, but once the Experiment starts, I’ll have to pay attention to that and make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.

** “Several” may actually be an understatement….  We also watched the fifth episode of Doctor Who Season 7 Part 2^, whose name I forget^^.  (Yeah, I’m a few episodes behind.  I’ve been busy and savoring. 🙂 ) It was a fun episode with some entertaining bits, but it also strained credulity in a bunch of places.  This season isn’t as well written as the past couple of seasons have been.  The story-lines just aren’t as tight.  Even “Hide” (episode 4) was fun, but when I watched it a second time (so Ben could see it), it had lost all of the scariness and it seemed like some bits were just there for effect and didn’t have any bearing on the plot.  Again, weaker writing.  Sad.

^ What’s wrong with just continuing Season 7?  Why did it have to become part 2?

^^ I imagine I could look it up.%

% Ok, ok, I’ll look it up.  Oh right, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, which was actually a fabulous title.  And it really did live up to the title, and seeing the inside of the TARDIS was great fun (I loved the swimming pool), but it could’ve been more awesome.  Like why were the <REDACTED> trying to kill them?  And after the buildup in the last half season I expected to adore Clara… and while I do like her, she’s not nearly as spunky and funny as she was built up to be.  :-/

*** And maybe get a haircut, new glasses, and give my car an oil change and a car wash.  And also go shopping for a cabinet to store my routers and electronics in.  But since my biggest goal is vacating, I’m trying to keep it all low pressure.  🙂

My New Way of Life

I’m starting an experiment§.  It’s a life-sized experiment to discover how Liza* lives best, instead of how a “normal person” lives best.  It’s an experiment, so I’m going to be tracking metrics and adjusting variables.  Since there’s only one of me, the comparison will be between weeks.  Also, it’s entirely subjective, being about me, and I reserve the right to change my metrics at any time.  🙂

My starting assumption is that I work best when I don’t constrain myself with restrictions and rules.  E.g. “I will exercise every day” or “I will write 500 words every day” or “I will be at work by 10am and work for 8+ hours” are all restrictions that I resent, and then I do the exact opposite (or sit in front of feeling miserable… see “eating my vegetables”, below).  I rebel against perfectly reasonable self-assigned rules, even just “I will go out for a walk today”.  :-/  In order to stop these constraints, I’ve decided to quit my day job**.

Most writing exercises are really just a set of constraints.  The constraints suggest ideas I wouldn’t have thought of if I were just facing a blank page with no constraints.  On weekends when I don’t have any goals and I can do absolutely anything, I often dive into the first interesting thing that presents itself and don’t come out for hours… regardless of whether it was an activity that was actually worth those hours.  NOT the most productive thing.  Putting those two experiences together, my theory is that I’ll give myself constraints within which to structure my life.  Not rules for me to rebel against, but constraints that expand my options in the direction I want to focus my energy.

Examples of constraints I would like to try out:

  • Don’t push myself if I don’t feel like it.  On the other hand, do check in periodically to see if I feel like doing something other than what I’m doing now.
  • Have one day a week planned for running errands — I can run errands on other days, and I don’t have to run them on that day, but it’s an anchor point for thinking about errands.
  • Have one day a week planned for thinking about food.  I can make food on any day, and I don’t have to make food on the scheduled day, but it’s an anchor point for thinking about food.
  • Have one day a week planned for thinking about cleaning.  I hope to do a bit of housecleaning every day, say 20 minutes.  So on days when I don’t feel like cleaning at all, I can think of one small thing to do.  And on days when I don’t mind cleaning, I can think of bigger things to do.
  • Every day, think about my stor(y|ies).  Sit for at least five minutes in front of {the story | a notebook | a keyboard} and write a stream of consciousness.  If it turns into hours of writing, yay!  If it doesn’t, then I can do something else instead.  -> Note: My goal is to spend at least 4 hours writing every day.  But I want them to be fun and energetic hours, not miserable hours where I feel like I’m forcing myself to eat my vegetables***, and you will sit here until they’re all done, young lady† .  So if that means I spend at least 5 minutes hating the peas, then I know today is a pea-hating day and I should do something else fun and/or productive, guilt-free.

This is really the crux of my plan for myself.  The least valuable thing I do to myself is make myself feel guilty.  When I feel guilty, like I OUGHT to be eating those peas, then I can’t make myself do anything else that would be more fun or more useful.  All I can do is mind-numbing things that help me avoid the guilt, like watching TV or reading a fun book or playing a video game.  Creativity goes right out the window.  So, I’m not going to allow myself to feel guilty about deciding not to do the things I don’t want to do.  I’m going to trust that it’s a short term not-want-to, and that wanting-to will come back eventually.  And if I never do want to do that thing, then why on earth should I have it on my list††?  If it’s so important, can I hire someone else to do it for me?

The foundation of the crux of the plan††† is trust in myself.  Trust myself to know what I need to do now, and trust myself to do everything in the right time.  Trust myself to have the creativity I need when I need it.  And trust, always, that “This Too Shall Pass”.

I have a lot more thoughts about trust, productivity, creativity, and how Self works.  I’m sure I’ll share them as I go along.

 

——

§ …in about a month.  I’ve just given my two week notice, and then I’m taking two weeks off.  So Experiment: Life will start on April 29!

* Yes, this experiment relies on me referring to myself in the third person.  …  Why are you looking at me like that?

** This means I will have no income.  Eeek!  This is a whole nother subject, but suffice it to say that I have enough savings to live on for a while, and I have faith that through my experimentation I’m going to find ways to earn money doing things I want to do.  And if I don’t… I will go straight back to having a day job.  This is an experiment, and I am aware that it could fail entirely.  I’m trying not to run on self-delusion.  🙂

*** FYI, I’m going to use this as a metaphor a lot for things I don’t want to do.  Short-handed to “eating my peas”, even though I like peas a lot.  The context is that when I was little, I could sit for hours (it felt like hours, though I imagine it wasn’t more than 30 minutes) in front of my vegetables at dinner time, refusing to eat them (because I didn’t like them as much when I was little) and being told I had to, and eating just one slow bite at a time.  I’m not even sure how often this happened… it could’ve been once, for all I know.  My memory is pretty spotty.  But I do have a memory of this happening, and it perfectly resonates with how I feel when I’m sitting in front of some task I absolutely do NOT want to do, but have to because it’s expected.  At work, usually.

† I don’t think anyone in my family ever said that or called me “young lady”, but it sounds right for the story.  :o)

††  Note that I’m not talking about things like doing my taxes.  I’m aware that I do have to do them eventually, regardless of how I feel.  But I also know that I don’t really mind doing my taxes, or paying bills, or any of that.  Sometimes I have the right headspace to think about money, and sometimes I don’t.  When I don’t, I shouldn’t be doing my taxes.  When I do, I don’t mind doing my taxes.  So do understand, I’m not talking about never doing the required things ever.  I’m talking about doing them when I have the mental capacity for it, and not when I don’t.

††† Am I taking this metaphor too far?

Housecarl

I’m in love with the word housecarl.  It’s a very old word, and I stole it from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel books.  I’ve been looking for a word to refer to men in a medieval noble household who aren’t in the family and aren’t knighted, but also aren’t necessarily servants.  Lois McMaster Bujold uses “armsman”.  Carey uses housecarl in her Viking-ish culture.  The other word I’ve come across is armiger, which applies to a military guy who works for a knight and is entitled to his own coat of arms, but isn’t knighted himself.  I have no idea why you would have a coat of arms without being a knight, so I was thinking of using it to mean anyone who carries weapons and isn’t knighted.

To me housecarl seems like the male version of “house maid”, except not implying “servile”.  I’m not sure I understand the nuances of relationships in a medieval household would be.  Does servile mean a slave, or also someone who works for money?  Or who works for room and board?  Would I be using it wrong to refer to male servants in the King’s Castle?  (Can I use it that way anyway, under the assumption that most people reading the book will either not already know the word, or will understand that this is my own world and I’m stealing words and repurposing* them?)

This came up because I’m looking for Germanic & Old English terms to use in LFG, as opposed to French, Latin, or Celtic.  Does it matter much, since I’m still writing the first draft?  Nope.  But looking for the right words to use helps me get into the feeling of the world.

——

* Firefox doesn’t think “repurposing” is a word.  Wikipedia doesn’t either, but several articles use it as a word.

Meta Blog Post

My notebook - entry from Jan 13, 2013

I’ve noticed that I like my writing voice better when I’m talking to myself, pondering to myself, stream of consciousness (though it usually is in complete sentences… cuz I’m funny like that).  Why is that?  I’m more authentic with myself.  I also don’t have to fill in as much back-story, cuz I already know the background, so it’s a faster, more immediate train of thought.  (“Wait for me!” she shouted, running after the train.)  Also, I have more random asides and quips, because I’m amusing myself.  🙂  Sometimes they’re inside jokes, where you really had to be there on that one day in the 10th grade when…

And then, do I edit my train-of-thought stream-of-consciousness blurbs after I’ve reached the end?  If I edit inline, then I’m clearly too self-conscious and not really talking to myself (cuz duh, I don’t need to censor when *I’m* the audience, cuz I’ll be hearing all the extra crap whether I edit or not).  But what about afterwards?  When I realize that I looped around back to repeat something I’ve already said, and why on earth would you care about all the meanderings and thoughts I’ve been having?

Also, that means that once the moment has passed, once I don’t feel the need to tell myself the story, then I won’t be able to recapture it for you, either.  But then, if I don’t feel the need to tell myself the story, maybe that means I don’t need to tell you, either.  (And who is “you” in this sentence?  Is it me, because I’m writing to myself?  Or is it the imaginary audience out there who probably isn’t reading this post anyway?  Woah, my head is spinning.)

I want to post more.  (I hate reading blog posts from inconsistent bloggers [like myself] who post saying “I want to blog more!  But here’s my excuse why I haven’t… or here’s my plan for doing better!”, when really you could just SKIP the post saying “I’m gonna blog more” and instead just start blogging more.  Duh.)  But anyway, I do want to post more.  I also know that this is pretty low on my list of priorities.  (Given my previous parenthetical, where is this paragraph going?  I think I had a point when I started it, but I got distracted by my own aside, and now I don’t remember what the next sentence should be.  Oh right…)  It’s an effort to write up a blog post, and disappointing to reread it and realize I sound lame, or I’m not telling an interesting story after all, and so I should just scrap it as not worth* the ones and zeroes it’s printed on.  (And I’m still doing that lame thing I hate from others: sharing my lack of self-confidence.  Sigh.)  But the point is that when I’m writing to myself in my notebook, or on paper, then I like my voice just fine.  Maybe I read it differently when it’s only to myself?  Maybe I write it differently?  Nah, I’ve lost the voice, now I’m telling YOU instead of telling myself.  My self has already moved on to another subject, which is the point of my footnote… so I’ll just leave you with the footnote:

——

* I mistyped “worth” as another word that’s like “wrote“: wroth.  It’s the verb of “wrath”, I think.  “She was wroth with him.”  Could just say “angry at”, but “wroth” sounds cool.  And it’s just one letter off from “wrote”… which is the only thing they have in common.  🙂

Wrote…

Have you noticed what a weird word “wrote” is?  Write becomes written pretty obviously.  And lots of words in English transform the vowel to indicate past tense instead of changing the ending.  Sing Sang Sung*.

I must use the word “wrote” pretty often… “I wrote a lot at my last writing group,” or “I wrote 5 pages last week”, or whatever.  And in that sentence it sounds fine, but … Have you looked at the word?  Wrote.  It’s sorta like rote, sorta like wrought.  But of course, it doesn’t mean either of those things, so it’s not like them at all.

And if you repeat it enough times, you’ll become convinced it’s not really a word and need to look it up to make sure you’re not crazy.  Ask me how I know.

——

*  Though apparently English does this to a larger degree, and with less regularity, than most other European languages.  Which *could* (maybe, or at least according to John McWhorter) be explained by a group of people with a native language that changes grammatical meanings of words by replacing vowels (e.g. the Semitic languages, including Arabic and Hebrew) having come to Northern Europe and learned Proto-German imperfectly, bringing their own grammatical structures into the language.  Which is an *awesome* theory, and even if it’s not true, I like it a lot.  Um… there’s a better summary of this theory in this review of one of McWhorter’s books: http://heliologue.com/2011/04/30/our-magnificent-bastard-tongue/.