So. You Forgot to Update Your Blog for Three Months.

captain-america-psa

(That was your cue to laugh.)

It’s been a while. My April was busy, my May was depressing, and my June was a horrible combination of the two. Also I didn’t know what to write for a blog post, so I didn’t! GO FIGURE

I am hoping to get back to your regularly scheduled programming here this month. So Doctor Who reviews, musings on life and writing, and so on. We’ll see how good I am at actually keeping up with it, but here’s hoping!

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“Write Every Day” is Bad Advice, and Here’s Why

I’ve been in a creative slump for about a month now. I haven’t really written anything, or even done things that I normally enjoy. I thought I might try to get back in the writing groove by reading a couple writing ebooks, but what I found in those books was more discouraging than encouraging.

Both the ebooks predicated all their advice on one maxim: Write Every Day. If you don’t write every day, these books said, you’re not taking your craft seriously. Writing must not be the most important thing in your life. And so on, and so forth. For someone who hadn’t been writing for well over a month, and who had been anguishing over it thanks to depression, this only made me feel worse. Was I not a real writer because I couldn’t write every day?

Eventually I talked to some of my writer friends about this, and we all came to the same conclusion: “Write every day” is bad advice.

“Write every day” assumes too much. It assumes all writers work the same way, and that all writers have the ability to work every day. Worse, it creates gatekeeping in a community that should in theory be open to anyone and everyone.

People do not have cookie-cutter work habits. “Write every day” assumes that all writers work the same way. It refuses to see the myriad ways that people approach problems and solve them. It’s the kind of advice that tries to fit square pegs (and triangle pegs, and rhombus pegs, and so on) into a single round hole.

Furthermore, it assumes, in a lot of ways, that writers don’t have lives or families or other obligations. I see a lot about stealing time to write throughout one’s day, but there are times when that’s just not possible. Maybe you’ve caught the flu and are knocked out in bed; maybe you’ve been up all night with a clingy, sick kid. Maybe you’re on vacation or on a road trip or something similar. (Have you ever tried working on a laptop–or even a notebook–in a moving car? I have, and it’s difficult.) “Write every day” assumes these things don’t happen, or if they do, they can be put on hold for ten minutes so you can scribble something in a notebook.

Worse than that, “write every day” seems to assume that all writers are capable of writing every day. That isn’t true; that can’t be true. Some people have physical ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people have disabilities that make it hard to get out of bed every day, much less get to a desk and write. Some people, like me, have mental ailments like depression that can get in the way of even basic tasks.

I know from experience how hard depression makes it to write one day, much less every day. Depression loves to tell me that I can’t. It tells me there’s no point; it tells me I’m not any good, so why bother trying. It goes on and on and on, and there are many days when I can’t make it shut up. The days when it tag teams with anxiety are even worse.

I’m lucky that I have access to a therapist and medication to help me manage my mental maladies, but I know that many people aren’t as fortunate. Not everyone has the resources to work with or around their disabilities. A writer with bad carpal tunnel might not have the money to purchase transcription software like Dragon. Which brings me to my final point.

“Write every day” is a gatekeeper. It tells the world that Real Writers™ write every day, and if you don’t, you must not be a Real Writer™. It shuts out people who can’t write every day, whether it’s because they have a life, or because they have a disability that prevents it. In both the ebooks I read recently, people who didn’t write every day were accused of not taking their craft seriously enough. If you were serious about your writing, they posited, you would do it every day, no matter what. One book even concluded that if you couldn’t write every day, well, maybe you were just a hobbyist.

What a load of bull.

I can almost guarantee that there are professional, published authors out there who do not write every day. I can guarantee that there are first-time authors out there who did not work on their manuscript every day leading up to its acceptance. Not everyone can be an automaton, and no one should have to be to “prove” they’re a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. That’s all there is to it.

“Write every day” is not one-size-fits-all advice. What works for one writer doesn’t necessarily work for the next. The hard part is realizing that that’s Okay. I give you permission not to write every day if you can’t or you don’t want to. You’re still a writer.

I promise.

Depression, Writing, and a Dearth of Happy Endings

I am a writer.

….okay. That sounds fake, but okay.

This is what’s literally going on inside my head 24/7/365.25/the finite infinity of my life.

I don’t know how to stop it. Mostly I just listen to it, because it’s probably right. Not provably right, but probably.

I am a writer.

Are you sure? Name one writing thing you’re good at. Spoiler alert: it’s none of them.

It’s really bad right now. I don’t know how to make it shut up. Like always, I thought I was doing all right, but it was just gone on a daytrip, and it came back and settled in and now it won’t shut up.

I am a writer.

Really? When’s the last time you’ve written anything? Like a month ago? Wow. Some writer. I heard Real Writers write every day, no matter what. You must not be a Real Writer if that’s the kind of habits you keep.

Seriously, this is what the inside of my head is like. And this is just about one thing! I don’t know how to make it shut up or stop. I just live with it. I go to therapy, which only sometimes helps, and I take meds, which I know keeps my head above water at least. But for the most part, this is what I deal with.

I am a writer.

Have you written anything I’ve heard of? You’re not published at all? Some writer you are. I hear most writers your age have at least a few publications under their belt. And no, that stuff you did in college doesn’t count.

What am I supposed to do about it? I don’t know. I just let it wash over me, and most days, it keeps me away from the keyboard, because it convinces me that I’m no good and that I will never be any good, so what’s the point of trying. Even writing this is just a way to let it have its way with me, because that’s how depression is. I’m just pouring out the bad thoughts for everyone to see, and that still won’t stop them, because depression is like honey badgers: it don’t give a fuck.

I am a writer.

No, you’re not. You were wrong every time you wrote a story. Everyone who’s said they like your stuff (what little of it you’ve actually put out there) was lying. You shouldn’t have bothered today, or any other day, to write something down. This isn’t your passion or your calling or anything like that: it’s an excuse to be lazy, and a demonstration of your laziness. You don’t want to work hard for anything; you never have, and writing isn’t any different.

This is what my life is. Just listening to this awful voice. It’s hard to ignore, and easy to believe, because almost everything it says sounds right to me. It’s poisoned every part of me. I don’t know what to do. Except write this. And try to believe in something better.

I don’t know if it’s working.

I am a writer.

And I am not.

Doctor Who S5E05: Flesh and Stone

Where “The Time of Angels” was a thriller of an episode, “Flesh and Stone” plays out far more like a horror movie. Our heroes are pursued by a relentless group of killers that they are nearly powerless against. The Angels also have a grip on Amy Pond, one that nearly kills her halfway through the episode. But more than anything, this episode is about revelations–about River in part, but largely about the plot arc most viewers at the time believed wouldn’t come up again until the finale.

The relentless pursuit of hundreds of Weeping Angels drives the Doctor and Amy and the others through the downed starship they escaped to at the end of the last episode. There are some genuinely frightening moments here, especially when the Doctor must turn the lights out to open a door. The Angels creep forward to the strobe of constant gunfire, gaining on our heroes by inches. When everyone makes it to the ship’s secondary flight deck, we’re granted only a slight reprieve.

Amy’s encounter with the Angel left her vulnerable to them–as we find out, there’s a living image of an Angel in her mind, coming to kill her, and making her count down to her death because it’s fun to it. The tension and horror of her situation is scary enough on its own, but not so frightening as what we find out just beforehand.

The crack that was in young Amelia’s wall has appeared in the last couple stories at the end, but it makes a major reappearance here. Rather than following Russell T. Davies’ model of arc words that only become fully relevant in the finale, Steven Moffat brings his arc to the fore very early on. Here the Doctor encounters the cracks, and discovers what they are and what they’re doing: the cracks are time running out, erasing everything that gets near them. We don’t know where they come from, or why they’re following Amy and the Doctor, but the dire situation is made clear nonetheless.

One thing Moffat does here is quietly explain away some of the very public events that happened in a lot of RTD’s finales and specials. The Cyberking from “The Next Doctor” is a victim of the cracks, as is (apparently) the Dalek invasions seen in the Series 2 and Series 4 finales (since we learned in “Victory of the Daleks” that Amy had no idea what a Dalek was). It’s just a largely throwaway line, but with it, Moffat quietly sets things back to zero for his run of the show. The public invasions are “gone”–they still happened, of course, but they don’t have an influence on the future companions’ stories. (Remember how Martha was quick to realize that aliens were involved in “Smith and Jones”, because of what she’d experienced as a result of the Series 2 finale?)

Another revelation we receive here is one about River: we find out that she is in prison for killing a man. This adds a layer of darkness to her character that hasn’t been present before, and furthermore raises the question of whether she can be fully trusted, if she’s a murderer. It exposes an interesting new facet of her character–that she killed the “best man [she’s] every known” and seems to even regret it. Though this won’t be fully explored until the next series, it’s still highly intriguing.

To be honest, there is only one thing about this episode that bothers me, and it’s at the very end, when Amy tries to seduce the Doctor and ends up planting a kiss on him. It’s always made me uncomfortable because of the lack of consent in the whole matter, and I’m kind of glad that Steven Moffat came out and said that he regrets writing it. It’s not really the kind of thing we need in Doctor Who, and having Moffat disavow it makes me feel comfortable being discomfited by it.

All in all, “Flesh and Stone” is one heck of an episode. It finishes its story in a satisfying manner while breaking open the main arc of the series in a way that still leaves us asking questions. This episode and its predecessor are a story I return to often, because it’s such a pleasure to watch a well-constructed tale unfold.

It’s the End of the Year, and Here We Are

With Christmas out of the way, it’s a nonstop careen to January 1. I thought I’d reflect on how my year went and what’s changed and what hasn’t, and so on and so forth.

This year didn’t quite go the way I expected. I quit my temp job in March, which I still feel some pangs of regret about. I got another temp job in May that only lasted a day because my anxiety got the better of me. But even if I’d stayed on (and not gotten fired) at the first job, I probably would have been laid off (which is basically getting fired, except it isn’t your fault) in the summer due to the off season, which I found from a coworker a few months ago.

I definitely did not hit all my goals for the year. I’m not going to get into it, but I set way too many high expectations for myself. I thought I would be good and productive, but instead my mental health gave me a kick in the butt and nothing went as planned.

Part of the mental health problems, it turned out, were due to me going off a medication that it turned out I, uh, REALLY needed to be on. I had a terrible couple weeks topped off with some suicidal thoughts, and then I got back on the med and things have been okay since. My meds have been steady and unchanged for a few months now, and my therapist and I are working on everything else.

I’m learning to be okay with what I don’t get done, and to be proud of what I do accomplish. I read twenty books this year. Yay! I’ve watched 40 movies. More yay! I wrote over 90,000 words! GO ME. I am learning to put things in perspective, and to set goals that are within my actual reach, as opposed to my hypothetical reach. It’s a slow process, but I’m getting there, I think. Bit by bit.

I suppose my mental health makes up a big chunk of what I did this year. I fell and got back up and tripped a few more times, but I am making progress. Just not in the ways I thought I would, and not in the areas I originally believed I would. I didn’t play a lot of video games, or watch a lot of television this year. But that doesn’t matter. I still did some things. And that’s what really matters.

I wanted to stretch this out a bit longer, but I’m not sure if I can. I have made progress, and I want to keep making progress in the new year. I want to do things, but within my scope. It sounds ridiculous and counter-intuitive to say that I want to limit myself to what I can do, but when I put so much weight on the things I get done, it’s almost a necessity.

I’m going to do things in the new year. Not more, hopefully not less, but just enough. Just a Goldilocks kind of year, if that makes sense. This year past had its ups and downs, but I think I’ve made progress, and with any luck, I’ll keep moving forward in the weeks and months to come.

An Explanation is In Order

The short of it is simple: a combination of continued medication adjustments and then also a total lack of motivation contributed to my posting nearly nothing in two months. I am doing better now, and then I also wanted to hit 50 posts here by the end of the year, so here I am again.

The long of it… is hard to remember. I don’t really know what I was up to all that time. I mostly just existed. I got obsessed with amigurumi (crochet dolls and toys, basically). I had my birthday, which was uneventful as heck. I saw a couple movies. I felt happy and depressed and sometimes both in the same day. I have nothing to say for myself, and yet everything.

I don’t know what I’ve been up to. I know I haven’t been posting and that’s not great, but I can’t explain why I didn’t post almost anything over two months. It just sort of happened. I didn’t have anything to write about. My motivation was shot. I was doing NaNoWriMo, and then eventually failing at it. I was baking things like pumpkin snickerdoodles and apple crisp. I was failing to read any books or watch any other movies. I basically did a whole lot of nothing.

That isn’t very interesting, but it’s the truth, I suppose. I will try to be more present in the future. I want to be more present. I am doing better now that I’m not wallowing in self-loathing. Things are still iffy from time to time but I am getting better. Kinda sorta.

I don’t know. I’m here now, at least.

A General List of General Goals

i.e., what I want to get done in December. Hopefully. Maybe.

I made up this list of goals when I was in, shall we say, a Bad Mood, so they’re very general and very informal. Oh well? I don’t care?

Anyway, the goals:

  • Try not to overeat in the face of the holidays. (Put another way: don’t get fat(ter).)
  • Finish that knit cowl, you’re so close.
  • Make cookies or something.
  • Get up to 50 blog posts on the blog.
  • Get to 50 movies watched.
  • Get to 25 books read.
  • Carve out non-internet time.
  • Write 1k maybe.
  • Stuff & things & ugh.

I already feel like I’m shooting too high, but I suppose I have no one to disappoint but myself. Which. Okay, whatever. It happens. I’ve made some tentative plans in re: those “get to” goals, so maybe I’ll surprise myself at some point this month.

I’ll make another post here in a couple days about where I’ve been (nowhere) and what I’ve been doing (nothing). Anyway.

Thankful.

My family, for loving and supporting me.

My friends, for being there.

My mental health team, for helping me be better.

Other things, too.  My freedom to dissent, to believe or not believe. My abilities in a variety of areas. My pets.

A lot of things to be thankful for.

The Indelible Joy of Making

I made beignets this past Sunday (my parents bought me a Cafe du Monde mix when they were in New Orleans in April). There was something about the making of them–mixing the dough, rolling it out, cutting it, and frying it up–that put me in an extraordinarily good mood. I can’t identify what it was, exactly, but it stayed with me almost all day, and I loved it.

I get this feeling whenever I bake something, or when I finish a doodle or a knit piece, or anything like that, really. I like doing things with my hands. It’s a lot of work, sometimes, but it’s always worth it, and I love when people compliment what I do complete. Gratification keeps me going, and I love that, too.

I was talking with my therapist recently about all my life stuff, and how I set high expectations for myself almost all the time, and she brought up the fact that a lot of my activities–writing, big knitting projects, and so on–are very long term things. I don’t get that sense of gratification until much, much later, and that means that the activity turns into work, and the work becomes something I avoid, and the avoidance sends me spiraling into depression. So she’s asked me to work on finding things that are short term to get done in a day, so I can feel accomplished instead of depressed.

I’m probably going to bake something today. I’m thinking an apple crisp, since I have a bunch of apples sitting around, and I also was thoroughly disappointed by Arby’s new cinnamon apple crisp earlier this week. (It was more of a cake with some apple crumble on top than a crisp.) So I’m probably going to google a recipe here in a moment and get that made up, because I like making things. It’s work, but the end result is a delight, always.

I like to make things. My whole life has been a series of making things, whether abstract or concrete, and it’s something I want to continue into the future. So at the least I will make things now and then every week, to capture that feeling once again, and hold it tight to my chest like a candle flame in a dark and dreary world.

Doctor Who S5E04: The Time of Angels

Episode four of Doctor Who’s fifth series sees a return of two elements Steven Moffat brought to the show under Russell T. Davies: the Weeping Angels, and River Song. They’re each unique, full of the timey-wimey-ness that is almost fundamental to Moffat’s Doctor Who.

Alex Kingston’s River Song is a delight from beginning to end, of course, strolling onto screen in those sky-high Louboutin heels with a distinct sense of badassery we only got hints of in her debut episodes. She has almost instant chemistry with Matt Smith’s Doctor, and the relationship between River and Amy Pond is immediately friendly and warm. We get hints of her past that weren’t really there in Series 4: she wasn’t always a professor, and she is, for some currently unknown reason, in prison.

But the true heart of this episode’s energy lies in the return of Moffat’s Weeping Angels. There’s only one to start off, but eventually, in a brilliantly constructed twist, we find out there are a great many more, more than enough to be thoroughly terrifying. As with River Song, new information is divulged about these monsters, and new abilities given them, such as the ability to project themselves out of images. This makes for a terrifying scene midway through the episode, which pits Amy against one of these images—and once again shows how clever Amy can be by having her outsmart the angel.

What I enjoy most about this episode, however, is the twist I mentioned: it turns out all the statues in the Aplans’ Maze of the Dead are not tributes to a people long gone, but angels themselves, weakened and half-dead. The twist depends not only on the characters’ anthrocentrism, but the audience’s as well: we’re so used to seeing things that look like us (particularly aliens in shows like Doctor Who) that we don’t even question the appearance of the statues. Even when the Doctor reveals the Aplans were two-headed, it takes a moment for the truth to bear down upon us. Even Cleric Bob’s claim that one of the statues looked at him is an early hint, but dismissed by every character onscreen as mere jitters. In every way, this twist is an example of what Steven Moffat is capable of as a writer. As we’ll see at the end of the season, he constantly leaves hints for the viewer, hoping and believing that we will figure it out. The reason so many of his twists seem “obvious” to some is that they’re meant to be.

Amy’s actions in this episode are also interesting to me. As I said before, she displays that observant cleverness we’ve seen in her again here, realizing she can stop the angel in the dropship by taking away its image. She also shows some real bravery, too; she’s willing to be taken by the angels if it means River and the Doctor, and Octavian and his clerics, will be safe. While she does sort of go the whole “don’t tell anyone you’ve got a zombie bite” route with regards to the angel in her mind, it isn’t as big a deal here, I don’t think? This subplot all comes to a head in the next episode, so it might be meet to talk more extensively about it there.

All in all, however, Time of Angels is a taut thriller of an episode with a magnificently executed twist and a hell of a cliffhanger. It really shows the whole gamut of Steven Moffat’s skills, and its second part, as we’ll see next time, takes it to whole new heights.