Fashion in the Name of Serotonin

It was during my birthday week when I was puzzling over what my birthday outfit would be (see pics; warning! I’m much fatter in person), I realized that lately I had been deriving a lot of my serotonin from having fun with my fashion choices.

I have gone through spells in which I’ve played with my style and fashion. In my late teens/early twenties, I tended toward punk/freak ensembles. In my late twenties, after losing forty pounds, I put a little more effort into my style, trying to look a little more fashionable and put together. In my mid-thirties, I did this again, though I experimented a little more, putting vintage vibes into my outfits.

And now here I am in my early forties doing it again.

When I’m not getting my fashion on, it’s usually because of mental illness and/or funds. I don’t have the money to invest in my wardrobe, nor do I have the energy to invest in myself. But let me rebound with some cash and some good brain chemicals, and I’m ready for a shopping spree and the runway.

This latest round started when I started working at the library. I needed work clothes. Old Navy to the rescue. I ended up investing in Pixie pants, of which I already had a few pairs, one of which no longer fit. I got the standard black, but I also ended up getting some patterns. I paired them with different colored t-shirts and a black cardigan. Boom! A uniform was born.

And so was my Old Navy Cash, which I’ve used to continue to invest in my wardrobe.

The pandemic convinced me that I needed to acquire more soft clothes. I had no lounge pants, no leggings, no sweatshirts. And so, I started to build my soft clothes wardrobe, which I wear before I get dressed to go to work. I see no sense in taking a shower in the morning and putting on my work clothes when I’m not going to the library until the afternoon, especially when I’d be eating lunch in the meantime. That’s an invitation to disaster.

In the last year, my library look has evolved away from the t-shirts and cardigans to long-sleeved t-shirts, sweaters, and button down shirts with tank tops underneath. We can also wear jeans to work now, so they’ve been included, but I still wear my Pixie pants most of the time. My collection now includes a variety of fun prints: mermaid (it’s a shiny, blue pattern; everyone calls them my mermaid pants), jungle, flower, dizzy, pinstripe, plaid, tan houndstooth, black and white houndstooth, black and white gingham, windowpane, and hot pink cheetah print. I also acquired quite the collection of slip on canvas shoes in fun prints (glitter! I have glitter shoes!) for some extra pizzazz.

When I got my tax refund this past year, I set aside some of it to buy whatever I wanted. This included a pair of Vans, something I’ve wanted since high school, but never had the money or could justify spending the money if I did have it, some clothes from Torrid (which began my Torrid cash and loyalty points), and some tights from Snag Tights.

You see, by this time, I’d been on TikTok for a bit and one of my favorite people there, Aunty Pinky, has a magnificent punk style that includes Vans, Snag Tights, and some really funky threads, much of which is thrifted. I dig it. But more than that, I wanted the freedom to have fun with my look the way she does hers.

So I bought the Vans, I bought the tights, I bought the threads, and I started to have fun. I started taking joy in putting together work outfits and that joy spread to putting together outfits for my days off, too.

Then I saw a video somewhere in which a woman said that you should dress the way you wanted to when you were a teenager, but didn’t because you didn’t have the money and/or couldn’t find clothes that fit. This further encouraged me to have a good time.

And that’s what I’ve been doing. I own more dresses now than I have in my life, but that’s only because I own more funky tights than I’ve ever owned in my life. My wardrobe has exploded to the extent that I’ve had to acquire space in another closet in the house. As of right now, I need to buy more hangers.

My style definitely has included more punk elements. I’ve been working some vintage vibes, too. And for the first time since the ’90s, I own a bodysuit -the strappy, lacy, sexy one that I wore unapologetically on my birthday. I’m putting a little more sexy in my style, too.

The fun thing about all of this is that I’m about fifteen pounds down from my highest weight and still ten to fifteen pounds heavier from the last time I had a real style run. I’m at an age and a weight when both nobody and everyone cares what I look like. So long as I’m dressing my age and blending in with the wallpaper because of my weight, nobody cares. But I start dressing “younger” and showing off my body, everybody cares.

Too bad for them that I don’t care.

I’m too busy having fun.

The Slow Down

I live by my To Do Lists. I’ve got a project board hanging on my closet door. I’ve got multiple pages in my OneNote with all of my projects, writing, audio, library, and other. I cannot organize everything in my brain, so I organize it on the outside. It works very well for me because I’m able to see everything. Seeing it all laid out helps me keep everything straight.

However, sometimes seeing it all laid out like that with the deadlines and everything triggers my anxiety. It’s a very specific reaction, too.

Do All The Things Right Now.

The fun part about this anxiety and resulting response is that I don’t even need to have a lot of things on the To Do List to trigger it. The deadline doesn’t even have to be that dire. Sometimes, my anxiety decides to make it dire. It’s not ideal. Sure, in the past it’s forced a high-level of productivity because I would indeed try to do all the things right now, but the panic-flail nature of it would take a serious toll on my sanity.

In the past few years, I’ve made major strides with this particular anxiety issue with a simple bit of advice.

What do you need to do when you’re in a hurry? Slow down.

I’ve taken that approach when my anxiety tells me that I need to Do All The Things Right Now. I slow down. I lay out the schedule of what needs to get done and then I only do those things. Yes, I could probably do more, but I don’t let myself. If I do, then I’ll fall into the trap of doing all the things at the expense of myself. This doesn’t always make the itchy, dire feeling go away, but it will eventually. It might take a night’s sleep to feel better. But the point is that I’m able to get to that sleep because I’m not making myself do all of the things to try to make the itchy, dire feeling go away.

For example, Grinchmas almost always triggers the Do All The Things Right Now response. The combination of whatever projects I’m working on and the need to make and mail gifts and cards and to do all of my baking makes it nearly unavoidable. The only way I’ve found to cope and not feel like I’m failing is to schedule everything. Yes, I write down in my planner what day I’m baking sugar cookies and what day I’m mailing cards along with what project I’m working on that day and what I need to do during my library shift that day. To fight the urge to do all of the things right now, I have to show myself that all of the things will get done in time.

To get everything done, I have to slow down. One thing at a time until it’s all done. The slow progress guarantees I’ll get everything done without sacrificing my mental well-being to do it.

I”ll be honest. It’s been a game-changer for me.

Slow and steady really can win the race.

Turning 43

Once again I have defied the known Gods and Universe by continuing to exist for another year (she says as she writes this blog post before her birthday so it will post on time, duly noting that she’s inviting said known Gods and Universe to kick the chair right out from under her). 43 is a funky age. It’s a funky number. Not entirely sure how I feel about it, yet, but I figure that if it’s funky, then I should be funky, too.

I’ve finally decided that I should probably do something with my life. I mean, if I’m going to continue to exist on this mortal plane, I might as well. Gotta do something to kill the boredom and keep shit interesting.

To that end I asked for and received The Remarkable Life Deck: A Ten-Year Plan for Achieving Your Dreams by Debbie Millman for Christmas. See, I know nothing about getting my life together or being a somewhat functioning adult or really even what I specifically want for my life. This is supposed to help me do that. Which is good. I need all the help I can get.

It’s basically a deck of cards that asks you questions about your life ten years from now. What does it look like, where do you live, what are your relationships like, what is your career like, etc. The idea is that you go through and answer each card as thoroughly and honestly as possible. Dream big and write those dreams down. By doing this, you actively put those answers and ideas in your brain pan, which encourages you to live and work towards them. I’ve been answering the questions since I got the deck at Christmas and I’ve found that for most part, it’s not much trouble. I live 90% of my life in my head anyway.

What is a little surprising is how totally unhindered I am about writing all of it down. I am completely undeterred by the prospect that this might not work. Maybe it’s because I know me and know my potential for failure. Maybe I’m not actually too invested with the outcome, but more the process. Who knows? I’m having fun with this. No harm in that.

I have to admit that things are weird for me lately. I’m going into this new age much more upbeat and much lighter than usual. Dare I say I’m optimistic? For what, I don’t know. Maybe I left my last fuck in 2022 and now completely unburdened, I’m able to skip through life rather than trudge. Will that last? Will I biff it and fall? Will my mental illnesses tidal wave me when I least expect it? I don’t know. But I’m not going to worry about it in the meantime. I’m just going to enjoy this feeling as long as it lasts.

Like I said, 43 feels like a funky number and a funky age.

I’m looking forward to getting funky.

I’m Starting the New Year the Same Way I Ended the Old One–Softly

I think it was my cousin Alex who posted a meme in her Instagram stories about why we go on about ending the year strong when we should be ending the year softly -resting, recuperating, relaxing. I’m paraphrasing it badly, but it still spoke to my soul.

When I saw this I was in the homestretch of a brutal marathon of projects. I was doing Book ’em, Danno, Here, Watch This with Shann, and covering three shows on Eventually Supertrain with Dan. I also had Five Minutes to do for Patreon. I was finishing up the prep for my program that I’ll be giving later this month at work. I was also working on a couple of library podcast episodes so I could have the comp time to cover my traditional birthday week vacation. And then there was NaNo, the page-a-day, the Sunday story, and blogging. Full disclosure: I did this to myself and I regret none of it. I could have said “no” to most of these things, but I chose to say “yes” and I’m glad I did. It’s just that I once again overestimated myself and as a result their were consequences.

I burned myself out. Oops.

By the time I saw this random message, I was more than ready to embrace it.

I decided to end 2022 as softly as I could.

Deadlines and schedules being what they were, there was only so much I could control. I made the executive decision not to do any blog posts for the month of December. That gave me a little less stress and a little more time to do other things. I also finished as much of my audio work as I could before December. Another thing that freed up some time and lowered the stress levels.

After that, it was all about scheduling, balancing work with rest, which to be honest, is something I suck at and should be doing anyway.

For my part, I think I did well. Even with the Grinchmas shopping, crafting, shipping, and baking, I did not end the year feeling frazzled, completely bereft of energy, patience, and will to live. I ended the year somewhat softly and it made a huge difference in how I entered 2023.

I chose to enter the new year softly as well.

I tend to ease into January anyway. After all, I’m usually exhausted and dragging myself into a new calendar. This year I’m purposely going in softly. I am continuing my practice of being mindful about my schedule. I’m taking it easy, but being productive. What are my deadlines? What is my schedule? What can I control? Where can I be soft?

After doing so much audio last year, I plan to scale back this year. I still have projects with deadlines that will get done, but it’s a matter of not letting my schedule become so overwhelmed with it. I need to pace myself better and this means saying “no” or “not right now” sometimes, even if it’s something I really want to do. I need to let myself be booked sometimes.

It was in the latter portion of 2022 that I realized how much I miss writing. After years of creativity and productivity issues, I hit a sweet spot last year that I haven’t experienced in a long time and my schedule was so crowded that I felt like I had no time to indulge in it.

This month, my birthday vacation is also going to be a writing vacation. No library work and no audio projects. Just me and writing words. No deadlines or productivity goals. Just me writing.

And if it goes the way I think it will go, that is to say well, then I play to making writing vacations a thing for the year. Find those weeks were I can just write without expectation or interruption.

I’m hoping that ending the old year and beginning the new year softly will teach me something about how I approach my scheduling and my projects and maybe help me figure out a better work/rest balance.

Let this not be one of the times I insist on learning the hard way.

2022 NaNo Winner!

Number 19 officially went into the books on November 23rd and that’s when the story was finished, too. I pushed a little to get it finished before Thanksgiving, but for the most part, kept a constant 2,000 words a day word count. I tended to make the most productive progress doing 500 word sprints in between playing rounds of a puzzle game. It just seemed easier to write that way when I was giving my brain little breaks rather than trying to push straight through. It’s not the first time I’ve used this distraction/sprinting technique. I do whatever I need to do in order to make the words happen.

Thanks to me being less than smart with my scheduling, I ended up writing most often after work. Or at work, in some cases. I’m a dedicated employee. Anyway. That was different from previous years as my goal was always to get as much, if not all, of my writing before my shift. But since I had a few other projects going on, I had to rearrange my priorities. I will readily admit that this was one of the more stressful Novembers I’ve had in a while. I got through it, but I’m in no hurry to do something like that again.

The final first draft of Leave Well Enough Alone is something of a mess, naturally. Maybe it wouldn’t be if I’d done a slightly more solid outline. And by slightly more, I mean anything better than the vague game plan I went in with. But that’s not how I live my life.

I realized about two-thirds of the way into the first draft that I borked my timeline. Not long afterwards, I realized that I probably should have written the story differently. As I mentioned, I wrote alternating timelines. I think I might have been better off writing the 1976 timeline first in its entirety and then tailored the present day timeline to better fit it. Also, neither timeline turned out the way I thought it would, but that tends to happen when I don’t have a more robust and solid outline.

It was also about the time I realized I borked my timeline that I realized that Trix and Miggy should have had different jobs and objectives, but whatever. That’s what revisions and rewrites are for.

And when I get around to them, there will be a lot. Most likely starting with writing the 1976 timeline out in full so I know better how to make the present day timeline work.

But that’s future me’s problem.

Right now, present me is savoring yet another NaNo victory.

The Muses

I wrote ages ago about muses and how I didn’t have one. However, I recently realized that I do have a muse. I have several of them, in fact. It’s just they’re not what I thought they’d be.

A muse, according to the dictionary, is “a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist”. I have always interpreted this to be more of the figurative meaning, an imaginary being that sprinkles creative dust on my head, which infiltrates my brain and gives me ideas. And in that respect, I never had a muse. I was never blessed in such a fashion.

As it turns out, though, I have been blessed with multiple muses over the years. I just didn’t realize it at the time. I was looking for fairies when what I got was people, places, and things.

My muses are concrete nouns.

For example, there’s a tree across the street in my neighbor’s yard. I don’t know what kind it is. It’s just big and it’s been there for years and it’s very pretty in the fall, but the wind strips its leaves pretty quickly. It’s usually bare by Halloween.

That tree has been in several of my stories and at least two of those stories came from ideas I got from that tree, from wanting to write about it. It was a muse.

There are places that I’ve used the same way. The library I work at has popped up in my stories long before I started working there. I wouldn’t be writing Defending The L right now if the library hadn’t inspired the story. The local lake, the house across the street, the zombie car wash, all inspired stories. They were muses.

And, yes, there are people who’ve served as muses. People who I think would make excellent characters so I build stories around them. People I want to give starring roles. People who I will absolutely not name here nor will I name of any of the stories they inspired. But they were all muses.

The thing about these muses, the real thing that I think tripped me up in seeing them for what they were, is that I thought of muses as more of something permanent. The fairy that was always there, flitting about with their creativity dust. As it turns out, muses are more impermanent than I previously thought. I don’t think that they’re always supposed to stick around. They serve their creative purpose and then they return to being the nouns they’ve always been.

Of course, muses, like inspiration and creativity and all of those other intangibles, are highly individual. I’m sure some people have muses that stick around forever. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to have that happen.

And I’m sure there are some people who are lucky enough to have the fairy kind of muse, sprinkling creativity all over them. I know that I’ll never be lucky enough to have that.

I’ll have to settle for the nouns that happen to catch my attention.

Page-A-Day and Sunday

As I mentioned, I’m currently writing a page-a-day novel as well as something I’ve come to think of as my Sunday novel. I’ve been doing them both for a few months now, long enough that I’m ready to talk a little bit about each project, but more importantly talk about how different the processes have been for me, particularly in light of working on a NaNo novel at the same time.

NaNo, of course, is NaNo. I’ve finished it in 12 days, I’ve finished it in 30 days, I’ve totally failed it. My goal is to write 50,000-60,000 words in a month, about 2,000 words a day. After years of this, I’ve found a happy medium between outlining and pantsing, giving myself a basic blueprint of the story with room to wild out and surprise myself. It’s been a winning formula for quite some time (when I’m not cheating, obviously). The resulting first drafts vary from needing a lot of rewrites to just needing a few rounds of revisions.

Blasting out that first draft as fast as possible has been my way of writing for a majority of my writing career and it’s how I’ve done most of my projects.

Defending The L is not my first page-a-day project. A few years ago, I decided to shake up my creativity by writing one page a day every day for a year because as the adage goes, if you write a page a day, by the end of the year, you have a 365 page novel. At the time, I was looking for some kind of creative productivity boost. I had a general idea of the story, a few scenes I knew I was writing towards, and I just sort of let it unfold, day by day, page by page.

My current page-a-day is a little different. I started writing Defending The L this way because I wanted to write this story, but didn’t have time to devote to it to do it NaNo-style, nor did I want to wait until NaNo. I also don’t have the goal of writing a page a day for a year, just until the story is done. As of this post, it’s right around NaNo length of about 50,000 words and into the third act of the story, which takes a bit of a horror turn.

Defending The L also has the dual purpose of being a bit of a catharsis piece. It’s set in a library, so I’ve been able to vent some of my frustrations with the job through the story.

Like the previous page-a-day (which still doesn’t have a title and I haven’t looked at since I wrote it) and much of my NaNo work, this one is going to need some revising, but more than likely not any heavy re-writing. Of course, I’m not finished yet, so fingers crossed.

My Sunday story, That’s Punk, is an entirely different beast and honestly, it’s a little scary.

First of all, there’s nothing horror or fantasy or otherwise genre about it. It’s straight contemporary fiction, which for me is way out of my comfort zone.

Second of all, instead of writing this first draft as fast as I possibly can and getting it all out in one hunk I can shape through rewrites and/or revising, I’ve only been able to work on this story on Sundays. And when I do work on it, I go back and re-read what I wrote the previous week, revising anything I’ve decided needed changing while it’s simmered in my brain since the last time I looked at it, and then I add new material. There’s also no goal before I call my day on That’s Punk done. No word or page counts. Once I do my rewind and revise, I decide how much I want to get done that day. Usually, it’s a scene, or maybe not even that. I stop where it feels good. I’ve been working on this story since the end of August and I’ve only got about thirty pages written.

It’s so weird on so many levels for me. I’m writing something I don’t normally write in a way I don’t normally write. And you know what? I think I like it. There’s something indulgent about being able to take my time with a story, revise it as I go, and keep my goals fluid. There’s something luxurious about having this dedicated time to work on something on a day with no other expectations. I’m not rushing to get anything done because I have to go to work or I have errands to run or dinner to make. I don’t do anything on Sundays by design. Writing this story on my lazy day has turned into a form of relaxation for me, as strange as that sounds.

November has been an interesting writing month for me for years thanks to NaNo and the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel around daily life. But this November, writing three different novels, three different ways…it’s been eye-opening.

One thing about being a writer…I never get bored exploring and developing my craft.

“What Are You Working On?”

This is a trick question.

“What paranoia are you on about now?”

Hear me out. This is a trick question in two ways.

Number one, the person asking the question is more than likely just being polite. They don’t really care about what you’re working on. They’re just trying to pretend to have interest in your little writing hobby because they want to be supportive, but they’re really not that invested. You can tell by the way their eyes glass over and they nod along, not really listening, just waiting for you to finish so they can say, “Wow. That sounds great. I can’t wait to read it.” And we all know they’ll never read it. Because they’ve never read anything you’ve written because *insert reason here*.

The only correct answer to this question is to say what kind of project you’re working on.

“Oh, I’m in the middle of revising a short story for a contest.”

“Oh, that’s great. I can’t wait to read it. I hope you win!”

“Thanks.”

And scene. Small talk achieved. Everyone leaves with their egos intact. To go into any further detail about whatever you’re working on is to risk that glazed look and feeling your enthusiasm for your project/writing career deflate. And we don’t want that.

If they attempt to engage further by asking for story specifics, don’t panic in the face of this unanticipated interest. Simply demure, saying you try not to talk too much about your projects when you’re working on them.

Which brings me to the second tricky point.

If you do find someone who is genuinely interested in what you’re working on, then talking about the project, no matter how enthusiastic you are about it, can drain some of that energy you have for it. I don’t know why this is. But it seems like talking about the story you’re working on, particularly in the first draft stage, makes it less engaging to work on. It’s like the magic is escaping the bottle and it’s escaping because your dumbass keeps taking the lid off of it so other people can see it.

It’s true that sometimes talking about your work can help you see and/or fix problems with it, but if you’re not specifically looking for that feedback, then uncovering problems you didn’t realize you had when you’re enthusiastically telling someone about your great idea can be both jarring and demoralizing. Now you have to cover this realization because you don’t want the person you’re talking with to think that you have no idea what you’re doing. And god forbid if they’re the ones who point it out to you because you were oblivious to it. How embarrassing. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll fix that immediately.

And by fix it, I mean throw the story directly into the trash because I won’t be able to look at it without feeling the searing heat of shame.

You also run the risk of being told that your idea isn’t that great. Think about it. You’re absolutely jazzed about this idea and you’re thrilled with how it’s been going and someone finally asks you about it in a way that suggests they’re actually interested and not just being polite and you launch into your spiel and they just…don’t react. They smile. They nod. And then they say, “That’s nice.”

I’d rather be told my idea is shit than be told it’s nice. Nice is dismissive. At least disliking an idea is an actual feeling.

But you’re still left with that empty feeling of doubt, wondering if you’ve been wrong and this idea that you thought was a sure thing is really just another bust and maybe you should have realized that because it seemed so good and you never get good ideas that flow so well. Clearly, this was a trick of the writing devil, that prick.

And now you’re not feeling the idea so much anymore. Good thing it wasn’t really that good anyway.

Now do you see what I mean? A trick question.

So, never ask me what I’m working on.

I know you don’t care and I won’t tell you anyway.

NaNo 2022

I’ve decided that for this year’s NaNo I have enough of an idea that I can actually work on a novel this time and not have to cheat.

Maybe.

So, the idea I have is actually a combination of two ideas. The first is idea is about a character I’ve had kicking around in my head for a while named Royanna McKee who comes from a family of con artists and her attempts to break free from her family causes problems, particularly with her twin sisters, Claudine and Bernadette.

The other idea features a couple named Trix and Miggy Herrera who also have interesting families (particularly Trix) and as a couple they’re commissioned to write books about niche history topics. For example, Trix is supposed to be researching the history of a local courthouse, particularly the corruption related to its construction, when she comes across an article about a woman who went missing in 1976 and decides she’d rather research that.

Naturally, I thought those ideas could mesh together well in a timeline switching read, going back and forth from 1976 and 2022-ish.

Am I good enough writer to successfully pull that off? Probably not. But it’s NaNo, so it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that I FINALLY came up with a title. Leave Well Enough Alone. It’s not great, but it’ll do.

The challenge of this NaNo (aside from the questionable outline I put together) is that while I will be NaNoing away, I will still be working on my page-a-day project, Defending The L (have I mentioned that here yet? I’m too lazy to go back and look) and what I think of as my Sunday project (which I did mention in this post) called That’s Punk. So, I will technically be working on three novels at once during November. But so long as the words are flowing, I’ll only be logging the words from the official NaNo project.

Unless it falls apart and I need to cheat.

This is my 19th NaNo. It’s far from the worst way I’ve bent the rules.

Besides, after this many years what do you expect?

50,000 words is 50,000 words.