The Results of My 2018 Experiments

In this post, I declared 2018 my experimental year, or more accurately, gave myself three challenges for the year. The results of the first challenge, exercising for 100 days in a row, was documented in this post, however, at the time that I did the challenge and reported back I didn’t realize that I was suffering from anemia that was causing debilitating fatigue. So, keep that in mind if you decide to check it out.

The other two challenges ran the course of the year: writing a page a day on a project and writing a sentence in each of the languages I’m studying every day. I’m happy to report that I did both.

The point of doing the language challenge was two-fold. First, it meant to help me be consistent with my language practice because sometimes I’d flake off and only practice one of them instead of all four. Because I had to write a sentence in each language, I needed to practice all of them. Second, I thought by writing out the sentences it would help with the learning part.

The first part was definitely successful. I have a notebook full of random sentences from my lessons and I never missed a day no matter how busy or tired or unenthusiastic I was. The second part is a little harder to gauge. I can say that my Russian handwriting improved greatly, but French still confounds the hell out of me and I still screw up my Czech grammar and my pronunciation in all of those languages isn’t great. I am reading all of them easier, though. I’ll take the small victories where I can.

Writing a page a day was a simple enough writing exercise. It guaranteed that I wrote something every day and it acted as a nice warm-up on the days when I was having trouble getting started. I had an idea of what the story was and where it was going when I started, but it ended up being something else entirely by the end (though the ending is pretty close to what I had envisioned when I wrote the first page).

I honestly didn’t know whether or not I had enough story to make it all the way through the year, but it turns out I did. I ended up with 365 (double-spaced) pages and 101,493 words of a messy first draft of story. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever written and likely will be the longest thing I ever write, but I’m so glad I did it. And honestly, I’m kind of lost not having it waiting for me every day.

So, it is with these results that I declare the experimental part of 2018 a success.

Man, I love me some good science.

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2019 Half-Assed Resolutions

Only one of my 2018 half-assed resolutions was a total fail and that was working on my blanket-in-progress. Having a good time wasn’t executed as well as I would have liked. This year was kind of garbage in many ways. But! I did successfully art every month and I wrote a Rerun Junkie post nearly every month. Oh, and I didn’t get dead.

So, here are my half-assed resolutions for 2019.

1. Have a good time.

2. Don’t get dead.

3. Clean out my craft drawer, which has become more like a junk drawer and it’s getting unruly. There’s crafting stuff I can get rid of and crafting stuff that I’m not using in the foreseeable future which can be put away upstairs. I need to do that.

4. Do something with my art. I spent 2018 making art once a month. There’s only a couple of pieces that didn’t really turn out the way I wanted. I should really do something with the pieces that I think turned out reasonably well.

5. Podcast. Yes, I’ve been working on the research and whatnot for Book ’em Danno, and it’s been in my brain for months and I said I’m going to do it, but I am remarkable at talking myself out of doing things like this because I won’t do it well enough or I won’t do it right. Maybe if I make it a half-assed resolution, it will help my resolve.

Bring it on, 2019.

We’ve Already Discussed This. Writing Is Work.

“Are you coming with us?”

“I can’t. I gotta work. I’ve got 2,500 words to write for NaNo.”

“That’s not work.”

It was a throw away comment in a conversation I had earlier this week, a dismissal of my excuse not to go more than anything, but it still stuck in my skin like a barb.

That’s not work.

I’ve already discussed this, probably more than once, in the time I’ve been writing with the intent to make a profit, but I suppose I should say it again for the people in back.

Writing is work.

The prevailing idea is that if something doesn’t get you a regular paycheck, then it can’t be work. Unfortunately for many of us pursuing some sort of creative field like writing or art, we don’t get regular paychecks. Honestly, we would like to. We’d like to be paid a fair wage, dollars per hour for the work that we do. We’d like that regular weekly or bi-weekly paycheck like so many other jobs provide.

But the reality is that we don’t get that.

And because we don’t, there’s this myth that what we do isn’t work.

It is.

It’s the most frustrating kind of work in this capitalistic society because we will put in a ton of effort on a project that might never yield one cent for us. A story or a novel that never sells. An article that languishes in pitch hell. And even if we do get paid, rarely is it ever fair compensation comparable to the amount of work put into it.

There’s also this idea that because we set our own hours and/or work from home that writing is not work. It’s actually more work when you think about it. How easy is your job when you’re constantly interrupted by the people around you? How long does it take you to get one task done when people keep stopping by your desk to chat? How easy is it for you to get back into your groove? How frustrating is it when you lose that groove ten minutes later because they’re back again?

Yeah. That’s my reality when I’m trying to write.

Writing is work. Yes, I have to hold day jobs from time to time and I currently don’t have one, but my ultimate goal is to comfortably support myself by writing and writing alone. I want writing to be my only full-time job. I wish for it to be my career.

No, it is not backbreaking, sweaty labor. No, I don’t have to leave my house to do it. No, I don’t have a boss in the traditional sense. And no, I don’t get that regular paycheck.

But I earn every penny I make from it. It is work. It is MY work.

Now don’t make me say it again.

It’s That Time of Year Again

It never seems to fail.

By about this time every year, I find myself strapped for cash and it lasts right into the new year. This time around it’s not exactly a shock considering the day job didn’t work out, but even when I was working three day jobs, by the end of October/beginning of November I’d be starting to feel the crunch.

So, I figure it’s a good time to remind everyone of the various ways you can give me money.

The most obvious way is to buy one of my books! I’ve got quite the selection going, something for everyone if you tend to like the creepy, disturbing, and/or scary. You can find the whole list here, but I have a few I’d like to highlight.

Come to the Rocks–From Nine Star Press, this novelette is the closest I’ve come to a love story, so naturally it happens between a mermaid and a woman being stalked by her ex-boyfriend.

Gone Missing–One of my first self-publishing ventures, this novella concerns a town of missing people who start to go missing.

Yearly–My best-seller. A collection of 12 short stories, one for each month of the year.

Spirited in Spite–This is a fun one that came from a failed NaNo novel. It’s one that I think deserves a little more love.

The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys–This is one of my stories that I absolutely love, but it’s gotten so little attention! Please. I beg of you. Give this one a read.

And as always, if you do buy and read, please leave a review! It helps other people find my work. More eyes, more dimes. Or something like that.

If you’re looking for something with some commitment and membership perks, then become a patron! Murderville is my current Patreon project that’s scheduled to go for five “seasons”. Two seasons are already done. Season 3 will start next year. $1 an “episode” lets you read. $2 an episode lets you read, plus you get a bonus every other month.

I’ve also got a little feature called Writing for Tips. I’ve got a selection of free stories here on the blog for your enjoyment and if you feel compelled, you can drop a dollar in the ol’ tip jar.

And if you don’t feel at all like reading, or you’ve already read and raved about everything I have to offer, you can always just buy me a coffee or two.

It’s been a not great year, but I’m getting my groove back and I’m hoping to have some new projects coming out soon. Also, I hope to find a new day job that’s more compatible. But until then, every little bit helps and is very much appreciated.

It’s All Up Here (But I Just Can’t Reach It)

My brains are scrambled eggs.

I’ve been saying this for months now. It’s like my grey matter has gone all tilt-a-whirl. I cannot grasp a thought.

Oh, they’re in there. I know. I can have them. But I can’t hold them. I can’t grasp them and focus on them and turn them into something practical and real. And this is frustrating because if memory serves, I used to be able to do this on a daily basis without too much trouble.

I thought this concentration/focus issue was part of the fatigue and exhaustion that went with the anemia. I thought once the anemia was under control, my brain would revert to its natural state, the chaotic hellscape that I’m used to. Then I thought maybe it was the stress of the day job, but that’s gone now, too. And the elusive ether of my mind remains.

Okay, it’s still overly-poetic, but maybe not as bad as it was. It’s still very frustrating, though. It’s like I can’t see anything up there. I feel like I need to empty my head out on a table so I can sort through all of the junk in that storage bin and organize it. I know that it would be in my best interest to take a minute (or 60) and do just that. Write down all of the ideas in my head, all of the projects, all of the blog posts, all of the free-floating To Do List items that never seem to make it farther from a notion so I really can see it all.

But I keep putting it off in favor of…something else. Anything else. My procrastination game lately has been the best of my life, for sure.

What I really need is a break. A week of isolation so I can straighten myself out. Get my mind right, find my center, stop distracting myself, diffuse this brain static I seem to be suffering from.

What I really have is no opportunity for that. Instead, I’m going to have to fix this mess on the fly.

Live dangerously.

All Aboard the Hot Mess Express

If you follow me on Twitter or read the September projects post, then you’ll know that the day job is no more.

It didn’t work out for various reasons. To be honest, the whole deal was a hot mess from the beginning.

The same day I got the job I was diagnosed with anemia, which I didn’t tell anybody about because, hey, it was just continuing to function with the extreme fatigue I’d been dealing with for months while I waited for the iron pills to do their thing, no big deal. My second shift I was offered a promotion because the store had been operating with only three people and they desperately needed anyone with experience to step up. I took it because even though it wasn’t what I really wanted for a day job, I wanted to help out and the responsibility didn’t sound too bad.

I was given maybe a week of training and then given my own shifts, call us if you need us, which probably would have worked out better if they answered their phones more often. Anyway, after about a week of being on my own and getting the hang of things, the tiniest Wal-Mart in the world, the one in my town, announced it was closing. Oh goodie. Now the small, two-register store I worked at was inundated with their business and complaints. The computer system was too old to keep up with the increase so it crashed at least once a shift, sometimes just needing the pinpad for the card readers reset and sometimes needing the entire register rebooted.

We were also still operating understaffed and the people we did have were new. I’d been there less than a month and was considered a vet. I was training the new cashiers. So, we had all of this new business and under-trained employees. When we had employees at all. I ended up working several of my shifts alone because nobody showed up or somebody called in. I also got called in early or on my days off pretty regularly.

There was also an increase in freight. Quite simply we were drowning in it. We couldn’t keep up with it because we didn’t have enough people to put it up and/or were too busy to put it up because of all the customers.

Meanwhile, I’m barely writing because I’m wiped out. The whole point of the day job was to supply me with a steady income because I wasn’t making enough by writing alone. This was supposed to take some pressure off of me. Instead, I was stressed and my anxiety was so bad I was having trouble sleeping.

There was a stretch when things were improving. First of all, my anemia got better so I wasn’t totally exhausted all of the time. We started getting two trucks a week, which made the freight easier to handle. The people we hired were getting better and showing up and sticking around. Business slowed some after the Wal-Mart finally closed in July because people stopped panicking about having to go out of town to get toilet paper. Someone that had hired in at the same time I did finally decided to become a key like me.

But then I found out that I was going to be the one training her. And I found out from her. The night I was supposed to start training her. And I was given less than a week to do it. She called me on her first solo shifts because she couldn’t get a hold of either of the managers. One day included four phone calls, one text message, and two trips to the store to help her out.

And finally, we got a new district manager who wanted pretty much everyone, including yours truly, fired because we weren’t doing our jobs well enough.

That was all she wrote for me. I called it quits.

The thing is that I didn’t feel at all relieved about quitting. I felt like (and still feel like) a failure. If I had been better, I would have been able to make it work. I would have been able to handle that job and write. I wouldn’t have been tired and stressed and anxious all of the time. I let everyone down because I couldn’t hack it. I couldn’t do what everyone else does: go to work, do their job, go home and function there. I couldn’t fucking do it.

I expressed these sentiments on Twitter after I turned in my keys and made it official and everyone was very kind (because I follow some awesome folks there) and assured me that I wasn’t a failure, but if that were true…I wouldn’t have quit, would I?

Yeah.

Since my last day, I’ve been struggling to right my emotional ship as well as everything else. I finally got my sleep schedule adjusted closer to where I’d like it to be and I’m actually sleeping most of the night instead of fighting sleep for hours because I keep dreaming I’m at work and not really sleeping until dawn. I’m working on getting off the retail diet, too. And, of course, my writing is happening more like normal again. Yet, I’m still frustrated that I’m not doing all of this faster and better.

Because the feeling of failure lingers.

I can’t quit it. It won’t take my notice.

The Retail Diet

When I worked at Wal-Mart for the last time, some ten years ago now, my diet was pretty terrible. I believe I once compared it to eating like a racoon raiding a dumpster. I drank a lot of soda, ate a lot of fast food, Hot Pockets and microwavable beef stew being the extent of my cooking. By the time I quit that gig, I had cut down on the soda drinking, but that was about it.

After I quit, I made some dietary improvements, mainly by actually cooking meals instead of microwaving whatever I could find and making soda and fast food a rarity. And I managed to continue with this for the next ten years or so, despite the different day jobs, even while holding three day jobs at once, and even while technically working in retail.

But doing floorset isn’t the same as working retail. I wasn’t dealing with customers on top of resetting an entire store; I was just doing a lot of folding, rearranging, and swearing. Working retail means dealing with customers while trying to put up freight, answer the phone, and keep the store in order. It means walking two to six miles during any given shift and never leaving the store. It means having registers crash during busy times, people calling in and leaving you to work a Saturday shift alone for several hours, listening to customers say the same things over and over again thinking they’re the first to be so clever. It means answering the same questions over and over again, listening to the same complaints over and over again, and holding your tongue during both.

In short, retail can be (and currently is for me) a high-stress, low-wage job.

And it kills my eating habits.

In the past few months of my new retail day job, I’ve drunk more soda and eaten more junk food than I have in years. I’ve craved soda and junk food more in the past few months than I have in the past ten years. Working retail triggers in me the need for a garbage diet that I might be able to get away with in my twenties, but not when I’m pushing forty. Yet, here I am, despite all wisdom, going right back to it.

I’m guessing the combination of stress and anxiety is the trigger for me here. I can’t say that I’m much of an emotional eater. However, I think that the stress/anxiety combo wears me out to the point that my willpower is gone and I’m too tired to care about what I’m ingesting. That’s definitely how it feels. It’s not a particularly healthy mindset, but it’s hard to maintain one when all of my energy is focused on getting through another shift. It leaves little energy for the effort of making good choices.

Right now I’m struggling with it. I can only hope that the stress recedes soon (the anxiety, I don’t think, ever will) and gives me a break that doesn’t come in the form of a Kit Kat Bar.