Habits and Routines

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How much do I write per day? That’s a good question. My answer? It depends. On a lot of things.

I usually center my writing on a few set times per day. Each work day, I get up, have my coffee, take my vitamins and my fish oil like a real adult, do a light workout (at least a jog of 20 minutes or more), and then cool down at home for about an hour. Then I take my meds, have my breakfast shake, and mentally prepare myself for writing.

The beginning of the ritual has changed over time, and I’m always open to changing it to suit my needs.

Right now, it goes like this: first, I turn off the overhead lights in my apartment, and turn on the white LED lamp next to my desk. Then, I pull out my “process diary” and note the date, time, project, and duration of this particular writing block. So, “8/1/17 10:05AM, blogging, 40 min”.(If you’re wondering, yes, some of my posts are written ahead of time, including this one. I do my best to give myself a comfortable lead on content creation, so I’m not losing my mind to make sure I have a post ready for publication.)

After that, I note my location, what kind of notes I’m working with, how I’m writing, and things like noise or music going while I’m working. Example: “@computer, no notes, typing, noise app/music”. Then, at the noted time, I start the timer and write.

When I’m in my time, all I do is write. I sit at my desk and type or write by hand, and that’s all I do. Every device is disconnected from the internet (as much as one can in this day and age), I close out any applications that might draw my attention away from what I’m doing, and I keep focused on the task at hand.

After the timer goes off, I make a few notes about the session—how it felt, what I wrote, what I might need to do in the future, etc. I take a deep breath, quiet my mind, and take a short break. Stretching and flicking through stuff on my phone happens here. The process begins again after the break is over, and continues like that until I’m satisfied with what I’ve done for the day.

On days where I work in the afternoon, I usually only have one longer session. Focused and intense writing can leave me with a lot of anxious energy, and I don’t want to take that with me to work. My evening shifts are easier to manage, and sessions in the afternoon, should I take them, are much lower in intensity and focus.

I try not to put too much stock in word counts beyond a rough estimate for a given project. I’ve found that trying to work towards a specific count tends to negatively affect the writing process. I’ve caused myself a lot of stress in my time by working too hard to hit arbitrary counts, and letting go of that particular part of the process has been freeing for me.

I’ve found that I write more when I don’t have a specific goal in mind. There is a need to keep things from spiraling away from me, but that’s about the extent of it.

Thankful

I’m thankful to be a writer.

Without writing, I’m not sure where I would be. I certainly would’n’t be in this particular position, attempting to tease out what kind of writing I actually want to do in life. I wouldn’t be frustrating myself over the style of story I feel I need to tell. I might be dead. I might be crazy. I might be no one. Life would cease to have any kind of meaning if I wasn’t writing. Writing saved me, just like any of the other kinds of art I made. In their own way, at their own times, they saved me. When I was drifting towards a bad place, when I was in those bad places—art was there to at least keep me tethered to some bit of my own humanity.
Art is a process of inspiration, discovery, refinement, and iteration. I want to keep working on this particular process because it comforts me in my bad times, and helps raise my spirits ever higher in the good ones. If it wasn’t for writing, and all of the chance that goes into simply making art, I wouldn’t be here. There’s a chance that I might be dead.
And it’s strange to entertain those thoughts. A few months ago I might have followed through with killing myself because I felt trapped, uninspired, too deeply unskilled and untalented to break through to another level. I tried with all of my might to make myself into a better musician, and to be mindful and present in the work I was doing, but it never happened. I was stuck at a single point along the way, and I just couldn’t admit to myself that I might not be able to make it past that point. I would be stuck there unless I put in an enormous amount of work that I’m not sure I could have realistically done. I wanted to be an artist, and I wanted to do the work, but I refused to see that I might not be called to this particular art. I was crushed because I thought I had no discernible talent, when in reality, my talents laid elsewhere, I just needed to open myself to the possibility that they were real, and that they mattered. When that off chance hit I was floored. I was ruling the wave of inspiration that had eluded fme for years. It was all there. All of that magic, at the tip of my pen, flowing from me like it was supposed to be there.
So I wrote. I allowed myself to get caught up in my naive passion, because there was nothing else in life that truly mattered. Writing stories, making those ideas in my head real—that we the good shit. That was the whole reason I was writing. Writing was living, and living meant writing.
I think art, and the impulse to make it, is different for everyone in the details, but the broad reasons remain constant: to reach out, to communicate. Those called to make art experience it in a different way. It is not only a desire, but it is a deep need. There is a fear at the base of our spines, a terror that grips us in our weakest moments. WE make art because there is no alternative. We make art because to not make art is to deny ourselves the very essence of our existence. We make art because we simply cannot conceive of a world where we are not doing that. I’m unable to imagine a life where I’m not doing this, however frustrating or annoying, because I know there’s something there for me. There is satisfaction. There is happiness. There is joy in the making. In the course of a longer work, it may cool to simply obligation to see it finished, but the need is there, and with it, all of those emotions that we pour into our work to make it magical and real.
I am an artist. I am a writer. A singer. A whatever. In the end, no matter where I go to do make it, I am an artist, and attempting to imagine a life where that is not true is death itself. When I write, I’m alive. I’m filled with ideas, a spiritual thing that keeps me making. Pleasure comes from the making. Meaning comes from the making. When I write, I’m given meaning, no matter how small or tenuous or fragile. In the moment, the act of writing, I’m made whole by allowing mseyfl to be alive enough to make these things. I communicate with myself, dig deep into my mind, pull out those primordial things that fit together to create ideas, adn animate them with my own sensibilities. That is what my art is.
I’m thankful I’m able to do this. I’m so very thankful that I can discover freely, and search for inspiration and new ideas constantly. All I want is to be alive. I want to live in this world and be happy and give love and give life to others, give them meaning through the things I make. If I can do that I am content.
I’m thankful to be a writer because if I wasn’t I would probably be dead. Writing kept me alive in a dark time, and it pulled me out of that hole. I was allowed to live again. I fell back in love with the process. I learned to discover my process. I’m still learning that, and trying out new things, making joyful and frustrating discoveries searching for the things that help and hinder me. Life is coming together, and living isn’t nearly as hard as it used to be. I’m grateful to have a family who loves and cares about me, who believes in the things that I do, and who will help see me into my next phase of life, this scary, precarious life of being a writer. I’m thankful to be a writer because, well, I’m an artist, and a true artist can’t imagine a life lived without making art. Writing helped me find the art that speaks to me in a deep and meaningful way. It is the art I cannot imagine my life without. I truly, deeply, madly love it, and all that it has given me this year. In all of its frustrations, its low points, its long and dragged out periods of fallow inspiration, I kept going, knowing that life wouldn’t stop for me. I kept writing because inspiration is real, but it has to find you working. I kept going because I felt better when I did, no matter how tough the writing was. I kept going because writing is an intimate thing that allows me to discover myself in ways that I didn’t think were possible. I kept going because to stop was to give in to everyone who doubted me. I kept going because there’s no reason to stop anymore. I kept going because people who care about me believe in me deeply, and I can’t disappoint them.
I kept going bevies it was the right thing to do. I’m a writer. Writers tend to write. If I’m a writer, that means I have to write. I have to hold myself to the act of creation, to push myself to get better. I have to see everything that makes me less, push it aside, and improve those things. I have to keep writing to get the worlds out. I have eot be mindful of the words I do type, and see them on the page, and know that even if it’s not the best right now, no one ever sees these words. They get rewritten until they’re better. I know that’s something I can do. I can get better. I can be a better writer. I can tell myself that I am able to live my life as a writer and push beyond my own limits and not get discouraged and grow and blossom into the person that I know I can be and it’s so important to be that person because I want to be a success and success means living as a writer and not being ashamed of it and being the person who au truly want to be in life and there is no better thing that nt.

musings

I don’t think about what I’m doing as I do it. Intention doesn’t enter into it. Or it does, and it’s unconscious. But does that constitute intention? Or is that instinct? What really matters in the moment when an action is being performed? There’s not enough information to actually make an informed decision most of the time. I just go on what I have and hope for the best. There’s nothing worse than paralyzing myself with an influx of unnecessary info that does nothing but clog me up and give me even more things to consider. As they say, the devil is in the details, and he can pull you under if you give him too much of yourself.
But what are details, in the macrocosmic sense? What purpose do they really serve? Why are they so damn important? What can we leave, what can we take, what can we keep?
The act of creation starts with intention and inspiration, but beyond that it is simply work. Those two things at the beginning constitute the animating principles of creativity, but at the end of the day, it is work—repeated and refined, edited, revised, and iterated—that brings it to life. Before that, art is simply an idea floating in space, with no actual weight behind it. Ideas themselves are worthless. What is needed is a sense of intent, to push this thing forward, make it real in a way that might not make sense in the beginning, but when the work is done, it can be seen as an entire piece.
I deal with a lot of issues. I have sexual neuroses. I have depression. I have ADHD. I get anxiety. I have deeply rooted parental issues. I’ve been emotionally and sexually abused by intimate partners. I constantly wrestle with a creeping darkness that whispers to me that I’m worthless and won’t amount to anything. Occasionally, I let it take me. When that happens, there’s nothing but fear. Fear. Anger. Sadness. Frustration. Creative blocking. Nothing pushes it away but putting pen to paper. I operate on fear. Fear that my writing is the only thing that truly keeps the darkness at bay. Fear that creating means staying alive, and that not doing so means dying. If an artist cannot make art, then it’s easy to make the mental leap to “i’m not an artist”. No one who makes believes that their lives could be lived any other way. Art is a burning desire, it is a need. It is a calling. It is a moral imperative. To not make, to not create, to live with uncreated ideas, is to invite death itself.
Art is pushing back. Art is life. Art is confronting things and attempting to make sense of a world that is bent on destroying us.

A fiction fragment

She used to be a dancer. A very good one. The kind that people wrote in the datalogs about. She would step on stage and the rom would go completely quiet. She could move with a grace that no one could truly fathom, in ways that defied what a human body could achieve. She was the best. The was the greatest, and she had no peer.
Then her son died, and it all fell apart.
He was on a training run, transporting goods from one section to another. He was supposed to be out and come home within 8 hours, but something went wrong. A group of pirate, bandits, whatever you want to call them, saw that he was with a convoy, and his craft was the fist to be shot down. He didn’t even have time to fight back. He was slagged out in the empty blackness of space, and his body just tumbled through space, and it would do so for eternity.
A devastating piece of news. It hit her hard. She stopped working. She stopped talking to everyone. Once every other manner of grieving was taken away, she turned to the bottle, and lived there for nearly ten years. Life wasn’t worth living any more by that point. If she was being honest, it had stopped being that a very long time ago. Now she was just staying alive out of obligation. Killing herself had been a constant and intense thought for years, but she knew it wasn’t the answer. Doing that would just turn her into a line of a ledger, telling the higher ups that the resources allocated to her could be dissolved and redistributed to other people. That wasn’t her bag. If she had the luxury of being alive without needing to do anything but draw breath and answer questions every month, that was good enough for her.
So there she was, a drunk, a lost soul, an artist with no sense of how to make art anymore. She was living in a boozy haze, putting what little of her training that she remembered into bodily control. It required enormous effort. She had learned from years of practice to stand upright and stiffly, to walk without stumbling, to speak slowly but not too slowly—exaggerate her enunciation—it always felt like too much in her head, but she knew that’s what it took. If she attempted to speak normally, words would slur together, in stilted cadences, bundles of nonsense with a few words that indicated understanding. Living was a difficult thing, chained to the bottle like that, but she carried on. Like she thought, there wasn’t a reason not to.
Fifteen years after her son died, something happened. She suddenly lost the urge to keep drinking. She longed to be out of the hole that she dug herself into. There wasn’t a rock bottom moment, no split second of clarity that showed her what her life had become—just a calm realization that becoming human again required letting go of certain things. She laid in bed for a week, letting the aches, sweats, vomit, shit, and piss rule her. Her head throbbed with a steady cadence, feeling like it was going to destroy her skull with each passing pulse. Her mind screamed at her for just one drink to steady herself, to ease the pain she was in. To escape the hell that was being sober.
But at every point, she said no. She knew that there wasn’t a life worth living inside of alcohol, so maybe, after all this time, there would be one outside of it. She thought about her son, about how excited he was to fly, like his father before him. He died too, in the wars that set up their station as its own separate governmental entity. They were a nation after that, forming an alliance with other stations and even a planet. They resisted the rule of the Broken Spire, and paid dearly for it, but they fought, and they won. They were workers, laborers, artists, disillusioned soldiers, all dreaming of a better life beyond the Spire Council and their Megacorp overlords. Fair wages, fair living conditions, the ability to be human. Food on the table, living without fear of an attack from private security forces.
She shook her head. That’s the past. The now is here. “You’re living on the world that he fought and died for, she thought. This is all that he dreamed of, and you can’t throw it away. You have to live. You have to fight. You have to go on. Your son isn’t coming back. He’s as gone as your husband. There’s no question.”
They were painful thought, but necessary. For so long she had lived in denial of what they truly meant, the implications of death. Understanding them meant grappling with the realities they brought with them, and it’s what drove her to the bottle in the first place.
There has to be another way, she thought. Something. Anything. I don’t want this life anymore.
Another week in bed, but less intense than the last. She worried about seizures, but to her relief, they never happened. That wouldn’t be the norm. One would hit, and being alone when it happened could spell death for her.
It was time to see someone about all of this. A therapist. A headshrinker. She’d probably get pills to take care of the seizures too.
She could recover if she worked. Time working meant time not drinking. Time not drinking or being drunk meant time living. Time living meant that maybe, just maybe, there could be a life beyond the hell that she was crawling out of.
It was a good thought. Clear thoughts were also something she enjoyed. Her mind felt like it was repairing itself after years of abuse. She knew that she would never be as sharp as she was in her glory days, but a faded master was still better than a dead one.

Some personal thoughts

What does gender mean to me? How does it inform my existence, my sense of self, the way I navigate life as a human being? What does it mean to be gendered? How do we live as authentic people in a world that imposes the ideas of gender on us? How do we untangle what we feel from what we have received, and what does it truly mean to do that?
I’ve spent years unconsciously attempting to figure out the answers to those questions, and the past year consciously confronting them. I realized that my own identity wasn’t as set in stone as I originally assumed, realizing at the age of twenty nine that I am not male. I understood that my own ideas were only partially my own. Being a person in the world meant that a great deal of information would be given to me whether I wanted it or not, and it carried with it assumed ideas about gender and sexuality. Separating received information from identity generated from self is impossible in a way—we can’t truly know what the line is between internally constructed identity and ideas imposed on us externally that allow us to realize the self. In some senses, we are a blank slate, formless, waiting for something to appear and give meaning to the chaos that goes on in our heads. In other ways, we are set in stone, using what we’ve learned and testing it against our own values and tossing out what doesn’t agree with us.
It’s a precarious and frustrating process, but a necessary one. In order for us to be fully realized, we must contend with how much of us is learned, and how much is inborn. My own personal views on the matter were cloudy at best for years. Living as a confirmed male, attempting to mold myself into masculinity—and conversely, molding masculinity to my self—was a process that caused great depression and anger. I was clearly not the things that society had always told me I was, but I persisted in my way, doing my best to be that.

Positivity to get you through the summer

Praise. Love. Joy. Gusto. Zest. Feel them, dig deep, discover your passions. Find what makes them yours. Own them. Be you. You are a writer, and your truth is at hand. Write, draw, sing, compose. Art is yours for the taking. Seriousness comes after the first draft. Revel in the act of creation now. Take in the whole of existence. Find what drives you. Search endlessly, and seek the truths in yourself. There is no time but now, Jeff. Emily. All. None.