Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Author: Ashe Elton Parker (page 1 of 4)

Some Thoughts (Oct ’17)

I have a need to meander through my thoughts. Some of this stuff will seem to be the same stuff I’ve discussed recently here before, but it’s actually coming at things from a slightly different direction (I think).

The past few weeks have been stressful for me, but not always negatively so. I’ve been staying away from the news as much as possible, mainly because I could not have handled it well with all the other stuff I was going through. For a moment, I wanted to chuckle at my use of “all” when the primary issue was Einstein and his care and ultimate loss, but that comes wrapped up with a bunch of other stuff. Overall, I’m not as broken up about my first cat’s death as I thought I would be; despite the stress of going to the vet three weeks in a row and the resultant financial outlay for his care and euthanasia, I was doing pretty well. Though definitely not happy about it all, I wasn’t a basket case. I’m not sure just what to attribute my mostly-composed reaction to his death to, but I’m going to say it’s a combination of a number of factors, including my overall mental health and the fact I went the following Saturday to get another cat. The most depressing thing about losing Einstein was not his loss, so much as it was the emptiness of my home without another life form in it. While I cannot replace Einstein—he was a unique cat and there can be no replacement for him—I can say that the new cat definitely fills my heart and my home in such a way that my grief over losing Einstein is greatly leavened.

Over the past month or so, I’ve also developed the habit of leaving my home more than once a week on social excursions if possible. Most of these have taken me up to the pride center, where I’d hang out with the receptionist on duty and whomever else happened to show up to hang out. Sadly, the pride center is closing services in the building they’re currently operating from, I suspect for a number of reasons, at the end of this month. I think this is the last month of their six month lease on it, for one thing. Also, they’ve moved most of their mental health services to offices they’re renting about a block and a half down the street from where the current building is. Right now, the new owners of the old building are in the midst of renovating the downstairs for their use, so it sometimes gets rather noisy, what between all the power tools and the rapid-fire Spanish talk radio the workers usually play while they’re going about their business; I can only imagine what sort of fun the people in the Chinese restaurant the old building is attached to are having with all this construction work going on (LOL). The pride center is expecting to be able to move into its new location in January, though there is some doubt as to whether move-in will actually be able to happen that month. Either way, I’m looking forward to it opening up again.

Settling in with Hendrix, my new cat, has been interesting as well. When the shelter person called to check on things this past Monday (they call at 2 days, at 2 weeks, and, if I’m remembering right, 2 months), I had a concern or two about him. Unlike Einstein, who seemed to have no trouble settling in, Hendrix didn’t seem to have a very good appetite. The woman who I spoke to assured me it would take only a few days for him to settle in well enough for his appetite to return, and it certainly has! He’s eaten almost all his 1/2 cup of dry food and all of his two servings of half a can of moist food the past few days. Also, he isn’t as needy as he was when he first arrived—yes, he still likes to cuddle, but he’s not all over me most of the day. Really, Hendrix is a bit more independent than Einstein was, and generally cuddles with me only once or twice a day for anywhere from 30-45 minutes. I’ve learned that if he won’t stay still, or if he’s a bit bitey (he doesn’t break skin), that means he’d rather play instead. His favorite toy is the laser dot. Also, he’s a bit easier to deal with at mealtimes; where Einstein, before he got so ill, would not leave me alone when I ate, Hendrix will go to his own food after a couple of times of me putting him on the floor and making it clear he’s not going to get any people food.

Unfortunately, my writing isn’t going very well. I’m very glad I realized what I am beyond “writer” a couple months ago, because I’d be going bonkers if I didn’t have writing right now if I hadn’t. But instead of getting anxious or upset over not writing, I simply either go out or I entertain myself with my cat—Hendrix is always up for a good play session. Sometimes I lie down to see if I can galvanize any ideas or nap a bit; other times I’ll call or text a friend. I’m also much more willing to take care of daily chores and attend to things like making appointments these days. Before, I saw them only as bothersome interruptions to my writing flow and hated to attend to them.

I’m also getting back into Spanish on Duolingo, thanks to a friend’s efforts to refresh herself on hers. Though I’m not very competitive, I have just enough of a competitive streak that I hate having done nothing when someone else has. If not for the XP Duolingo assigns to one’s lesson modules (10 XP per completed module or review), I wouldn’t have cared. But it’s been fun getting back into it, and I beat the 150XP challenge that my Duolingo phone app has been offering for the past few months!

Though I completed my reading goal on Goodreads a couple months ago, that hasn’t done anything but given me a sense of accomplishment. I meant to keep reading beyond that and use the number of books beyond my goal for this year to base next year’s goal on. I’ll have to get on that.

On the other hand, I’ve been crocheting more often. I’ve completed about half a dozen or so cloths and a couple of scrubbies. I’ve even worked a little on my main big project, the afghan I’m making for my bed’s summer bedspread. Even with my “aggravated carpal nerves,” it’s been nice getting back into the crocheting.

And I think I’ve exhausted topics. I hope you’ve enjoyed this meandering through my thoughts.

The New Cat

I’ll be honest here. The weeks leading up to Einstein’s euthanasia were stressful for me, but I was still marginally creative. Mainly with crocheting, but a little with my writing. After he died, though, I entered a severely depressive state wherein I didn’t feel like creating. This was from Wednesday the 4th of October. I came home numb, out of sorts, and depressed. The only reason why I created at all though was because I got out of the house and went up to the pride center to hang out to escape my empty home. Frankly, my apartment wasn’t the same without a little bundle of fur around. It was depressing. Honestly, I wouldn’t have believed how much a little cat could fill a home, no matter how small, if not for my experience with Einstein, and losing him was absolutely devastating for me.

Even with all that, though, I wasn’t sure about getting another cat right away. I kept telling my mom that I’d wait on getting another cat. Maybe a month or two. But I spent time on various pet adoption sites browsing the pics of their cats. Mom sometimes joined me, and we’d repeatedly go through the cats posted on the Salt Lake County Animal Services website. By Friday, I’d worked up a list of cats and kittens I was interested in checking out, should they be there still. Oh, and I’d made tentative plans to go with Mom to the shelter if my friends and I didn’t game, and Mom said she’d go with me to pay the fees for the new cat.

One of the things Mom did on Thursday was contact the Salt Lake County Animal Services about Einstein’s death. According to Mom, the head of the office (whose name I can’t spell based on how it sounds and can’t find anywhere on the website) was dismayed to hear of Einstein’s death and the reason for it. She even asked Mom for the name of the illness that took him, and Mom thinks that’s because the other kittens who were in the kennel cage with him also had Feline Infectious Peritonitis. As a result of that call Mom made, the director of Salt Lake County Animal Services agreed to waive the adoption fee, even offering to allow me to adopt two cats free of adoption fees if I wished. But Friday proved to be a wash for the trip. Mom and I both had rough nights of sleep, so even though my friends couldn’t game, we agreed to go Saturday.

So, on Saturday, Mom came over and helped me clean and disinfect my apartment to ensure my new wouldn’t come down with the same disease that took Einstein. By two that afternoon, we were on our way to the shelter. This required a trip by commuter train and a brief walk. When we arrived, I checked in and received permission to go look at the cats, and Mom and I went back.

Leery of getting a kitten as young as Einstein was when I adopted him, I didn’t spend much time looking at the younger kittens. Mom and I had agreed that we wanted one old enough to have had its rabies vaccination already, if I did get a kitten. For the most part, though, I looked at the adult cats, one year old and older. This time, there were a number of people in the cattery: An older couple who were in one of the cat colony rooms when Mom and I entered and a family with kids. It was quite busy back there, a lot of activity with the kids opening kennels to play with and cuddle the kittens in them.

I eventually moved into a little offshoot room where cats in individual kennels were. Nearly all these cats were at least one year old. After some observation and careful “testing” by tapping the bars of the kennels, we discovered a pair of neighboring cats who seemed interested in us. One was a black-furred female cat who was about two years old. The other was a white and grey-and-brown patchwork cat we’d seen online. The black cat was vocal and stuck her paw out the cage whenever we took our hands away. The patchwork cat was also female, and she was around nine years old, if I recall correctly; she tucked herself right up against the bars of her cage for attention, wanting to be touched. I honestly didn’t know which one of these two I wanted, but Mom suggested I not be hasty—she wasn’t going to rush me—and to look around some more.

Since I couldn’t decide on either of these two cats, I agreed, and we left the little offshoot room and returned to the main (brief) corridor where the cat colony rooms were off of. The family with the kids had moved on to a different kennel with kittens, and the older couple had moved to a different colony room. Noticing that the cats in the first two colony rooms weren’t really interested in Mom and me (or the older couple, who moved from the middle room to the left-hand room while I watched), I decided to go to room three, on the far right, close to where a staff entrance was.

The cats were more lively in this room, and two were right by the window beside the door. Both of them meowed (I couldn’t hear through the glass, but their mouths opened), and the smaller of the two started climbing this funky looking cat tree that seemed just to be wide rods covered in carpeting that stood beside the window. I looked into the window in the door and saw the other cats were interested as well, so opened the door and stepped in.

Immediately the smaller of the two talkative cats reached out for me. I turned to say something to Mom, and the cat first put both forepaws on my backpack (a type with one strap, meant to be slung crosswise over the body), then hopped up to climb up me. This was the last thing I’d expected, but I was amused and let the cat twine up over my shoulders and around the back of my head—by the way, this was before I even shut the door. Mom looked at me and said, “I think you’ve got your cat!”

Agreeing wholeheartedly, I asked Mom to go get an employee and shut the door so the other cats wouldn’t escape, remaining in the room. While I waited for the minute or so it took an employee to come fetch this cat, it continued to make loops around my head. Mom returned, and she pointed out some pictures hung on the wall perpendicular to the entrance, within view of the window, and opened the door to ask me which cat it was. I honestly could not determine from the pictures on the cards which cat had chosen me. It must be said that everyone who saw how this cat glommed me was amazed at its behavior; nobody had ever seen anything like it.

When the staff member came to fetch the cat, she said she was glad they’d finally been able to move him to the adoption rooms—he’d been in seclusion because he got into an altercation with another cat and ended up wounded and they had to keep him secluded to ensure the wound would heal. She told us the cat’s name was Hendrix and they thought he was seven months old; she’d bring him out to us if we went out to the front desk.

So Mom and I went back out to the main room. There, I signed the paperwork, Mom paid the licensing fee, and I received my new cat!

Hendrix!

Hendrix on Home Day 7 Oct 17

Einstein

Einstein in a Republic of Tea box.

I’ve had a tough few weeks with Einstein. It started about two weeks ago this past Thursday, when I took him in for his leukemia booster shot. He had a fever, so they refused to vaccinate him and told me to bring him in again in a week. I brought him home and over the course of the week noticed his belly grow. When I brought him in again, they said he still had a slight fever and thought he had worms. After administering the dewormer I approved, the tech who’d brought it out showed me how to take his temp under his forelegs and advised me to get a thermometer, and to bring him one week later. I took him home and hit the store for a thermometer that day. Over the course of the next week, his temperature fluctuated, dropping then rising again. And when I got home from my volunteer shift on this past Tuesday I saw how big his belly was. Since I had an appt on Thurs, I’d scheduled his next appt for the Weds before, so I took him in.

The prognosis wasn’t good.

He had Feline Infectious Peritonitis, also called Feline Coronavirus Disease. It had caused fluid to build up in his abdomen, and the vet told me it would move to his chest next. In all but one case of kittens with this illness, she’d seen only one survive, and I thought, One out of how many she’s seen? and made the hard decision. Einstein’s quality of life had already suffered. He spent a lot of time curled up in the Republic of Tea box he’d made into his bed, or tucked up by his food and water dishes. I think it hurt him to hold him because he’d stopped cuddling as much as he used to. I didn’t want to watch him deteriorate or force him to suffer an awful suffocation/drowning death, so I let the vet euthanize him.

Einstein was a happy, active kitten until the disease took him. He loved cuddles. Almost every time I made a cup of coffee or tea, he’d hop up on the table in my kitchen area to watch my process with my Brita pitcher—he tried so hard to understand what happened to all the water. Nearly every morning, he’d serenade me awake at eight o’clock or so, and he’d sometimes join me to lie on my hip or abdomen if I unclipped the hose from my CPAP mask and called his name, and we’d lie there together taking comfort in each other, dozing.

There won’t ever be another cat like him, and I miss him.

I Think I Figured It Out

What have I figured out?

I think I’ve figured out one of the reasons why my creative mind hasn’t swung back to anything in-progress for any length of time this year. This could either be a completely bogus reason, or it could have some real, actual bearing on the vagaries of my creative mind this year. I’m not quite sure which this is, but I’m leaning toward real, actual bearing.

Aside from just being bipolar, and all that brings to the writing desk all by itself, I distinctly recall either thinking to myself or mentioning to someone the fact that I was amazed at how I think I’ve come up with the Absolute Final Idea for a magical system, and then my creative mind throws something new at me. I may even, back a couple years ago, before I maxed out the alphabet in naming my worlds (a different letter to begin each world’s name), have foolishly thought to myself that, hey, I wonder just how many different magical systems I can come up with?

Have I mentioned to y’all how I sort of give things to my subconscious to work on? Say I’d like to write a story about a character who becomes a mage via bestowal of such gifts by a god. I’ll sit here in my chair, and focus on that idea. I’ve made that particular request since writing the first words of Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale, just out of curiosity to see what my creative mind could come up with; can’t think off the top of my head of any other worlds/universes where gods or godly beings bestow magical powers, but I’m sure there’s at least one in my 26+ list of worlds. But I’ll do that. I’ll tell my subconscious that I’d really like to work on a story based on this particular idea at some point in the future. I’ll do this with story ideas, concepts I’ve read in other authors’ books, worldbuilding details. You name it, I’ve probably put it to my subconscious that I’d like at some point to write a story employing whatever it is.

And I think I unintentionally did that to myself with creating magical systems. It really wouldn’t have taken much, especially with as much as I was thinking about how I must have maxed out the unique magical system ideas with This Most Recent World last year.

This was a bad thing for me to do, and I would never have done it intentionally. My record of completing stories is already poor. I did not need a year during which my creative mind would do its best to prove to me just how many and varied the different magical systems I can create may be, because this means that I’m not completing anything. While I have touched certain in-progress projects, doing anything I planned at the beginning of the year has gone out the window. I can’t focus on those projects, or anything else I’ve left lingering incomplete because I’m just not getting ideas for them. All my ideas are for new worlds, with new stories set in them.

I’ve tried being disciplined. Unfortunately, trying to focus on projects that aren’t moving only makes me miserable, and I remember too well how I feel when I’m forcing to move projects that I don’t want to do that. It’s awful enough being unable to focus on anything without the added emotional turmoil from trying to force stuff that doesn’t want to move to go.

So, I’m putting it to my creative mind right now. I’m focusing on the thought: I want to complete some stories. No, I don’t care which ones they are and I don’t care if I outline them or not. I just want to finish them. I’d like a period of completion of stories.

More Thoughts About AEP

I’m once again rethinking AEP. This usually happens at some point every year, to be honest. Sometimes more than once.

Why?

Mainly because my bipolar is so random that I can’t keep to a set schedule. I try again and again to stick to a schedule, then I lose interest because I just don’t care. This isn’t the only state of mind I suffer over my site. Other times I want to post nearly every day. Sometimes more than one post a day even. There’s just no way to predict what mood will strike, though I can control the urge to post all the time.

But I think I’ve reached the point when I don’t care about the impression I’ll be giving if I post more frequently. My main concern with this has been what I’ll post. Mostly longer commentary on the minutiae of my life, to be honest, then what I can post on Twitter. It’ll be trivia, to be honest. Specifically, the kind of trivia I can’t imagine anybody else being interested in because I’m not interested in that kind of trivia. It’s just what I feel like rambling about at length.

No matter my efforts to make my blog and my site more “professional”—I just can’t seem to keep up with it. Rather like my writing, that. I have so many ideals in my mind about my writing that it’ll never meet. I’m trying to learn to accept the fact I’ll always fall short of my writing ideals. Why not throw my blog in with that? I want a professional sight that’s updated regularly.

It’s apparently not going to happen on a schedule.

And, I think, that’s part of what stresses me out to the point of developing a serious case of indifference to whether or not I post anything on my blog at all. Unfortunately (for me), I have a lot of nonsense crap to say, and I happen to enjoy posting it for public consumption. While I do have limits, they more align with what I will and won’t post, not necessarily when or how much info about them I’ll share.

So, maybe expect an uptick in posts here.

Taking A Break

With the completion of posting of Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale, I’m taking a break from posting this week. It got a bit hairy for me toward the end of the book, with me barely keeping up with my weekly post and scheduling posts of the book. I managed to finish edits on it a few weeks beforehand, but apathy struck, and it was a fight the whole time. Sadly, that apathy about posting here is still with me. I’m hoping that taking a deliberate break from the onus of posting, however brief it may be, will prevent an unanticipated case of full-blown bipolar apathy regarding the site. I’ve done this before, with mixed success. Here’s hoping my blog absence will last only a week.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 11

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale

Asthané assured the guard—it was always a different one who brought him to his palace chambers—he was capable of stumbling to bed on his own. Following a minute’s hovering hesitation, the woman departed, and he watched her go, waiting until she disappeared around a corner. Good. He could relax now.

This Council meeting hadn’t been so bad. Of course, he’d spent most of it sitting outside the chamber while other business was taken care of, but he still had a head which felt like someone had used it for a drum and knotted guts. He wasn’t sure just how much of the fine supper in the room beyond this front door he’d be able to eat, especially cold—he’d learned long ago, most foods eaten while sick with Gift reaction tended to lack flavor if left cold—and he wasn’t inclined to use his Gifts to heat anything up. It might be best to skip supper altogether.

He turned the handle and forced himself to move into the room. Bless the soul of whoever watched over these chambers, they always left the fore chamber well-lit, the gaslights bright. Maybe someone who understood about Mages was monitoring the use of this apartment. Whoever it was, he wanted to thank them. He shuffled in, edged to the side, and shut the door as he leaned against the wall, tipping his head back as he closed his eyes. Bed was just across the way, in the next room, but he needed a break to register he truly was free for the rest of the evening.

“Thané?”

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Redefinition

Way back when, and up through the early 2000’s, my definition of “working on my writing” was actively getting words on my stories. I think I’ve mentioned before how I did this. I was a pantser—someone who wrote without an outline—for all of that time and beyond. It’s only been within the past five or six years that I’ve made any efforts at outlining stuff. But even with that, my definition of “working on my writing” remained getting new words on any given project.

Because this habit was so ingrained, I had difficulty divorcing myself from the idea that the only definition of “working on my writing” was getting new words on a project. Almost 20 years of defining something a certain way will make changing that definition hard for almost anybody, and it was especially difficult for me, I think, because I identified so strongly as a writer. That was, quite literally, all there was to me, at least in my mind, until recently (we went over this in last week’s post).

As a result, I’ve been struggling for years to redefine “working on my writing.” I knew it needed to be done, I knew that everything I did, from background work to actual writing to editing could be defined as “working on my writing,” but I just couldn’t convince my conscious mind to include all that stuff. Though I knew I seemed to some people to include all that stuff, I really wasn’t thinking it all was included. For me, “working on my writing” was still very much just getting new words.

I think that’s why I had such a difficulty with my self-identification as a writer for so long. The two were irrevocably bound up in each other. A reason, I suppose, I despaired whenever I didn’t actually add new words to a project. In essence, I was pretty much a mess over my writing.

And then I had that epiphany, that I’m not just a writer. Like a shaft of sunlight through storm clouds, I suddenly had a brand new perspective on all of my writing, not just my self-identification as a writer.

Which has led me to my new ability to include everything related to writing in my definition of “working on my writing.” This has been very freeing. The whole thing, from my initial epiphany about my self-identity, to realizing that whatever I do with my writing, whether it be dumping notes into a journal to editing that work, is “working on my writing.”

Essentially, all this means I don’t beat myself up any more. If I don’t write anything, from a blog post to fiction, no big deal. I have and am other things to work on. Now, writing a blog post is something I define as “working on my writing” because, well, I’m writing. If I choose to edit a chapter from one of my stories, I’m “working on my writing.”

Yeah, this is a big epiphany for me. Something friends have been pointing out for months if not years, other writers and nonwriters alike. Ashe, if you’re writing plot cards, you’re “working on your writing.” Yeah, I can be a bit of a dunce sometimes. But then, sometimes I need other things to click before the obvious things like this can sink in.

What this means is that now I don’t stress getting fresh words. If I do, yay! If I don’t, no big deal. More than likely, I’ve spent at least a few minutes (if not much more) on contemplating my stories. Which is, yes, “working on my writing.”

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 10

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale

Géta kept his gaze on the two trunks at the foot of his bed as he dropped his class things on his desk; the shelves were blocked by the trunks now. One was new, burnished yeru from the lot his parents had purchased for that trip to the lake when he was six. When he crossed to look at the address on it, he found his mother’s handwriting as he expected, and he knelt to unbuckle the straps holding the lid shut, using his parrying dagger to cut the knotted bits of twine which his mother had apparently deemed suitable as a security measure. His armor lay on the top; bits of plate for arms, with a mail tunic. Two letters and a leather-bound book lay on top of the mail tunic.

He fanned the pages of the book, but they were all blank. A journal, then. After taking notice one letter was from his mother, he picked up the other, from Alénil, and opened it. It said little, his best friend choosing not to go into detail about a life he knew Géta was very familiar with, then introduced the journal with the suggestion Géta use it as a kind of notebook to keep records of events he wanted to write home about. Géta set the letter on top of his clothes and picked up the journal again, opening it.

He gazed at the blank pages, considering what he could write in it right now for a few minutes, then made himself close the journal and set it on top of his clothes. Opening his mother’s letter enabled him to acquire the key to the trunk, but he didn’t read the note with it yet. The half-hour bell chimed, so he needed to get out to the Weatherfield gate or he’d be in trouble.

He locked the trunk, then added the key to the leather strap of his keyring and collected his flute. No time to straighten things up, and he’d have to ask about what to do with the trunks when he unpacked them later. He hurried out to the gardens and trotted up the path he usually took to the Weatherfield gate.

And came around a bend with a tall hedge right into the trio of bullies who had been after him.

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Not Just A Writer

I’m changing. Or, perhaps more accurately, my perception of myself is changing. I’ve given you my background more than once, and I believe I’ve mentioned it on my About: The Author page, about how I first started writing back in the very late 80’s.

That was actually part of my problem. Maybe I hadn’t started writing until my high early high school years, but the habit quickly became ingrained. Back then, when I first started writing, my only initial aspirations to be published related to breaking into the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise, which I pretty much gave up when I moved into writing my own original work. But by then, I already strongly identified as a writer. It honestly didn’t matter to me through my high school years if I ever got published. Sure, it would have been nice if I’d been able to write that one glorious book that broke me into the publishing world sometime soon after high school, but I was much too content with just jotting my stories down to worry much about doing much more than sending the odd short I managed to complete to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies. I think I sent two. Maybe three. All were rejected. Far from broken, I just shrugged, filed the rejections, and went on writing my daydreams down.

And thus was my writing life up until I was forced to give up writing by homelessness in Denver, Colorado. I still daydreamed, even though I didn’t get back to my writing until 2002, when I returned to North Carolina after being discharged from the Navy. Restless, at the top end of a slow slide into insanity, I had difficulty holding down a job and tried to make it on my own again. And almost ended up homeless again.

But I was still a writer. My first years here in Utah were hell for my writing. I was insane, which was not at all helped by my search for a spiritual home, and I killed my writing by trying to force it into a mold it didn’t fit.

And yet, I was a writer. Even when I finally shelved my writing to focus on getting mental health care and an at least semi-decent job. So, for a few years, I didn’t write. Not until my mom came out here to help me. First, she shipped the old Kitchen Imp computer we’d had in our trailer for years, since sometime around 1988 or ’89—the computer I found Forward Motion on with my first search for “writers’ websites.”

Because I was still a writer I promptly turned to my writing. Mostly healed from my torturous experience with trying to reshape my writing into something it could never be, I dove into the fantasy stories I’d once loved to work on. I had one real-world job after another, rebounded into one I’d had previously when a “better” job fell through, and wrote.

Through it all, I identified as a writer. So strongly, in fact, that I’ve struggled the past few years since my return to writing speculative fiction. Because I’d developed the habit of writing daily prior to losing my mind, I was still stupidly focused on that aspect of my writing. Yes, I was happy when I wrote, no matter how few days I wrote out of any given week or month, but I suffered depression and fear whenever I didn’t write. I mean, real, paralyzing terror that one lone day of not writing was the herald to never writing again. Ever. I was a writer, after all, and I’d once been able to write almost every single day. This shouldn’t be impossible for me now, right?

Yet, it was. What I had failed to see was that with the change in my mental health, a natural consequence was a change in other aspects of my life, including my writing habit. Those days on which I wrote I judged as good, great, fantastic, wonderful. And the days on which I didn’t write were bad, okay, pathetic, or dud days.

And this year has, up until quite recently, such bad days. This year, I have spent more time days not writing than I have in typing new words to stories. And that was the only progress I counted, because I was “preset” to think of only new-word days as good writing days.

So it was quite a surprise to review my goals posts from last week on FM’s forum and see how I’d declared pretty much every day of the week—during which I wrote not a single new word on any fiction project—as a good day. These days I did other things. I practiced and learned Spanish. Playing with my new cat was a fixture of each day, as was tending to his care. For the first time ever, I considered merely getting out to a psych therapy group and my volunteer shift on Thursday as a good day. Not a single new word that day, yet it was a good day.

I honestly don’t know just what to attribute this change in perspective to, but I’m glad I’ve had it. This new view of my life was very much needed, because I was tearing myself up over not writing. See, I’ve expected, all these years, to be able to just leap back into the writing habits I had back before I went to Colorado, and I foolishly pinned my entire self-identity on that ability alone, so when I couldn’t for some reason write on any given day, it killed me. I became, in my mind, a failure, if only for a day or two, because I hadn’t written on those particular days.

And it has been wonderful to realize this change in perspective. I am not merely a writer. I am so many other things, I can do so many other things and consider myself a productive person. This, I think, is a very important step in my mental health recovery. With this development, I can accept that I may never write daily again and not feel despair or fear. I have faith that, no matter how long my fiction is away from me, it will return. Maybe it’ll be absent only a day. But now, if it’s gone a week, I know I can survive without it and be happy. And I know I can now go a month or longer without being terrified that it’ll never return. It just cycles, like my bipolar, and I can accept that each day, week, month, year is going to be different for my writing side, than the one preceding. And that’s okay.

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