Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: goals

13Oct18: A Good Saturday

Yesterday started with me rising at 10:30. It was a pretty productive day. I chatted with my mom and my friend Anita. Got my 250 words, posted DH03CH06 to Wattpad, and wrote a Fool’s Errand post. Also took a nap, updated DH02’s and DH03’s covers on Wattpad, prepped my beverages for Lynn’s D&D, listed my week’s goals on FM, kept up with my daily journal (my not-a-bullet-journal), and took a nap—which threw off my circadian rhythm again. The only unhappy thing was having to cancel painting minis with Kit. He wasn’t feeling well and had to go to an apartment viewing and didn’t think he’d be capable of meeting with me due to his cold. I told him to take care of himself and proceeded to make my day productive in other ways.

One Week In

Well, I’m one week into my new writing habit, and I’d have to say it’s gone fairly well. Not perfect, but not too badly either. I’ve done something with my writing almost every day over the past week, and I’m pretty pleased about that. The only day I think I missed was Thursday, and that was because I was so completely exhausted that I just couldn’t focus on anything by the time I got around to working on my writing.

So, over the past week, I’ve looked at the last few chapters of Unwritten Letters, hunted out the sketchy “outline” I made for the last few scenes, and have determined (yet again) I need more because the leaps between the scenes are too great. Since Wednesday, I’ve been backbraining what I need to fill in the gaps. In the meantime, I’ve edited a chapter of DH02 to to up on Wattpad later, posted DH02CH17 on Wattpad, and worked on some side stuff for the D&D campaign I’m running a character in with my pride center friends.

Unfortunately, due to the appointments I’ve had the past week, and all the other stuff going on, I haven’t been able to work much on my own D&D campaign for my long-time gaming friends. I hope to get that done a bit this week. There’s maybe half the dungeon they’ll be going through to finish, and right now I’m going through the Monster Manual page by page to add some variety to their adventure.

This week, I plan on getting at least 2 plot cards on UL, working at least 3 days on my D&D campaign for my friends, and writing out a “letter” about the most recent adventure my character had in Kit’s D&D campaign (pride friends). I’d also like to read a little more of the Monster Manual. On Monday, I have an appointment, and I’ve got my volunteer shift on Tuesday, a Housing recertification appointment on and then meeting a friend to play Magic: The Gathering on Weds, with quilting on Thurs. I’m supposed to fit crocheting in there somewhere. I’ve sort of taken up the duty of coordinating D&D with my pride center friends, so I’ve got to finish coordinating with them for our gaming session that’s supposed to happen next week. And I’m going to try to fit some crocheting time in there somewhere; probably at my volunteer shift.

In case you were wondering, one of my goals with this weekly posting is to make myself accountable. Even if nobody reads this, I’m hoping that posting my weekly writing goals and my progress with my writing will help keep me focused on the writing goals. I’m doing this because I’ve noticed that I tend to focus better if I’m accountable, and I think that even though this is something I’m doing on my own, knowing I must post here will help me become more disciplined with my writing. the main reason why I’m including mention of other things is because I want to show, in a loose fashion, what other things I have as goals. But, really, any appointments I have, my volunteer shift, and my writing are my priorities.

Goals, Not Resolutions

I generally don’t do resolutions. I don’t see the point. Or, rather, I do them, but I call them goals, which I tend to have better success with. Resolutions have never seemed very important for me. Resolving to do something isn’t the same as sitting down and making plans for how to accomplish these things I’ve resolved to do. So I do goals. I make plans for goals, and, even when I don’t quite succeed with those goals, I’m much less likely to beat myself up over not having attained them. With resolutions, I do guilt trips on myself, review the past, and focus on what I didn’t do. With goals, I stay focused on the future, and what is possible for me to do.

So, without further ado, here are my goals for 2016 and how I plan on accomplishing them.

WRITING GOALS:

1. Keep up with 2 posts a week for my AEP site. – This seems pretty simple on the face of it, but it’s actually more challenging. I meant to sit down in December and come up with a list of topics I could write about, but never got around to it, so that’s what I’ll be doing for January. I’d like to work ahead on this, schedule posts, so I’m less likely to miss posts.

2. Write a total of 120,000 words for the year (avg of 10k/mo.). – This is another goal that seems pretty easy . . . until I factor in my bipolar disorder. It doesn’t help that I didn’t keep a master record of all my writing last year, though I did keep up with my daily writing logsheets for individual stories. So, I’ll be doing that this year: keeping a master log in addition to the individual-wip logsheets. I picked 120k for the year because I think it’ll be relatively easy to meet even if I spend a lot of time in writing downswings.

3. Complete writing at least one currently partial novel. – I’m not all that certain I’ll be able to do this. Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of just picking something and working on it until I’m done with it. My creative mind, driven by my bipolar, has a bad habit of jerking my focus off a particular wip and into either a writing downswing, or onto another wip. I could try to force myself to stay focused on something my creative mind wants nothing to do with, but that would more than likely drive me into a severely depressive state and make me hate writing, which means I’d eventually put it up for at least a couple weeks just to escape from the emotional pit. I figured I’d put it on my list because I have plenty of incomplete stories I want to read to the ends of, so I should be able to finish one of them by December 31st.

4. Write at least one short story. – I have no idea what I’ll be writing, but if JA Marlow decides to post a submission call for another FM Anthology, I intend to submit to it. I’ve discovered I write short stories to prompts pretty well, so, if no submission call is posted, I’ll be using the story/scene prompts posted on FM for the basic idea for this story. I can also use the Idea Generator that’s on FM, which is a compendium of all past prompts, drawn up randomly.

(Notice I did not make a goal of starting, any new projects aside from the short story. It’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll start new novels. I do not want that to be a goal, though, because I have so much to finish first.)

LEISURE GOALS:

(It may seem odd to have leisure goals, but these are things that I honestly will not do, even though I enjoy them, if I do not put them as goals.)

1. Finish crocheting afghan for my sister. – It’s my plan to sit down with a movie at least three times a week and work on the afghan until it’s done.

2. Read at least one entire new book a month (12/year). – I tend to start reading new books, then set them aside and forget about them. So, like with my writing, I have a lot of books I’m part-done reading. I also tend to reread books a lot, and I really need to expand my reading habits out of fantasy that’s been written before the turn of the millennium. I’ve not kept up with modern fantasy as well as I need to have, and I want to start looking for good books in other genres. I’ll be asking friends who read widely in certain and many genres for suggestions. So, first, I’ll finish all those books I’ve started reading, then move on to other brand-new books that are unfamiliar to me, by doing my best to take at least an hour each day to sit somewhere away from my computer and read—I think I’ll be going downstairs to the lobby of my apartment building to tuck myself in one of the comfortable chairs or sofas down there to do this.

FITNESS GOALS:

1. Do physical therapy for arm. – Back in November of 2014, I went into the VA’s emergency room with a left arm that would barely function at the shoulder. I subsequently spent about 5-6 months going to physical therapy to rehabilitate my shoulder. Back in September of 2015, I stopped doing exercises with my arm altogether. I am still disinclined to do them, because they make my shoulder hurt, stiffen, and lock up. However, I am still unable to raise my arm past my shoulder without at least a little pain and movement is limited beyond that point, so I need to get back on these exercises. Starting the first Sunday of 2016, I’ll begin with the exercises again, doing all my daily requirements each day, and doing my every-other-day sets starting Monday. I’ll be using resistance bands for all these exercises, starting with those with the weakest resistance at first, then work up to the bands with greater resistance over the month, until I’m using the proper band assigned to each exercise.

2. Go to Gym at least 4 days a week. – This is something I’ll be working up to. My inclination is to leap in and go four days a week—that’s how I started out when I first bought the membership back in August or September, but I didn’t stick with that long. So, beginning the first full week of 2016, I’ll go two days each week of January, 3 days each week of February, and begin the 4 days a week in March. My fitness regimen at the gym will be: 20 mins on the recumbent bicycle and 15 mins on the treadmill each day I go in; then, on day 1, doing what PT exercises I can at the gym with their resistance bands, and work on my core and back; and, on day 2 of the cycle, doing whatever PT for my arm I can do there, with leg weights.

REAL-LIFE GOALS:

1. Get into school, or find a job. – For this, I will need to stay in contact with my VR&E counselor up at the VA and do as she suggests. I’m currently on watch for a volunteer position at the City Library, and I intend to start looking around for other volunteer opportunities at other places around the downtown area, where it won’t cost me anything to use public transit, as my funds are still rather limited. I also need to do some research into educational tracks that will prepare me for specific jobs (no general ed courses) at the community college and discuss likely careers based on these educational offerings with my VR&E counselor.

2. Learn how to cook diabetic-friendly dishes. – I’ve made this a goal due to my recent diabetes diagnosis. I’ll be seeing the dietitian at the VA again for a diabetic-friendly menu and advice on what I need to avoid at all times. I’ll also research diabetic-friendly recipes online. I plan on making at least four diabetic-friendly meals each week—two lunches and two suppers. I intend to make enough to have leftovers for a day or two between cooking each meal, so I need to look for recipes that make enough for up to four servings. I will also be doing other things to change my eating habits, like buying individual servings of things like yogurt instead of the tubs I usually get and eating smaller meals.

Fears

I think I’ve mentioned that I’m planning on starting school in January of next year. While I’m excited and looking forward to this, I’m also scared out of my mind. I’m not precisely sure just what I’m afraid of with regards to going to school, though. It could be I’m afraid of change. Or maybe the specific change of going back to school, which I feel I’ve never done well in, no matter how much I know otherwise on a conscious level. Or it could be fear that I’m afraid I just might succeed.

I’m a pretty scaredy person. Have been since my breakdown after the Navy. I didn’t used to fear things like this. I just went out and did what I thought I needed to do with my life. I thought I should go to college after high school. So I did; didn’t get far, but that was in part, I think, to my living situation at the time. I needed a job, so I went out and got work (even though my mom at the time thought I didn’t want to work). I wanted to make writing my career, so I devoted most of my free time to it and sent short stories I managed to write out to markets. All this was easy to do with confidence before I had my breakdown. I wasn’t even afraid of the prospect of being homeless and left North Carolina to try and make a life in Colorado before I joined the Navy, and I dealt with homelessness with confidence and courage (and a great deal of fool’s luck), until I entered the military. And I threw myself into my Navy career with confidence I could make it my life.

It’s as if my failure with the Navy colors my entire outlook on success now.

But I’m not content to sit at home all day, living off the government. I need a change, and while I’ve been able to institute some minor changes which have helped me a great deal socially, I need to do something drastic to change my life. Getting a job is that change. But I don’t want just any minimum wage job. I could probably do retail, but I wouldn’t enjoy it. I don’t want to go back to dishwashing, though I think I would if I had to, because I do well with repetitive tasks that I can hyperfocus on with little risk of being distracted by the unexpected. I can’t do fast food—my mind isn’t quick enough for it; it processes things too slowly, and I take too long to think things through, get flustered when there’s a rush on, and am generally my flakiest when I’m working fast food, so that’s completely out.

So that means I need to go to school to make myself more marketable. And I’m terrified. I laugh at myself, because I know once I’m going and I’m in the middle of the situation, I’ll be happy I started. And that’s what’s helping me look forward to going to school.

Part of my fear stems from what I can expect of myself. While stabilized, my bipolar does fluctuate at various times, and it interferes with my life to some extent. I’m quite nervous about how I’ll do on days after nights when I haven’t slept due to the mania keeping me awake. I’m not sure I can consistently get up in the morning, but I do know once I’m used to the schedule, I’ll be able to do so with ease because I thrive in a structured environment, another thing helping me anticipate school. I’m not too sure of the classes, depending upon what I end up taking (I have a couple ideas), because I’ve never been academically confident, and civilian schools, especially in mathematics, tend not to teach at my level (that slow processing thing again).

But I already have plans for how to handle things. I’ll hit the State Street branch of the community college for a prep folder in late November or early December. I’ll get my entrance exam done as soon as I can within the time range they require it be done prior to enrollment. I’ll keep working on my fears about college in therapy and ask for advice every time I think I need the littlest bit of help. And, once I’m in classes, I’ll focus on school.

This means I’ll have to give up writing. Maybe only for weekdays, maybe the entire time unless school’s out for holiday. I’ve done this before, when I entered the Navy. I’ll try to work on my writing, but school will be my main priority.

I’ll face my fears and succeed at something, even if it means I have to drop out and get a minimum wage job. I can’t live like this much longer, because my biggest fear is that the life I’m living now will drive me crazier than I already am.

Entertaining Myself

When I write, all I’m doing is entertaining myself. True, sometimes my writing is a method I use to recover from stress, or I pick something to write based on the challenge it represents. However, if what I’m working on at the time, no matter the other reasons why I’m working on it, is not fun, it eventually does the opposite.

I experienced this with the gay romances. I lost the fun of them. And, yes, they were actually quite fun and enjoyable to write when I first started writing on them. It was also a challenge to come up with various situations, do the research, and use them to advance my writing skills and break some poor writing habits (like way too much use of “that,” or all my characters nodding at everything—which, when I come across now, makes me laugh).

Part of keeping myself in the I’m Totally Entertained mode with my writing is taking time away to read others’ writing. It refreshes my mind and gives me fodder for my own ideas. Occasionally, I’ll pop a movie in my DVD player and watch it while crocheting for a break. I used to set up my laptop on my craft table a couple-few times a year to watch movies while figuring out stories—sometimes chatter helps better than music does, but it’s got to be something I’ve seen many times before, to the point of having memorized lines. This year, I’ve been taking my laptop to the coffee shop on the corner across the street from where I live; simple half a block walk, a nice specialty beverage or cup of flavored coffee, and I can spend hours there working on my writing.

This is all to keep writing entertaining. When I’m not entertained, I don’t enjoy my writing, and it depresses and stresses me out. And I do this for one main reason, a reason I’ve had since first putting pen to paper in 1988 when I wrote awful piecemeal Star Trek: The Next Generation “novel” pastiches. Because I was entertained by my admittedly awful fanfiction.

Writing should entertain the author of it.

Why do I believe this? Simple. If it does not in some way entertain its author, how can that writer expect it to entertain anybody else? Granted, it will capture a few readers, but not nearly enough for true success. It may even become a bestseller. However, I have to ask myself before I write: Do I want this to be a bestseller because I followed a trend, or do I want to put sincere effort into entertaining people, even if the only “people” are myself and perhaps a beta reader or two? Believe me, I’ve written some stuff—mostly in my pre- and early-FM days, which, after getting critiques on it—I never attempted to fix. It simply wasn’t worth the effort. The people may have been entertained, but I don’t see how, looking back on some of the work I have from those early-FM years, because it was so laughably awful. Worse than the worst fanfic I’ve ever come across, and I’ve come across some pretty bad fanfic. My early original stories . . . no words to describe them. Just so awful the people who took the time and made the valiant effort to critique probably either wanted to wallbang it or laughed so hard at my storytelling mistakes—beyond mere Mary Sue characters, believe me—they could barely read at some points.

That bad.

I wrote that stuff with a GOAL, though, and it was to Become A Published Writer. So I wrote what I thought people would want to read. It wasn’t until I backed down from that stance when my writing truly began to improve. When I recaptured the ability of writing to entertain myself. I’d lost it as tome point between graduating school and finding FM.

Writing with a GOAL prevented me from learning. My skill stagnated, all my stories sucked. I was writing to others’ expectations, and writing had lost its charm for me. It didn’t take me long to realize the reason why I didn’t want to rework my first few posted stories on FM was because they were not in any way fun to think about, never mind contemplate reworking to make them better. So I moved on to other projects, went to workshops at conventions I attended to learn more, and studied my favorite books to the point of memorizing passages in order to improve my writing. It was all challenging, and fun, and it entertained me.

This is not to say I did not have goals for my writing. I’ve always had goals. They’re just small. First with the gay romances, I learned how to write without using “that” so frequently—I mean it, it was everywhere, when there are quite acceptable alternatives, the main one of which I use is to leave it out altogether, which, for the right sentences, works perfectly fine. I’m still in the process of learning to include description in my exposition. I’ve learned how to tag dialogue without using saidisms every single time—that was as bad as my nodding characters; if their heads weren’t in danger of falling off, they were overdramatic in how they spoke.

But I don’t have GOALS any more. No really BIG things which I obsess over and work to see happen. Yes, I want to publish, even now. Publishing, however, is not the GOAL it was before. That’s another thing the gay romances taught me: I’m not required to publish anything. I can be as happy hoarding my stories as I imagine I’ll be publishing them. Publishing, in essence, has become another of my little goals and is no longer the monumental step it was before.

Why?

Because the idea of publishing my stories is, like writing them, entertaining to me, and, ultimately, this is how I want all of my writing to be for me. It’s like forcing myself to read a book whose characters I don’t care about.

Why do it if I’m not entertained?

My Indie Publishing Career

It has long been my intent to go to college to gain skills for a good-paying job. Some few years ago (’09-’10 or thereabouts), I determined to go to community college for an Associate’s Degree in Accounting. That plan fell through one day because I couldn’t convince my mother, who’d driven me to the community college’s main campus to finish my applications process, to park where the parking lot attendant told her to. Upon hearing we couldn’t park in the cordoned-off area where students, staff, and faculty were permitted to park (provided they had the appropriate sticker or tag or whatever), Mom turned the car around the watch post with the declaration, “I’m not walking all that way to get to the building, and it’s too hot to sit in the car!”

Then again, Mom was never exactly supportive of my goal.

I let that setback beat me back down to the point of not bothering, and it was compounded a couple days later when I went to the financial aid site anyway to apply . . . and had an anxiety attack. Not a severe one, but I could not for the life of me get past the first few boxes I had to fill in with my name and other pertinent information required. It did not abate until I closed the site and went to read to get my mind off the stress of preparing for school, which I’d previously determined I’d find a way to get into no matter what it cost.

It remained in the back of my mind, though. Over the intervening years since my failed attempt, I researched careers, doing a better job this time, and finally settled on Medical Coding and Billing as the career I’d enter. I found the community college’s page with the listing of the class requirements on it and bookmarked it to revisit every so often to inure myself to the idea of going to school. I set a goal: I’d start school in Fall Semester of 2013.

Then I was diagnosed with cancer in August of last year, and all the appointments required for everything from examinations to surgeries to consults for chemo treatment took up that time I needed to apply, prepare, and attend classes. So I set back my college goal to Fall Semester of 2014. I would go to college in 2014, no matter what.

This entire time, I had the plan to Indie Publish my writing. I had that “all” set up in my mind. I’d finish a set number of books, then release them as soon as I had a paying job with my new Medical Coding and Billing skill. This thinking, I have to admit, was carried over from my old, abandoned, Trad Pub goal days. That goal was born in the Nineties. I’d have/get a full time job, write in my off-time, and send my finished product on the rounds of agents. And become Published.

I should say, these were the days when I was much more mentally stable without medications than I am now. I could have handled the Trad Publishing route then. My Bipolar, which I’m certain I presented to some extent in the Nineties (and probably even before, possibly as young as my teens), was not severe. I could sleep nights without assistance from even over-the-counter sleep aids. I was able to hold down a full-time job, and I appreciated all the “free” time my manufacturing positions gave my mind to play with story scenes and ideas, because I’d spend second shift working preplanning one or more scenes in my head, running them through over and over again until they were very nearly edited to perfection in my mind, then go home to spend the hours between midnight and three in the morning actually typing them out on Kitchen Imp, the computer Mom bought, which we put on a desk in the kitchen. A Trad Pub career for me at that time, if I’d been able to launch myself into it, may well have been successful. I was driven, and I was dedicated, and I intended to set the world on fire with my fantasy stories.

And I clung to that dream. Desperately. Get off of Government support. Get an education. Get a good-paying job. Then launch my publishing career. I had other goals wrapped up in this. Namely transitioning as far as possible and buying my own home. And those are still my goals. However, they’ve never been as powerful as my goal to become Published. And, even when I switched my goal to becoming Indie Published, the strength of my desire to be Published never flagged.

But I had an epiphany last week. At some point. I’m not sure what day any more. Probably at some point during the all-nighter I pulled in an attempt to reset my circadian rhythm. Such epiphanies as this generally hit me when I’m exhausted. Being overtired frees my mind, and I make progress on writing if I’m lucky, or have epiphanies about other things to do with my writing or, sometimes, as this one was, regarding my Real Life.

It occurred to me I could launch my Indie Publishing Career any time I want. I could launch it tomorrow, though I’d be woefully unprepared, and my books wouldn’t have covers, and half a hundred other things which need doing and need time to be done, not the least of which is completing radiation treatments. But I could launch my Indie Publishing Career tomorrow if I wanted.

It took several days for this flash of realization to really sink in, though, and I spent those days totally amazed at it, stunned, unable to believe the audacity of the thought. Any time I want. It, frankly, terrified me at first, this thought. As much as going to school terrified me. And I had to let that terror fade before I could even consider the option without freezing and experiencing a deeper anxiety than trying to fill out the financial aid form years ago gave me.

Once it faded sufficiently—a few days ago—I drew J.A. Marlow, the resident Indie Publishing Expert at Forward Motion for Writers into an Instant Messaging chat to discuss what I needed to do to begin the process of establishing my Indie Publishing Career from my current financial status. She had much good advice, and it got me thinking about things I need to start thinking about now if I’m going to make my Indie Publishing Career fly.

No, I’m not scrapping my college goals. They’re being set aside for the nonce, but not forgotten. First things I need to do are talk with Social Security about my SSDI and the VA about my Pension to determine what’s going to happen with my income. This is of prime importance. I need to know what to expect so I can plan for losing at least a part of this income once I start earning any money from sales of books, even if it’s only one or two sales a month. I can’t do this until after my radiation treatments are done, because it’s going to take at least half a day for five days a week anywhere from three to six and a half weeks to get this done—I won’t know until my contract to join the research study is signed and processed and the arm of the study I’m to go in has been randomly selected. Once I’m done radiation treatments, I’ll have the time I need to visit with representatives of Social Security and the VA to discuss this with them.

So, for the next several weeks, I’m going to create a list of questions to ask. I’m going to formulate a tentative Indie Publishing Career Plan, which I will set into motion before I’m certain of anything, because my goal to Indie Publish will remain no matter what, and no date is carved in stone at this point.

I will say this, however: My instinct is to scrap the school-and-paying-job goal and run with the Indie Publishing Career goal. I feel more strongly about this than about any other goal I’ve ever set or claimed to have. Even transitioning. Yes, I want to transition. I’d also very much like to buy my own place to live. But I don’t want either of those things with the same burning fire in the pit of my belly as I want my Indie Publishing Career. As terrifying (and, yes, I’m still deeply terrified of my Indie Publishing Career goal), as it is to think I may be able to get my Indie Publishing Career off the ground from where I’m at right now, it’s also exciting to think about. I feel more anticipation about this than about any other personal goal I’ve ever had. I want to go out and get it done right this minute and have felt this way, in some small way, from the moment I realized I could have my Indie Publishing Career any time I want.

It’s a big risk, an even greater challenge, but I feel better over this possibility than I’ve ever felt over my school-and-paying-job goal. That never excited me; I felt more dread over it, and trapped, and quailed at the thought of forcing myself to endure an uninspiring job. Starting my Indie Publishing Career absolutely thrills me, and the thought I could live my dream of sharing my words with people within two or three years instead of four or six fills me with such joy I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling.

But I’m not going to leap without looking, and I’m not going to do it without knowing what I can expect when I start publishing. I have plenty of time to research things and make a well-thought-out decision about this. It’s just that I feel far, far more certain about my Indie Publishing Career goal than I ever did about my school-and-a-paying-job goal.

© 2018 Ashe Elton Parker

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑