Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: Writing

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.

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.”

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.

Confluence of Ideas

It’s about 10:40AM on Sunday, the 11th of June as I write this. Sleep didn’t come to me last night because I took my night meds too late, and my second wind hit before they did. So I’m up, and I’m fiddling on the computer, opening random Scrivener files and reading incomplete wips to the point where I have the most desire to read to. I do this pretty frequently with my incomplete wips. A sudden desire to read a particular scene will hit, and I’ll start at the beginning and keep going ’til I get there. Most often, I’ll read to where the story abruptly ends, in a spot where it really shouldn’t end, but does because that’s where my creative mind gave out, either in the outline, or directly in the wip where there’s no outline at all.

I did that until around dawn, when one of my writer friends came into Writing Groove’s chat. NPhoenix and I will often ramble at each other—her rambling has a way of triggering thoughts on my own stories. This morning was no different, and I think I have to thank, in part, my exhaustion for that, because, to be honest, I’ve made the most progress on any of my writing, no matter what I’m working on, when I’ve been exhausted this year.

So she started rambling about one of her shelved projects she hasn’t been able to figure out for a while, but for which she got hit with some big ideas last night in a shower before bed. I can’t take the liberty of explaining precisely what sparked my creative mind’s ideas beyond saying one of the major plot points hit me hard.

And reawoke interest in a story I’ve long struggled with.

Honestly, I forget exactly when I first wrote the original opening scene to “The Rose’s Thorn,” but I do know I did so long before I got Scrivener, because I had to get a program called Open Freely so I could even access the scene, never mind edit it. When I did that, I transferred it to Open Office, as that’s the only text editor I had at the time that I could write in. And there it languished for years, with me opening it occasionally to read as vague notions—or just a simple desire to read the scene—struck.

In the meantime, I got Scrivener, and I eventually moved “The Rose’s Thorn” into that program. Last year in September, I rewrote the opening scene (twice) and tacked two more scenes on the version I liked better. In those scenes, I came up with the official title of The Veiled Court. Shortly after writing them (by a few days, that is), I decided those additional scenes didn’t fit, though they read well, and I liked them, which is generally a good indication that I’m on the right track with a story.

After that, I let it languish. Mostly because the ideas ended with that third scene, and I blocked myself on the story by declaring two scenes I liked unfit for the wip.

But NPhoenix’s rambling reminded me of an aspect of the story . . . and built upon it on the 11th of this month. So I opened the file after she was done rambling and posting snippets from her shelved project. I read through what I had of the story. More ideas surfaced, along with the opening of book 2. For one POVMC, The Veiled Court will end on a cliffhanger. That seems to be my “thing” with novel series. Heck, even in the one duology series I have, book 1 ends on a mild cliffhanger that could actually be a passable (if mysterious) ending if I didn’t already have ideas for that story’s book 2.

Beside me on the floor between my plastic drawers and my rolling drawers-and-file cart, I have four brand-new story journals that I haven’t written in. I’m planning on opening up one of these and scribbling what I think of for The Veiled Court today. Because this is the most interested in any story I’ve been in weeks. I honestly don’t expect this period of inspiration to last beyond today, but I’m going to run with it, for it feels good to be thinking about any stories right now, especially one that’s languished so long.

You’re a Fraud!

I’ve heard it said that all skilled and/or successful writers experience a feeling of fraudulence in their writing lives. Now, I don’t know how true this is all across the board, but a number of the writers I associate with regularly do suffer Impostor Syndrome of some kind, at least a little. Sometimes they don’t even need to be in any way successful.

For the longest time, I didn’t think I went through this. I examined myself and my emotions whenever I added new words to a project. Neither did I feel it in relation to any success I’ve had with my writing. Negative comments don’t really have the power to make me feel like a fraud either; I just figure the problem with my story lies with the reader, not the story.

The things is, I’m extremely confident in my writing skill. I know my stories are good. They’re strong, they don’t have (many) plot holes. Since I started outlining my stories, my writing has only gotten better and stronger. If nothing else, I have supreme confidence that my writing is good and that I write well.

But I do suffer Impostor Syndrome, and feelings of fraudulence. When? This took a little examination of myself when I wasn’t actively writing on any projects, because I feel this way when I’m not adding new words to a project. No matter how much I may preach to other writers, who are newer to writing, or more uncertain of their skills that as long as they write at all, no matter how frequently they’re able to do it, they are a writer, I just can’t seem to internalize it for myself.

It’s really been hitting me strong this year. More than once I’ve nursed negative thoughts or shared negative opinions on my worthiness as a writer since I’ve not been writing as much as I want to. Every so often, the thought, “If I were a real writer, I’d be able to focus on something and complete it” or “I should be writing. A real writer writes almost every day” slides into my mind.

And honestly, I don’t really feel like myself unless I am writing. This has always been the case. I enjoy worldbuilding. Developing characters is fun. Plotting things out is really entertaining. But. None of these are writing.

But it’s the way my writing mind swings these days, and it’s elected to be mostly in “downswing” mode so far this year. Not enjoyable, fun, or entertaining. I’ll survive though. Making it through 2012 proved to me I can survive even complete lack of creativity for an extended period of time. At least right now I’m able to be creative during my downswings. That’s something good, right?

I’m Still Alive

Sorry I haven’t been very active on my site or Twitter over the past few months. The whole presidential race took it out of me, and I’m really only now starting to come out of my little mental self-protective ball. I’m not making any promises I’ll be back in any way permanently on Twitter until after January 20th, and I’m not willing to give a specific date. My bipolar is doing its thing, making me not care about crap to the point where it’s taken quite a bit of effort to type this message up. I have some goals for the year, and I’ll get around to posting them once I’ve managed to organize them enough to do so.

I think, for the site, I’m going to be pretty random with posts for a while; I’ll try to get something up at least once a week, but there’s just no way I’m mentally capable of keeping to a schedule at this time. Still not sure just what I’m going to do about the site, though I intend to make some decisions about it this year and do some sort of overhaul on it. Last year was just not a good year for anything, really, except my writing, and I’m hoping that this year will improve shortly.

2016 started off with a bang on the writing front, but so far 2017 has proven to be very lackluster on that front. I’ve managed to write maybe one or two scenes and done some editing of one of my complete stories since the 1st, but not much else. It hasn’t been a completely uncreative writing downswing, though, so I’m not feeling depressed quite yet. I’m hoping my Creative Mind will wake up pretty soon though. I’d love to write some more.

So that’s where I stand.

Side Effects Update 3

This entry is part 26 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I had my third chemo treatment on the 31st of December. Yes, New Year’s Eve. Then I proceeded to sit up past midnight (not really celebrating, but just zoning, fiddling with different things, and generally being a nuisance to myself).

Oops, I forgot to take my prep-antinausea meds the evening before and the morning of my treatment before leaving home. Nurse who did my chemo was displeased. I felt baaaaaad for forgetting my meds. I’m usually very good about taking them. It’s a good thing they provided about 20mg of the antinausea medication as part of chemo at the hospital, or I may not have been able to eat lunch. There was no appreciable difference in my administration-condition regarding stomach upset, though I did feel just vaguely uncomfortable in a very distant way.

Otherwise, my chemo treatment went pretty well. Had a little fun once I realized I could adjust the foot of the bed as well as the head, and had myself quite comfortable once treatment started. I read about halfway through a paperback by a favorite author while I was getting treatment, which was nice.

The next day? I was out most of it. Though I was up between seven and nine that night; there’s an entry on one of my writing logsheets for me starting a new project on that day. I’m not going to say much on it in this post, however, though I will admit it’s my Casi/Vel story.

On Thursday, I had an appointment with my Oncologist, and I was fairly alert for that. Was still draggy due to chemo fatigue, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the second day after the first treatment, even if it wasn’t as good as it was after my second treatment. Apparently, the severity of side effects fluctuates.

Like the diarrhea. That started the Monday after treatment, and lasted most of the week. Was uncomfortable by the end of last week, but not as tortured as I was after the first treatment’s experience with that week of PottyTime.

Chemo mouth wasn’t as pronounced this time around, either. The most I had was a slight sensitivity to spices and temperature, not nearly as much as after previous treatments. Tongue felt only a little dry, and for a shorter period of time, and I didn’t get any spots on my gums which felt particularly dry. It was more an all-over condition on the roof of my mouth, and not as severe as the spots were.

I have one more chemo treatment, and that’s supposed to happen on the 21st. Following that, I’ll be going in for my radiation setup appointment and then begin radiation. I’ve decided to join the research study they’re performing, so I’m not sure how long I’ll be going in—could be anywhere from three to six and a half weeks. I’ll discuss it more once I know what’s going to happen.

Veterans

I sometimes think of myself as a veteran by accident. Not because I didn’t intend to join the military, but because I wasn’t able to make it the career I planned to. I joined the Navy on the 17th of December in 2001. In basic training, my knees developed issues which caused pain and discomfort due to a disciplinary practice the petty officers of my division’s brother division instituted in order to get the females in my division to shut up because they seemed incapable of having quiet conversations: kneeling at attention. I don’t know why this simple and harmless discipline caused my knees to go bad; nobody else suffered ill effects from it.

I gave up writing in order to make the Navy my career, and I stuck it out in boot camp despite my knee problems. In part because I was so determined to succeed in the Navy. The rest was because my petty officers were supportive and told me I could get proper help for my knees at my Advanced Training School. I was never happier than the day I graduated basic training, and I had utmost confidence I’d succeed in every future endeavor I made while in the Navy.

Unfortunately for me, my condition, patella-femoral syndrome, where the kneecap slips out of place, was considered irreparable by the head officer of my training school’s medical center. Even after physical therapy and practicing a separate physical fitness regimen designed to “repair” my knees by strengthening specific muscles so my kneecaps wouldn’t shift, I was discharged based on my medical problem on the 1st of November 2002.

So, I sometimes consider myself a veteran by accident.

And it makes me very appreciative of those who have been able to serve in the US’s military on a more permanent basis. From those who enter merely for a college education, to those who have spent twenty or more years serving our country—I cannot help but respect and admire that kind of dedication. I have some small inkling of the price they pay, and the rewards they gain, for their Service.

It is no small thing to enter the military. It requires dedication, determination, and a strength of will not many people have. I have known people who entered and dropped out because it was “too hard” to go through basic training. When I was in basic, I admired my petty officers. Hell, I admired pretty much anybody I met who was in the military before joining the Navy. They’d done something admirable, and I still hold immense respect for them. Perhaps even more respect than before, because I know something of what they went through to become the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines they are today.

So, on this Veterans day, I wish all our Veterans—those still in Service as well as those who have left it and rejoined the civilian world—a happy Veterans’ Day. You have my respect and my admiration, and always will.

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