Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: September 2015

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.

Writing from Plot Points

I’m trying something new with my writing right now. On some of my projects—a few of the incomplete ones—I’m seeing how well I can write scenes directly from plot points.

Generally, my new habit has been to plot point things out as well as possible from the beginning or the point where I stopped. Then from those plot points, I extrapolate an outline. Frequently, I’ll write from the outline as I create it, up to 15-20 cards, then outline one for every scene written. I’ve discussed this method before, I believe. It seems to work fairly well for me, especially with projects where I’ve hit a wall I haven’t been able to work past before I do the plot points on them.

So instead of that, I’ve recently been putting down plot points to write from directly. This is a bit different than using the plot points to extrapolate plot cards. For one thing, the plot points offer a broader “view” of the wip. To keep myself from being overwhelmed with this method, I’ve been plot-pointing the next string of 4-8 scenes. Much more beyond 8, and I start getting overwhelmed.

I may have four plot points, but the scenes they encompass may come out to more. Instead of offering me the detail the outline does, the plot points provide me with a general picture of the scenes they describe, leaving things wide open for my interpretation of the plot points. With an outline, I’m “restricted” to what I have written on the card, and it’s frequently quite detailed, sometimes including dialogue. With writing from plot points alone, I don’t have that level of detail. It may be in my mind, but it’s not something I focus on until I reach that particular bit in my writing.

It’s a much more flexible style of planning out a work than the outline is. One thing I like about it is that I don’t have to plot-point out an entire story before starting on the outline. Though I now have Scapple, a brainstorming/plotting program by the makers of Scrivener, I still tend to use it as I used to plot point things out in Scrivener: by plotting scenes out of order.

In writing, I’m a linear thinker. While getting plot points or even plot cards out of my head out-of-order is possible, the resultant mess always drives up my anxiety and slows me down because I don’t want to deal with the cleanup necessary. With my writing-from-plot-points experiment, I’ve been plotting out the next number of scenes in order, then writing from the plot points until I have no more to extrapolate from. Then I write up more plot points, write from them, and so on.

So far, on the projects I have this new method running, things are going fairly well. I’ve been able to move past the blocks I’ve had on them and make progress. I feel comfortable with this method—in some ways more comfortable than plotting, outlining, and then writing makes me feel, but I’ll be continuing with that method on new projects, especially since the Scapple program makes it so easy to reorganize my messy plot points into a linear “picture” of the plot I intend for the story.

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(I didn’t realize until yesterday I put the wrong date on the previous post, so I apologize for any inconvenience this caused you. I had no intention of changing my regular post days of every Tuesday and Friday, and I have trouble picking out the days on the Windows 10 calendar for some reason.)

I’m going to go back in time a bit. Sometime shortly after I announced my hiatus, I visited my primary care doc for my annual checkup. Earlier in that week, when I’d been to the VA for a different appointment, I’d visited the lab to have my blood drawn for tests.

For a long time, one of my doc’s concerns has been my weight and the possibility of diabetes, especially since it runs in my family. My grandfather and an aunt on my mother’s side of the family both had/have diabetes, and my grandmother on my father’s side may have had it. With my weight slowly climbing and my mostly sedentary lifestyle, my doc was fairly certain I’d become diabetic.

So, during my visit with her on the 20th of last month, she told my my A1C (I think that’s what she said she had tested) was .1 above the cutoff for diabetes. I wasn’t very surprised, or even very upset. We discussed the fact I’d seen a dietitian and she’d approved my eating habits, which I’m cleaning up one thing at a time so I don’t go on unhealthy binges because I’ve made a sweeping exclusion of things I like and/or rely on for some reason currently.

And my doc told me she wanted me to exercise to control it. I expressed disappointment that the walks I’d been taking hadn’t done much to help me lose weight, then told her about the gym catty corner to my apartment on my block. Then, when I got home, I went right to that gym and got a membership. Luckily, they had a sign-up special going.

Since starting there, I’ve lost about 5 or 6 pounds. I’m enjoying the workouts and have seen a fitness person at the gym to help me work out an exercise regimen that’s working for me.

I’m struggling a little with the fitness stuff this week, primarily because I’m not sleeping well and I’ve felt exhausted when I get up. I’ve had two all-nighters since Friday of last week, and that hasn’t helped. Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be a full bipolar manic swing, though I definitely wish I was getting better sleep. I’m hoping this will straighten out by the end of the week so I can do my fitness stuff next week; I hesitate to do it when I’m feeling exhausted because I’m afraid of injuring myself.

My doc wants to see me again in December for another checkup. My appointment’s set for the 17th at 10:30.

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