Still Alive, Still UPBEAT

So I finally quit my soul-sucking job as a grant writer. I didn’t last very long (six months), but I got tired of applying to jobs in the meantime and waiting to hear back before I put in my two weeks. Luckily I have good friends, supportive parents, and a very stable girlfriend. I’ve taken a significant pay cut but now I’m working for a bookstore and life is slightly less heavy.

Untitled by jamieswang on Flickr.

Untitled by jamieswang on Flickr.

Mostly every day is still a struggle between problems with self-worth and anxiety. I’ve found that working in retail helps twofold (kinda) because I’m on my feet all day and I’m mostly smiling at customers all day, which convinces my brain to think, “Hey, we must be happy!” It’s nice to be working in a more open environment, surrounded by things in which I’m interested, as well as to be working with more amiable coworkers and managers.

Still, the struggle to remain UPBEAT continues. It’s been about two years since I started my novel and I am still struggling on the precipice of the 50% mark. About a quarter of the time I wonder if this project is still worth the struggle when I could just as easily take up something new. Another quarter of the time the apathy takes over and I distract myself with reading and crocheting and all the shiny new TV shows Netflix has to offer. The rest of the time is taken up by Real World concerns and the slog through the actual writing, novel or otherwise. (Shameless plug: I am still regularly writing on media representation and diversity for OKPotato and we should all be proud!)

So, here are some great distractions for the rest of you also struggling to write!:

  • Anything by Helen Oyeyemi. I’ve seen her name on Tumblr for a while, so I picked up Mr. Fox and White is for Witching and added them to my To Be Read pile. I’ve only gotten around to both recently and they are fantastic. The former is about an author’s muse confronting the author’s penchant for killing off his female characters. Together they rewrite fairy tales, transforming the real world into Mr. Fox’s stories. The latter novel is a challenge well-worth it, a Shirley Jackson-esque gothic house horror mixed in with racial politics. Oyeyemi’s other books include Boy Snow Bird (a twist on Snow White) and The Icarus Girl (a horror story with Nigerian mythology).

    3

  • I recently spent some much-needed and precious alone time with my girlfriend and we made the mistake of deciding on my Netflix DVD queue to help us bond. We watched South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s first English-language film, Stoker (2013). We knew it was a psychological thriller going in and we were excited to see Nicole Kidman angrily acting opposite Mia Wasikowska but we also had no idea about any of the plot points.

    The movie follows 18-year old India (Wasikowska) following the death of her father. Her grieving mother (Kidman) accepts support from her long-absent younger brother-in-law, Charlie (a very creepy Matthew Goode), who immediately moves into the house and begins to approach India as a kindred soul. (SPOILER ALERT) Basically this turns into the incestuous serial killer romance I never knew I wanted or needed, complete with piano orgasms, hunting metaphors, and lots of dramatic dysfunctional family yelling.

  • Lastly, if you’re as stressed as I am, I highly suggest crocheting and heading over to my friend Jojo-gurumi‘s page for some really cute, fairly simple patterns.

Got any more distractions for me or words of wisdom to keep me from going astray, readers? Let me know in the comments. As always, check Chebk and I out at OKPotato for book reviews, writing tips, and discussions of diversity in books, movies, and more!

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Being an Adult is Hard

I’m sure if I google this blog title I’ll come up with millions upon millions of results, but that would be depressing so I won’t risk it.

Lately I’ve been complaining that no one really prepared me for my twenties. Nothing I learned in high school health class seems applicable now except how to balance my checkbook, which…I don’t do because I don’t use my checks. (Side note: I’m sure all the sex ed would have been helpful had I been straight. Whoops.) I would also be lying if I said I didn’t know what I expected for this time of my life because what I expected was to be a published author, writing all day and night effortlessly, not having to worry about the daily work grind. I was allowed to be an idealist for 25 years of my life. I’m sure there were naysayers aplenty that I just ignored. So now I’m facing the reality of it all: I am the one who did not prepare myself for my twenties and, fuck, it wasn’t a good choice.

I pushed myself hard through school but never really pushed myself into working to sustain it because I was lucky enough to have my parents to help with schooling while I still lived at home. That’s a goddamn lot of privilege, I am well aware.

So, now, here I am working part-time, writing the rest of the time (or trying to) and struggling ALL the time. My girlfriend of four years is still in school to get her second degree in the sciences but she has also added on a full-time job. We see each other a lot less and, if I take on a full-time position at my present job, we will see each other only on weekends very soon. I’m learning pretty quickly how naive I was to think that we could keep each other as a main daily priority through all these very sudden Adult Decisions. It’s jarring and depressing and nauseating.

I am trying to finish my novel to maybe make my teenage dream a reality but the lingering thought through everything now is: What if I just don’t make it as a writer? What if this is it?

The important thing, I know, is to try because that is the only way to climb up out of the mire, but then there are still so many other people that are going to be left to fill my position and that…that is also depressing.

So, because today is so dark, a brief list of good things to hold on to:

1. Good relationships all around
2. An almost half-finished novel. (Dear self, That is something, whether you choose to believe it or not. Love, Me.)
3. No rent to pay. What a spoiled brat.
4. A writing group that believes in me enough to try to convince me not to work full-time and sell my soul.
5. I don’t know, puppies or something.

I’m trying. I say this a lot now days. I think that may be the point of my twenties.

I am going to make it through this year if it kills me!

There and Back Again: A Blogger’s Tale

At 4’5″ I still qualify for some hobbit-related licenses. Also, can I just say: There was a kind of tragic, but arrogant victory in leaving my NaNo 2014 fail up for so long, wasn’t there?

Well, I’m back! — but I have not been idle. I have been working tirelessly with Chebk to kick our shared blog, OKPotato, into gear, where we focus on media representation and diversity in stories. Please, also check out the guest blog I did for Cynthia Griffin on self-editing, (which I hope to be expanding on here very soon). Books have been read and weird short stories have been written but I have admittedly been neglecting this blog and…my novel.


I have no idea what I am doing with my life besides wanting to be a published writer. Paradoxically this has been keeping me from writing because what if I fail? I know, in my head, that the trying is more important that the not trying, but these past few months have been an uphill battle.

Still, I’m back in the saddle and I have a really good support system cheering me on. Chebk and I are doing a daily blogging challenge for January, so you can see some of my writing there. I will also be updating weekly to biweekly here starting with a truly embarrassing anecdote-based blog Chebk has been pushing under the guise of a human interest piece, so look forward to that, friends.

For now, happy belated new year, and let’s get this party re-started.

NaNoWriMo: Day 19-21 (Except Not Really)

SO BEHIND IN WORD COUNT.
10K BEHIND.

I am both figures pictured here.
Created by Lucile Patron.

One day there will be a blog post about how I am on word count and everything is wonderful, but that day is not today.

Instead I have been on a reading sprint this week to start queuing up for reviews over at OKPotato, Cya’s and my new blog about diversity in (YA) lit. Young Adult literature is far from my favorite genre these days, half due to the general writing technique and half to do with the lack of diversity (both representation and general story lines). HOWEVER, YA is such a portal into the wider world of fiction for so many teenagers who benefit from media representation in much different ways than younger children.

As a young, gay Asian teen, I scoured the library for all LGBT books and usually ended up more satisfied with gay and lesbian couples in manga than in any Western YA lit. I don’t know if what I read in high school has shaped what I read today, but Cya and I are looking back at YA particularly because of the lack of diversity in all of its subgenres (fantasy, science fiction, supernatural, modern/contemporary). There seem to be more titles available now than when I was in high school (and I’m not that old, guys; this was back in the early 2000s), but those numbers are relatives. There are still pretty slim mainstream pickings.

In any case, Cya and I went on a book spree this past weekend, journeying from a library book sale to Barnes & Noble.

FullSizeRender
We did our best to look for female protagonists and non-white main characters, although the book sale was basically a rummage sale. You can read my review of Benjamin Alire Sanez’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which features two queer Mexican cis male main characters, at OKPotato. (Although I think Ari can be read as transgender.)

I also had the opportunity to borrow Cya’s newly acquired used copy of Grace Lin’s Newberry award-winning Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. It’s an illustrated novel that repurposes traditional Chinese folktales into a young Chinese girl’s fantastical journey. I’ll probably be reviewing it at OKPotato some time soon, but thought I’d mention it here to justify my time away from NaNo.

There are less than ten days left in NaNoWriMo. It will be interesting to see if I can catch up to at least the 50K, if not Cya’s 75K challenge. Update you all on Monday. Have productive writing weekends!

NaNoWriMo: Day 11, 12, & 13

Writing every day shouldn’t be this hard and yet here I am: at a wall. Right back where I started.

Back to 90s/00s X-Files computer scenes because I found this one waiting around to be used in my NaNo folder.

Back to 90s/00s X-Files computer scenes because I found this one waiting around to be used in my NaNo folder.

It is way too easy for me to get distracted when I am stuck for new ideas or a decent scene transition. About 90% of the time I know what I should do to get past the hard parts (100% of the time that answer is just write it and fix it later), but I usually like to pretend the other 10% actually exists and I am an insufficient writer and person.

Things I have done in the past few days to avoid writing:
-Watched “Galaxy Quest” for the first time with the justification that Netflix could take it off any day now, which is a clear and blatant lie. (Side note: It was great and I had all the feelings.)
-Attended a farewell party for a military friend who is just going to be back from Alaska in two months anyway. I usually avoid these social gatherings because my anxiety goes through the roof. Most of the people in attendance are classmates from high school who I haven’t kept in touch with since high school. I ate a copious amount and spent most of the evening talking to the few people there I happen to see on a weekly basis anyway.
-Accompanied my girlfriend to various errands to get out of the house.
-Marathoned previous “Top Chef” seasons to justify our lackluster feelings for the current season.
-Went to bed unreasonably early, telling myself it would only help me write better the next day.

Bad writer.

The realization of how much I’m going to have to edit is more than a little disheartening, especially because most of what I’m writing for NaNo is a reworking of what I had already written of Part Two and previously deemed garbage. Most of it is being rewritten from scratch, which helps things interesting, but I’m having trouble convincing myself that this is different and slightly better garbage than the original. It gets easier to just not write than to keep writing what doesn’t feel right.

Of course, all the writers say that’s how it is and just keep going. I’m sure one day in the future, assuming I ever finish this project, I will say the same and use this blog post as an example but — right now is still awful.

To make things more awful: To catch up with Cya’s 75K wordcount, I have to do 5K for the next three days. Which I want to accomplish. NaNo is great for me because I am secretly competitive and this public self-shaming of blogging and NaNo count puts the pressure on me. It’s like being back in school, the only time I was ever on-time with any writing.

You will note that there is no actual writing advice here, only shame and apathy. (Maybe tomorrow, friends. Maybe tomorrow.)

ON A BRIGHTER NOTE, Cya and I will be making a joint announcement this weekend, but before that — to keep up with my every other day blogging, which I missed yesterday — I will be doing a short blog on diversity in fiction, particularly science fiction since that’s my current novel genre. So, look for that tomorrow I guess.

NaNoWriMo: Day 7 & 8

IT IS DAY EIGHT AND I AM ALREADY 8K BEHIND HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? (Never mind; I know exactly how this happened.) No post today. Too busy playing catch-up. Check my Twitter for my descent into insanity. I will also be editing here in case this day gives anyone else hope, watching me claw my way out of self-imposed hell.

It was between this and a picture of Mulder with a single tear running down his cheek from my google search of "xfiles sad."

It was between this and a picture of Mulder with a single tear running down his cheek from my Google search of “xfiles sad.”

Edit: Hit 10K of 16K.  Send help.

Edit 2: Have a song for your writing pleasure. (Note: I don’t know what’s going on with this X-Files NaNo thing any more. My writing has nothing to do with aliens or the supernatural.)

Edit 3: What are words. What is the meaning of life.  12K of 16K.

Edit 4: Took a break by exercising but the excess stress turned everything into overexercising. Regret. So much regret.

Edit 5: 14K of 16K. Why is this my life. NEVER AGAIN, NANO. I HAVE LEARNED MY LESSON ABOUT FALLING BEHIND. I AM A CHANGED WOMAN.

Edit 6: That’s a lie. Five seconds after posting that edit I was filled with a surge of immense pride. Look at this! I can fall behind whenever I want and it will be fine! I’m great. This is great. This is the best NaNo day ever.

Edit 7: That was also a lie. Five minutes later and I am back to dying. My fingers hurt.

Edit 8: Showered to avoid writing. Came back to see some tweets from fellow people avoiding NaNo by checking twitter. My people.

Edit 9: Have an inspirational video: Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” commencement speech. Alright. 2K more. Let’s do this.

Edit 10: HRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH. 16K OUT OF 16K BITCHES, WITH A LITTLE EXTRA TO GET ME THROUGH TOMORROW. I AM SO TIRED. NEVER AGAIN.

Current word count: 16,492

NaNoWriMo: Day 5 & 6

Lately Chebk and I have been discussing the brainwashing involved in any writing, but especially for NaNoWriMo.

But, first, obligatory X-Files 90s Computer cap:

Sexy.

Sexy.

So: Brainwashing. Some of you may remember my tragic Mid-Novel Malaise (Pt.1, Pt. 2),  and my somewhat apathetic downfall involving a very simple solution: Not writing. Anything. At all. Ever. Obviously that was not the best long-term solution to finishing a novel, let alone a short story. Chebk convinced me to join NaNoWriMo with her so I would start writing again, just as she was jumping back into her novel-length project, which had also been put on hold. Birds of a feather and all that.

We’re still in the first week of the challenge and there is already despair (Chebk) and ruthless optimism disguising even deeper despair (me). We are both admittedly rusty about getting back into the swing of writing daily and I have decided to approach this by convincing myself, every day, that I am THRILLED to be writing. We’re going to finish the challenge! We will meet every daily word count! Look how fun this is! Aren’t we doing well?!

Hysterical and depressing though this may sound, ladies and gentlemen, this has so far proven useful. For one thing, it keeps me from thinking too hard about what I’m writing because the part of my brain in charge of persistent judgment is drowned by the other new part yelling IT IS OKAY EVERYTHING IS OKAY JUST KEEP WRITING WE ARE HAVING FUN LOOK AT ALL THESE WORDS KEEP GOING YAAAAY. To be honest, this usually comes out in a voice reminiscent of a person who knows their plane is going down and is trying to keep their three-year old child very calm. But still. It drowns the judgment. That’s the part that matters.

anxiety

This is the last vaguely depressing comic for this post. Promise.

Day Five involved about 500 words and a lot of TV due to some health problems.  (The GF and I marathoned How to Get Away With Murder which inspires me to write if only because of the inconsistencies and predictability that make me want to do better. It is a very pretty show though — and Viola Davis! This has been a tangent.)

Today is Day Six and the litany of hysterical optimism is back in full-force, especially since I am now officially behind in my word count. I’ll be back to update my word count unless it is too shameful to post. Hopefully this weekend will bring a boost in word count and self-esteem.

Thank you for reading the beginning of my spiraling descent into true NaNo madness.