Yesterday I got a lot of writing done. I started off the day a little late, after beating myself up most of the day before. You might not know it to read my last post, but things were not good. I had a few deadlines which would have been due today at 2pm, but first I had to take care of some other things.

I visited with my therapist for an hour and got some things lined out. It will probably be my last session for a while. She is very helpful, in spite of it just being over the phone due to social distancing. According to her, a lot of the thoughts whizzing through my head are attributed to grief. Grief over my relationship, my work, and even the general grief many of us are experiencing due to the pandemic. The world is changing and like it or not, we are mourning the loss of how things were before. It just sucks.

After that, I went to my doctor for my yearly physical. She was not happy that with the end of my job I wouldn’t have medical insurance with them…possibly indefinitely. She is a really good doc and has an excellent bedside manner. I discussed a lot of things that are going on, and she pretty much echoed what my therapist had said: Stress. Nearly all of my concerns were stress related and she couldn’t blame me one bit for any of them. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

I wrote a personal blog post, and then I sat down to write one of my paid posts. I decided I would write it and then do the second that was due today when I woke up in the morning. I got it outlined and then a regular client dropped three on me, which I did in the interim. I ate some food, made some coffee and finished the big assignment. I watched a couple episodes of Peaky Blinders. Made dinner. Drank a cider. Read a little. And my brain would not shut up. It was midnight when I crawled into bed and my heart was just going. So, I figured I might as well put the time to good use.

I got up, wrote the next big post from start to finish, and had the whole thing done before 2am. My brain would not shut up.

So I took a melatonin and before long, I was watching patterns ebb and flow in my vision even though my eyes were closed. My brain would not shut up. I fell asleep around 3am. Then I woke up at about 4:30am. My brain still just going and going. I fell asleep and woke up again at 6:30, then 8:30. Then I finally dragged ass out of bed at 10:45am. My head was pounding.

I managed somehow to drive to get coffee. That part is a little foggy. I got home, paid some bills, and made a hamburger. I am not a happy camper, and I blame stress, as well as melatonin. I feel the effects of that even now. I feel drugged, in spite of the caffeine I have been mainlining since I got up. Part of me also wonders if I’m not going through FaceBook withdrawals. I am 36 hours clean right now. When your doc and your shrink both tell you social media is bad for you, it’s beneficial to listen to them.

There has got to be a better way. Eventually, I hope, my brain will give me some damned peace and quiet. Until then, I plan on taking a nap. This evening, I hope to work on the book some more.

The Glass is Half Full

Yesterday was a rough day. I’m struggled with the idea of putting these words down, mostly because even though this is a personal blog, I get a lot of traffic from other sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Why I chose to list a personal blog on an employment site is beyond me. After all, so much about getting a J-O-B is telling an employer what they want to hear.

In my case what I want an employer to SEE is that I am a writer. I don’t pull punches. My work is honest. This is my voice. That is what a writer should be. Open up the veins and bleed onto the page, like Hemingway used to say. Easy as that. But these days, people only want to hear what they want. Things that will make them feel secure in their decisions, ways that will allow them to sleep better at night.

I’m sleeping for shit.

If you are a prospective client, you’ll notice that sentence was in the active voice. Your SEO checker on your website would be pleased. But I would also hope you know too that SEO bots don’t know everything. They know absolutely nothing about the human condition.

Yesterday, all my problems were right in my face

Yesterday was hard because I’m dealing with the confluence of many problems. Getting my writing off the ground, dealing with a week without my son at home, grieving the loss of what felt like a really good relationship, and of course a layoff. I have been officially unemployed for over a week now. It isn’t much different from the preceding four weeks where a giant workstation occupied my kitchen table and I would log in a few times a day to fight fires. Only now I can eat my meals at the table without a computer in my face.

If you are one of my friends who is reading this, you might have noticed I am off FaceBook. I pulled the plug last night. One of the reasons I kept with it as long as I did was to promote my blog and podcast posts. FakeBook is social media at its worst. I have railed about this plenty of times, but I will sum up what it wrong with it in a nice bulleted list:

  • It’s bullshit: People put a false image of what their lives are and that is what we are supposed to believe.
  • Algorithms don’t give a fuck about you: Out of those 300+ “Friends” on your list, why is it you only see posts from about 20 of them? The rest of the content you are scrolling through for literally hours every day is put there to take money out of your pocket and put it into someone else’s. It’s mostly ads or videos that get paid for the number of clicks. Your information is scoured for data everyday and that is all you will see in return. It’s the echo-chamber effect. Why do you think that the dogmas of the political parties have gotten so much worse? Or why any dissention against the coronavirus pandemic are dealt with in such polarized ways? Look up “Garbage in/Garbage out.”
  • It’s lonely: Seeing the happy lives of others, even if it is fake, doesn’t make you feel any better about yourself. The serotonin drip from instant gratification of every like, heart, care, etc. etc. is there to keep you maintaining. The isolation you find yourself in every time you logon is there to promote scarcity. If you have been in an unhealthy relationship, you’ll know that withholding affection is actually a good way to get someone to try to cling tighter to you. Dole out a little approval and they will keep trying. The situation works exactly the same with lab rats and training circus animals. Only in that case, they respond better to food.

The risks and the gains

By dropping off FakeBook, I risk losing a lot of readers. But, I also get several hours of my day back. I can put that to better uses, such as writing, and actually socializing when this lockdown is in the past. As it stands, I only had a handful of readers come through from FakeBook anyway. Most of the time they would scroll right past my blog links or just “like” them. Writers actually like to be read. It’s frustrating to be a writer these days. I guess I will find out who genuinely follows my blog, and who just likes to scroll in the upcoming weeks.

At this shitstorm of depression, uncertainty, and isolation, I’ve had a hell of a time being motivated to do much of anything. Some mornings I have to will myself to get out of bed, brush my teeth, get showered, and anything else that used to just be a part of my daily routine. Gone are the evening phonecalls with my girlfriend, which were wonderful at helping my mind wind down, which have now been replaced with a sense of mistrust and scepticism for anyone saying that they are “all in.” Gone are the good morning texts. Gone are the regular paychecks that ensure I won’t starve to death–even if the work was at a minimum and hardly fulfilling.

My coping mechanisms have been absent as well. I used to work out several times a week, and I have to say that 40 minutes on an eliptical is as good as a therapy session for burning that stress out of your mind. Trips to the store to buy healthy foods whenever I wanted to are now a hassle. It’s fat and flour, stuff out of a box, and to-go orders for the last two months. Garbage in. Garbage out. You can’t be mentally healthy with junk food fueling your body. I have lost weight though, mostly because I have been living off coffee and not eating meals a lot of the time.

Wiggle your big toe…

Routine is important because it gives us structure. Humans need structure as much as affection, and new experiences. It has been an uphill battle to brush my teeth, eat, and exercise, much less write, build websites, or record podcasts. It helps to set goals, no matter how small or nearby. I will get up. I will brush my teeth. I will shower. I will do the dishes. I will return that phone call. I will get coffee. I will take the next breath. I will put one foot in front of the other. And so on…

I’m tired of distracting myself with empty things. Because when things are empty, you are filling them with what little you have left in your tank. Right now, I have things that need to be done. I think it’s pretty telling when you talk to your doctor and your therapist about getting off social media and both of them say “Good!” I got less flack from my doctor about cigars than I did FaceBook. Though I did get flack.

Anyway, I have a lot of work to do. If you are interested in my progress, bookmark my site, because I won’t be posting links on FaceBook anymore unless it somehow does it automatically to a closed page or account.

Mondays…something, something, Garfield, probably.

This Monday morning, Memorial Day 2020, is rough, I’m not gonna sugar coat it. I was up until 3:00am, unable to sleep, anticipating having to get up at 7 to take my son back to his mom’s house. Of course, he woke me up at 6, banging around the house, getting a snack, firing up the iPad to watch YouTube videos. I slept for shit anyway. Bad dreams.

Today, I wanted nothing more than to just get the day going with some writing. It’s nearly 10:30am and after an attempt to go back to bed, get showered, and an Americano to start the day, not necessarily in any semblance of that order, I am up. Forcing myself to put my butt in the chair and write. So I decided to start here.

I could probably benefit from getting some exercise in this morning. Maybe do some kettlebells, or take a bike ride around the area. I have to do something to get my brain to start working because whatever I’ve done so far today sure as hell isn’t working.

I’ve been thinking about a few things regarding writing, and in the last few days, I have been fortunate enough to see three examples of good writing that made it to the screen.

First of all, the show Fleabag. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a goddamned genius. This show, based on a play she wrote and also starred in was brilliant. Seeing something like this makes you want to just give up and say, “I’m not a writer. Not when there is something like this around. Nope.” It was that good. I binge watched both seasons on Amazon Prime last week. I wish I had known about this sooner. If you haven’t seen it, check it out.

The next piece of writing I have enjoyed was the series, Peaky Blinders. Not only for how everything is put together, but also from the acting. The juxtapositioning of the modern soundtrack and Wes Anderson type slow-mo walking and looking like badasses throughout, as well as underappreciated actor, Cillian Murphy and his cohorts who could really benefit from a decent fade at a barber shop.

The third piece of work that I have enjoyed thoroughly has been Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The N-word free Tarantino film (even Inglorious Basterds got one in there), and honestly, one of his best films yet. I’ve watched it 3.5 times already. I look at a movie like that and from concept to writing to executing on a film-making level, it is also intimidating. The guys from Half in the Bag consider it to quite possibly be the last great American film that will ever be made. It’s entirely possible. I don’t see movie theatres coming back after this pandemic. Not that there is anything really worth seeing out there anyway. It would be nice if books came back.

As far as movies go, I think last summer saw Apex Marvel and throwing in phase 325 of the MCU will just bring out a bunch of obscure characters nobody knows or cares about, a lot of “woke” Disney fuckery/puritanism, and honestly after ten years of Marvel movies blowing their wad on Thanos in the last one, we are collectively owed a nap and some orange juice for the next five or six years to recover. I haven’t seen the last Star Wars movie, and I probably never will. The Mandalorian set the bar pretty high for that, and it’s because it’s all about the Characters, stupid.

Today, I planned on working on my own book. The forerunner to Song of the Cinder, which has elements of stories that have been knocking around in my skull for most of my life. Some of these ideas stem from a comic that I drew when I was in the Fifth or Sixth grade. Which I’m sure my mom threw out along with various other treasures because I decided I didn’t need to clean my room, but rather just shuffle my feet through the piles of toys if I wanted to go from point A to point B. The world that finally took shape from a Tolkienesque high-fantasy world to the alternative history fantasy world of Cinder came about because some things really bothered me about fantasy writing.

Everybody just loves Tolkien, but I have the same problem with him as I do everyone else. There are familiar elements to our world that have absolutely no business even existing in the stories. Take for instance, the use of the days of the week in the Hobbit and LotR. If it’s a pre-history, then why the hell is there a Monday-Sunday week? So many things in fantasy books are anachronistic. Either it’s another world, or it’s this world. Even language, if it’s another world, has things based in Latin and Greek roots, French, and even Asian languages. Armor, weapons, all of it is basically a bunch of furniture hoarded up in the attic of a Dungeons and Dragons-esque compendium of tropes and tidbits that just get hauled out whenever someone needs a monster, or a cool sword, or something sampled from another writer/world/game whenever the mood suits them.

So, anyway, my story evolved from the same ripped-off high fantasy story to something else. Something that was more recognizable and I didn’t have to go about reinventing things like weapons and language because I learned too much and understood its origins. And how much they rely on roots that are deeply set into our own world, with centuries of religion, nation-building, folk-lore, and other elements that you cannot deny.

I think I need a nap.