Monthly Archives: January 2016

It’s Got Anxiety

I am doing too many projects too close together, in too much of a state of near-readiness (okay to be fair one would be in too much of a state of near readiness) and I am taking all of these self-imposed deadlines way too hard. I can tell this because I’ve turned myself into a living embodiment of the “it’s got anxiety” meme. Do not do this.

It’s not as though I didn’t have warning. The entire back half of last year was spent doing twenty things in a day and muttering to myself that this incessant need to be productive, to justify things that are not productive (watching TV, playing Diablo) with finishing absolutely everything beforehand. It’s not even as though this is uncommon! I don’t know off the top of my head what any of the technical terms for it are, but I know it’s not uncommon. (Editrix: f we’re talking SUPER technical that’s totally in the OCD family of anxiety; workaholism, superwoman complex, my desperate need to go stab John Calvin in the face?) (Thank you, my dear, the swords are in the garage loft.)

Let’s have a breakdown, pun entirely intended, of what’s going on now. I’m writing this blog post so I don’t have to look at Sandborn and deal with the last few edits before it goes off to the Editrix for a second pass. After which it’s entirely possible that all the major structural edits will be done and all that’s left is typos and word choices before it goes to publication, so there’s that anxiety. Then there’s White Lightning, which is so far behind schedule it’s come all the way around to potentially be on schedule a year later, plus trying to balance this with finishing the draft of Long Road so that can sit and percolate. I’m studying Arabic and Hindi and making slow progress, which is great, but I’ve started these languages for the third time. All of last year was wheel spinning. Not the crafty fun kind. I’ve picked up guitar, which is going fine except for not managing to do regular exercises in the exercise-a-day book the way I want to, I’ve started drawing which… no, actually, that may be the one thing that doesn’t have a caveat attached to it. So I have that going for me. But my online course in bio is semi-comprehensible at best and I seem to attach the same kind of importance to that as I do to classes I took in real live school, so that’s not helping. We’ve got a fair amount of blog-work to do that, given the timeframe, is not awful but needs to be addressed before it becomes so. Plus martial arts, plus eating healthy, plus dressing myself and keeping a budget, plus plus plus.

And part of this is almost definitely that I’m still wobbly on time management and the very small margin for exhaustion I leave myself. And part of this is that no, I do not have a deadline on the progress I make in the umpty-million languages I want to progress in, I do not have a deadline on the guitar or the drawing, if I do not get the practice in every night it’s fine. If I take a night to do nothing but write and play Diablo, that’s fine too. If I go to bed early and skip Arabic and Hindi for a night, that’s okay. If I decide to up and quit either or both of those languages, no one is going to penalize me but me.

This is where one of those we are our own worst enemies. We give it coming and going, coming with the scheduling and going when we inevitably realize that we’ve fucked ourselves over and there is no room to breathe here, we forgot to allow ourselves time to be human. To have nervous fits, to have bad days, to catch colds, to have something break. Ourselves or the material we’re working with, pick one. We’re not machines. We get tired.

I don’t know why this is such a hard concept for me to grasp. I try to comfort myself by telling myself this isn’t just me, I’m not the only one that does this. Whether or not I believe myself is a whole other story again, because see also anxiety and the chaos in my head tends to eschew sensibility in favor of whatever is most dramatic at the time. Normally this would also be the part in the blog post when I offer a pithy solution, but I don’t have any of those either.

The only solution or saving grace I have to offer is this self-examination. Good habits, and several years of reminding myself that downtime is just as important as productivity. More so, because it gets left by the wayside so often. Sleep, as my doctor recently reminded me, is essential to good health. Rest is, also. Anxiety and memes and compulsive need to measure up to ridiculous standards aside, my worth as a human being is not measured by how many amazing and useful things i can get done in a day, and neither is yours. We can be our own worst enemies, or we can breathe and take a moment and be our own allies the way we would for any other friend.

There are enough things in this world trying to tear us down, tear us apart. Let’s try and not be one of them.

Make It And Break It, or Drawing Lessons

As part of my whole new year new me plan — that’s sales pitch speech for I took advantage of the collective concept of transitional space to fold in a bunch of new lessons and skills into my day — I picked up some drawing supplies and drawing lessons. No particular reason, it was a thing I have vague memory of enjoying and decided to try doing again.

It’s going pretty well! For a given definition of well, I mean, it’s going, I’m persisting. But I’m running into the same problem I did when I was a high school student, I can’t draw what I see in my head, I certainly can’t draw up to the degree that other people I know can, therefore what’s the point in even trying, and I put it down. Or I stop, or I put off practice and I put it off and I put it off.

This week I haven’t been doing much of it because it’s been a very rough week and I haven’t been doing much of anything, so I expect to run into this again. But on Sunday I had a fit of wanting to avoid it somewhere on the scale of I was almost more ready to pay the monthly bills than I was to do drawing practice. And this was something I was excited and ready and bouncing to do even before the appointed time of starting regular practice, so clearly something was wrong. I didn’t even have to do much mental digging to figure out what was wrong, this idea that if I can’t do it perfect right the first time I shouldn’t bother trying at all is far too familiar. In a lot of kids it happens because they’re told they’re gifted. They’re told they’re smart, they’re brilliant, they should live up to their potential, they should do ten different things in a day in addition to their regular schoolwork and they should be brilliant at all of them. I wasn’t told I was especially brilliant, especially gifted, or put in any G&T programs. I still got a good-sized dose of the everything is easy and perfect the first time or it is crap.

That whole concept is crap. It is bullshit of the first water.

I didn’t get the full dose of this toxic crap and I still have to remind myself that making mistakes, drawing a thousand bad things, awkward people and poorly shaded lilies and bowls of things that might if you squint real hard be fruit, all of these things are what makes a good artist. Making mistakes, writing stories that I look back on ten years later and twitch, this is what makes me a good writer. Playing Wish You Were Here or, heh, Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity right now, playing them a thousand times, in bits and pieces, and making twanging sounds that made me glad I picked guitar instead of violin (seriously, have you ever heard the beginning stages of getting beautiful music out of violin, it’s not fun), this is what will make me a musician. And that means making myself draw the feather, shade the lily, sketch the stupid damn fruit. And watch myself doing it. And learn from my mistakes, and try not to get into the habit of making them, but do better the next time. And better again. Bit by bit, in slow steps that will be noticeable later even if they aren’t right now.

It’s hard. I hate it. I hate failing. I hate having to push through it to get to where I want to be. It’s hard and it’s exhausting and I hate making myself do it even more when I’m tired, when it’s been a rough week. But I do it, I make myself do it even if it’s just for five minutes because five minutes usually turns into fifteen as I start to do it and enjoy it even when I know it’s not going as well as I want it to, and I remember why I decided to make myself practice regularly in the first place. I make myself do it, we all have to do it, even educated fleas have to do it to get that treasured ‘educated’ status. Making mistakes is how we learn, it’s how we get a thousand sayings that all mean that, from “fail better” to “anything doing is worth doing badly.” A lot of badly. A thousand times of badly.

So I figure I’ll give myself a thousand days of drawing practice, and we’ll see where I’m at at the end of it. That’s a little under three years, isn’t it? Give it three years of trying, and failing, and learning, and trying again. And then we’ll see.

The Stars Look Very Different Today

So. David Bowie.

I didn’t believe it for about an hour after my boyfriend told me, half awake and staggering towards the shower, and now all I can think is, this isn’t right, it’s not supposed to be this way. We’re not meant to live in a world without David Bowie (Yes I know we managed perfectly well for many centuries but dammit.) I don’t get how this happened. He’s supposed to be here floating around with that little smile of his, showing us all how to be serene in our differences. We’re … I don’t know. He didn’t die, he just changed incarnations. This one happens to be the first one not on this earth.

I don’t get it. I disbelieve. I spent the first hour of the morning disbelieving and then the second hour a sobbing mess on the couch instead of doing my morning routines. Really, it’s amazing I got dressed and got something for lunch and got out of the house at all, at this point. I’m kind of amused and touched and comforted to see so many people also going wait, David Bowie’s dead? he can’t die. he’s not mortal like the rest of us. Someone on Twitter had a good quote:

And that’s exactly how I feel. I’m not yet used to a world without David Bowie actively in it, and I don’t know if I ever will be. Hell, I’m not yet used to a world without Christopher Lee or Leonard Nimoy actively in it. I was watching Stargate last night and realized how much I missed Don Davis. I’m still not sure how Robin Williams is gone.

There are these people, and they are so influential in so many people’s lives, their presence is so big that they’re everywhere. And then they leave us, and we’re all left staggering. As a global collective, we reel and wonder, where do we look to now? Here was a giant part of our lives, now gone, what do we do? How do we keep moving after we’ve been gutted like that?

Well, but he’s still here, isn’t he. We still have all these hours of video, all this music.  We have the moment we saw him on stage and couldn’t believe anyone would do that, could get away with that. We have the moment we saw him on screen and didn’t entirely believe he was real. We still have Jareth and Nikola Tesla and Thomas Jerome Newton and the walk-off from Zoolander. We still have this.

I’ve been doing a lot of looking back this morning and boggling at just how much of my writing is influenced by him. (And mostly Labyrinth, to be fair, me and at least a third to half of the girls in the English speaking world around that time wanted the Goblin King to come and take them away.) The entire Sorcerer, Sam, the mysterious gentleman of manners and deep, deep issues who was so very bad for you and yet kind in some peculiar way, who touched you in the core of you and made things all right again and who could break you just as easily, that was all Bowie. And I don’t know how to deal with the real-world person being gone, it feels like all that stuff that he inspired in my head should be gone too even if it isn’t. And it isn’t. See above.

I think, from what I know of him (he was not that cruel in the last decades of his life and I don’t think he ever really meant to be although let’s face it, he had issues for a while), that he’d remind me that what’s in my head isn’t gone. That he’d like to remind us, this is still here. How we felt, how we responded, what we made of ourselves. What I built with his words, his music and his image, that’s not gone. And that’s how people live on, isn’t it? They live on because we remember them and carry them with us, so there’s his immortality.

So I’m going to close my eyes, and I’m going to sit down and have a talk with the Bowie in my head who maybe looks more like the Thin White Duke right now, but give it an hour I’m sure that’ll change. What’s the point of having your own head-Bowie if he doesn’t go through whimsical and yet carefully thought out transformations? And we’re going to have a good cry. Tonight I’m going to eat my feelings, they taste like buttercream frosted sugar cookies. And then, when we’ve had our cry and gotten the most of that out, we’re going to pick up and keep on being weird and bizarre and alien, keep on being proud and confident and defiant, keep on being a rebel. Keep on being a hero.

We love you, David. We always will.