3. Other Things Authoring Detours Writing Life

Reality Check 1:

Here I am, at my desk, staring at my blank screen, ready to enjoy some Writing Time. And here are the physical concerns gnawing at the edges of my attention. In order of me noticing them, not in order of significance.

Photo by Taryn Elliott on


My left thumb hurts. The skin is hardened and has split open to a deep fissure. My right thumb is threatening same, but it’s a smaller crack, so smaller aggravation. Right forefinger wants in on the action too. (Ever had your fingertips harden and split open, anyone? GOOD TIMES, even better than punctures or cuts) Anyway, that one hasn’t quite split. Yet.
Eczema. It sounds so minor, but it’s a royal freaking annoyance.


My squishy cartilage fails in my wrists more often than anywhere else except my hips. All use equals overuse, the wrists don’t have postural muscles constantly working like ankles do, and weather pressure changes wreak havoc. Carpal tunnel “ergonomic” aids make them hurt worse. The right one has been crankier than the left lately, but both of them are at max laxity and protest me doing hard work involving my hands. Hard work includes activities like tying shoelaces and holding cups.


My right hip joint is hating life, the universe, and specifically sitting. The seasonal shift from sandals to shoes always stirs it up, and my insistence on bending/crouching over things in the garden hasn’t helped. The cartilage & muscles that hold the femur in the socket are all jacked up. The joint is wobbly and slides around. And the left hip is threatening a sympathy strike.


Trapezius muscles and rhomboids are intent on achieving rock status. Lats are getting in on the action. Why? Hahahahaha. They don’t need reasons. The right side is worse thanks to a decades- old strain caused by seat belt trauma after the second of 2 car accidents in a month. The iliocostals are not pleased either. Did I sleep wrong? Or are they acting up because my hips are sucky? WHY NOT BOTH!?

Shifting my weight reminds me I’ve stressed some rib cartilage on my right side. How? Who knows? Historically it’s from leaning on my left elbow too long. Or picking up something heavy with only my right arm. I’m blaming the cat. (Fun fact: my initial benign hypermobility diagnosis came in college after I popped multiple ribs by carrying my backpack on my right shoulder.)


Today the right one is bugging me. Usually I notice the left one (the one with the misplaced cap bone caused by teenage-years dislocation) first. The right one tasks me because I carried a bucket of fruit fifty yards four years ago. I think it’s taking the lead today because it’s between the cranky shoulder and the cranky wrist and is getting referred pain from both sides, poor thing.

That’s it. Not a big list, for me. No sinus headache, no random nausea, no deep wholesale body pain (like last night) no foggy “I forgot to eat and now I can’t make a decision” general malaise. I even slept late this morning, so I feel rested and alert.

But there’s a difference between alert and “able to focus,” and, well, I’m fighting to stay on that second level. Full disclosure, I’ve been fighting to sit down and write anything all month.

Some great things have happened. All kinds of successful adulting has occurred. (Flu shot! Heater maintenance! Checkups scheduled! Books ordered & reservations made! Successful Socializing! The long-postponed landscaping project finally wrapped up. Spouseman bought & racked firewood for seasonal fun. We’ve been to MOVIES!

But. That isn’t the whole picture. It’s been an expensive month physically. And that has sucked.

To be honest, the last four years have been a neverending assault of minor unhealth, one issue after another. No flashy injuries or big illnesses, just sinus infection after ear infection, muscle pull after tendon strain, bruises after cuts after rashes, and so on. And my vision has been deteriorating too, an issue I am attempting to remediate, but with limited success.

It’s my habit to classify inability to keep my butt in my seat and write new fiction as a personal failure—laziness, lack of willpower, refusal to apply myself—all the usual suspects, amirite? I get angry at myself for letting myself down, I feel guilty because I’m wasting time I could be spending doing something I genuinely love.

It’s long past time to admit the role of physical discomfort. I’m not struggling with creative writing and hurting too. Sitting with a keyboard is a literal fight. I have limited endurance as well as limited focus. And when those conditions team up, it’s not me failing to write, it’s me sensibly retreating from a battle I can’t win to fight again another day. On an intellectual level, I know it’s okay to not be okay. It’s time to work harder on feeling that truth.

This post is my way of proving to myself that I am fighting a war and not a battle–and that right now, the campaign is taking a heavy toll on my creativity.

SIDE NOTE: I am NOT soliciting advice on How To Deal and will likely respond impolitely if such advice is offered. I’ve had half a century to learn how to cope with this weird corpus and weirder brain of mine. It’s an ever-changing process, and This is part of my coping. When I need advice, I will ask, I promise.

That’s all I have to share right now. There’ll be more to my Reality Check series, on the Brains Are Sneaky side of things, but that’s another post. Until then, happy reading!

Detours Writing Life

The latest in random activities

Lately I’ve been caught up in Totally Unnecessary Work.

What did I do? I changed the menu bar colors on my website.  Wooo, yay, right?

I had no business tinkering with the website. It looked fine, and I have zero applicable skills. Changing structural elements requires knowing CSS, an aspect of programming I never learned because I taught myself basic website HTML before CSS came into wide use. (Why, yes, I AM old.)

The project  started early in the week. I was doodling around online and discovered internet resources on changing CSS.  Since I have wondered, off and on, if I could change website colors off I went to investigate the possibility. It didn’t take long to find answers other people got from experts, and it looked simple enough.

So I copy-pasted the suggested codes into the CSS editor on my site.  Did it work as written? Of course not.

First, changing CSS gets complicated behind the scenes.  It’s full of what I’ll call dialects and accents and slang.  How a change works on a specific site depends on a ton of structural elements already in place. There are things like “child themes” and cascading consequences to changing a single element (hence the name) plus the order in which commands are entered can differ by site too, and some codes have to be overridden with other commands…

Second, I can’t see  any of the original code because I’m using a training-wheels/bumper-car/TOTALLY UNBREAKABLE website.  Basically I pay people to maintain the big, complicated chunk of programming that runs the site for me. The price is that I’m locked out of all the dangerous parts of the code and can’t see any of it. It’s a fair trade, but it does complicate an already-complicated process.

And third, there’s the ever-present finicky complication common to all computer programming: one wrong space or punctuation mark can mess up everything. True confession: I am Not Good at spotting finicky mistakes when I make them (whereas I am Very Good at making them.)

Once it was clear that changing colors was a complicated issue involving skills in which I had zero expertise,  did I stop fumbling around in the dark like a sensible person?

OF COURSE NOT. I kept tinkering. Partly because I’m stubborn–but mostly because I knew I had that nice, cushy safety net. I can poke and play with code all I wanted without ANY fear of breaking my website. Freedom to play and learn is priceless.

So I played, collecting tools,  finding more code online and comparing the pieces to see how they differed and making minor changes to see how they connected. Then I went all  hyperfocus on it and hammered at things until they WORKED.



Now, instead of a white menu bar with black lettering and blue/white highlighting color scheme, I have a gray menu bar with black letters, with a black & red highlighting scheme.

Was that worth 20+labor hours? Of course not. The defaults were fine. SERIOUSLY. They were fine.  So why did I bother? I have a list of reasons. (Of course I do.)

1) In the future I can change menu colors to anything I want. Black/red/white is a horrible highlighting scheme from a design standpoint. Honestly.  I know that. But I’m leaving it like this for a while.

2) It was a nice lesson in CSS vocabulary, names of elements & operations etc. The knowledge may come in handy again someday. Who knows?

3) I learned a ton about how the CSS codes interact too. Once again, new skills are never worthless.

4) Working out hierarchy, coding grammar, naming quirks & overrides for my site’s theme by brute force experimentation WAS FUN.

I had fun and made a thing and learned things: these are the justifications I throw at my conscience, which is muttering about the wasted time. Not great excuses, perhaps, but they’re what I have. (And I like the colors, too, boring though they be.)

Anyway. That’s a wrap.

3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Winter Checklist 6

It’s been a few days. I haven’t done many productive things, but I have done GOOD things, and HAPPY-MAKING things. (And a few not-so happy things too, because life.)

1.  Decorated the house. Holiday stuff takes up a lot of space in boxes, but it doesn’t fill up a lot of actual home. Hanging garland took the most time. Spouseman helped, and fun was had. We have room for more lots more lights on the walls, but the stores are already out of stock on the brands of LEDs with white cords I prefer. Noted on the October calendar for next year.

2. Ordered a new Christmas tree. We’ve been nursing along an old artificial tree for a couple of years, (I think it’s like 7 or 8 years old all told) and it’s time to accept that it’s long past the end of its life span. So to speak. (Dustier every year. Branches without needles. Broken branches. A Pisa-like list to one side…)

I’d love to have a “real” tree, but I’m a snot who only wants an actual fresh-cut one, not one that was harvested months ago then shipped dead and dry. We went with a company my Dad highly recommends. New toy tree will come pre-lit with MOAR LED LIGHTS IN MANY COLORS. That alone will be exciting.  I’ll report further once it’s delivered.

3. Had myself a downtown travel adventure day. Discovered a new pie place. This is excitement in my life. I also got fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and holiday gifts. Visited with a good friend, and met some neat new people.

4. I made a doctor appt for tomorrow morning. Go me, using the phone & everything. Why doctor? Because ugh, I’ve been doing the “watchful waiting” gig on a sinus infection for weeks, hoping it would clear on its own. But no. It gets a little better, then comes back worse. Headache, facial pain, sense of smell affected, and now I have pressure in my ears too.  Decongestants & antihistamines don’t touch it. I can’t fool myself any longer.

Bracing to be to told the usual bullshit about antibiotics being over-prescribed, probably viral, come back in 2-6 more weeks blah blah blah JUST GIVE ME SOME FERSHLUGGINER AMOXYCILLIN DAMMIT. Or Augmentin. Or even a Z-pack. *SIGH*

5. Got the last rejection for promotional ads I’d put in for Rough Passages. (Not shocked, the slots fill fast this time of year, and I was slow off the mark.) My dilemma now is, go still run a sale or not? It costs nothing to set up, but why bother when marketing is what gets me readers, not low prices?

That isn’t self-rejection. My personal reach is saturated. Reaching 30 pre-orders for Rough Passages took weeks of relentless, creative, well-shared social media work.  I have neither time nor spoons for that right now. I’d rather be writing.

6. So, because things #4 & #5 were not happy things, I am making comfort foods like crazy.  Today I have committed garlic bread & slow-cooked pepper chicken, plus more cherry cheater-cobbler. Yesterday there was bacon for breakfast. Bread is planned.

7. And part of the holiday prep involved going through the sticker/pin/lanyard collection I’ve been accumulating for a few years now. They’re sorted and the pins are on display. So shiny.  That’s another happy.

8. Also I have sorted loads of DVDs into binders. It’s my contribution to the Clear Out The Basement project. Tonight I start the last genre to be sorted: action/scifi-fantasy-horror/thrillers. Left that one for last because it’s the one most likely to result in distraction and viewing.

That’s it. This one turned into a bit of a rant-vent fest, but hey, that’s a thing I do sometimes too. So it’s valid.

Onward to tomorrow.

3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Winter Checklist Five

1. Haircut!  I did the usual “walk-over-to-the-nearby-salon-on-impulse” thing I do when I can’t deal with the stress of using the phone but also can’t stand my hair for one more moment. I go in expecting to make an appointment for the next day.

But lo, luck was with me! The wonderful stylist who used to cut my hair a zillion years ago is BACK. So my gray and mousy hair is buzzed short with perfect cowlicks, and I have a sample size of mauve temp color to play with. I will apply that in a week or two. There will be pics.

2. Researched & ordered accessories for my laptop, whose HDMI display connector gave up the ghost today. It’s over 5 years old, so not a shocker. Good thing I have other ports available. They aren’t HDMI ones, but hey, any port in a pinch, so to speak. I had to determine which adapters would be best and locate a source. And that’s DONE.

3. Laundry. ALL THE DIRTY CLOTHES OMG. Swear to gobs, it’s never-ending.

4. Paid bills. Yay, adulting win. So exciting.

5. Procrastinated the grocery shopping. I can live without yogurt until Saturday when I have to go out. But I made a list. Okay, sort of a list. I took pictures of the fridge & pantry shelves so I don’t buy what I already have. That counts, right?

6. Posted a picture of my festive holiday socks online. It will not be the last sockpost.

7. Did my strength & stretch exercises for hips and elbows even though OW DO NOT LIKE.

8. Read about historic architecture and modern off-grid living and the science of super-storms, because internet.

9. Gave the cat lots of attention and took his picture.

10. And yes, I wrote a little.  I would have written more, but for my screen going terrifyingly blank mid-sentence and then losing Too Much Time verifying that the fault lay in the computer port, not the cable or the monitor.

I’m taking the evening off from productivity anyway. Ghost Town and Sharp Edge will just have to be patient until tomorrow.

That’s two days in a row the list has had ten items. Coincidence? Well…yes, actually.


Authoring Writing Advice

Writing Over The Hump

My novel in progress is starting to move at last.

I have worked hard for a long time on this weighty story, hauling its characters and plot up a long track of prose against the dragging forces of distraction and disinterest. It’s gathering power and speed now, the way a roller coaster does when momentum grabs hold at the top of that first great big hill.

I’ve been on this ride before. There’s no feeling like it. When a story slides over the summit and starts that plummet towards completion, my heart jumps into my throat, and it’s a long, screaming, thrill trip to the end of the line.

But I’m not there yet. Enthusiasm is building with every rattling scene completed, but there’s reluctance too. When it’s over, it’s over, and I never want the ride to stop. I don’t even like to open the file these days. Starting brings me that much closer to stopping.

The procrastination stage never lasts. Avoidance can’t hold back a developing story any more than screaming and waving hands will stop a roller coaster’s relentless progress.  At some point soon–very soon–the writing will carry me out of the world .

I am ready. Let creative gravity suck me down, let the twists and curves shake my soul loose and speed me along until I’m wrung out and exhausted. And when it spits me out, crying and laughing and breathless with pride, I will coast to the exit and run back to the head of the line again.

Look, out, here I go.