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other things Writing Life

More midwinter musings.

I think I posted about this earlier this year, but tbh it’s an evergreen topic. I found this draft buried in a folder from this time last winter & I’m cleaning up my WordPress today, so I’m finishing this and posting it.

It’s even timely, since it refers to the day after Christmas.

This is the time of year structured social interaction becomes painfully difficult, stressful & exhausting. (Yes, this does include daily interaction with Spouseman, but he married me, so we do our best to rub along.)

Is it irony? The time of year everyone wants to get together the most, I NEED to crawl into a figurative cave? It’s something, that’s for sure. One thing it isn’t is Seasonal Affective Disorder. (I investigated that, we all thought that’s what it was for years, but turns out it isn’t.) It doesn’t get better as days get longer. It gets better in February, period.

If I get a seasonal downtime, then my energy level, my creativity, my stability in general–really the whole rest of the year–goes well. If hibernation time gets interrupted by demands from The Outside World, if I’m forced to deal with things I can’t handle, then the whole year suffers.

I’ve lost friends over this issue. (Pro tip: do not drop a “jokey” guilt trip on me by email the day after Christmas. I will cut you out of my life like snipping a price tag. Same for rants about my lack of responsiveness at New Year’s.)

Working retail 4th quarter always meant missing holiday parties and ending up w/a post-Xmas staycation. I felt bad about missing out but was relieved to avoid the social scene at the same time. Post-Borders, I slowly recognized that I had been leaning hard on that built-in barrier to fulfill an underlying need for withdrawal I hadn’t realized was there.

Since then I’ve had to learn to make my own excuses, schedule time off and pretty much avoid Big Planned Activities, Basic Life Decisions, and anything else that requires Normal Conversing or Responding to Inquiries between mid-December and the end of January.

It isn’t easy. The social pressure is pretty HUGE. But it’s better for everyone this way, it really is. I cannot human in midwinter. I am a bear. Of course some years hibernation isn’t possible. Whenever that’s happened, I’ve coped. I get through.

Coping isn’t thriving.

There’s a high emotional cost to pushing beyond safe mental limits, and those effects are long-lasting, rolling down through the months until my next big seasonal reset. (That happens around fall equinox, when I become a squirrel. I’ve blogged about that too, I’m pretty sure.)

ANYway. It’s midwinter now, and I am enjoying my downtime, writing this, writing that, thinking and daydreaming and dodging the Real World as much as possible.

And yeah, feeling super grateful to be at a place in my life where that’s possible.

That’s all for today. Until later.

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3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Two random thoughts

…because I am awake at ridiculous o’clock  (thank you, abrupt weather changes, for these fantastic joint aches and this fabulous itch-behind-the-eyes headache-ish thing that cancelled my sleep after only two hours)

AND I’m behind on blogging, so here I am, filling time and space.

Random thing the first: a realization about genderthink

It all started way back when I read Anne Leckie’s Imperial Radch series. It blew my mind in several ways, all excellent and glorious.  The biggest impression it left was the foundational nature of gendering assumptions.  It was HARD wrapping my brain around the default pronoun being she/her. Such a simple concept was far more difficult to process than I anticipated.  WORTH IT, though. Such a good book.

The read cut and polished new facets into my worldview.

Most of my life, when I saw an identifier like, “his cousin,” in a book I was reading, I would assume that cousin was male until given a name or other information that indicated otherwise.  And to be honest, if it was a side character, or a bit player, no such information would ever be offered. So in my mind, all the random NPCs in fiction ended up being male by default.

That doesn’t happen any more. In the last few years my default assumption has changed to female.  I noticed this reading something today where cousins were referenced several times before being gendered. Learning they were boys jarred me right out of the narrative. I had just assumed…a completely opposite assumption than in the past.

A lot of terms do not require or include gender (like cousin, or manager, accountant, neighbor or staffer versus aunt or uncle, ) There’s zero reason to default to a male identity other than cultural expectations. And expectations can change.

I’ve got no conclusion here, it’s just a thing I noticed.

Random idea the second: why isn’t mothering a job?

What would the world be like if we treated mothering as an activity rather than a gender-chained identity?  I fear I’m missing some huge meaningful Spiritual aspect of Motherhood or inadvertently insulting millions by asking that question,  but there it is.

There’s a lot of mystical, magical malarkey associated with being “A MOM” that seems to only apply when the job is done by a FEMALE presenting person. And I don’t think perpetuating those ideas is good or healthy for anyone with a mothering gig.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but mothering is a set of definable actions.**  Mothering is a thing one does. It doesn’t even entirely require a child, although I would submit that is the prime example of it. Strip away the cultural gender baggage, and the whole thing gets much simpler and healthier.

So I’m amusing myself picturing a world where Mother or Mom is a just a job title meaning “person or persons whose social role is primary child nurturer.”  This also creates an opening for Father/Dad to be an action-defined role too. Maybe it becomes the term for the secondary nurturer or nurturers–the one or ones who nurture the primary child nurturer, for example, or contribute to the social unit in other ways.

(I’ll leave details to someone more clever and well-rested than I feel right now.)

This random thought was sparked by reading an article on “stay at home dads” and the different expectations placed on them, and thinking to myself, hang on, how much of this whole problem is the labeling? If their primary job is taking care of the kids, the meals, the wash, the home finances, the scheduling and so on, then they’re doing the mom job, so why aren’t they stay-at-home-moms?

And I suspect the answer is, “That would make too many people feel unmanly.” Which kinda indicates there’s gender-baggage, and that’s why it tickles my imagination to ponder a world where a dude proudly calls himself Mom, and a woman answers to Dad.

ANYway.

Totally random stuff. And that’s all there is, so I’ll wrap it here.  G’night. Or good morning. Whatever.

 

and here is a random chicken image.


**Yes, any activity or job can also be an identity, but the dangerous nature of tying identity to specific work is a topic for a whole ‘nother post.

 

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3. Other Things Authoring Writing Life

One of my many random quirks

It’s a new calendar year. Why not start a new thing on the blog?

For the next little while, I’ll feature tidbits of personal trivia I have been informed are not as well-known as I imagine them to be. It’s another topic to alternate with book posts, writing rants, media consumption lists, baking recipes, and so on.

My first not-so-major revelation: I am face blind.

Yes, yes, I know lots of people have trouble remembering names, many people are bad with faces, but…have you ever walked right past your parent or your spouse or your best friend of many years because you DID NOT SEE THEM out of context?

I have. Many times. That’s my level of “bad with faces.”

It doesn’t mean I’m people-blind.  I recognize people…mostly. Just not faces. Or voices.  It’s more that I deliberately construct conscious brain imprints of overall person-ness — how you move, speak, dress, etc. I can spot friends across crowded rooms, especially if I’ve made note of what they’re wearing.

But do I spot details like changes in hair color, eyeglasses, makeup, scars, tattoos or “identifying characteristics?” NOPE.  As a kid, I thought the ability to describe and remember other people like characters in books & on TV was a fictional power. And names? Pffft. The label for your gestalt may be stowed away in a totally different mental zone, because I have a WTF brain.

ANYway.

This means if you’re standing still, if I’m not looking for you–and especially if I haven’t seen you recently? My chances of knowing who you are or even SEEING you is 50/50 or worse. The longer it’s been since we last talked, the worse my chances are.

This makes conventions more than moderately terrifying.

Why? In large part because people tend to remember me for some reason. Good friends I see only at cons, wonderful people I met at conventions past–y’all spot me and make a point of saying hello, being the awesome, cool, kind, and wonderful people you are…

…and there I will stand, without the slightest clue who’s talking to me.

I am often forthright, even pre-emptive, about admitting I don’t know who someone is, but not always. Constant confession is emotionally exhausting and jabs a lot of big, red social-interaction buttons that trigger guilt dumps.

And whether I admit it or not, nothing will never erase the unhappy belief that people think I’m lying, that I’m a lazy jerk making excuses for not caring about them enough to remember them. It hurts to not be recognized by someone. I know this. 

I DO LIKE YOU. YOU’RE AWESOME! But I have faulty exterior-recognition software.

Guilty awkwardness is a burden on top of the already-huge stressiness of being at a con. (I love cons. TRULY. I love them. But it’s also true I love many things that aren’t strictly good for me…) 

ANYway.  Let me wrap up with this:

If you don’t see me often, there are a few ways to help avoid instilling quiet panic and deep-seated guilt in me when we meet. I don’t expect people to make the effort, but when it happens, I am FOREVER grateful.

The platinum standard: starts with “Hi, Karen (or Kem, or Kay, or Tigger, or Herkes, I answer to all these)  great to see you again.”

This demonstrates you know me. Then it’s decision tree time.

IF I respond with your name or a personal tidbit that makes it crystal clear I remember who you are, we’re good. My brain has coughed up your imprint in a timely fashion. Yay, brain.

If I DON’T use your name, could you please consider proceeding to something like this: “I’m <your name> we know each other from <place/time> and add something about our prior interaction?

By doing this you:

  • providing release from expectation damps down my guilty adrenaline rush. (adrenaline not being a friend of higher brain function)
  • Offering memory tags right off the mark helps me place you in context, which gets me to the proper brain space where your ID is stored.
  • The more you talk and move, the more data I have available to match to the gestalt of physical characteristics on file.

You can be as simple as, “It’s Felicity. From work? I’m in Accounting? We don’t see each other often.”  Or as complicated as “I’m Gwen. We were table neighbors at XYZCon, and it turned out we went to the same elementary school. We talked about meeting for dinner next con–how are you?”

But even if I appear to be entirely comfortable chatting, if I don’t respond with your name or personal deets, it’s likely I do NOT recognize you at the start of the conversation.

Talking comfortably at length with total strangers is a survival skill I mastered long before I knew face blindness was a thing, not a failure of effort on my part. If we talk long enough, I often…eventually…figure out what our relationship is.

It’s a huge relief when I don’t have to work that strategy or confess to cluelessness, though.

And yes, I do try to do this for others, on the rare occasions I am introducing myself to people I recognize.

Because I never expect anyone to recognize me.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Until later, world!

Categories
3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Random thoughts from today

Goldfinches announce every bite of seed they take from the feeder with loud cheerful chirps like bright peeps of sunshine. I will never stop enjoying the sound of them.

Still growing: the list of states in which at least one of my books is in at least one library. Woot!  Up to five. WA, CA, IL, WI, and OH.  There may be more I can’t see, because not all libraries use the same systems, but hey. That’s 10% of the states out there.

Open suggestion: when offering your name to someone who has to type it or write it down, please say it first as a whole word before you spell it out. It can’t hurt and often helps. Context improves accurate interpretation. Listening is hard.

I broke down and bought a second bird feeder today. So I have finches & mixed-species sparrow flocks in the front yard AND the back.

Sorry for the silly post title. I haven’t found a clever phrase that boils down to a good abbreviation or acronym. Random Thought Not Posted Elsewhere? Nah.  RTNPE still doesn’t roll off the tongue.

I’m an author, so it’s necessary to let people know about my work, but wow, I get tired of saying, BY THE WAY, I WRITE AWESOME BOOKS, YOU CAN BUY & READ THEM. It’s exhausting. Maybe a tee-shirt might be the way to go. Maybe “Ask me about my books,” on the front, and “Can I show you my books,” on the back?

My. Cat. Is. HOWLING. Again.

I’ve crossed 45k words in my Ghost Town WIP (Savvy Chicago detective & her great-great-great grandfather reconnect when she moves back home to become police chief of the small Illinois town he once governed. Tagline: she’s new, he’s dead, together they can solve any mystery.  It’s the first book I’ve figured out how to pitch before finishing it.

Still aiming for 70k by the end of the month. <falls over howling with laughter.> If I even get close it’ll be in large part because I impulse post here rather than elsewhere.

Movie night: Rampage. So much silly fun.

Annnnd, that’s a wrap.

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3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Hello, it’s me.

(No, I don’t have a new kitten. I just like cat pictures.)

As soon as I got home from Dragon Con, I put my Facebook & Twitter passwords into the hands of my trusted Spouseman. If anyone noticed a drop in activity on Twitter or my near-total absence on Facebook (I doubt it, but I want to be thorough) that’s what’s up.  I’m getting a lot done offline these days. TONS. It feels great.

I’ve also been thinking a bit about my social media presence.

Fair warning to recent followers: I’m not good at “Maintaining a Social Media Presence” in the ways most book marketing gurus still recommend.

My feeds are not well-curated.  I put online whatever filters through the unreliable sieve of my impulses. I take loads of unmodified food, yard, and cat pictures, post moody observations about my writing fails and flails, log in whatever I’ve collected from pop culture, and indulge in random outbursts of joy, frustration, and/or existential angst.

My Personal Brand, such as it is, might best be described as Flaky Eclectic.

Yes, I have been asked the question, “Why spend time on social media at all, then, especially on a blog, if not to aid in your authorial endeavors?”

Simple answer: it’s what I do. I am a diarist. Not a regular nor a diligent one, perhaps, but the shoe fits. I think things, and I record them. I was blogging for years before I tackled the wacky task of publishing a novel.  This website blog is still more of a life record than a promotional tool.

I’ve been writing random notes to an invisible, possibly imaginary audience a lot longer than that–ever since the day I was living independently and nothing I wrote could be used against me (The potential for judgment horrified me–the idea of my ideas or my emotions being corrected was unbearable.)

ANYway. I’ve been over that fear for a long time. Pretty sure my dad reads my blog, even. (HI, DAD! LOVE YOU!)  My me-ness is well settled in ways that it wasn’t when I was younger. The field in which my fucks are sown is barren, etc, etc, and all that.

BUT I DIGRESS. As I do. Short form: I post stuff online because it’s my way of affirming my existence. No more, no less. I write, so a lot of my posts are about writing, but this is not and never will be a writing blog, nor will it be a pretty one full of promotional perkiness.

My life is not interesting. I rarely have vibrant insights. I won’t solicit much interaction online–too much social contact, even at a distance, even online, wears me out & leaves me paranoid even though I crave attention as much as any other creator. So I will come and go, flit and hermit, all quite unpredictably. (Contradictions-R-Us, hello.)

In short, and belatedly, you’ll be disappointed if you expect me to be entertaining. My books  are entertaining. They’re full of really cool people having exciting, amazing, occasionally painful adventures. Me? Not so much.

This brings us to the end of another mostly meandering post.  Next one will be all about media consumption. I’ve gotten loads of reading done!