Negative Feedback Loops

So, I’ve been pretty quiet here. And I haven’t been writing much. These two facts are related, insofar as they share a lot of the same causes, but also insofar as the two things cause each other.

This summer… this summer has been one of the worst summers of my life, in big ways and little ways that I’m not going to get into. It might have actually been helpful to have been blogging more of it along the way, but I doubt it’ll help much to go back over it. The things I did blog were my initial bout of respiratory problems back in late May/early June, and my computer dying.

I lost more than I expected when that happened. I do pretty much everything on the cloud now, or on a cloud… I have multiple clouds. The problem is that at some point before my computer gave up the ghost, a lot of my Word files got locked up in the kind of weird existential crises that seem to afflict files on Microsoft’s One Drive. Every once in a while I’d go and resolve the conflicts, but I hadn’t done that lately, and as a result I lost a lot of work on both Angels in the Meanwhile and the last part of the volume 1 MU Omnibus.

It’s… not as bad as it sounds, on a practical level. In both cases, what I lost was mainly formatting. I have the MU source material. I have the source material submitted for Angels. But it was dispiriting to lose those things, along with a number of more personal projects.

By itself, that probably wouldn’t have been a big deal. It just came at a bad time, and the hits have kept coming.

And in the midst of it, I have found myself stuck in a couple of (too familiar) negative loop. Not writing because sick/tired/stressed meant it was harder to write, meant more stress and less writing, meant harder to write. Falling behind on things made me anxious about posting about them or answering emails about them, which prevented me from having any kind of accountability on them, which made me fall farther behind. I stopped blogging or tweeting about anything personal because I didn’t want to acknowledge how deep the hole I was in felt, but that made it harder to blog about anything substantial.

Every day in August, I have woken up and said, “Today’s the day I’m going to straighten things out.” I’ve come in and sat down at my computer, and had this thought cycle that goes something like, “But I can’t post about A because I haven’t done anything on it, so I’ll start with B because I can handle A…. but if I talk about that without acknowledging A, it’s going to look so weird… I’d better move onto C. But I can’t do C, because then I’m ignoring B and A.” and just spiraling farther and farther down… and each day of very little accomplishment has just contributed to the feeling that

And as I’ve become more aware of what’s happening and looked for ways to break out of this, it’s hit me that in a lot of ways, I have made myself smaller online, how much I’ve been censoring myself. And while part of that is more personal than I want to get into, part of it has to do with how my professional outlook has changed over the years.

When I was starting out, I was no one and I knew no one. And that was terribly freeing. I’m not saying I didn’t make mistakes, because I did… but boy howdy, did I feel free to make mistakes. There was no one for me to compare myself to, no one to hold up as an example to measure myself against.

And I achieved things I’d dreamed of, and things I’d never dreamed of.

And those successes brought exposure, and contacts. I went places. I met people. I went from being someone who had everything to prove but no one to actually prove it to (which was sort of the best imaginable ratio of motive force vs. obstacles) to someone who has more nebulous things to prove and a lot of people (in my mind) to prove it to. I went from feeling like I didn’t need the keys to the kingdom as long as I had a pair of boots to kicking it down to feeling like I’m organizing an anthology that has people I have no business even sitting next to, and I haven’t known what to do about it.

But the thing is, none of the people I’ve met on my journey have asked me to prove anything to them. One of those people I feel like I can’t live up to did sit next to me on panel in May, and said she was glad I was there because she learned a lot.

And I know I’ve gone through this before. And I know I’ll go through it again, both because life is a process and because depression is a cycle.

But I feel like I dealt with it better, back when I wasn’t comparing myself to others. And it’s not like I made a clear, simple decision to start doing that, so I doubt it will be as easy as deciding to stop.

But these are my resolutions for today:

  1. This is my blog. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I’m going to post in it when I have something to say. If I have feelings to work through, it’ll be my emotional workbook. If I am super excited about something, I will talk about it here. If I am super critical about something, I will talk about it here. If I am super excited about something and super critical about it, I will talk about it here. If people don’t want to read it, no one’s forcing them to.
  2. I am Alexandra Erin. I made crowdfunding work for me before there were tools for it and at a time when conventional wisdom said that it couldn’t be done. I have nothing to prove to anyone, but my game isn’t over yet and I still have plenty of time to rack up a high score.
  3. I started out with the attitude that I would do exactly what I wanted, exactly the way I wanted to, and if it didn’t work out, that would be fine because it wouldn’t be worth the upheaval of committing myself to a creative career path if I wasn’t doing what I wanted. I have drifted away from this idea, despite the fact that historically I have done better in every way when I do what I please. I write more stuff, more frequently. The stuff I write resonates better with its audience. It brings in more money.
  4. Also historically, censoring myself in one area leads to everything damming up. It doesn’t matter how many separate streams I divide my consciousness into, they all come from the same source, and when I think I’m cutting off one, I’m actually lowering the pressure across the board.

So… this is my semi-demi-annual “WTF am I doing?” pep talk. Maybe I should try to do these more often so they can take more the form of an enthusiastic affirmation more than an after-the-fact castigation.