Rest day.

I really, really need to drill it into my head to take a day of rest after getting back from traveling. It always feels indulgent after what was essentially a vacation (albeit one that came with responsibilities),  came back Sunday and tried to jump into things with both feet on Monday, and I have spent the whole week so exhausted that I trail off mid sentence and otherwise generally forget what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I’m sleeping well at night, mostly because by the time I go to bed I’m too tired not to.

The longer this goes on, the less I get done and the worse I spiral down and the more it feels like I have got to get stuff down. But yesterday, I reached a breaking point and acknowledged: I need to wipe out my travel fatigue and catch up my missed sleep.

So today I’m doing what I should have done earlier, and taking a rest day. As soon as this is posted, I’m lying back down (I’m still in bed as I write this) and getting some rest.

(I know the Tales of MU website is still down. All my hosted sites were earlier in the week, and while the outage has been resolved, for some reason it hasn’t come back up. I have done everything I can on my end. It is in tech support’s hands now.)

Rule of Thumb: Selfish People Aren’t Worried About Being Selfish

There was a time in my life when basically everybody I was talking to on a daily basis was, like me, an adult of a culturally Catholic background; practicing, lapsed, grown up children of recovering Catholics, the whole spectrum. And the thing that caused me to notice this was a conversational tic that everybody around me seemed to have:
is it bad if I ____?” Sometimes it would be, “How bad is it if I _____?” 

It was never anything actually bad, often nothing in the neighborhood of badness, but eventually the requests for reassurance got so prevalent in conversations that I started laying down the law: I am nobody’s confessor. I can’t give absolution. I have my own Catholic guilt to process.

These days, I have an irregular hobby of browsing relationship advice forums. I started because some of the people I follow on Twitter have the habit of highlighting particularly awful “gems”. Snippets and screen shots got me curious enough to go over and see what I was missing, which eventually got me sucked into reading other posts, and then, offering advice.

And I’ll tell you, there’s a pattern I see in people asking for help that reminds me of the Catholic tic: Am I being selfish if I ____? Is it selfish of me to ____? and so on.

And I’m not going to say there’s no one in the world who ever asked that question in a situation loaded with irony, but I haven’t really seen it in the context of people asking for advice from strangers. It’s not “Am I selfish if I only think of myself? Am I selfish if I expect everyone to put my needs above their own?”

It’s, “Am I selfish if I want some alone time? Am I selfish if I want my partner to compromise sometimes instead of it always being me? Am I selfish if I expect my partner to help me meet my needs as much as I help them meet theirs? Am I selfish if I leave because this relationship is destroying me, knowing that my partner will be devastated?”

A real selfish, manipulative person might tack a “Is that so selfish? Is that too much to ask?” onto the end of a rant, in an attempt to coax the target of their manipulation to agree that it’s quite reasonable and not selfish at all, but at the point where you’re wrestling with this, really wrestling with what to do about it, with a bunch of strangers, it’s more likely the case that you’re not being selfish at all, and the fact that you’re worried that you might be is pretty strong evidence in support of that.

Selfish people don’t often worry that they’re selfish. They don’t think of themselves as selfish. Few people want to be selfish, so your average selfish person’s problem isn’t that they’ve decided to be selfish but that they’ve defined things for themselves in such a way that their expectations and behaviors are normal. This is how it comes to be that so many selfish people see everybody else around them as the selfish ones. They’ve set a baseline where their level of centering themselves is normal, and anyone who doesn’t meet that skewed bar is falling short.

When you find yourself wandering if you’re asking for too much, if you’re wanting too much, if you’re needing too much, try stepping outside your situation and imagining that someone else is confiding to you about it. Extending compassion and empathy to ourselves is a skill that few of us learn at the level we really need it, but anybody who worries about being selfish is very likely to possess the skill of empathizing with others.

Is it too much to ask for another person to have some support from their partner? Then it’s not too much for you to ask. Would it be selfish for another person to want to have some time and space for themselves? Then it’s not selfish for you. Is it selfish for anybody else to not martyr themselves in a relationship for the sake of somebody who wouldn’t begin to do the same in return?

No, it’s not selfish for them, and it’s not selfish for you.

STATUS: Thursday, September 1st

The Daily Report

Well, my end-of-month push for August yielded mixed results. I did start (and mostly finish, more on that a paragraph down) a new piece with which I’m very happy, and which I will finish today and post as a slightly belated short story for August. But a pair of (still ongoing) family health situations did impact things.

After I made the decision (mentioned earlier this week) to basically take a fail on August, I have decided that the centerpiece of my Patreon and my planned “year of awesome” really must stand: one short story a month for a year. I think that’s the central value I’m offering. This is why rather than just saying August was a miss and taking the thing I started writing earlier this week and using it to get a headstart on September, I’m going to finish it and post it.

Now, I’m calling it a short story, but I had to some soul-searching regarding categorization. What it is, in fact, is an epic science fiction poem. I’m calling it a short story because it is short story length (it’s going to wind up between 3,000 and 4,000 words, when I’ve shored up a few passages that need shoring up) and because it does, in fact, tell a story in a distinctly linear fashion. Poetry is the form, but it is a short story.

I had some moments of going back and forth with myself about whether or not this “counted”. It already felt a bit like I was just giving myself wiggle room when I made one of my monthly goals “a flash fiction or poem”, as if I’m treating those interchangeably when they’re different things. And they are, but so are two different pieces of fiction, or two different poems.

The poem is (currently) called “Our World Is A Lifeboat”. It’s a science fiction poem that, in practical terms, is about the survivors of a crashed space ship, at least in the way that Asimov wrote stories that were about robots.

Financial Status

Awkward. Much improved from before the summer, though tight because of WorldCon, because a “nominal fee” we had planned for wound up being a couple hundred more than we’d anticipated, and because my dismal performance in the August heat means Tales of MU made me very little money, which is fair, I’m not complaining. The whole point of the model I’m using for that is that people only pay to support it when it’s being update. But it’s a fact that my income at the start of this month looks a lot more like my income back in March or April than the rest of the summer, and that’s a problem.

I have been enjoying increasing celebrity and acclaim, but the real long and short of it all is that I need this to translate into Patreon growth, and that’s not happening. I keep churning along just below the $400 mark, which has been my goal pretty much since I started, and even that is just an initial goal. I need to be making more money.

It might be that I need to cut back on how much of my time, energy, and creative output is given away for free. As much as I hew to the model of the “the foundation of crowdfunding is the crowd”, I need a better way to get the crowd to bring the funds. Do I start my entertaining and/or insightful digressions off Twitter and put them directly on my Patreon page? Start locking down my short stories, posting only the beginnings?

I have to do something different. I need to figure out what it is. Heat or no heat, con or no con, I think I would have had an easier time sustaining my momentum through August if the numbers had been growing the way I had thought/expected/hoped they would.

The State of the Me

Doing pretty good? Late night hospital visits leading to late night dining out instead of cooking at home has played havoc with my eating and sleeping habits; my choices for drinks the past two nights have pretty much been something with caffeine at 10 or 11 at night, something with sugar, or ice water. I might have to get back in the habit of carrying flavor drops in my bag. For all that I’ve been overcaffeinated the past two nights, I have slept okay… not deeply, but deeply enough. Thank goodness for high tolerance.

Plans For Today

I’m going to be finishing up my epic poem and posting it in some form, but also doing a lot of stocktaking and figuring out where I go from here.

STATUS: Monday, August 8th

The Daily Report

Last week was successful and productive by some measures, less so by others. I stumbled out of the gate a bit at the start of the month. I did write a lot. I posted some of the fruits of that writing yesterday, the first part of a novelette I’m calling King of America, about a completely fictitious and entirely original real estate tycoon who decides to run for President of the United States. It hasn’t attracted much attention yet, but I think the work as a whole could genuinely grow to be the most important thing I’ve ever written.

I’m a bit behind generally on some of my larger goals. I had so much energy for April through much of June, repeatedly hitting the “heat wall” in July and August is a bit dispiriting. My overall goal for my 37th year on the planet is to kick my career into gear and build my audience and income with a whole year of being awesome, but I’m finding myself needing to scale back my ambition for the first two months, and I’m planning on next year taking a semi-hiatus in July and August, after a victory lap in June.

Financial Status

Doing okay. Fruits of improved income and better budgeting is that there’s no frantic, frustrating conversation about how we’re getting groceries this week.

The State of the Me

Yesterday we had an outing to Baltimore that involved a lot more walking in the heat than I had assumed/planned for, so I am coming into this week a little drained.

But a funny thing happened late last week: I remembered that my office in fact has a ceiling fan positioned more or less directly over where I sit. Prior to this, I had been marveling at how I’d managed the previous summers in this room, as this is the first year it has its own A/C unit. I know I did spend some amount of the time working away from my desk, but not all of it. The A/C beats the fan, obviously, which is why I never really missed it enough to remember it existed… but having both of them going == bliss.

Plans For Today

I’m going to be doing some slush-reading and sorting for Ligature Works, and a lot of writing.

STATUS: Tuesday, August 2nd

The Daily Report

It’s been a weird, disjointed start to the day today, and to the week (and by extension, the month of August), but productive nonetheless. I did have to run out yesterday afternoon for a grocery run, but our growing financial flexibility meant I was able to transfer the funds for next week’s shopping so I don’t have to actually tag along. Yay, progress!

Jack and I have been hitting a neat kind of stride with Ligature Works and submissions. I have a hard time collaborating with others, but I think we work well together in this respect. Our tastes are far from identical, but we share a lot of the same criteria in what we look for and what we don’t. We have sent out four acceptance letters so far. This actually means we only have two slots left in our initial publication budget, which means we’re going to start being really selective. We might not make any more firm decisions to accept for a while, unless something comes along that gives us the editorial grabby hands.

We might have to start dedicated crowdfunding for a bigger table of contents.

Financial Status

Doing okay. There were some big not-quite-annual car-related expenses at the end of last month. I think once we’re past WorldCon 74, we’ll be able to basically allocate most of the household grocery money we’ll need at the start of the month and then not worry about who has the funds on hand to pay for it vs. who has the time and ability to go shopping.

Our financial fortunes have really only improved modestly so far, but the less money you have to begin with, the bigger impact every dollar increase has.

The State of the Me

Honestly doing pretty good compared to July. I mean, we’re only two days into August, but I’m starting out with the idea that it’s okay to need to rest, and more attentive to things like keeping A/C and fans on as needed, paying attention to hydration, etc.

Plans For Today

I did not finish my draft of today’s chapter yesterday because of the aforementioned grocery trip. Wrapping that up and putting a bow on it this afternoon so I can keep to the schedule.

STATUS: Wednesday, July 13th

The Daily Report

Well, my snap decision to push ahead with my publishing plans even though my Patreon wasn’t yet at the level I’d wanted is seeming more and more like a good decision. At the rate things have been going, I’ll be at the $400 mark (the first benchmark set for my publishing venture) before the end of the month, and it’s not so hard to believe I’ll be at $500 by the end of August. If so, I’ll be coming into September right on target for my initial modest plans.

When I started restructuring and refocusing my work back in May, I was inspired by the success of several more traditionally published authors who made the jump to Patreon, as well as by others who were making plans. At the time, my small cadre of dedicated detractors tried to stir the pot by suggesting I was or should be jealous of their out-of-the-gate success. I wasn’t. These are my peers and friends, and I can be happy for them. I’m also aware that they aren’t actually just out of the gate, that they are doing and have been doing the work.

I would <em>love</em> to just instantly have thousands of dollars a month of income coming in, believe me, I would. But I know that’s not likely, and that’s part of why I laid out a year-long plan for myself to begin with. June 2016 to June 2017, age 36 to 37. My year of awesome. The plan’s not going to end next June, and I’m not going to stop being awesome next June.

On the subject of plans and their evolution: while I’m sure I couldn’t sustain a rate of an original short story a week without dropping something, I’m kind of feeling unfulfilled by the one a month, and I also have the perpetual dilemma of “Do I keep this for my patrons and possible publication elsewhere, or make it public as advertising/performance?” So I’m going to start aiming for two, one that can be locked up on Patreon and one that can be flung to the winds.

Financial Status

Feeling pretty good about where things stand right now, how things look for the rest of the month, and where I’ll start the next month if things proceed more or less apace. The con funds are now all in place for August and while that’s earmarked money, it’s nice to have some digits in my bank account and know that if something unexpected came up in the next couple months, it wouldn’t put me negative. I could cover a number of small to medium family emergencies by borrowing from myself. It’s amazing how much background anxiety this relieves.

At the same time, I feel a little bit of a “walls closing in” sensation because during most of June I had stuff coming out like *snaps fingers repeatedly in rapid succession* and so I had all this miscellaneous money coming in from it that continued through last week. But here I just came back off a week’s vacation, I’m getting in the swing of things, that’s not happening. Not a complaint! Just a reminder to myself that nothing’s gone wrong, things are just normal and it’s time to get back to work.

The State of the Me

I’m very “swingy” lately. I figured out yesterday that after my vacation detox/reset, I made a fairly classic mistake of resuming my previous doses of everything without the accumulated tolerance. In layperson’s terms, I spent the past two afternoons high as particularly high balls. I was functional Monday, less so yesterday.

I’m also physically very tired. I’ve been getting moderately into Pokemon Go… while I’ve played and enjoyed the Stadium series and I love Pokken Tournament, I never got into the core series or watched the anime, but Jack’s very into it, particularly as it came out at a time when he’s consciously being more active and getting out more. I’m very heat-susceptible, though, and prone to exercise intolerance in the best conditions, and I think even my modest efforts to “catch all of them” (as I believe the saying goes) may have been too much.

Plans For Today

My plans for today have actually changed since I started writing this post, as an external thing was canceled for external reasons. So I think I’m actually going to spend the day just doing random writing, see how many of my goals for the month I can knock out.

Home again, home again.

 

Well, I’m back.

Our trip to Nebraska for the 4th of July and the following week wound up happening in markedly different circumstances than it had been conceived. We’d been thinking it would be the last big function with my whole family for a good long while, so we wanted to allocate the time to do it up right. Things have changed to the point where this premise is no longer as likely to hold true, but it’s now markedly more likely to be the last one to happen in Nebraska.  We had less time with family than we would otherwise have liked, but more time to take in the sights of Omaha and its environs for what may be the last time.

But of course, any trip might be the last trip, regardless of larger circumstances. There was a recurring theme that bookended one recent year of Doctor Who in the holiday specials: every Christmas is last Christmas. Every gathering might be the last for someone. Even if we had plans to go back to Omaha next year or next week, it might not happen.

Life is full of unexpected things, good and bad. I honestly didn’t expect to be able to take my Maryland family back to see Nebraska as soon as I did or as often as I have since then. When we went for my sister’s wedding, I honestly thought that would be my one and only realistic chance to show Jack and Sarah around town. Now here we were, two years later, basically recreating that trip.

The other thing that changed was that when we planned this trip, I was basically treading water creatively and professionally. By the time it came around, it was inconveniently occupying the first week of month 2 of my personal renaissance. The fact that it came the week after I had a surprise viral hit on Medium was both blessing and curse… it stopped me from doing more to capitalize on that, but it also broke me out of the cycle I’d fallen into of refreshing page stats and link referrals and refreshing Twitter mentions to see what people were saying. It took some of the pressure of “Okay, now what’s your next act?”

Anyway.

Home now.

 

STATUS: Tuesday, June 28th

The Daily Report

Well, my Sad Boner Confessional parody seems to be my first Medium post to really go viral, in its own small way. One of my big weaknesses as a businessperson is that when something I do is successful, I find the success very distracting. I.e., I keep checking Twitter notifications and refreshing the Medium stat page. I want to chart the thing as it happens. I’m using a timer to try to control this tendency, so far not very successfully. We’ll see how things go when I start working in earnest for the day.

I’ve now had a nibble of interest from a Medium-based publication (basically, a curated list of articles with some features of a zine). I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do about that, but it’s still flattering. I’m interested in the idea of the piece being essentially syndicated, but I’m not too keen on the venue. I feel like I’d be bringing more to them than the other way around, which I wouldn’t mind if I liked what I saw better. So I’m appreciating it as a milestone, but I don’t think I’m going to take the offer.

I’ve already gained $1 in Patreon sponsorship a month that I can directly link to the success of the parody piece, which as near as I can tell is more benefit than the original author got from his HuffPo deal. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Even more so than the piece itself circulating, I’m grateful to see the phrase “Sad Boner Confessional” catching on and resonating with people. If my contribution to The Discourse is that we have a really great phrase for identifying and instantly dismissing these masturbatory bits of drivel.

Financial Status

We had a large recurring annual expense sneak up on us this week at a moment when no one was paying attention, which made for a scary moment when Jack went grocery shopping yesterday. Really looking forward to next month, when my de facto raise from my new Patreon stuff and the Tales of MU Patreon kicks in.

I’d still really like to be able to close out my WorldCon fundraiser before the end of the month. It’s almost there, but the “almost” feels like it’s hanging over my head. http://www.gofundme.com/ae2worldcon.

State of the Me

Feeling pretty good today!

Plans For Today

It’s a Tales of MU publishing day. There’s also a chance I’ll have to run out on an errand, and I’m working to get the house in order for the sitters before we leave next week.

 

STATUS: Thursday, June 23rd

The Daily Report

Yesterday during a conversation with Jack, I mentioned that I have been having a terrible week on multiple fronts. I was sick, I was exhausted, we were broke and low on supplies, I was stressed… and I still feel pretty good about what I’ve accomplished. I’ve still hit the most important marks for the week.

One thing about the nature of this business is that it’s always experimental. You can’t be afraid to try new things. New things aren’t always going to work, and when they do work, it won’t always be right away. It can be hard to spot the difference between “not working” and “hasn’t worked yet”, but I don’t think my online writing class notion is going to catch fire in its current form. I’m sure I have something of value to sell, but I’m not sure how to package and market it. It’s something I’ll have to think on.

The ideal response when you recognize that an idea has gone nowhere is to move on and try something else. It’s not a failure in any greater sense. All the money it didn’t make me is not money that I had but lost. I’m not sure what the next big experiment will be, but it’ll be something.

In the meantime, I’ve got my slow but steady build on both my Patreons.

Financial Status

Well, we’re now in the last week of the month. I don’t get paid at midnight of July 1st on the dot or anything like that, but I do feel more secure with the month almost over.

The State of the Me

A little tired, but pretty good.

Plans For Today

Well, I’ve got a chapter draft of Tales of MU that I want to go over before posting. I’m mostly going to be kicking around writing stuff for the rest of the day.

STATUS: Wednesday, June 22nd

The Daily Report

Well, yesterday I lost time due to grocery shopping, weather, and exertion in the heat. I think we had a fairly cool May and early June here, but we’re starting to get into the part of the year where I have to be real strategic about what I do in a day, physically, especially when it’s outside. It happens every year, but there are months and months of time between it where that’s not normal. It was a good day in the sense that our food supplies and finances became that much more secure, but not a terribly fruitful day, writing-wise.

Just over a week is left in June. Where did it go? I have accomplished so much this month, and I’m writing this sentence because my kneejerk reaction is to feel like I’ve done nothing. Two chapters of Tales of MU every week. A new story project started. New poems. Blog posts. Ten of thousands of words of fiction.

Financial Status:

Hovering a bit above where I was during my anxiety-ridden previous week(s). I am personally back to having basically no money to spend, but with a little more of a safety margin. As a household, the fact that we were able to buy groceries this week on magical internet money means that the money we were going to use—the money that the bank was holding in the other account—can now chill out until next week.

The State of the Me

A little wiped physically. I had a monster of a bad dream last night/this morning, involving a roller coaster ride, a high-stakes bet, and a seat restraint that wouldn’t latch/ratchet.

Plans For Today

A little disjointed. I have two pieces of writing I need to get done, but things are a little out of whack.