Writing through the chaos

U.S. Army Photo by Matthew Moeller. Creative Commons license.

On this first day of autumn, I am starting off the week with grief, anger and stress about the world’s escalating spiral down into the depths of ashes. I am mourning the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of my personal all-time heroes as a feminist, a woman and someone who works in the legal field. I am angry about the hypocrisy of the Republican Party in pushing through a nomination with an election in 42 days; and I am stressed out about how no one seems to be taking climate change seriously, which is a main drive of the fires that have ravaged the West Coast. It’s a sound bite for a news story or people focus on legitimizing the President’s lies by covering them at all.

Add to that, we have an administration and in fact a country that seems to think the best way to deal with a pandemic is to pretend it’s over. Sure, they’re mourning the loss of nearly 200,000 lives, but they just want to see their buddy, is that so much to ask? They’re wearing a mask. I’ve been quarantining since March. I have not seen my friends or family since February. My boyfriend does the grocery shopping, and we get non-grocery items delivered. We don’t go to restaurants. I wouldn’t have to make such deep sacrifices if people could just change their damn behavior. The pandemic doesn’t care if you are tired of it. If you’re not changing your behavior, you support herd immunity, no matter what you tell the Internet. I am still angry and bitter about it; I have good reason to be. I think it’ll be at least 2-3 years before we get back to “normal,” or what passes for normal. I have pandemic fatigue already.

But I’m tired of the anger. I can’t spend every day of my life angry. I’m just tired. I’m tired that people don’t seem to care in the same way I do. I’m tired of the people who think both sides are the same and are going to vote third party because they’re sick of everything. I’m tired of the way the Democrats are approaching the election; they seem out of touch and it is all too predictable. I am tired of cancel culture and how the left always eats its own but Republicans have no ethical standards whatsoever. I’m tired of being afraid of four more years of Trump. At this point, I think it’s a very likely possibility. It’s sickening hearing establishment Democrats telling CNN about how optimistic they are; but they only know their mainstream bubble. They are ignoring young people, to their peril. I remain in very great fear that Trump will cheat to win the election; either that, or he will cheat to stack a conservative majority on SCOTUS, in which case, we are f**ked either way. I only curse when it’s warranted.

My only way through this is to disassociate and write. Writing has been a great form of stress relief for me. It takes a mindset change to get there though; you have to change the way you talk to yourself about it. I write to escape, as well as to bring meaning to a world of chaos. I’ve also been exercising nearly every day and working on my self care, which also helps. This weekend, after two weeks of being cooped up due to terrible air quality from the fires, I finally got outside for hikes, and it was a big mental health boost.

I’m also thinking I’m going to get involved in writing emails and postcards to senators. I have to do something other than rant on social media. I am voting for Biden, but I want to do more than vote. I want to feel like I have more purpose and agency in this chaos. I have actually cut way back on my social media use and it has helped me. I don’t tweet throughout the day any more; no more subtweets, no more controversial tweets (I still tweet about politics), no more trolling. This more moderate approach to social media has benefited my mental health in the long run.

In writing news, I finished the gothic sci fi short, which I called “Black Sheep in the Mirror.” I am admittedly not great with titles. It turned out better than I thought at 5,600 words and I submitted it to Andromeda Spaceways this weekend; I am setting my sights high, because I guess I’m just a glutton for rejection punishment. I also submitted stories to 365Tomorrows, Four: A Seasonal Anthology from Iron Faerie Publishing and Nightmare Magazine. I’ve been doing Ray Bradbury’s challenge to write a short story a week for a year, which I started in January. With some halts and stutters, I have written 25 stories so far. I need to increase my pace to get to 52 by the end of the year.

Thus far, my count is 25 submissions, 11 pending responses, two acceptances and 12 rejections. I am pleased with my statistics. Still hoping for an SFWA-qualifying pro sale; but you can’t get an acceptance if you don’t submit. I have learned it is a real mindset shift to not self reject. The thing with those more competitive magazines is that a rejection doesn’t say anything about the quality of your writing or whether they liked it; they simply have 2,000 submissions for 11 spots. Sometimes it’s just math. And sometimes you get lucky. I’m talking a lot about mindset because I’m focusing on my mindset. The stories you tell yourself about your world make a difference.

I have decided to do National Novel Writing Month this year, so I am going to work on my outline in October. Every year I sign up for it, and in fact my account is from something like 2005. But I never really get started. Every year I blame the writing sprint factor; I decide I’m just not the type of person who can handle the pace. But this year I came up with an idea for a cozy mystery with a protagonist who comes from a family of witches, and I just want to have fun with it and finish something longer than a short story. I don’t expect to publish it. I just think it will help my confidence level. I’ll treat it like a “throwaway story” and who knows, maybe it’ll be good enough once I’m done; and there is always editing and drafting throughout the year to make it better. For that month, I will put all my other writing projects on hold to focus on the novel.

The reason why I was able to get to where my self esteem was in the right place to even think about pursuing this project? The short stories. Now I have the confidence and the work ethic to pursue something longer. I have been working on developing a “writer’s habit” of making appointments with a set time to write regularly, and that is another way the Bradbury challenge improves your writing.

Other than that not much to share. I hope to work on a longer short story about friendship this week. I have the vague beginnings of an idea about clones in space. I want to increase my submission rate to 30 pieces; maybe I will write a couple of flash stories over the weekend. My mental health regimen is really helping my productivity and energy levels; this is 45 days sober, and my consistency with exercise has worked for me. I don’t always keep up with meditation and my music, and I feel a bit numb some days, but I am still able to get things done. I started learning Russian again, too.

This year has really shown me that I have far more strength than I ever thought possible. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I could do this. It has taken a lot of inner work over the years to get here, and I am proud of my progress. Even though I may talk openly in my blog about my struggles, I have come a long way. The world may be burning, but I don’t have to burn with it.


Ways to support Denise

2 thoughts on “Writing through the chaos

  1. I am right there with you with the anger and the fatigue. I’m so tired of having to sacrifice daily when others can’t be bothered. At the same time, I’m not going to put myself in danger any more than I have to for basic survival (like groceries, and being forced in the office with other people one day a week).

    I am in touch with my elected officials via email every day, and have had some good conversations, and seen some of the ideas and language in my proposals put into action, which makes me feel like I’m doing something. I’ve also been writing voter postcards (an organization here lets you do no-contact pickup for stacks of them). Again, it makes me feel like I’m doing something. And maybe I’m just self-congratulating that the discussions we’re having in the homework group are getting some of the kids in it thinking and acting — and I’m learning, too.

    Good for you with the cozy mystery and Nano. I did Nano for quite a few years. Although I find what I write there needs more editing than what I write elsewhere, I’ve gotten some good material out of it. I was a mentor for several years and put out a little cheerleading ebooklet with prep tips and daily encouragements taken from the daily emails I sent all month to the mentees. It’s free and always will be, since Nano is free. I don’t want to self-promo by dropping a link in here, but if you’re interested, I’ll shoot you the link via Twitter.

    I found Nano helpful to get me into the daily rhythm, and I’ve used what I gained moving forward.

    I’m not doing it this year (although I say that so many years and often change my mind). But I have too many contracted deadlines looming. I may ride some of the Nano energy and write WITH Nano, working on stuff that’s on deadline (to me, DOING Nano means starting a new project, while writing WITH Nano means doing whatever you want during the month in company).

    And good for you on the short stories. Well done.

    I feel like it’s such a struggle and so hard to get out a single word. I long for the days when a typical day’s work was 2500 words on the novel designated as the “primary project” and then a spate of other creative work.

    I have to find a way past the pandemic fatigue and re-tap some of that creative energy flow again. I’m getting done what I have to in order to earn a living, but not everything that needs to be done to keep building my career. Eventually, that will catch up with me, and I feel the emotional backlash already.

    Phew — I guess your post really touched me and got me thinking. Thanks for that. Sorry to take up so much space.

    Liked by 1 person

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