Category: Writing

Starting a Creative Practice

Creative practice: Refilling the Well with Art

As the smoke from the Canadian wildfires fills my neighborhood and little house with pine soaked soot that triggers my condition, I thought it was a really good time to talk about refilling the creative well through a creative practice.

My body would like to hyperfocus on survival right now, even though we are doing a perfectly fine job surviving. The anxiety this condition gifts me in these moments of a flare has a lot of chemical energy. Energy that needs guidance to prevent it from turning into neurosis, catastrophizing, and just generally feeling miserable.

This post is about becoming aware of the relationship we have with our bodies, our psyches, and the environment we’re in to see how that has an impact on our creativity. And why in this place of self-awareness, no matter the circumstances, no matter how far away we might feel from doing the artistic endeavor we have in mind, we are still helping ourselves to create.

So my understanding of creativity has changed a bit with being able to push back a lot of the numbness that comes along with this condition. I’m doing a lot of nervous system focused work (vagus nerve stimulation with a TENs machine), along with calming the immune system and stabalizing the mast cells. With the healing of my nervous system, a lot more sensations connected to emotions and thoughts are turning back on. Creativity is no longer just the logical problem-solving that my brain would like to categorize it as. Creativity is also an exploration of emotions and sensations, and how we feel about the things that come up in our work.

There is a being, not just a brain, in the creativity relationship. And that being needs to feel to be connected to the work it’s making. And that can be really difficult when dealing with chronic illness, where your sensations might be overwhelmed by pain all the time, anxieties, feelings of worthlessness, or hyperfocus to distract from any feelings at all. Chronic illness demands a lot from a being, not just the body. And even though there are many lessons to learn and ways to evolve into a greater version of oneself that never would’ve been available without such an intense catalyst, it can also suffocate the creative process when it’s too much.

Poverty can suffocate the creative process. Poverty and chronic illness tend to go hand-in-hand, both perpetuating the other. When you need your creativity to escape anything, it’s very easy to lose sight of the value of creativity outside of that external goal. It’s hard to remember why you turned to creativity before it became eclipsed by the desperate goal to survive.


Creativity versus the World

When creativity is muddled by one’s environment, the relationship with creativity becomes distorted. Our creativity is a reflection of ourselves, but sometimes it becomes warped into what it’s being asked to be by the problem we’re trying to solve. We start believing that creativity is a thing we do, an entitlement, something that should be able to turn on at a moment’s notice, forever ready. It should never lead us down the wrong path, but only the one we want, quick AF, and that it should automatically deliver us our goals.

You know, like it’s technology, something built to grant us our wishes and work exactly as we demand. We treat creativity like it’s one of the products we make, instead of the source of creation.

When one gets stuck in that dismissive perspective of creativity, you can start getting frustrated when it’s just not working the way you want it to. You can start getting angry that it’s just not delivering. And you can start feeling worthless, because it’s you, isn’t it? You’re the one not delivering. You’re the one not solving all your problems. You’re the one failing, and maybe you’re just not any good at this creative stuff. Real creatives make this look easy, so you can’t actually be a creative. You’re just an imposter.

A defective imposter, at that. (WTF brain? Why do you have to be so mean?)

We are bombarded with messages from people who want to make money by telling us how to feel about our relationship with the creative process. They tell us that the process is easy, and you just need to do these quick tips, buy their book, sign up for their course, invest your time and energy and money into solving your creative deficit. And that if you invest enough, eventually you will be rewarded with the results you want. The results you’ve been promised — the ones all those other creative’s are getting.

Surely, that’s what they did, right? They don’t struggle. Go on Instagram and see all the creative’s who make their work look easy. It can be easy for you too. Just invest in solving your creativity problem.

The thing is, there’s no such thing as a creativity problem. There’s nothing wrong with anyone’s creativity; the problem is in our relationships with ourselves.

Creativity lives within

We forget why our creativity exists. We forget the inner gains as we tunnel vision on the outer goals from creativity. We forget that beings don’t exist to do the same thing every day like machines. And by asking ourselves to do that — no matter the goal — is us asking ourselves to come up with creative solutions to harm ourselves.

We are not characters in video games that get better by leveling up individual stats for hours upon hours a day. There is a whole being that needs to be addressed, that needs to be fueled at all levels, and creativity is connected to that whole being. It’s not like a limb where the stress is felt only if you overwork the joint, or pull a muscle, or break a bone. Creativity lives in our nervous system, in the three main brains in our skull, in our muscle memory, our reflexes, our sensations of the world. It’s in our memories of the past, in our relationships with society, and with being human. Creativity is a part of our psyche, just as much as a part of our logic, and if we are doing things that fail to connect all those relationships properly, creativity can struggle to flow.

Chronic illness turned the question of what I wanted from my body into the immediate, frustrating answer of “I just want it to work”. And of course, the thing I wanted was impossible to have. I didn’t want to accept what I was experiencing. But it’s in acceptance that we remove a lot of the stress of chronic illness.

We already have a world out there refusing to accept that people break, that rest is required, that the demands being placed upon us to be allowed to live, never mind the quality of that life, are not only unrealistic, but damaging. Capitalism is an abusive relationship, and when you start believing the messages being sent to you, basic aging is suddenly a failure.

Creativity isn’t a light switch. It’s a state of being, and it’s only truly accessible when we accept it for what it is instead of trying to distort it into something more convenient. Feeding it requires taking care of all those things that we want to ignore as we focus on our goals. It is more demanding than maintaining a machine, because we are very good at ignoring the very big demands that are placed on us every day, and creativity takes a hit as a result. And if you have chronic illness, and are dealing with financial difficulties, or relationships where you are expected to be at a certain level all the time, no matter what, those stressors compound exponentially.

If you are someone who doesn’t accept. If you’re someone still asleep, thinking that you can force your way out of the situation of life with just a little more breaking of yourself for later gain, you are the problem that is killing your creativity. There’s only so much a being can take.

So how do you repair your relationship with your creativity enough to allow it to flow?

Accepting The Impossible, aka, Mindfulness

It starts with acceptance. Accepting all the shit you don’t want except. Accepting the emotions that you’re running from. It is shit to feel like a failure, and no one wants to feel those feelings for long. But in acceptance of those feelings, is also the acceptance that you weren’t given a choice.

This is life exactly as it is.

Unfair. Painful. Full of extremely unrealistic expectations from a species that is destroying the one planet it can survive on. All these demands are coming from a place of insanity, and internalizing them can only spread that madness further, and break us.

In a place of acceptance is the ability to feel again. It’s the ability to reconnect with your body and your environment. It’s the ability to reconnect your emotions to your thoughts and sensations, and to have a richer experience of being.

It’s about letting go of those expectations and demands that claim you can only do things one way: goal centric. The insistence that you should find a way to be productive while being creative.

The trap of creative productivity

There’s something funny about the concept of productivity, especially in this current world. If one were to think of a production line, productivity would be about making more things people need, faster. What does productivity currently mean when it’s being sold to us by the business self-help gurus? It’s about making money. It’s about making meaningless things, more superficial things, faster, so-called “smarter”, for the end goal of money. Where everything you do turns into a way to make money. Everything. Hey, you could write a song right now for fun… but would it sell?

It’s suffocating. Paralyzing. Until can’t do a fucking thing without having to figure out if you can make a cent off of it at the end, and they want to call that self-help. Talk about psychosis.

It’s not just art though. What do you want to do with your life? What do you want to be when you grow up (or grow older)? Will it make money? Will it be attractive to a mate? Will it make you into a worthy person deserving of love and respect? No, not in this world? Then do the thing that makes money.

Don’t dream. Don’t hope. Don’t wish to be better or to change the world — that’s not going to make money. Don’t BE unless you fit into this form. Settle. Then production line it.

Our environment decides a lot about how we feel about ourselves. It frames everything. And when you are stuck in an abusive environment, be it the ability to blame a bad job, a hurtful person, or dehumanizing societal norms, it is hard to find perspective. You’re in it, and become a product of it.

This isn’t a go live in the woods blog. We have to find balance.

These messages and distortions of us absolutely limit and cripple the creative process. We stop asking ourselves how to create, and instead focus on getting as many products out there as possible. It becomes all about the goal and not the creation. We lose the journey of exploration, the sinking into the psyche and pulling back knowledge, inspiration, emotion, pain, and reflections of being that we can share with others. Connect with others.

I’m not saying you can’t create to make money. I’m not even saying that can’t be the reason you show up every day to create. I’m in no way blind to the capitalistic hellscape I’m forced to participate in. If anything, I am still too connected and distorted by it.

What I am saying is that you cannot turn to that abusive relationship to maintain your creativity. And your creativity will be harmed because YOU will be harmed. There is no way to minimize down a being’s worth, their time, their talents, their reflections of emotions and philosophy into a production line, without inflicting great harm on a person. It is dehumanizing, and creativity cannot flourish in such a two-dimensional space.

Creativity is not a get rich quick scheme. Finding your bliss shouldn’t be one either.

Do not go into the creative field to make money, if you want to remain a creative by the end of it. Oh, we love the lie. We love to say that we can have 2 goals in a business model, the first goal to make money and the second to make the world better, or make the best product, or, I dunno, clean up the environment, etc. It doesn’t matter; the first goal will always take precedent. Always.

This is why businesses exist: to make money. Deluding yourself otherwise is bullshit. When you are participating in the act of making money, what your skills and talents are will never be as important as getting that cash at the end of the day. You will be valued by that cash, your entire sense of self slapped with pricetag of how much you are worth in this endeavor. It is not a community. It is not a lovefest between you and fans. It is a job. One that limits how you present yourself to the world to maintain that job. One that asks you to create things you might not want to create to maintain that job. One that can never truly be a reflection of you as a being, because the purpose of that job is cashflow, not self realization.

Do not turn to your job to become a better person; it cannot facilitate it. Become a better person and bring that to your job.

Or change the goal of your job, and give up trying to compromise. Maybe you’re already independently wealthy and you can do that. Maybe you’re like me, and your creativity won’t flow when you’re trying to compromise with this shit. Wonderful. Otherwise, stop drowning your creative process in a field that doesn’t reward the essence of creativity. If repetition is required to make a buck — if the production line is required for your creativity — you can’t go to work to refill the empty well. It won’t work.

Dedicating space to create

Exploring creativity outside of distorted goals is a good way to remember why one creates, and what creativity provides. Make a practice of it, a play date, a therapy session, a rest, an indulgence. Give yourself permission, and then give yourself time. Fall in love with what you do by doing something else that doesn’t have the same demands and expectations. And do not allow yourself to place demands on your practice of creativity.

What do you need? Not much.

You need a space to create. A physical space, one ideally with a clear schedule free of interruptions. And probably most importantly, you need to show up, ideally with a guilt free conscience and curious to explore.

You do not get to fail. Failure comes from a place of expectation, and creativity cannot be about expectation. It’s about exploration. It’s about feeling the process, and allowing it to be exactly what it is in the moment. Allowing yourself to be exactly who you are in that moment, the frustration, insecurity, boredom, curiosity, seeking, worried about time, lonely, in pain, etc.

You also don’t get to be bad at it. There is no expectation of a result, and therefore no way to judge if you’ve achieved that result or not.

When lost in the creative process, exploring, results meaning nothing. You can throw it out at the end if you want. You can daydream and never write a single word down. Just as long as you experience the process, whole body, and accept it all as it comes.

Creating for creativity’s sake. If you need your creativity to flow, you have to focus on the actual problem. You. You need a reset. You need a place to be, to do, without judgement, without expectation, without the noise and stress the world bombards with. You need a place to be free, so create it.

The creative struggle with my personal environment

I’ve been seeing my creative deficits since getting back into writing. It was much easier to focus on the executive dysfunction’s, partially because in some ways they’re easier to face. They’re also easier to communicate. I can say working memory, or attention span, and people can relate without asking too much from themselves.

It’s harder to communicate well in regards to — I don’t want to call it writer’s block, because it’s not. I could absolutely sit down and write. But I couldn’t feel what I was writing, and feeling is what writing is all about. And every time I would delve deep, and try to find where those feelings have gone, all I could find were feelings about chronic illness, about disability, about poverty, and about the society that has framed these things into abnormals states of being — there are millions of us with chronic illness and disability. Hundreds of millions of people are in extreme poverty, while billions are in societal poverty. It is normal!

But the world defines us into failures. Invisible. No one wants to hear about reality when they’re turning to the computer to escape reality. And the harder it was to feel, to connect with my body and my emotions, the more I internalize those distorted, frankly fucked-up messages that I was the problem. That I was abnormal. That somehow something intrinsic in me had made this the obvious end result, no matter how much I fought to get out of this pit our society keeps dark for those they don’t want to see.

So then my creativity came about in defiance of that. Still not feeling, still not accepting, still running away. Seeking ways to break myself to help escape and feel the other things — the exhaustion and frustration and failures — so I wouldn’t have to feel so broken as a whole.

A part of me saw that as long as I was physically ill, I could understand why I was failing, why I wasn’t being productive enough with my time and therefore wasn’t living up to the distorted capitalistic message. By participating in my self-destruction physically by refusing to rest, by investing all my time and energy — energy I don’t have — into getting out, I was finding a way to emotionally free myself from the abusive messaging bombarded at every single person when it comes to self-worth and how they spend their time.

I just had to keep breaking myself physically, so I wouldn’t have to hold myself up to the standard that was killing me to try to achieve.

Creativity is a sword with as many edges as you can imagine

Our creativity is a gift, that can create a door to these psychological cages we participate in building. We might have never come up with the initial message, and we certainly didn’t set the external world stakes for what happens if we disregard those messages and fail the expectations this abusive society gives us to survive. But we do participate in believing the message.

We participate in how we frame ourselves to that message, and how we think about ourselves in relation to that message. We can cage ourselves and that message, exaggerating and amplifying it, only ever comparing ourselves to that message, and calling that message “truth”.

We do this to ourselves long after the world changes. And from that mental cage, we leave no space for change.

It takes a lot of mental energy to trap oneself. It can also take a lot of creativity to keep oneself trapped, distorting any positive messages that point out that things aren’t necessarily the way we keep insisting they are. This also drains our creativity, and distorts our relationship with our creativity. It’s a skill, creating depths of emotion and sensation out of basic thoughts and words. That skill can absolutely cut us just as much as it frees others.

Letting go to be able to receive

The open palm. I don’t visualize a lot of things, but during my PTSD therapy years back, the open palm was this huge breakthrough for me. Where I realized there was no way to let anything in, no way to seek new information, new truths, new perspectives, etc, if our hand was clenched upon an absolute. As long as your holding something tight, be it an idea, belief, pain, memory, you cannot reach out to accept anything else in. One has to release it all to be open to what will come.

This includes how we see ourselves. How we see our past. How we see our journey and where we think we are on it. None of that can be re-created or reimagined if we are so tightly clenched to our preconceptions and definitions of things that are purely conceptual.

I think mindfulness mixed with art therapy is extremely healing. It helps to break down expectations, and face that we are the ones giving it value. That when we feel the worst stakes crushing down on us because we have failed to meet an expectation, we are the ones who participated in that relationship of thought and punishment.

When we do it because we lack self-awareness, it can be extremely damaging. But gaining self-awareness doesn’t mean it’s not extremely hard to let go. So there are things like a practice of art, a practice of creativity, that shows us it’s okay to let go and explore something new, and to be something — someone — different in that moment.

You don’t have to conceptualize consequences for being free. You can just be free.

Find ways to seek new sensations. I always wondered why art rarely focuses on olfactory senses, considering how memory works, how intense a simple smell can have on our emotions. There’s music, rhythms, and dancing, and moving that can unlock muscle memory and engage the nervous system.

There is the act of making visual art, finding a large canvas to move around and explore with one’s whole body, not just the eyes. Paint over it a million times — paint with dirt; it doesn’t matter. It’s the act of letting your body make a mark, to live in its environment and be a body being that’s important, not holding onto the results.

There’s telling a story, not worried about which words to use, using your whole body to tell it, possibly recording it to get the emotional cadence from the voice. Singing — one could try singing a story like an opera.

It’s about feeling, and letting art lead the way. Making art to help to connect with one’s feelings, giving them a safe outlet that’s contained for those who fear being overwhelmed by their feelings. Creating space for art can be about creating a safe space to experience feelings and sensations that one does not feel safe to have in their everyday world.

Trauma can make feeling seem dangerous. Art can provide safe space and acceptance. Ugly art, strange, distorted, raw, uncomfortable art can be so cathartic when dealing with trauma and trying to find worth in what feels worthless.

Reconnecting with the source of creativity is reconnecting with being alive

It’s so important. It is so healing. It’s a journey that never ends because creativity is what every living being is. Anything and everything you do can be creative, because it’s a part of existing as a living being.

We are not unfeeling machines that only do what we’re programmed to do. We are not inanimate objects for the background of someone else’s existence, meant to be neglected and dissapear because we don’t fit the mad conceptualizations of society. We are an amazing collections of atoms that have formed elements, cells, thoughts, will, and actions: that we exist at all is the creative force.

Returning to celebrate what it is to exist, to feel, to conceptualize, to act, is how we recharge our creativity. When we stop emulating the inanimate and the automatons, we remember what it is to truly exist.

You don’t need to buy a book for this. You don’t need to pay for a class. Although, it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. The celebration of life can be shared, creativity flooding out, allowing us to change with our moods — allowing us to have moods — and accepting it all. Just ensure that you can do this practice with others without activating the judgemental inner self. If you feel like you need to perform, don’t trap yourself with an audience and claim it’s to help you heal. It’s not; it’s to continue harming yourself.

When one is recharged again, no longer growing dim as you’re changed by this process, you will find that your creativity flows again for those projects that just weren’t getting done before. Not only that, you find that those projects change as you return to them, becoming more interesting, more vibrant, more purposeful, because you have something to give them now. You’ve become connected to what you’re doing and have something to create, instead of mindlessly producing for some supposedly essential goal.

What is truly essential?

There’s something very sad about being asked to disconnect from the many things that tell us we’re alive, all in the name of survival through the exchange of producing meaningless things or selling our time. It’s dehumanizing. De-being-izing.

How many times has the world told us to put aside how we feel, how we think, who we are, all in the name of some supposedly greater goal of… what? Doing a job that doesn’t actually need to get done? Providing a service that doesn’t really add value to community? Replicating a trinket that’s tossed in the trash, or creating content that is unsatisfyingly consumed, leaving people hungry and empty and seeking the very thing they’re being told is inappropriate, childish, immature.

We just want to enjoy our lives while we’re living them. And unfortunately, the twisted world out there that humanity has crafted doesn’t think that’s a good idea. (Seriously, why? What’s the big fucking deal with enjoying life at any age?) The world tells us our enjoyment needs to be regulated, kept to a slim “if you’re lucky and make enough you can be rewarded with…” all so we’ll work more for those who profit off of us.

Fuck it. Give yourself permission to enjoy the moment, every moment, without giving a fuck about societal expectations to turn you into an unfeeling, unmotivated, lackluster robot. You don’t have to be something to be happy. You don’t have to know what you need to become to finally be happy in this distorted world. We are all being, this very instant, and it’s exactly enough.

Don’t become a dead product of a sleeping, unaware society. Creativity helps us wake up and remember the pure beauty of simply existing. Where we are all worthy and deserving without needing to prove anything to anyone. Where terms like failure, wrong, and mistakes are nonsensical concepts. If you don’t know how to break free, the creative practice can help show you the way. And when you bring that into everything you do, you never have to fear being disconnected from yourself again.

Setting Boundaries With Expectations

Gaining Fresh Perspective

I was planning on checking in some days back. Had written the whole thing out, only to end up with another anaphylactic reaction and back to the ER. By the time I was out and looking at the submit button, the moment had passed.

So much keeps changing. The hardest thing to find is perspective right now, because of how this condition works. Anaphylactic reaction is your body basically killing itself to fight off whatever set off the reaction. It means that during those moments, the chemical cascade rushing through is defining everything.

Survival to the point of self destruction. It’s everything I know about living with PTSD since small, so maybe this was the illness that my brain is most willing to rationalize, possibly even set off because of such a difficult psyche. MCAS can be triggered through trauma, through other chronic illnesses too. There’s plenty to choose from.

Things keep changing so rapidly as I start to treat this condition in a way that’s actually working. The changes are so extreme on my body. I’ve regained circulation in my arms. My fingertips, which have been giving off electric shocks since the ER, now suddenly calmed. I regained circulation in my skin. The scratches and patches of scaly skin suddenly have color to them, like washes of sepia.

My executive functioning has changed completely — I can task switch with ease all of a sudden. I’m painting detailed work because my eyes aren’t bothering me anymore. My eyes aren’t bothering me anymore. The underlying condition is there, but it’s not being set off.

I’m not obsessing over anything — I just stop, now. It’s the most bizarre thing in the world to have found the kill switch that just wasn’t there for years.

And then I’ll eat the wrong thing, or smell the wrong scent, and it all unravels…

It’s life or death heart racing, throat swelling, mouth and stomach burning, chemical cascade of doom as all my lymph nodes swell up and my skin turns pale and papery and loses sensation.

It feels like zero to near death, just like that, except it’s not. I have no proper perspective on this illness because I have been in that stage I just describe practically 24-7, for years now, and it’s not near death. It was only near death when my tongue started swelling a little bit more and my chest didn’t want to open enough to breathe. (I mean, if you want to get technical and add in the adrenal insufficiency, it was already death…)

And that new stage where I’m not an anxiety riddled, neurotic, inflamed mess? I don’t know if that’s “zero”. I don’t know if that’s my default just forever out of reach. Or if it’s the stage where things are a little better than my previous default, and there’s something even better waiting.

I have no clue where I am in this process of healing, only that I’ve managed to get out of that previous default. And that my body is also now capable of experiencing that rushing toward not breathing stage. Two extremes that, with enough perspective, might actually be dots on top of each other on a chart for how much they are alike. I don’t know.

Remembering Me

What I do know is, as the inflammation lowers, and the chemicals that impact my neurology start to fade with fewer reactions, I am slowly coming back to me. I’ve found that a lot of the neurosis, anxiety, and inflexibility in living is coming from the immune response. In so many ways. There are levels to this.

Just the other night I was defining myself by the state I was in, remembering that version from before the really bad decade of illness, who would be manic every night, hyper-focused on a project to deal with the excess of agony being felt at an emotional level over absolutely nothing. Every night since I was a teenager living in a moldy basement, that’s the level of pain I had to endure, and I was suddenly feeling it all over again.

And then I realized, oh, mast cells are more active at night, which is why the meds are taken at bedtime. They have a circadian rhythm, which is probably why not only do I naturally fall asleep around dawn, but that habit of sleep came from following those disturbing, long nights of chemical distress. My bedtime is dawn; I need to take the meds at nightfall.

I cut out eating at night, to give the mast cells in the gut nothing to react to. And I make sure to avoid anything emotional or too energetic at night so the response can’t be triggered through stress. Sure enough, no mania, no physical/emotional agony over nothing. The problematic chemicals didn’t flow because the mast cells weren’t being triggered.

My mental distress is a response to physical illness, and good fucking luck trying to go through a pysch doctor to ever get to the solution for an immune disorder.

Self care has to come from a place of understanding the self. You can’t care for what you don’t understand. What this illness did to me removed me from my sense of self, and from my sense of being in my body. I have been burning my hands for weeks — possibly longer — and not knowing it. I only started noticing once I had gotten my inflammation down long enough for sensation to return to my hands. I thought I was “over” sensitive because everything was hurting. First the nerve pain and now suddenly I could see the rash on my hands and fingers, and everything felt like pain.

Because I was in pain.

The water temperature of our facet gets too hot, and I didn’t notice when rinsing the dishes and washing the cat plates multiple times a day. Every day. I had others test the temperature to confirm it wasn’t just a lack of perspective on my part — because that’s the thing: my perspective is warped by this illness. For so long.

Perspective is something always being built, adjusted by every change, big and small. It’s never final, never stagnant… except when our minds become small and shortsighted.

It’s like washes of paint, forever transforming something into clarity or revealing a lack of it, obscuring and removing, transforming and unveiling. And in there, somewhere, is the truth, but it will always be limited by the eyes looking and the mind perceiving. It just is.

This is the texture study I couldn’t start because of the neurosis. I was able to start working on it this week, around the time of the second anaphylactic emergency. How it started looks nothing like how it is now, and this moment — this snapshot — will be nothing of what its final form will be.

My eyes have been fucked for years, and I just started to come to terms with that, only to learn, hey, the eyes have mast cells in them too. The chemical cascade of the immune response was adding inflammation and strain, exhausting my eyes until the underlying Exotropia flared. But if that immune response isn’t happening, I don’t have a migraine 24-7 anymore. This week I finally remembered what a boring old headache feels like.

Writing what you know

Part of not getting back to writing is my acknowledgment that I can’t write people when I don’t feel like a person. I have been so out of touch with living for so long now, and after the last time the mold hit and I built the cleanroom, my brain changed drastically. So completely. I still haven’t recovered. I gained enough perspective this last week to remember more of what it was like to be whole, and to see how I am far from it.

My emotions are waking back up the same way the sensation in my hands did. I’m regaining memories — while also becoming aware that I keep forgetting what month it is, what I did yesterday, if I’m near the beginning or end of the month, etc. I can’t plot a timeline of what I’ve been through, and it’s scary to become so aware of a deficit I can’t even be sure isn’t new.

I want to believe the memory issues are a side effect of the bigger anaphylactic response, but I can’t know for sure. Not without more time.

I am returning to my body, and it is jolting. Remembering and navigating all these sensations and emotions is difficult, disorienting. And then adding all that intensity into the flares of the illness is, well, extra. Because it was bad enough being in this body when it couldn’t fully feel what was happening. Now it can feel more, and it’s something I need to learn to cope with.

Everything has changed

I am not driven to do anything but heal right now. I am not driven to prove I am alive by doing things, and that’s really the raw truth of what has been pushing me to get back to living while bombarded by the constant chemical cocktail of the anaphylactic immune response. I measured being alive by being able to get back to what I was doing, because I felt chronic illness was taking me away from that. Illness had interrupted my life, something that was holding me from doing what I love… and that was all I could define it as.

I didn’t measure it through feeling, because I wasn’t feeling much of anything. So there was never a rush to feel better physically once the nerve pain in the face stopped. I ignored my pain and discomfort; that is the fucking default to disability. Every moment is about enduring until you just stop looking at it, stop acknowledging it. And it’s shitty, and I can’t claim it’s the “wrong” way to go through chronic illness, because fuck, it got me through and it was all I could literally do when my nervous system couldn’t do anymore.

I wasn’t rushing to feel better emotionally, because it was the same damn thing. What was the point of having emotions over something completely beyond my ability to control? Emotions were better invested elsewhere, except mine had numbed so much, there was little to invest.

I don’t know if my nervous system was responding to the chronic chemicals, or trying to adapt to make things less painful. Either way, it resulted in my brain — the sharp teeth — deciding everything, driving everything. And when the logic part of the brain is coping, it’s with patterns, curiosity for distractions, games that become neurosis. Every thought is essential, and it won’t stop shouting those thoughts… to help me not feel what I was going through.

Boundaries with expectation

There is no point in having expectations when your perspective is a sliver wide. I have adapted down to this illness for the majority of my life — certainly since my teens — and I don’t know what being healthy is going to look like. I don’t know what I’m going to be able to handle to control this illness and prevent it from flaring up, while also living a full life. I just know that I’m not there yet. This silence I’ve been feeling lately is both full of so much possibility, and absolutely nothing at all, and I will not know who I can become until I am them.

For now, I need to take care of myself. Which means letting go of what I’ve already let go of this week when I wasn’t paying attention. I have no expectations of results on anything in regards to writing, coding — being. I have things I must do in regards to researching this illness and navigating diet changes and supplements, and everything else is just… being. Feeling. Remembering what it is like to be a living, breathing, empathetic being that feels.

I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to remembering what it is I was writing that I couldn’t get back to because I had forgotten this part of existing. And that’s the thing; you can’t separate a creator from their experiences and expect them to be able to write something whole.

I was fighting this, knowing that I wasn’t ready to write because I couldn’t connect with the part of me that feels my writing. So the logical brain came in and said “fuck it, do it anyways.” Because that’s what the rational does. It talks about measurements of gains and loses. Money. It talks about no one being able to see through the facade. How there is value in going through the motions in the hopes of jump starting what isn’t flowing. There are so many reasons to just “do the thing” that I completely agree with. But creativity is a whole person experience. It requires the psyche to be there, adding important context. And mine just wasn’t showing up.

Be it physical malady or psychological side effect, I couldn’t connect and get into the state to understand what I was trying to write at the level it needed to be understood. Hence I couldn’t figure out how to edit it, because I didn’t know what exactly I was trying to say in the first place. So the neurosis stepped in, hoping to find a logical answer to the wrong problem.

Faking it doesn’t work, but it feels like doing something…

I wanted to be okay. And to prove I was okay, I wanted to do all the things I couldn’t do because illness kept getting in the way. So I wrapped everything about my ideals of getting better into getting back to writing, even as I promised myself I would be gentle with myself. But I wasn’t, because I couldn’t feel the pain I was inflicting to begin with.
I just wanted to be better so desperately, that I was forever looking at the goal I needed to reach to prove it. Never at myself. Never at the hurt, the illness, the pain of being left behind in life. The goal was far less painful to focus on.

Perspective frames everything

I can only understand this because the chemicals that were bombarding my body are doing it less now. There’s no point in me beating myself up over doing the only thing my brain chemistry would allow. And now that it’s shifted, it’s still the same lesson. There’s no point getting upset that I can’t hold onto the motivation to get back to writing to the point of self destruction. I’m not that person any longer (until another flare, I suppose.)

Things will happen in the time they take to happen, and it’s exactly enough. I feel so much pity for that other version of me who was desperately trying to prove everything was okay by neurotically going through the motions, unable to get out of the trap. Unable to feel how nothing was okay, and that trying harder at what wasn’t working wasn’t ever going to solve it.

Everything has shifted drastically, from health to perspective these last weeks, and I don’t know where it’s going to balance out. But I remember myself more, am more in this form, in this life, and I am better for it. The suffocating feeling that has been following me for so long… to realize that was real, that the anxiety and feelings of dread — like death was going to slam down at any moment — was part of the chemical cascade that goes along with your mast cells over reacting all the time… There’s peace in understanding that. More so once I was able to pull the reactions back more through eliminating histamines. Even as I observe the smallest things setting off the biggest reactions in this body, I still have that feeling of peace from this fresh perspective.

I have lost a lot of time to this illness. I’m probably going to continue to lose time to this illness. But trying to solve that by breaking myself — doing more and getting nowhere — doesn’t feel like a viable option anymore. I can feel things again; I want to enjoy the experience of living. I want this change to sink in and continue softening these straining muscles and anxious, rigid expectations until it all dissolves into soft foam. I’m tired of the only thing I feel being pain and anxiety and the forever hovering exhaustion. It’s time to experience more.

Writing (and not writing) with OCD

A lot of writing about not writing…

I don’t talk about my OCD a lot, but I think anyone who has read either my books or my blogs have seen it come up, either in real time, or mentioned in ways that don’t quite come out and say OCD, but is recognizable as such. I got in the habit of not talking about my OCD just before my teens when it really started showing up, partially because I was already a wary young person, and I knew what fucking crazy looked like. I knew what happened to undesirable children after being through the foster system. And although I didn’t have a full grasp of what paranoia was, I also had a lot of that showing up as my OCD did.

Mental illness is both the most natural thing in the world, and also the thing you feel like you can’t share when you need to fit into a society to survive. Everyone else is so “normal”, because no one talks about it. No one mentions the hardships, the failures, the inability to keep up with the Jones while everyone looks like they’re keeping up with the Jones. Until you start to realize: it’s not the failures that are so shameful to society, but the feelings around them. The admittance of it all. The people that hold the source.

As a kid, I picked up on it — how can you not, when you need to be perfect to prevent ending up in the worst situation, depending on total strangers for your very survival? You have to adapt to everything as it comes, because battling reality in those moments could leave you without support, adrift, and soon dead. So I adapted to mental illness, and took care of my adoptive mother as her cancer resurfaced, and tried to ignore just what was happening in my head while living in a moldy basement, with untreated PTSD, untreated OCD, untreated depression, untreated anxiety, untreated allergies… trying to be perfect for others in the hopes it would better my life.

It did not. My parents passed away (as many do) and I was left with a lot of untreateds and no life skills in how to:
1) look at these issues
2) seek out help
3) have bodily autonomy when negotiating with mental health professionals.

Because young people — especially traumatized ones — are trained that an adult will always make the decisions, and they will always be followed even when they are not the right decision. Because mental health was not a topic of conversation in my family, the final rights to one’s body, one’s safety, and one’s mind when asking for help also wasn’t explained, and that was a disservice, one that is perpetuated in many households every day.

Mental illness is not an excuse for someone to take away your rights, or to make you feel like you’re undeserving of participating in your care, no matter how it’s stigmatized and disliked. That people hide their struggles with mental illness isn’t just from the social isolation that comes when society decides you’re not “of use”, but because there is a long history of dehumanizing those who have mental illness. Of rationalizing the physical removal and all levels of abuse on human beings because of mental illness. Because of emotionality in general, which is how an entire sex was punished when they might dare to seek financial and bodily autonomy — how many generations did we refuse females money so that men would have wives? But I digress…

When I write about the characters in the Paranormal Academy for Troubled Boys, and their problems seem so strange and unrelatable with the fantasy elements and such, I’m really writing a place where it’s okay to have mental illness and still be free to be oneself. Even when not free. Finding a balance in a good place that doesn’t ask you to hate the parts of yourself you’re battling, instead of the world trying to either shut you off — the good and the bad — to make you controllable and acceptable by their standards, or to just throw you away in exile. These were the only options I saw available to me as a traumatized youth. Conform or be exiled from the tribe.

A pattern of thought

I like to think of my OCD as having triggers, where I can say “If I can just get over my fears of ***, it won’t show up.” But OCD is a force under it all, a process deep in the nervous system even under those subconscious triggers, and it’s always there. It is my base wiring that will twist as it surfaces, such as in my editing, or any place where I’m suddenly focused in making something “correct”.

If I’m feeling fanciful, I describe OCD as a pattern inside me that I need to see repeated on my environment, and in all the things I do. All life has a pattern — life is a pattern of the inorganic into the organic. My version of life wants to change the external to suit my personal pattern, and when I do that, it makes me feels good and secure in the world. I see me, something familiar when before it was unfamiliar.

This pattern isn’t as distinct as something truly obvious — my counting games are mostly done these days — but it’s still the balance of objects, the balance of color and tone, balance of words and formatting, textures and flow. You see, anything and everything can hold this pattern, because hey, I adapt. This process of seeing something and wanting to craft my pattern to it is forever both a sense of satisfaction and contentment in the world, and a sense of dis-ease and misery. Because you can’t gain a completion of the pattern without the thing driving the compulsion — the horrendous underlying feeling that not having the pattern means you can’t be safe and happy in the world.

I like words. I like the concepts we place into words. I like codes — I read a book on making and breaking codes in my teens and it was such a fabulous time waster, so much more interesting than making mazes because of the nested levels of meaning that could be placed into symbols. The games that occupied my mind as I tried to distract from trauma and the difficulties of my brain… They were wonderful, because they helped me run away. But lately, now that I’ve gotten more of a handle on this immune thing, and am trying to build a life, these games aren’t a service to me, but a hindrance. The thing that I am, these aspects of myself, are preventing change at the moment, asking me to run away, to always be away from living my life.

It’s enjoyable, when not all consuming. Writing is one of these things, by the way. It’s not that OCD is only preventing me from writing by offering fun new things to learn or thinking of making interactive novels with a million endings, etc. OCD is also there when I’m writing, driving me to get these internal patterns out, translated, transformed, and understood so that a piece of my inner pattern has changed my external world in a satisfying way. Art is the same way — there isn’t a thing I do where it’s not there. I can’t load the dishwasher without some adherence or refusal to adhere to a pattern. This is a part of my makeup at every level.

It’s exhausting

I don’t actually know much about OCD. I have never sought a diagnosis, because in my paranoia, I knew the significance of what was wrong with me. I see patterns, including the patterns I put out into the world by interacting with it. Most people can’t figure out a simple puzzle, never mind know what they’re doing in ten minutes, and certainly don’t think down long roads of how their actions impact things. They’re not thinking at all, and what perfect bliss that must truly be. Because this thing in my head isn’t required for life; it’s just there anyways, observing, turning everything into the eye test from hell as it compares, measures, questions and twists every concept on end, trying to understand and inject meaning into things that are meaningless.

I see it as a step in human evolution, one very useful at times, but it’s poorly refined, hardly designer in nature. It’s the way my sharped-tooth brain works, hungry for data, for distraction, for conclusions to things that are chaos and don’t need organizing. It’s a pattern that demands a pattern be created in everything… so it can feel satisfied for the moment. Safe. Secure in a chaotic, unpredictable world.

But it doesn’t do it to feel safe. It does it because that is how I’m wired, and those good feelings are just that, chemical reinforcement to give in to the neurosis. Not actually a change of the world into something less chaotic and safe. Just a way my brain validates its behavior to be allowed to be exactly what it is: ravenous and with sharp teeth.

These teeth cut me more than they cut anyone else. Because PTSD is a part of my formation, human behavior became something my brain tears into to understand and then “solve” the pattern. And I would love to blame it all on trauma, some idea that a cure could be at hand, and this isn’t who I am cursed to be… but that’s a lie not worth telling myself. Because I’ve had to live with my brain my entire life, and I have to live with it going forward, and such lies don’t help anything.

I know it doesn’t always look like this…

My partner has OCD, was treated as a young teen. His brain is something he has to wrangle with as well, and even then, even with him, it still took me far too long — long past my trauma therapy — for me to really face OCD and start talking about it. Because the pattern was obvious at this point between the two of us. It was just in how we were able to deal with our patterns that was different. He externalized the chaos of his mind when suffering, while I formed a pattern to contain mine inside.

I couldn’t understand for the longest time why his was less controllable, less manageable — I thought a failure of the self, of character, whatever cruelty my trauma formed psyche would think when being unkind to feel better in my own struggle. But the reality was, he was able to stop his patterns while I wasn’t seeing the output as the problem. I thought I was coping by giving in with creative, beautiful products, while he had stopped the cycle and was facing it (or was too overwhelmed to even give in, depending.)

Trauma taught me to internalize, to avoid allowing people to see my pain to help, because a part of me saw that as pure vulnerability, and at my most vulnerable was when I was harmed. He had a better time of things, and was able to externalize and ask for help, allowing him to function in the world as a result, even if the world is still so imperfect and requires all the energy for a little bit of assistance.

It’s not a creativity aid, though

Writing with OCD, for me, is writing patterns, while being aware you’re writing patterns… and judging yourself for those patterns, and fighting those patterns, and trying to find a compromise with those patterns. Where everything has to mean something. Where you have to hold it all in your head to ensure you get it all correct and do it the ideal way. There is no ease when writing like this, but instead deliberation. The fun is in solving the problems you made for yourself by insisting everything needs to fit a certain way. Solving the structure that makes it suspenseful or emotional or sexy. A pattern is being built, and either you see it once a bunch of ideas are thrown on the page and you get to organize the chaos and bring deliberateness to it. Or it’s built from the beginning, and you’re just fighting with yourself to keep the shape, the form, fit the structure, and make it amazing.

I spend too much mental energy and fuel in doing things that don’t require all of that from me. And maybe that’s partly why I’m tired all the time, because I’m battling a brain that needs to build and climb a mountain — and stress test it a few times in different ways to make sure it works — before writing the next paragraph. None of this means my writing is any good, by the way. Just that it fits the pattern in my head, and believe me, that is absolutely the only measurement I have for if I’ve achieved something with the things I make or not. There is no room in here for external validation — or questions of validation. I have enough with one pattern, and adding in all these potential patterns that I’m not familiar with, asking my brain to reform around multiple ones, is too chaotic and overwhelming. I have enough false points of view in here; it is madness to intentionally add more.

But I do at times, because something convinces me when I write, usually when I edit, that the pattern I’m following needs to be refined to someone else’s standards, and that will then be magnified to an extreme that I cannot handle, even as my brain is the one building the structure.

When my illness reached the stage of cognitive loss after building the cleanroom, as difficult a way to live as that was, my executive functioning flatlining one after the other, there was peace there. The pattern was still there, but the demand wasn’t. There was no point in attempting to follow a pattern my brain had grown too inept to follow. What could the world truly demand of me that I honestly thought I could even respond to, when most of my days were spent trying to remember there was a hallway outside my door, or that one needed to eat, and dress, and take care of the house?

Getting my brain back has reminded me of how sharp its teeth are, and I am still left with few skills to deal with it. Because my saving grace was a broken brain. Complete avoidance of the things that trigger it. As long as I couldn’t make art, I would never be constantly comparing form to lines to colors to conceptual meaning, trying to inject something into marks on a screen. As long as I couldn’t hold thoughts in my head from poor working memory, I didn’t need to go through a dozen variations of words, sentences, concepts, reforming for impact, for emotion, for readability, for clarity of thought. As long as I didn’t work on my business, I didn’t have to conceptualize me, broken and flawed, in the middle of something that had built expectations in others for time, for productivity, for ability and satisfaction.

I was free when I was broken. Now, I’m tied back into the pattern with a brain getting the dopamine fuel it had been starved of for all these years, and it has energy to be so much more vicious.

Nothing is new

I am remembering how to live with this beast, a more dangerous version that has lost so much idealism and optimism. Its demands are greater the more I shirk away from the patterns it wants, and it leaves me frozen, not externalizing in a helpful way, but internalizing the battle before the pattern. And if my creativity was me giving into the pattern to “cope” with it, then creativity is now me losing to the pattern, or having built a cage so structured and refined, I feel safe enough to step inside to create.

This is harder than before.

I want to avoid it because I want to avoid the pain my brain inflicts on me as it magnifies every stray thought into something that needs all of me. I don’t know if this database is going to work, because I see that part of its creation was me giving into the pattern in a safe way, one not connected to the psyche in the same way as my writing and art is. It is an escape from the thing waiting for me, asking me to have to battle with my brain in ways I’m not sure I can win.

Because before the cleanroom and my “brain breaking”, I wasn’t doing those things I started doing every day. I wasn’t getting dressed or eating or taking care of the house. I was writing. I was so sick I could barely move, and I put everything into writing because that’s what my brain demanded of me.

There is no mercy in it. Negotiating is an expenditure of energy before the required war of battling the brain while doing the task, and then the war of pulling it away from the task. And I suppose it doesn’t need saying, but I do not trust my brain to let it do whatever it wants. Not because of how it won’t fit with societal norms, but because of all it has learned. If its sharp teeth can hurt me so, what defenses do other people have to it?

Am I justifying an obsessive pattern of difficult behavior because I’m terrified of my own brain? It certainly seems on point for OCD. Certainly on point for trauma.

None of this is new, just different levels of intensity. The break from it all, that was new. That was… both bliss and suffering to not be myself. I’m not worried that I won’t be able to write. I’m worried I won’t be able to live a life and write. Also not new.

I’m worried the battles I feel compelled to fight will tire me out the way the illness did, and bring me back into that half dead state… and unfortunately, that’s not an unfounded fear.

My emotions have had a huge impact on my immune system responses. Stress has a huge impact on my immune system. Lack of sleep, mood swings… all the things that happen when I’m not caring for myself because I’m caught up in a neurotic hyper-focus of work leads to my immune system being more self destructive than protective.

And this new level of health all feels still so unsafe. So… fragile.


MCAS is the next rabbit hole my doctors and I are going down. Mast cell activation syndrome. It had fit before, and was one of the things that had looked exactly right when I was deep in it, but my blood test was negative so I dismissed it quickly to focus on more useful potentials. It wasn’t until recently that I was informed that there are different versions, and that the blood tests only find one variation — and not necessarily on the first try. So this is the next direction.

I’m tired of all the energy I dedicate into getting better — I know, so fucking selfish after being allowed to get better — but it’s true. I’m exhausted every time I think about doing another thing for “my health.” Resilience isn’t a choice, isn’t a rallying of will to persevere. It’s just another pattern of my ravenous brain that won’t let me rest and focus on living the life I do have.

I don’t know if MCAS is the answer, but truly, it has so many promising fits as it understands poor modulation of the immune system. It can respond to anti-histamines, as well as show the link to dopamine and histamines — something I stumbled upon when experimenting with L-Tyrosine and mucuna. It’s also hope with the neurosis because of how histamine and compulsion are connected, how histamine and dopamine are connected — my ADHD brain has be running off of the chemical cascade my allergies and overactive immune system have been causing, which is why it’s been so chaotic, so confusing to have a stimulation and a bettering of health, followed by the crash as the consequences wore on in the body.

I’m allergic to eggs. Knowing this, I would eat an egg every morning at the time I wanted to switch my sleep cycle to (instead of my default of sleeping through the morning and waking after noon) because that immune response wakes me the fuck up and won’t let me sleep. This has been my battle for a lifetime, the way I become alive only when everything is going to shit, and how it all crashes when I reach “okay.” The cleanroom worked; I stopped having histamine responses every moment of my life. And then my executive functioning crashed and stayed crashed until I got an ADHD treatment.

MCAS also links to the vagus nerve therapy that had been so transformative when my house was overrun with mold. It was as simple as a tens machine with ear clips on the tragus, that I used to stimulate the vagus nerve. After enough time, it healed so much of my system so that I could digest again, and finally calmed my racing pulse. There also seems to be a connection — I haven’t read enough to truly know if it’s true or not — with upper spinal pain harming the vagus nerve, and it’s left me wondering about the formation of the small hump on the back of my neck and if it’s having a poor impact on the vagus nerve and immune modulation as a result.

MCAS doesn’t require protein to stimulate an immune response, which could be why so many chemicals/scents set me off — but also means allergy shots won’t solve it. It’s not uncommon to have the burning mouth syndrome and nerve pain in the face thing I had with MCAS either, so another connection. Same with the years of gut issues and oversensitivity (currently been feeling vommity cuz I recently added something I thought was healthy to my diet, but is histamine high.) And that stress and emotionality has such a huge impact on my health makes it a good candidate for the source of all these issues.

There’s a danger in only looking for one thing when faced with so many problems. Maybe I prefer it to collecting a bunch of diagnosis… But it’s satisfying to have one neatly placed label on top of it all, so my brain keeps looking for the way to organize the chaos of being alive.

I want an answer. I want some sense of predictability in all of this. Maybe then it won’t feel so fragile, these good days. I won’t have to think down a million different what ifs to find the most likely issues and test, and then do it again when that doesn’t work, over and over until reaching a balance again. Fuck, maybe I’ll gain a ritual of health out of it that actually works, instead of doing things that either feel like superstitions to try to keep pain and illness away, or me running and self destructing as I cope.

I want the answer and everything that comes with it…

But for now, I’m facing my OCD, the neurosis that is both protective and destructive on my journey. Writing isn’t hard — writing this proves that I can write still. But the things that get in my way are currently in my way, and that’s hard. The more energy my brain gets, the more this fight can either be the hardest one yet, or so fucking simple, depending on if I can let my brain get out of my way. Addressing the problem helps. Talking about it helps… so I’m trying.

Character Driven Plots for Character Driven Readers

Using Story Arcs to Develop Characters with Plot

So, because I’m working on fine tuning this element in my database, seeing what I need to get the most out of it, I thought it would be a good time to talk about story arcs. I’ll let you do the work of looking up story arcs, because I am not a dictionary, but I will say plenty about what they are to me in the writing process.

Story arcs are the ebb and flow of plot, motivation, driving forces, and impacts in your book or short story. They are the reason the characters are here, and they are the reason your reader is here. If nothing is happening in the story, nobody is showing up. This makes story arcs essential to story telling, but for some reason people don’t seem to think much about them.

Usually stories are described by plot, usually only one plot. Sometimes they’ll be a B plot, like you see with sitcoms or cartoons or most anything on television where you have a main plot and a B plot to fill time. But story arcs aren’t limited to two things happening at once in the story; that’s just the formula of writing that’s been normalized and then memed, as people do. Story arcs can actually be quite complex and quite simple at the same time, in the same story, and they span more than just plot points. They are basically everything in a story from the blood pumping through the characters veins, to the events on a timeline, to the music swelling in the background. And when that’s truly understood, and you learn how to organize these concepts for yourself in a way that works for you, your stories can reach an entirely new level.

Breaking it down

This is how I’m currently organizing story arcs, and I want to start off by saying, I’m organizing it this way because it works for me. It might not be the same for you and you want to search for that. You want to develop your own tools that suit you for the best results.

For me, at the moment, story arcs are comprised of character traits, character motivation, environmental forces — and not just the environment, but the setting, the culture, the world that is driving events that can’t be pinned on a character. And, of course, impact.

Impact gets its own little note for every single piece of a story arc. Internal and external impact. Consequences and sacrifices. Motivation is essential for character driven story arcs, but isn’t necessarily present for environmental ones. But impact will always be there.

Sometimes all you have is an impact you know you want to hit, and you need to figure out what you’re going to write to drive to that point. It is the most important aspect of a story arc to measure, because it turns the internal into the external, pushing events through character reaction instead of just through environmental factors.

For the erotica and erotic romance I write, story arcs also include sexual tension, relationship arcs, suspense and tension in general. You can have setting arcs to mark the passage of impact on a space, or building, or city. A story arc could be an emotional arc, which is something I would tie to character arc. But depending on your character, it could look more like a stress arc, or mental illness arc, or a character power development arc, etc. You can have a relationship sacrifice arc, with an understanding that there has to be a sacrifice to reach certain goals between characters, even in the simplest of stories, and you might not know that sacrifice yet, but you know you need to plan for one to be there. Maybe you want a pain arc, because that’s how you measure drama.

Every story might have something unique you need to keep tabs on to ensure it’s going right, and you can call that plot, or character development, or tension, but I find it’s important to classify them all under one topic: story arcs. Because they’re not different, or something to be tracked separate from plot. They are the plot. This is everything required to understand what breathes life into a story, when plotting a series of events isn’t enough. You need to think of pulses, drum beats, a theme song a character is living and imbuing into the story in that moment that changes as they change. Or whatever works for you.

Why story arc?

For me, to put it simply, these are the things I need to keep track of in a story because I can’t just hope to remember it all. The process of identifying and developing story arcs is basically the organization of what already happens naturally in a story for me. You’re trying to find the pulse and make sure the rhythm matches the events. Usually, that pulse is happening already for a writer, and it’s just a matter of maintaining it by paying attention.

But sometimes you miss things, or the first draft opened up an idea into something else that needs exploring. Sometimes you’re so new to something, you don’t even know what you don’t know, which I think is basically everyone. We need to explore a topic and develop it to understand it better. And that’s what making story arcs is about. Developing aspects of a story that go beyond basic plot to craft a better story. Designing a plot to be character driven for the greatest impact, instead of just hoping it will figure itself out once you write “the end.”

The moment you decide something is a story arc, you have made a choice of what you’re valuing in your story, and that will have an impact on everything going forward. So better to make it a conscious decision than to realize nothing is there at all.


If you did bother to look up story arcs, you might have seen a bunch of writing systems telling you they can only present in certain ways to be “successful.” But writing systems are where creativity goes to die, so don’t take it to heart. Instead, explore what these arcs are to you and what feels natural as you’re writing, and if that natural impulse is having a strong impact on the story or fizzling out.

There are plenty of pulses in a story that don’t require a form or a resolution, but instead flare up when needed to push the story along or give it greater impact. Motivational arcs can be as essential as a heartbeat drumming through every scene, or they can flare up once in a while like anxiety, increasing intensity without needing to resolve. Behavioral arcs can take problematic character traits and drop huge plot points as an impact, or they can just be quirky reminders of who your character is and how they act out in the world. And if you find you think you need to change something so integral to a character because someone told you everything about character development is change, think about how impossible it is for most human beings to change, and why it feels so unrealistic when characters do it at the flip of a plot point.

Story arcs aren’t about one purpose, one form, one result. These are tools to control impact, to control reaction and hold tension and suspense. They’re the pieces of a story most people don’t bother to look at, but instead, again, hope just manifest by the end. They’re supposed to be adaptable to the story, not force a story to adapt to them, even as they craft the story. There is no final, proper form to reach for, but instead about understanding why something is going wrong, feeling flat or lacking impact. They’re the place one looks to problem solve a bad or boring book, a diagnostic tool, not a predetermined shape.

It’s essential to recognize these aspects and understand the orchestra you are trying to control, the music you’re trying to create. Each piece is going to ask for something different, is going to get its solo or contribute to the background ambiance. A wind instrument shouldn’t be treated like a string instrument; it’s not one thing. You’re not looking for a formulaic shape, but what that piece needs to be for the story exactly in that moment.

Creating impact out of plot

Story arcs allow for in-depth thinking and then plotting of elements of the story that can otherwise be missed and not developed to their best ability. And it’s in the complexity of that, or the simplicity that one breaks such complexity down into, that really gives power to story arcs. Stories aren’t just about things that happen, but instead about how people are impacted by things that happen. Places are changed. We want to feel an impact in the world as a result of events in a story, otherwise, how does one truly measure an event?

How does one measure the impact of something that is supposed to feel valuable to a character or monumental to a world, without reflecting it somewhere in the story, be it through their behavior or motivations changing? It can’t just be reflected in the plot, an A + B to C to hopefully = to D sort of thing. It has to be reflected in the environment of characters and settings. Even in emotional atmospheres. Story arcs can help you plot and measure the impact an idea has on the story, and I think that’s truly their power.

Brainstorming as part of the process

So how? How does one turn ideas for story into arcs that can be used to help progress and develop a story from start to finish? Honestly, the process of looking for story arcs in your ideas and fleshing them out is the best form of creative brainstorming one can do for story, especially when you’re looking in a way to ensure that these concepts are seen and felt by the reader and in the story.

For myself, organization is essential. Story arcs aren’t necessarily clear ideas that distinguish themselves from each other, and as a result you can lose track of them and fail to show them and resolve them in the story. Something that started out so important could suddenly be erased by a key plot point, or the moving of a scene and fall flat. Suddenly loose ends are forever loose, not just unraveling plot points, but making characters look two-dimensional and uncaring, making plot lines look completely unrealistic because they don’t have an impact. Where something that was built up to be impossible or enormous in impact is suddenly so easily overcome…

Yes, you can claim that was a character having character development of something to overcome a problem, but if you lose track of showing these points and making them feel believable, the reader has no reason to believe what you’re presenting to them. And if you miss out in fleshing a character to their full potential, the reader might not care about anything happening at all because there’s no representation on the page of these events having an impact on another living being.

Don’t assume reading comprehension is the same as mind reading. You have to write the story.

It can be easy to understand that writers need to convey details and visuals for readers when describing foreign worlds, futuristic technology, or magic, etc., but writers can forget that readers need that same guide when it comes to emotions. There is no reason to believe that your reader is anything like the character you’re writing, and if they’re not, if they can’t relate, you need to find a different way for them to relate to the character that isn’t the characters traits, behaviors, and situation you just assume are universal. You have to find a way to humanize a character to people that won’t understand that character, and that’s the importance of character arcs. Not just growth and development, plot points laid out in a row that you’re ticking one after the other as one progresses, but humanization of the character so that the reader can care about the events, can care about the character’s emotions as they’re going through plot points.

You can usually tell the difference when someone is going through a writing system, following an instruction manual to write compared to someone who has learned who their character is and is putting them in the story. It’s the difference of writing a story and building a story that challenges characters to grow. There’s more heart to the second type, engagement, where everything feels important because it’s coming back to character arcs and measurable growth. Instead of plot points which are just the choreography, pushing the character through the motions so the story can happen.

This is why I combine story arcs to include those character arcs, and include character arcs with plotting a book. In understanding that character growth and humanization makes a story impactful for readers, you change the way you look at stories in general. You’re suddenly not there about a series of events viewed through the eyes of a soulless narrator, but instead about characters you care about as you check in to see how they’re coping with the series of events.

Fucking how already, yeah?

So I explained the importance, and showed how focusing on story arcs can change someone’s writing in really intense ways. So how does one do it? Well, it’s really up to you.

How do you organize your ideas on the page? Sometimes it doesn’t start on the page. Sometimes it can be post-its, or note cards on a wall. Scribbles on a whiteboard in color-coded markers. I enjoy surrounding myself with stories and ideas, transforming my environments into a part of my brain. But because of my new visual limitations and how chaotic my plotting process can be, I’ve had to create tools on my laptop to mimic what I would do in real life.

There are already tools out there, digital ones, that might work perfectly fine for people. I personally love Scrivner, of which I’m dictating this post into, because of its design to nest and organize text, but it’s not great for this particular thing for me. I’m also a big fan of Scapple which can color code and create visual blocks of ordered text and images in a web/brain storm shape instead of a linear shape — but I don’t really enjoy all the fiddling involved. There’s also plotting tools that will plot your points on a line to create the illusion of time as an aspect of plotting. Those ones in particular don’t really work for me, but for some people really need a very time focused organizational style for plotting. It’s really about finding what works for you and experimenting.

For right now, I’m mimicking my Post-it style of multicolored post-its with notes written on them. My notes get to be far more extensive because I’m doing it on the computer and have created the element to give me the things I need, instead of limiting me to the constraints of an actual Post-it. Depending on the order I set, my story arcs will graph onto a model based on time, or based on the character and time, or whatever I really want at the moment, because what a writer needs when it comes to plotting a story changes in the moment.

Random tangent to rant

I’m sure it’s clear at this point, but I’m not a fan of writing systems. I’m not a fan of someone following an instruction guide thinking that’s the way to write, because rarely is creativity or any kind of development allowed within a writing system. It’s a reverse engineered plan focused on hitting points, metrics, as the essence of the story and turned into a pattern of plot that needs to be resolved. Nothing else. And when you’re focused on hitting those points, it’s very easy to lose sight of what makes the story actually interesting, what makes a reader show up, what makes you show up. If you’re showing up to follow a formula for some other goal at the end, you’re not showing up to write a story and figure out what the purpose is for it all.

That’s not to say that all formulaic writing is shit. It’s just to say that when new writers are following a formula, they’re not learning to write. There learning a formula. It would be like comparing it to solving something with a math formula. When you’re handed the formula, you’re not taught how to problem solve to reach that formula. You’re not taught to understand the ins and outs of how to get to that endpoint. You’re just handed the shortcut without the experience, when it’s the experience that allows the shortcut to make sense.

It’s not a system. It’s a process…?

Anyways… There’s nothing special about writing story arcs. It can be done on post-its and note cards or paper or laptop. It’s as basic as brainstorming your story, and then breaking down those ideas and plotting them into little bite sized points that you then organize in a way that works for you when you think about your story. It’s making a spot for impact, for motivation, and connecting plot to characters and their motivations as events of impact instead of “things just happening.”

I don’t even think of story arcs as having a beginning, middle, and end, because there comes a time when you need to define what the hell beginning, middle, and end even mean in regards to the transformation of character and plot. (how many pieces does one replace of a boat until it’s a different boat…?) That kind of nonsense is not helpful in plotting. It’s not helpful in brainstorming to demand any rigid structure. Story arcs are a theme to explore through a piece, a way to connect characters to the events of a plot. Organized well enough so that you’re not missing important stuff while in the weeds of writing.

The nice thing about writing stories is you get to say a problem is resolved, instead of out in the real world where most problems hang there, being coped with, no definitive beginning, middle, and end. It usually satisfying for readers for problems to be solved, and cathartic for the writer. But that doesn’t mean that’s how you have to write a story. Your readers might hate you, but many people don’t write for their readers, but for themselves.

At least knowing the story you’re developing, and presenting to the world will be far more clear and done better if you bother to build story arcs and take the time to break it down and organize and ensure that each part is felt.

Right. How.

Because I do look at story arcs as plotting not really in time, but measured in impact, that’s how I write my notes for them. There will be a title or label to express the gist of the story arc, and then a note of information about the brainstorming process for that story arc. Why it’s there, what you want from it, possibly what you’re hoping to resolve or what sacrifice must be made.

Story arcs don’t always come with a solution, but instead they’re just full of the drama of a moment for a character. You have a very cool idea that you want to develop further, and ensure that it ends up in your story, even if you don’t necessarily know how to do that part yet? Make a note, call it a story arc, and develop it into something that works.

So once you have that story arc, for myself, I create editions so that everything to do with that story arc is connected, and I can’t lose track of anything. I need strong visual organization for my brain to thrive when it comes to writing conceptual text. So I color code, and make sure that main idea holds all those smaller ideas that fit into it. Then it’s about breaking down the story arc, brainstorming where these pieces are going to come up and how it’s going to reveal an impact on the characters, on the environment, on the events. Which scenes these pieces of the arcs are going to hit, and why.

It’s just notes. It’s just brainstorming. There’s no magic to it. Even how I organize is just whatever is easiest for me. It’s not a magic spell or special ritual where if you follow all the steps, you’re guaranteed a perfect story. It’s just essential design work as you take the time to develop a story, and it doesn’t need anything special.

No end form to reach for, no bs you must do it this way. You just have to work on developing the story in a way that you can track and ensure the impact is connected to the characters and their actions.

Character driven means acceptance of chaos.

If you fail to do this for plot, you risk building an intricate, exciting maze with plot twists and daring car chases, only to drop a dead cricket in, hoping something exciting will happen. (I don’t know why the cricket is dead, but it happened in the most boring way possible, promise.)

If you’re plotting out your character arc next to that story arc, or better yet, you just create plot arcs that are character driven, you don’t have to worry about being the kind of writer who makes their character jump through hoops for no apparent reason, and the character obeys because they’re boring and have no motivation beyond that the author has put them there to react.

Even with a little life in them, you don’t want your character to just be a mouse in a maze of your creation, simply hunting for cheese. Domesticated. Knowing everything is going to be fine if they follow the rules. You want them to be fully fleshed out, fighting the maze, fighting being there, fighting the unknown author who would dare drop them there in the first place, having emotional reactions that translate to behaviors that have them doing things like burning the maze down — something an author would never have designed — as the character goes and makes a better story.

Your characters need to be more impulsive than you, more motivated than you, and have no care about what you want in this process for them to drive a story, otherwise it’s just redundant and gone to plan, another heist movie where they tell you what they’re going to do, and then they do it, and maybe they kill a throwaway character, and everything’s okay.

You can’t have something new when you’re not allowing it to happen. Rigid structures of book writing preventing change, prevent adaptability. Something wild can only happen if you feel daring enough to let it. When you have an adaptable structure to maintain in regards to story arcs, allowing you to keep tabs on motivations, behaviors, impacts, tension, etc, you’re more willing to let the story become something better, something outside of the formula you find all those other stories living in, because you can see that it’s not pure chaos. The characters can still work in this change, and impacts can still look realistic and genuine to the moment.

I have so much to say about this topic, but I don’t feel like killing my eyes editing anymore today. So yeah, that’s that for now. Enjoy my enthusiastic lecture from a writer who can’t get their shit together enough to get back to writing beyond talking about writing. I’m sure it’s totally motivational.

I’m truly passionate about this topic — it’s everything about writing to me, the problem solving, the orchestration of trying to create an impact in a reader. And it’s fun. Loving what you do is damn fun, and more people should find what they love in what they do.

Branding When Disabled, AKA, Bitter AF

I wonder what my relationship with self worth and money would have been like if I hadn’t been born disabled in an end stage capitalistic hellscape. You know, a privileged hellscape, with tvs and refrigerators.

It fucks up a lot of things. How I think about what I spend my time on. How I value the things I do, and if I can ever truly value myself because of how fucked I am on the scale of those metrics. How I’m smart enough to know it’s all bullshit, but when it kills you — because that is the stark reality of our world. Having no money, being in long term poverty, is a death sentence. And the longer you’re in poverty, the more impossible it is to escape.

So I’m smart enough to know it shouldn’t be how I value myself, but I cannot escape the consequences of my failure to compete. My failure to win a broken game in a broken system created by a broken species.

There is no untangling that from what I do in the world, because what I do is what this world claims to value. The productivity of the worthy human — unless you’re already rich, then anything you do must automatically be valued. The things we do to contribute to this broken system. It decides I must feel guilty to rest when I have a condition labeled chronic fatigue. Where everything I do ends up being evaluated in my head of “is it a worthy endeavor?” based on return of income. Because I’m a drain on my family (they would never say it, but it’s absolutely the truth), the one who “if only?” can either save us or continue to pull us down.

Disability isn’t getting easier with age. Quite the opposite. Ageism is creeping in, and I’m noticing how others just don’t see those who are older, don’t clock them as existing at all. Society doesn’t value age, and certainly doesn’t value wisdom. People want to “get ahead” instead of seeing life is a continuous journey of coping with being alive.

And I constantly fight with the part of me who just wants to be allowed on to the side of winners, the side I’m never going to belong on… because this disability thing? It’s part of me. It defines so much of my existence.

I can point out ableism until I’m dead, but that doesn’t actually do shit. It doesn’t tear down the wall that would allow me to breathe easy because my needs will suddenly be met. It doesn’t make things easier on my loved ones, who have their own limits and disabilities disregarded by this society because it doesn’t fit the allowed definition. People who are just doing everything to get through, who are erased from the conversation because they don’t get a label, but they can’t fit with the winners either. I have a level of privileged with this poverty sentence to at least be visible by this label, while they’re struggling without it.

Any help is never going to be systemic change. It’s never going to be true stability, but a love bomb as people come in and then disappear when they start to feel the immense weight of it. It’s a lifetime, disability. It’s not solved with a pill, or a windfall, or a thought and prayer. It’s a lifetime in a system that has decided disability deserves poverty. And what is poverty? Slow death — sometimes faster, depending on the area. But I’m in a civilized country. They draw this shit out.

I think a lot about the confusing privilege I observe of people who aren’t struggling yet feel confident in asking for help, setting up a fundraiser, being paid to basically talk about whatever shit hits them in the moment. While I know so many who can’t make ends meet for so long, who feel so worthless that they could never ask for help. And when they do? How the world looks down upon them, like they did this to themselves. Like they’re crossing a line to dare ask for help, when others demand the same like it’s trivial and are handed it and more.

Why is it so different? I can’t even do a donate thing without feeling monstrous. I need to feel like there is some sort of worthwhile exchange. Here’s a bunch of stories for $10. Sorry I’m so sick I haven’t updated. It will never be “support me to stay alive.” Yet I see so many who can say “support me so I can be comfortable”. “Support me so I can be rich.”

What has this society done to people, where to be born into the wrong side of classism is to be psychologically groomed to accept that if shit is hard for you, it’s your fault? Society isn’t here to help those who need it, only to raise up those blessed enough to have classism reward them in the first case. Like, how did generations of humanity end up here, our fucked up, xenophobic social species picking a target and rationalizing the target for being picked, in both directions?

What madness to have been born into a game that doesn’t require participation to ensure winning or losing. To feel inherently wrong or entitled based on how you’re perceived in regards to worthiness of wealth. Because it’s not “wealth”; it’s life. Money is the right to be alive or not. Not a privileged, not a handout, not a charity. When the government taxes you, they are taking a piece of your life and saying they are owed it for letting you live where you’re living.

Except if you have so much money that to be taxed is absolutely nothing.

But we don’t tax those people. We reward them. Because we’re fucked as a species.

I think there’s an inherent empathy to be born with the losers, to have to constantly question a system of society that has chosen winners and losers. The winners don’t have to question — it’s dangerous for them to question, because they know, instinctual, how society turns. They aren’t special, they aren’t inherently worthy of more than others. They’re just associated with the winners. To be associated with the losers is the first step in becoming one — because classism is association.

It’s not based in genetics, or intelligence, or something genuine to the individual, but in the social wiring of humans as they reinforce small differences until they become rationalizations and reasons why. Why are things unfair? They would say because people are different — but that’s only when one group of people punishes those who are different from them. They rationalize their innate xenophobia onto their targets, never looking inwards. Because inwards in the truth — no one is so different that they deserve to be born into a situation that will kill them. And no one is so different that in a society that could support everyone, that they get so much more while others die with nothing.

None of this is justified… but everyone is participating in it.

Why does networking open more doors than hard work? Social association. And if you let in the wrong one and become associated with a loser? Social assassination. There are no bridges up because of that second part. Just a few people crossing the class divide, knowing they can never look back or they might return to needing to survive instead of thrive. Education looks like a bridge, but they’ve priced that so far out of reach, ensuring anyone who can’t afford it without loans will suffer the rest of their lives for daring to try.

Exploitation of classism happens at the educational level, but not a true path out of classism. The networks in academia reinforce classism. They give jobs to those who already belong, and weed out those who don’t. They have transformed the system of apprenticing, reinforcing the working class, who will never be the upper class, forced to be in debt for the right to have access to a living wage. With a promise if you just throw down enough money, you’ll get ahead. Because McDonald’s — a minimum wage that isn’t a living wage — requires a degree now.

So who are the people who spin their disabilities in the third person for legitimacy, writing in the language of the winners? Those already born there. Who know they’re supported already, and don’t feel it a burden to ask. Where else can such a mindset come from, truly? The haves, not the have nots. And I can’t mimick it, because it disgusts me, the lack of awareness. The confidence when in such a web of complexity, because they have never had to see that complexity and empathize.

Or they have, and they use the words anyways.

People are just memes. This social pattern is just that, a pattern, that can be adapted to. It’s not inherent; classism is just groups of people only seeing certain other people to be worthy like them because of perceived shared sameness. It’s tribalism, because our xenophobia has not been overcome, and tribes can be faked. People do it all the time. There’s a reason narcisists and sociopaths are usually found at “the top.” They fake it really well.

But then what. Winning? What is that beyond survival, but the reinforcement of the social inequality one has been fighting the entire time? It doesn’t break the system. You contribute to it. There’s no rising tide raising all boats, but a burning of bridges and a firm locking of a mask on one’s face to ensure they will always fit in. Depersonalized until you’re talking like them, in their limited language of tribal human.

I cannot burn myself when I need to survive for others. But to walk a path with full self awareness that stands for everything I’m against? I’m not capable of that either, not well, not with the exuberance and determination needed to do it well. And if you’re selling out in a half-assed way, what’s the fucking point to begin with?

When not overcoming their personal demons through raunchy, fun stories, Sadie Sins lives with their 4 mischievous cats, writing about sex positivity in dark erotica, and fighting for disability visibility and the toppling of class inequality. Here’s a list of all the things Sadie Sins has overcome to get here — and we assure you, they belong here and don’t really struggle in a way where you would feel uncomfortable to see a real human being and the pains of reality and decades of poverty. No, everything is cool, disability is easy — hey, and being non binary is very trendy right now and not a transphobe magnet at all.

I don’t think I think too much, not really. I honestly think that the majority of people don’t think at all, and it just looks like a lot in comparison. Because it’s right there. We are all contributing to this society, yet no one is making the rules. Our instincts are driving us, and humanity is fucked. I dream that there is intelligent life out there, because my greatest sorrow is to think humanity might be the epitome of what life comes up with. Like fuck, how depressing.

…Humanity has overcome a gigantic list of atrocities to get to this place, (mostly ones it committed,) and it still hasn’t learned that the only battle it has is with itself. Humanity has conquered a globe, the dark, the atom, and is swiftly annihilating the only place in the solar system it can survive as a species, and it can’t stop itself. Because it’s not self aware.

Humanity is a mess of evolutionary instincts that aren’t here to design, but to survive, and unless it adapts and takes on a new way of living, asap, it will drive itself off the cliff it’s digging deeper and deeper. Humanity thinks a bigger bad will finally be what pulls it together to be a better species, but humanity also thinks that violence is the only way to gain cooperation, which is why it has mimicked its modern societies on tribalism. Where humanity chooses who will be sacrificed to feed its rationalization of the deep seated fear that without inequality, self worth and self purpose will dissolve.

I don’t get a participation trophy for being human, but my fuck, I want one. Because this is a world I didn’t choose, but I’m stuck participating in it anyways, having to pick a side, pick a spin, take care of my socials who depend on me to not drag them down by being just as flawed as everyone else, but in a way that isn’t accepted by our insane as fuck society. Disability: the unacceptable human flaw. Not genocide. Not hoarding of wealth. Disability: the thing societies really don’t want to face. Because hey, truly facing disability makes able-bodied people question why they’re being asked to break their aging bodies for worthless goals in the first place.

Being sick is easier than living with my brain. It won’t filter the complexity out. It’s gotten healthier since understanding the allergy thing — it’s just adding to the web, seeing more strings of what’s wrong with the situation I’m in and what I have to do to either 1) overcome in a selfish human way, or 2) fall into the pit with the targets who aren’t allowed out. There’s no 3rd option. There’s no pretending that I get to walk a line that will be a bridge, or raise a tide, or topple a system. I can lie to myself, but I’m not self deluded — oh, to be so fucking self deluded!

The system reflects the species. Humanity isn’t changing. Evolution didn’t suddenly decide intelligence was the way to go when people no longer needed intelligence to survive. And even if it had, it didn’t erase all those instincts that got us here. We hit a plateau. Cooperation should be the next stage — we’ve built a tech infrastructure ripe for global cooperation — but it’s the banding together against the other, tribalism, still winning, violence and dominance at the core. Someone has to suffer for balance. Humanity can’t perceive good without evil — such nonsense.

Every time a nation talks about helping another, there’s always so many healthy, comfortable voices going “what about me?” The privilege of the privileged getting the last say.

Well, I firmly remember the things I’m trying to escape as a human being, so I guess it’s time to write instead of think. Because writing is my selfish escapism. Coding is my selfish escapism. Looking anywhere but at the mess of a system I’m participating in is both my escape, and selfish as fuck, and I am painfully, bitterly aware of it.

Sadie Sins is bitter, disabled, and takes offense to trying to sum up their human experience into a slick, depersonalized blurb that perpetuates the continuation of dull stereotypes that either erase or valorize the disabled when we are all fucked humans. Sadie Sins doesn’t want to talk about being disabled, but feels required because of how it interferes with their ability to be a productive robot that produces creative results on demand, and how mentioning illness and disability “the wrong way” results in healthy people running the fuck away as if disability and reality are contagious.

Sadie Sins is in the middle of healing from a decade of debilitating symptoms, and is pushing themself to be okay enough to do shit that they may or may not be okay enough to do, because poverty from years of disability is killing Sadie and making all of their decisions. And now Sadie realizes they are in the middle of dealing with the trauma of that when facing the task of branding. Because they’re too close to it, and it means too much right now, and although some pain has stopped, there are wounds that are finally being allowed to be felt, which are infected, amputating pieces of the soul, and suck balls. And branding isn’t actually that fucking important and can wait.

Branding Through Trauma

Searching for my brand

I was listening to one of my fave writing podcasts — which there are very few — and they were on the topic of branding, which reminded me of the thing I had intentionally avoided when redoing the website. I had focused on visual accessibility for myself and others, while avoiding updating my author page or any of the things that talk about me as a writer. This was intentional because it was, as they say, a whole can of worms that I wasn’t ready to open just yet. I’m still not ready, but I’m at least willing to think about it from a place of curiosity instead of reaction and avoidance.

Part of the issue is I don’t know myself anymore. A decade of illness changes you, and the last few years have been so extreme in that regard. I have collected definitions and labels and understanding of myself, and I see how these things are presented within this field as badges instead of defects, to the point each diagnosis feels more like a collector’s item instead of the extreme complexity they come with. Expectations to hold oneself to when exhausted by said complexities.

Defined by limits?

I don’t begrudge authors their spin, their strength in vulnerability to define themselves by these conditions — to define their brands by these conditions. To get empowerment instead of to feel weighed down by the challenges each one embodies. But I am struggling to see any of this as my brand.

Part of it is absolutely self-ableism. But part of it is how I see myself — how I feel I need to see myself to cope and continue on.

The reality is, these conditions have limited me from being a writer. I write despite these things. And these conditions have made writing so arduous, they are what I fight to do the thing I once loved greatly. I don’t want to define my brand by the things that have limited it, and that’s just the place I’m in right now.

I’ve always tried to define my brand by the writing, because that is the two-dimensional version being put out into the ether, so easily summarized into blurbs and slapped on a package. To claim a brand has room for complexity is a lie. But at the same time, it is always a human being in the center of a brand.

Traditional branding?

It always feels like the waiting default, and I can’t fall into that treacherous hole. I can’t default to the traditional branding many authors have done, and still do, in a modern era that doesn’t respond to such separation with bios in third person. Like they’re trying to put a tense between the author and their fandom. It’s antiquated, and self-serving to claim that one will not have to sacrifice any sense of invulnerability in the name of putting the stories from their inner world out there. It doesn’t resonate with me. It never has.

Limits again…

Not talking about certain aspects of my life because they didn’t coincide with my brand, left me with nothing to talk about. These conditions absolutely limit me. They define me by their limits, by my battle to push back those limits to steal something of myself. Because I didn’t want to share how much I had been lost to these limits, I was unable for years to maintain any sort of brand. I let it grow dusty and silent, which was a severe disservice all its own.

…Rebranding is hard

Rebirth is a difficult thing. One would think it would be easier than initial birth, but it comes with the experience of being someone else. Of knowing that you become someone else on this journey. The feeling that you need to know the ending before you’re allowed to present it as you. I have so many hopes, so many goals I’m reaching for, many of them in reaction to the limits forced on me by my illness. And I don’t want that to be my brand either, because that is a reaction, not a being.

I don’t want to be in this place. So I don’t want to define myself by being in this place, nothing more than trying to overcome challenges placed on me by out of control limits. Even if it’s honest, it’s not everything, and it’s certainly not enough to drive a creative force.

So let’s look at the genre, my writing in the genre, and what I was hoping to accomplish. There is a brand in there, one centered on a goal, which honestly might be enough to be a brand in general.

Branding in a genre?

Within this genre of erotica and erotic romance is my battle to be different. To be an authentic voice that is brutal in its willingness to not conform to the expectations narrow-minded people set, while also refusing to apologize and hide away.

Then there are the outside voices. People who want to define erotic fiction as a reality that should be held to the morals and ethics of a living, breathing community. In this is not just the extremes of people trying to put an age on a group of words, define a species on a group of words, or a crime on a group of words, but also in the demand that a happy ending is required, or a character must act in a way that a sole voice insists upon to be valid within the fiction of a group of words.

Some people find safety in regulating words, and in having those words regulated. Because they’re unsafe in their brains. They are unsafe to conceptualize without fear of something breaking, of a wall bursting open and their entire sense of reality and self shaking away into chaos. And how do I know this? Because I had PTSD since I was a toddler, and how the brain modulates concepts — memories — that feel too dangerous to face is by regulating them. And when one cannot regulate their thoughts because it is an impossible task that leads to extreme suffering for the person doing it and for those around them, they try to regulate the world.

They try to regulate groups of words. They try to regulate the brains of others in the hopes that if everyone is working together to insists that the concepts they define as dangerous disappear, they will one day be safe with their own brain.

The thing is, PTSD — traumatization — is being frozen in that place of inability to accept. It’s being frozen with the inability to face a concept. It is being trapped trying to regulate one’s own thoughts and the world around them. These extreme, quite frankly, irrational behaviors are not cures to PTSD, but a symptom. It is trauma unleashed upon the world, committing trauma upon others as it tries to force conformity and regulation of thoughts and concepts and words. And as a result, as an author, writing what I write puts me in the path of the traumatized who would really like to re-traumatize me so that they might feel safer in the world. And that has made this thing I love to do fucking difficult.

It would be far easier to put a sanitized version of my inner world into a group of words to prevent such conflict. To prevent the reminder of the pattern of trauma by regulating before it’s demanded I regulate. And I think there came a point where this illness had traumatized me in a new way, and there just wasn’t enough of me to tackle it all.

The trauma pattern is built deep into my psyche, telling me if I just regulate what I share by spinning a 2D image of myself out in the world, that I can avoid triggering the pain the trauma pattern will inflict on me if I don’t. Because this is the brain doing it to itself, the psyche traumatized, hoping to avoid an imaginary future pain by inflicting pain now.

Trauma is self-destruction spun to look like empowerment some days. Trauma is self-afflicted abuse as the brain infuses impossible value into a memory — into a concept, because a memory is not an experience but just an interpretation the brain has crafted. Trauma is certainty of death if those self-created concepts are faced. Literally, the psyche will choose annihilation of existence to avoid the very thing that psyche created in the first place.

We create our monsters. Only some of us make friends with them.

Writing is my healing, exposure therapy. It’s my defiance against trauma, and the self-destructive patterns of thoughts and behavior the traumatized psyche is victimized to as it victimizes itself.

And doesn’t that just sound so self-important and valuable when the end result is a fuck fic? I’m crafting legitimacy.

A process doesn’t really have an ending. The same with branding.

This is a process. One that requires the most from me because of PTSD. It’s why I’m not allowed to give up, and not allowed to justify and rationalize for too long stepping away and letting it just disappear into the ether. Because I don’t get to be a living being who is just being, not when trauma has defined so much of my existence for so long. I am still a reaction, asking myself to grow into something more because that’s what self-awareness demands. Self-awareness, the existential horror of a dead universe.

Trauma can’t be my brand

I don’t want to present my brand from the lens of trauma. Partially because it’s a defiance of trauma. Partially because it sounds too intellectual, too important. This is not a medicine people are supposed to be aware they’re taking. It’s supposed to be an experience. It’s supposed to be a way to get lost in a concept, fully submerge, where one comes out exhilarated instead of questioning if they read it the right way. If they got the results they were looking for.

Also, I think it’s just extremely condescending to present what I write in a way that could make others look lesser for writing similar in comparison. I understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, but that doesn’t mean I’m doing it for those reasons. It’s not a choice, but an impulse, a pattern that needs completing.

I don’t expect other people to mimic my impulses, or to feel forced to justify their impulses in the same way. I’m here to get lost in a potentially unsafe concept in defiance of trauma, and I don’t want to place expectations or my self-serving intention on any author or any reader. I write for myself because I’m selfish. And it’s in that selfishness that these stories get written. There shouldn’t be a contract in that. Just an understanding.

Being ill has taken me away from my selfishness a lot. It is a different experience, one of survival. In those constant battles and exhaustion, I’m left seeking an easier route. But as much as I can claim it would be so easy to write something that would not make me feel vulnerable, or put me in conflict with the traumatized seeking to traumatize of the Internet, I can’t. I don’t get to choose what I write; it chooses me. It is a byproduct, not a goal, not an instrument that I get to yield. My brand is a byproduct of that, of the person personing.

It’s become important to understand this when faced with writer’s block. When frustrated and just wanting an easy path for a change. But I suspect after 30+ years of PTSD, and now a decade of illness, my brain has become addicted to the difficult path. There is no safe thrill of the unknown in the mundane. That’s why we escape into our minds as it is.

I already know part of the answer…

I understood my branding early into writing. It was the embracing of it all. It was the fun, the cheeky defiance to the voices that wanted to make everything so fucking serious to the point no one was allowed to have their own thoughts without shame being forced on them in punishment. I just don’t know how to balance that branding with the version of me who has had their ass kicked by illness all these years.

It’s rare for me to feel silly and playful lately, and it’s work to find that inner voice. But I want to. I want to be more than the limits that keep growing as I age into this mortal form. I want to be more than the frustrating comparisons as I try to figure out if my brain is working today or if its succumb to inflammation and allergies.

Where we dwell in consciousness is where we truly dwell

As a crafter of concepts, that saying speaks to me. It’s the tattoo I’ll never get until I finally get a tattoo. It speaks to not only what I’m trying to do — to open a psyche into an uncertain place that can have greater rewards then punishments — but to my journey as an individual. As a person who has battled years of depression and anxiety, and a chronic illness that has physical and neurological side effects. As the person left in screaming face pain for months upon months with no one offering answers or solutions while I was left to endure and solve it myself.

There is a balance to be found in the value we place in our memories and experiences, and the value we place in our goals of who we want to be as individuals. But there is only ever the being we are in this moment, being. And if you’re not fostering your mindset, being aware of where you’re dwelling in the conceptual minefield of the psyche, there is no way to get to a better state of consciousness.

Limits feel like failure in an ableist culture

image of author self conscious of camera looking away

I’m resisting listing the labels and diagnoses I’ve collected these last years and connecting it to my writing brand because I don’t want to deal with the vulnerability. The feeling like I need to present myself in a “worthy” way to make up for what feels so limiting and broken. But I also see it as a disservice to the version of me who feels empowered to represent what is so rarely even acknowledged.

Disability is erased in our culture, looked down upon as a failure of the individual, instead of as the blunt reality of being a living being that will eventually die. Perfection is a lie. Painlessness is a lie — only life can feel pain. It is by definition a state of suffering to be alive. But we as a culture choose to paint the most idyllic picture because that’s where we want to live.

And I did that too, which was why I couldn’t show up to be a writer when everything just got too difficult. I perpetuated in my erasure, because that’s what I was taught. Because that was how I coped with the pain of limits and living imperfect.

So however I end up doing this, I’m going to need to find that balance. Truth, genuineness, but from a place that doesn’t feel completely defeated by the limits of fighting. Tired, but hoping energy will come. Unformed, and afraid to create a shape that I can’t fit into. And begrudgingly okay with the shape I’m in now.

The Writing Process: A Rant

The Writing Process: A Rant

Today sucks

Today, I want to talk about the writing process and why it’s actually important. And I mainly want to talk about this because I am super frustrated. I feel like everything I’m doing is about trying to get back to writing, instead of just writing, and honestly, I’m not wrong. That’s the majority of what I’m doing right now. I am building a system instead of writing a story.

After years between now and publishing my last book, I just want to be at the end of this process where there’s a book to publish and I don’t feel like I’m fighting everything, including my very difficult brain and all my executive dysfunctions. But I’m not at the end of this process. I don’t have a book to publish. In some ways, even as I polish off the last of this current short story, I still feel like I haven’t started this process — mostly because I don’t see the story I’m writing as viable for publishing.

There’s a reason for that; it was to take a lot of pressure off of me as I get back into this writing journey. It was so I didn’t have to make a cover with my fucked-up eyes in pain all the time and having to face that aspect of what I’ve lost in such a short amount of time on top of getting back to writing. But because I’ve taken the “easy” way out, I’ve put a lot of work into something that’s going to be locked on my website (unless I add a fantasy element to it, and I don’t want to. It’s all fantasy, but somehow pretending it’s supernatural makes people who read understand words aren’t real? Like, dumb fuckery.) I don’t feel like I’ve succeeded in anything, and I think a part of me needs a win right now.

So, the writing process. The importance of doing all the busy work I’m doing now. A refresher to remind me why the fuck I’m here.

I can’t claim that a writing system is solely a good idea because of executive dysfunction. I think someone would need to have an amazing memory to write a series or serial without some sort of process in place. Even if it’s as basic as writing an outline, I genuinely don’t believe that writing a complex series can be done — done well — without a structure to keep focus and to juggle all the plot points and character arcs and background information that needs to be juggled.

I am a poor mental visualizer, which is why it’s essential for me to have reference for what I’m writing about. I need background images, and blocks of text describing setting and characters and clothing and items if I’m going to be capable of conveying visual information to readers.

Because I’m such a poor mental visualizer, this is obviously something important to me. It’s a void in my brain that I’m trying to fill for myself, not just the reader, and that can get difficult when addressing such a deficit. My neurosis can pop up, and I can put greater value on it than it needs to be, or I can feel frozen in my writing because I don’t have that image to convey. Having the database where I store the description of that image can help my brain disengage from the obsessive need to ensure that I’m conveying something that I’m struggling to visualize. In that regard, doing this background work is one of those steps that might look like busy work, but it’s actually allowing me to move forward instead of being stuck as a result of my very difficult personality.

But it’s boring.

Last night, after finally stealing enough time to get the manuscript into the editor I had created last week, I started the editing process. And I found myself hating it. Partially because I was exhausted; partially because I was holding a ton of expectations that were overwhelming my curiosity; partially because I’m still struggling with allergies and what they do to my cognition. And today I just feel frustrated. My brain is conceptualizing everything I’ve gone through, everything I’ve created to get me to this point, and all I’m seeing is the struggle without reward.

Somehow I thought creating the support tools would make this editing process easier. But there is only so much I can do that will actually get results at the end that are measurable. Everything else is just trying to create a little more ease, a little more convenience, but nothing of impact. Nothing is going to fill out this database for me — although I have made a way to link text into my reference forms so that it will auto populate, and I’m probably going to expand on that because it does seem the path of least resistance. But I still have to input the manuscript, and separate the text out and link it to the correct data file. I still have to battle with my many executive dysfunctions in regards to reading and focusing to get that done.

To make my life easier. But it doesn’t feel easy. I have to do all this very difficult — feeling near impossible — work, in the hopes that it’s going to make things easier in the future.

It sucks. I’m bored as fuck. Writing is fucking boring.

I just want to get to the end of this already. I want to get to the end, not because I’m avoiding hard work, but because my brain is not certain that I’m ever going to enjoy getting to the end of this process. I want something to prove that all these doubts and frustrations aren’t grounded in anything real. I want concrete proof that the work I’m putting in will guarantee results.

And maybe that’s just unrealistic. Maybe that’s a level of dumb fuck expectation that no one really has a right to put on themself. We cannot know the future. The whole point of experimentation is the understanding that failure is a part of that process.

But I don’t want to be understanding about the process right now; I want a fucking win.

Have I written multiple novels without this new process, without this structure I’m putting into place? Yes. And I would really love to default to that. It’s a place where I’m doing, completely ignoring the deficits, getting the writing done and over with. But it is always going to end with me back in this spot, where I see a new mountain I need to structure before I can climb if I want to move forward as a writer. I am at this place right now because I am well the fuck aware that there is no going forward if I don’t commit to some sort of structuring and reference with my writing.

My brain is not getting better — actually, that’s not right. My brain is not changing. This new system of support tools is designed to acknowledge the very real deficits my brain has in regards to working memory, long-term memory, visual conceptualization, and attention. But it’s not designed to make me feel good about this process, to help me cope with the frustrations I’m feeling as I have to force my brain to work with its very real deficits. That’s something I need to provide in a different context, and I’m doing a shit job of it today.

It has to become part of the process. Every time a block comes up, stopping, assessing, and naming has to be part of the process of getting back to writing. And not just getting back, but the process of writing. Because that distinction needs to become part of the definition of writing. What feels like busy work, be it research, building these structures and support tools, looking at the market that I’m creating the product for — in this case the book for — has to all be part of the process of self-publishing.

Every step taken is a step closer to the end result. And it can be difficult to conceptualize that when all I want to do is be at that end result.

I’m very funny with my conceptualizations. I have a brain that can conceptualize extremely complex structures, but not in a complex visual way. I have to create simple visuals to box a concept — and for some reason my brain needs that visual language when it comes to learning and expressing what it’s trying to say. It’s already doing the work in the background, but it needs a different language.

The structure I’ve created in regards to the outlines and the scene editor all utilize that visual language of mine. The notes I made as I was designing these elements also utilize the visual language in shorthand. It would look nonsensical to most people, just symbols on a page, mostly squares and rectangles much like a brainstorming cloud. But that’s all I need to see to create something complex in my head and then translate it into a project. I do these very basic notes when it comes to coding, understanding the nesting and order of operations of elements I learn how to use by seeing how they break. But if I didn’t take that step, if I didn’t know that about myself, I would not be able to move forward. I have to be honest with my weaknesses to be able to gain anything, and that has to be part of the process.

Blunt Honesty

So, today, my writing process is acknowledging how fucking shit it is to do all this difficult work only to feel like no product has been made. To know that I am going to push my brain to limits that it has in regards to editing. To overwhelm it. To make it ask what is the fucking point of any of this as I go through the decision fatigue of “What’s the best way to convey this concept to a reader that is both clear and also engaging, and why is every fucking choice wrong?” For every single sentence. For nearly every single word in that sentence. All while knowing this book isn’t publishable.

I’m going to commit time and energy into something because it’s important only because I say it’s important, even as it takes me away from putting that time and energy into a product that will make me money by the end — a product that will prove to myself that everything I’m doing is actually getting results, and not just me fucking around learning new things because doing the shit that requires me to focus is boring.

This is so fucking boring

That’s really it, at the end of the day. There are so many things my brain is good at — strike that. There are so many things that reward my brain with dopamine because my brain is actually quite bad at it in the right ways, and the challenge is addictive. But right now, writing is not that. I haven’t done the mental work to turn this project into that. I haven’t set the stakes. I haven’t built the game that will give my brain the dopamine to keep going as I do the arduous work it is normally willing to do when it feels rewarded.

Also, decision fatigue sucks

Decision fatigue doesn’t feel like a reward. My brain likes there to be one answer, the one answer it solves, just like a math problem or a script of code. There isn’t one answer with writing; if anything, writing is all the answers being whittled down into the path you end up on. And that path isn’t the right path, it’s just the one you ended up on. It’s a lot like life, and there is very little satisfaction to life. I’m never choosing the right words when writing; I’m just choosing words until my brain is tired enough to go, “Okay, fuck it, none of this matters, every options is shit; it’s good enough.”

There’s no dopamine reward in that, just letting go, and that is one of my greatest deficits. I don’t have a stop switch easily accessible. Once my brain has taken all the pieces in, turned sentences and concepts into a story to tell, and built the structure of thought — holding it all in my head — it needs to ensure that it’s translated properly. Well. Even as I see that there isn’t one solution, and that none of the solutions are wrong, my brain is still doing math, trying to solve the problem with one answer. And once it’s dedicated all that time into building that complex conceptualization, it doesn’t want to let go until the problem is solved.

The problem that doesn’t exist because none of it really actually fucking matters.

The real problem is my brain

You know that very wise advice of not trying to solve people? My brain doesn’t understand that. It takes complex data about a person, conceptualizes, and then tries to solve — even as it’s aware that isn’t how things work. Most social interactions are about disengaging my brain exactly for this reason. There’s a pattern of thought that comes naturally to this organic computer in my skull, and it is completely useless for the majority of things in life. It’s literally why I choose to write, choose to create anything, ever.

I need to make the game for my brain to solve, or there is no satisfaction or happiness in my life.

I am not writing a novel or series when I sit down to write. I am creating the data (all the shit I make up) and adding in the structure (the rules of writing, as well as the end goal of plot and character arcs) and giving my brain a problem to solve so that it will be happy in a way it cannot be happy any other time.

[data] + [structure] = [customized problem to solve (aka: game)]

I’m the kind of person who is looking for broken things to fix to find satisfaction in life. I fixed a trashcan the other day, solving the plastic mechanism to the lid that had broken years ago and no one had gotten around to dealing with it — and that brought me more satisfaction than the entire room I had also cleaned that day. It’s madness.

So this is also why I need the writing process. Because before, the structure I was building — the game I was creating so that I could then solve with writing — was too simple. It was designed for my brain when it was inflamed. Now the game needs to be more complex, or I can’t find a reason to come back to it. Because I’m not here to write a book. That would be too easy. My brain doesn’t get dopamine from that. I’m here to make such a complex problem for myself that I will feel satisfied once I solve it.

Self destructive by design? Maybe.

It’s not a choice. It’s my base chemical makeup. It’s a pattern of thought that I’ve had since small. It’s why books were so compelling to me as a kid, because I realized that everyone is searching for circumstances where they feel there talents are actually useful, and that’s what good books provided for the main characters. There was no point in having a character that was supposedly smart or talented or had some crazy magical power or difficult flaw, without having a challenge for them to overcome as a result. The strengths and weaknesses of the character would define the main plot points to come.

Books were wonderful like that, because unlike life, they always had a damn point. Someone was always trying to say something in a book, while with life it’s just chaos that we hope to organize in a way to cope with the complete lack of logic.

What I can control is in choice

The choice is that I keep coming back when my novelty seeking brain has decided there’s nothing left in the task of writing.

I don’t want to be a good writer. There’s nothing I want to master. I want to learn something. I want to be effective in what I do. I want to add data to my perceptions of the world and existence on a whole, and if the task I’m doing isn’t providing that, my brain checks the fuck out.

Really, how many times can you do the same damn task, sitting in a chair staring at the screen, hoping something different will happen? The choice is that I show up even though I know nothing different will happen. And then the next choice is to try and find a way to make it interesting enough so that it feels like something different is happening.

Why write?

I don’t really have a story to tell. When I first started writing, I was in the middle of PTSD therapy. I was trying to understand all the many things I needed to understand about the human animal and coping. That’s what drove me. The motivation isn’t there anymore. I understand enough. Now what.

[game] ?= [satisfaction]

Okay. So, it’s like, I’m here to make a game. I’m here to make something spectacular with all I’ve learned, so I’ll be engaged in the process. But how many times can you set up the dominoes and watch them tumble in glorious ways, until you become disinterested? When you know there’s only so many outcomes, none of them lasting; what drives you to create another pattern of the same?

People think it’s to move from pain, that the goal of money and getting out of a difficult situation is enough. But you know what you find in difficult situations that just so happens to fuel dopamine? Challenges that matter. In every direction. And isn’t that just so interesting for a brain that likes to problem solve?

One could contemplate, design, and make something absolutely unique and perfect for the space they’re in… Or they could buy something instead. When you don’t have money, you’re forced to dedicate the time and thought into a project, and my brain likes that. It wants an excuse to be creative in a way that matters, where there’s no guilt for ignoring the silly game it’s building for itself that makes an income.

That’s why building the game is far more interesting than playing the game I built. Building those support tools has value to me, measurable cause-and-effect to help me improve my existence in the world. Using the support tools to fuck around in a world of my own creation…?

Does it even matter? Does anything I do as a writer actually matter? And if it does, is it enough for my dopamine driven brain to grab on and keep going?

I think if I had the answer to this, I would already be writing (or I wouldn’t be trying to come back anymore.) And that’s the whole fucking problem. I know it doesn’t matter. And I know even if it did matter, my brain can’t conceptualize it as actually important enough right now to switch on and show up. Everything I do as a creative is an exercise in self indulgence, and my brain is bored by it.

Do other people deal with this?

There’s no way to really know myself without my deficits in executive function. When my brain was so inflamed from allergies that my OCD was everything, keeping me focused and driven, I thought that was my personality. It’s the same with ADHD; I don’t know if not having this fucked up dopamine system would mean I experience the world differently and wouldn’t be so driven by the novelty of learning to the point that everything that sparkles so quickly fades. I don’t know if having a different brain chemistry means I could be satisfied with doing the same thing again and again, and never once question — instead of always questioning — the path I find myself on.

This is my brain as I know it to be, with all its many flaws and difficulties within the current, severely flawed structure of the modern world. It is forever sharp teeth tearing into new concepts, slashing and dissecting, and then dismissing for the next meal. Never full, never satisfied. There is no plateau to rest, just the challenge of being trapped, fighting to get higher. And there’s not much I can do about it beyond live with my brain and pretend that with enough time these teeth might somehow soften, that it will eventually find whatever the fuck it’s looking for and be content.

Self destructive by design…?

This is not good content. This is not sellable as a product on a website. This is not a concept anyone seeking self-improvement wants to hear: desires in life are nothing more than chemistry and self indulgence, and we’re all puppets to our chemistry with no control in making the shit we do every day make sense or have actual value.

It’s certainly not information someone interested in growing a following as a writer for a consistent income would want to share with their readers. To know that the creative work one creates is boring to the creator? No one wants to know that. New writers don’t want to know that the creative process doesn’t fit into the mold of the capitalistic system that demands one create a product of similarity again and again and again, just so they be allowed to live on the income that’s returned. No, the reader is too caught up in the consumption. Because as my brain seeks novelty that it only feels capable of having exist if it designs it personally, their brains are seeking novelty without needing that frustrating step in between.

I miss those days of being a reader where shit was actually satisfying…

Does anyone really want to know that in the same way I create problems for my characters to solve to make an engaging story, I have to create challenges for me to solve so that I want to even show up to this gig? There’s nothing inspiring in the reality of this. But I’m not here to put a spin on it to make it inspiring. I’m here to cope with the shit-realities of it all.

Because I’m here, ready to write. And I’m so fucking bored. I’m so bored, I’m writing about why I’m bored, hoping that it will solve the problem of my boredom by pushing me further and further away from the actual writing/editing I’m supposed to do. And yeah, being self aware of it doesn’t solve shit. It’s part of the process.

Because part of the process of writing is not writing!

…See what I did there?

No, it’s not actually meaningful. It’s a fucking cop-out. But it’s the best I’ve got today as I hate on the hard truth that my brain is seeking something it is never going to have. Never. Yet it can’t fucking stop.

It’s an addict by nature. There’s no purpose in it, just coping. If I didn’t need my brain to write, shit would be so much simpler. But it can’t be simple. That’s boring to it. So here I am, ranting about shit I can’t change, before I go and do the boring shit I won’t have an excuse to avoid once I’m done writing this.

Fucking words.

Taking on Impossible Projects

How to take on a project when you don’t know if you can complete the project

As I reach the end of the creation process of my story reference database — finally — I thought it might be nice to talk about how I got here. To the end. The same end as one might find at the end of a book, or the end of a trilogy, or of a series. The end of a project that was too large to fully conceptualize, now actually completed.

This is a project I didn’t know how to do on all levels. I knew a little HTML from running the website, but that was it. I didn’t know the language. I didn’t know the syntax or what form anything was going to be within these foreign computer languages to give me the results I wanted. I didn’t know the limits of what I was asking for, and therefore didn’t know the right questions to ask. I didn’t know the path to start on, to branch to, or if I needed multiple paths to get to my destination.

The only thing I knew was that if I was ever going to write again, I needed to take this journey, because my brain was too broken to be able to write without the correct support system.

That might seem huge, unrelatable, but it’s not. This is where I come from when it comes to tackling an impossible task — you have to believe it’s impossible for whatever reason. It’s for everything I haven’t done before, and therefore I don’t know if I can do. I don’t know how to do something until I do it, and I certainly don’t know how to do it well until I mess it up enough times. This is how things that feel impossible get done — by doing.

When I decided to make this database, it was when facing the largest psychological hurdle I had ever faced. I was very aware that my brain was the most broken it had ever been, and that I couldn’t write anymore (among other things.) In that reality was not only the impossible goal I wanted to reach, but during a time when my brain was struggling the most. It should have been impossible.

Why wasn’t it?

In some ways, I truly don’t know. Because it was impossible. How could I have gotten here when I couldn’t remember the names of my characters anymore? Where I had no visual concept of what they looked like in the scene, or what the scene looked like… But the thing is, these weren’t new problems. My brain had always struggled with visualizing what I was writing, it was just worse now. Yeah, I couldn’t remember my plot arcs, or how to stay focused to form proper ideas out of my rambling sentences… but again, not new problems. They were just presenting in new, more difficult to overcome ways. And I could see that without some foundation of support — without a brain outside my flawed brain — I was far too overwhelmed to be able to juggle all these aspects to move forward.

ADHD and Executive Dysfunction

I’ve always had ADHD, but I first truly understood it to impact my life in high school. I had been an obsessive reader, reading a book a day, then something had changed in my brain and I couldn’t focus on reading anymore. I changed my values at the same time, told myself that if I wanted to be effective and change my life, I needed to be present for it. But that was how I coped with having the thing that I did — my identity as a reader — stolen for me so completely. I adapted and pivoted so well, I could pretend I hadn’t lost a piece of me.

ADHD defined me after that point, the executive dysfunctions and cognitive fog becoming my identity when I wasn’t lost to impulse and novelty. It wasn’t until the end of my 30s that I even had an inkling that I had ADHD. When I started this database, I didn’t know of my ADHD and autism, and the many executive dysfunctions that go hand in hand with the way my brain works. I learned as part of the journey of building this database and getting back to writing. It helped me understand how my brain works, why what was happening was happening. And this knowledge gave me a much more useful perspective on my path going forward.

A Lifetime of Impossible Tasks

None of it was new. I had been adapting around my executive dysfunction since my teens. The most prevalent was my poor working memory, and difficulty in storing short term memory into longterm. I was blessed with a level of intelligence that allowed me to deduce in the moment answers that others could memorize. If I studied the hours before, I could hold answers that would be long gone a week later. I passed complex math classes that way, only to realize I had no memory of formulas later. And it got worse when my immune system was flaring from living in black mold, my cognition dropping. But in those moments I was blessed with a superhuman level of neurosis that I substituted for my broken motivational system.

Even as I say blessed for both these supposed “positives” that got me through, I understand they were also completely self destructive. Neurosis is such a painful mental illness — no one asked if I had OCD back then; no one noticed that the thing I was relying on to get through what everyone else seemed to do with ease was so damn destructive. And intelligence — there is no harder prison to escape from than from an intelligent mind. Especially when mental illness comes rearing from the chemical imbalance of a raging immune system.

I needed self awareness to break out of these two gifts turned curses — and to be fair, I would say self-awareness is the sharpest double-edged sword out there. But I did gain it in my 30’s, at the same time my body failed along with my brain.

Self-Awareness: The Prison Breaker

Self awareness allowed me to see that what I thought was me failing impossible tasks up until that point, was me looking from the wrong vantage. And when my body failed and my brain was inflamed, and I was the sickest I had ever been, I took on the first impossible task that I knew was impossible, and I decided to become a writer.

And I did it. Sick as fuck, barely able to lift my arms for hours upon hours every day as I was struck by weird, mysterious glitches. Having maybe 4 hours a day of mental clarity, of my body suddenly moving like nothing had happened at all. During this time — when broken and well — I wrote stories I didn’t know how to write. And I kept writing, and self publishing, and at some point it wasn’t about me becoming a writer. I was a writer.

I had done the impossible. And then the impossible decided to double down in my late 30’s. Something in my brain broke differently, bigger than ever before, and I found myself staring at the walls most days, unable to get my brain to focus long enough to collect a thought, never mind do a thing. I couldn’t write. My executive functioning had failed so greatly that I couldn’t remember to do most anything. I was completely defined by the walls around me because my object permanence was gone, and I couldn’t remember there were rooms on the other side of doors.

So I did it again. The impossible task to become “functioning” was met and conquered.

I didn’t magically overcome the impossible, but instead built an executive functioning board along half of a wall, using words and symbols on dry erase notecards to spark my memory. Putting items in a To-Do and Done column so that I could stay on track. And as long as I could remember to look at that board before and after each task, I could do things again.

Eventually, I was able to combine those tasks into routines, my brain growing back, reconnecting. And when it glitched, the board was there, waiting to help.

And then I didn’t need the board at all… but I was still broken. My brain couldn’t adapt to my limits like it did before. I still couldn’t write.

Looking at the Impossible from a Fresh Vantage

Pinpointing my mental deficits and learning the term executive functioning were the pieces to the puzzle I needed to eventually realize I had ADHD and find a doctor to help. It led me to understand the role hormones play in ADHD as we age. And when they finally noticed my adrenals weren’t producing enough cortisol and that I had adrenal insufficiency, I learned how the adrenals play a role in hormone production.

I’d say it took at least a year with the appropriate cortisol supplementation for me to fully heal from the severe cognitive decline I had been living in from the untreated adrenal insufficiency. I’ve gotten a lot of my brain back, and the ADHD treatment has given me much more executive functionality than I’ve ever had before. Now, when I look back to when I started writing, and when I started making this database, I am truly left in wonder and absolute awe as to how the fuck I actually got here.

Because I can see from this perspective just how broken I was. When before, while living in such a struggling brain and body, all I could see was the tunnel vision of task after task, goal after goal, step after step. In that place I never allowed myself to believe I couldn’t do something. My only question was how?

Self Doubt Cannot Exist When Doing Impossible Things

You can cry. You can rail at the universe for what it has done to you for making shit so unfair. You can fight reality all you like. But if you want to do what feels like the impossible, you can never doubt yourself. It cannot be part of your identity. You can never doubt that you are going to reach the goal you’re reaching for.

The reality is, you could drop dead tomorrow having never reached your goal. But that’s not how living beings get things done. We need to be oblivious to reality when it comes to these tasks that seem so impossible. We need to be blind to the time it takes, to sacrifices made, and to our emotions when something inside of us screams ‘I’m done and I don’t want to do this anymore.’

When it comes to impossible tasks, we do not start out being the person who can complete the task. We start out being the person who will be changed by the process of trying to complete the task. And even though this is everything in life, not many are aware of how this is just the way things are.

The Motivation Has To Be Bigger Than The Goal

When I decided to become a writer, it wasn’t any easier for me to read. I had stopped reading for years, and had only come back to it because I had gotten so sick that my body would freeze and refuse to move for hours on end. Chronic fatigue isn’t sleeping all the time. It’s being in a body that refuses to move, bored out of your mind, demanding an escape. All you have left is your imagination to see you through, to remind you what living is, and that impossible task to start a business when I could barely lift my arms didn’t actually feel impossible. It just felt like the only thing to do to get through the moment.

Making this database was the only thing that I could do to be able to be a writer again. I did not write during the time I was making this database, because I couldn’t write. Making this database didn’t actually give me back the part of my brain I needed to be able to be a writer again. But what it did do was keep me focused on my goal — my impossible goal — of being able to write again while my brain was broken. It gave me hope when I saw that I could learn a new skill, a new language. And even when my cognition would drop and I would lose it all, it reminded me that I could get it back again when it came back and the code would work.

It gave me something to measure my achievements, small as they might be, while going through the process of my brain healing. While distancing me enough from my written works that I wouldn’t put my failures on to them. Because that was something that I was seeing as well. I was so focused thinking I couldn’t write, that I was going to ruin what I already created, instead of seeing that my brain was broken. It was easily promising to become a complex, and I knew that was detrimental to being able to go forward as a writer if it was allowed to sink in and take root. I didn’t want something else growing to trap me in this prison of a brain.

Taking the impossible journey was as simple as breathing. It promised something more when there was nothing. Taking on these tasks has to mean everything, otherwise why would anyone take on the impossible?

Preserving You During The Impossible Failures

Self awareness showed me where I was self destructing once again. I had learned by now, could see clearer each failure.

I transferred my end goal of being able to write, into the goal of being able to create a support system to write. The goal was the same, but when failure inevitably would strike, it was about the failure to create the needed support system instead of a failure to write.

Dealing with my vision disorder, and having my insurance provide the worst coating on what was supposed to be vision support screen glasses, was a failure of the support to help me see, not a failure of my vision. It was a failure of capitalism, of a society that thought any sort of glasses wasn’t automatically a vision aid, not on my failing sight.

It might sound so small, these little distinctions. These little transferences of where to place the pain and blame when things don’t go the way we need them to go. But it’s essential on this journey. It maintains mental well-being and self-esteem. In science, no one ever says your vision failed because you can’t see a virus with your bare eye; it’s that you failed to use or obtain the correct tools, and therefore couldn’t see what was there.

It’s a shifting of expectation and pressure that one places on oneself when we try to be accountable for everything we can’t control. It removes the question of if one is good enough, and again brings you to the how does one do something no matter abilities or talents. We’re brought to how to achieve the goal, instead of asking why all these parts of you aren’t good enough to let you reach that goal.

It’s not about owning the limitations, but about owning the solutions.

The Journey is the Goal, Not the Goal

I learned a new language and pattern of thought when my cognition was at its weakest. I held onto motivation when I literally had a failure of motivation as a result of ADHD. I was able to create the support tool I needed when my brain was at its weakest. And if I’m brutally honest, even with this support tool, at that point of my health I don’t know that I would have been able to write. I would have, because the tunnel vision would have allowed it, but without a healthier vantage, I’m not sure I would have been able to get past my perfectionist neurosis. But it would’ve given me hope and sent me looking for the answers that would help. And that is everything about taking on the impossible.

You need hope that it’s not truly impossible.

Our experiences don’t always change us into the person we need to be for the goal we’re chasing after. Sometimes they reveal that we want to be someone else. That the goal isn’t right. And that’s okay. Self-actualization is not an A+ B always = C formula. What we put in might define or shape the results, but that doesn’t mean we understand why our results are so unique and different to what we imagined.

Just like we can’t know the book we’re going to write until it’s written, wanting to be a form, a career, a completed task, an achieved goal doesn’t mean we know who we are going to be on that journey. So we have to be kind and forgiving, instead of trying to be that goal. Because if we are cruel and unaccepting of reality, fighting ourselves, filled with dissatisfaction and hate on the journey, that is the form we’re left in. The goal won’t define us; we define the goal.

So not only can you not doubt that you can do the impossible task, but you have to realize it’s not about the task at all, it’s not about the goal. It’s about you on the journey, because that’s what’s going to fuel and sustain as you do the impossible. It’s going to be why you show up. It’s going to be why you decided to take on the impossible in the first place when you have never done anything like it before. And it’s going to show you that you’re not as smart as you think you are when you look at something that seems impossible.

What we think is impossible is just our limits of imagination and experience. We haven’t become the people yet who know that it’s not impossible. It’s only in taking on the journey of the impossible that we ever get to discover the truth: impossible is just a concept, one we create. Our belief isn’t truth, isn’t fact, but just another limit we place to hold us back from meeting reality.

We’re a collection of scattered atoms with consciousness defining something we haven’t even attempted as impossible. It’s pretty nonsense the longer one even thinks of it. We have no idea what is actually impossible or not.

What New Writers Don’t Understand About Writing…

Writing to solve the problem, not supply the answer

I’ve been thinking about the writing process a lot as I get back into writing. I went into writing sprints previously because that was what I was focused on then. Now I’m focused on developmental drafts, the place where questions are found and problem solving happens. There are multiple stories I’m dealing with that are just waiting for me to show up to this stage, and I’m going through the thought experiment of what that actually means.

The thing is, writing is problem solving. Creativity is the act of solving problems, and if you don’t have a problem to solve, you have nothing to do. It’s why I dislike writing systems so much — you know; pre made, packaged systems sold to writers to get them making a story. Writing systems provide an answer without understanding that the answer isn’t what creativity is about. It’s about the problem solving. The answer, alone, is nothing. It doesn’t reflect the journey, the stress factors, the issues that need resolving. It’s just an answer— literally, no one asked for that. Why are they going to read it?

Preplanned answers to questions not asked

Writing systems are about looking at a finished book and promising a writer that if they sit down and follow their steps, they will get their book written. But a book doesn’t exist before it’s written, and it is the process itself that creates that book. If that process is restricted to limits — limits designed with a very simplified mindset in regard to everything — the end result will be limited to the writing system.

A writing system doesn’t teach someone how to think like a creative; it teaches them how to follow a plan, one they’re taking on faith because they themselves did not have the experience to make a plan of their own. It’s training wheels to get a writer going, but you’re not learning how to craft a story, or even look for what you need to look for to make a story good. You’re just shown one limited path, a path designed to be as accessible as possible, without an understanding of the real problems a story holds. It doesn’t explain how the creative process is in solving those problems, or how important it is to create new problems to keep a story interesting.

So, let’s talk about what limits a new writer, or even a veteran who is stuck to the point they might think answers for questions not asked looks good. Let’s talk about the biggest problem of the would-be-writer.


Do you think you know the story you’re going to write? Your expectations are already unrealistic.

A concept is only ever that; a concept. You can’t know what doesn’t exist. If you sit down thinking you’re going to write the story you’ve been kicking around in your head for a week or for 10 years, you are never going to meet that story on the page. The “what it’s going to be” version of your story will never exist, and when people fail to realize this, they can get stuck and never write their story at all.

Do you think that the first draft of your story is your story? Again, your expectations are set to unrealistic. That’s still stuck in expectations, defined more by what the writer wants it to be and less by what it will actually become.

What about your characters? If you were to write a bio of your characters for the story when you first start it, will that bio change by the time you get to the end of your story? If it doesn’t, if nothing of importance has changed your characters by the end of your writing process, you haven’t written a dimensional character.

You can’t know a character you haven’t written. You can’t know a character you haven’t met, which means until your character has gone through enough experiences within your writing, you cannot predict their actions or know them as a fleshed out being. You can’t know the world you’re creating and settings these characters are in until you’ve written it and have them interact within it.

The process of writing should reveal the fullness of your characters in the same way it reveals the true form of your story. You can’t reverse engineer this like a writing system tries to do. You can’t start at the end. There is no shortcut. You have to go through the process.

There is a lot of putting the cart before the horse when it comes to expectations of writing, and it is all unrealistic. It asks for cookie-cutter, two-dimensional answers to complex questions because people are expecting to base their worlds and their characters on something they haven’t even explored yet.

Draft writing

This is why I subscribe to draft writing. And when I say draft writing, understand I’m not referring to any kind of writing system that might be called that. I’m referring to the act of writing multiple drafts of a story until, through the process of making these drafts, you have a finished piece.

You might not know your character until you’ve written a first draft and seen bits of them shining through. You might not know the world your characters are in until that first draft and you see nothing is there. And when you start writing your world into the second draft, you see everything must change because the world is an environment that has defined so many different actions, created so many problems that need solving that the first draft didn’t. You might not know your plot until you’ve written your first draft and you see that the characters aren’t growing, their talents and abilities are not being stretched to have them shine in any way.

What’s the point of having a character with *insert ideal magical power* if they’re not tested? Why have a highly empathetic character if there’s nothing for them to react to? Why have a shut-in character who isn’t being forced out into the real world? Why define a character with traits if those traits aren’t going to come into play?

If you write character centric stories, your plot needs to be about growing that character. Otherwise, it’s not character centric. Then it’s just plot centric with a character jumping through hoops that an author has set up, completely disconnected as to why any of the elements of the story are there.

Exploration without expectation

Draft writing allows for exploration without expectation. It allows you to find the problems in your story and start problem-solving. It’s where you get to develop something off of the foundation of your initial draft without demanding you use that original writing.

But the thing is, without going through that first draft, you can never get to this point. You can’t develop something that doesn’t exist. You need a jumble that creates a form — even if it’s not the final form — so that you can start sculpting from there.

Questions, problems, and crossroads

Every time you have a question in your story, you are developing it. Every time you identify a problem that needs solving, it’s developing. Every time you end up at a crossroads with a path to choose, you are developing the story. This is everything in the creative writing process.

I was talking to my partner about Star Trek because he’s been rewatching Voyager lately, and their closets came up, and we just started hypothesizing what would the living space of a futuristic society on a spaceship really look like? The ship would set huge limits because of a lack of space, and there being limits on weight. Most of the space on that ship would be for functionality to allow it to move, store fuel and water, and to have life support. What energy/fuel could really be put into the luxury of people not working, and how would the replicators play a function in it all? Would people be less materialistic when they realize they don’t have to hold onto anything; it can be replicated as needed? Or would that drive them to want more and more and more, because there are no limits; you can have anything? What does a hoarder look like with a replicator? This is a culture that has technology to make people look like entirely different species, sometimes changing them completely genetically. Would that mean body modifications would be far more normalized because replicating the latest clothing trend would be so easy that it wouldn’t feel unique? Would it be an educational thing to be genetically modified for a certain amount of time to understand other alien cultures before going out into space? How would humanity direct their current innate drives when put in a future that allows for so much with so few consequences?

All of the above questions come from interacting with a preexisting source. Star Trek has been out there for decades. We’ve seen some of their tech enough to have questions about it, but we haven’t really seen the answers to these particular questions (at least, I haven’t. It may be out there.) If the writers of Star Trek asked these questions, we might actually see entire episodes focused on the answers, because in each question could be an entire world to explore, a path to take, a problem to solve as we ask how it could work, and how to make it interesting AF.

When you see the generic spy gadgets being brought up in a spy thriller, if there isn’t a situation where they’re used, has a problem been solved? If the watch with a sleeping dart never trips a sensor, do we believe the threat the hero is walking into is really that high tech, advanced, and cunning? How do you solve the problem of having one organization developing amazing tech to surveillance another organization that does the very same thing without under powering and making one side look far weaker and not an actual threat?

Or, how can you have a David and Goliath situation when the physics of a slingshot could never bring down a giant? How would you do it better, make it believable, and make it in a way where the character grows? Could the slingshot represent getting into someone’s heads with words until the bully self destructs and gives up? How would you portray that? What sort of world would that happen in, and would you need a media presence to be involved to really spread that rumor/gossip? Maybe we take a path where it’s the court of a dictator, and your main character is low in a system trying to take out an enemy that has been keeping them stuck in the worst situation, and the entire book is about using psychological warfare to take down the greatest of foes. Or maybe the path to take is about kids at recess, where one puts a pebble in the bully’s shoe after the bully made fun of them. But the pebble has a rare bacteria on it, and the bully dies.

If you don’t ask the questions — if you don’t identify the problems and choose a path — you can’t create something new. And if you don’t know that writing is problem solving, you can’t understand what you’re doing in the first place.

There is no magic to creativity

Too many talk about creativity like it’s something only certain people have. Or worse, like it’s something the fickle muses gift, something that must be waited on to strike, and can’t be honed or grown. But it’s just problem solving. Most people go to work or school every week and solve problems in their day to day life, not realizing that they’re being creative.

Writing a book is the same thing. You’re showing up to learn a craft and then do it. But while school and work will tell you the problems that need solving, and limit how you can solve them, creative work is different. You aren’t handed the answers; you have to solve it yourself. You have to find the problems, figure out why they’re problems, and then generate solutions that will bring you to your most ideal goal.

It requires experiencing the problems first hand, not through someone else’s structure. A writing system can’t teach someone how to think creatively — aka, how to think in a way to problem solve (unless that is literally the system). It hands an answer while not teaching the would-be-writer how to look for the problems they supplied those answers for.

To problem solve, you need to actually solve problems. You learn through doing — you learn best through failing, experimenting, and eventually solving. If your problem is you’re afraid to start, you can solve that problem by starting right now. If your problem is you don’t feel like you have any opportunity to problem solve in your life to get better at it for writing, that is a problem you can work on solving too — by writing a book.

You can try writing a book and see what it’s like to solve a whole bunch of problems. And then you can choose to create more problems in that story, because those problems — the limits found in a story — are needed to decide its form. When a book can be anything at all, limits decide what it will be. It’s the paths taken instead of the ones closed off. It’s the problems solved instead of the ones ignored. It’s the questions answered while others have no importance. Answering no to a question as simple as “does the world have gravity?” can decide so much to the shape of a story, and it’s up to you as a writer to see which questions are worth asking.

Curiosity before certainty

All those questions are idea generation. Not even the answers; the questions are the source of where those ideas are coming from. First drafts to stories are about laying a foundation to ask questions about. Developing a story is about taking a jumble of interesting ideas and taking paths to explore those ideas, and then, eventually, pinning them each down to form the final shape of the story. And that pathing and pinning down process can take multiple drafts as you decide what works and what doesn’t. What works will depend on the problems you have in the moment and the questions you ask to solve it.

If you can allow it all to be malleable, all to adapt to a better change, a better path, a better question, you’re giving your story the best opportunity to be its best version. But that’s on you and how comfortable you are with writing something and then cutting it up, moving the pieces around, deleting pieces, and building something completely new. How you feel about fucking up something that could be super important to you, that you might have spent years on, on the off-chance that this version might actually be the one people want to read. How you feel about letting go of expectations to instead experiment and explore.

Getting comfortable being uncomfortable

You don’t know the story you’re writing. Even as a plotter. I am lying to myself every time I make an outline and sit down to flesh it out. You don’t know what’s going to end up on the page because it hasn’t happened yet, and you don’t know how it’s going to change, just that it will. You need to get comfortable here not knowing what you’re writing, and still writing anyways.

If you can embrace that and become the daredevil who rushes to the cliff to see the spikes they’re going to be leaping over next, this can be a lot of fun. But if you’re someone who needs to read the finished book before you start writing it, it won’t be fun. It can leave people lost and angry and hating themselves because they think they’re failing at manifesting a book into existence. But it’s not manifesting; it’s a process that creates the end result. There is no joy being on a journey of discovery when you expect the answer to be handed to you. You have to stop expecting the wrong things.

Fostering a creative mindset

I’m not here to tell people how to do this; I’m just here to say you need to. You need to be creative with how you deal with the things you’re doing that hold you back. This can’t just start and end in a book. Your attitude and how you see the world is reflected in everything you do, and if you’re wasting your energy creating problems that keep you from creating solutions, that’s on you.

If you find a writing system helps you, you need to understand that the limits placed don’t have to be there if they’re holding you back — and they will hold you back. Training wheels only help to a certain point, and then they slow you down and prevent tight turns. Being comfortable can only get you so far. Whatever your frustrations on the first, third — fiftieth — draft as you fail to get closer to where you want to be, is more likely about how you think about writing and your level of comfort, than the piece you’re working on.

Because you could solve your book if you were willing to slice it into a brand new form that doesn’t have the problems you’re stuck on. You could solve it if you’re willing to let go of what you’re clinging to, throw away the safety net, and see what you pull out of the dark woods of creativity. Experimentation is how we solve problems. You have to allow yourself to fuck up or you’re not going to gain experience solving anything.

You need to go down the wrong path to see that a problem is there. You need to write the wrong book first to see that it’s not the book you want to write. And then you solve that book as many times as it takes to get to the results you want — while understanding that what you want is absolutely part of the problem, part of the limits that form the final shape of the book.

Every time you write and don’t write a book, you haven’t failed. You have experimented, practiced problem solving, and gotten comfortable not know what you’re doing. You’re solving problems, and hopefully finding new ones, bigger ones, as your mind expands to the possibilities.

There is a mountain to climb, and it shouldn’t feel daunting when you get to the top and see another one to reach. It should be exciting. Every challenge is another high to reach, something to learn, something to understand about the world, humanity, and yourself. All things you can put into your writing, taking on a fresh challenge of how to do it.

The creative mind creates problems, useful and not

If you’re drawn to creative work, a part of you is a problem solver forever asking “how can I do that?” You have to remember you’re participating in the creative process, not being led by it. You’re accountable for showing up, for if you’re discouraged by a setback or see it as your guide to what to try next. You have to be creative for your mindset just as much as for your craft, otherwise the problem solving mind can start making problems for itself just to keep shit interesting.

There is no inspiration to wait for; that’s a lie people tell themselves. There is no system that will shortcut through this. It’s work. It’s practice and experience. It’s showing up and leaning in to being bored until you create something to make it interesting. It’s accepting that you’re going to work on something and be BAD at it, for ages, and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. You are going to write a collection of terrible books until you’re good at this — and people might still say your books are shit when they can’t even write a paragraph for a negative review — but none of that can happen if you don’t do the work to write anything at all.

You have to see failure as your guide to the next problem to solve, and the emotions you feel when you want to give up as a warning that you have a problem that’s not solved when it comes to why you’re writing, what you want out of all this.

Being creative is a way of life, but for some minds it forms our very reality. You’re allowed to acknowledge how much something sucks, but if all you’re doing is wasting time bitching instead of running toward that next challenge, you’re harming yourself, refusing to solve the problem of why you don’t want to show up and love what you do. If you’re stuck creating a concrete concept of the problem holding you back, you’re not putting that energy into finding the solution — a solution which can be as simple as realizing it’s not actually a problem in the first place. It just looked like one because you wanted an excuse to not go forward.

At the end of the day, everything in the story you’ve written — everything you’re battling with — is you. Your limits will decide the final shape of your story, and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. If your expectations are limiting you, they’re limiting your story. If your fears and self doubts — or self hate — is limiting you, the same is limiting your story.

Give yourself permission to get out of your own way when it comes to writing, and if you can’t, you’re going to have to problem solve that shit. No one else can, the same way no one else can go through the writing process and hand you a cheat sheet that you’ll have the experience to utilize. You need to become comfortable with being a work in progress. If you can, you can become comfortable solving the story you’re working on and reveal the final version waiting.

Writing When All Plans Fail

The Best Laid Plans Of Labrats…

So… nothing this week has gone to plan. Second week of getting back into writing, and after the way last week ended early, I was dealing with a lot of hard truth moments in regards to my neurosis and my inability to really compromise with it. I went into this week with a plan, one that looked really good on paper.

The main idea is to switch to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule so that I could use Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend as buffer days to prevent me from falling into my obsessive patterns. And that I would need to fill those buffer days with non-work related tasks, creating a schedule or a list of these safe projects that I know don’t trigger this pattern centric aspect of my brain. If I can find a way to ensure that I can’t work the second I wake up after falling asleep working, I thought I could break the dangerous cycle and force myself to return to the waking world.

There are some other things, probably just as important. Giving myself a task shut off time, and a bed time. Locking my laptop in a different room so I couldn’t just grab it and start working in the middle of the night (as I do.) I know that if I’m doing a task when I start to get tired, it’s so much harder for me to pull away, especially if I’ve been doing that task all day. (6am writing this — 7 am editing — so as we can all see, my task shut off time and bedtime have both failed tonight, and I sure as fuck didn’t lock my laptop away.) But the hope was if I could stop myself before my brain became stronger than my will, I could prevent the cycle from repeating.

Shit Went Wrong

To be fair, it’s still a good goal, it just didn’t happen this week.

Monday I realized the fabric covered cardboard storage chest I bought about a month ago didn’t actually get rid of the dust mites it was filled with when I steam cleaned it the day before, and after having an amazing allergy attack, I spent the day washing all my linens and spray painting the chest, hoping that might seal the little buggers away. And then, after some thinking on it, I started to wonder if I should be treating for dust mites or considering mold, seeing as out of the two infesting cardboard, mold was the most likely culprit.

Frustrated, and not wanting to lose the day completely, I thought I might check out AI art between coats of paint. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot as my vision issues get worse and making digital art becomes so destructive to my eyes. AI art seems like this bridge, this tool that could give me something back. I could edit and filter art into a book cover if it’s a high enough quality starting out… maybe. >_> But when I went to try the discord one, midjourney, I ran into a problem beyond the horrible scrolling that was such a strain on my eyes.

The addictive pattern part of my brain was triggered as I kept feeding prompts in trying to get results. It was gambling combined with problem solving, and peeps, if you don’t understand that the most dangerous aspect of my brain is that its default is a sharp toothed predator of problems looking to tear them to pieces and build a beautiful, blood soaked answer out of the bones, this fucking system sure did. Everything about making art is problem solving, and adding in AI gambling to spit out random images that may or may not fit the goal didn’t change this for me. It just made the cause and effect for bigger issues faster, not allowing me to focus on an end goal since there was no process to follow and close poor paths off like one does with making art by hand.

There were too many paths, and my brain needs to map everything before it can map a single point. That’s a big issue with my default type of learning; I need more data to see the big picture, which then allows me to see the details. Yeah, it’s helpful to get multiple vantages and understand a topic fully, in context with so much more. But when the data is too great to take in all at once, it’s overwhelm, and a problem solving loop of misery as I try to talk myself into figuring out how to have it not be overwhelm, creating more overwhelm.

Needless to say, after starting multiple accounts to play with the free version for hours straight, I knew it was too dangerous for me, another possibility of getting back into making digital art cut off because of this neurotic fuck of a brain of mine. And yeah, it’s crushing. My vision issues are in a lot of ways a product of how I abuse my eyes when it comes to the shit I obsess over — I am never going to win this.

So Tuesday, I woke up planning to get my allergy shots — you know, fill my day with things that aren’t business focused so I am a full human being instead of defaulting into the last task I did — but because I was up so late fucking around with the AI art, I couldn’t go. My car was needed for someone who actually works a job consistently, and it was getting too dark anyways for me to be able to drive safely. Because my night vision is done now. The lights in the dark make me nauseous and I spend most of my time with my eyes closed and hands covering them when in a car at night.

I felt really defeated. I didn’t have a plan. Honestly, I didn’t want to do the plan I made because there was a mess of a painted chest I couldn’t use reminding me of cash poorly spent, I couldn’t get my new eye glasses — they came in apparently last Friday and I missed the call. Not that it mattered because even though I can mostly drive during the day, I struggle with areas I’m unfamiliar with because of the lack of muscle memory. I was just feeling really shit about myself and having to face these really difficult limits.

Giving In

So I opened up my laptop, turned to the last story I had been working on, and just started writing. No sprints, no fucks to give on proper editing or anything. I just needed something to throw myself into so I didn’t have to think about all the fucking shit I really don’t want to think about.

It’s why I started writing all those years ago when I first got sick. I had a lot of shit I didn’t want to think about then too.

And yeah, I started feeling better. Because that’s part of the draw of the things that change my thought patterns into simple, restricted designs. There’s no room for doubts or negative emotions. There’s just the task and completing it. Hours slip away, meals are skipped, all social interactions completely neglected. Everything is so much simpler when the human doesn’t get in the way and there’s only the thing to focus on.

Task Addiction Isn’t Trending

I can’t find a proper name for what I have — oh, there are trendy names, you know, the ones that fit nicely into search algorithms like productivity addiction or the old school workaholism, maybe a task completion addiction here and there. But these terms aren’t really helpful because they don’t come with a diagnosis or even a damn handbook. It’s just a weird flex most days, some trope in a story about the executive who keeps giving himself a heart attack because he works too much. There’s very few practical steps to take when you’re trying to find a balance with something that for most abled people just means not working past a 9-5.

There is one part of it I had found a name for some years back and have since forgotten, and it had to do with a faulty kill switch when it came to giving up. I guess most people, when faced with an impossible task or a big challenge, will naturally stop after a certain amount of failed attempts to overcome it. And it’s quaint how people talk about it like it’s a choice, like it’s self awareness to either “try harder” when challenged, or “let go” when never giving up. But I am very fucking aware when I can’t walk away from a task I’m trapped in. My wiring doesn’t care. It’s getting whatever high it’s getting from it, and I am fighting my biology every time I manage to pull away.

The little I found was of the productivity addiction stuff and it’s what I used to build my plan for a new week. I was cautiously hopeful… but not deeply invested in it working. Because it involves my willpower being greater than my neurosis, and I’m pretty sure by definition, neurosis is going to fucking win. And yeah, part of me loves the addiction, especially since it happens over basic shit that leads to a better way of thinking.

Changing is asking me to be something I’m not, sooner rather than later as the way my brain works pushes me to break every damn time. And the depression sure as fuck isn’t adding anything useful into the mix. That’s been something coming on strong, in waves, month in and out, since about… fuck, it started after my teeth were pulled and the meds had an impact on my adrenals. But I don’t think the low cortisol is the cause at this point, just a lot of different things all leaving the same unhappy chemical result…

The Point? Brains are stupid.

I don’t even know why I’m writing this. Maybe just to show that yeah, I had a shit couple of days, was feeling really low, yet still managed to write about 4500 words in the story I was working on today and I didn’t have to solve all the deep fucking issues of my brain, disabilities, and situation to be allowed to do it.

And maybe the consequences aren’t that dire — fuck, I’m going to drop dead eventually. Who really cares if I ate chips for dinner? I dunno. I’m too extreme with everything, from fasting months over the summer and then carbing through the winter, to always fighting my sleep cycle that naturally believes morning is the best time to be unconscious, and instead of just accepting that I’m never going to fit whatever fucking ideal I keep thinking is the thing I need to be to get through this, I keep fighting reality.

I’m not okay, and I can still write. And that’s probably going to be most days going forward. It was most days getting to this point before the multi year long break. I just kept expecting something different.

I thought getting past the weird chronic fatigue and brain fog was going to be everything I needed, and then the mold took over the house. Then I thought getting over the screaming face pain was everything I was going to need, and then my brain just flatlined. Now I got my brain back, and hey, it’s still a fucking neurotic mess and I still have to get up and live this imperfect life.

Shit has never gone how I planned, and that shouldn’t be the reason I’m upset. This illusion of control has always been bullshit anyways; I’m just too stubborn to admit it when I’m stuck fighting my brain. The illusion is just so damn tempting, easy, that one single answer in the sea of chaos that my problem solving brain craves.

Would nihilism be better for it? Sure fucking would, but no, it doesn’t want to do that kind of work. There’s no pattern to obsess over in nihilism. It wants the illusion of control with steps to follow when things get difficult, like the dumb fuck it is.

It’s too late to pretend any of this is legible… comprehensible? Whatever words. Tired. Just remember: don’t believe that your brain decides your decisions. Most behavior happens and then the brain swoops in to justify and explain it away like the smug, dumb fuck it is. The brain isn’t the control center; it just plays pilot like a little kid pressing buttons that don’t do anything while the body goes about its routines, uncaring of the steady, usually unkind critique only a superior intellect can so foolishly rationalize spewing.

Also, if you’re not an asshole to yourself, carry on.