Category: Writing

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.

How To Deal With Missing A Writing Day

AKA, How To Keep On Track Without Being Self Ableist And Self Destructive

So, my eyes refused to work yesterday, and they are battling with me today. Since I am feeling terribly discouraged, I decided — because I have to do this emotional work anyways — it would be good to make a post I can share about it, so that I am continuing some sort of consistent update to the website.

I suppose the first thing to start with is outlining the limits my body and brain place on me in regards to writing consistently. This has nothing to do with external factors such as the amount of hours in the day, or scheduling around other people and appointments; this is all about my battle with myself and trying to find a healthy compromise in the middle. Key word being healthy.

For the most part, my biggest issues are:

physical issues

  • exotropia
  • migraines
  • allergies
  • insomnia and/or inconsistent sleep cycle
  • back pain


  • poor focus/concentration
  • poor executive functioning
  • hyperfocus and obsession with task completion
  • perfectionism
  • depression

But I want to break this list down into a different pattern, one that is more honest for the problem at hand. I want to arrange these issues as sources and consequences.


  • hyperfocus and obsession with task completion
  • allergies


  • exotropia — from hyper focusing on screens
  • migraines — from eye strain from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
  • insomnia and/or inconsistent sleep cycle — lack of sleep from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
  • back pain — from not moving while being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
  • poor focus/concentration — from not sleeping or remembering ADHD meds from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
  • poor executive functioning — from not sleeping or remembering adrenal support from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
  • hyperfocus and obsession with task completion — from inflammation from allergies and the cycle feeding itself from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
  • perfectionism — neurosis building and justifying being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
  • depression — from mental and physical neglect from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode

Probably not the take you were expecting when reading this post, where I started off complaining about how eye strain is preventing me from getting shit done. But that’s the thing; the eye strain isn’t preventing anything. I got shit done at the expense of my health, and the eye strain and migraines are a consequence of that. Because I have behavioral aspects to my neurological wiring that make task completion dangerous to my health.

Oh, to be clear, it’s not the “they worked themselves into an early grave because they couldn’t get their stress under control” issue. I’m addicted to task completion and I don’t know how to balance a life with doing a thing. This is my default. I will always neglect my health to complete (or work toward the completion of) a task. And I do not have the skill set to balance that yet.


Somewhere within the autism and OCD is a pattern of behavior when it comes to task completion that is absolutely self-destructive for me. And it is something that I know I will be struggling with forever. This is who I am on a base chemical level. This is who I am.

I can highlight the problem quite easily in regards to playing video games, something that I don’t do anymore. I play suduko these days, and that’s it, solely because it’s extremely short, and there is only one way to win it, and winning does not level into another challenge, another game.

The last time I played a proper video game — and thank fuck it was a shortish one — I didn’t sleep for days until I completed it. It was years after I stopped playing video games. My partner bought it for me for my birthday, and became so concerned for me, he kept trying to get me to leave the house, just to get away from it. Once I finished the game and saw that it had another mode after winning, I realized I had to throw it out, that I was going to kill myself if I didn’t remove it from my life completely.

This has to do with the way my brain will find a shape with repetition and hold that shape, getting stuck. Once in that shape, I will hyperfocus, feeding off the neurotransmitters I’m gaining as I’ve adapted to the task, repeating the task for the reward of those neurotransmitters indefinitely until I am finally pulled away to see that I have completely neglected my health and my life.

Hyperfocus comes easily for me even with the ADHD. It’s how I learn to do new things while many others will skim the surface of something but be unable to stick with it long enough to really gain the pattern required to learn something. I joke about my inner animal being a rhinoceros, ever since young, blind and stumbling in a direction with such determination, not seeing the obstacles, not hearing the voices that say you can’t do it, not feeling any blow that might hold me back. And that can seem really positive to have such willpower as you focus on a task and get it done, but there is a cost to having this be my default.

I can pick the wrong direction and keep going. I don’t naturally have the ability to stop and take stock and see that I haven’t slept, or eaten, and that I’ve neglected my personal life. And even when I do have that ability to stop, my brain is still in the pattern of going, of completing that task. And it is very good at finding ways to convince me that I should complete the task so I can be free of this trapped state.

But Once I’m Free? Once I Inevitably Complete A Task?

My brain is still stuck in the shape, in the neurological pattern, and I still have to figure out how to task switch after days or months of focusing on one thing that has managed to arrange my brain in a pattern. And honestly, it can just be a matter of hours, yet stepping out of that state is still the hardest thing ever.

I just want to go back into it. I don’t want to have to feel the pain of my body, or face the complexities of the life that is crashing down around me because I’ve neglected it, or even the complexities of thought that are required for things that are not so single-minded. There is a great escape in being allowed to think about only one thing for hours and not have to face the difficult world we all live in. And my neurological wiring is rewarded on so many different levels when I hyper focus. Shit, I get paid to escape.

I become the task in the way my brain and muscles remember through constant repetition, and I can come back to any task later, reconnect those connections with a little work, and it’s all there, waiting. I get to do so many different things; be these things. I know who I am in those moments… And if I’m a person outside of all of that, I have no fucking clue. I have never hyper focused on day to day life. Being a person is being lost without a task to do.

My brain is an organic computer in a body that has no actual innate purpose to have that computer; it’s just there, insisting on systematizing a chaos that is absolutely supposed to be chaotic.

Where It Went Wrong This Week

I stumbled into a couple issues this week I wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t even notice some of them until writing this now — which is why this process is so damn important. It’s essential to stop and really look at how it goes wrong to properly problem solve.

The short version is that after 2 days of writing, I told myself to rest my eyes when I woke up with a migraine starting yesterday. But instead, when the meds got it under control, I decided to do some coding, which triggered the neurosis long into the morning, leaving me with my eyes again screaming at me today.

And that could have been it, could have been really straight forward… but I looked around my house today, and I saw it was mess. I hadn’t been keeping up with tidying each night before bed. And I hadn’t remembered to eat — breakfast had been a slice of bread the last 3 days to let me take my meds without putting a hole in my stomach, and I hadn’t had any lunch. I repeatedly kept forgetting my second round of hydrocortisone.

I wasn’t sleeping well cuz I was trying to fix my sleep cycle so I would be awake during daylight hours — didn’t take, btw. And I had stayed up late on day 2 to edit a blog post without thinking of the consequences, which was probably why my eyes hurt on day 3. And I had been putting way too many emotional and self worth ideals on me getting back to writing, which was making me push myself blindly toward some lofty goal and feel like shit if I didn’t achieve it in the one way that my perfectionist side was insisting upon.

I had neglected my life at some point in the course of the first two days of writing, and it took another day and another headache for me to stop and see I had already fucked it all up and didn’t know how to solve it. After promising myself I would be watching to prevent my self-destructive tendencies from taking over.

So here we are, day 4 of writing, only having written for 2 days, trying to figure out how I’m going to do this without destroying myself. Because I don’t actually know how. I just know that I have all intentions of figuring it out while having little experience in doing so.

This Is Exactly What I’ve Been Worried About

The main reason I haven’t been writing these last 2 years isn’t the executive dysfunction. It was the wake-up call I got when my working memory and executive functions broke 3 years ago, and I found myself staring at a wall every day not knowing what I was supposed to do. I had to make what I called an executive functioning board where I created note cards of tasks that needed to be done. Like taking my meds and supplements, having breakfast, doing laundry, getting dressed, cleaning, grocery shop, etc. I had to do that for months upon months, checking that board of mundane tasks after each was done, so that I could be a person living a life.

I started to see how much time it took. I started to notice how these were things that rarely got done when I was writing. Not just on the day of writing, but when my mind was in the pattern of writing. And it was so much worse when I was making art. Art was as destructive as video games to my brain. I would wake up, wake up my computer, and go right to where I had left off before bed when I was making digital art. And I would work on that art until long into the morning hours until I was too tired and would fall asleep. That would happen for days straight until I finished the piece, and then I would find something else to art because my brain was happy to be repeating a pattern, no matter the consequences of health and life.

When my executive functioning broke to the point that I could barely do anything, I was forced to truly stop for months upon months. It was only then that I was willing to face that I had never successfully negotiated with this obsessive aspect of my brain. I had only ever neglected my life around it. Every single time.

I Don’t Know What I’m Doing

The only way I know how to deal with this part of me is what I did with the video games; not interact, not engage with the element that triggers my brain into this behavior. I don’t have a skill set to deal with this, because at a base chemical level this is my default. I become addicted to doing tasks.

Right now, I’m trying to manage the consequences as I get back to writing, because that seemed like a logical take. I had hoped the ADHD treatment would give me adequate neurotransmitters support so that my brain might not fall into this pattern of behavior. It doesn’t seem to be the case.

The reality is, I need to do this. I need to be allowed to function in the world doing the things I love whether my brain turns it into an obsessive mess or not. To feel fulfilled as a human being, I need to be able to do the things I love to do. It’s just… what I’m battling is so bizarre, so impossible and unyielding.

It grows strong as I grow strong, and loses power as it steals all my energy and neglects my health. It decides a lot of my perspectives on the things I do, especially in the moment. Especially my priorities and values when I am in the grip of a task.

And once when I break free and step out to face the consequences, I find myself in a society that champions this self-destructive aspect of me. That feeds the obsession, and normalizes it, and suggests I’m not going far enough. That instead, I’m just the wrong broken form housing this addictive will, and if only my form were stronger, or better at time management, and could do all the things that it is impossible to do at once, everything will be fine. That my inability to find balance has nothing to do with the fact I’m dealing with a dangerous behavioral aspect of myself that would destroy me, but instead that I am lacking as a human being on some level because I am struggling at all.

Having all this time off from writing as I learn more about my autism and ADHD has helped. It has shown me that life is more than just doing things. But it doesn’t solve the neurological wiring. It doesn’t make my default healthy every time I go to do a thing. It sure as fuck doesn’t stop the gas lighting of an end-stage capitalist society that would watch us all die just to reach some dumbfuck productivity metric. (Did we do it efficiently enough? Could we have reached environmental collapse faster? Come on, people, synergize!)

Solutions Require Looking At The Problem

Did I sit down to write a plan of how to move my days around when this happens so that I can adapt around the migraines that result from writing too much? Yeah, because that’s my brain digging in, trying to modulate the consequences while still doing the things. And yeah, it’s something I will likely do, because I want to stick with this. But I’ve lost two days of writing, and what I really need to do is work on my mindset as to why I think that way when I absolutely spent yesterday working on my business and coding, and today writing and figuring out why I’m falling behind in taking care of myself while writing.

The neurosis, the perfectionist — the self destructive ableist — who is ingrained deep inside me thinks I need to be more of a computer, and to do things in such a way, instead of accepting that a whole person is involved in what I do.

I hope this gets easier. Not the consequences of when I fuck up — clearly I need them to see I’ve gotten off path because otherwise I will check out of my life indefinitely. No, just to notice that I’m losing myself and switch out. I think that’s what I really need to find. The reset out of a hyper focus brain shape activity.

This is the first fucking week, and it’s not my eyes that have failed me. It’s me for not sleeping enough, for not taking breaks, or stopping and putting more time into my personal life on my writing days. I ignored the self worth I was feeding into getting back to writing, and as a result, I ignored that I was justifying blowing through my healthy boundaries because “productive = valuable person.”

I need to schedule a healthy life in — not out of a neurotic need, but because when I’m stuck in the neurosis, I can’t see anything beyond the task. It is my world, my identity. I need something to be able to break my obsessive brain open and let me out, not once every week, but repeatedly throughout each day. I don’t know what that is — I don’t know if it even exists. But it’s my job to find it.

Writing Sprints for the Neurotic and Executive Functioning Impaired

One of the realities of my executive dysfunction is that I have a horrible working memory, and working memory is important for writing a story. And when writing a long series, it’s basically essential.

Now, thankfully my working memory has improved some with ADHD treatment and cortisol support. I am no longer the person staring blankly at a wall trying to remember wtf I was doing. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t read the paragraphs before I got to where I left off, start typing, and then stop because I forgot what the character was wearing, or if they just said that and am I being repetitive, or wait, is this inside or outside setting wise. Who the hell are these people again?

If I give into finding the answers to these questions — very good, important questions that should eventually be answered — I’m going to have to slog through reading again and find each answer while pissing off my eyes. I won’t be writing. When doing writing sprints, I have to embrace the concept that working memory doesn’t matter, and that all those little details (was that tentacle purple or green?) don’t matter. I can fix it all on the next draft.

Why? Because writing sprints are never the final draft.

If you go into writing sprints as the last version of your story, you’re setting yourself up to crash and burn — you know, if you can get a single word on the page first. If you think you’re rushing to write the last version of your story, that could mentally freeze you into not writing at all — not particularly helpful as a writer.

I like writing sprints for 3 types of drafting:
* the sketch draft stage where you need to flesh out an outline (notice I don’t recommend sprints for the outline phase),
* the rough draft phase where you’re fleshing out that sketch,
* the developmental drafts where you have a few scenes (or even a whole book) written but something is missing, it’s just not there yet. So you go through the process, sprinting paragraphs to entire scenes to get the final shape before the final edits.

Writing sprints bring a freedom to draft writing that other writing styles don’t. It’s not just about discipline and productivity. I can sprint thousands of words a day, but if they’re not the right words, I’m not really showing up to write. Sprints can let your creativity run wild in a very focused way that fits into a story format, focusing your energy at getting the majority of the structure filled out. Writing sprints get a book written — not plotted, not changed, not polished. Writing sprints are when you get that story out with about 90%+ of the right words. Then other aspects of the process come in to make sure you get a finished, polished story out.

So… What Is A Writing Sprint?

Writing sprints are timed bursts of writing. It’s when you focus up, set a timer, and refuse to let anything interrupt your writing until that timer goes off. I make sure I have an outline and/or rough draft written before I reach this stage. Sometimes before I start sprints, I will quickly edit or write a fresh outline up for the scene to ensure I can stay focused on the plot points.

My writing sprints have two different forms depending on what I’m doing at the time. There’s the dictation sprint, which is me talking into a headset with the dragon naturally speaking software on my laptop. Or the writing sprint, which is me typing on the laptop. Dictation is much faster, sort of. The connection between my mouth my brain compared to my fingers and my brain is much faster, which can actually be difficult if I don’t force myself to slow down. As a result, my dictation sprints are usually only 3 minutes, sometimes 5 if I’m feeling less energetic and stupid mouthed — cuz my mouth will get stupid when I’m tired. My writing sprints usually average around 6 minutes.

I make a point to have short writing sprints. I don’t want much more than 200 words by the end of each sprint. Part of this has to do with what I follow-up with, which is the editing sprint, and part of this has to do with understanding the way my brain works and supporting it as needed. I have a bad working memory. I can lose the topic, and the longer I am doing a sprint, the more likely I can stray from my focus. 200 words is more than long enough to get a point across. If that one point surpasses 200 words, it’s probably too long anyways.

Do I sometimes feel frustrated that I’m pulled out of a paragraph? Yes. Do I sometimes want to keep writing and ignore the timer completely? Absolutely. But I don’t. Even though it admittedly makes me slower and can break up my flow. I know that I cannot handle editing for long stretches at a time, so if I fail to stop my writing in a timely manner, I’m the only one to blame for my eyes screaming at me during the editing phase.


I use the clock app on my phone to time my sprints. I find it important to have something outside of my laptop to time me so that I’m not opening and closing windows all the time. When I first started sprints, I would use the timer on my laptop and I would have arrange all these windows into perfect little slices cutting the screen so that I could see everything and just click and all that, but setting it up was a pain and something would always end up moved during normal use of the laptop. It made me twitchy, focused on the wrong thing, forever fiddling to arrange them perfectly.

Now that my vision situation is worse, I just find it easier to have my work screen be focused on writing, and something off screen focus on timing. This doesn’t mean there aren’t issues with picking up the phone every time I stop a sprint, especially with my ADHD brain that does not want to work but instead wants to play, but it’s rare that I’ll actually allow myself to look at notifications or browse the Internet, etc. I stay in the clock app and only switch from timer to stopwatch depending on the sprint type.

Editing Sprints

I wasn’t joking about editing sprints; they’re absolutely part of my process no matter how asinine it might sound. I started doing editing sprints when I realized that I was spending all this time editing books instead of writing new content. While going through that process of doing the same thing over and over again I was
1) so repetitive that my brain was taking on a shape I couldn’t get out of well enough to do any other kind of writing (aka, the creative kind) and
2) bored out of my fucking skull, which was making me even slower at editing.

I realized the solution for this was to edit as I go. So while writing sprints require a timer to keep me within a set amount of time, I keep my sessions short so I don’t have too many paragraphs to edit immediately after.

My editing sprints are completely different from writing/dictation sprints. I don’t use a timer for editing sprints, but instead the stopwatch. And the only reason I’m actually timing my editing is to keep me on track, and not because I believe there’s a certain amount of time to do this in.

I mean, if I’m honest, I enjoy comparing the metrics I enter into my sprinting spreadsheet after each session, and that gives me an idea of how well I’ve shown up for the day. I find it encouraging, which is the only reason I do it. If I found it discouraging I absolutely wouldn’t. Editing is too important to half ass… Maybe quarter ass.

Sprinting Spreadsheets

If you’re curious, this is how I set up my sprinting spreadsheet. It’s gone through multiple versions over the years, this current version breaking things down by a writing week, with a cumulative total at the top (to encourage me if I miss any days starting out), and in a warmer color palette than the neon blue and pink theme I had before.

I made the functions work so it’s easy to put in the exact time amounts and it converts into minutes and seconds. You might notice that the day’s hours don’t add up to a lot, yet I’m sitting in front of the computer for these writing sprints, on average, 4 hours. Because ADHD. Because human, not robot. Because if we try to measure the productivity of humans based on metrics instead of reality, we don’t let them breathe, or play with cats, or eat, go to the bathroom, stare off into space, look things up, etc.

So to be completely real, it might look like I’m getting a lot done in a short amount of time, and maybe I could be doing more, but this is a day of writing. At least, a 4 hours day set aside for writing sprints. I don’t time the writing I do at the end of the day where I’m not focused and my ADHD meds and caffeine have worn off. I know I’m sitting there just as long, the way I’m currently editing this part of this post at 4am.

So What Is An Editing Sprint?

For me, because this is addressing my executive dysfunctions and the limits of the software I’m using if I’m dictating at the time, editing sprints are a couple of different things. The main one is for clean up.

If I dictated my writing sprints, I will still be reading and typing my editing. Dictation is a very good reason to do an editing sprint. No matter how good the software claims to be and is evolving to be, it’s going to fuck up. A lot. It’s going to need training, and if you have dragon, you will find that the more you train it, the more problems it might adopt as you go along. Editing immediately after the dictation sprints will save you hours of going “what the fuck was that supposed to mean?”

It’s honestly something I should do when dictating these blog posts, but unfortunately these blog posts require a different sort of thinking for me, and I am very bad at stopping that thinking in the middle of the process to edit. I’m not starting with an outline to keep me on track like I do when writing a story, so my poor working memory is making me rush through and keep going before I lose the thread.

Mainly, I find myself typing instead of dictating when I’m writing a story. Part of this is plain old self-consciousness considering what I write, but another big part is how my eyes are doing at the time. Generally, I like to read as I write. It helps me focus, and helps support that very wobbly working memory that I have. I need my notes/outline open next to the text I’m writing to keep me on track, meaning I need clear sight to the screen and my eyes working.

When I’m dictating, the main reason is because either my thoughts are too fast for my fingers, or my eyes are killing me, and looking at the screen just isn’t a priority. Or, in this case, I’m dictating because my back is killing me from sitting and writing yesterday, and I can’t sit in my normal spot, forcing me to stand with a set up that is so difficult lighting wise (and impossible keyboard wise), that it’s causing me eye pain. It’s something I’m going to have to solve, obviously, but not this moment.

When editing a 6 minute writing sprint, I’ll focus on the obvious cleanup that my computer is blaring at me first, such as spelling and all the missing j’s and q’s that my keyboard has decided don’t exist without slamming on them. But I may also do some developmental editing. Sometimes it will just be a different perspective of the same line, trying to stop the repetitiveness of the way I write, or to make it more clear to communicate by breaking up my many run-on sentences (so many). I might move sentences around if it makes more sense, or preserve them because they feel like they’re not on point to the current topic but I know something is coming up where it will suit better.

Sometimes it’s trying to show a scene instead of telling it, and that involves a different way of thinking for me that doesn’t blurt out in an easy flow during a writing sprint. That doesn’t mean I can’t sprint through to sketch that perspective with a rough shape. It just means that those sorts of perspectives usually need more time for me to slow down and make sure the sensory data is communicating well during the editing sprint.

Staying Focused

There is an overwhelming desire to support my working memory during these editing sprints. It usually turns into a compromise of if I’m going to research or not. The main thing is I shouldn’t. I know how it slows me down, and I know that I can get stuck and not move to the next sprint. To avoid that, it’s really important that I stick to not stopping and reading through a bunch of text with strained eyes to get an answer that isn’t necessarily important. Instead, I have to make the habit of writing a note and then highlighting it in a not too obnoxious color — because all my old notes are in colors that scream at my eyes at the moment and I don’t want to look at them — so that I can come back to it later on a more extensive edit.

But I don’t always behave when it comes to things like this because I have OCD. And that’s not a term I throw around lightly, but a diagnosis, and sometimes I just can’t go forward until I have an answer to a question. It’s better to look for that answer during the editing sprints where I have a stopwatch to point out how much time I’m pissing away just to quiet my brain. It’s important to never let those questions be answered during the writing sprint phase, because then it becomes acceptable. And once my brain is like “hey, we can do this” once, it will push to do it every time. So separating these brain triggers out of the writing sprint phase is a must.

Keeping Things Novel

I like pushing my brain to think in a “show, don’t tell way” during the editing sprints phase. I like the results, and I like the challenge. One of the reasons of having the editing sprints phase was to not be bored as fuck, and finding something to keep my brain engaged so that I’ll stay focused really helps in that endeavor.

Editing is a good time to fit description that’s been glossed over, and find ways to really put the character in the scene, in the moment, and the reader with them. That can be through sensory data, having a peek into their emotional world, making sure to filter things through the character and not just the narrative voice.

My ADHD makes reading things that aren’t direct facts and info boring — I’m looking at you recipes — and when writing, I’m forced to repeat over the same scenes again and again and again. I probably exaggerate as a result, just to keep my own attention… and I’m okay with that. I get to call that my style at this point.

Editing Sprints For Works In Progress

If you’re interested in sharing your works in progress, I highly recommend adopting the editing sprint phase. It’s allowed me to have something to show subscribers before a story is complete. For my business, that’s everything. For my OCD, perfectionist vulnerable side who is terrified to put anything out that isn’t exactly what it’s supposed to be by the end, it’s a compromise that allows me to keep going.

I know stories go through drafts. I know that the writing process is a messy chaos of starts and stops where nothing connects until you do the work to make it connect. But for some reason it’s like putting a bunch of uncooked sticks on a plate and calling it a meal when I show my drafting process. Expecting people to pay me for that is just too much for me to handle. I feel like a hack. But with editing sprints, now I feel like I’ve at least cooked the sticks before serving it to people, as if to say “yes, it’s not food, but I am definitely a cook.”

Starting a subscription site not only saved me when my health got so bad that I couldn’t write for years, but it has also helped a lot in fighting the neurotic aspects of my brain. Many of my stories don’t change much past the editing sprints stage — there’s nothing innately wrong with them. The bulk of the writing is fine. But by allowing myself the opportunity to believe the stories could change drastically and still putting them out into the world as is, I’m giving myself an opportunity to let go of finding the perfect words, the perfect story form, and get on to the next writing sprints.

Okay, but when do I actually answer those important story questions I put off?

Usually at the end of my writing and editing sprints sessions, which can last for hours, easily, I will step away from the work. Maybe I’ll have a meal or just move around, feed the cats who have been waiting, see my family if they’re home at this time, and just be a person instead of a writer. This space is important. I don’t think people understand the physical wear writing takes on a body, never mind on brain, and if you don’t refuel and move and do something else, it’s not particularly healthy.

After I had my break which can also last hours — because I set my own hours and my family is a major priority — I will usually come back in the quiet hours of the night and look at my work for the day. I will expect to work for hours on the editing that follows.

I don’t do any kind of sprints at this time; my brain is not here for that shape. Instead, I look at the notes that I left for myself while rereading the work, and add more notes if I see things are missing. I’ll find all my questions and start answering them, at the same time going through and changing little things here and there, stuff I might’ve missed in my editing sprints, or things that have to change now that those questions have been answered.

The only problem I have with this current system is that I am usually tired by this time a day. My ADHD meds have worn off, meaning my focus can only be as good as it can be by the limits of my brain. I will miss things. It also means my neurosis can creep in and want to stay up even later and later, trying to get it right. I have to set hard limits with myself about these things, and when I’m tired, that’s really difficult.

That said, I find this stage is important for the next day of writing. It let’s me get the scene where it needs to be, and to be able to have some creative downtime to develop things and see the work as a whole instead of small 200 word bits that I’m looking at when doing the sprints.

It’s also good to help create a routine of posting at the end of the day, updating the website and keeping myself accountable. Honestly, that’s really what forces me to stop my neurosis at the end of the night even as it wants to flareup and be louder as my brain notices that I’m putting out an imperfect draft.

When I update the website, I’m forced to notice how fucking tired I am. The eyestrain, the many questions that every story forces me to ask again and again of is this the right direction or this, the physical exhaustion on my body from the act of typing and hunching over the screen; I can ignore these things when I in the moments writing, but not so much when I’m struggling to navigate a website with hidden menus, forgetting what tabs I need to open and where I need to go to update things.

Even though a part of me just wants to stop and wait till it’s perfect and not put anything out, updating after every writing day is important. That neurotic voice is not helpful in getting a story written. And honestly, by being tired I have worn that voice down so that it has less power over me so that I can post. Which is great. Fuck that voice.


This ended up being much longer than I was expecting, and I still have things about the writing process I want to share. I think I’ll save it for another post (cuz tired =_=), and leave this one here focused just on the sprinting stuff. Hopefully someone will find it helpful.

My Writing Week

A Day For Maintenance

Well, it’s Monday. My first Monday since mostly completing the website theme. Officially my first Monday of getting back to real writing. There are some things I need to figure out, those things to be planned today, actually. I thought since I wrote that big thing yesterday about what I do/did to stay on track for writing and running this business, it would be a good time to actually, you know, share a bit of it. And then do it.

The nice thing about doing a little blog about getting back into writing is that it has me writing right after getting up and having breakfast. It has me thinking about writing even if I’m not chapters into writing a novel. It reminds me that writing is easy, just so long as I get out of my own way.

A big part of starting to write again is this struggle of choosing where to actually start. There are a lot of stories waiting to be updated, and some still require a lot of reference notes and reading to even remotely get to that place. And those big stories, they’re valuable. Valuable income wise, but also valuable sentimentally wise. Aka, I care about them too much to fuck them up, and there’s a danger in that kind of thinking. But for now, I’m going to find the gentle path and fuck up a different story first XD, just to get used to these doubts and insecurities so I can push them away for the bigger stories.

A Grand Experiment

Getting back to writing is a grand experiment in a lot of ways as I push my brain to be more than its limits currently are. And I know it could reach that place once, but after the months of my hyper-sensitized trigeminal nerve screaming at me and my pituitary unable to demand the required cortisol, my brain changed. So I’m building the support structure I think I need before starting, hoping it will evolve to what I need once writing as my brain changes. And that’s kind of exciting.

I’m an adventurer of thought, if not anything else. I love to see what the human mind can do. As much as teachers had claimed the calculator would make us lazy, it made me push to be more efficient to understand how I needed to think, and then use the calculator to support and bring accuracy to the problem solving I was doing with math. Creating tools to support basic human deficits is damn exciting because it allows us to be more. But only if we, as individuals want to grow instead of stagnate.


Planning A Week At A Time Starting With Rest

Every Monday is my “maintenance” day. It’s the first day of my official work week after a weekend focusing on family time, household errands, and personal hobbies.

Giving myself the weekend was something new for me to make sure my entire life wasn’t about work, but also required because of the unavoidable distraction my loved ones pose. Oh, I fought it for as long as I could. Only to realize I was perpetuating some self destructive ableism on myself by failing to rationalize rest. I do that; I will logic self destructive behavior and call it productive, and I know I’m not unique in that department. We’re all going to drop dead one day, and no, I don’t want to have prioritized work over living. I’m not apologizing for that.

Taking the weekends was to help my mindset, to accept that I was going to be distracted, and that instead of feeling frustrated with it, it was a sign I shouldn’t be working during that time anyways. Because I would work all the time. Once my brain gets into the ruts of a behavior, it stays there. It found the shape, the pattern of thought to work forever, and I can be a total grumpy fuck if not careful. Weekends are set aside to ensure that I’m a decent human being who rests, who spends quality time with family, and has other shit going on than staring at a screen all day.

It also means it’s a time that I’m not putting all the household stuff first, just finding a way to fill the rest time with a different work. That’s for Monday.

Maintenance Monday

Maintenance Mondays exist to get me back into the mindset of doing after the weekends of playing. I deal with the emails that weren’t required to be dealt with immediately while running the laundry. I figure out medical shit and appointments, bills, important household stuff that has to be addressed. I tidy up the kitchen and bedroom/office. I plan and make meals for the week, or make sure I’ve got easy make options so I’m not starving my brain during work hours. I plan my week of writing, the goals I want to hit, the time I’m willing to spend (because I always go over, not under, and time is everything.) I then plan my allergy shots and errands around that time frame.

This week I have to plan more website updates alongside writing. Because of the eye situation, I have to figure out just how much screen time is going to result in a migraine and plan around that. Using Word is hurting my eyes, and Word is how I make those PDFs. I was able to get Scrivener to a beautiful layout for writing, nice soothing colors and perfect font size. It doesn’t hurt as much, and I wish I could get Word to the same place, but it’s time. It’s a trade-off of pain where to invest in solving a problem while it causes a problem could steal away days of my ability to write. So that is my big thing to plan this week.

Defend The Routine

Because Monday is the day I manage my life and business, and plan the week, it’s also the day I have to guard as fiercely as possible. It sets me up for the week, and if some random doctor’s appointment or someone home sick interrupts this day, I will either push it to Tuesday, or the worst case scenario is I lose the week, lose the rhythm, the thread, and wing it hoping the energy I spend actually leads to something productive. Never good with ADHD.

The biggest importance of Maintenance Monday is that it acknowledges that working from home is a fucking problem that has a million distractions that need to be addressed before work can get done. I can’t have laundry waiting for me when I’m working; I’m going to do the laundry because when I’m home, my priorities are with my immediate space. I can’t have a messy room because visual disorder hurts my eyes and no, I can’t afford an office. Walking into the kitchen to make a quick meal before getting back to writing can mean being completely interrupted by cleaning a messy kitchen and then forgetting what I was doing, losing the thought pattern of writing.

Just like with human distractions, where I have no ability to compromise once they’re in my space, it’s the same with disorganization and mess. I won’t win. My focus will go to the immediate problem that needs solving so that I’m then allowed to get back to work — and know, I don’t want to work. Not really. So every distraction from work means the very real possibility of not working. On Monday I solve those biggest issues, and every evening before bed I will do a quick tidy up to solve them again (because I live with slobs and cats). Anything less is setting myself up for failure.

A Day For Ongoing Projects

Mondays are also the day I get to put some time into the big organization projects that need doing, but are dangerous to touch on a work day. Because if I get in the habit of trying to tackle the intense clutterfuck thing that happened after 10 years of being ill, moving, and two different episodes of mold taking over this place, suddenly my week could be about doing that. Because it IS important. And my brain prioritizes my immediate space instinctively because, hey, years of allergies has turned this into trauma. I have to not trigger that instinct.

I have a lot of big projects waiting. The one I’m doing today is getting the rest of the holiday decorations taken down. I was holding off, hoping that we could do it as a family, but yeah, it never happened. I put them up alone as well, because I can self motivate and others can’t. I suppose at the heart of it, because I care and they don’t. We have a garage full of things that were supposed to be taken to goodwill when we first moved in here, but it never happened. A basement full of moldy storage that was supposed to be dumped when the black mold hit the house, and it sat there when the white mold hit, and is still there.

Being sick has been difficult when I’m the only one who cleans. Running a business when an entire dirty house has been dumped into my lap as people walk in and out throwing their shit down anywhere they want in shared spaces and thinking they’re not responsible… it’s impossible, really. I don’t get to leave the house to work like other people do. The eye sight issue has made that pretty impossible, and my work environment outside of my clean space is far from ideal. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t get to matter. What I prioritize is my choice, and I’m not obligated to solve other people to be allowed to live my life.

I solved my room before getting myself back into the routine of writing. I painted, got fresh storage in here, and decluttered. The important thing was to have visual balance, soothing colors, and lighting that wouldn’t contribute to eye strain. I fostered a space to love, to feel calm in so that when I go to create, it’s easy and familiar. Any project can be swiftly boxed up and tucked out of space to make room for writing or to give me a distraction free view. I don’t have to worry about cats knocking things down when there’s nothing to knock over.

If I had decided not to do it all in one go, Mondays would have been the day to work on it, doing a piece at a time. Monday lets me take care of some of these big things a bit without turning it into a daily work day thing. My work week is for the 4 days that follow Monday.

A Four Day Writing Week

I write 4 days a week. I work a 5 day week. Do I still find myself working on the weekends? Sure. I’m only mortal (for someone who keeps saying work sucks, it’s really hard to pull me away.) But these 4 days are the days I count. The days that matter. The days I set aside to do the work with writing sprints and editing sprints (oh yes, you read that right. Editing sprints, because I have no fucks left to give.) 2 of these days also require the huge distraction of leaving the house to interact with beings who are not cats long enough to get my allergy shots.

Leaving the house for anything is about the biggest distraction I can think of from doing work (even worse than having people in the house cuz sometimes they’re actually quiet), so this is no small feat.

The Greatest Distraction Of All: Leaving The Planet

Leaving the space of work is like leaving the world behind. I am defined by my environment. I don’t know why; I could romanticize it or what not, but it’s the reality I deal with. It’s great when I need to escape a mood, but it has the same effect when it comes to losing the brain shape I need to focus on work.

I become an artist outside the house, falling in love with the landscape, or the go getter who is getting errands done, or the drop in who randomly says hi to their partner at work (because being home alone sucks.) And it shouldn’t be such a big deal. Being spontaneous and fun shouldn’t ruin an entire day of work. But it does for me.

My brain takes a certain amount of energy and time to twist into the right shape (this is a metaphor, peeps, just saying. My alien traits have not evolved this far, thank you). I need structure, and I need consistency, because being spontaneous doesn’t mean spontaneously writing 5000 words on a different story. It means deciding to paint my ceiling, or rearrange the pantry, or clean out the garage and sort what’s going to goodwill.

There is so much waiting to get done, and the more my physical health and energy return, the more this body of mine wants to fuck off and do all the things, all at once, to an amazingly belligerent degree when external resistance is felt. I get angry when something hurts or I feel tired — how dare anything hold me back after years of chronic fatigue and adrenal insufficiency! XD And that anger is also a wonderful excuse to keep me from getting my work done.

Self Motivation Has To Be From The Self

Anger is great for ADHD when you don’t have motivation. Unfortunately, it can be hard to direct. I’ve been feeling a lot of anger in regards to the anti-trans bullshit happening lately. The normalization of it. The consumer market exploiting it. I’ve been fucking pissed, and I’ve used that to show up every day and remind people I’m still here. That I’m not letting them push me out of my life just because they’re that fucking selfish they want transpeople to disappear because we don’t fit their concept of what’s allowed to exist. Fuck that.

I don’t recommend having your motivation be in defiance of an external factor, not really. Because you don’t get to control that. You can start relying on getting great reviews or feedback or even anger — I have found some amazing inspiration from some rather outraged reviews. XD But when it’s silent and it’s just you and your thoughts, you have to be ready to self motivate. Every time.

I think this is one of the hardest things for self published writers to really understand. That when they put a work out into the world and no one says a word back, this is going to define them. What their brain generates in the silence is going to decide if they keep pushing forward, or if they give up. That what their brain generates can change at any damn moment so that if they were being their own cheerleader, suddenly they can be their worst enemy and not be prepared for it.

It sucks. It’s absolutely normal and it sucks.

We are our greatest enemy. The brain is the most dangerous weapon, sharp teeth once tearing into thought now turned inward, tearing into the ego, the dreams, the motivation and leaving everything bloody. We’ve evolved to feel this as social beings. Shame is part of our biological makeup, but just like stress gets triggered from nonsensical things in the modern world, so does shame.

Do You Really Know Yourself?

There is nothing domesticated about the human psyche. If you think you have trained yours to be gentle and loving, that you will never be tested, it’ll be a lot harder to push back when those biological factors activate and turn on you.

Because it will. Vulnerability is in all of us, and from that vulnerability springs our greatest warriors. Warriors who turn on ourselves to logic out of the pain — to just stop doing the things that bring the vulnerability, like putting yourself and your work out there. Your greatest lessons will be learned when the brain comes in to fill in the silence when you were expecting social validation. In the same way I have a day to plan on how to keep my shit together through the week, you need a plan for how to keep it together during those moments. I have one.

If you’re doing this, if you’re real about this, you will be seeking those moments. You will be seeking to grow as you seek that pain and tell it to fuck off. But you have to be honest with yourself that the vulnerability is there. That the pain hurts. That you have to feel it to deal with it and overcome it. Like any muscle, one can get stronger dealing with this stuff, but it’s going to be the worst pain in the beginning every damn time, and there isn’t a shortcut.

Writing isn’t hard. Showing up is where the majority of people fail. And you will find system after system telling people you just have to write 100 words a day, or sit down for an hour a day, or sacrifice a main character to the writing muses on a full moon, etc, etc. And yeah, maybe they’ll get a story out of it… but then what? What do they do with it? Does it ever even meet another set of eyeballs?

If you’re not showing up, there’s a reason not being addressed. Like my reason of working for a living sucks and I don’t like being home alone all day. And if you don’t acknowledge it and do the work to accept and deal with it, those reasons will always decide for you.

The will is an extension of the subconscious; if your subconscious has decided something, it’s decided. It will be your default until you deal with that shit. And every time you feel resistance to dealing with that shit, you’re being given a path of where to go: into the resistance. If you’re not seeking that pain and facing the things holding you back, you’re not really doing this.

There’s a reason so many entrepreneurs are sociopaths, and 1 in 5 business leaders are psychopaths. They don’t have to do this work to get to where they are. The psychological wiring just isn’t there to battle. Everyone else does, and it defines if they’re going to make it or not.

Congrats for not being a sociopath. Here’s some pain to guide you forward.

Why Writing Feels So Difficult Lately

The writing tab…

So, for starters, I’m not sure if this is going to be of any use to anyone. If I’m real, I’m writing this for myself and sharing it to hold myself accountable. Yes, you, as a reader, are now part of my experiment in keeping on track. Thank you.

Could this hold valuable information to a would be or current self published writer? Maybe. It might be difficult to relate to me even though it’s the familiar topic. I’m, uh, unique. The whole autism, adhd, disability, enby, choosing to write taboo erotica for a living thing. On some level, this is about overcoming adversity, I suppose, but really, it’s far more mundane. It’s about holding myself accountable even though things feel difficult.

I guess that’s rather universal.

Getting to the point

So I started Sunday sitting down and writing about what it takes for me to get back into the habit of writing. There’s a fair bit of irony there because I’m not actually back in the habit since writing my last book the beginning of 2020. I’m working on it, remembering what it’s like. Had about five real writing sessions once I got my computer screen less caustic to my eyes between updating the website. One session was super easy, the others not.

It is not like riding a bike again. It is not the most natural thing ever. It’s not fun and exciting and full of promise. It’s a slog to get my brain to focus and twist into the patterns it needs to twist into to get back into the flow.

That’s not new for me; I’m horrible at task switching. I’m someone who specializes… I don’t know if that’s the term for this, but it suits my purpose. I metaphorically hit my head against a wall repeatedly on a task until I win. That ability for the twists in my brain to get real deep with enough repetitiveness can make me pretty good at most anything with enough time. But it also means that I can be slow to learn. My brain is gathering all the information — far more than it really needs — forming connections around it, organizing it, squirreling it away with certain associations (many visual and spacial and movement related).

I’m just around for the ride, doing the repetition again and again until the ability is fully formed. Then I get bored and want to learn something new — because I hate myself — but that’s a different problem. The main thing is, my working memory might fail me, but whatever is being stored in my movements is always there, that neural pattern waiting to activate. As a result, I don’t do change well. I don’t get to fully access how I task switch. And I also don’t get to decide why it sometimes feels like moving a mountain and other times just a flip of a switch. This is just who I am.

Writing this has been easy. The words flow. I know what I’m saying and why I’m saying it. Writing fiction isn’t always so simple, but it doesn’t matter. The ability is there, waiting to activate, even after years of illness. Just… I’m not showing up consistently.

Not because it’s hard — I’m used to things being difficult. Not because my eyes hurt or I have a shit work ethic. I spent Sunday writing about 5,000 words on what I do to do this job consistently, and the raw truth of it is… Working to live sucks, and I don’t like being alone all day.

I know, it’s so fucking mundane

Oh, I could talk about all the things I do to prepare my space. How I juggle and compromise and lose to distraction, and how I get back after and focus. How I use routine to keep me focused, little movement and sensation cues to keep me in the moment, doing what needs to be done. I have a lot of them — my ADHD isn’t new, yet I wrote a lot of books. I know how to do this. I know how to trick my brain into focusing long enough to get things done, and my brain is better now. Clearer without the mold and allergies flaring things up, or the low cortisol stealing my thoughts.

None of that changes the truth that I want to write, but being home alone while everyone else is at work is so fucking boring that I sleep through the morning so that someone will be home sooner to when I wake up. Being sick has been so isolating, and I just miss being a person around other people — not all the time. Not even most of the time; people are fucking difficult on me. But I miss basic human interaction.

That’s what I’m seeing as I return to writing, return to building back up a pattern of behavior one would call a career. Writing is isolating. It’s not something I can do with others around me. I can’t have the TV on or the radio or a podcast. I can listen to classical music, and that’s about it, otherwise I can’t focus. I won’t go into the health issues of sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end, but it’s pretty undeniable in regards to the negative impact it has on my eyesight.

I am someone who is very okay with being alone for long stretches of time. Yet this job is too isolating, and it’s one of those gigs that doesn’t lead to changing that. I just got my health back, and this job wants me to be stuck in my head for 8 hours + a day. As much as I enjoy the characters I’ve created, that’s not me spending time with friends.

I’ve done this; I have spent years upon years focused on work, not building social connections, and no, it doesn’t get better. This is an essential aspect of humanity that needs feeding, and repeating the same unhealthy behavior isn’t going to fix the issue.

So that’s where I am at the moment, after a week of having my family home because we all had to quarantine together cuz my brother got covid again. I’m going to wake up late on Monday, and do my Monday Maintenance, which is basically a routine of taking stock of the house, work, and life. I’m going to plan everything out for the week, clear away any distractions I can to get ready to write for the following 4 days, and just feel lonely. Left to wonder if I even know how to write a concept of a person when I only speak to the same two most days.

I’m going to have to get the fuck out of the house. That’s the only answer. Doesn’t matter if my eyes make driving difficult; this is not sustainable. The thing currently getting in my way isn’t poor focus or some personal failure of behavior/willpower. I’m just too alone all the damn time to enjoy what I do. The humanity well is empty.

Is this where the trope of writers hanging out in coffee shops came from? Because people actually want to be around each other? *sigh* Somehow, I’ve become everything my teen self hated…