Day #9 – The Trajectory of Ideas

When I have a story idea, I nearly always write it down somewhere. Usually, these days, in the Notes app on my phone, because my phone is always with me and Notes can be read on any network-connected device. Prior to the introduction of smartphones (let’s face it, iPhones – I’ve never been an Android person) in my life, I would write them on pieces of paper and then transcribe them into an electronic form at my earliest convenience. So buried in folders on the hard drives of my computers, those story notes sit, idle, waiting for the day I pluck them out and try to build them up into actual stories.

Without actually going and doing an inventory of them, I’d hazard a guess that I must have… a couple of hundred? Yeah, that sounds right. More than a hundred, at least, but not a lot more. I’m not saying they’re all good ideas. They may be, like dreams once you’ve woken up and are no longer in your subconscious, just random words thrown together with no structure or coherence. Still, though, a hundred story prompts would make up a fertile ground for creativity, with a little effort and attention.

That being the case, why does the voice in the back of my head tell me I have no ideas? That I’m an empty well? “Look,” I say to the Voice In The Back of My Head, “I’ve got a hundred ideas, and I’m making more all the time! I’ve got plenty to work with!”

You can probably already guess what the Voice In The Back of My Head is going to say, especially if you, too, have to deal with that particular demon. Or maybe this is just me. It chuckles, leans back, and raises an accusing finger. “You may have those ideas, but you sit there and don’t use them. When was the last time you even looked at one once you were done capturing it, pinning it to a board like a precious butterfly and then sticking it away in a digital drawer, far from the eyes of yourself or anyone else?”

It’s got my number. I don’t do anything with those scraps of paper, those text files. I am a hoarder. I do the minimum amount of work to save the fruits of my brain, and then I give up and go on with my day.

I did not know that today’s 500 words were going to become a call to action, but here it is. I’m going to do an inventory of my creative seeds, pick some out, and try to write the story behind them. Scary stuff. And probably a lot of work. I don’t know if the reward is going to be worth it. I can feel my own inner resistance pushing against this. My brain is trying to make the locus of control external rather than internal. However! I can do this.

If not for myself, then at least now I can have another argument, take another step, against that fucking Voice In The Back of My Head, that fucking bastard.

Day #8 – Futzing Around With Tech

I added the Moon and the Earth image yesterday, after posting my post. In case you’re reading these in reverse order and got confused. I was building it up into a whole thing, having to comb NASA’s website for royalty-free space images and having to put it all together in a photo editor program and making it look right, and psyching myself out of actually, y’know, doing it. Then I went on the Wayback Machine and found my old site design and just stole that image and put it up here.

It’s a little short and probably at a terrible resolution for modern screens and browsers but I’m satisfied with it and the continuity it brings to my home on the interwebs. I’ve finally got decorated how I want. This page, finally and once again, feels like home.

My hosting bill is coming due in a month or two. It’s close to a hundred bucks and I don’t get much, so I went looking for other options (man, I hope my current host isn’t reading this). Here, I don’t get email, I don’t get an SSL certificate, I’m only allowed one domain, I don’t get a lot of storage space. Turns out (it turns out!) that for $30-40 less a year, I could get IMAP email, HTTPS, multiple domains (in one case, unlimited domains!), and more! I’ll be switching. When I do, I’ll probably also move the Uncasting page from where it’s currently parked (did you know that my nephew Max and I did a podcast? We’re currently on hiatus but enjoy our back catalog!)

Futzing around with domains and DNS and email and WordPress feels productive, but this is all just a platform for my writing. And here I am, writing. It’s early in the day and I haven’t left for work yet. I’ve eaten some bacon and a bowl of steel-cut oats (with honey, crushed almonds, and a little pat of butter) and a danish. The neighbor next door is out on their porch coughing (I think they’re a smoker) and I just got a text from my friend Tracy about a bumper sticker she just saw (“I believe in Dog”, to which I replied with a gif of a flying dog)


(That one, actually)

I should go to work but I’ve only got (checks the word count) 393 words at this point. Pretty close but no cigar yet.

What else can I say? Today is Taco Tuesday, where I normally meet my friends after work for tacos. I suspect Terry is going to suggest we move it to Wednesday because there’s a great new bar that has fancy tacos that isn’t open on Tuesdays, but I can’t do it tomorrow because I have another commitment: a birthday dinner / going-away party for my sister’s mother-in-law and my nephew Max, respectively. I suspect that means I’ll be taco-ing alone tonight. So be it.

At this point, I’m just stalling. Writing words just to fill up space. But I need to shut off the guilt because that’s just what this whole exercise is supposed to do: get me to turn off the inner critic and write like the wind. I can edit later (I mean, I’m not going to edit these posts; they’re just free consciousness writing without consequences (thank you for reading them, by the way. I’m not really doing these for you, but I appreciate you all the same.))

Day #7 – Doing The Thing

This one, I’m tapping out on my phone, while sitting in my car in the shade on my lunch break. I didn’t get a chance to write this morning before going to work, and I’ve been busy all day with work stuff, so this is the first chance I’ve had to write. This project (or experiment, whatevs) isn’t about doing the writing at the same time and in the same way every day; it’s about just getting it done no matter what. Here I am, doing the thing.

It’s a pain in the ass typing long things on my phone. Don’t care, though, as long as I can get it done.

I changed my blog theme over the weekend. I still have things to add but for now it looks about 90% of what I want. Very simple, clean. Sorry if you don’t like Dark Mode but it’s my blog and I’ll do as I please.

My last name is Moon; so I am going for a space-inspired theme. Might try to add stars in the background later, I don’t know. Definitely want to add a Moon somewhere, like I had in the old days.

I got help with this from Steve Libbey, a very helpful person whom I have never met face to face. We just know each other in that cool internet kind of way that people can know each other now. I contacted him because I wasn’t 100% sure I could make the changes I wanted on my website, and Steve was offering help with WordPress. But in talking to him, turns out (it turns out!) I know more than I thought I did. I just don’t have any confidence about it. Once I sat down and paid attention to what he was telling me, though, it all mostly fell in to place. I just needed my attention to be pointed in the right direction.

Other than adding a Moon somewhere up there (waves vaguely at the upper left corner of the page), I also want to add a Picture of the Day/Week/Whenever in the left sidebar. The page is too plain without some color or images, I think. I tried some widgets but none of them let me right-justify so they looked weird. I’ll figure it out, though.

Now that my home on the internet is working mostly as I want it, I should have less resistance to writing than I used to. That’s the hope anyway. And that means more regular writing, which builds the habit, which leads to me being happier. Again, that’s what I’m aiming for.

I have about 20 minutes left on my lunch break. I’m struggling to come up with anything interesting to say. But that’s the point of pushing through this, isn’t it? I haven’t been writing in part because my inner filter is telling me I don’t write anything worth reading. By giving myself permission to write whatever, I’m lowering the barrier and retraining myself to a habit. I’m not out of the Writer’s Block Woods yet. Just gotta keep showing up.

Like I just did. (521 words)

Day #6 – The Break-In Thing

Just re-watched All The President’s Men (1976) because, hey, impeachment is still topical. Watching young Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman slowly piece together the evidence that Richard Nixon was running a criminal organization out of the Oval Office was fascinating, both from a historical context, from the context of story-telling and writing. and from the context of what journalism used to be and maybe, in some minor areas, still is or can be.

First from the historical angle… where do I begin? Nixon was using the power of the presidency for explicitly political gain. At the time that was incredibly taboo. I mean, it was illegal, but it was also considered morally off-limits by people regardless of party. Nixon’s actions were not seen as practical or business-as-usual, they were scandalous. But a funny thing has happened over the years: the people behind those actions never really went away. Their ideas for “rat-fucking” their opponents and for gaining, and holding on to, political power infused the leadership of the Grand Ol’ Party, the Republicans. Nixon may have fallen out of favor and eventually died as an outcast, but the prevailing opinion isn’t that he was a crook—it’s that he got caught. Or, rather, caught too soon, before he could consolidate his power.

Republicans today have moved so far from that moral center that they aren’t even afraid of getting caught. Time and again they have done Nixonian things: extreme gerrymandering, whisper campaigns against political opponents based on lies and slander, illegal surveillance of reporters and politicians to suppress stories. As they’ve gotten away with it, they’ve upped the ante, to the point of taking outright bribes from foreign governments in order to win elections. There may be some cries of foul play, there never seem to be any real repercussions for those actions, and that, to me, is baffling. That’s a whole ‘nother topic, though.

Looking at All The President’s Men as a piece of story-telling fascinates me, too. The overall arc starts with some Cuban burglars breaking into the Democratic National Committee HQ in the Watergate Building and ends with a teletype machine printing out the story that Nixon is resigning. How does it connect those dots? By following the research, interviews, and discussions two reporters have with their sources, the subjects of the stories they write, and their editors and publishers. You’d think it was a very dry story, and yet each step in the path is clearly, and dramatically, explained. There is a sense of dread building up over time as you see everyday office workers clam up and act like they’re in fear for their lives. Over and over, in response to what seem like simple questions, they proclaim that they’re good Americans, good citizens, even as they know they’ve done rotten things, and display the reactions of knowing they’ve done them and now those actions are coming to light.

Would people react the same way today? It sure doesn’t seem like it. Shame, fear, and guilt no longer seem to be a motivating factor for the everyday bureaucrats in our government, particularly at a Federal level. How far we have fallen.

Day #5 – That Stupid Internal Hole

I was worried I was going to end up at the strip club last night. Friday, happy hour, peer pressure… my friend T. has an inheritance that he’s burning through, and he’s spent a lot of money at a particular club. But since I’ve overspent a bit this payday, I didn’t really have enough to spend and also make it through the next few weeks. So for the past couple of days, I’ve been practicing, in my head, saying “no, I can’t do that this week.” Trying to set boundaries, with myself mostly, but also with my friend, who means well but can’t really help himself.

So when he sent a text about a new bar in our favorite neighborhood as a suggestion instead… I jumped at the chance. Strippers are great and all but if you’re on a budget, cheap street tacos and margaritas are a nice way to unwind from a stressful week, too.

The bar, Bar Espiritu, is a great space; long and narrow with a very comfy lounge in the back, big leather overstuffed couches, and a giant projection TV. And the cook is someone I recognized from a coffee shop I used to love, so it was great to see him back in the neighborhood! The bartender was friendly with a dry kind of wit, and the owner was welcoming and appreciative of new, excited customers. I will be going back.

Then a third friend showed up. We bar hopped to another couple of places and walked around on a nice summer night with just a bit of a buzz (OK, maybe just me) and it became a very chill night of just hanging out with people I care about and drinking and catching up. The perfect Friday night. I didn’t overspend, I got to fill that internal hole that makes me feel like I don’t connect to people, and I had a nice mix of new experiences and comfortable ones.

That stupid internal hole. That’s where this story is going. I’ve been so dejected—I was going to say lately, but it’s been going on for at least a few years now—and wanting to hide, to not seek out new experiences, not push myself. The opposite of having no boundaries, I was setting the firmest boundaries, boundaries that were basically walls that I couldn’t get through and wouldn’t let anyone else in. I wanted to do the same things I always did, in exactly the same way, at the same time and at a pace I set for myself that did not account for anyone else’s wishes.

Putting myself on a path to healing from that depression, however, has made me recognize the internal emptiness, the hole inside, and figuring out that I have better options for filling that hole, or at least living with it and working around it (silly Brian, there’s no filling the hole; just can’t be done, my good man!) Options like spending more time with people who care about me, and about whom I care.

Day #4 – Money Thoughts

Good morning. I probably don’t have the 30 minutes it would normally take me to write out my 500 words; I should be leaving for work in <checks time> 3 minutes, actually, but I’m starting this post anyway. My normal Friday doesn’t leave a lot of energy at the end of the day, since I usually go out for happy hour, and drinking always defocuses me and leaves me a bit tired.

In fact, many Fridays I end up at a strip club, but for this entire week, I have been of two minds about that possibility: first, I really really want to unwind in exactly that way, and B, I’ve been worried about spending too much money and leaving myself high and dry for the next two paychecks. My next paycheck goes almost entirely to my rent, and I get paid every two weeks, so if I spend everything now, it’ll be three weeks on short rations.

I’ve set aside money for my normal bills, and I’ve got some food in the fridge, and I should be able to afford gas for my car, so I’d be OK there… but what if something comes up? What if, what if, what if?

I’m a little mad at myself for having bought some things on my last couple of paychecks that have turned out to be useless, since I’m speaking about money. I was at Free Geek a couple weeks back and they had an enterprise-level network-area storage (NAS) unit that normally goes for $500 new, for just $49. I have been wanting to put some network storage in at home, for backups and streaming movies, so it seemed like a deal too good to pass up. It didn’t come with drives, though; just the box. But I had a spare drive I could install. Or so I thought.

But when I got home and installed the drive, the damned thing wouldn’t boot at all. The box is Seagate, and the drive was Western Digital; I decided that I needed Seagate drives. Next payday rolls around, I buy two more small drives, a matched pair of Seagate 1 TB drives, another $40 total. And those don’t boot, either. It just sits and blinks and doesn’t do anything. I can’t see it on the network, it doesn’t get an IP address, it’s just a black hole.

Money wasted.

What’s funny, or maybe what may seem funny to you, the reader, is that I’m mad at buying that hardware, but not upset at all at spending money on strippers. That’s because I feel the money spent on strippers and alcohol to be money well-spent. I get something of value from that experience. It’s worth it to me. But the dumb NAS and hard drives don’t. They’re useless. I’d feel better about it if I could get some utility out of them.

And now all I can think is that I’d rather have that $89 I spent on the NAS to cushion the next couple of weeks until my non-rent payday. Is that so weird?

Day #3 – Starting Late in the Day

I did not get up early and do my 500 words this morning before work. Only day 3 and I’ve already fallen off the pattern. But I’m still going to write my 500 damn words today. As long as the day isn’t over, I’m still doing what I need to do, what I want to do. I’m still making it happen. I’m still exhibiting an internal locus of control.

I went to bed last night before 8 PM, and remained in bed, with one exception to get up and piss, until about 10 or 15 minutes past my normal “You have to get up now or be late to work” alarm at 6:15 AM. More than 10 hours in bed. I was tired from having had a very stressful day at work, a day when two major systems at work broke at the same time, affecting nearly everyone. It required help from two other techs, actually. And I didn’t do much but watch them troubleshoot and apply the fix. I helped a bit, but it was demoralizing how little help I was able to offer. And all that stress and demoralization combined to make me really tired at the end of the day, so I went straight to bed and stayed there until well past time to get up.

I dreamed about travel and connection like I always do. That’s all I dream about these days.

When I finally made it into work this morning I felt the emptiness inside even more than usual. And I knew I had to do something about it. I wanted, I have been wanting, to see a therapist or counselor to talk about my sadness and emptiness. Honestly, I’ve been needing some talk therapy for a long time now, but since getting health insurance two months ago on my new job, it’s been even more pressing. Just couldn’t get the energy to actually make the calls, though. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I called my insurance hotline to get a list of in-network counselors, and then just the idea of starting to call down the list and make appointments would literally make me sleepy. My brain did not want to cooperate in this whole “fix my thinking” project.

On my lunch break, I walked out to my car; I wanted to call in private and there wasn’t any conference room I could use at work and I don’t have my own office. I called the first two names on the list. Because it was lunchtime, I got voice mail. I left a brief message. Then I complained about not getting a person or an appointment to my friends via text, because, hey, I wanted to let them know I’m taking steps but I also wanted them to know I was struggling. One of my friends offerred to give me the name of their therapist, but when I agreed, he said he’d get it to me later, which felt a little too raw to me. I’m sure he was just busy but did he not understand I was feeling blocked?

While I was writing this, though, one of the therapists has called me back. I didn’t recognize the number so it went to voicemail. Turnabout is fair play, I guess? I will call them back now. And I’ve written my 500 words (actually 553).

Day #2 – Dreams and More Dreams

So I just need to force the words out, huh? Brilliant. I’m sitting here in my office (second bedroom, where the computer is) with a half-eaten bowl of oatmeal and some coffee. I’ve got about a half-hour until I have to leave for work. Is this enough time to write 500 words? I would hope so. Maybe.

My job is salary so it’s not 100% required for me to be there right on time, but I took a mental health day yesterday and managed to leave a mistake for someone else at work to fix so I’m both eager to go in (to show that I regret my mistake) and reluctant to go in (to show my face after having made that mistake). I mean, it wasn’t a big technical mistake but it was a political one, involving someone with a high level of authority and a reputation for being very detail-oriented, so my anxiety brain is trying very hard to make it a big deal.

Last night I had two very odd dreams. Well, one dream that flowed together. In the first one, a friend talked me into arranging a threesome with a mid-level celebrity. When I approached the celebrity, it turned out she was more attracted to me (it was a dream, just go with it). But when my friend showed up, with the expectation that we would all, y’know, be on the same page as it were, I worried that he would talk about the prior arrangement he and I made and that that would piss off the woman.

I have no idea what that all says about me.

In the second dream, I got an email from an attractive woman I am an acquaintance with an odd attachment. I was on my Mac so I didn’t think twice about trying to open it, but of course, it turned out to be a virus and began deleting my files. In the dream I wasn’t that worried; more annoyed than worried as I have (in real life) redundant backups. I wasn’t going to lose anything, just some time in getting everything cleaned up and back in working order. I should’ve knowed.

361 words.

OK, this is humbling. What else can I say? I’m just writing my confusion and inability to write now. And I’m super conscious of every word I write. This is going to take forever.

This plan, to get me writing again, is actually Step 1 of building a new life, actually. I almost don’t want to put it out there, but if I can write regularly, then the next step is to try to sell what I write, to get some extra income and build up that business until I can make writing my full-time job. Now is a terrible time in the economy to try this – ideally, I’d have done this years ago. But better late than never, I suppose.

There. It’s out there. Nobody is going to see this, though, so it hardly matters at this point. I’m primarily admitting it to myself.

506 words. Done for now.

500 Words a Day for a Month #1

I’m out of the practice of writing. I have been for a long while now. Although in my head I’m still a “writer” (though never a paid one (OK, I’ve sold some work for hire for pennies but that hardly counts, does it?)) I haven’t really written anything substantial for far too many years.

Oh, I’ve tried. I’ve forced some words out of myself here and there. I’ve worked on My Novel™ off and on. I’ve started other projects; I’ve got a nifty idea for a post-apocalypse story that I have maybe 8,000 words on, for example. But it always peters out.

I’ve started NaNoWriMo many times and never finished, never “won”. You’d think the excitement of being one of a group, of being part of something larger, and the routine and deadline would all combine to carry me across the finish line. Sadly, no, it has never done that for me.

It’s been said that habit can carry one past where motivation wanes. OK, maybe I made that up, but I did not invent the core idea: motivation is fleeting and hard to maintain, but if you have built a solid habit of something, that repetition will help you keep going until motivation returns. I know I’ve read this somewhere.

I’m going to try it. I’m going to set a goal, just as an experiment, to force myself to write 500 words a day for 30 days. Starting with this post (239 words to this point). Let’s see how far I get.

What am I going to write about? I can’t worry about that. I can tell stories about my day. I can write down my dreams (ugh, I know, right?) I can write how-tos about computer stuff since that’s my day job. I can talk about politics because that’s a central obsession of my life these days (things are terrible right now, y’all).

But the important thing is to just get words down, regularly, daily, over a long-but-also-manageable period of time because hopefully, I can get back in the saddle, as it were (have I ever talked about the first and last time I ever rode a horse? I was very young and I have never even wanted to try it again since then because, yes, I fell on my ass and got laughed at). What was I saying? Oh, right, I want to write again. I have things to say but there’s an internal, mental block when it comes to actually write them all down. (411 words – just keep going, man).

I do not promise that these will be amazing, or even artistic or clever or, frankly, coherent. This is an experiment, and the audience is primarily me. To that end, I’m not going to promote these posts in general. If you’re reading this, I’m sorry, but also, thank you, and please keep this in mind: if you want to encourage me, just keep it simple. I’m not looking for suggestions on what to write, and I’m not looking for feedback on what I’ve written. Just notice what I’m doing; that’s all I need. Thanks.

513 words. Day one is in the bag.

That Big Gap in the Middle

That old novel idea has been bubbling around in my brain again. The idea has been with me for a long time, years now. I’ve made at least two attempts at it but I’ve never been able to write it all down, start to finish, so I hesitate to call my previous attempts “drafts”. I have spent a lot of effort on it, though, and I have tons of notes and character ideas and themes… but when I try to think of the actual plot, as in the series of events that happen over the course of the story, my brain just kind of fuzzes out.

I spent some time in the last couple of weeks stuffing clever people’s ideas about premise vs. plot into my head, and I came to the decision that I will write down everything I think needs to happen, and then see if that will tell me what I need to work on still.

So I did.

That big gap in the middle… that’s the problem.

Each color represents a different main character, although I have a couple of other characters I still need to add. But seeing it all laid out like that… you see that big gap in the middle-ish? That’s the part I’m struggling with. I don’t really know what happens there.

Turns out it was helpful to write it all down. I can spend some time thinking about that gap and figuring out what needs to happen to connect the beginning and end.

And, honestly… maybe it’s OK for the protagonist (in blue) to be simply reactive to what the antagonist is doing in the early part of the story. Maybe that leads to a breaking point where they have to push through their weakness, the one that keeps holding them back, and be more proactive.

I really identify with them right now. Time to be more proactive…