And after the long drought, words... 1,206 words and everything from the junked up outline became backstory that happened before the beginning. It gave it depth. It gives it something anyway and now it's fun to write. We'll see where it goes...

Robert and Ari >^..^<


Stress, fatigue and depression go together.

I don't usually blog if I'm in a bad frame of mind. That goes into the private journal, not the online journal. I'm fairly sure readers are not interested in a long whiny internal conflict. A little of that goes a long way in a novel and when I'm out here in my blog, I'm at least somewhat trying to be entertaining in the rambles. This falls about halfway between serious fiction or articles, and the kind of writing I do to put my head back together after things go wrong.

I have a disability. I have multiple disabilities, but one of the nastiest is just that one side of my body is weaker and smaller than the other. One leg is three centimeters short. The result of this is something I didn't know about until 2001. I get chronic physical fatigue because any normal activity takes four or five times the effort it does for a normal person.

That problem didn't just appear in 2001. It's been there all my life. I know functionally how far I can walk and for most of my life I just blamed myself for not being able to keep up. I wasn't trying hard enough. I couldn't walk as fast because I'm short. I am short too, only five foot four. Two inches taller than Harlan Ellison, though he writes better, by a lot. This has made me look at so many things differently. One result is that I've become weirdly efficient at a lot of day to day things people get sloppy with. I schedule my physical activities the way blind people keep their homes clean and never move anything. I have a million weird dodges to make things like food prep and cleaning up easier - and some seem paradoxical. My home is small and cluttered. Many people comment on how I can live with all that clutter and seem to think I'd be happier with much larger spaces and much less stuff - but the way I've got things now, everything's in reach and most of that clutter isn't junk. It's books or it's crafts materials for the hobbies I can do. It's also organized in ways that I could go over to that spot and settle in for hours fiddling with that whatever and then put it away neatly without getting up. My hobby stuff is all incredibly organized! I love tackle boxes. I've got tubs and tackle boxes and things that let me keep everything packed yet usable. And if I had a strong back and long legs, instead I might be living in a large place with a ton of disorganized stuff just shoved in because I hadn't gotten around to doing anything like that.

I spent a quiet day yesterday drawing First Day Covers, buffaloes. They're cool. They came out well. I went to one store during that day and climbed the hill outside my house on the way in and out. When I got home, I was in a lot of pain and I wound up going to bed very early - and I felt incredibly stressed. Most of my worries were crowding me. It was very hard to get my mind on writing, I gave up and went to bed.

On the odd thought that maybe I'd feel better when I got up.

One of the sure signs that fatigue is the cause when I'm in that bad a frame of mind is that if going to bed will leave me feeling that much better, that's what it was. I have to get over being embarrassed about it. I write about huge sword slinging heroes wading their way across grand sword and sorcery landscapes and I'm physically that weak. This has been rough on my self image. Admitting it has. At the same time, the reality check is doing something for my ability to manage the problem.

There were a lot of times in the past when I wound up in very large apartments I couldn't take care of, which sank into slime pits as I couldn't manage to clean that much space.

If there are times I'm too exhausted to cook, I don't eat and my health gets run down. When eating convenience food gets me bothering to eat every day, I'm actually getting better nutrition - and so much for people who cook as a hobby. The processes of chopping vegetables and fixing this in that pan and the sauce in another and the time it takes to clean up after meal prep are among some of the more strenuous things I have to do. So, it's not laziness or luxury to get and use gadgets and it's no surprise now that some of my favorite foods are the simplest. They don't have associated memories of being diminished by being too tired to eat after I'm done fixing it.

I'm sorting out now why my word count's been dropping off, because it has. I've had a lot of appointments recently. Well, there was the stress from first getting, then having to detach from and drop a dysfunctional therapist. That ate time. That also seriously undercut my morale, it took days after each of three sessions to disentangle what all was going on in those appointments and the appointments themselves took a lot of physical energy to attend - and would, if I'd gotten therapy, have been worth the effort. I'd have recharged emotionally. Hello, this is a stressful profession. Within occupational stresses I have to balance the fun part, the actual writing, with the hard part, the rewriting. I had a wake up call about how rough my older roughs are. Gee, like it isn't good news that I'm a better writer than I used to be?

There's two ways to look at everything, but one thing that happened when I recognized how rough my older roughs are is that something I'd built up as a set of solid achievements to stand against being depressed about my current situation slid into another category.

I wrote some thirty or so big fat novels at the homeless shelter. I wrote them in hell. I wrote them to escape hell at least in mind, and rough as the shelter was, it's rougher on someone who can't leave his room. A lot of situations that reminded me of prisons while I was in them were just that, literally, to me. Because other people in those situations could walk away from them and I couldn't, I have to look at my experiences for exactly what they were. I hate having to depend on other people, mostly because in most impersonal situations there are always people who like to shove around anyone who's dependent on them. In various ways. Sometimes it even seems to them like kindness, people who are patronizing are usually patting themselves on the back for being so nice while they're doing it. This goes for anyone from a doctor whose first name is Doctor to someone dropping off a load of old clothes. They often look down on the people they're helping. It has not really percolated much into general culture that it's okay to help people who need help without patronizing them, it's socially acceptable to look down. Combine that with a self employed guy who never put up with it at bad jobs in the first place and had zero tolerance for office politics and that's a recipe for conflict. Disabilities aside, I never thought 'the money' was worth it in bad situations and I'd walk on them, fast. To my surprise, that willingness to walk out on bad jobs once turned a bad one into a good one because that time, I actually was in a situation where my skills were that needed. The boss backed down, especially when I made a point it was something personal and didn't question how he treated anyone else. I didn't turn it into a cause, I just wasn't willing to be shouted at.

I wrote Raven Dance in part about large organizations in general. The way it's very easy sometimes in large organizations for no one to be responsible for anything. The thing that makes large organizations functional or not sometimes depends on how well designed the rules system is.

I wound up looking at rules systems in a completely non political situation, something totally abstract! I like role playing games. I got started on Dungeons and Dragons and the rules were often irritating because the game's structure didn't lend itself to the kind of stories my friends and I liked to play. Out by substitution went page after page of the original rules till I'd come up with something decent for how to run it when it was my turn as GM - and I wouldn't have even thought of rules design without getting that deeply into that hobby when the only thing riding on it was whether Saturday afternoons were more boring or more fun. But I've seen the differences policies make in organizations - and how phrasing affects them. The phrase at the shelter was Rules and Regulations. This is status. Rules are what the clients, who are sometimes treated as prisoners, have to obey. Regulations are the fancier rules the staff have to obey to keep their jobs and they're often, especially at the level where they have the most to do with the clients, held there long after burnout by economic blackmail. In any given facility there are a few natural talents, people who are so good at taking care of other people that it's not stressful for them.

They are the ones who get the least stress because they're not power tripping.

It's one of the peculiar things in life that some kinds of bad behavior acceptable in society are flat out self defeating. The people who find out in grade school that bullying on whatever level will get them their way in the short term will wind up carrying that through into adult life. This is why anti bullying programs are so important in schools. Because that does lead to a crash and burn, vicious cycles build up both in personal life and at work and eventually that bully will wind up tripping on the first bit of bum luck that cuts them off at the knees or the person who stands up to it. Sometimes though, that only teaches them how far they can go without going too far. Sometimes it just throws them into the norm - and if they enjoy it, if they find it intrinsically satisfying very little would break that pattern.

It gets complicated when healthy patterns get confused with it too. Holding boundaries is easily interpreted as aggression, sometimes, often reality gets ignored in favor of social reality and the roles people play.

It's not insoluble. It doesn't look that way this morning, because I do have some sleep under my belt and I do know what I'm doing. Much of this blog is exactly at the point of theme fishing, because this is a good topic for another novel and I'm not sure I went into all of its aspects in Raven Dance. Despite some backgrounds I'm not a sociologist, a psychologist or anthropologist. I'm a novelist. I write stories. I write stories that hopefully make people think, because that's a lot of the point of science fiction.

Well, done with the warmup. I'm back on the field that I do know what I'm doing and it wouldn't matter if I could walk or not when my fingers get going. I need to get my word count back and establish some good working rhythms. Onward!

Robert and Ari >^..^<


After a small dry spell, words. 1,498 of them in a short story off an exercise that was difficult - a topic that was hard for me to quite manage to wrap my brain around. For the longest time, everything it suggested implied only a cliche, something I'd already read somewhere. And then a quiet little story slipped out.

I feel much better.


Robert and Ari >^..^<


My cat erased my entire blog.

One right click on the mouse and the right mysterious swipe and all that text vanished. Oh well. Ari has his own special ways of critique. He's a very good editorial cat. He does that with perfect timing and perfect elegance. I couldn't tell you how many stinking lousy opening paragraphs or scenes have vanished to electronic limbo thanks to the quick stomp of a deft little dark paw. Usually by then I remember what the opener was and when I do it again from memory, it flows better.

No great loss for the copious. He's never killed more than a page, so I don't get that mad. And he's cute putting his head through the curtain to stare out the window at the great wide world. Must be birds out today or something. >^..^<

Robert and Ari >^..^<