Regulators Mount Up

CoffeeShopWriting

So, yeah, I just finished writing a short story. Wrapped up the ending yesterday, and started another one today. I’ll give the former some time to ferment and stay busy brewing up the latter with the intent of having the first edited, published and out to fans this month and the second lined up and ready for similar treatment in November.

I’ve been writing at one of the local coffee shops again and that seems to make all the difference. Even with interruptions, I can knock out an easy thousand words a morning and they’ve started providing free refills so it couldn’t be better.

Given that I’m restarting my creative process all over again, I’ve been trying to remain conscious of how much of me it’s consuming. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read and write as much as just about anything else, but I’ve felt a certain amount of fatigue in the past that hasn’t panned out for me in the long run.

“Okay,” you wonder. “What makes writing more of a task than a pleasure?” And I respond with a list.

  1. Socializing around writing. NaNoWriMo is shortly upon us, and in the past, that has meant I’ve been attended write-ins and the like. Add to that the end of the year conventions and writers groups and Clarior West weekend symposiums and suddenly I’m staring into the headlights of a social-anxiety train. If I try and to that again, it’s a done deal, my x-mas break you’ll have to fish my carcass out of the Sound. My plan this time around is to do everything on my time, commit to nothing and stay sane.
  2. Tying myself to arbitrary deadlines. No one gets to dictate how many words a day I can or even should produce. Not even me. I’ve stopped counting, in fact, and it’s been liberating. Here’s a simple truth that most how-to-write books won’t tell you. Writing more words doesn’t make your writing any better. This is a common trap I’ve fallen into in the past, especially during things like NaNoWriMo. You sit down with a word goal — I’ve got to write 1,472 words a day to complete the NaNo on time, blah blah blah — and pretty soon you’re cramming junk words into a chapter because without them you’ll never have a hope of finishing. Worse, you’ll start splitting out all your contractions because two words are better than one, right? So, at least for me, counting ain’t the way. I write a story because I have a story to write. If it’s only a 200-word story well, then so be it.
  3. No more using writing to excuse other work. If I’m honest, I’ve done this in the past. Mountain of stinky laundry need washing but I’d rather do anything else? Well “writing” can be a convenient get out of doing laundry card. Scared of crawling along your roof-line to clean gutters because you might fall? Tell everyone you’ve got some words to get down. At least for a while, I’m going to make sure that when it’s time to write that’s what I’m doing and when it’s time to do other things there will be my focus.
  4. Rejection! Complicated by all of the above, this is what killed my desire to write last year. A fuck-ton of rejection. And yeah, the advice “grow thicker skin, keep submitting” is good, but only to a point.

    I’m going to be a lot more selective about who and when I submit anything from here on out. Plus, I’m going to raise my expectations. Don’t want my piece? That’s fine, just tell me why. Over the years I’ve submitted over and over again and there have been a couple of good rejectors. C.C. Finley comes to mind. He never responds with boilerplate. He never tells me that I’ve written junk (and should kill myself because I’ll never make it as a writer you rotten slob how could you think you could ever amount to anything …). And he always gives me some indication of why he’s not interested. Even if it’s “Hey, I’m not sure where this would fit in this month’s line-up” or “I just didn’t find your story interesting, but keep trying.”

    If and when I submit, I’m going to do so judiciously. When I’m rejected, I’m going to note down if I learned anything from the rejection. If the answer is no then I won’t resubmit.

Okay, so there are my four guiding principles that I hope will allow me to continue to write. Expect a new story on Patreon in the next couple of weeks.

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A Creative Update

It’s about time for one of these. I know last winter I posted about restarting my Patreon and then went radio silent for a long dark time. Having a neurological scare like I did will tend to do that to just about anyone. But wow! It’s like summer out there. My kids are home from school, and I have been writing.

What’s the WIP?

I’m about 3,000 words into an exploration of a multiverse that fragments along the borders of possibilities. My protagonist is learning the ropes from someone more experienced than herself, and I’m poking artists for cover work.

Plus, I’m enjoying writing this story. Infinite possibility imbues the freedom of breaking one’s own rules. No datum, no Amber, no center means I can turn the dials well past eleven to see what happens when the first one is set to -∏, and the next one shows “blue.” Let’s run this baby at Ludicrous for a while.

So, the reason I’m writing this post is to determine who, if anyone, is interested in reading this as a series. Most of you are probably going to see a notification from Patreon or WordPress and immediately move said email into the trash bin, but I’m willing to twist the setting on the possibility that at least some of you will a) read the post and b) reply with anticipation. Even if that’s beyond the boundary of what is possible, get ready, new stories are coming soon.

WIP

The ball is metaphorically rolling up here in the thankfully gray Pacific North West. Much has happened since my last update. I ran across the Grand Canyon after a Mark Watney-esk road trip to into the heart of the early summer heat of the desert South West. A-bear and J-bug are now both out of school (yay me! another year of education down) and Tess is plugging away at the Zu.

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What I’ve Been Reading

“The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest” and other similar. Over the last month or so I’ve actually gone through a stack of gardening books like this one. The library has been my friend.

One of the questions I’ve wanted to answer for myself is “Could Mark Watney have done better for himself if he’d grown his potatoes in towers?” The hypothetical answer is yes, he missed a real opportunity for closed-loop sustainability caloric efficiency given his habitat’s space limitations.

I’ve also re-read “The Martian” (at A-bear’s request). Still a great story, and yes the book is better than the movie.

Finally, I’m on book seven of Roger Zelazny’s Princes of Amber series. It’s rolling along well and Wil Wheaton was an excellent choice to read the Murlin segments of the story. One of the things I really enjoy is how you can see the author’s development reflected in his characters over time. Zelazny was arguably a lot more misogynistic and self-centered, much like Corwin, at the beginning of the saga, then nearer its end. Life seems to have tempered his protagonists and that’s refreshing.

Sitting here, I’m thinking that I really need to keep better track of what I’m reading. I’ve gone through a considerable stack of paper books and a few electronic titles as well, but right now I can’t recall a single title. Maybe I’ll resolve to get back on Goodreads or something.

What I’m Writing

I’ve been sort of reviewing the idea of a multiverse through which we can negotiate space-time by pinching possibilities together. Something like a nearness of world’s theory realized in a modern setting. Think Pratchett’s Long Earth series but in a chaotic, non-linear network of possibilities that can and will become weird. Yes, it’s walking along the rim of those deep Slipstream canyons, but that’s where all the best views are.

I’ve passed on a couple of non-fiction pieces mostly because the amount of work necessary for doing the story right far exceeds the compensation. Writing is not an expensive hobby. If your business model requires me to absorb its costs to produce content we’re not going to have a deal. C’est la vie.

Going Keto, Going Long

Okay, so really slow start today. Woke up, made coffee, got breakfast into the boy and then took him to Minglemint for the second cup. At this point, I’d only eaten about a quarter of a banana he’d refused to eat.

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Ran some errands after drop off, sipping coffee the whole time. Made that second cup last a long while. Came home and cleaned downstairs until about 11:30. Then geared up and hit the trail. My vivosmart HR+ would not sync with the satellites so I put on the old forerunner 910xt (without heart rate monitor) and took off.

Went down to the beach twice, which gave me some elevation today. Dog was mostly cool the whole way, save a minor incident with a labradoodle on the way up from the beach the first time. Right knee has a minor twinge on the inside and below the patella. Lower, right side back is a little sore. Right shoulder behind scapula is a little sore.

Save that bite of banana this morning I haven’t eaten since yesterday at about 1730. Sweaty, stinky and burning off that belly.

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Crawling into Bed

Ugh! Today was my first time in a long while doing sprints. Just two, all out up a hill, and apparently my heart rate monitor doesn’t read as well when my body is pouring perspiration all over it, but there it is. I’ve been cleaning since I got back and right now I’m also dragging an amazing amount of ass. OMG get the Led out, cause this is epic fatigue.

Okay, yeah I know why I’m doing this. Desensitization to pain, improved aerobic ceiling, and hormonal and metabolic response to name but a few reasons. But it’s difficult to remember that, anything actually, when you’re a couple deep breaths away from an involuntary nap.

Tonight, my friends, I shall crawl into bed with the all the dignity due to an extremely tired person.

#OldManRunning

If you follow my Instagram, Strava, or Twitter feed you’ve seen that I’ve been getting out again. The change came after a conversation with my cousin Chad who basically pointed out to me that I’ve been lazy curr for a good long while now. He’s totally correct, I have let myself go. And yeah, sure I’ve got a long list of excuses, but I know that’s just what they are. I’m not doing what I need to in order to provide for my own health, sanity, and happiness.

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Elements of a Whole Matt

I’ve always been a runner and a hiker, just never very fast. I’m also well beyond the time in my life where I might find success racing. Since 2012 I’ve struggled to stay active and to find the motivation to get out onto the trails and this has, in turn, created complications for me. Weight (~190 lbs [87 kg]), body image, energy levels, flexibility, and mood: all these things use to be pretty good for me, right now not so much. I’m about 25 lbs overweight (~190 lbs [87 kg]), don’t particularly like to acknowledge my self in the mirror, often feel sluggish, sore and stiff, and lose motivation to do even necessary things from time to time.

Back when none of that was a worry, I was a happy-go-lucky dude that just smiled as he went through life. I was effective, capable and ready for anything. My favorite year, in fact, was 2009 when I spent stupid amounts of time on the trail. Stupid and necessary amounts of time.

Matt, it seems, is best when he’s dusty with trail dirt.

The Goals

Okay, it’s a short list, but that’s because I’m trying to keep it simple. Unquestionably, it’s easier to reach for simple.

  • Lose about 25 lbs
  • Be able to run long distance again
  • Improve my body’s autoimmune response
  • Sleep like a rockstar
  • Travel for some running and hiking
  • Serve my wife, family and friends more effectively

We’ve been over the reasons why more times than I’d like to recount (because each time I stop running I’ve eventually got to go back to my core motivation and reexamine what the hell I’m up to). I can easily track inputs and outputs around some of this, others are less tangible. For instance, I can keep records of what I eat, how long I sleep, how much I weigh, and how much I’m exercising, but I can only track if and when I’m getting sick, not how many sicknesses I’ve been exposed to and successfully fought off. But the bottom line for all of this is an improvement in my quality of life.

Also, notice, nowhere in there does it say race. I write this as a reminder to myself, “Hey dumbass, you’re no longer racing.”

Why No Racing?

“I’m too old,” is actually a craptastic answer. There a plenty of older men and women who line up below the inflatable arch every weekend. I think a lot of this decision comes down to two elements.

Valuetanium: a heavy metal found only in the human soul which gains weight in response to the thoughts and time we put next it. Basically, for the energy and time I have to run and trek, I need to invest it in the experience and moments that time on the trail can generate. Running is a meditation, an exercise in mindfulness, and running for a race tends to devalue that experience.

Robustonium: an element found in the bone that determines a person’s grit and longevity in response to a hostile world. As my recent visits to the ER have reminded me, my time in this life is limited. My experience tells me that training to race means I’m burning my robustonium not gathering more to me. This has got to be a lifestyle change that makes me stronger.

A Call for Help

Add to the above that my best friend just asked me for some help. He’s got some of his own challenges and goals, but there’s plenty of synchronicity. So yeah, I want to be there for him as much as making these changes for myself. It’s just a kind of kismet that we’re looking to make similar improvements at about the same time.

The Plan

I’m already back on the Primal Endurance program. My diet is pretty much grain-free already, but I’ll have to work at eliminating brown rice from the mix. Add to this that I’ve been running at a low-intensity rate on a five to six-day routine while using work in my garden to add explosive core strength “workouts” into the mix. All of this is governed by my heart rate as I pursue efficient Aerobic base building over an eight week period. My Garmin VivoSmart HR+ sits on my wrist and vibrates whenever I’m overdoing it, and I’m responding and slowing down when it does. Sleep remains a challenge, but I’ve made some profound changes in my sleep hygiene habits and with the exertion of exercise I’ve actually been doing pretty well.

I’m encouraging my friend to take similar steps in this direction too. Just knowing that there’s someone else out there suffering through the first month of metabolic fat-adaptation or sweating up a hill seems to help me mentally.

Finally, I just ordered some more parts for my van. A pair of *new* transmission mounts, the old ones are all cracked and need to be replaced before I kill the transmission. That travel bullet needs some attention too. Yes, there are a lot of things that I need to take care of on my van and I’m going to address these systematically so that as my abilities return to me I can reach the high country trails.

 

Refactor

This morning has been productive. I did some work with the bees (corrected an issue with the installation I created … sorry girls), took Aral to school, spent some time at the coffee shop talking with friends, even made a decision regarding the usefulness of yet-another-EEG.

I think the most important takeaway from this morning are some rules I wrote for myself for my writing. Since last year’s river of rejection left me feeling all my attempts to write were worthless I’ve had a very hard time doing the necessary. Still, I’ve got ideas, whole worlds that are banging on the inside of my skull demanding to get out. But I haven’t done what I need to write any of this down and that’s a problem. I need to start writing again as a practice, but the rules I follow regarding this craft also necessarily must change. I can’t write and write only to feel like what I’ve written is a piss poor result for all that time.

New rules are written. They’re simple and the mean that my practice becomes a much more self-contained experience.

Rules to Live By:

  1. Stop seeking criticism from people with no skin IN YOUR GAME. The rule is to write what you want, what you know, and what you’ve planned as fast or slow as you can.
  2. Build the world for “Distance,” “Winter City,” and “Friend of Bees” and other stories methodically and from scratch. Share and talk about ideas only with people you trust.
  3. Begin each story by outlining its plot and understand how it fits into the timeline.
  4. Take your time, spend as much time reading/editing what you’ve written as you spend writing.
  5. Get good at editing your own work.
  6. Remember that publication is only a milestone along any story’s trajectory. It’s not a goal, nor is making money. Keep this in mind when it feels like you’re wasting your time. You’ve written books, and not a lot of people can say that.
  7. Love your stories.
  8. Stop caring so much about a world that doesn’t give two shits about you.