“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”–Carl W. Buehner
Ever since writing my 2018 report the other day and putting thought into 2019, I’ve become increasingly aware of a theme woven into the music of my life and now coming to the forefront: I must develop my ability to create connection, both on a personal and professional basis, and within my writing.
Because when I look at what isn’t working in my life right now, I see two sides of the same coin: needing to learn how to network in order to build my coaching practice on the one side, and being told repeatedly, “Your writing is crisp, clean, and professional, but the book just didn’t grab me…” on the other. Both of these things are about creating an emotional connection with people, whether directly or indirectly.
I’ve always been vaguely aware of this in terms of watching the audience for Suburban Jungle (and my place within the furry fandom generally)– it’s just like my friendships have been over the course of my life. SJ has a smallish knot of devoted fans, some of whom are intensely devoted to it. (NeverNever was like this too, only moreso.) As long as I can remember, I’ve had a few very close friends, and often been very challenged around getting outside of that group.
Those tight friendships (and very devoted fans) mean the world to me and I don’t want to downplay them. But it is increasingly clear to me as time goes on that I need to widen my circle. A small number of tight friends can make a handful of referrals in my client hunt, but their potential is quickly tapped out on that front. A very devoted fan might buy all of my books and support the highest tiers of my Patreon, but they are only one fan and cannot subsidize my life (nor would I want them to).
And besides the straightforward inability of the math to get me what I need, these small circles also don’t give me what I want. I want to help people with my coaching. I want people’s days to be better because I was in them. I want to have crowds at my table, and people writing fanfics or doing in-depth analysis of my work on Tumblr. As nice as it might be to be recognized as a genius posthumously? I want my work to be loved now.
When my Aunt Iris died, half of Fairfax and Loudoun counties came to her funeral, and everyone– everyone– had something to say about the way she’d connected to them. By comparison, when my father died a year later, his funeral was attended by maybe twenty people, including his three children, their spouses and children, and some of my friends.
That stuck with me.
I loved my dad. Everyone there did. But there is no denying that his life was, in its way, small and limited. I don’t want mine to be.
So what am I going to do about it? I think I was starting to come to awareness of this gap when I came up with my writing goals for 2019, because I listed my goal as “Create self-satisfaction, expression, and meaningful impact in others’ lives by means of becoming a successful and widely-read author/artist.” I added as one of my goals to change my relationship to, say, my Patreon, by focusing not on the dollar amount it brings in, but by the number of subscribers who sign up and the amount of comments that are left.
Similarly, I tweeted last night, “I’ve got ~1500 followers on Twitter and ~450 on Tumblr, and I would like to double those numbers by the end of January. But I’m looking for, y’know, real people who will like my work, not bots. Any suggestions on what I should do, real people?” And that’s an important distinction! I don’t want fluffed up “metrics” that don’t mean anything, I’m not some dot-com-era middle manager looking for clicks.
How will I do this? By finding ways to make my writing grab people. By making more genuine connections with the people I meet. By being with people, instead of either up on a stage or hiding at the back of the room.
If this past year was finally learning how to be friends with myself? This coming year is going to be learning how to be friends with the world.
As I write this, I’m sitting at the drawing table pictured, wearing the headphones and necklace pictured. The rest is a bit harder to pull off. >.>
So! How was 2018? On the grand social scale, of course, it was a dumpster fire. This is hardly news. All the worst people, frantically trying to destroy not just the USA but the whole world, before it all comes crashing down and they end up shooting themselves in the bunker. It’s as inevitable as it is sad. But those of us who are working to build something better will keep working.
On my own personal front, by comparison, it’s been what you might call a challenging year– not in a drama and angsty way, but in the form of taking on difficult obstacles and working to overcome them. This came mostly through the coach training, which was a deep dive into 49 years of mud and gunk that needed cleaning out, but was also singularly more effective than decades of counseling had been on that front. (Which is not to bag on my counselors over the years, but they just didn’t have the intensive focus of the coach training.)
So, looking back on my plans for the year, how did I do?
- Gneech, Life Coach. This is up and running! I have passed my exams with Accomplishment Coaching and I’m about 2/3 of the way to my first ICF certification. Right now I’m working on fluffing up my client base a bit more, and I expect to go on to become a Mentor Coach for next year’s program. I’ve got a coaching blog up and running, and I’m looking forward to big things on this front in 2019.
- Help Laurie Get Her Business Running. Well, I did help! She’s still working on it. >.> The business exists, we’re getting our insurance through it, so that’s good! The rest of it is up to her. 🙂
- Stable and Reliable Income. This piece is still under construction. As the coaching business grows, it will naturally come to pass.
- Figure Out What’s Up With My Writing. Honestly, I just didn’t have time to work on this with the coach training going on. I have a project in place to take this on again in 2019.
- Sell. A. Book. Didn’t happen, ‘cos above.
- Issues Seven, Eight, and Nine. Seven done. Eight 1/2 way done. Nine will have to come next year.
- Continue Fixing the Country. I’ve marched, I’ve voted, I’ve campaigned, I’ve called my reps a million times. It’s an ongoing process.
- Take a Vacation. Alas, did not happen.
It essentially boils down to “the coach training was huge and intense and took most of my mental energy.” So a lot of other things didn’t get done while that was happening. I have no regrets, though– this was something I badly needed.
What did happen was that for the first time since I can remember, I really and truly became friends with myself– like, all of myself, even the parts I had not been willing to talk to since I was four. There was a specific moment that I had never forgiven myself or let go of the pain and shame from, which I confronted and processed… finally. Only forty-five years later! But better late than never.
Confronting this moment led to the birth of Nii-chan, about whom I’ve written at length elsewhere. In a lot of ways, she is the best version of me, and whenever I find myself wondering what I want to do about something, or who I should be in a moment, I ask myself “What would Nii-chan do?” She’s like the integrated version of the Three Lions and an Otter, but even her version of Business Guy is a lot happier. (Nii-chan is also practice for my next incarnation, so I can hit the planet running when that comes to pass. I don’t want to waste forty years of my next life trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.)
So, yeah. It’s been a big year on that score. But where do I want to go in 2019?
- Bring Rough Housing to Its Conclusion. 2019 will be the 20th anniversary of Suburban Jungle, and it seems a fitting place to bring that chapter to a close. My current plan is to finish the story at the end of issue ten. As my hand tremors get worse, it is becoming harder to keep up with what was already an ambitious production schedule, and honestly, I think that story-wise, RH will be done at that point. So I’d rather finish something and feel good about it, than to drag it out to stay within the familiar.
- Writing Goals. My goalposts on this front are two short stories sold, an agent secured for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, a furry novel written for NaNoWriMo, and an anthology project created with FurPlanet.
- She-Ra Writing Gig. Seeing Seanan McGuire geek out about landing the writing job on Spider-Gwen made me realize that I wanted that experience in my life. Spider-Gwen is a character that Seanan was pretty much born to write, and honestly, I feel the same about Catra and myself. I have no idea how I’m going to convince the She-Ra writing team to let me on board, but I’ll find a way.
- Full Coaching Client Roster. My goal is 14+ clients by this time next year, including five Creativity Klatch clients and three Mentor Coaching clients.
- California Trip. I miss Big Sur like whoa.
- 222 Pounds. Something that wasn’t on my 2018 list was losing weight– so naturally I made big strides on that! XD Specifically I lost 30 pounds since May, bringing me to my lowest adult weight yet. I have another 50 pounds to go to be at my goal weight of 222, but I am confident that I will hit it this year.
- Continue Continuing to Fix the Country. Keep going ’til it doesn’t suck.
So, yeah. That’s where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I think 2019 is gonna be a great year. 🙂
Sunny days and crisp weather have arrived here, and that always puts Dungeons and Dragons on my brain– because way back in 1983 a bunch of us would hang out behind our high school on days like this and play through a very freeform megadungeon game of my own creation. I particularly remember a moment I’ve written about before, where one of my players (who always wanted to run ahead on his own) opened a door, only to be informed that behind it was a massive chamber with 200 orcs… to which his response is “I slam the door and run away!” Fun times. XD
At the time, I didn’t use the D&D rules, partially because I had all of a Holmes Basic Set and an AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide to work from (making for an incomplete and often contradictory ruleset to begin with), but mostly because I didn’t have the patience to sit down and puzzle it all out.
What I did have the patience for, for whatever reason, was to create my own ridiculously kloodgey homebrew system that took bits of D&D and blended it with bits of Heritage’s Dungeon Dwellers series and then, at the table, was mostly ignored. This game system was called “Mid-Evil,” which I was very proud of at the time. >.>
Did I mention I was 13?
A year later, I tried to leverage this same mostly-nonsensical system into an espionage/modern action game called “I Spy,” which was just as nonsensical and took the inspiration for its one usable scenario from a segment of “The Bloodhound Gang” from 3-2-1 Contact.
So, yeah, “ambitious, but not sophisticated,” about sums me up in those days.
But as dorky and sophomoric as all these things were, they had fire and a pure love of the game that still makes me grin to remember. As I began to develop more sophistication I moved on to MERP and from there to the HERO System, becoming ever more enamored of “realism” and “maturity”– mostly because I was still young and insecure about such things.
A lot of my games from this second period were very sophisticated by comparison– I had a “street-level superheroes” campaign that delved into dark topics and psychology and presaged things like The Killing Joke by a matter of years. But at the same time, a lot of my gaming sessions felt like work– we were trying so hard to Make Art out of the game, that we would lose sight of the fact that we were a bunch of nerds sitting around a table rolling dice to control the fate of fictional characters.
These days, I’d like to think I can have the best of both worlds. I have primarily returned to D&D (using the actual rules, even), but I work with the players to integrate their characters’ personalities and background into the campaign. There are random encounter tables, but they are built with an eye toward reinforcing the theme or environment of the adventure instead of being a giant kitchen sink of weirdness. There are serious NPC allies, enemies, or wildcards, but there are also moments of pure goofiness.
But most importantly, I remember these days why I fell in love with the game in the first place– those crazy moments of shared story that we were all creating together, where the stuff on the paper was there if we wanted it, but also didn’t matter if it didn’t actually make things more fun. And I’m always grateful for D&D weather, because that’s what it reminds me of.
Just for fun I tried this guided meditation tonight. I thought it was going to be for connecting to future incarnations, but it's actually designed to take you 20 years into the future of your current life, which took me a bit by surprise, but I decided to run with it.
The meditation invites you, after some preliminary relaxation and transitional imagery to get you out of the current moment and into the visualization, to "find yourself" outside of what will be your home in 20 years. I was pleased but not exactly surprised to find a small but pleasant little home in a wooded area of California, possibly around San Luis Obispo or Scott's Valley.
I knocked on the door and rang the doorbell and 68-year-old future me came to the door. I was no longer overweight, although a practiced eye could tell that I once had been (in that same way you can tell when looking at someone like Alton Brown that they were once heavier than they are now). My hair was thinner and white, and I still had the goatee, looking a bit like my brother and a bit like Jack Donner did in Cool Air. I also, I noted with some amusement, still sported the blue tropical shirts. :)
Future me was clearly taking life easy, although he told me he was still drawing furry art and comics and still writing. I asked him what was the most notable thing he could remember from the past 20 years, and he said, "The coaching, definitely the coaching." When I asked if there was anything I should be mindful of, he said, "Nah, not really. Things are a little rough where you are right now, but you'll work it out okay, it'll be fine. Really, it'll be great. Things are greener now, everybody's is a lot kinder, you'll see."
After discussing a few more items I'd rather not blab all over the internet ;P I asked if he had anything he wanted to tell me, and he said, "Yeah, actually. Thanks. Thanks for the work you're doing, and for the work you're going to do. I know you're interested in your other incarnations, and that's cool, but this life is a lot more than just the transition between the Beatnik and the Sporty Gal. This life is great, it's amazing really, and you're going to love it, even with how hard it was in the beginning."
As the meditation was coming to an end, I offered, "Hug?" and he said, "Duh, of course." It was nice to actually receive one of those massive lion hugs I've heard so much about. ;) I said, "I love ya, dude," and he said, "Hey, I love you too man." And off I went.
So, not what I was expecting when I started, but nice all the same.
I've had a rough couple of weeks. :P
Long story short, too many plates spinning. Between Barnes & Noble, coach training, coach actually doing, commissions, the comic, and actually running some D&D, there was just no way to do it all. And then, I got sick, and everything just came clattering down like the chef in those old Sesame Street shorts who would call out "Five! Fancy! Fruitcakes!" and then promptly fall down the stairs.
I feel you, Sesame Street Fall Down the Stairs Guy.
I did manage to finish Leona Is Not Safe For Work, get to all of my B&N shifts other than the one where I called in sick, do some networking with Justy, and ran D&D last night. Tonight, I do not get to go to bed until Joey Gatorman's commission is done. So a lot of things have gotten done. But as of right now I still have not taken on a formal coaching client and have fallen behind on my training, don't have a comic page for next week, and am not likely to have one for the week after, either.
There just literally isn't time to do it all, and even if I try, I'm just going to make myself sick again, because I'm not getting any days off in between.
Of all these things, the most time consuming and least rewarding has been Barnes & Noble, so I gave my notice there, as of this coming Friday. This coming week I will be catching up as much as I can before the second training weekend with Accomplishment Coaching.
Last night, I had the classic "The semester's over and you haven't gone to class!" dream, and woke up feeling overwhelmed and terrible. Yes, thank you brain, I'm aware of this, you don't need to remind me. Today, in between being at B&N again, I'm going to make it a do-or-die priority to finish that commission.
I'm standing up, cleaning the custard splats off my face, and moving forward.
I slept all day, but not particularly well– even asleep I was still aware of how miserable I was, and I would drift in and out. My stomach got more acidic, and my headache got worse; Laurie called in to B&N for me because I could barely make coherent sentences.
By the evening, however, hunger began to win out over nausea. Starting with some chicken and rice soup (the brothy kind, not the creamy kind) and some Advil, I managed to get enough energy from that to do a protein bar, and then suddenly I wanted ALL THE CHOCOLATE.
I didn't actually eat ALL THE CHOCOLATE, but I did have a few bits of dark chocolate to get some caffeine and sugar into my bloodstream... and then it was back to sleep. A cold wet washcloth pressed into my face felt like a gift from heaven, but it didn't stay cold. XD
Now, a few hours later, I am up and mobile, if shuffling around like a zombie. Stomach is still acidey as a mofo, so I chewed on some Tums, but so far all that does is made it feel acidic and slippery. >.> Trying to hydrate with tea and will probably do a bit of vanilla ice cream later as well.
I hope whatever this is, goes away by tomorrow. I've got a lot of stuff I need and want to get done this week specifically, and spending my time hiding in a dark room so the lights will stop poking my eyes is not conducive to productivity.
Poking around various medical websites trying to figure out my symptoms was not helpful. It definitely wasn't AFib: my heart rhythm is strong and steady. It wasn't a stroke, I can still move and talk and so on. But beyond that, my symptoms suggest a sugar overdose, low blood sugar, dehydration, liver failure, or possibly a calcified pineal gland. >.> I also thought of psychosomatic stress reaction, since the last time I had a headache this severe was when I was 12 and life was incredibly awful.
So... I dunno. Whatever this is, I want it to go away. I've got things I want to do!
This weekend was my first full training session with Accomplishment Coaching. It was an intense crucible for everyone involved, bringing up a lot of intense emotions, but also providing the coaches-in-training with some powerful and useful tools, not just for the nitty-gritty administrivia of contracts and billing, but more importantly for jumping right in and providing value to clients immediately.
Of course, before a coach can help clients, they need to find some! This being Day One, my docket is currently empty, other than peer-coaching sessions with the rest of my team-in-training, and I am still building the framework for the business. I have some mid- to long-term plans around this (including a practice name, URL for a future website, and so forth), but as of today I am still grinding away at the basics– things like liability insurance, arranging an accountant, getting my billing methods in place, etc. As of today, my most visible step has been to update my LinkedIn profile, but hey, ya gotta start somewhere.
At the end of the weekend, we set declarations of intention around what we were going to build before the next session (March). Figuring that finding two clients would be a “safe bet,” I declared that I would get four. In my mind, for better or worse, that’s the “pass/fail” number. But I have also set a “stretch goal” for myself of actually getting six.
So… hey! Anyone out there looking for a success coach… or know anybody who is? Here’s a quickie synopsis of what coaches do (c/o the International Coach Federation):
Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.
Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.
And that’s what I do! I’m champing at the bit to get started, so seriously, I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to connect about it. Shoot me an e-mail via firstname.lastname@example.org and we can schedule a call or chat to figure out how to start bringing the awesome. 🙂
So, for the record, as of yesterday morning, I was 297 pounds, which is thirty pounds heavier than my best a few years ago, but is also twenty pounds lighter than my worst. So, given that I was pretty depressed and eating super-badly for so much of 2016-2017, it could be a lot worse. I've been getting a fair amount of exercise (in the form of daily steps) via the B&N job, of course, and having much smaller and more regular meals.
My biggest challenge was, is, and continues to be, my sweet tooth. Carbs and sugar both are things that I tend to crave a lot, and have been my habitual staples for just about as long as I can remember. It's kind of ironic, because when I was a kid my mom would make this huge deal out of me not being allowed to have "sugary cereals," but I could drink all the soda I wanted. XD But, y'know, it was the '70s.
But I've been working on replacing my big sugar sources (most notably mochas) with unsweetened versions, I'm going to start replacing my go-to carby choices with other things as well over the next month or so. I don't have a lot of the specifics of that plan worked out yet, mostly doing research on it right now. An interesting side-note is that dairy stuff, while technically being low on the glycemic index, still reacts in your body as if it were high in sugar– which means that cutting back on milk and cheese might also be required. That's something that will take some serious habit-breaking. O.o
In Other News...
Tomorrow is the first day of my Success Coach training! I expect there to be a lot of aligning with concepts and actualization of things. XD But for all the cliché cheese, I'm going in with an open mind. My view is that this is kind of an "apprenticeship" for me, and as such, my job is to learn the profession as it is done now before I go making judgements on whether that is good, bad, or indifferent. I suspect that with time and experience, I will probably have some pretty strong ideas about what works for me and what doesn't... but until then, anything I might have to say would be like the white belt in a martial arts class lecturing the teacher. Even if it's right, it doesn't mean I have a complete picture.
Anyway! I need to be on the train early tomorrow, so I'd better hit the hay. G'nite world, and have an awesome tomorrow. :)
We also picked up some special food for Dasher, had some yummy fried shrimp for dinner ourselves, and tried mochi for the first time. Long story short: we weren't super-impressed. It didn't suck, but it wasn't something we're eager to try again.
I rounded off the evening by writing up my top twenty affirmations or self-reminders on Post-It Notes, which are now stuck across the bottom of my monitor so I can review them at will. I can hear some peoples' eyes rolling at that idea from here, but I don't care, I think they're a great idea. We spend our lives, and especially our young lives, being told all kinds of stupid crap over and over by our parents, the television, social media, and so on, and our brains just suck all that up like a sponge. If I'm going to have my brain taking in messages from the outside, then I want those messages to be positive and reinforce the thoughts, plans, and ideas that are meaningful and useful for me.
Some of them are simple and obvious choices, like "Where Gneeches go, parties follow!" Others are reminders of things I want to be grateful for and keep in mind, especially as I move forward into new projects that will be taking me out of my current comfort zone. One of them is the pretty basic "Have you updated Dreamwidth today?" ...hence this post. ;) I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago that I was taking small steps in order to build up to big changes, and this is one of them.
Since this post is here, I'd say it's working. ;)
Anyway, now I'm off to get some sleep. It's been a day. Gnite world, and have an awesome tomorrow, even (and especially) if you have to make it one, yourself.
I'm not sure exactly when I picked up the catchphrase "Where Gneeches go, parties follow!" but it has to have been at least the late '90s. I love it because not only is it a statement of intent (to wit, that I will make life a party wherever I go), but also because it's a D&D pun. In any game where I am a player, I am generally in the "party leader" role.
But I have been putting more thought into just what it means lately, and for all its simplicity how really deep it goes into both who I am, and who I want to be, and my deepest values. It's why I create comics, and specifically why I create the KIND of comics I do. It's why I love the furry fandom so much. It's why I like cheesy bubblegum pop music, even knowing that so much of it is intellectual popcorn. It's why the crapsack-worldness of current events has got me so much more riled up than I usually am.
But going into my training as a success coach, one of the things we've already worked on is identifying what our core really is– "If you lived in a perfect world, where everyone was healthy, lived in abundance, and so on... what would you want to bring into it?" Some people come up with answers like "love," "serenity," and so on. My word was "delight."
And on a side-discussion with my counselor today, I mentioned that trying to figure out what it was about California that I wanted in my life that isn't there. "How would California Gneech be different? What's there that isn't here?" And that the answer I had come up with, based on the prevalence of sunshine, and the ability to get out and do stuff year round, was that in my head at least, California was just more fun than the east coast.
And the moment I said this, once again, something in my mind went "click." Why is Suburban Jungle full of blue skies and beaches? Because that's fun. Why do I say "Where Gneeches go, parties follow"? Because parties are fun! (At least if you're doing them right.) What is "Bringing the Awesome!" all about, when you get right down to it?
It's about making life fun. It's about making life a party.
Like so many things, it's obvious in hindsight. But now, I think possibly for the first time in my life, I really understand it. Forty-eight friggin' years old, and I finally got my cutiemark. ;D
Thanks for the revelation, Universe! Sorry I was just too dense to see it before. XD
What to say about 2017? I mean, yeah, lots of the perfectly-predictable awful shit that we were yelling about in 2016 came to pass right on schedule. But most of the adults in the room, once it was clear that it was all going to happen, turned their efforts to slowing, fighting, or just mitigating it as best they could. If 2016 was the year of yelling "Look out, there's a train wreck coming!" then 2017 was the year of hitting the brakes and getting as many people off the train as we could, and 2018 will be the year of cleaning up the mess– and sending as many of those engineers and switch operators to jail (or at least to exile in disgrace) as possible.
And for all the usual suspects wailing and gnashing their teeth on social media that 2017 was the Worst Year Ever, it had its good points. Bee populations have increased by 27%. The snow leopard has been taken off the endangered species list. Scientists have successfully re-bred sections of the Great Barrier Reef.
But on my own personal front? 2017 for me was largely about getting back my mojo (thanks, Austin) and, just as Kimmie predicted, a year for new beginnings.
So, reviewing my goals for 2017...
- Issues Five and Six, Plus the First Collection. Nailed it. Very pleased. :)
- Publish That Book! Nope. -.- Revised it, kept sending it out, still nope. Somebody else published my book. I nearly hulked out and tore the place down. It was not pretty. I don't know what's going on here, the energy around it has turned all weird. This needs addressing.
- Finish Another Book! Also didn't happen, despite starting two and putting more work into the the not-Tolkien book from last year as well. As with publishing the Sky Pirates novel, I feel like there's something weird going on with me and my writing, and I need to devote some time to diagnosing and fixing the problem in order to move forward next year.
- Start a Company. Progress... but not in the direction we were going at the time. XD The project laurie_robey and I were working on at the time was going to be a sort of "lifestyle magazine/blog/podcast" kind of thing where we highlighted local features, organizations, points of interest, hidden treasures and the like, a more mainstream "Here's cool stuff about [city]!" kinda like ProudToBeAFurry.org was intended to be for the furry fandom. That particular project ended up not having any legs, as evidenced by how easily we got distracted onto other things... but it was replaced by the serious pursuit of commercial drone photography on her part, and life coaching on mine. Go fig! More about those below.
- Move to California. Well... no. We moved back to Virginia instead. XD But honestly, I'm fine with that, and I'll tell you why: there was too much baggage. I was fixated on going to California like Thorin fixated on the Arkenstone, and it was completely messing with my head. That fixation drove my willingness to sell the Hobbit Hole (which was a mistake it took me three years to realize how much I regretted), caused a lot of stress to our relationship, and was leading me down paths that would have led to me being just as miserable in California as I ever was in Virginia or Maryland. And if nothing else, being in Maryland highlighted a lot of the good things about Virginia that I knew I would miss, but didn't truly realize how much. Now, we may still go out there someday. I love Big Sur like crazy and will probably continue to nurse daydreams of Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. But if/when that happens, I want it to be for the fun and joy of it, not the kind of desperation that was making me stupid about it before.
- Stronger faster slimmer better. Didn't happen this time around. I have lost some weight at the B&N job by virtue of salads for lunch and being on my feet all day, but I spent a lot of time in Maryland sitting like a lump eating comfort food.
- Bring the Awesome! This has been working! And paying dividends. My mood is up, we are in a new place we like better, we're making progress on careers. The "Unsuck Our Lives" project is paying off!
- Edit Myself Less. This is kind of a hard one to report on, because it hasn't come up as much as I expected. I mean, I have been pretty much speaking my mind when I felt like it needed to be spoken, so mission accomplished? But I also haven't been in as many situations where the inclination to keep things to myself was a problem, so it hasn't been that much of a challenge. Honestly? I'm fine with that.
- Reverse course and mitigate/repair damage to the country. Been doing this. Lots of marching, calling various reps, supporting grassroots organizations and spreading the word. And it is helping, in ways both big and small. We've still got a lot of work ahead of us, but there are more good people in this country than there are assholes, and we're going to win.
So, a mixed year, but definitely more positive than negative for me.
Where to in 2018?
- Gneech, Life Coach. Next weekend is a "trial session" of professional training from Accomplishment Coaching, and assuming that goes well, I will be enrolled for a year's course leading towards my first level of certification by the ICF. Life coaching is a bit like the I.T. world, where there's no legal requirements and anyone can hang out a shingle and get freelance work, but accreditation by professional organizations definitely helps you build both your skills and your reputation. The Accomplishment Coaching program is also designed to get you up and running with a practice quickly– which means having income again. This is a good thing. ;) I have some ideas about where I'd like to go with the career, but they're all fairly vague right now and I have a lot to learn first. But I'm excited to get into it!
- Help Laurie Get Her Business Running. I'm probably too close to Laurie to be an effective life coach for her– but I can support her, help provide resources, and so on.
- Stable and Reliable Income. Items one and two, combined, become this. ;) Followed up with clearing debts, building savings, and getting back to investment.
- Figure Out What's Up With My Writing. Seriously. My hard drive is littered with perfectly-sellable books that for whatever reason I'm not getting anywhere on. Sky Pirates of Calypsitania is now something like four years old without selling, while other authors are succeeding with it. It's a lot like the whole thing of people looking at Suburban Jungle, saying the art is great, and then not buying the book. Do I have something weird going on psychologically with making money from creative pursuits?
- Sell. A. Book. Pursuant to above.
- Issues Seven, Eight, and Nine. Because that would be awesome.
- Continue Fixing the Country. 2018 elections are going to be huge and important and I'm going to work with Flippable, Indivisible, and others to kick serious ass in this department.
- Take a Vacation. Laurie wants to see New England, and I'd enjoy that too. Maybe in the fall? We'll see how finances and schedule can be arranged.
In a lot of ways, these feel a lot less "dramatic" than previous years' goals, but also less melodramatic, too. Instead of going into 2018 with dread, terror, or even guns blazing, I've got a feeling of calm purposefulness, and I think that will serve me well. This year's post isn't a manifesto, it's a game plan, and I kinda like it that way.
It's a little early for bedtime, so I'll just say "Good afternoon, world, and have an awesome new year." ;)
The cats have responded to the move each according to their character: Dasher has explored every nook and cranny of the place, said, "Yup, it's mine," and is now sleeping peacefully in a chair. InkyGirl is having a much more difficult adjustment. I had to sit out with her last night and keep petting and encouraging her to get her to even eat her dinner, because every random creak, or every time laurie_robey would so much as cough in the other room, Inky's panic mode would kick in.
Fortunately, as the night went on, and notably once Laurie and I went to bed (which apparently signaled to InkyGirl that if the BIG cats were confident to sleep, she was probably fairly safe too), she became a little braver and explored some as well. By this morning, she was confident to walk around openly, brazenly marching across the open floor instead of hiding in the piles of boxes, but then we had to spoil it all by opening the front door to go get breakfast.
Sorry, InkyGirl. The dishes are all still in a box, probably marked "Office Curtains." But she'll be fine, with time. :)
Last night, as we headed out to get some dinner and pick up a new curtain rod for the bedroom, Laurie said, "It finally feels real. We're really moving back to Virginia. Until we were actually driving over here with the cats in the car, it was all very abstract." What I said, was, "The 'Unsuck Our Lives' project is starting to bear fruit!"
This place isn't perfect, of course... the kitchen is smaller than the bedroom closet for starters, and there are a lot of newbie do-it-yourselfer mistakes we can tell the landlord did in his renovation efforts. But we have lots of space, we're back in our old stomping grounds in a part of Reston we like, and next to my desk I have a full-length window looking out into our heavily-wooded back yard. We've got hardwood floors, decent internet, a Whole Foods in walking distance, a nice neighbor with Harry Potter stickers on her rear window and a goofy witch hat decoration in her yard. For the first time since leaving The Hobbit Hole, I feel really good about our home, and that's going to make it so much easier to use it as an office/home base for building new projects and a career on.
Life is good. :)
When you combine that with a half-baked story outline, and the fact that my mind is in a completely different space because I am all interested in coming up with new career and money-making options now that we're moving back to Virginia, you end up with NaNoWriMo simply being too far down on the list of priorities. On top of all that, I don't want laurie_robey to be doing all the packing and moving herself, again. We've moved like that way too many times, never again.
But fear not, dear readers! I am still going to write the book, and it wouldn't surprise me if I finish it by the end of January, but I am not going to cram on it for NaNoWriMo. Instead I'm going to go back and write up a proper outline using the ~22k words I have already as a launching pad. I know my basic cast, I know a lot of the core issues of the book, and I know generally where I want it to go, so that's a good foundation. But I discovered when writing Tend On Mortal Thoughts and Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, that I really, really like having a complete and fairly detailed outline; writing without one makes me feel like I'm trying to create a sculpture out of pudding.
I plan to write at least two novels between now and the end of 2018, of which this year's NaNoWriMo project (Child of the Tower) was one. The other is the Sky Pirates prequel. These books have two separate markets and eventual fates: Child of the Tower is intended to be the first in a new series of furry fantasy novels, while Clockwork Caper (the Sky Pirates prequel) will go to mainstream publishers, either as fantasy or teen fantasy/adventure. I do at some point need to fall in love with Clockwork Caper as its own thing– right now I still kind of think of it as a vehicle for finally getting Sky Pirates of Calypsitania on the shelves. (What can I say? I love Sky Pirates of Calypsitania. Not only is it the best thing I've written so far, it's also exactly the kind of book I wish I could read.)
So, About Those Money Goals...
I have put a lot of thought into creating a career lately, because what I've been doing just ain't cutting it. I enjoy both my art and my writing, but I haven't gotten to the point where I'm making the kind of money I want and need from it, nor have I found a way to make myself approach and think of it as "a real job." I haven't nailed down why this is, but I'm also tired of gazing into my navel about it and just want to get on with life already. To that end, I am now looking at other options.
I have also figured out that my "rebel tendency" nature has been sabotaging me on a lot of fronts, that one included. My secondary tendency is "obliger," and so while as a rebel I resent having to have customers or clients, as an obliger secondary I'm a lot more likely to actually DO something if I've promised some not-me person that it will be done. So as weird as it may sound, one possibility I am looking at is that of a life coach.
The various aptitude tests I've gone though (such as the Highlands Ability Battery) always come up with "writer" at the top (for obvious reasons), but also tend of have "counselor" highly rated. My problem with that has always been the same reason I never became a veterinarian despite my love of animals: I have an overactive empathy, and I don't want to get tangled up in other people's (or creatures') trauma and pain. I know counselors often find it cathartic; I suspect I would just turn into an emotional wreck.
But a life coach? That's a different matter. First of all, it's not so personal. I don't need to know that someone was sexually abused by their neighbor as a child in order to help them become successful or build new lives. Furthermore, assuming I'm good at what I do, my "mission accomplished" moments will be success stories, where I've helped people create richer, fuller, and more satisfying lives and make the world a better place. Who wouldn't want that?
And, let's not mince words here, being good at it can also make you rich too, almost as a necessary side-effect. Who's going to be interested in getting you to help them get their lives in order, if you're living on what was supposed to be your retirement and hating your own life? Life coaching is one of the few professions where being rich and happy is actually a job requirement. XD
But the thing is? I think I could do it. As inkblitz says, I've got a lot of experience in life. The pain of losing so many people in so short a time, overcoming depression, denial, and deep-rooted self-worth issues, have certainly taught me a thing or two about getting through (and over) one's crap. And if jamesbarrett's sister's declaration that I am an indigo has any kind of truth beyond sheer crackpottery, then not only can I use my gifts to help the world, it is literally what I came to this planet to do.
Right now, I've got a lot to learn and figure out about the idea. I don't know the ins and outs of life coaching, or even how one gets trained in such things other than reading a lot of self-help books. ¬.¬ But I do have resources! Besides the entirety of the internet, I have my counselor to consult. She's a trained professional and I've spoken to her and I know she has colleagues who actually are life coaches. Plus, well, I work in a freakin' bookstore. I'm sure I can find some interesting and useful materials there! ;D
While I was sitting around waiting for my shift to start earlier today, I put together this as a preliminary to-do list on the topic:
- Get life together ;P
- How does one do it?
- Make contacts/find mentors
- What does it entail?
- How make money?
- Running a biz/managing money
- Building a brand
- Gotta deal w/ Rebel Tendency!
- Possibly create a Rebel Tendency Support Group? ;)
So right now it looks like that's where the rest of my energy in 2018 is likely to go. Between all of that, and Laurie building her drone photography or other businesses, it's going to be a very interesting year. But it's gonna be soooooo much better than the ones leading up to it have been!
I'm pretty darn excited, actually. :) It's really nice to be looking forward to my life again. But now, I need some sleep. G'nite world, and have an awesome tomorrow. Turkey Day tomorrow! Remember to go to Shout Factory starting at noon EST for the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon! We sure as heck will be.
( Idea the First: I Can't Have Nice Things... )
I think it’s important that in recognizing the service of veterans, we also recognize that America has a strange, almost cult-like fascination with violence that we need to address. Our video games and movies et al. are created to breed violent, competitive young males, so they can be pointed across the sea like attack dogs. The current flareup of fascism is directly related to this.
If WWII, often hailed as the last “morally justified war” could do so much damage to my dad, I can only imagine what the neverending war since then has done to countless Americans and the world.
I love my dad. In his memory, I do what I can to move us to a better way of life.
Anyway. Just a thought I had.
So far, my brain has not given me an answer to that question, which I find curious. Most psychological quirks, if you drill down far enough, are based in pretty primal stuff– from the basic fear for personal safety, to fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of change, etc. So my usual assumption, when my only obstacle is myself, is to try and figure out what it is that my psyche is afraid of. Or, to put it more charitably, what it's trying to protect me from.
And... I can't find a definitive answer. But I have a few suspicions.
Everything You Love Will Be Taken Away
Earlier this weekend, I discovered that Overwatch is gutting Mercy. I mean, mathematically it's a net buff, but they are removing her signature ability because it "frustrates"
Just... WTF, Overwatch.
On the grand scale of things, this is supremely unimportant. It's just a friggin' videogame. But dammit, I was having a lot of fun with Overwatch. And I was having a lot of fun with Mercy. I started a whole YouTube series about it, for cryin' out loud. The changes are arguably going to make her "more powerful," but it comes at the cost of losing her iconic ability and turning her into this whole other thing.
It is not exaggerating to say that this change, if it goes through, will probably cause me to part ways with Overwatch. Not in a ragequit, but because if they're willing to throw away something that has been a defining moment from day one over something so ridiculous, then every emotional investment in the game is built on a foundation of sand. So... what's the point?
If that happens, Overwatch will get tossed on the "Now you're just a franchise that I used to love..." pile, along with Star Trek and so many others. So many things that used to fire up my geeky heart, that now just get a shrug, either because they have been morphed away from what made them cool in the first place (Star Trek, to some extent My Little Pony), or because they've simply run their course and have nothing more to say (Star Wars is a big one here).
But this phenomenon, combined with six years of close friends and family members dropping like flies, followed up by losing our house and watching the country lose its bloody mind, have left me in a place where it's very hard to get interested and excited in things– because there's every reason to think that everything I love will either get fucked up or just plain destroyed.
Some Days Are Better Than Others
Back in February I posted about feeling more like my old self, and there are times when I do. But there are also nights when I try to keep from crying myself to sleep because I miss Buddha. The problem is that it's hard to keep momentum. On nights like that (and days like today), I switch over to willpower and push myself onward out of sheer stubbornness, but that gets exhausting.
I think that, more than anything, is probably where the demotivation comes from. Part of my brain is going, "Come on, up and at 'em, this book isn't gonna write itself! Your fans are eagerly hoping for more art! You need to exercise so your body doesn't atrophy!" and so on, but the rest of my brain replies, "Why bother? What's the point? I'm tired, and it's just going to be screwed up anyway." And while those two bicker back and forth, the rest of me stays stuck in limbo.
Deciding to Move Forward Anyway
"I have never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting tired of their own bullshit."–Elizabeth Gilbert
The good news is, looking at this situation, analyzing it, acknowledging and being sympathetic to it, I can also overcome it. As an adult human being with free will, I can make the decision that I'm going to do something whether I'm motivated to or not. This is different from the rote stubbornness of moving on willpower. This is a rational choice. "Okay. So you're tired and demotivated. But you have the choice of being tired and demotivated and getting nothing done and feeling even worse about that, or being tired and demotivated and still having written the book/drawn the comic/done the workout. Of those two, which would you rather have?"
In other words, if heart can't pick up the slack, and ego isn't up to the task, intelligence still has something to say on the matter.
So yeah, I'm in a mood. But I'm the boss of me, not the mood. And the boss says we keep going.
So recently, at Barnes & Noble, my attention was drawn to a hardback on the “fantasy new releases” table, featuring what was described as “flintlock fantasy with airships, a touch of humor, and an engaging female hero.”
I nearly burned the place down. ¬.¬
After the writing, revising, submitting, re-revising, submitting again, and so forth that Sky Pirates of Calypsitania has gone through, to see this thing sitting there made me want to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS SHOULD BE MY BOOK!”
So. Yeah. I was upset. Deep breaths. Let’s work this thing out.
On the positive side, clearly someone must think there’s a market for the kind of books I want to write. I mean, there it is. But I have to connect to it.
And to be clear, I’m pretty sure that the author of that book worked just as long and just as hard on it as I did on mine. My own personal green-eyed-monster popping out notwithstanding, I wish them success.
That doesn’t alter the fact that I had this extreme, intensely emotional reaction to seeing “my book with someone else’s name on it” right there on the very table where I have been trying to get my book for years now. What I have to do, is direct that energy in a positive direction.
If this is the team that put the book on the table, I reasoned, then it could serve me well to hook up with that team. A little research turned up the agent of not-my-book. I went back and rewrote the opening, again, to address feedback the book had received on the previous round, getting thumbs-ups from my beta readers, and sent it to that agent. Given that this particular agent has a strict “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” policy, however, the response could easily range from an excited followup any day, to chirping crickets until forever.
I don’t intend to wait. As far as I’ve been able to make out, the main thing that makes a writing career succeed (besides lightning in a bottle) is sheer volume. The most popular and well-paid writers I know get that way by writing a lot of books. And as much as I love Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, it is only the one.
What this boils down to is, I need to work on another book. I’ll keep shopping Sky Pirates around as long as it takes, but I can’t leave my career on hold waiting for any one project to move.
I have been trying to write a more “mainstream” fantasy, and I got maybe a third of it done as part of last year’s NaNoWriMo, but I keep running into a fundamental paradox: in trying to adhere to more standard tropes in order to make the book “sellable,” I feel like I’m just aping other people’s work, which in turn makes for a book that I’m not sure I would read, myself.
Of course, it’s just the first draft of said book, and so there’s an argument that I should just finish the thing, with “rip out all the Tolkien” being one of the goals of the second draft. But if I know all the Tolkien needs to come out anyway, then leaving it in there for the first draft feels like creating work I don’t need to do.
So perhaps I should just leave that one in the drafts folder and start a whole new project that’s more like what I want to write.
But I need to do something. I need to get somewhere.