January 5th, 2006


Fuzzy aftermath

I slept something like normally last night, and while I'm still pretty exhausted and cruddy-feeling this morning, I'm getting by. I'm hoping that I just had random morning snozzliness instead of the beginning of a cold. We'll see.

I expected a few people to un-friend me after the flurry of fuzzy-headed late-night posts. Instead it appears I have new people. I'm confused but not displeased. Hi, new people! Introduce yourselves, if you like.

I have now [drum roll, please] finished wrapping Christmas presents! And it's not even Twelfth Night yet. I most likely won't get to give all the remaining Christmas presents before Christmas is over, unless dd_b, porphyrin, Mike, and C.J. all turn up, which is not out of the realm of possibility but is also not likely. Still, done wrapping! Yay!

This may be the most useful thing I accomplish all day. I've paid the bills, so I suppose that's useful as well. I'm trying not to expect too much of myself until I've bounced back at least a little. Making sure I continue to be flat-out exhausted instead of just fatigued would be a mistake. Getting upset with myself for doing things wrong would also be a mistake. Misposting my novel_gazing last night, for example, was not a cause for tearing of the hair or gnashing of the teeth. Unfortunately, one of the things that happens when I get tired is that I am more prone to being hard on myself. I'm trying to be conscious of that, and to avoid it.

I don't think I can say enough about how grateful I am for the phone calls Tuesday night. I talked on the phone to eighteen of you and the spouse of a nineteenth, between 10 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Wednesday. Several more people expressed willingness to be called that was heartening to me even though I didn't have to take advantage of it. As a result, there was never a point at which I despaired of staying awake. It was a nice mix of people I already know love me and people whose caring surprised me a little. I'll try to stop gushing about it after this. But really, again: thanks.
getting by

Goals, Mine and Others'

People who write online journals and also write fiction often post writing goals for the year to come. These usually fall into one of two categories: either they are numbers that are theoretically achievable by the writer or they are non-numerical items that are not within authorial control.

By the latter case, I mean, for example, "I will sell a short story to MagazineX." This is not a goal within authorial control. "I will submit at least six stories to MagazineX," for example, is something the writer can do. But selling to them? All you can do is submit, make sure the story is as good as you can make it, and try to aim it at the best-suited market. "I will win AwardY" is also not directly within one's power. To me, these qualify as hopes rather than goals. You could write well-loved, award-winning, wise, witty, fundamentally awesome stories for the next 50 years and never once hit an editor of MagazineX right. Or MagazineX could close its doors next year and wipe out 49 of those years for you preemptively. Or they could stop publishing anything but flash fiction (novellas, alien porn, Christian endtimes fantasy...), which you can't stand. People like to come up with "if you do X, then you will surely get Y published." This is either blatantly false or else so general that it's not useful: "write a great book" is extremely good advice for people wanting to publish books, but the definitional arguments, uff da.

On the other hand, a goal like, "I will write three books this year" or "I will write at least 10 words every day*" is a good deal more under one's control. Sure, you could -- oh, I don't know -- be struck by an undiagnosed illness that saps your energy. Just to take a random case. But for the most part, these are goals about what the person does themselves, not what they are hoping other people will do. And then if they don't meet one of those goals, they can legitimately say, "Here is what I did not do to get there," not, "Guess it just didn't happen." Ideally one sets these goals at a level one can reach without having to become another person or set of people entirely. If you've never finished one novel, for example, it's entirely possible that you'll write three next year, but do start with one and see how it goes.

The problem with this kind of goal-setting for me right now is that I really don't know what is a reasonable goal. I would like to finish the Sampo revisions very soon. There are lots of things I would like to do. Coming up with projects is never a problem for me. But I'm not going to set myself up with a to-do list on that scale just now, because to-do lists are addictive to me, and there are higher priorities than having N kilowords every single day.

So. In 2006, I will continue to write fiction. And in 2006, I will continue to revise and submit fiction. And also in 2006, I will attempt not to further ruin my health or sanity or the health and sanity of those around me in the pursuit of my fiction.

It's what I can do for now.

*Do not scoff at the 10 words. I don't do it this way myself, but I know someone who does, and he explained it to me: if he says 100 words, or 1000, there will often be reasons why he can't do it on a certain day. Some of them will even be legitimate reasons. There will, however, be extremely few days on which he has a legitimate reason not to write 10 words. "Got married to $Spousename" is only four, sure, but it's trivia itself to add "I" to the beginning and "at the courthouse at 4:30" to the end, et voila. "Deliriously happy" is then gravy.
getting by

Not There

There is a lot of talk about being there for people when they need you. This is an important thing. I've had reason to appreciate it on several fronts lately, for whatever value of "lately" you care to specify. But I think sometimes some of us need a reminder -- and by "some of us," mostly I mean "me," although some of you might benefit, too, so it's here and not in my paper journal -- that it can be just as important to not be there for someone when they need you not to be.

If you're going to be close with someone -- especially if you're going to live with them -- I think it's a good idea to know how you each handle crisis. Do you want to talk it out, cry it out, hug it out, in some other way deal with another person about it? Is primate grooming of fleas the order of the day when the other orders of the day have all been sucky? Or are you going off to your cave by yourself to either lick your wounds or just not think about it? I think we're socially encouraged to think of these things as female and male, in that order, and they aren't. I think we're also supposed to think of the "female" version as the caring version, the considerate version, the emotionally attuned version.*

But forcing someone else to deal with their crisis points in your way is pretty damned insensitive, if you ask me. And sure, a certain amount of communication is necessary for some problems -- "arm crushed by mastodon; fling me red meat in passing for blood replacement" -- but for some people in most situations and most people in some situations, going over and over the problem is not going to help anything.

Not very subtly, I'm talking about timprov here. Those of you who have friended him may notice that you don't get posts about how crappy he feels or how frustrating health stuff has been. This is because he is a cave huddler, not a flea picker. Neither is better or worse. It just means that sometimes we have to remind ourselves to behave in ways that help the other person when it's their bad day. Bringing in a bottle of water, speaking in a calm, matter-of-fact voice and/or making a few light jokes when he can't get out of bed, and then leaving him be makes me feel like a callous heel. Sitting in the same room while we both poke our computers and he whimpers in pain makes me feel like a big jerk. But these things are more considerate of what actually makes him feel better or at least not worse than if I was running around fluffing pillows and moaning about where does it hurt this minute, how 'bout now, how 'bout now. (markgritter is also largely a cave huddler. Happily on the markgritter front, this has been substantially less of an issue, as he has no major muscle groups spasming on a regular basis.)

Very few people are cave huddlers or flea pickers all the time. Some pickers will want to just read for awhile, and some huddlers will want someone to pet their hair and sing them songs from time to time. It's okay to switch over from time to time. What's not okay is trying to insist that the other person has to do it your way. "Be comforted! Be comforted in the way I want to comfort you!" No. Not acceptable.

Anyone who has tips for not feeling like a jerk when ignoring large-scale muscle spasms in a loved one should feel free to share them, though.

*I think the "male" version is supposed to be the "functional" version, the version that "gets stuff done." This is also nonsense.