Liberation Adorable

So after a lot of back-and-forthing, and desperate attempts to write a dead book even though it made me physically ill…I no longer have to write the dead book. I don’t even have to attempt it. Instead, I can work on something that doesn’t make me stress-vomit each morning.

Needless to say, this is a welcome development, and when I got off the phone with my agent yesterday after making sure this was the case, I almost collapsed. My knees haven’t been that rubbery since I heard from my lawyer that the divorce was final. Pure relief and liberation tends to knock me right over, whereas pain just makes me more stubborn. (This, I’m sure, surprises none of my regular readers.)

As a result, this morning I feel liberated. Like the prison doors have opened and I’m free. The relief is intense enough to make me a little silly. Along with more snow dumping last night and both dogs deciding to be EXTRA adorable today. They’re always super adorable, but some days Miss B puts her paws on my chest and sneezes, and Odd keeps bringing me toys in order to bribe me to get out the door for walkies, and the adorbs is turned up to eleven. Especially when Miss B rests her chin on my knee and deploys the Big Doggy Eyes of “Yes, drink your coffee, I’ll just wait here. Patiently. See how patient I am? I am REALLY patient. Just waiting for you, Mum.”

Like that.

I’m excited to get to work today, which I haven’t been for a while. I’m flat-out gleeful to go into a book that won’t make me retch with stress.

But first, yes, finishing the coffee. And walkies. Before liberation, walk dog and drink coffee.

After liberation…walk dog and drink coffee.

Ice Day, and Books

Last night’s snow is falling in melting clumps off branches and roof edges. I dragged both dogs out for Odd Trundles’s walkies, and wrestled with B’s bouncing glee at the white stuff and Odd’s “EW NO MY PAWS, MY DEWICATE PAWS! *snortwhistle*” Halfway through I started coughing and couldn’t stop, so it’s probably best I didn’t roll out of bed and into my running clothes.

*sigh*

I’m torn between taking today off for a holiday or just getting work done since I’m going to be stuck in a chair for most of the day anyway. I suppose I could settle on the couch and finish Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives; I knocked off a good chunk of it yesterday afternoon when the weather started turning filthy and I was filling tissues as fast as I could get them out of the box. Bolaño’s one of those authors who will induce a fever if you doesn’t already have one; I remember reading 2666 and feeling like the world was about to slip away on a greased plate, my forehead damp and my eyes gleaming. It’s the same sort of feeling I get from Murakami at his best, I remember 1Q84 and Hard-Boiled Wonderland both induced it, and Han Kang’s The Vegetarian, too. Algernon Blackwood’s short stories sometimes give one, and Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Of course, there are some books one should never read while fevered. And some that one wants to read only when one is feeling a little unmoored. Kind of like Jandek‘s music is horrid the first time you hear it, then it grows on you and you end up craving it in certain conditions, scratching an itch until it bleeds. A painful relief.

*looks back over post* I suppose I’m not quite “well” yet. The sun has come out and is gilding every icy edge and corner; the dripdrops of melt are gold-tinged. The air is full of falling jewels, as if there’s damn Tolkien elves about. (At least it’s not chicken feathers, as Mia Sara once remembered about the filming of Legend.) A clear sky means a cold sky in February, so ice will no doubt make things iffy for traveling later, but for right now…well, a warm shower and some decongestant, since the cough has moved into my chest. Then, fever or no, it’s time for some work. If I don’t write today I’ll start to itch under my skin, and that’s unbearable.

If I can’t run, I must work, though of course both would be best. In any case, Odd, worn out by his morning walk, is snoring contentedly in his Fancy Dog Bed, and Miss B is likewise snoring in my office doorway. They’ll wake when I move.

Maybe I’ll just stay where I am for a while…

Raft

One of the worst things about anxiety–well, it’s all bad, but some things are more awful than others–is the persistent suspicion that you’re doing it to yourself.

This suspicion is not merely confined to strangers. Friends, loved ones, and even your own rat-tailed brain will hold that glimmer, far back and way down. Exquisitely sensitive to any breath of disapproval, your own brain chemistry will chase that glimmer into the swamp, and you’ll be a few feet deep and sinking fast in quicksand before you realize what the fuck’s going on, scratching the itches of why can’t you just be normal until your skin breaks.

Then the things living in the swamp–anxiety’s giant grey toothy brothers–will smell the blood.

It’s not your loved ones’ fault. It’s not even yours. It’s nobody’s fault, really, when you have brain chemistry that does its best to maim or kill you. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re bleeding in quicksand and carnivorous things are hunting you.

So you spread your weight carefully. You grab a rope, a vine, a stick, and start working for solid ground. You breathe deeply, you take your meds so the grey things are chained if not docile. Slow them down, and focus on one slow swim-stroke at a time. As soon as you make it out of the quicksand and your loved ones try to help you up, the internal bleeding sets in–the guilt about letting them help you, when you were the idiot who ran into quicksand in the first place. The swamp can turn into a sea at a moment’s notice, and it often does.

Deep breathing. Remind yourself that it’s okay to let other people care about–and care for–you. Check in with the people you know are worried. Wrap yourself in something soft, and keep taking your meds. Remind yourself, once again, that you’ve felt this bad before, and it passed like an ocean wave. When you get tired of swimming you can float for a while. The salt stings, and you’re tired, but there are things to cling to.

You’ve made it before. You will again.

Here. Share my raft. I know it’s small–it’s okay, we’ll make it work. Climb up. Or just cling to the side if you have to. I’m right here, I’ll hold on, and when you have the strength I’ll help you clamber up.

What? Me? Oh, yeah. I’ve been out here before too, lots of times. That’s right, I’ll steady you. The raft’s stronger than it looks…Huh? Oh, a little while ago I was drowning again, too. But then I saw you, and it’s kind of strange…yeah, there you go. It’s all right. We’ll pick up anyone else we can, and head for shore.

I was going to say, it’s kind of strange, isn’t it?

Helping someone else makes the raft bigger.

photo by: Beshef

Dark Cave

I’m alternating typing with warming my hands on a rather large cup of tea with honey. This is a welcome change from what I was doing a little bit ago, which was alternating typing with violent bouts of heaving.

I promised to try with this book, but resurrecting it may be beyond my powers.

Part of it is that there’s nobody outside the entrance to the dark cave I must enter in order to bring the story out. I know there are people who promised to stand watch there, but I’m not sure I can truly trust them. So, my body, trying to warn me away from what my brain recognizes as OH MY GOD LIONS GET BACK IN THE CAR, starts shaking, shuddering, and trying to empty my stomach all over my office.

Writing costs physical and emotional energy. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Writing is a physical act. The body remembers, the body knows.

At least now I know what the problem is. When this occurred with one other book, it took months attempting to work through the violent stomach upset, months of of castigating myself for being dramatic before I realized, this is a normal reaction to the violation you encountered, it’s valid, your body is trying to tell you something. Then, inch by painful inch, I could drag myself over the threshold, because I wanted to.

I don’t have those months now. I could take them, but I want this over with more than I want to wait, regardless of the damage. At the same time, I don’t want to go back in that dark cave, no matter what the people outside have promised. My body resists in every way it can.

I don’t know if I can do this. But I promised, so…there it is.

At least I’ve made it to the finish line of today’s work on that particular book. I get to write other things now. I’m exhausted, the tea is cooling, and the dogs are worried. But the nausea is receding, and I’m going to keep going.

There may be alternatives, but none I can take. We drive hardest when we drive ourselves.

Refill Time

It started on Friday, a marvelous late-morning coffee session with Curtis Chen (read his Kangaroo books, they are AWESOME); then I went home and pushed to get the rest of Sparked finished and sent off to the agent. (That’s the YA she wanted me to write, the one I found out needed another character arc jammed into its structure.) Both good things, but together they turned me into a quivering mass of nerves. Then, Saturday rolled around, and while I was twitching a friend texted, “YOU HAVE THE DAY OFF. COME PLAY.”

So we went…out. There was even window-shopping clothes, which was oddly soothing. Socializing for hours kept my brain busy so the usual post-book eating-itself was relegated to a thin, exhausting background mutter. Then Sunday came around, full of household chores and turning the earth in the most southerly garden boxes. We may still get a cold snap, but I planted hardy things like Alaska peas and fava beans. Hopefully I got enough of them in the ground that the squirrels and their buffet habits won’t wipe out the entire crop before it can sprout.

All of that was good, but I ached all over by evening, and spent a restless night with blisters and a headache. Now it’s Monday…and all I want to do is sit and stare. The massive flywheel of Finishing A Book has wound down, but I’m hollowed out, scraped dry, and need a chance to refill.

I have a slightly longer run today, but still within Miss B’s range. She’ll enjoy the chance to get out and work–she spent yesterday’s gardening time chasing squirrels, digging in her approved spots–I’m glad I bought a house so I don’t have to worry when she digs–and attempting to help me plant favas and radishes. Her attempts to help are mostly “Mum, you dropped this and it got covered with dirt, but I found it for you! I are good dog!”

Meanwhile, Odd wanted to stay inside, since his nails got clipped and he got his long walk of the week, which meant he was exhausted by all the activity. Not too exhausted, though, to moan-mumble at me when I came back inside, piqued that I had dared to do things without his supervision. Had it been a wee bit warmer, he would have wished to sunbathe in one of his Particular Spots, but I’m kind of glad he was achieving a liquid state inside. There was enough squirrel action that Miss B threw clods of dirt everywhere. Thankfully, she didn’t run head-on into any trees, but it was a close call. I believe the furry arboreal menaces were enjoying the game. At least they didn’t bomb me with pinecones, though I’m sure they marked each spot I planted something with extreme interest.

…I had another post planned, about infrastructure, ubiquity, and privilege, but I’m far too snarky today. I have very little patience left, and my give-a-fuck-o-meter is pretty well busted. My forties are gonna be the decade of rolling my eyes and deciding not to sugar-coat, I guess. A couple times lately I’ve had spoons and time enough to call a few people in my mentions on bullshit instead of just muting and moving on, and visibly doing so feels like a Good Deed. It’s no substitute for direct action in other ways, but an addendum.

Anyway, I have crossed the Sparked revise off my master to-do list. Up next is prepping Roadtrip Z‘s Season Three for release when the serial reaches that point and working ahead on the fourth and final season, not to mention giving Harmony a hard revise. It’s about time for a new master list as well, since I’ve crossed off five of the eight things on the current one.

But first, a run–and I’m going ahead with my Lovecraft re-read. I might spend the entire day curled up on the couch reading about Cthulhu with gallons of hot tea. It’s not quite a vacation…but close enough for me.

Over and out.

Morning Melange

Cow mouth 1
© Lisavan | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I’ve been obsessively playing Hay Day lately. It’s a very gentle game, full of feeding animals and making things. It’s a nice change from the outside world’s screaming. Of course it’s one of those freemium games, which is annoying, but since I tend to play for a few months then leave a game fallow (pun intended) for longer, I can’t complain. Much.

There’s another round of bigots and sexist crapheads trying to pull the old “but art should be apolitical” canard. *sigh* Art is made by people and is the product of choices. People and their choices are political, because politics affects what choices people have. I cannot believe this simple and elementary truth is invisible; those who want “apolitical” art just want art that agrees with the benefit they believe they get from a status quo they see as under threat. Nothing more, nothing less.

Odd Trundles has taken to dragging every toy he can find to the office dog bed, piling them, then settling atop them like Smaug on his treasure. This would be fine (although it looks damn uncomfortable) if the pile didn’t tend to settle and move just when he has reached maximum nap, startling him awake. And when Odd is startled awake, he gets loud. The frantic “oh my GOD something MOVED” borking is then echoed by Miss B, who answers from whatever part of the house she is investigating or herding, and she scrabbles into the office at full speed, baying “I’LL GET IT, I’LL HEEEEEERD IT!”

This would be mildly amusing if not for the sheer volume sending my blood pressure skyrocketing and adrenaline pouring through me. Never a dull moment around here, folks. Never, ever.

I’ve also been reading Lovecraft lately. He was racist as fuck and in many cases not a very good writer. Plenty of his work has been referenced elsewhere, so it’s like reading the Bible despite all the rape and murder and nastiness, or Shakespeare despite all the misogyny, in order to better follow the references and threads through other works. I won’t deny that every once in a while I get the urge to read something, and it won’t pass until I’ve scratched the itch bloody, like a mosquito bite. (I’m terrible with those.) Cycling through obsessions feeds the mill inside my head, and what comes out is story-powder, or something.

What Lovecraft was very good at was giving just enough information to let the reader scare themselves most effectively. Kind of like how Pennywise was terrifying until the kids found out IT was just a giant spider, or Black Phillip/the Devil in Witch manages to terrify and entice with a spur, a heel, a whisper, and the flip of a cloak. I tend to err on the side of letting the reader’s imagination fill things in, and to doubly err on the side of trusting the reader to connect dots and infer from context.

This sometimes drives my editors up the wall. One of the major struggles in edit letters is where they think I’m relying too much on the reader’s ability to connect things in context. Since the story and connections are so clear inside my head, what’s blindingly obvious to me needs a little help to become obvious for readers. This is one of the many ways a good editor saves one’s bacon.

*looks over this post* Goodness, this is a melange, isn’t it. I contain multitudes this morning. Time for more tea, or maybe a bit of yoga to get the blood flowing. I am cold and sluggish, and even the adrenaline from Odd’s treasure-mound shifts and concomitant noise isn’t keeping me at a high enough pitch.

Over and out.