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Category Archives: Diet and Exercise

(Personal) Accountability Report, February 2017

Self Improvement 150At the beginning of the month, I noted that while I hadn’t quite achieved a perfect run on meditating and writing every day I had done pretty well for myself. There were a couple of days with Further Confusion where I didn’t hit my goal and a few more towards the end of the month, but overall I was building a pretty good routine for myself. For February, I had resolved to keep it going — write, meditate and count my calories every day. I had identified a few things that were working to keep me away from the meditation bench, writing desk and calorie counting app, and had developed a few ways to get past those potential blocks. This month, however, was a major stumble. In just about every metric I failed to write or meditate every day, and I was exceedingly spotty with my calorie counting.

Write every day. This just didn’t happen, for a lot of reasons. I seriously got out of the habit here, and I’m not even sure why. I think a lot of it was just…pressure, in general. Work has been a little difficult, and the whole thing with my online math course for school happened, and work on “Stable Love” and the “Gift Exchange” finale proved to be a bit more intimidating than I had bargained for. There were a lot of days this month where I just didn’t have the spoons for writing, even though I should have toughed it out and wrote anyway. It’s been really difficult to balance those kinds of long-term goals against the day-to-day demands of what comes up in the moment. I’m really going to have to find a way to do that, though.

This month, I will set the same goal I did in February: I will write every day, working on either a blog post or a short story. March will be notably busier; my “Argumentation and Debate” class starts up with twice-weekly classes on Tuesday and Thursday, and I’ll be working on my “Elementary Statistics” textbook in an attempt to get ahead of things for that eight week class starting up in April. Somewhere in there, I’ll be hitting up Texas Furry Fiesta — that’s something I’m really looking forward to, but it’s also something that I’ll need to prepare for ahead of time. I’ll need to make sure that my schoolwork and writing is positioned ahead of time so I can enjoy the weekend without worrying about all of the stuff I’ve let slip.

Meditate every day. This also just didn’t happen. There were a few nights of insomnia that made it really difficult to get up in the morning, and there were a few mornings where I just ended up getting distracted by my phone instead of doing the things I should have been doing. So far this month I’ve missed eight days, mostly at the beginning, but it’s still not great. There’s not a whole lot I can do about insomnia, I realize, but I could also make it a priority to meditate as soon as I get home on the days where I’m just not able to do it in the morning.

This month, I’ll set the same goal that I did in February: I will meditate every day for at least fifteen minutes. Ain’t nothing to it but to do it, but I do think that I will need to pay better attention to my bedtime. If possible, it’d be best to avoid a lot of phone usage before bed and if necessary I’ll take melatonin at around 10 pm to reset my body clock. I should be getting tired right around then, and preparing to hit the hay. If I can manage to do that successfully for a while, it’ll be easier and easier to wake up at 5:45, meditate, then get out the door and kick ass at work.

Counting calories every day. This also didn’t happen, and was probably the thing I was worst about over the month. I think I’ve just gotten really bad at updating things through my phone, to be honest. I use it for games and chatting more than anything, and I just don’t think of it as a tool that I can use to be better at holding myself accountable. Being a bit more strict about my phone usage would be a really good thing; making sure that anything I’ve eaten or spent has been logged before I do anything else would be an awesome habit to get into! I am just not sure I’ll be able to pull it off.

In March, I will log every calorie I eat and every dollar I spend through my phone. This will help me reset my habits and idea of what the phone is for, and start pushing me towards making more responsible decisions for it. I’ll be trying to take better care of my diet as well, and maybe reinstalling Fitocracy would be a good way to look up quick bodyweight exercise routines or a circuit of stretches for the days when I’m not running. My phone needs to be more than a mobile entertainment unit or boredom eradicator; I’d love for it to be more of a digital assistant. It can get there, but I have to be a lot more mindful about its usage.

So there we go. In March, I’m still trying to build the writing, meditation and accountability habit. February was a step down from January; there were a lot more things working against me, but that’s likely to be true in March as well. I’ll need to work pretty hard to make sure that the right things are a priority for me this coming month and make better decisions to emphasize that.

I’m curious about what the struggle is like for other people by this time of the year. Are folks still working towards fulfilling their New Year’s Resolutions? Or have we dropped them at this point because real life is way more complicated and antagonistic than we had anticipated? Does anyone have recommendations on what might help build a good habit?

 
 

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(Personal) Accountability Report, January 2017

Self Improvement 150At the beginning of last month, I made three resolutions: I wanted to meditate and write every day, and I wanted to avoid added sugars if at all possible. Well, the first month of the year has come and gone, so I thought I’d take a look back on the last 31 days to see how I did. I realize that it’s really hard to be actually perfect with these things, especially just starting out — it takes a while to build a practice into a habit and obstacles are going to come up. Still, all things considered, I think I did pretty well for myself.

I didn’t meditate every day in January. I missed one day during Further Confusion 2017 because I got distracted with Twitter, and I missed another day near the end of the month for much the same reason — I go to open the meditation app on my phone and ended up getting sucked into something else. The smartphone is a life-changing invention that gives us the power to do so much in our lives whenever we need to, but it also offers an endless tide of distraction. When I’m just waking up, without coffee or medication, I’m especially susceptible to that.

This month, I’ll renew my intention to meditate every day this month. I think the best way to avoid potential distraction is perhaps to put my phone in airplane mode before I go to bed; that way, when I get up it’s easier for me to use my meditation app than it is to turn off airplane mode and dive into Twitter or games. I realize this likely won’t be a permanent solution, but hopefully it will buy me enough time to get into that perfect habit territory. Even still, missing two days out of 31 isn’t bad, and I’ve definitely been a lot more even emotionally through regular meditation.

I didn’t write every day in January. I mean, I sort of did — between my History of Rock and Roll class, The Writing Desk and other things there were plenty of things to work on. However, when I made that resolution I specifically meant a fiction project that I wanted to release through the Jackalope Serial Company, submit to a publication or post online, or play through with friends. Making sure I’m regular with my Patreon is my top priority here; people have had my back since the beginning of last year, and I want to make sure I’m holding up my end of the bargain. Once I’m on a more stable footing there, I can move on to other short stories, serials or role-playing game stuff.

I’m renewing my intention to write every day this month, with the specific stipulation that it will be writing for Jackalope Serial Company stories. That means finishing up “Gift Exchange” (my January serial) in the next day or two, editing/rewriting “Stable Love (the February serial) after that, and working on the serial for March and April. The goal is to be at least two weeks ahead on serial posts so I can have a nice buffer for those weeks when work or school gets to be too heavy. Since I’m prioritizing the JSC, I may not be able to keep up my three times a week schedule for The Writing Desk. I’ll try my hardest, though. Maybe writing posts on the weekend for the next week is the best move here.

I avoided added sugars this month, with a few exceptions. Alcoholic drinks are a bit of a gray area, there — mixed drinks tend to use simple syrup (which is basically just sugar dissolved in water) or really sweet fruit juices, and I had one or two of those. During the Australian Open final, I did have a mug of hot chocolate because how could you say no to that? Overall I’ve severely limited my sugar intake, and my palate has shifted because of that. While sugar definitely makes fireworks go off in my brain, it takes a lot less to reach satiety. Still, it’s not a habit I’m interested in falling back into.

This month, I resolve to count my calories every day and exercise at least three times a week. My routine of choice involves a lot of running, but I’ll need to supplement that with stretches and body-weight exercises. I’m WAY too stiff in general, and it would be nice to work more on my core and arms. The calorie counting app I use is MyFitnessPal, so if you use it too feel free to add me as a friend! My name is “JakebeRabbit”.

There are a few other things I’d like to do this month — read more regularly, be more disciplined with my budget and to-do list, finally get my act together with activism and volunteer work. But meditation, writing, and diet accountability will be my main focus. What about all of you lovely folks? How have you been doing with your New Year’s Resolutions so far? What changes will you make to stick to your goals?

 

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(Personal) New Year’s Resolutions 2017

Self Improvement 150Welcome to 2017! How about that last year, huh? What a repeated kick in the teeth it was. I remember what I was like this time last year, all full of hopes and dreams and thinking that this was going to be a pretty great year of progress! If you were anything like me, then you probably drank as much as you possibly could to forget what happened over the previous twelve months — only it didn’t work. Donald Trump is still set to be inaugurated later this month; way too many luminaries shed their mortal coil; and the political discourse went beyond caustic into cartoonishly terrible. None of us were prepared for the parade of horrors that 2016 brought us, and the consequences of what went down last year will be with us for quite a long time.

The last year contained a few big wake-up calls. I learned that it’s not enough to only invest in something up to your comfort level and hope for the best — if you want something to change, you are going to have to stretch past your point of comfort to get it. I learned that changing the tone of our discourse is something that we will have to do ourselves; changing our government to work for us and uphold our American values is something we’re responsible for, not the politicians we elect; that in order to do anything I consider worthwhile, I am going to need to be uncomfortable, I will need to sacrifice, and I will need to put in the work.

My resolutions this year are centered around doing just that, putting in the work. It’s important to know what I want at a high level and build my life around what it will take to get there. If I’m going to be a writer, then I need to build my life around that. If I want to be a psychologist, then I need to make sure that the things I spend my time with get me closer to that goal. I will be 37 years old this year. It’s reasonable to assume I have fewer years ahead of me than I do behind. There is no more time to waste.

This year I have three fairly ambitious goals, and I’d like to think I have clear eyes on how difficult they will be. But while they’re ambitious, they’re also a solid foundation to build better habits with. Once I’m able to trust myself with the basics, I can move on to more complicated things.

Meditate every day. I practice sitting meditation fairly often, but I can get streaky with the process; I’ll have three weeks where I’m doing it every day, and then take a week where I’m just not doing it for whatever reason. The benefits are obvious, though. When I meditate, it’s easier for me to be resilient with interruptions and setbacks; I’m more attentive and compassionate with the people around me; I am able to handle and absorb stress better. Meditation not only helps my depression and anxiety, it helps my focus, productivity, creativity and understanding of the people around me.

In order to be able to do what I’d like to do this year, I need to make sure that I’m preparing myself properly. I intend to be more politically engaged. I will put myself and my writing out there a lot more. I will push myself to be better at my job by being more agile and collaborative, expand my knowledge about the underlying technologies I’m working with, and cultivate and nurture relationships with my coworkers. I will push myself to be more vocal about the things that actively hurt society, including willful ignorance and antisocial behavior. I expect that nearly every day this year, I will need to do something that makes me uncomfortable. In order to absorb the stress of that, meditation needs to be a cornerstone of my life. It will allow me to handle all of this, which means that it needs to happen every day.

Write every day. If you know me, you know that I have tremendous difficulty finishing the things I’ve started. There are a ton of short stories, snippets and other projects that I’ve started and restarted, only to have them flame out once the stress of continuing gets to be too much. That cannot continue. If I’m going to live up to my potential, I’m going to need to follow through. That means finishing the short stories and other projects I’ve started, no matter how terrible the first draft might be. In order to do that, I’ll need to shift my perspective on how writing is achieved.

For a while now I’ve operated like an “artist”, only writing when the inspiration strikes and cursing the dreaded writer’s block when it prevents me from putting anything good on paper. But a great craftsman doesn’t allow themselves to be tossed and turned by the whims of the muse; they are the center of the storm, putting in the work every day whether it’s good or not. It’s that time, that dedicated and focused practice, that allows us to make the work we put in on even the “bad” days just a little bit better. We also learn perspective, where we know that one bad day or one bad story isn’t going to break us; no matter what, we’ll be right back at it the next day. There’s always the time to get it right, but only if we make sure we put aside the time.

So that’s what I’ll need to do. Even if it’s just an uninterrupted 15 minutes, I will dedicate time to the project that I’ve designated as the primary one, every day. For the most part, I’m assuming that will be whatever I’m writing for the Jackalope Serial Company Patreon, but it could also be for MegaMorphics, the Furry Basketball Association, my Pathfinder game, or a short story for submission to a magazine or anthology. Whatever it is, if it’s my primary focus, it will get at least 15 minutes of dedicated effort every day.

Eliminate added sugars. Another one of the things I’d really like to do this year is be more discerning about the things I consume. There are too many great stories being told by too many great storytellers to waste time on careless fiction or time-wasting games and apps. The news media is in a legitimate shambles at the moment, and it will take time and training to learn what’s actual information and what’s been spun to advance an agenda or made up wholecloth. Even beyond that, there are so many things that might be good but lie outside of my range of tastes that I should stretch to see and talk about in service of pushing myself in general. But before all of that, let’s start with something basic and intimate.

I am a sugar addict. I can’t self-regulate when it comes to sweets; having candy, cookies and pastries doesn’t satisfy me, it just makes the desire that much more intense. Given that a whole lot of refined sugar in your diet can cause a lot of problems with your physical and mental health, it’s a great idea to cut them out whenever possible. This means leaving behind the Sugar Babies and chocolate bars, the fruit danishes and cakes that I love to have.

Just because something feels good to consume doesn’t mean it’s good for you to do it, and that lesson is no more simply learned than with the food I eat. I’ve taken big strides in 2016 with my diet, and I’m proud of the advances I’ve made. However, getting into the habit of watching for and abstaining from a lot of added sugar trains me to step back from the impulse of instant gratification to learn discipline and sacrifice in service to a higher ideal. It also trains me to look for the many different ways sugar can be hidden within food and reject the idea that something is healthy just because the box says it is. I know this sounds cynical, but I’m not trying to be — a company’s main goal is to get me to buy its product, and it will do whatever it can to make sure I do that. If Nabisco is worried about the health craze impacting its sales, it will bury the less healthy aspects of its products and promote the healthier ones to keep people buying. It doesn’t matter that a cookie or a sugary cereal is all-natural or certified organic — it will still promote all the problems that sugar does.

So for this month, I’ll keep close tabs on what I eat with the goal to lower my sugar intake to 40 grams or less a day. On special occasions I’ll indulge in a dessert or ice cream — when I’ve finished three short stories, meditated and wrote for 30 days straight, during birthdays or certain holidays. Otherwise, added or refined sugar is out of my diet.

For now, making sure that I meditate, write and abstain from added sugars every day will serve as a good foundation for me. Cultivating good habits that I consider fundamental to my experience and cutting out a bad habit that teaches me a few much-needed skills in the doing should put me in a good place to make the next leap towards the change I want to see in the world.

How about you lovely folks? What are your resolutions for the new year? If you’ve decided to forego resolutions this year, ain’t no shame in that; let me know why and how you plan to manage your own self-improvement in the comments.

 

(Mental Health) When Depression Strikes You

Myth 150Chronic depression is one of those things that can be very difficult to deal with, mostly because those of us who suffer from it exist in two states. When things are fine, we might think that we’ve rounded the bend and things will never be as bad as our last valley again. And then, when we find ourselves descending towards another crash, we have no idea how to stop it or make the cliff feel any less steep. I think most of us have an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude towards things that are big problems; when we’re not actively battling our depression, we prefer to forget we have it.

But the fact is that chronic depression is a disease; an invisible one, one whose symptoms might not show up for days or weeks or months, but a disease that most of us will have to cope with for a major part of our lives. When a diabetic has his glucose levels under control, the diabetes isn’t cured — it’s just managed so that the symptoms aren’t making it difficult to function.

I think it’s useful for those of us with mental health issues to think of our illnesses like that. The symptoms might not be bad enough to prevent us from functioning most of the time, but it’s still doing its thing under the surface. There are things that we can do to help ourselves manage it; taking care of ourselves can make depressive episodes less frequent and less severe. I can’t guarantee that we’ll ever be completely free of it, but we can develop a number of coping mechanisms to help.

Learning how to live with depression is a process. Sometimes it might feel like we’re making no progress at all; sometimes it can feel like we’re sliding backwards into our worst places. But it’s important to have patience with the process and with ourselves. There is nothing fundamentally broken about us; there is nothing that we can’t handle. There are just a lot of considerations we must make that most others might take for granted. This can be a gift of practice; learning how to appreciate many aspects of our life that we wouldn’t even notice otherwise.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned to do over the course of several years. You might find that different habits work better for you, and that’s fine. It’s not important to do every single thing that people recommend for you. It’s important to find your own way of managing your mood and getting to a place where you feel comfortable and capable within your own skin. Take my advice, or discard it and forge your own path. But please try. It’s worth it, I promise.

Sleep. This is single biggest piece of advice I would recommend for people dealing with mental illness: sleep well. I can’t overstate the importance of rest in helping yourself to get on a more even keel. If you don’t have a sleep routine, or you’re having issues with getting regular or quality sleep, I really do think this should be a top priority. Sleep allows us to settle our emotions and builds our ability to cope with fluctuations in mood or changes in our environment that would cause anxiety. It is one of the best things we can do to care for ourselves.

Building a good sleep habit takes time and practice. The chemical imbalance that can lead to depression also impairs sleep function, so we end up sleeping too little or too much. However, keeping a regular sleep practice is a great foundation for routine that we can use to help us weather those times. Listen to your body; notice when you start to feel tired or your brain tells you it’s time to get to bed. Notice when you’re most likely to wake up without an alarm clock. If at all possible, build your sleep time around your own circadian rhythm. If it’s not possible, determine when you need to get up and count back nine hours — start getting ready for bed at that time.

It’s not easy, and it’s not quick, but it is effective. Once you’re sleeping regularly, your body can begin the work of stabilizing itself.

Eat well. I know in a lot of situations this can be exceedingly difficult. Even for those of us in the United States, we might live in a food desert where fresh produce or lean meat might be hard to come by. Many of us simply don’t have the money or time to make our own meals. I get it. But making sure we at least eat food that gives us a good balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and fiber will give our body its best shot at managing itself.

If possible, eat three squares a day that includes lean protein, unsaturated fat and complex carbohydrates. Think a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, multigrain chips and fruit. Try to limit caffeine intake after 2 PM; we all know that caffeine plays havoc with the ability to sleep and too much of it will definitely exacerbate anxiety issues. Drink more water, and cut back on sodas and sugary drinks.

You hear this kind of advice all the time, and I know how much of a drag it can be to try and follow through. But it’s definitely important. The better fuel you give your body, the better it will be able to function. That’s the simple fact. And I know that the instant you begin to control your diet it feels like you’re swimming upstream, and we just can’t put in the effort all the time. But try. And keep trying. Notice how you feel — how you really feel — after you eat. Does the food sit heavy in your stomach? Do you feel gassy or bloated? Greasy? Light? Satisfied? Focus on the foods that make you feel good — not just emotionally, but biologically. The more you listen to your body, the more it will tell you what it needs. To be a god-damn hippie about it.

Exercise. I know, I can hear the groaning from here, but trust me — being active when you can really helps. Just going outside or getting the blood flowing helps just about every part of your body, including your brain. When you find the activity that works best for you, your brain learns how to release endorphins that tell you that you’re doing a good job. And again, pushing yourself to pay attention to your body will help you recognize how it speaks to you — how it tells you that it’s in pain, or needs food or water, or what kind of shape or mood it’s in. Learning your body is the first step to being comfortable with it, realizing and accepting its limitation, and appreciating the things you like about it.

Most people think of exercise as a slog; huffing on the street during a grueling run, or sweating through some terrible routine that you can’t begin to keep up with. But it really doesn’t have to be; it can be any activity that gets you moving and makes you happy. For me, it actually IS running. I get a wonderful high and a sense of accomplishment after putting in my miles. But for you, it might be anything from playing tennis, basketball or football to playing Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Band on your XBox. If it gets your heart rate up and your body moving, it’s fair game. Do it as regularly as you can without hurting yourself.

Therapy. This is another suggestion that takes on almost limitless forms. For you, it might be therapeutic to write your feelings down in a journal or talk to the spiritual leader of your congregation. It might be reading, walking in nature, talking to a therapist or taking medication. Whatever works for you, seek it out and do it; develop a self-care routine, arm yourself with coping mechanisms, engage with the world and community around you however you see fit.

Again, I understand how difficult this might be for some of us. We might live in places where mental health professionals are hard to find or prohibitively expensive; we might not have access to an understanding or capable support network; we might not know where to begin to develop a framework of self-care. But if you’re reading this, you probably have access to the Internet and that gives you a leg up. Research things that might help you and try them out; describe the results when you use them, and determine if it would be useful to keep doing them. Seek out communities online if you can — there are a number of websites and forums for those of us dealing with depression and anxiety. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Try.

Sleeping regularly, eating as well as you can, doing active things you find enjoyable and engaging in a therapeutic practice are all basic things we could all do to help stabilize our mood as much as possible. Again, these are a lot easier said than done for many of us, but please — do what you can when you can. Seek out help and support where you can find it. And keep trying. What helped me most with my depression is seeing it for what it is. It allowed me to engage with it, really understand it. And by doing that, I understood myself a lot better. Self-awareness is perhaps the most powerful tool we have against our mental illness. It helps us learn how to cope with it and to live happy, full lives even while we struggle.

If you have depression, anxiety or another mental illness difficult to endure and tough to make people understand, I see you. I’m with you. I want to help. And I’m not the only one.

But the best way to get help is to help yourself. We can support you, but we can’t “fix” you. There’s nothing to be fixed. You’re a human being, wonderful and complete just as you are. You deserve to live, to be happy, to be loved. For people like you and me, it takes more work and care. But it makes the results of that work so much sweeter.

 

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(Personal) State of the Jackalope, May 2016

Self Improvement 150The past couple of months have been marked by the death of various tech around the burrow and the attempts to replace them. Now that Bigwig (my desktop) and Hazel-rah (the new laptop) are settled for a while, I can get back to the business of writing and I’m tremendously excited about that.

Hazel-rah is a Dell Inspiron 7559 15″, and it is a beautiful thing — it’s got a 4K HD touchscreen, Intel i7 Core chip, 16G of RAM and a 1TB HDD. The resolution is so high that it actually doesn’t know what to do with some apps or windows where things tend to be small, like my digital Pomodoro timer or the note cards for my Scrivener app but that’s OK. We’re still feeling each other out. I wrote on the laptop most of yesterday, and really loved the experience; I’m getting used to the international keyboard design, which means becoming more precise with touch-typing. That’s never a bad thing, right?

Speaking of writing, here is what I’m working on: building a buffer for the Jackalope Serial Company, starting one long-overdue commission (the prize winner of a fundraising contest for last year’s Clarion Write-A-Thon), editing another long-overdue commission, pre-writing another serial project being written in a shared universe (*really* excited about that!), and brainstorming ideas for submissions to People of Color Destroy Fantasy! and the Black Power POC Superhero anthologies. I’m hoping that I can write three short stories by the end of June while making good progress on the edit for a fourth, all while keeping up with the Patreon and the blog. That’s why I’ve scheduled ten hours of writing a week!

In addition to that, I’ve been forced to learn better time management and organization techniques through work and I am ever-grateful for that. Learning how to juggle multiple responsibilities is not something I’ve ever been very good at, but what the crunch time at the day job has taught me is how to go into each day with eyes open about how things are likely to go and what needs to be accomplished in spite of that. I may not hit the mark every time, but I get a lot closer than I used to and that’s entirely a bonus effect of work craziness. Thanks, day job!

This weekend will be The Overnight, a 16-mile moonlight walk through San Francisco to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health issues. I’m tremendously excited to be taking part in this, and extremely proud of the money I’ve raised so far — $1,708.00. I didn’t think I would be able to do this well, and I am very grateful to everyone who’s donated so generously already. If you would like to help me bring more attention to this very important issue, please head on over to my Participants’ page and make a donation. Any amount helps, and I would love to raise as much as I can for this.

In order to make sure I was prepared for The Overnight, I’ve really stepped up my running game. Over the past two weeks I’ve run at least three times — short ones (two or three miles) at reasonably easy paces (only 12 minutes per mile) but for me the most important thing is consistency, which I think I’m learning to develop! So that’s excellent. My diet is still a little shaky, but I’ve been taking strides towards eating better. More fruits, vegetables and fiber, fewer candies, carbs and fat. Hopefully this will translate into less of a pear shape, but even if it doesn’t that’s OK. I like what I eat and how much I move now, and hopefully I’ll get to continue on that path.

I think that’s it for me this fortnight: writing, time management, Overnight preparation. What projects are you folks working on? What do you hope to have done by the beginning of next month?

If you’d like to donate to the Overnight, please go to my participant’s page here: http://theovernight.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=18579

And if you would like to hit up my Patreon, which features serialized adult anthropomorphic fiction, go here: https://www.patreon.com/jakebeserials?ty=h.

 
 

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(Personal) Where I Stand

Writing 150I thought that 2016 was going to be different. With the launch of the Jackalope Serial Company and a host of opportunities for this little black geek to write stories for anthologies specifically for him, I had prepared for a big focus on storytelling. Now we’re entering the middle third of the year, and the JSC is sputtering along, I’ve still only finished two short stories and I’ve had to take frequent breaks to manage other things that are going on.

All of the reasons have been well documented here, of course. I’ve changed positions at my day job, and that required a lot of training and focus; at the same time, the company I work for is undergoing a massive upheaval that means it’s next to impossible to get settled, so there isn’t a solid foundation for me to dig into. I’ve worked pretty hard to succeed in those conditions, and I’m getting to a point where I’m doing all right. But lofty goals for extracurricular activities had to be pulled back or scrapped entirely.

I’ve also had to learn a lot about how I’m interacting with the world and the various communities I inhabit; the climate of our society has become so aggressive and uncompromising and it’s easy to be swept along in that current if you let yourself. I didn’t like the conclusions or consequences that I was being lead to, and I had to pull back to reorient myself towards the truths I’ve gleaned from my own experience. That means pulling back, reflecting on my experience, and observing how others act on theirs for insight, connection and understanding. It’s been a fruitful process, and I feel much more solid on my beliefs, why I hold them and understanding why people believe and act the way they do.

That’s not to say that I have all of the answers — of course I don’t. I don’t know any more than you do. But I’m a lot more comfortable with where I stand on my path and I feel more confident about the direction I’m going. I’ve made choices to stop, reorient and refocus, and what’s left is acting on that knowledge to see where it leads me.

The Jackalope Serial Company will fire up again this week with chapter 3 of THE CULT OF MAXIMUS. I’ve set down an outline for the rest of the story, and it’s allowed me to know what’s really important character-wise as well as work out the kinks of plotting and purpose. The first two chapters felt…exploratory by comparison, and while that can be fun for exercises it’s really not that great in serialized fiction. It’s important to establish a sense of momentum, the idea that the story is leading somewhere, that there is acceleration, waystations, the whole bit. The serial has that baked in a bit more now, and I’ve learned from the bad start.

I’m working on editing “Stable Love” so I can finally clear that off my plate; then there’s the People of Color Destroy Horror! story that I’d like to submit by the middle of the month. There is the Clarion Write-A-Thon prize that I still owe to a good friend, and right after that I’ll set to work on my People of Color Destroy Fantasy! short story. I’m also working on a collaborative project that I’m quite excited about; I was nearly done with the outline there, but a few revelations about antagonists and character-building have encouraged me to take another look at it. There is a black superheroes anthology that I would love to submit a story for, a contest for transformation and mind-control stories that I think I’d like to submit something for, and online-only stories that I want to publish at least once a quarter.

My ambition to publish short stories hasn’t diminished at all this year, even with the bumps along the way. I just have to make sure that my ability to deliver and be organized is up to where it needs to be.

Oh! Ryan and I have also gotten into cooking through this service called Blue Apron. Basically, ingredients for three two-person meals are shipped to us every week and we learn a lot about cooking through making them. They’ve been surprising and delicious, every week, and I’ve liked most of them (the only one I didn’t really care for was the catfish po’ boy). If you find yourself eating out a lot and want to have healthier meals, I’d recommend it. $60/week seems steep but if you compare that to the money you spend on restaurants you might find yourself in a wash.

I’ve also begun running again, which has done wonders for my energy and mood. This is nominally training for The Overnight Walk, to build strength and endurance in my legs, but the truth is I’ve just missed being out on the sidewalk. It feels so good to be out there again.

That’s where I stand right now. The day job continues to be demanding, and I’ve taken some time to assess how to deal with that and work on the things that are important to me. Diet and exercise continues to improve, but the weight isn’t coming off just yet. All in good time.

If you would like to support my serial erotic fiction project, please head over to my Patreon site and sign up! For as little as $1/month, you can have (almost) weekly episodes delivered to you!

And if you would like to help me support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, please make a donation to The Overnight, a 16-mile dusk-til-dawn walk through San Francisco to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health issues. My participant page is here; anything you can give would be very much appreciated.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Diet and Exercise, Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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(Personal) April 2016: Spring Cleaning

Self Improvement 150It feels like when I sit back and look at my goals for this year and how little work I’ve done to actually move towards them, I have a laundry list of extenuating circumstances to account for that. In January, New Years lead right into the day job summit in New York which lead right into Further Confusion 2016, making it all but impossible to establish a rhythm. In February, half of our team was overseas to get training for half the month, which left the newest and greenest of us to handle a really heavy caseload. In March, the progress I made getting back on track was derailed by Ryan’s trip to Japan and preparation for the burrow to get fumigated, which meant that I basically had to pack up, organize and clean up a LOT on my own. Last week I took a week off from the Patreon to try and finally catch up, but I ended up spending that entire week on cleaning. In addition to that, we had the highest caseload for our team in history last month, so work continues to be hectic.

As April begins, the burrow is at the tail end of its fumigation and I should be getting the all clear to head back later today. Tonight will be pretty much dedicated to moving back in and setting at least a few things into place as the work of unpacking everything begins. This week, hopefully, I can be a bit of a hermit; I’d like to divide my evenings between straightening up, paring down the things I don’t need any more and finally, finally getting into the writing habit I’ve been hoping to establish.

Obviously, the serial story for the Patreon will be getting most of my attention this week. I want to back-track with my notes, make sure that I’m really nailing down what each chapter and scene needs to do in order to advance the story, and update character notes so that I understand what motivates the characters, what their arcs actually are, and how those arcs are completed through the full measure of the story. I’m actually excited about this work, but I just need the time and focus to work on it.

In addition to that, there’s writing the story for a very generous friend who donated to the Clarion Write-A-Thon last year(!!), editing the first two chapters of the Patreon serial so they can go up elsewhere, editing the huge commission I finally draft-completed for another friend, and writing a short story for the next issue of Megamorphics. Somewhere in there, I’ll also want to come up with ideas for the People of Color Destroy Horror, People of Color Destroy Fantasy, and Black Power Superhero anthologies.

Here on the blogging front, I have a lot of ideas for future posts at the Writing Desk about Buddhism, managing anxiety, the thorny issue of processing offense and outrage in activism, comic book reviews and a lot more. I’d like to finish up the pair of Zootopia articles I’m writing for [adjective][species], work on a review of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolfe for the Furry Canon project, organize the list of suggestions and writers who’ve taken them up and write/submit poetry for their Poetry Festival.

I’d like to eat in more often, train more often for the Overnight walk, and go through my wardrobe and closet to set aside the clothes, shoes and electronics that I can offer for donation. It’s all good work, and I am happy to be doing it, but it’s so much. A lot of my anxiety these days is wrapped up around being able to see a task through to completion, and that’s very difficult to manage when there are so many irons in the fire that feel time-sensitive.

But on days like these, I have to remind myself that I can only do one thing at a time. Right now, I’m writing to you (but mostly to myself) to talk about everything going on. After that, another item on my to-do list will be focused on until it’s done (or I need to take a break). After that, I’ll continue work on something else. And so forth, and so on, until I have a list of completed things under my belt.

I’m still learning how to see a project through after I’ve signed up for it, but I’m really hoping that paying attention to that this month will allow me to make progress on that front. Fingers crossed, and back to it.