Slogging onwards

As opposed to this time last month, I am not exactly catching up on my reading. Focussing on written words has been feeling a lot more demanding lately. I have been able to do a couple of critiques, which is good, but when it comes to reading for personal interest…

I finished a magazine article last week. It was a photo essay with very minimal text; slightly less than a page’s worth. Aside from that, I don’t think I’ve picked up anything to read since last Monday, when I reached the end of a book that I wasn’t really internalizing.

Eh. This too will pass, I suppose.

On the plus side, the cats are extremely cuddly (and even softer than usual since an entire spare cat was brushed out of them), spring is approaching, and it’s raining. I’m looking into a couple of things that should help, as well.

Progressing, by words

I am finding that I have been picking up a lot of podcasts lately. I’ve been somewhat interested in them for a while – I started listening to The Bright Sessions in late 2018, and progressed to The Magnus Archives – but lately I have just dived in. I’m listening to Unwell and Old Gods of Appalachia, I’m going to try Hitchhiker Horror and The Far Meridian, and the non-fiction This Podcast Will Kill You is weirdly relaxing. (There are a few other on my radar, but they’re not quite at the top of my to-listen pile. It is a growing pile.)

(I think it might be because I am not getting out a lot, so I am a bit restless, and they are easy to listen to while I am moving around the house. Plus they require a fairly constant minimal level of attention, which helps keep my mind from wandering. And unlike reading, they just pour into my ears and I don’t need to focus enough to read. Despite the fact that it helps to have something to hold my attention, I’ve been having trouble making myself focus lately, and these help.)

Aside from that, I have been deeply resenting the return of the snow (we were up to 20’C before it started snowing again!), and trying to make sure I keep moving. It mostly seems to be working, I suppose.

Dynamic

Sometimes I take minutes. My raw notes are inevitably a bit unpolished, but they’re pretty fast. And I clean them up before I send out the draft for people’s comments, because “a bit unpolished” includes my editorializing about some situations. (I write swears. Not that anyone else swears. Just sometimes things are stressful.)

In recent minutes, I referred to the current situation as “extremely dynamic” and that’s about the politest way I can put it.

I’m still submitting. I’m writing a little. I’m having real trouble revising my own stuff, though, so that’s going to be something I’m going to be trying to focus on next month. Aside from writing, I suspect I’m dealing about the same way many other people are, and a lot of them are being more eloquent about it, so moving on.

I am catching up on my reading, though.

 

Pause for reflection

Huh. I just noticed how close we were to the ides of March.

Like pretty much everyone, I suppose, the covid-19 news is a bit on my mind, and I’m trying to make sure I stay up-to-date on all the usual daily stuff despite distractions. It’s not so much that I’m missing out on things – the things that I’d want to go out to do are all getting cancelled – it’s that I find myself at slightly loose ends for what to do instead.

I did manage to get my Hugo nominations in before the deadline, though, and am looking forward to seeing the final ballot.

Related to that, the only work I published last year got a mention in Locus! Rich Horton said that it was his favourite story published in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that year in his short-fiction-in-print review. I am really pleased by that.

29 days and not enough time

…well that was a month.

A couple of days ago, I think I figured out why I never see any of my own work as “dark”. To me, something is dark if it develops in a chilling and unexpected, or a disturbing and surprising, way.

My own work usually isn’t unexpected or surprising to me. Therefore, it doesn’t register as dark. The implied body horror, the deaths, the strange alterations of self, the loss – that’s not dark, that’s what’s expected. (Not that these things inherently make a work dark, but they can, and they’re examples of what I’ve seen people point to.)

And yes, I have the same issue with a lot of horror – there’s very little of it that I parse as “dark”, simply because it’s horror, and that’s what I came for. It can be gruesome, chilling, heartwrenching, startling, dour, or dire – but because I’m going in expecting and hoping for that, it isn’t usually unexpected or surprising.

Aside from that, there’s been a lot going on, but a lot of it’s also been fairly personal and is in progress, so I’m going to settle for saying that I think things are improving.

Failing, better.

So a thing that’s been on my mind a bit lately; I wrote a very small game, and it’s not very good.

I’m figuring out how to be okay with this. It’s not as hard as I expected it to be (the coming to terms, I mean, not the writing).

I don’t know how to fix it, exactly – I have fetched up hard against the taste gap, and knowing it’s not as good as I want doesn’t mean I can tell how to make it as good as I want. And I’m not sure I have the time to learn how to fix it. I mean, I could read up and study and analyze and fix it (or make a new one that was better), but I only have so much time to spend on making things , and ultimately, there are things I want to do more than I want to figure out how to make the game better.

(This feels like a very old-person post, in some ways. The finite amount of time.)

And it was a fun game to make, too. So I guess I’ll give it another pass to polish it, and call it good. It’s useful to know that I can still just do something to play around, and enjoy that.

Well, it’s been busy.

I’m trying to get up early in the mornings so that I can write before work, and it’s starting to take, although it’s still a little rough. A lot of what I’ve been doing lately is going through older pieces that were never finished and deciding whether there’s enough there to make them worth polishing. It’s a little exhausting, but I’m making progress.

The weather seems to have broken early; we’ve had maple syrup weather for at least a week, which is nice.

I’m tired a lot. I’m hoping it’s a temporary thing.

Words and dust

I used to sew. And for years I’ve had a subscription to Threads, which I find to be a lovely magazine (perfect-bound, too!).

For a lot of years. My mom got a subscription when it started up, you see, and I got one when I moved out, and… Oh dear. I might actually have, give or take, two decades worth of the magazine, here.

On paper.

I’m ballparking that at about 12,000 pages, and no, there is not an extra zero in there.

I mentioned that I used to sew, right?

So I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that there is actually no-one who wants these things (no, libraries don’t usually take old magazines), and I have no use for them, and they are taking up a kind of ridiculous amount of shelf-space, and…

And I feel guilty for not having kept up with them. I feel guilty for not still liking them, as if I owe it to the person I was a decade ago to not change. I feel guilty for not being able to go through them and use them up to produce a brilliant and trenchant collage that is both a commentary on modern society and a funny and uplifting story (although with 12,000 pages, quite frankly, I am not sure where the hell such a collage could be stored and also I’m now imagining glue in all the cat fur help this is out of control).

But the magazines are meant to be something I enjoy. If they’re making me feel unhappy and vaguely anxious, they are defective and the situation needs to be corrected. I think I’ve finally managed to get through the guilt and figure this out, and that’s a good feeling.

(I’d still love it if sometime in the future magazines became edible. Then they would be easy and economical to dispose of, instead of quite this fraught.)

Books, spaced and sorted.

I’ve gotten a total of 58 inches of shelf space cleared over the last two weekends–and I’ve just realized that while if that was stacked up it would not be quite as tall as I am, it would still be pretty impressive–and I am thinking that I might need to change how I organize my books. Usually I sort fiction into anthologies, collections, and novels[1], but lately I’m thinking it might make more sense to subdivide the anthologies.

I’m starting to feel like the ones I have fall into two general groups; some are reference works (most of the annual “Year’s Best”, for example) and some are themed works (many one-shot anthologies, and my goodness I have a lot of post-apocalyptically themed ones). And organizing them that way–splitting the collections of ones selected for notability away from the ones selected for theme–might start to make it a little easier to get a handle on the… well, the general flood.

(I have over two hundred books that I own and haven’t finished. This doesn’t really make me very happy.)

I have also just realized (because I was updating Goodreads while sorting the culled books out) that I have finished one book this month. One. And it was a fairly slim graphic novel loaned to me by a friend.

(I am, for the record, in the habit of finishing between five and eight books a month. The higher numbers do usually include graphic novels and e-novelettes, both of which are quite fast reads, but still. So I feel a little bit better having evidence that I’ve actually been ridiculously busy, but at the same time I little disconcerted to realize how busy I’ve been.)
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[1] Well, usually I sort them first by hardcover/paperback/mass-market format, and then by anthology/collection/novel within that format, with the caveat that certain authors–Terry Pratchett springs to mind–get their own section by virtue of being who they are. Graphic novels, RPGs, and non-fiction are grouped by subject. The favourites shelf and the Mythos shelf (both of which are expanding past the “single shelf” category) may both ignore all these restrictions.

More air, less pulp

I’ve been cleaning things out lately; not even decluttering (which suggests to me either putting things away or disposing of casually accumulated things), but actually revisiting what I do and don’t want to keep. Things that I decided yes to a couple of years ago have been re-evaluated, and some are being kept, and some are being gotten rid of.

(The paper recycling is going to be heavy as hell this week, for the record. I feel a little bad about that, which is probably not reasonable.)

There are several more square feet of space in the room I am focussing on, and the impromptu cat bed has been replaced by a promptu one (surely not the correct word, surely a comprehensible incorrect one). It really does make a huge difference to how clear I find myself feeling when I’m in the room.

I’m hoping to get a chance to work on my office a little this weekend. At some point, I’ll need to comb through my physical books again, but that’s never an easy step to take. However, we’re at the point where we need another bookshelf to keep all the books we have[1], so something needs to change. I figure I’ll look at it once the rest of the house is better sorted.

[1] We already have thirteen.