August update

A month of getting back into shape

A productivity slump

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I like these monthly reports because it inspires me to write more and holds me accountable so that I have something to report. This month, yet again, I don’t have much to say about my longer works. I am at 13,474 words in the horror novella; I feel like a real turtle writer with that one, but it’s slowly progressing, at least. I wrote a short story for my Buy Me A Coffee page and a couple of book reviews for my blog.

Mentally, it feels like I’ve been submerged in a black lagoon since March and I’m coughing up water, trying to keep myself from drowning. But this month I finally feel like I’m treading water more than sinking. First, that’s when it set in that I was going to have to endure pandemic restrictions for another year or more; and so many deaths and so much suffering could have been prevented if people didn’t politicize taking a shot and wearing a mask. Then heat waves struck, which sapped my energy; I had a spot of seasonal sadness and lethargy, contrary to how people usually feel when it is cloudy and rainy.

There’s so much anger and unbridled rage in the world, it makes me exhausted, too. I went on a couple of necessary and very fun vacations, one in July to the Washington coast, staying at a charming motel for a week with a walk out to the beach, and another in August, a rafting trip on the American River near Sacramento. But I came back fighting the tug of restlessness and indifference, the every day monotony of my small world inside my small walls working from home in a small town.

But I realized I want to be more productive creatively and improve my mental state. I was doing all the right things in 2020 because I thought it would only last a year. But now it seems like the pandemic will go on forever, and it fills me with a sense of foreboding. But I have to control what I can control, and that is my own behavior and my own thoughts and feelings.

So this month I started reading more - turning to the page after being overstimulated by screens all day is a way for me to escape the monotony of my reality into another’s imagination. And reading as a child inspired me to want to write. I can feel it working its magic in my brain already. I tried Ray Bradbury’s challenge to read a short story, an essay, and a poem for a couple weeks, and realized every day was challenging but I needed to work more of those forms into my reading program. Reading great writers like Muir and Chekhov really did inspire me.

I went to the library for the first time in months and checked out four books, all of which I read in time. I’ve read The Economist and graphic novels.

I started a bullet journal; something about a visual representation of me meeting my goals is quite motivating. I started committing to exercising every day. I swim and do yoga twice a week, and the rest of the week, I lift weights and run the Couch to 5K app or cycle on my stationary bike on my lunch hour instead of watching Netflix. I also try to walk or hike with my partner.

I have cut back quite a bit on tweeting, resist subtweeting, stay away from the culture wars and publishing dramas and energy vampires, don’t bait the trolls, don’t complain about Twitter on Twitter, and tweeting is much more enjoyable. I still drink too much and have a bad habit of posting a string of dumb drunk tweets and then deleting them all later, but I’m working on that.

So it’s looking good for September, and in two days on Friday, I’ll be 40, and I’m genuinely looking forward to my 40s. When you have depression that you’ve struggled with off and on since you were a teenager, sometimes it’s a miracle that you live past 30, and every year after that is a gift. It also occurred to me that as stuck and restless as I feel now, there is someone out there who has FOMO (the fear of missing out based on the good things you see on social media) for my life. They are jealous of where I live, with all the nature around me, and how much I get to read, and that always blows my mind.

What I’ve been reading

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian - My most challenging read yet. This Nobel prize winner is a classic of modern Chinese literature and reveals the casual cruelties of the Communist regime interlaced with a love of the gentle beauty of the everyday Chinese people who are just trying to get through their daily struggles and joys, revealed in alternating chapters of first and second person point of view.

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller - A rather predictable Gothic tale about a 39-year-old woman who goes to live in a crumbling old English estate with another couple and discovers all is not what it seems.

The Great Short Works of Willa Cather - I’m trying to broaden my reading experience with more short stories and what better place to start than the classics? I was impressed by the strong women Cather depicted for that era, but she was one herself. And I know I criticize the Midwest but this romantic vision of Nebraska that consistently rang true in each story was compelling and wonderful.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence - A grimdark classic and a rollicking ride.

Home Sick Pilots Volume 1 by Image Comics - A wonderful twist on a classic haunted house tale.

On the TBR

Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed - Currently reading. A fun weird tale with a superhero vibe about a badass physics prodigy who invents something that changes the world in ways no one expected.

The Unbroken by C.L. Clark - Fantasy epic, haven’t gotten into this one yet.

The Black Ghost: Hard Revolution by Dark Horse Comics - Graphic novel still to be read. On order at Things from Another World, my local (to Portland) comic shop: Crimson Flower and Operation Dragon. I preordered Home Sick Pilots Volume 2 and Two Moons.

Monthly Gratitudes

I’m grateful for swimming. It gets me out of the house and I feel safer at a chlorinated pool than huffing and puffing through a mask at a gym. I always feel better when I swim.

I’m grateful for reading. It’s like getting transported into another world.

I’m grateful for the place I live, Oregon. It’s a world class vacation destination. I can get to the Pacific Ocean in a couple of hours. On our walk yesterday we ran into ten wild turkeys, and that was just around a suburban neighborhood. In minutes I can get to hiking and a great river for kayaking. Nature always relaxes me.

My garden. It is piled up in weeds nowadays, but it is very productive. We are now getting padron peppers and tomatoes. I love looking out my window every day and seeing that instead of a parking lot.

I’m grateful for my partner. He is my emotional support animal through all of this.

Links to my Work

I did not do much blogging this month, but that’s okay, it comes and goes sometimes. Here’s where you can find my work elsewhere on the Internet:

September Goals

  • Go three or four days a week without drinking

  • Exercise daily

  • Kayak more

  • Read one book a week

  • Write two short stories for BMAC and submit a third

  • Work on the horror novella in 20-minute sprints for a few days a week

  • Read more short stories, essays and poems

  • Keep a social media schedule instead of using it purely for social interaction

  • Two book reviews

  • A blog post about a topic like childfree living, productivity or mental health awareness

That’s it for this month. Thanks for sticking with me. It’s been a tough year for everyone. Peace, patience and kindness to you, and see you next month.