Did you make a resolution for 2018? Set a goal? Plan a dream? Maybe all of those things? Me too. And I’ve already botched them. And you know what? That’s okay. Because I know I’ll reach them anyway. Here’s why:
I often start the new year (or a new season or a new birthday) with big intentions, most of which get washed away by that unplanned-for “thing.” You know, a sudden deadline or event that keeps me from writing what I’d wanted to write. Or someone’s birthday party full of glorious cake that made it nearly impossible to reach my goal of cutting down on sugar. Or bad news (or just a bad day) that causes you to slide back into old habits, no matter how much you don’t want to. At that point, it’s tempting to throw up our hands and decide we’re done. We’ve failed. We might as well just not even try (or maybe that’s just me — I often end up there. Of course, part of the reason for that is that I set my goals too high. Setting myself up for failure by laying out unreachable, impossible goals is a well-documented Shanna-ism.).
What I’ve learned to do is take stock after that initial bump. Okay, birthday party is over, deadline is met and passed, shitty day is kicked in the ass (or at the very least, lived through). Now where am I? Do those goals I set before still matter to me? Are they something I want to continue to pursue? The answer, not surprisingly, is yes.
With that process, each week becomes its own “new year.” Every week, I say, “Do these goals still matter to me?” If the answer is “yes” then I pursue them with purpose. Last week’s failures no longer matter. They stop holding me back, because only what’s next matters. By renewing my goals each week–regardless of whether I achieved them or not in the past–I give myself the power and the desire to continue pursuing them.
At the end of the year (or of the project, dream, hope, goal, etc.), does one failed week matter? No. Do two or three? No. Even four or five failed weeks? Nah. You won’t even notice them by the end. You’ll only notice what you accomplished.
But do 52 failed weeks matter? Yes.
So this week I renewed by goals: write more fiction, eat less sugar, live with greater intention, write a blog post that means something to me (and hopefully to those reading), and continue to pursue the goals that matter to me with kindness and an understanding that stumbling isn’t the same as falling.
Live your joy,
P.S. If you like these posts, you can now subscribe and get them in your inbox (just fill in the Subscribe to Me section on the right-hand side of this blog). I’m not on Facebook or Twitter these days, but you can find me and Ampersand the Wonder Dog on Instagram.
At the end of 2017, I essentially decided to say goodbye to social media. It was a sad moment, for so many reasons. The largest of which is you — yes, if you’re reading this, you’re likely one of the people who made social media awesome for me. I love interacting with readers, with fans, with friends and loved ones, with other creatives and colleagues, with thinkers and doers and lovers and fighters. I love reading people’s stories, hearing about their games or their writing or their pets or their joys. So much resistance and resilience in every post and picture, so much honesty and creativity and helping and healing. The community that lives in my corner of the internet is glorious and beautiful, and I already miss all of you so much just writing this that it makes my heart hurt.
But, I have to be honest: the other side of social media was killing me. You know the side–the people–I’m talking about. The ones who say you’re never good enough, no matter how much good you do. The ones to whom you’re just someone to shit on, or walk on, or shove down the stairs. Strangers who have no qualms about verbally punching you in the face, or in the heart, just because they can. It wasn’t just me, either. I couldn’t stand that people I love were being mistreated, harassed, and abused because they wrote a story with a gay character — or wrote a story without one. Because they loved Star Wars or were anti-war. Because they fought for their rights to live and love, or for others’ rights to do the same. Because they refused to be touched without consent. Because they dared to be a voice online, vulnerable and searching and yearning for something more.
It used to be when I started writing, haters had to write me a letter to yell at me. It took effort. Work. They really had to hate what I’d written to find their way to me — paper, a pen, buy a stamp, find my address. Once, a woman showed up on my front porch to tell me that I was going to hell for writing a lesbian sex scene. She scared the fuck out of me, but I respected the kind of gumption it took for her to find me and actually show up, face-to-face.
On social media, though, it doesn’t take any effort to destroy someone. Emotionally. Professionally. In other ways. There’s no risk in attacking someone because there are no repercussions for doing so. This year, I watched people’s reputations get ruined by misinformation and ire, by people who had no stake or knowledge in the matter at hand. I experienced and watched so much abuse and harassment online in the last half of 2017 that I essentially stopped creating. Stopped interacting with people. Stopped trusting my instincts. My heart hurt all the time. For myself. For others. For the world. Of course, none of this was solely due to social media–the world, as we all know, is a whole heartbreak in itself. But if the world was making the wounds, then social media was ripping them open with claw and fist every time they started to heal.
I might have allowed it to go on forever, but there was a moment, a flaying of my heart from a random stranger, that nearly felled me. The only thing that kept my upright was my anger that this complete stranger had nearly taken something so dear from me.
I realized I was opening my door to assholes and inviting them in every day because I didn’t want to shut that door on my friends and loved ones. Because I was afraid that I would lose those connections to the people I cared about. That without social media in my life, I would feel alone in fighting the world, and I would falter and lose my way.
But I was already losing my way. I knew something needed to change if I was going to survive this new year intact. If I was going to start creating and loving and living again. So. I closed my door and locked it and warded it to high hell. If a random person wants to poke holes in my heart, I’m going to make them fucking work for it. Hard. Because my heart — your heart, all of our hearts — deserve to heal and be whole. They deserve to be respected and honored. They deserve to not be touched–and certainly not ripped from our chests–without our explicit consent.
So about that door I closed? I made you a key. Come and join me here on the blog (or in email or in person) any time. You can subscribe over at the right hand side and get notified via email whenever I post. We can talk writing and gaming and reading and art and pets and love. Let’s create a community of kindness. I’m taking my heart and my life back for 2018. I hope you are too.
Live your joy,
I’ve been planning to do a blog post on bullet journaling for almost a year now…and it just keeps slipping out of my grasp. Which means that my task labeled BJ post (yes, I laugh every time I see it too) has reached the point in my to-do list process where I either need to do it or dump it (more on this in a moment). So I am doing it, because I don’t want to dump it.
If you’re new to the term Bullet Journal, I suggest a quick internet search. There are tons and tons and tons of posts about what a bullet journal is, how to use and make one, and so on. Don’t look too long at the BuJo porn pictures, however, because if you’re like me, you will become intimidated and distraught at how beautiful some of these journals are and how un-beautiful yours is and you will never make one. But, as I keep telling myself, a bullet journal isn’t about making shit pretty, it’s about getting shit done. (Although if you can also make it pretty, I have nothing but envy and best wishes for you).
Okay, so go do your googling. Don’t get lost in the pictures. Come back soon, and I’ll give you the quick and dirty run-down of how I use a bullet journal for writing.
Here are my main tools. I like to keep it simple and easy, since I move around a lot and often write in coffee shops and away from my desk. This is the whole shebang: the Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted journal; a small Checklist Notebook (Efficiency Supply); PaperMate InkJoy pen; Fucking Brilliant pencil (Calligraphuck); and a wraparound pen/pencil holder.
Here are the main sections that I have in my Bullet Journal:
1. Yearly writing calendar. The next two years, divided into months, with the projects that I’ll be working on each month and their deadlines. I write them in pencil, because they move around a lot. When something is complete, I write it in pen in that month, so I can always go back and see what I was working on when.
2. Weekly spread. I keep my weekly spread clean and simple, partly because I have no artistic skills, but also because I need lots of room to write tasks and notes.
I make a simple calendar on the left. Each day, I write the things I’d like to accomplish in pencil and then if I do them, I erase them and mark them off on the main checklist to the right. At the end of the day, I might write in some stuff I did, or things I want to remember. The pink boxes are my 6 things to do each day. They vary from week to week. This week, they’re mostly about taking care of myself and not working too much, because I’ve had a hell of an autumn so far.
On the right, is the general to-do list of things that I want to tackle this week. I add things to the bottom of the list all week long as they come up. There is no general order other than WORK and NOT-WORK and YES and MAYBE. YES are things that must be done this week. MAYBEs are things that I’d like to do. If I move a MAYBE task more than a few times, it gets moved to YES or it gets dropped entirely (see my earlier note about writing this blog post!). If a task comes up that’s for next week, I just add it to the next spread, getting a jump start on next week’s to-do list.
If a task is tied to a project (see Projects, below), I put the main page number of the project after it for easy reference.
3. Projects. I typically work on a LOT of projects at once. This is the way that I like to work, but oh my god, keeping track of the details of each one used to be a disaster. I’d have a separate notebook for each project, but then I’d forget to bring that notebook and I’d write notes in the wrong notebook and then I could never find anything. Then, I tried keeping every project in the same notebook by sections. But it was impossible to tell when you started a project how much room it would need, and some projects flowed over into other sections, while other projects had too much empty space, and I still couldn’t find anything.
This, for me, is where the bullet journal shines. I have a sticky tab that says PROJECTS. Behind that tab lives every single project I’m currently working on, completely organized and discoverable, while also being incredibly flexible. Here’s how:
First, every major project gets a main spread. Left side gets the giant to-do list for that project — everything that I think I will need to do in order to complete it. On the right-hand side, I make notes about deadlines, word count, publisher, contracts, anything and everything that I might need to refer to about the project.
This spread then gets a tiny fold-over dot along the edge in a unique color. In the image below, for example, you can see a pink dot near the front. That’s the main planning page for the No Thank You, Evil! Kickstarter that we just launched. This is also the page that the to-do list items refer to as well (which I mentioned earlier).
I made a few pages of NTYE Kickstarter notes, and then I needed to work on a different project, Predation. So, on the next empty page, I started writing about Predation. I tagged that page with a green dot. And so on. Every non-sequential page for each project gets a folded dot in that project’s color. This means that no matter where the notes on a project fall in your notebook, you can find them all easily. You’ll notice that I have three main projects here, and they all overlap. (That first page you see with three dots is the index–the names of the projects are written next to the dots there, so I can easily see which one is which).
Sometimes, smaller projects and general notes get interspersed between the larger projects. A lot of times these are what I call my thinking notes — places where writing helps me figure something out, but where I don’t need to go back and re-read that information. Once I’m done making ‘thinking notes,’ their work is done, and it’s okay for them to get lost in between the bigger projects.
Sometimes, the notes are things that I will need to find again in the future. Maybe an idea for a short story, or some title ideas, or whatever. Each of these pages gets a short title and page number written in the index in the front of the notebook. (That’s on the same page as the “dot index” I mentioned). Then, I can just scroll that list and find whatever I’m looking for.
4. Lists. The very back of the journal has a section that is just lists. Things I love. Things I want. Things I accomplished. Gifts I’ve given. Books I want to read. They’re not comprehensive or complete, and I don’t need them to be. Instead, it gives me a place to write something down that isn’t a scrap of paper stuffed in a drawer somewhere.
I believe I’m on my fourth bullet journal for this year (and probably my last ~ this one might carry me as far as February or March of 2017). The first three are labeled (Leuchtturm1917 provides nice labels with each notebook) and tucked onto my shelf. Will I ever look at them again? I don’t know. But this year, they helped me lead a company, run two Kickstarters, write four books, and accomplish myriad other tasks, so I’d say they’ve earned their retirement.
And now, finally, I can go check that task ~ BJ blog ~ off my to-do list.
Kiss kiss bang bang, s.
The draft of The Poison Eater is complete, and is currently in the hands of my editor and publisher, who will come back to me and tell me all the things that I need to do to make it great. In the meantime, I’m working on a Numenera adventure for Gen Con called The Skein of the Blackbone Bride (no spoilers) and a short story to accompany our underwater Numenera book, Into the Deep.
I started this story this afternoon. Here’s an excerpt from the draft, which I’m currently calling Wrecked (that feels a little too on-the-nose, so it will likely change). Beware: here there be typos, I’m sure. And ghost crabs.
*art by Cathy Wilkins
This is where she died.
“Almost died,” Garil would say. Except that Garil did die here, and so he doesn’t say anything anymore, does he?
You left me here, she thinks as she shimmies down the seaweed-covered tether toward the wreck. The thought is followed by expletives, but not tears. You can’t cry this deep down in the ocean, she’s discovered. Well, you can. But you shouldn’t. There are some things they don’t tell you in training, because no one who is still left knows to say them. Don’t cry. Don’t trust. Don’t move.
Her weighted boots hit the side of the structure with a dull thud that reverberates up through her body. As soon as she lands, her right foot floats loose, sending her sideways through the water. She’s still got hold of the tether, by some lucky stupid instinct, and she tightens her grip on it, pulls her foot up to look. The back of her boot has automatically ejected the weight somehow; there’s just a blank space in the heel. The weight wasn’t magnetized—they’re not Therasti; they don’t have that kind of money—so she’s sure it’s rolled all the way to the bottom of the wreck by now, and is ruining some poor crustacean’s day right about now.
Hope you’ve got one hell of a shell, she thinks.
Normally, she hates tying herself to the wreck. It’s heavy and cumbersome and—and you almost died because of it last time. That too. But the boot thing is a problem—her hand is already aching from gripping the tether, trying to keep herself from spinning around it. So she brushes long strands of seaweed back until she finds one of the reality spikes that someone else has driven into the side of the wreck and uses the cable from her belt to hook herself in.
Ethne’s six-eyed jybril circles and circles, clacking its sharkmouth, swishing its giant tail. The chittering sound of its rows and rows of teeth comes through the water, through her waterbreather, through the voicepieces she wears in both ears—one for the base, one for Ethne.
She clicks her jaw to the right. The movement turns on the voicepiece on that side. “Get your brehm-brained predator off of my back,” she says. “Before I kill it.”
“Good luck with that!” Crackle. Fade. Return. She bets Ethne’s voice is always full of static, even when they’re not a thousand feet under the surface. “She can swim—”
She clicks him off again. Why she bothers, she doesn’t know. Ethne’s a child. A child who thinks he’s able to control a ten-foot long insatiable predator just because it hasn’t eaten anyone on the team yet. It’s only been two weeks. Give it time.
Once, Ethne told her that he was surprised the jybril—he has a name for the creature, but she can’t remember it—hadn’t bumped her for a test bite yet, because it was attracted to the color red and her dive suit was red. She’d wanted to bump him for a test bite, but had merely turned her suit on dark mode, shining every light that it had right into the lenses of his fisheye goggles. She didn’t quite understand how light worked down here, but she didn’t deny the tiny pulse of happiness she felt when he’d pushed his hands over his eyes and ended the conversation. He wasn’t a bad kid. But he was definitely a kid.
They sent me down here with a child, Garil. And then the string of swear words that always seem to come after his name now. Spitting them out like bad seeds. She worries that she’s developed a syndrome. She hadn’t been topside in six weeks. She has forgotten the color of air. The smell of the sun. Can no longer remember what her own voice sounds like, beyond the burble and hiss of breath and breather.
The jybril is too close, brushing by her with just a few feet to spare, and she waves it away. Which is a mistake. It’s not some little fish, easily scared off by an odd motion. Its teeth are nearly as big as her hand. It circles, long tail sliding by her. She compresses, doesn’t wait to see if it comes back around, and drops herself through the first hole she sees in the side of the hull.