I finally got a chance to sit down and think about what kinds of things to put up here on the blog from time to time, and I think I’ve got a bit of a handle on what I hope to do, so we’ll see how it goes. And I owe you a Notes from a Poly-Reader soon, though dear lord, this month has been stupidly bad for reading progress.
STICKERS, STICKERS EVERYWHERE!
For those who have read this blog for a while, you may recall that I find a special (i.e. weird) delight in giving myself stickers for accomplishing certain goals. In the past, I’ve given myself stickers for hitting 1000/2000/3000 words a day, or for turning a rejected submission around in under 24 hours, or for selling a story. But recently, I went back through and revised my sticker-earning roster. For the past year, my list of “what earns a sticker” (and which kind of sticker) has been pretty complicated. So complicated, in fact, that more often than not, I forgot that a given goal earned a sticker and therefore didn’t even remember to put one in my day planner, which kind of defeats the purpose. I’ve found that stickers—both cheap and shiny—are a great motivator for me, but I wasn’t using them as effectively as I could.
So this past week, spurred on by the fact that my old set of stickers had been cannibalized for toddler art and I needed new ones, I revamped my scoring system to better direct my efforts in useful, focused ways. Now I have only a handful of things that earn stickers, but they’re all important goals I want to encourage. Namely:
= Submitting NEW Fiction (for the first time)
(I’ve got about 1800 circle doodle stickers now) = Resubmitting a story/Finishing a rough draft/ Finish reading a book/ Write +2K in a single day
= Posting to the blog
= Read a short story
These are all much easier to remember on the fly, and yet still obtainable with a little effort. I removed giving myself a sticker for selling a story, because seriously—the sale IS the reward! What I need to encourage is submission and creating new work and getting old work back out there. And reading more. And posting here on occasion…
We’re well into the so-called Terrible Twos with a vengeance. I thought we were already there, but OH BOY, the need Bug has to defy even the simplest request (like, please don’t slap me) is magnified into not only defying the request but DOUBLING DOWN on his commitment to do it. *Sigh* I know it’s a stage. I know it’s a stage. I know it’s a stage. Please, dear lord, I hope this is a stage…
I do my best to pick reasonable battles, but hitting, biting, trying to open the oven, trying to climb into the dishwasher, trying to put plastic bags on his head, smacking the cat, kicking me when changing poopy diapers, and spitting masticated food onto the carpet (sometimes hours after it had appeared he’d consumed said food—today it was a bit of green and yellow pepper, but apples, cheese, fruit snacks, and carrot are all common food bombs)—all those things are unrepentantly off limits. Sometimes I swear it feels like the only things I get to say all day are “NO! Don’t touch that! I said, don’t! Are you listening? Stop that! Don’t you even—“ O_o It only helps a little that he’s got the most adorable evil grin I’ve ever seen in my life.
And that’s not to say he can’t be sweet, too. Today, he kissed Eleanor in Encore for Eleanor (Bill Peet) while we were reading the book, because she was sad and had fallen down. He can be so gentle with the cat (most of the time). He likes trying to tickle me, and shrieks with delight if I giggle. He’s often a snuggle bug. He likes walking into and out of rooms and saying “Bu-bye!” He adores “chatting” on anything he can pretend is a phone. He’s been pretending his blueberries and chunks of mango are “cool cars” (re: ALL cars are “cool cars”), and going “Uh-Oh! Oh, no!” when he eats them (then he insists he is a “ba,” which is his catch-all word for any kind of robot, but most recently used for the Iron Giant (who also eats cars)). He has the most adorable way of picking out a “nap” time movie from a selection of four or five, where he picks one, says “Okay,” in the sweetest voice, then carefully stacks the other movies up and hands the stack to me to put away, all while cradling the one he wants. IT IS SO FREAKING CUTE.
Oh! The other day, we were attending a friend’s wedding, and there were a bunch of slightly older kids there (maybe 4-8), and he wanted to play with them SO BADLY, but they were SO FAST, and every time he climbed over one rock to where they were, they’d be flying off to the next spot. He’d look after them, then determinedly climb back down and head for where they were, only to have them zip off again. I certainly don’t begrudge them their fun—some kids really like taking little kids under their wings, but others really don’t, and that’s cool—and I wasn’t going to be that parent who tells the other kids to “play nice” with the kid who obviously can’t really keep up yet. But oh, it broke my heart when he climbed back up the rock for the umpteenth time, only to find them gone again. He just stood there, the most heartbreaking look of longing on his face. I went up to him and asked him what was wrong, and he just sadly pointed towards the other kids. I know he doesn’t yet fully understand, but I did my best to explain that sometimes it’s hard to keep up with bigger kids, and that’s frustrating, but someday he’ll be big enough to keep up. Even so, MOTHER-HEART-HURT.
Then he rebuffed my many pleading offers to dance with him to the party music, and ate all my slice of cake, so in the end, it worked out and he had a delightful time. ^_-
THE FACELESS BOOKER
It’s day twelve of my self-imposed exile from Facebook. The first few days were hard, notably because it made me realize how often I used FB to fill up little non-times, like at the tail end of lunch when Bug is still slowly (oh so sloooooowly) eating, or in the evening after dishes. I do think it probably helped to start stepping back slowly. Several months ago, I removed the app from my phone, thus blocking myself from semi-constant checking-in, and since I often can’t use the computer when Bug is around, it has already limited my exposure.
One might think I’m doing this to cut back on hateful rhetoric or political posts or the constant deluge of awful news, but the truth is, I decided to cut back because I’ve recognized I have a serious problem comparing myself to other writers. I have quite a fleet of exceptionally talented folks on my feed due to my past association with Apex, and I was finding it really, really hard not to measure myself against their seeming (*cough* Facebook-spinning *cough*) constant successes. I definitely have a tendency towards internalizing negative thoughts about myself anyway, mixed with a not so healthy helping of anxiety (social and straight-up), and this past year has been particularly challenging, since both in terms of frustrations caused unintentionally by a small child and a soul-crushed medical resident spouse, a lot of day-to-day frustrations simply can’t be expressed without elevating everybody’s already maxed-out stress level. That’s also something I’m working on.
So I’ve been working on being kinder to myself, and one way for me to do that is to step back from the constant onslaught of other people’s awesomeness for the time being. I know—intellectually—that their successes do not in any way take away from my own, and that every author takes their own path, and that success of any kind is always far from guaranteed, and that even when you do achieve what you once thought of as a IF I COULD DO THIS I’D BE HAPPY goal, chances are, the line of what “success” means has already slid a few feet further ahead, an ever-shifting mirage. All this, I know, and someday I hope I can put all the self-loathing voices (or at least most of them, most of the time) in their places and just be genuinely content with my own lot and my own progress, for now, I need to take a slightly more drastic step.
And so far, it’s been hugely refreshing. I’ve been focusing so much more on the actual act of creating fiction, and in collusion with trying to apply the advice from the Writing While Parenting panel I attended at Readercon this year to simply accept the chaos and the unpredictability, I’ve been surprised by how much more fun I’m having creating, and how much better I feel like the work is without the pressure. The conversations I’ve had with folks via email or text are always hugely more satisfying than the shallow “liking” of a post or even posting a comment of a sentence or two. And I’ve been much less angry—at myself, and at the stupidity and hatred that seems on the cusp of taking over the world. I see more of the good without Facebook, and can realistically think through what I need to do in REAL LIFE to change what I dislike. Something deep inside me says that’s progress.