Passing the Time Writing

I see the world's still a mess in 2021, but it feels more like a WACKY mess.

So as I’ve discussed in previous blogs since the tail end of November, I have been working on fiction writing again after taking a long hiatus back in September of 2019 for a variety of reasons, none of which were good, but which were also unavoidable.  I’m not sure how applicable any of this is going to be to other people when it comes to projects like the topic of this blog, but at least when it comes to me, there is an interesting association that is readily apparent between fiction writing and my mental health.  2020 as a whole was a marked improvement for me mental health-wise, which I can easily chalk up to my gender transition, but 2020 was also off for other reasons.

Now, I mean, yeah, 2020 was off for a lot of people, myself included, and there’s still a lot left to be desired in that front.  I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant in close to a year, I’ve been working from home in relative isolation for ten months now, and many, many parts of my life have been put on hold in various stages, from the big to the small, and being trapped in a perpetual waiting pattern takes its toll on one’s ability to experience emotions or even the passage of time.  Feeling like time’s standing still and everything’s dragging on forever is not a feeling for me that was unique to 2020, and has been a symptom of mental health problems in previous stages of my life.  And one of the most tried and true methods to alleviate that symptom, letting me feel like things were going somewhere, has been writing.

I’ve been writing seriously off and on—keyword being off—for about eight years now, with a real, measurable difference in my mood, stability, and outlook during the times that I’ve been on.  It’s something I’ve been acutely aware of for most of those eight years, which has led to lots of struggling and frustration with myself during the times when I wasn’t writing.  It is, of course, a vicious cycle, because when I’m not writing, I feel worse, so getting to the point where I’m writing again is more difficult despite the fact that I knew it’d make me feel better.  I’m sure many can relate to that sort of catch-22.

I’ve had different levels of success and failure at keeping up with writing, with my previous success, documented over the course of this blog’s lifetime when I started writing again at the end of 2018, was something I could largely credit to this very project, a statement I still feel is accurate.  Keeping up with learning Spanish in this rigid and structured way, day in and day out, has instilled a very robust work ethic in me, and I basically don’t remember how to procrastinate on something like this anymore.  If it’s something you’re supposed to work on every day, then you work on it every day, end of discussion.  That work ethic worked wonders on writing over most of 2019, ending in an implosion caused by the exterior event of me quitting a 15ish year smoking habit for good, which destroyed my anxiety levels and made focusing on writing nearly impossible.

I absolutely would not do it any differently were I to do it over again, because I definitely needed to quit smoking, but writing was an innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire there.  After a month or two of that mess, when I was finally starting to maybe feel like I could start writing again, the other ‘try to put my life together better’ steps I was taking bore fruit, and I got my current day job in November of 2019.  A few months later, after focusing on training and getting into the groove of the job and whatnot, a global pandemic hit and threw us all for a loop.  It took a long time to build up the mental strength to try and start writing again, had a few shaky first steps in trying to fit it around work, and eventually got up to full steam in December.  January has been the first full calendar month of dedicated writing I’ve had.  January went by in a breeze.

Again, I have no idea how applicable anything like this could be toward others, but, like, if you’re also struggling with time being at a standstill, adrift in your own life, maybe try to pick a project?  Language learning might not be the most suitable, as while this has been very rewarding for me, it also is at least partially by its nature something perpetual.  I could spend the rest of my life learning Spanish, you know, as I’ve spent all of my life up to this point learning English, and I am not a beginner to English.  There’s always more, and it’s never finished.  Writing, though, stories have endings, projects like that can be perpetual in their own way, as you can just write forever, but the things you’re writing have conclusions.  In this current bout of activity, I have written a completed short story and drafted about 68k words of a novel which is nearing its conclusion (eventually).  A project like that is perpetual because you can work on it every day, but if you do work on it every day, then things get finished.  Life progresses.  Things move on.  Maybe that’s something that somewhere out there needs to hear, or maybe it’s useless, I don’t know.  It’s been helpful to me at least.

Now then, let’s look at this week’s numbers.

Tuesday 1/26

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ascenso de la Sombra, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Arte Divierte, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 1/27

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ascenso de la Sombra, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, 1 episode of Arte Divierte, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 1/28

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ascenso de la Sombra, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 1/29

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ascenso de la Sombra, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 1/30

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 5 episodes of Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, ~120 minutes

Sunday 1/31

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 5 episodes of Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, ~120 minutes

Monday 2/01

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ascenso de la Sombra, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 1/10 books read, 450 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 6 YouTube episodes and 20 television episodes watched, 540 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 120 minutes
  • Total Time: 16 hours 30 minutes

A pretty good week to finish up the month.  I finished the season of Disenchantment which was pretty enjoyable.  The show’s gone in interesting directions over time and feels like it might be building toward a finale soon, but maybe not.  I’m more excited for next season than I was for this one at least.  After finishing, as mentioned as the possible follow-up last week, I started in on Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, and I am pretty immediately into it.  As some of the anti-hype around it has warned me, I’m not incredibly into the shipping focus in the show so far (the show it just so straight, and I am so not), but I love Star right off the bat, and want to own all her outfits.  The first season’s a bit on the short side and I finished it up before the week was out, but there are three other seasons that are each about twice the length of the first, so this one will actually last for a while for me.  Haven’t been able to say that for a while.  Maybe afterwards I’ll finally be sick of tv and will switch back to watching a longform youtube series again.

Outside of the tv watching, El Ascenso de la Sombra has continued to be enjoyable.  I’m more into this one than the previous, I think, largely helped around by the sort of story being told.  It’s still pretty early on, as these books are long, but it seems to be treating me well so far.

As January wrapped up this week, let’s look at the numbers for the month.

  • Total Duolingo: 620 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 73 tv episodes and 29 youtube videos watched, 2,410 minutes
  • Total Reading: 2/5 whole books read, 1,800 minutes
  • Total Writing: 900 words written, 90 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 600 minutes
  • Total Time: 70 hours 10 minutes

And here’s the breakdown for money spent.

  • El Ascenso de la Sombra, Fiction, ebook, Amazon, $7.61
  • Netflix Subscription Standard HD Plan, Television and Movie Streaming, $10.99 per month, $10.99
  • Disney+ Subscription, Television and Movie Streaming, $6.99 per month, $6.99
  • Amount Spent on Fiction Books: $7.61
  • Amount Spent on Services: $17.98
  • Total Spent: $25.59

And a pretty good month!  Things have hit a point where they’re pretty comfortable as of late.  It isn’t always easy to get to everything I aim for, so I’ve been reluctant to up the time that I spend on Spanish in any really meaningful way, but I can do it consistently.

I’m aware that this project is itself in a bit of a holding pattern right now, as the next real step for me is to put some effort into speaking practice, which is not something I’ve planned for yet.  I’ve partially been waiting for ‘when I have time,’ but that’s a bunch of BS, and I know it, because there isn’t such a time as that, and I really just need to make time.  These next couple weeks are going to be funky (guess who has two thumbs, a court hearing for a legal name change, and a date for filing her taxes all in the first half of February?  This giiiiiiirl), but there’s going to be some time coming up where I’m basically out of excuses.  I know this is one of the last major walls I have left, and if I can bust through it and get to a point where I’m comfortable conversationally with Spanish, I’m going to end up feeling like I’m done in a way.  Obviously not actually done, but at a point where something this focused and this daily isn’t necessary anymore for maintenance.  A point where I could maybe consider learning a third language for real.  Nothing there is set in stone, obviously, just stuff to think about in the future.

And bringing it back to the subject of writing, I ended January having written 40,517 words of fiction, which is far and away the most I’ve managed in a long while.  Part of what got me back into writing this time was from getting interested in The Owl House, and writing fanfic in that universe has proven to be very fun and engaging.  It’s easy to write a lot when writing something is a joy.  I’ve been at about this pace for six or seven weeks now, and it feels pretty sustainable for the time being, too, which is a nice feeling.  We’ll see for sure on that, but in the meantime, I’m glad to be writing like this.

Going into February, we are of course in the shorty month, so I imagine this one may end up breezing by like nothing, too.  Can’t say I’m bothered by that possibility.  Time flowing quickly feels like a luxury to me these days.  Anyway, that’ll do for this one, TTFN.

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