Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

T(urkey) Day Minus 2 Hours

It's almost American Turkey Day (as in Thanksgiving - the general elections were earlier this month), so I figured I'd do what just about every other blogger is likely doing and post some things I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for my health. It probably sounds trite, but I've come to appreciate it all the more after last December when it so suddenly and surreally took a (fortunately temporary) nosedive. I've still got the scar, and I've still got lingering traces of paranoia about the incident - I've never been able to dismiss a stretch of scuzziness as "just a bug" since then - but I'm still alive and breathing air and, so far as I'm aware, better off in the health department than I was before everything blew up.

I'm thankful for my friends and family. It's easy to take the latter for granted, but for all the trouble they can be and the stress they can cause, I'm still glad that they're there for me. As for friends, they are invaluable support, especially when the family isn't.

I'm thankful for my cats. Unexpectedly as they came into my life, and unexpectedly as some have left, I still wouldn't trade any one of them for anything. I live under the delusion that they like me too, and don't just tolerate me because I bring them food and provide the occasional belly rub.

I'm thankful for my dreams, my imagination, and my sense of wonder. I honestly don't know how the mundane population copes without such gifts. The ability to transform reality, if only within the confines of one's own mind, is such a wonderful thing, and I'm so glad I was raised to keep these abilities alive.

I'm thankful for my art and stories, and by extension my workbench projects. I know I'm little more than a hack at them, and I know I won't get any better until I can manage some regular practice time (a number of practical and self-impose obstacles keep tripping me up in that respect), but it only takes a few days away from creating things to make me all the more appreciative when I can immerse myself in the weaving of words or working of ink or crafting of clay. On that note, I'm thankful for my workbench. It's just a little thing in the basement surrounded by old sheets, and I can't work down there at night lest I disturb others in the house with the light, but I'm glad to have some small space of refuge to create in where I know my projects won't get pushed onto the floor or crushed by other people's junk. (If they're crushed, it's under my own junk!)

I'm thankful for my websites, and who/whatever visits them. Sometimes I go through my guestbooks and just sit in wonder that people from across the internet have read these words, viewed these pictures, and even taken some spark or scrap from them back to their own virtual worlds. Then I feel guilty for not having more extensive reviews at Brightdreamer Books, or more stories or at Dreamspire Castle, or better offerings at Skyhaven Adoptions, or that I haven't revamped the Skyhaven Hunt yet or launched the fourth and most elaborate of the Jewelwings yet despite months of half-cocked template attempts (oops - keep that one under your hat for now, but I did say I was going to make some changes to the Hunt in 2007, and if this one ever cooperates it ought to be worth all the trouble)... but this about things I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for this computer. It's nothing especially new, an old local-built Pentium III PC, but it's held up pretty well and does everything I need it to for the time being. It runs Paint Shop Pro 7 and 8. It accomodates my Wacom Graphire tablet. It runs my favorite games - even the old Commodore ones, via downloads and emulators. It has Word 2003 and Windows XP, which so many people despise but which serve my limited needs rather well. Naturally, I often look through catalogs or websites and drool over the latest programs or processor speeds or RAM chips, but at the end of the day I'm glad for this old reliable thing (knock on plywood.)

I'm thankful to have food and shelter and light and heat, at this time of year especially. It's all too easy to dismiss those less fortunate in these respects, but as they say, every civilization is three meals away from anarchy. All things considered, none of us are as far removed from poverty or depravation than we so often like to think.

And, at the moment, I'm thankful for the coming holiday season. I'm not exactly a Christian, more of a nonaligned agnostic pagan spiritualist (reformed), but for me Christmas is a time of bright lights, beautiful music, presents, family, and hanging shiny, tacky things all over the place. And, let's face it, how many times of year can you have a fiber-optic tree covered with shiny things in your house and not be considered a complete freak? And, of course, Thanksgiving, the kickoff to the mad rush to Christmas and New Year's Eve. I admit it's not exactly fun going into the holiday season jobless (hopefully not for long), but it's not about what you don't have at this time of year. It's about what you do have, and what you can share. So, what do I have? I have my thanks, and I share them freely with all of you who read this. And even those of you who don't. Thank you. You, the invisible lurkers and occasional posters and generally invisible internet friends, are part of what I'm thankful for.

T-Day minus 1 hour 15 minutes and counting...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Less Whiny Update

Thought I'd throw a quick update in here...

When last I left me, I was preparing to go in for a job interview at a nearby library shipping center. It wasn't so much a job interview as a job overview; my impression was that they couldn't care less about interviews so long as they had a living body to fill the job. Even if I don't get the job, it was cool to see the shipping center. It's apparently the most technologically advanced one of its kind, involving a computer-driven crane and huge racks of book-filled tote boxes and a conveyor belt with a barcode scanner and Internet uplinks to the libraries requesting books. I was handed, at that time, an application form which I have seen twice before. Three times, really, but I only filled it out twice. It is the self-same application I've downloaded from the library website to apply for two previous jobs. (Evidence of the Universe's sense of humor: the day I came home with the new application, partially filled out by the potential would-be boss, I received the kiss-off note in the mail about the second job I've applied for using this application. Again, it was not the one included with this application, which before I had to print out and send in with my other info. Now, I'm worth two sheets of printer paper and associated ink to these people. I'm hoping I'm not worth three...)

As is typical, while I was attempting to fill out this third application, my brain kept wandering off and finding other things to do.

"You know, I think your latest round of ornaments would look cool if..."

"I think Skyhaven needs a new species of..."

"How long has it been since you picked up..."

"Dusting. Dusting always needs doing..."

"Look - there's that Flash 4 book! Peeking at a few chapters couldn't hurt..."

"Hey! Stop it! What are you doing? Great grey bird!"

Sorry - the last one was Malarkey. He's nearly as distracting as my brain, but at least my brain doesn't throw birdseed and emit ear-piercing screeches when it wants attention. On the plus side, though, Malarkey doesn't follow me around all day with inane comments and suggestions. But I digress...

Anyway, after finally filling out my application and sending it on its merry little way to the Human Resources homunculi (who must be mighty sick of me by now), I find I have one less thing to keep my brain at bay. So, I found myself peeking at those Flash 4 books. Yes, I know Flash is way past version 4 by now. I'm unemployed - so sue me for having a budget. Besides, the book and the copy were gifts. I haven't installed it yet - a feat managed only by convincing myself that I really ought to get my holiday projects done first - but I'm reading. And I'm envisioning my as-yet-speculative revamp of Skyhaven Adoptions and the associated Adoption Hunt. I'm getting dangerous ideas... Sure, I could do some of what I want to do to Skyhaven with good ol' fashioned FrontPage, not to mention healthy doses of image maps and javascript. But I could do so much more if I got some sort of a grasp on Flash... and if there's one thing I always demand of myself when it comes to Skyhaven, it's more.

On that contest Mom keeps pushing me to enter, I looked over the entry form again. Any sort of victory necessitates attending some sort of writing conference thingy, wherein I would have to be able to articulately discuss my story with others. Discussing anything articulately with others is usually beyond my ability; the idea of having to discuss my story with some manner of clarity to those not dwelling in my impossibly skewed version of reality is enough to induce nightmares. Looking past that, the deadline's late February 2007. There's an outside chance - way, way outside - that I might have a finished draft to hurl into the slushpile by then. Of course, a lot depends on several factors, such as whether or not I can get the lead out and get back into a writing routine. Story writing, that is, not distraction writing. (What is distraction writing? Blog entries, for one...) Logically, if I am going to make any attempts at publication, I'm going to have to be able to discuss my story(ies) with others, so as a test run this thing may be a not-entirely-horrific idea. And, as stated before, I'd pretty much be aiming for the consolation bookmark as a realistic goal. I don't even use bookmarks, so it doesn't matter if I suck so bad I'm not even worth that. I can't deny that I need to Do More, and writing is one of those things I want to Do More of; I don't want a repeat of December to get me moving again, even if I seem to be stuck in a similar rut.

Anyway, this is a pretty pointless post, but I thought I'd try to counteract the general whininess of the previous post a bit.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Whichever Way You Go Is Wrong

[WARNING - Generally Whiny Post Ahead]

Perhaps it's just in this family, but that seems to be the philosophy of every parent for every offspring. It starts to get irksome after a while... Back when the Universe was telling me in no uncertain terms not to get one job, that was the only job my mother would keep bringing up. Whatever else I applied for (and failed to get), I would never hear the end of whatever job I had previously applied for and failed to get.

Didn't hear back from Barnes & Noble? "You would've been so good at Medical Transcription."

Go in for an interview at the library? "Well, Barnes & Noble was hiring, weren't they? You'd be so good at that... but you really should go back to Medical Transcription."

Call on a job and get nowhere? "Are you sure the library's not hiring? And you'd do great at at a bookstore... and it's a shame you didn't try Medical Transcription."

So now, tomorrow, I'm going in for a job which sounds suspiciously like my previous job (nobody else wants it, so I'm 99% hired just by calling.) Mom was the one who actually pointed me towards it. So, what's the first thing out of her mouth when I tell her I'm going in tomorrow?

"I hear there's a new bookstore opening up next year in town. Maybe you could get hired there."

Call me crazy, but that's not exactly a vote of confidence. A new bookstore in town next year doesn't get me money before Xmas. A new bookstore in town next year doesn't get me in tomorrow. A new bookstore in town next year is just a new bookstore in town next year, and not what I need most right now: a source of immediate income. I suppose, in her own way, she thinks she's helping, but I really don't need to hear about a possible maybe potential future job when I need a definite here present-tense income-generating job.

Also on the speculative not-gonna-happen front, Mom is now pushing me to enter the unfinished monstrosity (a.k.a. The Story) in a local literary contest. Why? One of her coworkers is a member of a local literary group with all sorts of pro authors, so naturally Mom has spent quite a bit of time talking about how I want to be a writer. First off, this is rather ironic, as Mom spends so much time telling everyone and their brother how I'm the "writer" in the family, and yet she won't read a word of what I write. Secondly, if/when I do get this job, I must remember to purchase a new dictionary for the holidays, to see if the definition of "unfinished" has undergone a transformation in recent years. ("Monstrosity," I believe, is still the same.) Unfinished projects are not finished projects, and contests such as this want finished projects, as publication of some sort is often included in prizes. If I were within a chapter or two of the finish line, I might - Might, with a capital M and italics, just like that - consider it, but as it is I don't even think I'm at the halfway point and there's no end in sight. If I were to submit what I have - they only ask for 28 pages, including a synopsis and first chapter or two - and then, in the course of scrambling to finish, realize I made a major miscalculation and have to rework it, what does that tell these people about my reliability as a writer? I know it's a moot point, most likely, as the odds of me winning anything but a consolation bookmark in a writing contest are pretty remote, but after what happened in the last election remote odds seem to be making good these days. This goes hand in hand with the third problem, the problem that's slowed my story progress to a near-total standstill: I don't think I know how to finish a story. Yes, I did, more or less, finish it in the first draft. I have, more or less, written junk in the past that ended. And, yes, I've read about this sort of state in the many books on writing and creativity that I've read in lieu of actually writing or creating things over the years. It's a form of performance anxiety, essentially, coupled with general artistic insecurity and a flareup of my lazy perfectionism syndrome. It still makes for slow-to-nonexistent progress. Fourthly, of all the times of year to consider throwing myself into finishing a story come heck or high water, this really is the worst of them, even if I weren't jobhunting. And, fifthly, I can't seem to get any time to write even if I wasn't stuck on the third problem. (Why couldn't I have been a work-at-home Medical Transcriptionist even if everything else hadn't fought me? Gee, I don't know, I answer, as the family shouts a question through the closed door and the dogs start howling for no earthly reason...)

So, where does this leave me? Exactly where I was last month: sitting on an unfinished monstrosity, staring down the Dread Demon Reality with one eye while the other gazes off into a hazy, indistinct Future, a place with a thousand-odd paths awaiting me. And every one of them helpfully marked "Wrong Way."