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Course Corrections

I may have been a little too ambitious with last month’s plans.

For a variety of reasons, I’m back on Facebook earlier than expected. I’ll remain off Twitter (much more of an issue with me personally) until the end of the month.

As it turns out, people expect you to be on social media to keep in touch. I tried to be proactive in reaching out to friends, but that skill has really atrophied, and unsurprisingly I felt isolated.

I’m also ending my plant-based diet transition. I thought a gradual transition would help with fatigue, but uh, it really didn’t. I’m going to look at other ways of reducing my carbon footprint, but yeah, this one’s out of the picture.

As it turns out, I have other, more urgent priorities. NaNoWriMo, of course, is this month’s primary objective. There’s also something I’m planning for next year that I’m not ready to discuss yet, but I need to be clear-headed and confident.

More NaNoWriMo updates to come.

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NaNoWriMo 2019, Day 4

Total words written: 1,034.

It’s, uh, not a great start, but it is a start, nonetheless.

I haven’t scheduled my time well this week. I was socializing all Friday evening, then was out all of Saturday. I had some time Sunday morning, but didn’t take advantage of it. I’ve been getting words in here and there.

Hopefully I can gain some momentum this week, as I have nothing planned for the next few days. The challenges this year are different than last — this time around, it’s a matter of maintaining emotional engagement rather than time management. At least, that’s what I thought until I actually started writing this year.

Onward.

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NaNoWriMo 2019 Prep: Loose Ends

I’m wrapping up my revisions to the existing draft of Field of Shards. Other than some scene rewrites in the first chapter, it’s been smooth sailing.

I noticed a very Hemingway-esque trick at the bottom of my manuscript: leaving a sentence unfinished as a prompt to continue writing. I recall doing that a bit last year, sometimes out of exhaustion, having finished my writing quota and not wanting to keep going. It sorta works — there’s a compulsion to finish the sentence, sure, but afterwards is harder when you’re drowning in the tar pit of writer’s block.

I have a few other character bits to add before I start writing anew on Friday: better descriptions, a few names to add, and an entirely new bit character to fill a gap caused by my one big character change from the existing manuscript. Nothing that would stop me from starting, but good to take care of while I can.

As for official NaNoWriMo meetups this year? I’m not sure. I need to see what my schedule is like, and I’d rather not drive across the bay to St. Pete or Clearwater on a weekday afternoon. More than likely, I’ll just keep in touch online.

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Plants, Plants, Plants

I’ve decided to make the transition to a plant-based diet.

“Again?” I hear you say, dear reader. Yes, but with some important changes this time.

True, I’ve had some false starts the past few years, which you’re familiar with if you follow me on social media or know me in meatspace. My issues with maintaining a plant-based/mostly-plant-based diet has been documented extensively on this blog. This time around, I’m making several important changes:

1) I’m not going cold turkey. Before, I’ve made the switch in a fairly short amount of time, though not quite overnight. This time, I’ll be transitioning over several months. I’ll first eliminate meat from my diet over a seven-week period, reducing the number of meat days week over week. Afterwards, I’ll transition to a 90% plant-based diet, also over a seven-week period. This process should be done by the end of January.

2) I’ll still eat dairy occasionally. This is largely so I can travel without relying exclusively on the availability of vegan outlets, but also to keep some of my sanity.

3) I’ll be off social media for part of the journey. A certain segment on my end of the political spectrum treat veganism with contempt, with some justification. (There’s a discussion to be had about the intersection of white privilege and extreme vegan lifestyle choices, but not on this blog, sorry.) I hadn’t planned on taking a sabbatical from social media at the same time as beginning this transition, but it was a happy coincidence.

4) I’m doubling my B12 supplements. I was very lax with my supplements the past couple times I tried this. It’s harder to overdose on B12 than to eat too little, and much B12 in supplements isn’t absorbed when consumed, so this shouldn’t be a concern.

5) Accountability, i.e. this blog post.

I don’t need to reiterate the many reasons one might go plant-based, whether ethical, environmental, or medical — Google is your friend, dear reader. If you know me, you’ll guess that I’m more concerned about the looming climate crisis than PETA liberating lobsters from tanks in restaurants.

I’ll keep you posted, as always.

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Erik the Hermit

One thing I’ve developed a skill for is knowing when to step away from social media. Like Ross and Rachel, we’re always on a break, never a breakup.

(Though now that I recall, they did break up on that show, didn’t they?)

This time, I’m taking time away from Facebook and Twitter in particular. There are a few reasons, chief among them a need to reclaim some free time for NaNoWriMo next month. I’m also noticing that I’m getting angry over social media interactions as much as real-world tragedies, which is so very wrong.

I just can’t give the same spite to Ellen befriending George W as kids locked in cages in detention centers. Ellen’s friend group — and no, under no circumstances would I befriend W., just to be clear — don’t really matter.

I would rather reserve my anger for things that matter. Like, you know, the fact that our country is locking kids in cages. But that’s difficult when the topic du jour changes every damn hour on social media.

It’s like being locked in a white room with wall-to-wall computer screens, each displaying a rotating mix of tabloids, tragedy, shouting matches, and cat videos. Eventually the distinctions blur. (I’d like to keep the cat videos, of course.)

Naturally, like coming off of any addictive substance, there’s a serious drop in dopamine during a withdrawal period. Let’s just say I’ve been watching a lot of restoration videos on YouTube lately.

I’ll continue posting here, of course, especially as NaNoWriMo gets into swing. So I’ll see you folks around.

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NaNoWriMo 2019: The Preppening

As November 1st approaches, I’ve begun preparing for this year’s marathon of words. Read on for the details.

This Year’s Project: Continue working on Field of Shards

Although I eventually stalled out at ~17K words, Field of Shards had a great start last year. I’ve learned from NaNos past that you should never start a new project if there’s one you’d rather be doing, and this story’s pretty decent, if I may be conceited for a moment.

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Hanging Separately: Some Commentary on PhilosphyTube’s Video Essay on Climate Grief

Oliver Thorn, aka PhilosophyTube, released a great video about “Climate Grief,” and I had a few thoughts on it. (You can watch it below.)

As 1) a millennial, 2) a semi-committed environmentalist, and 3) a UU, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement with his description of the climate crisis as a “hyperobject,” something inescapable and composed of a multitude of interrelated issues.

I’m grieving, too. Brazil’s government is burning acres of rainforest for soy production, something that might lead to a vicious cycle of carbon release. I mean, Jesus, I learned about the importance of the rainforest in elementary school.

It also describes perfectly why individual action is almost useless against the tragedy of the commons, and especially dangerous since the effects are an order of magnitude larger than what we can comprehend.

As an example, let me describe my lifelong struggle to be a vegetarian.

Animal product consumption is one of the drivers of climate change. To over-simplify for the sake of argument, more cows -> more methane release -> greater greenhouse effect -> higher average temperatures. The ethical argument is pretty sound: as a privileged, semi-affluent westerner, I shouldn’t be eating so much meat.

And yet, since my first period at 16 until recently, it’s been a struggle to maintain a vegetarian diet.

There’s the social pressure: climate denial and bullying at my rural community college; an emotionally abusive ex who wanted me to become Ron Swanson and hated my usual dinner of rice and beans; an office with regular events stocked with few vegetarian options and many non-vegetarian ones; social gatherings like weddings without meatless dishes.

There are some mental and emotional struggles, too. Manliness is often associated with eating meat, and even though I know it’s an aspect of toxic masculinity, I’ve had a hard time ridding myself of that notion. My anxiety flare-ups also increase my desire for comfort foods, many of which are meat-based. I never want to rock the boat with my “weird foods,” as my sister once described it.

There are also some practical issues, such as consuming enough plant protein for a many my size and getting enough B12. Those, at least, are solvable with research and experimentation.

At best, I’m vegetarian about half the time, usually at home.

If you see diet as a granular, isolated issue — a personal choice, let’s say — then you deny the hyper-object that it is a part of. That is Thorn’s point in his video essay. It’s not a group of singular, isolated issues, but an aggregate, complex one. Diet is related to climate change, but also to worker’s rights, which connects to undocumented workers, then immigration, and the trash fire that is contemporary American politics.

As a UU, and as a pantheist, and as someone who can deduce basic cause-and-effect, I understand the interconnectedness of all things. But it’s so easy to lose sight of that in contemporary culture, which values specialization, isolation, and intense categorization. It prevents us as individuals from making effective individual choices.

Collective problems require comprehensive, collective solutions.

I’ll continue to struggle being a semi-vegetarian-when-not-a-hindrance-to-anyone. But it won’t fix the Earth. And maybe once I’ve accepted my climate grief, I’ll truly commit to collective action at the ballot box.

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Fallow

For a self-described writer, I’ve written very little outside of blog posts this year. I have … reasons (I’ll just say life has demanded my attention in ways I couldn’t ignore).

I started a perfectly-good novel last year, tentatively named Field of Shards. I intended to work on it back in January/February, which is when, well, the ugliness happened.

My fallow periods always coincide with some personal crisis, whether I know it at the time or not. November has been a lucky month, at least, which is why NaNoWriMo works part of the time. I think the best way to describe these fallow times is “emotionally distracted.”

Another reason: I’ve been out of touch with contemporary SF for a couple years. My life, as it goes, got busy a couple years ago, and I simply couldn’t keep up with all the great fiction coming out. I haven’t even read the follow-up to Barsk, which was probably my favorite book the year it came out.

Creativity is fickle, and discipline has been especially difficult for me this year. But the fallow time is coming to an end. Hopefully the words will be back soon.

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Won’t Get Fooled Again

This quote by Brene Brown used to be one of my favorites, from her book Braving the Wilderness: “strong back, soft front, wild heart.” In essence, it means having strong moral conviction and identity, learning to be vulnerable, and letting your heart lead you. I’d recite it in the context of leadership, either in an interpersonal sense or with regards to church or work.

I no longer believe this to be true.

Strong back? Sure. Know who you are and what you believe.

Wild heart? Yes. Let it lead you where it may.

Soft front? No.

Guard your heart. Don’t share your secrets with those who mean you wrong. “Pearls before swine” is such a Christian phrase, but it makes sense here. Don’t let your soft, sensitive innards get trampled by pigs.

I’ve seen friends be emotionally blackmailed by those in pursuit of some agenda. It’s happened in places where trust should have been paramount.

It happened to me recently. After I gave more than a few days’ thought to those responses to my [REDACTED] posts from last month, I realized they weren’t intended to call me into account. They were intended to hurt, to twist the knife further while I was trying to own up to my behavior. They wanted me to feel like shit.

Hey buddy, I have depression. That’s already the case.

I’ve been trying to establish better boundaries, and this is just one result. This isn’t the only place where I’ve cut back on discussing my personal life — I’m trying to cut back on social media at large. (And yes, comments are gone for good. Want to say something? Email me.)

I can’t have a soft front anymore. Sorry, Brene Brown, but vulnerability only works with those acting in good faith.

Guard your wild heart.

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Hey, what happened to a bunch of your blog posts?

I’ve decided my personal life should be, well, more private.

Nothing’s changed. I continue to address my past behavior and come to terms with my identity.

It’s also part of a wider effort on my part to practice better social media hygiene, so you’ll see some other changes on this and my other profiles.

This blog will remain topical, but being confessional doesn’t help myself or anyone else.