It’s been a while hasn’t it? My last official post was back on…wow, March 17th.
I say “official” because I have around 6 posts started since then, all little more than jumbles of run-ons and unfinished sentences and paragraphs that just trail off. It’s been ridiculously hard to cobble together any kind of brain function beyond the basics. Any other mental bursts after that have mostly gone into cooking – I took all the good veggies I had left in the fridge, chucked them into my InstantPot and made a sauce for the first time ever, which was cool. But mostly my brain has been on a rollercoaster ride of being completely numb to being totally overwhelmed, and feeling utterly crushed by…just everything.
If you want to hear more of me ranting out of my ass about COVID-19, click here.
If you want to hear other stuff I’ve been up to, click here.
If you want to hear some of Ro’s “Break Here In Case of Apocalypse” musical choices, click here.
It’s been hard to stay level headed through the past month. On one hand the outpouring from artists giving away the products that make up their livelihood (especially in the face of closed shops, lost day jobs and cancelled conventions) warms my dead shriveled heart. People trying to actively put something good out into the world whether it be a free book they wrote or a coloring page, etc, has been a balm to my brain. One author/all-around-wonderous-human I follow has been hosting an almost-daily live stream using their therapy background to offer support, and practical mindfulness exercises for keeping sane (tune in to the fabulous @AnneStaggWrites on their Twitter, every day at noon EST). Another had a great “sip-and-spin” where she chatted with viewers and worked some near hypnotic wizardry by spinning yarn while recording (the video is still up for watching if you cruise on over to author’s Deb Castellano’s FB page).
Then on the other hand, I see people who think wearing masks and washing their hands is a personal attack on their free will and I have had to fend off at least two “conversations” that were really just long conspiracy-theory rants about China and one glimpse of crowded beaches in Florida and blotchy-faced, bleached protesters who want their hair cut and the parade of callous idiocy that makes up our government….frankly it’s a damned miracle I haven’t cracked another filling gritting my teeth in anger.
I’ve been trying to practice more compassion: people are rarely as dumb or as dangerous as they are when terrified and there is a lot more terror going on than usual, so to me it’s not surprising to see people grasping at the brittle straw of “normal” to try to get their feet back under them.
But…”normal” is gone and it’s not coming back. It shouldn’t come back because that old normal is why we’re all here now. I think a lot of people haven’t mentally or emotionally gotten to this point yet, I think most are still in shock/survival mode. But…COVID isn’t going away. There’s evidence that surviving an infection doesn’t magically protect you from future infection and it’s even only now that people are beginning to even think about what infection means in the long run. There might not be a “herd immunity” card to fall back on.
And that’s for all y’all healthy people who are freaking out about being stuck at home in the first place. Read up on Brianne Benness’ Twitter threads to see how all this shit is affecting the vast number of people with chronic illnesses, compromised immune systems and other disabilities who’ve been “sheltering in place” for years before this shit even started. And know that when people talk about “acceptable” deaths so they can go sunning, these are the people they’re talking about. I’m the person they’re talking about. The very people who are still working in high-risk environments to bring us all food and deliver your take-out order…..those are the people they’re talking about.
So yeah…trying to balance some compassion for the people who’ve lost their jobs, have had to up-end their daily routines and face a truly terrifying unknown with a blinding incandescent rage at the truly heartless, truly stupid actions being taken. There’s been a lot of deep breathing and vodka involved.
Especially because….the old normal was dumb. And now, with the whole damn world changing their routine in a super-short amount of time, all those old “it’s impossible” excuses are being shown for the bullshit they are. Mobile and internet companies throttling speeds? Bullshit. People not being able to work from home (especially us disabled folks) because oh it’s hard, it’s not productive? Bullshit – all the able-bodied people are working from home now and nobody blinked twice at making that shit happen. Farmers, restaurant and grocery workers being “unskilled”? Bullshit, we’d all have starved to death by now if not for them. They deserve massive pay raises and a goddamned parade. Art being worthless? Where the ever-living FUCK would we all be right now, confined in our homes, but without a single novel, television show, podcast, magazine or even a goddamned poster to look at? That chair you’re sitting on? Someone designed it. Your bed frame started out as a design before it was constructed. The silverware you eat with? IT’S ALL ART, FUCKERS.
We can do better than “going back to normal” – and that’s what I see coming next. There are going to be those fighting to go back to the old normal, not willing to see what a massively bad idea that is. Fuck the old normal. Encase it in concrete and piss on it’s grave. Humanity needs a new normal, because this shit isn’t going to disappear. COVID is out in the population now and that’s where it’ll stay. Even if a viable vaccine is created, viruses evolve and adapt, every single person might not be able to process a vaccine- and I’m not even getting into the fuckers who will certainly protest any kind of medical intervention for whatever reason they care to give. What are the odds that we’ll be able to whittle down COVID infections to 0%? Please, someone tell me because I would love to hear how that would pan out.
So, as soon as people’s brains can start climbing out of the shock/survival fog, the next band-aid to rip off is shifting the idea of “going back to normal” to “building a new normal”. That’s the next fight. Unfortunately, it’s not one I’m very optimistic about.
What I’ve been up to
Whew, okay ranting aside. I’ve mostly been coping by avoiding the news as much as possible – so hard to do on Twitter, but I’ve been managing. I’ve been keeping in touch with my friends and family via phone, Discord and various video platforms, which has been nice, but I’ve been having serious hug withdrawal which makes me sad at times. On the flip side, my Mom’s suddenly become a hugger, which is proof to me that sanity is dead and we’re all living in crazy-land right now.
I’ve started working on a short story. In the past I’ve usually outlined until I hit a stumbling point, then drafted up to that point hoping that I’d magically get an idea of how to work past the stumble point by then. Sometimes that worked, but mostly it would just lead to me getting super frustrated and abandoning the draft. So I’ve been taking my quarantine time to experiment with different plotting systems to see if trying something more structured would help me get my stories from A to Z with less internal screaming and drama.
Traditional plot structures such as the Hero’s Journey or the Three-Act whatever never really clicked with how my brain tends to think of stories, so I’ve been tinkering around with Eva Deverell’s One-Page Novel system. I’m not sure how to describe it really – it covers 8 basic plot points and they’re worked on out of story order. For example, you start with the deciding the ending and then immediately jump to working on the beginning, the idea being that the ending and beginning of the story be opposites of each other. Considering that I almost never make it to the ending of a story to begin with, I figured this would be an interesting challenge to my usual thinking. Eva includes a ton of free resources on her site, both for using her plotting formula and for understanding plotting in general. I highly recommend this post with a great summary of a bunch of different plot formulas and if you want to learn more about using the One-Page system, you can read more about that here and here. She also has a YouTube channel where you can see her plot formula in action, so I recommend checking that out as well.
I did manage to get something of a complete plot using her system and right now I’m working on fleshing it out and paving over the biggest plot holes before moving on to a draft. If you want a little teaser about the story; it’s about a living city and the
poor saps inhabitants both human and not, that live within it. You can see the visual inspiration on my Pinterest board.
I’ve also been giving the InstantPot I bought myself for my birthday a real workout. I grew up making rice the old school way in a pot of water with a fat chunk of salted lard tossed in for flavor, but man the Pot does make life easier. It’s also made it easy for me to take fresh veggies, which I usually how no idea what to do with, and cook them down into something I can stick in a jar and then dump on my rice and pasta and omelettes, LIFE. CHANGED. I wound up also getting an immersion blender for it so I could make thick soups and sauce, so I am happy. Also happy that I went with a 6 qt model instead of a 3 since I can cook a big ass batch of rice and just munch on that all week instead of worrying about going hungry if my joints go on strike and I can’t cook something.
And because I’m a little nuts, I’ve been trying to learn ummm *counts* 3…4, four new programs at the same time, almost all of them art programs. If you use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Indesign and you aren’t digging the subscription thing, then Affinity is here to woo you away with their sweet, sweet deals. They have their own suite of programs for photo manipulation, vector drawing and, most recently, publication design and they are offering a 90 day trial, plus 50% off the programs if you like what you see. I’ve been using Affinity to design book covers for years and for me the jump from Photoshop to Affinity Photo, took no time at all. There’s tons of user-made freebies in their forums, plus the latest update now includes the ability to use smart objects – all for one price. I recently bought the Publisher program too so I can do book interior designs without tearing my hair out over formatting with Microsoft Word.
So if you want to check these programs out, you can get the 90-day trial for all three programs right on this page. If you like it, you have until May 20th to buy them at 50% off (basically $25).
But I don’t recommend trying to learn to use them all at the same time.
Tunes I’ve been listening to
Dramatic times call for dramatic tunes, I say, so here’s some of what I’ve been listening to while dodging the lumbering hoards of “too cool to wear masks” folk while doing supply runs to my local markets.
Just the links
@AnneStaggWrites for a daily dose of sanity
Deb Castellano’s lovely “sip and spin” video
Brianne Benness’ Twitter thread/s to hear the voices and experiences from the chronically ill and disabled during this trying time
For writers: Eva Deverell’s One-Page Novel format
My Pinterest board for my current WIP
If you’re looking for a Photoshop/Illustrator/Indesign alternative, Affinity is offering a 90-day free trial for their software