Three years of progress

Three years ago yesterday, I found the word for a feeling of difference that I’d had for a long time — transgender.

Somewhere in there, I started to suspect other differences too, and one year ago today, I was officially diagnosed with autism and ADHD.

Needless to say, the past couple of days have been emotional ones.

It’s funny to me that these anniversaries fall so closely together, because I’ve always felt that my queerness and neurodivergence are tied up in one another. Not that one necessarily causes the other (although apparently there’s a sizable overlap). But both of them are such fundamental aspects of who I am. If I wasn’t autistic, I wouldn’t be the person I am, and if I wasn’t genderqueer, then “Daniel Alexander” would, quite literally, not exist.

I don’t really have a whole lot to say about the whole thing right now… at least, not much that’s coherent. I’m still in the process of figuring out what all of it means for me personally.

It just didn’t feel right to let both days go by without acknowledging that they’re Things That Exist.

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2017 in review, and goals for 2018

So, I’m back. I realize I never even wrapped up my NaNoWriMo posts, but things got pretty busy at the end of November, and so far haven’t let up.

This year was… interesting, to say the least. Like a lot of people, I’m not sad to see it go. But I don’t like ending a year on a bad note, so I want to focus some time and energy thinking about all of the positive things that happened to me and the people I care about this year.

Some of the stuff I accomplished this year:

Learned how to use a fountain pen. Fountain pens are something I got interested in toward the end of 2016, and I got one for Christmas that year. I spent most of 2017 learning how to use it, fill it without spilling ink everywhere, and keep it clean.

It took me a while to learn how to use it properly, but once I did, I fell in love with it.

Got my autism/ADHD diagnoses. All right, I’m not sure I’d classify this as an “accomplishment”, but since the testing process absolutely sucked and I hated it, I’m counting it anyway.

This was right at the beginning of the year, and the ADHD diagnosis was completely unexpected (although obvious in hindsight). I knew I was autistic about two years before getting my official diagnosis, but there were other things that didn’t make sense until I found out that I also have ADHD.

I started meds for my ADHD about two months ago, and they have already vastly improved my life in several ways. The biggest difference I see is that I have a consistently mostly-tidy bedroom/workspace — which is something I’ve struggled with for my entire life, so this is absolutely life-changing.

Started making music again. I started playing with electronic music a couple of years ago, but I finally started taking it seriously and finishing things. I put three releases on my Bandcamp page this year:

I’m super proud of everything I’ve released so far. I’m slowly figuring out what I like to make, and how to make it sound good — and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.

Went on a road trip and didn’t die! This one’s huge. My family goes on road trips every odd year, usually for about a week. This year, we were on the road for over two weeks, and it was… not easy for me. We didn’t always have a network connection; we couldn’t take the dogs with us; most of the first week was my brother and I crammed into the back of a truck for eight hours at a time.

It was completely exhausting. I missed the dogs and worried about them the entire time — they stayed home with my sister for the first week, then with my cousin when my sister came out to join us for the second week. And although I’m comfortable with RV-ing, since we’ve done it for over half of my life, being stuck in a 30-foot-long enclosure with four other people stresses me out very quickly.

But I survived, and I generally enjoyed the trip. We visited some Revolutionary War sites, including Yorktown, so of course we broke out the Hamilton soundtrack a couple of times.

(And the dogs were very excited to see us when we got home.)

Bought and fixed a Chromebook. Pretty sure I forgot to even tweet about this one, because it happened pretty quickly.

Several months ago, I decided that I wanted a more portable Linux laptop to use for writing and web browsing, as my “main” computer is kind of old, has a junk battery, and weighs five pounds. I was on a tight budget, so I bought a “broken” Chromebook on eBay for $50 — one showing a corrupted Chrome OS installation, which is generally fixable with a new hard drive if restoration doesn’t work.

A new hard drive turned out not to be necessary — and installing Linux on it wasn’t too difficult either! So a fully functional Chromebook for $50. Not bad.

Made some changes to my writing process. I was a Scrivener user for about four years, but it isn’t supported on Ubuntu anymore, so my writing process had to change a bit this year. I cycled through some text-editors until I found one I liked, and I started using version control to manage my writing, which usually takes the form of lots of separate files.

And then NaNoWriMo happened, and I suddenly needed a way to easily dump all of those files into a single file for the sake of word counts.

I don’t consider myself a programmer, but I’m a Linux geek — I know my way around a terminal, and I’m decent at bash scripting. So I built myself a little script to do what I needed, and made it part of my process.

Drafted a concept for a Secret Project. Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I worked on a fun idea for a story in November, which I’m currently developing into… something. It looks like it’ll end up being a novella. But it’s still a secret. 🙂

 

And now, some goals for 2018:

Optimize organization and time management structures. I’ve gotten a lot better at organization and time management since I started getting treatment for the executive functioning issues that come with my ADHD. But I feel like my life would generally be improved if I sat down with someone and took stock of what I’m doing, what’s working, what isn’t, and what I can improve.

Develop good documentation habits and skills. Specifically, I’m referring to journaling, note-taking (since I start school in a few months!), and keeping documentation for my computers and other stuff on which I have to do extensive setup.

Read more. I didn’t read much this year. I really don’t have an excuse now. I got a Kindle for Christmas; I should be sneaking in reading time at every opportunity.

Write more, and write consistently. I didn’t write much this year, either — I started writing more over the past couple of months, but that’s about it. I’m the sort of person who needs to write. Although this year being whatever it was is likely a contributing factor, I’m sure that not writing took a toll on my mental health.

Don’t waste time on projects that are boring and unnecessary. This one should probably speak for itself, but I spent more time this year on things that I neither wanted nor needed to do than I should have. And I’m going to stop doing that, so I have more time for the projects that excite me.

 

I accomplished a lot this year, and I feel pretty good about 2018. I have some ideas for what I want to do with the coming year, but they are secret and you will find out about them when I’m ready for the Internet to know about them.

Week two update

Well, I survived week two!

Last week, I mentioned that I was going to limit my writing time so that I didn’t burn myself out, or forget to do household chores. I’ve been fairly successful in that regard, although I regret to inform you that the dishes in my kitchen remain in a state of perpetual state of “almost, but not quite, done”.

I like my current writing pace though, so I’ll likely stick with it for the rest of the month.

As of this writing, my word count is over 21,000 words on this secret NaNoWriMo project. And as we enter week three, I am just now beginning to draft scenes.

So what have I been doing for the last 21,000 words?

Somewhat surprisingly, the answer is that I’ve been… writing.

I started NaNoWriMo with a plot that I thought was solid, but I realized that I wanted to take the story in a completely different direction. So I went back to the drawing board. For the past two weeks, I’ve been plotting this story out, scene by scene, with the occasional character and setting infodump in there for good measure.

I do things this way, instead of running right into drafting, for two reasons. The first of these is because this isn’t my first NaNoWriMo session (closer to my thirteenth), and I’ve figured out by now that going into it without any sort of plan is a recipe for quitting halfway through.

The second reason is because I really love the things I get to do when I start blocking out scenes. I get to consider multiple character’s perspectives, plus things that happen in the background of the story that might affect the story later. I get to go into detail about things that I might otherwise leave somewhat ambiguous for the reader.

In a sense, I’ve been telling myself the story – now I get to figure out how to tell this story to other people.

Onward to week three!

Seven days in

We’re seven days into NaNoWriMo 2017 — so here are more incoherent thoughts.

Somehow, so far, I’ve managed to keep pace with the standard word count goal. But I’m really not sure how long I can maintain that — I’ve spent a lot of time writing this week, and I can feel myself getting… drained.

I really don’t want to burn out two weeks in, so I’m going to do something a little counterproductive — I’m going to give myself a set amount of word sprints a day, and that’s it. The rest of the time when I could be working on this project, I’m going to do something else. Watch a movie, do a load of laundry, make music, read about space shuttles or something.

It’s sort of an exercise in balance, I guess.

some thoughts on NaNoWriMo

I’m banging this post out very quickly, because NaNoWriMo starts in a couple of days, and I’m doing it this year, and I have some thoughts.

I know full well that I most likely won’t hit the target word count. I don’t write 1667 words a day. My usual daily word count is generally about 750, maybe 1000 on a good day.

So I’m not going to hit 50,000. I’ll consider it a good writing month if I hit half of that. But I’m participating in NaNoWriMo anyway — because I consider NaNoWriMo to be an exercise in rapid prototyping.

As the name implies, rapid prototyping is the process of quickly developing a prototype of a project. Usually it refers to software or 3D printing models, but I think it can apply to writing fiction, too.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo sessions at least once a year since 2011, and I’ve noticed that on average, about half of what I write during NaNoWriMo gets thrown out at the end of the month. This is mostly because I count _everything_ toward my word count. Brainstorming, character vignettes, scenes that might or might not end up in the story, rants about how uncooperative and _frustrating_ the story is… It’s all words, and it’s all part of the framework that becomes the story’s prototype.

Part of the joy of quickly prototyping a story, for me, is that I don’t have to hang myself up on the details or allow myself to get “stuck” on a certain part (which is one of my biggest struggles as a writer). I very rarely write complete scenes; I summarize and write dialogue sketches, make notes on what I’d like to establish in each scene. At the end of the month, what I come out with isn’t a draft, it’s a proof-of-concept.

The project I’m working on this session is one that I’ve been hacking away on for quite a while. I’ve lost count of how many iterations it’s been through — but each iteration has built on the last, and I’m just now starting to feel like this proof-of-concept will be something I can turn into the story I’ve been trying to tell.

I’m really looking forward to this session, no matter what my word count ends up being. And if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, I hope you create something awesome!

June Checkpoint

Guess who’s been trying to get their shit together this month?

This kid, that’s who!

This has manifested itself in various ways, most notably journaling, keeping up on dishes, and beginning to work my way through a music theory textbook.

Careful observers will note that this translated into a grand total of zero blog posts in June. And you’re right! I’m a bit uncomfortable with that, but it’s okay. I ended up spending June improving my self-care skills away from the keyboard, which I really needed to do.

 

What am I reading?

I did a lot of back-and-forth reading this month. I read about half of Gerard Way’s “Doom Patrol: Brick By Brick” in a bookstore and enjoyed it a lot; I read a little of “Walkaway” by Cory Doctorow (and it’s pretty good so far, but I’m still on the first chapter); I’m still working my way through “The Ghost Brigades” slowly but surely. I haven’t been able to read as quickly as I’d like, which is a little frustrating.

I’ve also picked up my copy of “The Nerdist Way” by Chris Hardwick, which has been sitting on my shelf since last Christmas. My feelings on the dude are a little mixed, but I do admire the turnaround he’s been able to make in his life. And at the very least, it’s readable, and I think some of the techniques in it will integrate well with my journaling practices.

 

What am I listening to?

My music habits this month have pretty much exclusively consisted of “Wolves” by Rise Against on repeat, augmented with the soundtracks to “Quantum Break” and “The Martian”.

I really enjoy “Wolves” as a record, so much that I haven’t really shuffled it yet or even focused on specific songs (besides the bonus tracks, which are fantastic).

I’m not the general target for the confrontation (except in the case of “Miracle” and “Megaphone” — one of the bonus tracks), but I remember how I definitely was when I listened to “Endgame” as a teenager. That album made me feel very uncomfortable for a while, and it prompted me to reconsider a lot of the things that I’d been taught as a kid. I had a similar knee-jerk reflex toward “Wolves” on the first couple of plays.

I hope it gets another kid to think critically about their upbringing.

 

What am I making?

Right now, I’m working on two short stories as birthday presents for a couple of friends, as is my custom. I’ve also started working on my novel more regularly, although it’s all world-building at the moment, not Actual Writing. I’m trying to re-familiarize myself with the universe I’m creating, and the characters too. But I’m getting back into the swing of things, which is good.

I was planning on releasing a song this month, but I haven’t been able to get any works-in-progress to a state that feels releasable. A couple of them are getting there, and I think I have something shaping up that feels vaguely like a coherent album idea.

(I think my music-writing will improve and get faster once I have an actual MIDI controller, which I’m currently in the market for. If anybody has any recs for a good starter controller, I’d love to hear them.)

I mentioned last month that I didn’t feel like I was creating enough, and that’s still the case, but I’m slowly getting better about it.

Baby steps.

May Checkpoint

May was…. a weird month. In some ways it felt really long, and in others… not long enough.

I was not as productive as I wanted to be, but let’s take stock of what I did manage to do.

 

What am I reading?

As I expected, I didn’t get much reading done this month — but I did finish reading Neil Gaiman’s “Norse Mythology”, which I loved.

Current reads:

  • “The Ghost Brigades” by John Scalzi

 

On deck:

  • “Ancillary Justice” by Ann Leckie
  • “Eastern Standard Tribe” by Cory Doctorow

 

What am I listening to?

I discovered a lot of really good music this month. Some of my favorites right now are:

 

What am I making?

What I’m writing seems pretty narrow, considering that I did more music-writing this month than I did prose. I only wrote 4216 words this month — so about 136 words a day, which is… less than ideal.

I made four or five tracks this month though, and released one a couple of days ago, so although it doesn’t balance out, exactly, it doesn’t suck as much as I feel like it does.

Overall, though, I feel like I’m not making enough stuff, and I’m hoping to change that in June.