Accidental Fudge

Updates Thursdays

Tag: writing (page 1 of 3)

February Lessons

March has arrived, which means FAWM is officially over.

February was an interesting month, and it taught me a lot. Some of the lessons I learned this month:

  • Inspiration is more likely to come if you give it a space to show up in. I didn’t feel super inspired every time I sat down to write, but it happened enough of the time to convince me that scheduling writing time is actually a really good idea.
  • If you want to write 14 songs in 28 days, you need to sit down and write songs. Showing up and putting in the work is how we get better at things. The more days I got up early to write, the easier it was to get up early to write.
  • I’m an overachiever. I’m sure some of you who know me are rolling your eyes at me, because obviously. But I really had convinced myself that I wasn’t, and I was a little surprised by how quickly I was shooting for a ridiculous stretch goal and how easily my brain can turn “you wrote 19 songs instead of 28” into a feeling of failure.
  • I actually write better under time constraints. The key here, I think, is structure. Open-ended songwriting sessions meander a lot because I am easily distracted. Sitting down to write when I know I have to start getting ready for work in an hour helps me focus.
  • Plans get derailed sometimes, and that’s okay. One of the reasons I didn’t hit my stretch goal of 28 songs was that I was dealing with the spasmed muscles in my shoulder and neck, which made it hard to write (it hurt to look down for any length of time) and play guitar. It was discouraging. But I still hit (and passed) the actual goal. Even if I hadn’t hit the goal, though, I think the fact that I showed up and tried something new is worth celebrating.

I’m pleased with my progress and like a fair number of the 19 songs I wrote last month. I’m excited to polish some of them for a gig I have coming up later this month!

Ride It Out

I mentioned last week that I was making unexpectedly excellent progress on writing for FAWM. I’ve continued to write, and I hit my goal of 14 songs in the month of February on Sunday, the 11th. (Favorites so far have been posted here.)

I don’t know where I’m finding inspiration. I am trying not to ask too many questions. I’m just going to ride this out as long as I can, and find out just how many songs I can write in 28 days.

On Thursday night last week, it snowed a whole bunch here in Chicago, and my office was closed on Friday. Which was a good thing, because thanks to whatever wonky position I slept in, I woke up with my right shoulder/neck muscles spasming.

As you might imagine, this was super discouraging and not at all conducive to writing, not to mention super painful. But I pushed through and wrote anyway. As of this writing on the evening of Wednesday, the 14th, I’ve only gone one day this month without writing. I’m really proud of that.

This weekend we have a friend coming to visit, so I may or may not get any writing done, but that’s okay. I’m happy with where I’ve gotten to so far, and excited to see where I end up by the end of the month!

Productivity

We are a week into February, and thus a week into February Album Writing Month. I’ll be honest, when I signed on for this mad endeavor, I did not expect it to go all that well. I’ve averaged about 20 songs a year since I started writing again in 2014 – less than a song every two weeks. Writing an average of a song every two days felt pretty much impossible.

But last Thursday, on February 1st, I woke up and wrote a song.

And I’ve gone on to do the same thing every day since. In fact, since I wrote multiple songs on Saturday and Sunday, as of this writing on the morning of Thursday the 8th, I’m up to eleven songs.

I have no idea what’s happening or how. I am not asking questions. I’m just getting up and writing and riding this creative wave as long as I’m able to.

I have been less productive elsewhere in my life, although I did a fair bit of cooking last night and washed a whole lotta dishes. (I’ve actually been pretty cranky this week, about most things aside from the high of finishing songs. I’m not really sure what to do about that.) But at least I’m finding things to write about!

Winter Blahs

I am having a very blah sort of week. I’m not sad, exactly. I just feel very unmotivated, and tired, and nothing sounds like very much fun or like anything I want to do. All I really want to do is hibernate.

It wasn’t until I was on my way to therapy on Monday that I realized that this is probably a weird instance of the depressive side of my Bipolar cycle sneaking up on me. Usually when I’m heading into a depressive episode, I can tell – I feel really down. But “down” doesn’t feel like the right word for this. It’s just…blah.

It was a struggle to get anything done at work last week. It was a struggle to write my song for songwriting class (and my goal was actually to write TWO songs last week). It was a struggle to get myself to show up for my volunteer shift and for the social things I’d committed to doing (even though all of those things ended up being fine). I had a minor breakdown last Thursday evening, because I got home at the end of a long day, and even though I’d made a plan and knew what I should get done, none of those things actually happened. I got things done, but none of them were things on my to do list, and I felt like an enormous failure.

Since I was able to identify this as depression on Monday, it’s been a little easier – if not to find motivation or give-a-damn, at least to sit quietly with the blah-ness of it all and recognize that this, too, shall pass. Yesterday the sun was out, and I had the same revelation I do every time we get through a cloudy spate of days and come out the other side into sunlight – I am incredibly affected by the weather. I should probably definitely be taking vitamin D.

In the meantime, I’m finding ways to cope. I’m listening to a lot of Dar Williams (even when I’m not listening to Dar Williams, my brain’s playing The Christians and the Pagans or The Babysitter’s Here or When I Was A Boy). I’m taking time to write down what I’m anxious about. I’m thinking a lot about the Starfinder game I’m going to start playing soon. I’m dreaming up new tattoos (even though I can’t afford a new tattoo right now). I’m celebrating the fact that I pushed my credit card debt down under the next $1000 since making a payment last week and getting a disputed charge taken care of. (I’m trying not to be disappointed that I haven’t gotten farther in the process of paying it off.) I’m trying to remind myself that while yes, I probably should be reading and knitting and writing more, the fact that I’m not doing it right now does not mean that this is what my life is going to be like forever. Once again: this, too, shall pass.

Brief Bright Spots

It feels like it’s been a long week. In reality, I stayed home from work on Monday after waking up feeling feverish, and I’ve been spending a lot of time sleeping as I try to fight off this annoying cold that isn’t awful but just won’t leave. I’m still dealing with anxiety. But there have been some distinct bright spots in the week, so I’m going to focus on those today.

  1. We started putting up holiday decorations in our apartment. We have lights around the windows, and the (fake) tree is up. We still need to get the lights on the tree plugged in (we had to acquire another extension cord first – there’s a paucity of outlets in our apartment), and put the ornaments on, but that should happen in the next few days. I have complicated feelings about Christmas (it no longer holds particular religious significance for me, and the capitalist overtones of the secular side of the holiday are overwhelming and upsetting), but I do like the decorations, especially the lights. So that’s been fun.
  2. I found out my knee is not untreatably messed up. My right knee has been swollen and achy for a few weeks. Finally made it to the doctor last week, and while it looks like I need physical therapy (currently waiting on a referral), it doesn’t appear to be anything irreparable. So that was encouraging.
  3. I scheduled an intake appointment with a new therapist. My last therapist, who I adored, moved to Portland in September. I felt like I was doing mostly okay, but I’m recognizing that I’m still dealing with a lot of anxiety. I’m also finding, as my life in general becomes more stable, that there are areas of my psyche I have avoided dealing with in the past that are now coming to the surface, so it feels like a good time to find someone to process all of that with. I don’t know whether things will work out schedule-wise with this particular person, but I’m optimistic.
  4. I wrote a letter. I have this pen pal in Germany who I’ve been corresponding with off and on since 2013. He is a great pen pal and regularly sends me postcards, interspersed with occasional longer letters and some photographs he’s taken. I have been a horrible pen pal, and have maybe written to him once all this year. But this week, after receiving yet another postcard from him, I finally sat down and wrote him a proper letter. It reminded me that I really enjoy letter writing, when I actually sit down to do it. I am hoping to do more of this in 2018.
  5. Doug Jones beat Roy Moore for the Alabama seat in the Senate. I had not fully processed how much tension I was carrying about this until I got a text from my dad on Tuesday night announcing that Jones had won. It’s restored a little bit of my faith in our collective humanity, and has me feeling tentatively hopeful about next year’s midterm elections. I’m still disgusted that it was a close race and that the majority of white people (including the majority of white women) voted for a pedophile. In fact, 80% of voters who self-identified as white evangelical/born-again Christians voted for Moore. (Stats found at Washington Post and NBC.) White Christians, do better. Call this out. This is not just a southern problem – the whole country was complicit in electing 45. This is a white people problem, and especially a white evangelical problem. I found this opinion piece in the Washington Post really on point – worth a read.

All that to say that while things still feel pretty shaky on a global level, personally, I’m doing okay. Or if I’m not exactly okay, I’m finding ways to get there. And really, that’s about all I can ask for right now.

Reading Deprivation

I’m currently in the middle of week four of The Artist’s Way, and this week I’m supposed to try “reading deprivation” as a means of getting my own ideas out into the world. It is what it sounds like: this week, I’m not supposed to read. The idea is that, while reading is not an inherently bad thing, it often serves as a way for us to distract ourselves from our own thoughts and ideas. If you can’t read, eventually you get bored enough that you start to entertain yourself in new and creative ways, I suppose.

Now, I’m having to make some exceptions – I can’t do my job without email, and reading emails and text messages outside of work doesn’t tend to take up a huge amount of my time, so I haven’t really counted that as reading, either. Where I see myself wasting time and avoiding my own thoughts is in the moments where I get lost on Facebook or poking around other odd corners of the internet. So I’ve basically been off Facebook all week (with a couple of under-60-second exceptions), I’m checking Instagram less often, and I’m trying to steer clear of Google. I’m also not picking up the books I really want to be reading.

It’s been interesting so far. I’ve done more journaling. I’ve been doing tarot readings for myself (a different type of reading altogether that I sort of arbitrarily decided didn’t count), but haven’t cracked open a guidebook when I feel stuck on the meaning of something, which means I have to lean more on intuition and my own interpretations of things – not a bad practice, really. I’ve been looking for ways where I can use my imagination more, because I’m aware, when thinking about all of this, of how little I stretch those mental muscles these days.

I don’t know if it’s related to The Artist’s Way or not (I’m always skeptical), but I have actually been pretty damn productive this week, both creatively and at work.

Last week, I was feeling a little bit dubious about the new songwriting class I’m in – it’s pretty entirely self-directed (no predetermined assignments from the instructor), and I was worried that I’d be overwhelmed and not driven to get things done. But I didn’t want to dismiss it out of hand just because it’s not the format I’m used to, so I decided that I’m going to use this eight-week class to work on my ongoing project with no deadline – writing a song for every card in a tarot deck. I wrote my first tarot song in months over the weekend. I really liked how it turned out, and then I got some really useful feedback on it in class, which is ultimately what I want out of a songwriting class. So that was exciting.

And yesterday, at work, I managed to make some solid progress on a project that I’d been avoiding for weeks for no real reason. It was getting to the point where I’d avoided it so long that it felt impossible to do anything about it, but when I finally sat down and broke it into a couple of different tasks, it became suddenly manageable.

It’s been pretty challenging to stay awake through my morning pages this week, but I’ve managed. Some mornings I can get the three pages written in about 40 minutes…other days, like yesterday, it takes an hour and fifteen minutes or more. But I think it’s worth it, if for no other reason than it seems to be turning me into more of a morning person.

Keeping On

It’s been another week, and there’s been more awful things going on in the world. According to the Washington Post Fact-Checker, every single day of the current regime has brought with it a slew of lies (and these are just from the Dorito-in-Chief himself). Which is unsurprising, but, you know, horrifying. It’s also been in the upper 50s-60s Fahrenheit. In Chicago (and it was in Minnesota, too, when we were there over the weekend). In February. But don’t worry, our government no longer believes that climate change is real, so it’s fine, right? (Deep breaths, deep breaths…)

Still, life goes on (for now), so I’m trying to make the most of it. Here are some of the things that have made life a little more manageable in the past week:

  • On the recommendation of S. Bear Bergman, who decided he wanted to be able to get some news to start his day without getting inundated by it on Facebook first thing in the morning, I subscribed to theSkimm. It’s a little email digest that hits your inbox first thing each weekday morning and gives you some of the major news items of the previous day. It’s helped me feel like I’m in the loop without feeling the need to start my day off miserable by reading everything on social media, and that’s been really helpful.
  • I’ve been writing a lot. Much of this had to do with this week’s assignment from my songwriting class (part of which stipulated that we sat down and freewrote for half an hour three days in a row). A lot of what I wrote for the assignment had to do with Liberty and Justice and how we’re failing to honor those values that we tend to think of as being core to what America is. It was cathartic, even if I feel like the end product fell a little short of where I wanted it to.
  • I’ve picked up embroidery again, for the first time in about a decade. (When I was recovering from getting my wisdom teeth out in high school, my mother sat me down with an embroidery hoop, a tea towel, a pattern, and some thread to keep me entertained and out of trouble. I picked it up a couple of times after that, and always enjoyed it, but didn’t take any of that stuff with me when I moved to Chicago.) I bought a dozen handkerchiefs and some iron-on transfers and am enjoying how fast it is, particularly compared to knitting. (Not that I have any intention to give up knitting, but the instant gratification is a nice change of pace sometimes.) Here’s my first finished object:

    a little green leaf embroidered onto a white handkerchief corner

    a little green leaf embroidered onto a white handkerchief corner

So tell me, friends, what are you doing to make things bearable for yourselves these days?

Three Years

Yesterday marked three years since I started this blog!

The fact that I’ve managed to write weekly posts for three years running with only a handful of missed weeks continues to amaze me. I often don’t know what I’m going to say when I sit down to write these posts. My life is not often terribly exciting or eventful (which is exactly how I like it – I am a creature of habit and routine), and it often feels like I don’t have much to talk about. But it still feels like a worthwhile exercise to make myself follow through each week.

Three years and a handful of weeks ago, I took my first shot of testosterone. I started this blog as a chronicle of my experience with transition, but it’s morphed over the years into something slightly different – still generally self-indulgent and focused around my life and experience most of the time, but it’s been less about transition directly and more about life generally, because I came to realize that, really, there weren’t weekly milestones in my physical transition to document. Broadly, it’s very exciting, but in the day-to-day, it’s really a rather boring process, and doesn’t make for very good blog fodder.

I appreciate those of you who come back each week to take a peek at the parts of my life that I share here. There aren’t huge numbers of you, but you come from all over the globe, and that’s pretty cool. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me for another year of Accidental Fudge!

A Summer To-Do List

My brain is feeling pretty fried this week (not helped by the sudden spike in temperatures and humidity outdoors), but as we flew through spring and seem to be arriving rather abruptly at summer, I’ve been thinking about things I want to accomplish over the next few months. Here’s a sampling:

  • Read more. I’m about halfway to my Goodreads goal for the year of 17 books, but I’m hoping I can surpass the goal this year (unlike last year, when I finished reading the last book for making my goal late on December 31). I’m currently on the third book of Maggie Stiefvater‘s Raven Cycle (which I’m thoroughly enjoying, but trying to savor, as I’m still 28th in the queue to get the final book from the library). I also need to pick Janet Mock‘s Redefining Realness back up, and work through some of the other queer books on the shelf that I haven’t gotten around to yet.
  • Spend time outside. Over the weekend, I discovered that I am more allergic to sunscreen than I used to be, which is depressing, and I’ll need to find an alternative at some point. I’m also allergic to basically everything outdoors, so spring was a little rough. But the longer, sunnier days and the greening and blooming of everything outside has me feeling a lot happier than I have in a while, and I feel a lot more centered when I have the chance to spend time getting a little fresh air. So bring on the antihistamines and natural sun block!
  • Knit all the baby things. And some socks. We have two knitter friends expecting babies this fall, and I’ve finally decided what I’m making for them. I’m bad at deadline knitting/knitting for people other than myself, so the sooner I get started, the more likely these projects are to be done by the time the babies arrive! I’m also busting through all the toes of my socks (I’ve gained at least a full shoe size since starting on testosterone, and now all of the socks I bought in the women’s department are too small, but men’s department socks are still too long), so I need to work on remedying that, as well.
  • Write more songs. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll be taking a songwriting class over the summer (though I need to figure that out ASAP), but regardless, I have a long-term project I’m experimenting with (the first installment of which is up on SoundCloud), and I want to keep working on churning out new music.
  • Write more, period. I want to do a better job of keeping up with the one pen pal I still keep in touch with, as well as writing to some other friends, because there’s nothing quite like finding a friendly note in one’s post box. I want to get back into playing around with storytelling (fiction and non). I want to try writing poetry that doesn’t need to be accompanied by music, which I haven’t really done in years. words make me happy, and I want to get back in practice using them for more than electronic correspondence and the occasional creative project.

Pause and Reflect

I’ve been in an introspective sort of place this past week.

Yesterday marked the last session of the songwriting class I’ve been in for the past eight weeks at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I’m 99% certain this is the first class where I haven’t missed a single day, and 100% certain this is the first class where I’ve done the assignment every single week. It’s been an incredible growing experience. I’ve tried new things, challenged myself…and I am overall very pleased with what I’ve written over the past two months. There were weeks where the first song I wrote was okay, but not as good as I thought I could do…so I wrote another one. I feel like I’m really finding my voice as a songwriter, and that’s a fun place to be in. Sue Demel has my eternal gratitude for teaching such a transformative course. It’s been a truly magical eight weeks with our little class of five. I’m excited to head back to Steve Dawson‘s class next week to continue this process of growth!

I’ve also been reflecting on less happy things. My nephew’s birthday is next week. It’s been almost a year since I’ve seen a picture of him or heard anything about how he’s doing, and that hurts my heart more than I can say.

I feel a little bit all over the map emotionally, between those two lanes of reflection, but I’m trying to take concrete steps to take care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s a slow road, but I’m making progress. My goal for 2016 has been integration of the various parts of myself, and while that involves some hard work, I can feel the effort paying off in some ways already.

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