The Little Engine that Could

Man, I have been feeling full force what losing momentum can do to you. My last blog post (and my last [and first] ROW80 update) was over a month ago. Between family medical issues and an emergency remodel of my bathroom my great journey to good writing habits died before it even really had a chance. I feel it full force. I sat down to try to write on Tuesday and as soon as I began to push that great boulder rolled right back over the top of me, laying me flat.

But I’m back, with a renewed focus. 6 days are left in the current ROW80, and I plan to finish it out completing my goal I set forward over a month ago–to spend an hour a day wholly focused on writing. Hopefully with the next round coming around, I’ll be able to build up some of that momentum that I so dearly miss.


A Transition: NaNo to ROW80

So, for those of you that I know on Facebook, you are probably aware that I was intending to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. It is something I have attempted in earnest 3 times before, but never actually saw it through to the end. This year I declared my participation out of a kind of blind desire for the achievement of it: To prove that I finally could.

In the weeks leading up to November, I started having doubts about it. Not just for the blistering pace of writing required, but if it was actually something that aligned with my goals. In the end, I want to “become a writer.” To me, though, NaNo is a contest for writers (or “tourists” to writing, but that’s a whole other subject). I think it works best for those that are into the habit of writing and want a motivation to bang out a draft, try a different way of writing, or just for the prestige. I am not in that habit at the moment. I am so rusty it’s a little shameful. So much of my time spent on my NaNo project this week has been looking up how to format dialogue or the differences between en and em dashes, because I had simply forgotten. NaNo is not a good exercise for someone with my status.

I am confident I could complete it if I buckled down and dedicated the hours to it, but it would be a miserable month. At the end I would have a first draft of my story (actually an anthology of short stories), but I wouldn’t have developed healthy writing habits, and I would have that draft at the exclusion of doing much of anything else this month. A big part of my interest in NaNoWriMo in the past has been to try to jump-start my writing again. I think at the end of it I would just be burnt out, and not very far ahead in terms of “being a writer” than where I started.

While looking around the web at writing articles I stumbled across A Round of Words in 80 Days (known in shorthand as ROW80), which you can find here if you’re interested. ROW80 is much more immediately appealing to me. ROW80 runs for 80 days total, and repeats 4 times a year. It is much more fluid and flexible, letting participants set their own personal goals, which are allowed to change as circumstances require. Additionally, these goals are encouraged to be set around the how and not the what: Rather than focusing on a finished product or a word count, it’s intended to be focused on how to build yourself to accomplish that. Also, since it runs throughout the year in stages it encouraged building habits that lead to better writing, rather than a mad dash one month out of the year.

So, I’ve decided to pick my hat back up out of NaNoWriMo, and throw it into the ROW80 ring. My goal shall be to spend an hour a day writing on my work days and 3 hours a day on my days off; whether that’s writing on my short story anthology, developing out Canopy, trying to get back into writing poetry, or reading articles and blogs on writing. This will help me to rebuild those writing skills that I’ve lost over the years and work towards a healthy, sustainable habit of writing.

Any further updates on my writing and on ROW80 will take place here, and will be auto-shared to Facebook as well. Feel free to comment at either location. I’m always happy to hear a bit of encouragement!

Day 14

I am starting to hesitate. The initial intention of this being a daily blog n0w seems short-sighted. It is extremely difficult to post something daily, and on days that I don’t have a particular desire to post I feel like the content then isn’t worthy of posting; that is too mundane. Does it detract from the overall quality? Is it worthwhile to give simple updates of positive days?

I don’t know, but it’s something I’ve been considering. My concern is that less frequency will be less habitual and that will lead to abandonment. But what if I burn myself out by posting when I am not in a creative mood? What if I burn anyone out there out with excessive, subpar content? Is the journalesque and more straight-forward content even worth doing? Maybe there is a middle ground. Perhaps a few times a week? I feel oddly attached to that “Day XX” title format, but that’s not really a good enough reason to stick to it.

I’ll have to consider it more.

Lost in a great ponder,


Day 12

It’s funny that the better I feel the less I feel the need to write. I suppose that’s “a thing.” Angst is good for creativity, eh.

Today was good. I attended a CPI training, which is our non-violent crisis intervention for my work in the case of a resident that’s a danger to themselves or others. I always enjoy those, because they actually have a ton of good information. They cover not only holds and various physical responses, but how to de-escalate situations and a whole method for categorizing how escalated youth are and the proper responses etc. It’s kind of old hat at this point for me, but a refresher is kind of nice. Plus I got to spend some time talking with some old co-workers.

It was held in the previous facility I worked at, which was much more high stress and bombastic than where I am now. I hated it while I was there, but coming back to it I kind of missed it. It’s been upgraded quite a bit in the 8+ months since I’ve been there, but it felt familiar. I missed some of the staff there especially. Then a resident made an inappropriate comment to a female co-worker about how much he loved the smell of tuna fish as she walked by. Didn’t miss it so much after that.

This is the first vacation that I returned to work actually feeling refreshed and rested. Although I’m extraordinarily tired now, so I think I’ll head off to bed.

In a fierce sleepiness,


Day 9

Well, my predictions turned out to be correct. Today was a very relaxing day. Got some much needed time with the misses, drove down to Brookings and ate some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had. Found out the hard way that unripe figs make your tongue all prickly and numb. Hand picked some blueberries at a u-pick place. Only felt anxious once and it quickly passed.

A very relaxing day indeed.

On another positive note, I think I’ve finally figured out a great bloody mary recipe that I can make at home.



Day 8

I missed a day.

It was lost into some kind of black hole. I had full intentions and plans to post, but I didn’t. I actually thought I did. It was a very relaxing day at least, full of lounging and grocery shopping. I suppose it’s inevitable to miss one here and there, but I’ll play make-up anyways.

Today is shaping up to be a very relaxing day as well. We’re taking a day trip south down the coast and driving until we decide to head back. That’s my favorite kind of trip: Aimless, meandering, without pressure. I have never understood itineraries and timelines when it comes to relaxing. It seems counterintuitive.

So off we drive.

The wanderer,


Day 5 – The Quiet

Today is a quiet day.

Yesterday was rough. I had a sort of camping hangover going on. Between being woken from sleep every fifteen minutes or so due to little doggy disruptions and the combination of hard ground and surprisingly aged bones it took quite a toll. Even with several naps and quite a bit of caffeine I still felt like I could barely manage to navigate my own house. I think the nap/caffeine combination actually worsened the condition, merging into a sort of semi-living status like something out of a George A. Romero flick.

But today is quiet.

I think my brain finally caught on to the fact that I’m on vacation. I finally blugeoned it into submission. I think the misery of yesterday kind of worked like a hard reset for my soul. I’m at about the halfway point of my time off. It’s at about this point that I historically start turning my attention to going back to work. Even with 6 full days left (the length of two of my normal weekends) I start to dread going back. I love my job, but I still dread going back. There’s got to be some kind of a mindset issue going on there; what we’d call at work a “thinking error.” It’s an issue of positive self talk and framing.

This time I actually feel pretty good. Maybe it’s just the fact that my brain is still five days behind and just now registered that I’m on vacation, but I feel good. I think this blog has been a good way to structure my thoughts a bit and provide some focus to what would otherwise be a week of aimless meandering. I’ve always been a fan of metaphors and parables, and the weird and occult. I think I’ve stumbled onto a good synthesis of those things. That was the first objective of this blog: To write about what interests me. I feel like I’ve succeeded in bundling up all of my divergent interests and cramming them into one focus. It feels good.

This blog is also entirely authentic. It is an accurate representation of my reality. That is its second objective. When I started this blog I wanted a way to organize and repurpose my thoughts into something managable; something I could control. I wanted somewhere I could overuse semi-colons and wax poetic without restriction.

I would like to be direct about something. For those of you that aren’t close to me, you should know that I am a deeply anxious person. I’ve come to an understanding that my anxiety is an addiction. I feel like what many would term a “functioning addict.” I feel relatively successful in managing my anxiety overall, but it is fully dependent on the day. There are many days where I feel unstoppable and confident. There are equally as many days that I do not feel in control. I feel like a school child hiding under my desk, waiting for tremors to stop.

For a very long time my response to my neurosis was to neglect it. Because of the way that anxiety works, whenever I put focus on it there is an initial swell in anxiety, like its a seperate sentience that is resisting me, fighting back. So I would walk away. I would let it win.

I’m starting to see that the solution is a combination of acceptance and confrontation. For a long time I tried to confront it in private, but put on a brave face for everyone else. I had this facade when I was around other people that did not acknowledge that this other part of me existed. I consider myself a person of dedicated integrity, but that dichotomy created a barrier. It created a barrier to my integrity and to my wellness.

So there is quite a bit going on here. This is my radical acceptance and declaration of my illness, as well as my creative outlet. This is deeply personal. I worried for the first few posts if I was being overly personal for something that is published to the whole world, but I think that’s a necessary component of what I’m trying to do here.

I am all in. I have to be.

Hoping I haven’t scared you all off,


Day 3

These “Day X” titles gives a certain expectation that this will be a daily blog. I can make no guarantees, but I like the convention so far and for now I have a significant drive to write. In the very least I hope to continue daily check-ins so that I can maintain my dominion over this habit.

Today should be a good day.

I started off my morning with some deep bed-based relaxation. I taught Gail how to use the steamer to make chai lattes. She is off at an interview so I have a quiet morning with the dogs and a chai of my own. They have yet to roar today.

We head off this afternoon for some camping at Bullards and plan to spend some time with friends and family to roast some ribs over the fire and skewer assorted vegetables. Some time away from electronics should do us good. After the tension of the last few days I am consciously embracing that stillness. I feel well today, for the first time in some numbers of weeks. That mysterious wandering something has delivered hope.

In nascent wellness,


Day 2 addendum

Today was a lazy day. The kind of day that you don’t even change out of your pajamas in the hopes that fleece and a grungy t-shirt can quiet the mind and make up for a history of lacking rest and care.

The dogs were barking at something outside, as they frequently do. They were roaring with an attention and fervor so intense that by the time I got to the window and saw nothing there, I almost believed that there had to be something. Something that I was missing that only they could see. So I stood there for a few minutes, looking out over our quiet street.

And I felt something.

Typically it is easy to push aside these feelings; to discredit the behavior of my furry little protectors as the feeble attempt of an animal mind to make sense of things outside their understanding; to assume that in their loyalty and defense was an overreaction to the wind or children playing down the street.

But not today.

I am confident that there was something there. I sat by my window for maybe fifteen to twenty minutes in silent, breathless vigil but saw nothing.

Aside from that, I mostly just played some video games and hung-out. It was all right.

With a predictive trepidation,


Day 2

Perhaps this time I have started with too vague of a goal. Whereas a stiff intent has a certain constraint to it, the bold, unrestricted breadth of a more blurred purpose has its own unique difficulties.

Yet no less suffocating.

I have it in my head that everything I produce needs to be grand. That it all needs to be capable of packaging, marketing, and sale. That if I post and it gets no response that it wasn’t worth posting at all. This has been my setback in the past. Consistently the expectation of expectations from others has held me down. But, as I said before, this one is for me. This will be my practice and my drills; my daily ritual; a form of shared meditation and introspection. I suppose that’s what a blog should be.

I have a history of being quiet. A tendency to withdraw and to suffer in silence. In a closed system anxieties develop into a sort of feedback loop. Often it feels like that is simply what life is. A contentment develops around this unhappiness and discomfort; a sort of protective shield. It creates a scenario where those neuroses become normalcy, and any attempt to solve or fix the problem feels like a sort of fabricated melodrama. An acknowledgement of those flaws feels false in this scenario: Mere fiction.

I am starting to see the expansive web from this closed system and how it affects different aspects of my life. I can see the connection between my anxiety and my lack of creative output and my frustrations with others. But in order to start cutting those threads, or even exterminating the core source, there first needs to be acceptance. That acceptance cannot happen within this fully closed system. Without external input and output that confrontation just feeds further into the turbulance.

So here I am. Sharing and writing. Attempting a feat of daring involving countless birds and a handful of stones.

Wish me luck,