Interesting article: Politico / It Really Is Different This Time

Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

Two dozen experts explain why these protests may have long-lasting effects on our society.

In some ways, this wave seems familiar: It echoes what happened in Ferguson, in Baltimore, in Los Angeles and in every other city that has exploded in anger after a killing by police. The sweep of the current protests—in hundreds of cities across all 50 states, lasting more than a week so far—and the sense that a moment of national change might have arrived have drawn comparisons to other waves of social unrest dating at least to 1968.

Despite the echoes, it’s also hard not to feel like we’re living through something disorienting and new. The protests and response have taken on complicated dimensions: the unprecedented backdrop of a global pandemic that has left people scared, pent-up and unemployed; the reported involvement of far left and far-right groups, or people posing as such to sow confusion; plus, the chaotic, confrontational politics of the Trump era and its blur of real and fake claims. Oh, and it’s a presidential election year.

To offer some context for what we’re living through, and why it feels especially unsettling right now, Politico Magazine asked a range of thinkers to tell us: What’s really different this time around?

Read the post here: Politico.com: It Really Is Different This Time

Marching forward

…because it’s March.

Yep.

Here’s what’s going on for me at the midway mark of this month:

  • Finished freelance editing project that has been looming over me like a really tall guy with no sense of personal space (it wasn’t that bad, but I had crisis after crisis the moment it hit my plate—remember to communicate with your clients!)
  • Decided to shelve current novel for mental health reasons (the topic is way too close to world events right now, and I’m trying not to be overwhelmed by dread as it is)
  • Gearing up to outline my next project, which should be a lot of fun
  • Took another Rambo Academy class, this one called Plotting Your Trajectory: How to Plan an Unplannable Writing Career with Jennifer Brozek, who is a lovely person. Also, she knows what she’s talking about, which helps
  • Trying to figure out if I want to switch from Milanote to Airtable (thoughts? opinions? random compliments about my fashion sense?)
  • Mourning the (wise, expected, and yet still disappointing) cancellation of Norwescon
  • Trying to figure out if our 3-person end-of-April writing retreat in the wilds of Arizona is still feasible
  • Trying to figure out how to work short fiction back into my writing schedule
  • Trying to learn Swedish

Let me know what you’re up to, even if it’s just watching Netflix in your pajamas and waiting for the apocalypse.

Back on schedule

Sorry about the unexpected hiatus—I had to take a short mental health break for a while after a stressful event that turned out okay but was frightening at the time.

The problem with even short breaks is the backlog piles up, especially when you’re juggling multiple commitments, but this runaway train is finally starting to slow down. I expect to be back on track soon.

Weekend writing: getting away

Yesterday, I checked in at a local hotel for some focused writing time.

Hotel room

That desk by the window is where I’ve been sitting since, plugging away at the book with no distractions beyond food and sleep.

I try to do this at least once for each large project, for two reasons:

  • It can be hard to balance working full time, contributing to a creative indie company, writing, and taking care of things in my life.
  • The number one way to avoid burnout is to keep your plate only as full as you can manage, but the number two way is to keep what you’re working on fresh, interesting, and exciting.

A change of environment is a way to escape, to focus on only what I need to focus on my writing: being productive and resting. When I do these little writing excursions, I never punish myself for going to bed earlier than planned or sleeping in. I let myself have a nice, expensive dinner. It’s less about getting the word out and more about narrowing my focus, realigning myself, and reminding myself of my own priorities.

A side note: It’s tradition, when I’m away from home for even a single night, for my husband to send me pictures of our cat, so this is what I woke up to this morning:

Cat

Self care as a horror lover

To continue discussion of self care from my previous post, I want to talk a little bit about how being a horror fan (and specifically a horror writer) can sometimes cause problems.

Horror is booby trapped.

Earlier this week I finished A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. It destroyed me. I couldn’t sleep that night. My brain was caught in a purgatory of one moment from the book, one single moment I couldn’t escape played over and over in my mind.

Now, I’d been expecting something like The Exorcist, with maybe a bit more ambiguity. I can deal with something like The Exorcist. I don’t scare easily when it comes to books. A Head Full of Ghosts did not scare me. It did, however, disturb me, and that is not something I handle well.

I will pause here to mention that it is a fantastic book and that the only thing I regret about reading it is that sleepless night.

The problem with horror is that unless you love spoilers, you don’t always know what you’re going to get (“box of chocolates” reference here). Sometimes, you’ll run into something that is not what you were expecting, something maybe just a bit too dark or a bit too gory or a bit too close to home. Does everyone experience this? I don’t know. I know I prefer spooky, atmospheric books to straight-up torture porn. I like ghosts over slashers and folk horror over vampires, and I don’t do paranormal romance. That’s me. Monsters don’t scare me. People, however, can scare me quite a bit. And sometimes people are the monsters, and you don’t know it until you’re halfway down the rabbit hole and there’s no “up” elevator from here.

And sometimes horror is just depressing.

That’s a lot of dark, unhappy content to be consuming over and over. Maybe you’re jaded enough that it doesn’t penetrate, but I’m not, and I’ve been writing and reading horror for as long as I can remember. I have novels I haven’t finished reading (and won’t finish reading) because I know they would be bad for my mental health. I had a novel that I was writing that I shoved on the back burner and haven’t look at again because I was disturbing myself a bit too much.

Loving horror can be hard.

So what do you do?

  • Know what you can and can’t handle.
  • Recognize if something is too much for you, and put it down.
  • Take a break sometimes! Switch genres. Let some light in your life.
  • Be aware of how you’re doing. Depression can be sneaky.
  • Save certain books (and other media) for times you know you’re doing well. Sometimes there’s a difference between “I can’t read this” and “I can’t read this right now.”
  • Use resources like Does the dog die? if you know there’s a particular topic you have to stay away from.
  • This is a controversial one, but don’t be afraid of spoilers. Knowing the ending is a lot less annoying than having the ending give you nightmares for weeks in ways you weren’t prepared for or open to. (Feel free to disagree with me)

Anything else? Always looking for recommendations. And if you have any stories about particular situations, I want to hear them.

Why “no burnout” is my #1 New Year’s resolution (and should be yours, too)

2020 is going to be packed. I have a number of aggressive writing goals. I have elaborate plans for overhauling my mental health, my physical health, my apartment, and my schedule.

New year, new decade, same me, but better. My husband and I are calling 2020 “the year that we make all other years easier.”

I know from experience that I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. I’m ambitious, I’m determined, and I have big ideas and only so much time. Last year, I had two specific situations (only partially my fault) that ultimately had me working harder for longer than was realistically sustainable. I fell face-first into December with no life left in me.

So at the top of all of my New Year’s resolutions, my “2020 writing goals” list, my “2020 freelancing projects” list (editing gigs are already rolling in), and all of my daily and weekly “to do” lists, item number one is “No burnout.” It is the top priority. All other goals bow to Item #1.

If I’m getting burned out, I need to stop.

If it’s too much, I need to:

  • Take lower-priority items off the list
  • Reconfigure self-imposed deadlines
  • Put other lists on the back-burner entirely to focus on immediate tasks
  • Schedule time for self care
  • Ask for extensions
  • Ask for help

It is important to fulfill promises and meet deadlines. I don’t endorse being a flake. But it is also important, so important, to take care of yourself. No matter what else is on your list, that should be number one. Preachy? Maybe. But I’ve learned from experience, and from my mistakes. 2019’s schedule wasn’t really foreseeable or avoidable, but I have past years when the burnout blame is squarely on my own head. This is less of a lecture and more of a plea: Please, please, please take care of yourself.

The blog: who, what, when, where, and why

Want to know who I am and what to expect? Start here.

Who?

  • Alison J. McKenzie — she/her or they/them
  • I’m a writer specializing in horror, fantasy, and science fiction
  • I have a number of writing publications, including short stories, articles, and content for tabletop and video games
  • I’ve edited copy for Microsoft, Glu Mobile, and Protagonist Industries
  • By day, I’m a technical writer
  • I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and Hera, my cat

What?

A blog about reading, writing, and life

When?

Weekly, every Sunday

Where?

Right here. http://blog.alisonjmckenzie.com/

Why?

I am fighting my natural inclination for isolation. I’ve written a book and I’m writing another, and it’s been such an adventure. Adventures are meant to be shared.