How I Use Habitica.com

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Excellent! I love Habitica. This is a great use of it… I hadn’t thought of having a one-time checklist for each day, so as not to over-book in advance. Think I’m going to try that!

The New Emma Jones Society

Habitica, previously HabitRPG, is a productivity app/site that “gamifies” your life, assigning XP to daily tasks and giving virtual rewards in the form of equipment etc. for your character. Habitica pretty much runs my life now, and I promised in my post on writing approaches that I’d explain how I use it. It took a good while to set this site up the way I wanted, and it takes some tweaking if there’s ever a life change like starting grad school, but malleability is one of its great strengths. Built-in rewards, a social aspect, and the existential pleasure of checking things off lists are other perks. I’m highly motivated by checking off things on lists…

When you log in, you have four columns: Habits, Dailies, To-Dos, and Rewards. You can add your own rewards if you like, but your main activity areas are the first three columns.

Habitica 1

My “Habits” column is…

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Letting go

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via I Suppose I Should Fight — A Glimpse Inside of a Troubled Mind

 

This really struck me just now, going through my blog reader. The way the best sayings do when they speak to your heart… I am holding on to regrets, expectations, and judgment- mostly of myself.

 

Medication helps so, so much. You know, it’s easier to let go when I’m feeling balanced and present. Which is a really hard state to maintain when you’re depressed or anxious. The mind will latch on to anything to validate the negative in that state, as if it’s searching for a logical explanation: why do I feel this pain? Why am I so sad?

 

It’s been interesting, since I started the afternoon dose a month ago, I’ve started to notice when the morning dose is wearing off. At first I noticed the physical symptoms, the heaviness and deep fatigue, the sense I cannot pull myself through this life with any sort of grace.

 

As I’ve become more aware of this shift in the day, I’ve noticed the earlier symptoms. A vague restlessness, the itch to get away from whatever I’m doing, usually work. I work in a fitness center, and everything starts to seem louder and more grating. I will take more frequent bathroom breaks, thinking, “I just need to get out of here.”

 

Or if I’m somewhere else, like driving, I suddenly can’t stand the radio anymore, or that a car is following too closely. The thought pattern here is, “I just can’t deal. I can’t.”

 

These thoughts and symptoms all but stop when I take my meds straight away. Which is a little scary. In that I’m soooo not in control of my brain. I have always stubbornly thought enough exercise, deep breathing, mindfulness or meditation would “fix” me. The last year had taught me that wasn’t entirely true. The last few weeks have driven it home.

 

I can help myself with all those activities and practices, and I DO, but nothing has helped as much as meds, and they help radically.

 

They help me to let go of what isn’t helpful.

 

But now I need to let go of expectations, and trust this process. I have set the bar pretty low, I guess. I just wanted to regain some interest in life, and some happy moments. And I did, but I was far from well… and I don’t know how well I am now, to be honest, though I am definitely better.

 

Maybe I could still feel better than this, and maybe I could be not just interested in life, but excited about it? I don’t know.

 

Maybe.

Just this

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Sometimes I don’t want my life. I just want to trade it in, and hope for a better deal the next time around.

I know I have it so much better than so many people in the world. Logically, I know this. But I don’t like it. I am just feeling sorry for myself, I guess.

It’s been nice being off work, mostly. I’m not really sure it’s good for me, though. Maybe I SHOULD travel next time, instead of having so much time alone with my thoughts. I’ve had too much time to wallow in regrets and missed opportunities.

Like the other day I started thinking about how, when I was finishing up my English degree, I was encouraged to go to grad school by two of the people in the department who could have guaranteed my admission. I started berating myself about all the ways my life could be different.

But I also remember I didn’t want to keep going to school, and I didn’t want to get too caught up in academia. That I wanted to write popular fiction, and never mind if I haven’t yet, I still do, and grad school doesn’t lead that way.

I still wonder if I’ll ever be happy, whatever happens to me. I know I’m still relatively young and could do anything I put my mind to, but everything seems so disappointing in reality. I thought my current job would be so much fun and I’d be happy.

Magical thinking – that a person, job or thing will come along and create your happy ending.

So the path is ever thus: Seek contentment with what you have. Gratitude for the good things, acceptance of what isn’t ideal. To live this life, this moment, as best you can.

This morning I am working on a novel. A cat is on my lap. Dog sleeping nearby. I had a really good breakfast… it’s foggy and drizzly, and a great day to stay home and write. Can I be grateful for this? I think so. Forget about yesterday and tomorrow, and just live.

Just breathe.

Just getting started

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Writing over the last year has mostly been a struggle to get started.

That’s gotten easier. Most of what I write now, I’m not quite sure it’s going to be something I type into the manuscript (/Scrivener). I just think of them as exercises, idea generation. Still, a lot of these exercises have become usable material, either in a scene or simply as character insight.

I write my first drafts, of most everything (including blog posts) in longhand. I just find it easier to drop into my creative mindset that way. Then I type in what makes the cut, and sometimes I do keep typing the scene, once the floodgates have opened.

One technique I’ve used this week is character A addresses character B. It goes on and on, as that character expresses his inner world to the other character. A surprising amount of that has turned into scene dialogue.

I’ve also been using other fiction to get me started. No, not copying. Rather, I examine things like paragraph structure and try to write something that mimics that structure. (I was getting into an awfully repetitive pattern: character acts, then speaks; Character responds, then acts.)

I’ve also learned to keep an eye out for small turns of phrase that can help me say things a different way. Yesterday, I made note of the phrase, “she said grimly,” and will use that as my jumping-off point today.

What is happening to my characters right now, that will lead one to say something grimly? I already have an idea, but I bet it will be different once I actually start writing it. That is what makes writing such fun for me, now I’ve let go of strict outlining. I am curious about what happens next.

I am on an adventure.:)

Vacation day 2

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Oh, vacation is nice, isn’t it? Even at home, I’m all, what to do next? Read a book? Take a nap? Go for a walk?

I am proud of myself for relaxing. Last time it took me a good four days before I gave up trying to plan and do things. I am probably less worried then I’d be if I traveled, because all I’d think about on the way home is how much there would be to do before going back to work.

So I’m still doing dishes, and vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom. I’m just not very worried about it, because there is plenty of time. I haven’t done laundry, but I think I have enough clothing for the weekend. Laundry on Monday!

Yes, life is too, too exciting. I know you’re so jealous!

I’m still writing, too. What an interesting novel this is turning out to be, now that I’ve let go of the outline. I will probably return to some kind of outline eventually, but right now I’m just taking it scene by scene, as the story reveals itself to me. Yes, I’ve become that kind of writer. It took about 50k words to let go of control, though.

Okay, back to doing nothing!

Chillaxing

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Vacation! Not going anywhere, but the older I get, the less I want to travel at all. Flying is a pain, and gas is expensive. Then to figure out what to do with the pets, and then I worry about them while I’m gone…. I am pretty happy about the chance to stay home, really.

Spring is here, I think! It’s so warm and pretty right now. It will be cold again this weekend, but I deeply believe this is a passing phase, so March-like.

I can tell the added afternoon dose of antidepressant is working, just by the fact that it’s after six and I’m posting this chipper blog. I have typically been pretty brain dead by this time. I’m really, really grateful for an attentive psychologist.

In other news, I have to get a new car, the sooner the better. It pretty much got the terminal diagnosis from the mechanic this week.

I am planning to buy a used car. This is am imaginary car bought with imaginary savings. But I’m hopeful; maybe something will come along!

(Yep, meds are definitely working.)

Cranking the engine

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Working on the novel has been going really well the last few days, After many days of it not going anywhere or looking like anything good was going to come of the effort. Reminds me of something Stephen King said:

The real challenge is getting into the damn thing, and I believe that’s why so many would-be writers with great ideas never actually pick up the pen or start tapping away at the keys. All too often, it’s like trying to start a car on a cold day. At first the motor doesn’t even crank, it only groans. But if you keep at it (and if the battery doesn’t die), the engine starts…runs rough… and then smooths out.

That’s exactly how it feels! I love the story that is taking shape now. It’s so vastly different from when I started, and the re-write is going to be a mammoth effort in itself, but I like this story so much more now. And the characters are taking on a life of their own.

I thought I was a planner. I started with an outline, and Scrivener has encouraged my outlining habit. Yet, all along, it felt forced, cliched and predictable. No wonder I was stuck for so long: I was bored with it!

Now that I’m allowing the story to take shape in a more organic fashion, I’m excited and not sure what will happen next. (Yesterday I got quite a surprise, actually. I did not see that coming, but once I’d written it, it felt so right, like it had been meant to happen that way all along!)

The story is taking on the qualities of fun, mystery and magic I so enjoy in fiction, and that I was hoping to write. Hopefully that means readers will enjoy the ride, too.