Thinking about Anxiety Again

While my anxiety hasn’t kept me from getting work done lately, I do think about my anxiety a lot.  I constantly worry about what’s going to come back as an anxiety attack weeks from now.  It’s a weird thing to worry about.  In fact, it can sometimes create this weird vicious circle of anxiety that just goes on for weeks.  But I’ve reached a point where I’ve accepted everything that comes with my anxiety.  Even if I hate the way that anxiety feels, there’s only so much I can do.
Actually stepping back and accepting the fact that I am an anxious person can help me deal with the anxiety itself.  As well, when I start thinking about anxiety, I start looking for ways to manage it.  This can range from writing down my schedules and plans to just making a series of notes for in the morning when I’m finally feeling better.
There are endless ways to deal with your anxiety.  Which ones work best will largely depend on the kind of person that you truly are.  But take the time to get to know what you need to get through it all.  In my experience, it’s made all the difference.

The Importance of Reading

So what I’m going to talk about today is a piece of advice that I have heard every now and then when it comes to writing.  And I’m going to say that it’s wrong.  The piece of advice that I heard has popped up during every point in my life.  It has always felt wrong to me, but I have tried to use the advice now and then and see if it makes a difference for me.
Don’t read while you write.
Now, this isn’t about editing while writing.  This isn’t about literally looking at what you’re writing.  This is about consuming media during a period of time where you are writing.  This is about avoiding books, avoiding anything that you would normally use for inspiration.
I can understand the logic behind it.  I can understand why someone might think that this would work for almost everyone.  By getting away from books, you would be cutting down on mental distractions while you are working.  You are allowing your brain to focus more on the words that you are going to be writing, instead of anything else.  But how can you do this?
Most writers that I know started writing because of their love of reading.  There are obviously writers out there that are doing it for some other reason (to share knowledge and build an audience for consulting/freelancing, because they want to make money, etc.) but a lot of writers that write all the time are doing it because of the books they read when they were younger.
That’s the reason that I write.  I loved reading and I wanted to do something that other people would enjoy.  That’s why I do almost anything.  I want to get ideas out there and let people think about them.
So putting down the books that I am reading is out of the question.  I read because it’s fun.  I read because it helps me think and it helps me unwind.
There’s no way that my brain will ever stay fully focused on that one book that I was working.  That’s just not going to happen.  It didn’t happen in high school.  It didn’t happen when I was younger than that.  It’s never going to happen.  In fact, I’ve been able to improve books by reading.  Things that happen in other books can really inspire me and get me thinking about my own book.  Stopping that would be like if I was going to stop breathing.  It’s just not feasible.
So, try this advice if you want.  But don’t feel like you always have to follow all the advice of authors out there.  You can cherry pick what works for you.  Try everything once, but keep doing what works for you.  Bad habits aren’t worth keeping.

The Smell of Home

Over the years, I’ve found that there’s a smell of home.  I don’t always recognize it until I’ve been away for a while, but when I smell it I know it so well.
It’s the smell of macaroni and cheese.  It’s the smell of the soap.  It’s the smell of diet coke and corn chips.  It’s the smell of a clean house and sunlight.  It smells like plants and lavender and books.  There’s so much to the smell of home that I can’t put it all down on paper.  Over the years, the smell has shifted and changed.  Slow changes.  The smell of particular soups and restaurants have added and disappeared.
But there are some smells that remind me of a home that isn’t home.  They are the smells of a particular cologne.  It’s the smell of coffee.  It’s the smell of another house, of another set of products.  There’s a particular scent there that I recognize that I have woken up to and that lulled me to sleep.
The smell of home is meant to change.  Homes are meant to change.  We are not a people that stay the same.  We change.  Everything changes over time.  So the smells of home remind me of the past and present and as time changes, I look forward to the new smells that will become part of my image of home.

Needing Structure

One thing that I realized when I was in college is that I thrive when there’s structure.  A lot of people feel like that as well.  There’s something nice about having something in your day that you can count on.  Of course, you should also know when to break those habits and structures, but overall they can really help an individual understand what their day is supposed to look like.
I’ve been working on figuring out a structure for my weeks, but it’s still a work in progress.  I’m going to figure out the schedule that best fits my current lifestyle and then work on perfecting it as my life keeps changing.
When it comes to making your life easier, find ways to make your life easier.  It could be as simple as knowing when lunch is going to happen and when your day begins and ends.  As long as you have some structure, you’ll probably find that your day is easier to deal with and plan during.

How to Get Back on Track

  1. When you get off track, it may be hard to get your whole project back in the place that you want it to be.  So getting yourself back on the right track can be difficult.
  2. Start by taking stock of what you still have to do for your project.  This can be a list, a chart, or a set of sticky notes with tasks on them.
  3. Order the tasks by what you have to get done first.  Make sure that you’re focusing on what has to be done.  Don’t get caught up in all the extra things that you can do.  Focus on what you have to do.
  4. Understand that your day is limited.  You only have so many hours that you can use and there’s time that you have to spend eating and sleeping and a little bit of time on your own.
  5. Then start tackling things.  Focus on one task at a time.  Don’t get bogged down by all the different activities that you might think you need to be doing.  Focus on the tasks at your list.  Get them done one by one.
  6. Take a break.  Even if you’re behind or need to get to a certain point, you don’t need to stress yourself out unnecessarily.  You should really find a way to take five or ten minutes off every hour or two.  Let your brain rest a little bit so that you can tackle the tasks again with a little bit of a fresh mind.
  7. Getting off track is typically a bad thing, but it can also be a chance for you to reorient yourself and find new priorities.  Take advantage of this opportunity.  Make sure that you’re focused on what absolutely needs to be done and not what you want to do.  While your wants are important, you have to address the needs first.

Subverting Expectations

I’ve been watching a lot of shows recently, particularly anime.  I understand that a lot of people think that anime isn’t that cool or that interesting.  Many people in my own life have no idea what’s so appealing about it especially since it’s cartoons.
However, I don’t care about others opinions about whether it’s good or bad.  My primary interest is the style of story telling that I see in these shows.
I have been watching and reading comics from Japan and Korea since I was a kid.  While you might think that that’s nerdy, I want to talk about how stories have evolved on these platforms.
When I was younger, they were formulaic.  Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and more were what I watched.  I could see the plotlines coming a mile away and they were still fun and at times beautiful.  As I grew up, I turned back to these kinds of shows and comics.  I found more variations and more in each genre.  I would pick up a comic or a show and think I was going to get one thing and then get another.
This was never a negative thing.  I loved it.  I loved being able to look at a show and not know what to expect.  It was exhilarating.  Unfortunately, at that time (when I was in my teens) all of the twists were rather dark.  This meant that I was getting exposed to plot after plot that went dark and disturbing at times.  I liked it then.  I hated it then too.
There were characters that died that I loved and stories that veered so off course that I didn’t know how they were going to get to any sort of ending.  These set me up for expecting the worst.  I would watch a show and count out how many characters I thought were going to die.  This didn’t translate over to many American shows where most main characters stuck around until the show ended or the actor just wanted out.
It didn’t happen in a lot of books either.  Characters stuck around until their deaths could propel the plot forward (which isn’t a trick I would suggest using).
But then I found Homestuck.  The webcomic is all about people dying right and left.  Some characters die twice or three times.  Some characters die more than that because of timeline shenanigans and alternate realities.
Until the end of high school, a lot of the media I was consuming in anime, manga, and Homestuck was about death.  The death of characters.  The death of worlds.  The death of anything that was important to the story.
I went into college watching shows and getting blindsided by these dark turns.  Then something wonderful started happening.  Shows I was watching were starting to back off from that.  Instead of letting everyone die (even in situations where they absolutely should have) characters were living.  I’m seeing this, especially in Assassination Classroom right now.  I know I’m late to the party, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it.
This show is all about death, but it’s an extremely light, humorous, slice-of-life anime.  I texted a friend that I was watching it and that I was worried about the ending.  They texted me back and told me not to worry about it.  All these years of expecting the worst set me up to feel anxious and uneasy at every corner, but the characters get out of shenanigans all the time.  Obviously, there’s still some sadness and unhappiness, it only makes the happy endings that much better.
While grim and dark stories have their place, sometimes we just need everyone to make it out okay.

There are Stranger Things

While I have typically talked about books, I want to talk about something.  It’s incredibly important and interesting to me, especially as we get closer and closer to October.
Stranger Things is a sci-fi TV show that embodies so much of the classic sci-fi movie structure that it seems both out of place and in place as a ‘TV show.’  The show is a great story.  It’s got so many levels, so many plots working together that you could almost create different stories out of the different points of view.
In a book, that may not work, but in a television series, it does.  It’s easy to layer in the visual and story elements together so that they link the viewer’s trip through the world.  Like the string of lights, we are being led down path after path that eventually gets us to the full ending where we see all those threads twist together into a story that we cannot ignore.
Not only are the characters wonderful and deep and rich, but there is so much going on beyond them.  But they are never merely just victims of that plot.  They are actively fighting and participating in those stories.
That is where Stranger Things succeeds.  There is an unfortunate move for plots in this day and age.  There is a world where things are happening and our main character is caught up in this story.  They make decisions but more often than not there is something beyond on them that negates their decisions.
That is not true of Stranger Things.  Yes, there are things beyond their control, but characters are actively going out of their way to get involved in the story.  Eleven does things that didn’t have to happen.  She could have been swept up in the story and still would have met the same fate.
These characters move beyond that.  Even when they are subject to the outside forces, they are doing something more.  They are still exercising their autonomy within the story.  This is why I am in love with the story.  These characters are rich and active.  They are part of the story, not defined it.
Some writers could really learn from the way that these characters are used.  I hope they do.