The Derelict Ship Returns!

I haven’t written here much recently.

Recently

Hah!

It’s been nearly eight months.

But, then, there’s a lot going on.

The fall, winter, and spring months are always hardest for me, managing fibromyalgia pain. My joints and muscles are on fire what seems like 90% of the time.

I’m also either titrating up on bipolar medications, or titrating down. We haven’t yet found a solid solution for me to stabilize the bipolar symptoms. The one I’m on worked for a bit, but it started leaving me cognitively deficient… I couldn’t stay awake, my memory was getting worse, and a bunch of other things.

As of today, I’m titrating down on a med. Which means my irritability levels from bipolar are sky-high, and thanks to the cold, spring-ish rain, my muscles and bones feel like hell-fire.

Despite all of this, I’ve been trying to get a regular writing routine down. I’m doing better than I have in years. I’m sitting down regularly at my desk in the home office, and I’ve jotted notes in my notebook. I have a character almost fully developed that just won’t leave me alone. There’s a story to tell there, and I think it’s getting told.

We’ll see how it goes. Keeping my brain ticking is the important part right now.

A New Year, A New Start

I’ve been seeing a lot of year-in-review posts and, since I’ve been thinking about restarting this blog, I figured I’d do one of my own (not that I’ve kept very good track of anything…).

2014 was a very stressful year for me. My PTSD and depression brought me to an all-time low, which greatly effected my work. I started the year in a leadership position at work and gradually worked my way out of that, back to a standard code monkey, and now, to medical leave.

It isn’t easy trying to reconcile a version of yourself that got buried twenty years ago with the different self that you are today. It’s a long, hard road (one I’m still on and will be for the foreseeable future), but I’m thankful that I have finally got a solid support system built up around me.

Between the PTSD and depression, I’ve been working with my doctors and therapists to find a good medication to help. PTSD isn’t necessarily treatable with medication (cognitive-behavioral therapy is best), but the deep dives into depression that I’ve had are. The hard part of this is that it takes thee to five weeks per medication before it’s effective. So, when I need to change meds (which I’ve done half a dozen times now) I have to deal with the initial I-want-to-sleep-all-the-time side effects. And if it isn’t effective, that feels like five weeks down the tubes.

2014 was like many other years for me, in that I didn’t focus much on myself or the things I am passionate about. During November and December, while on medical leave, I finally started writing again (not with any regularity, but it’s something!). In 2015, I hope to get the habit down of writing at least once per day, if not more often, and eventually have a set word count per day towards specific projects.

One small step at a time.10890560_422470817901739_1592996253_n

Aside from a gout inflammation during the holidays, I had a good time this year. Thanksgiving was just us and Caroline’s parents. Christmas featured an appearance by Uncle J. The girls were both very happy, which goes a long way towards repairing my view of this time of year.

(Oh, and I got a quadcopter!)

 

Stress Relief

I’m working my way through some tough depression, stress, and anxiety. Right now, I have a lot of triggers: my career choice (thanks to my father), some OCD-type things, and a number of PTSD-related issues.

Usually, I get so wound up after getting triggered that I can’t do anything. I sit staring at a wall, not doing a thing. And that’s all I’m capable of.

To try to get past that, I’m focusing small, working on one thing at a time. The first thing I’m trying is to work on my career issues. The root of the issue is huge, but can be summed up as: my father wanted me in a technical career, which is where I am. While I enjoy what I do now, I had always planned on being a writer (novelist, journalist, etc.) and an editor.

One thing I’ve realized recently is that I’ve spent too long listening to that voice of my father saying, “Writing isn’t good enough.” And waiting for someone else to come along and tell me that it is good enough. Others have told me that writing is good, that I’m a good writer, but none of it has made a difference.

So I need to change myself. I can’t rely on others to do it for me.

Today, I spent some time getting my computers situated. Rather than going with a “simple” set up of having everything on one computer, I’ve now separated things out: I have one computer that is dedicated to my WordPress development work, and another that is devoted to writing and editing. My personal computer doesn’t have any of the data or apps I’d need for work, so it eliminates the usual temptation I have when I sit down to write to, instead, do something for work.

Now I can truly take a computer, with the tools I need, and sit down to write. I’ve dropped my social networking profiles, which has saved me a lot of time already. With this additional change, I feel good. I feel like I’ll get more writing done.

Hell, I’ve already written an almost 400-word blog post, which I normally don’t do.

Taking the Bull by the Horns Might Get You Gored

But sometimes it’s the only way to get things done.

I’ve been on the fence about writing for awhile now. Lots of backstory (read: I have issues, some of the same as any writer (Dad says writing “isn’t a career” and was generally unsupportive), some that go a bit  deeper into the psyche).

In any case, I’ve been doing a lot of personal reflection and work with a therapist over the last several years. Finally, I’m at a point where I can handle all the voices in my head well enough to tell them to take a hike.

I’m lining up some writing projects for myself:

  • A couple of articles for WordPress developers (likely applicable to generalists too). One on project management, one on an undecided topic.
  • A couple of book reviews (one on the first two books of Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series, another on an ARC of Jon Sprunk’s new book).
  • A short story that’s been burbling in my head off and on for four years. Writing and sending it as my application to Viable Paradise.
  • General writing goal of doing some writing every day.

Maintaining an Active Blog

What’s the trick behind maintaining an active blog?

Writing.

I have a hard time with this for a number of reasons. Rather than going into that, here’s my plan for getting this blog off the ground and giving it fresh content daily.

  1. Book reviews – I’m volunteering with Strange Horizons as a web master and US contact manager. I get to see a number of the upcoming releases, and potentially read/review some of them. I also read a lot on my own (eight to ten books a month, usually). Rather than just reading and shelving the books, I’m going to start writing my thoughts of them down here to share.
  2. WordPress goodies – I’m a WordPress developer by trade and have a lot of nuggets packed away in my head. I’m an autodidact, so I have a lot to share with how I got from being a run-of-the-mill English major to a software developer at a leading start-up company, Automattic.
  3. Personal writing – I’m college-trained as a writer and editor, and have rarely used the skills, despite it being a large part of my self-identity. I’m going to start going through my writing archives, pulling and re-writing pieces, and posting them here. I’d also like to get involved more with editing, so if anyone reading this has opportunities (doesn’t have to be paid), please contact me via the Contact link.

Three steps. The last key ingredient for this to work is to write every day. No matter what it is or how long it is, I must publish something here every day.

A Writing Tip

One of the things I’ve been meaning to do is write more every day. I’ve tried blogging, but that can be cumbersomely public. I’ve tried journaling by hand, but medical issues prevent that day-to-day. But, I did find something that, for the last couple of days, seems to have helped increase my writing productivity.

Months ago, one of my coworkers mentioned 750words.com to me. I didn’t give it a try then, because I still had it in mind that I wanted to keep everything on my blog, if I was going to do something online. Fast forward to now, and I’ve come to realize that I need to do something and I don’t like to have to remember to mark entries as private, nor do I want to take the chance that something will slip through the cracks. Better to have everything separate.

So the idea behind 750words is simple: it is just simple, private, unfiltered journaling on a private site, every day. You can see who else is writing, but not WHAT they are writing. There are monthly challenges, badges, daily points, and other encouragements to keep you posting every day.

I’m only two days in, but I’m already liking the concept and can see myself sticking with it for awhile. You should give it a shot, too.

A New Job

Back in April, I was offered a golden opportunity: start a trial contract with Automattic, Inc. If you don’t know, Automattic is a company founded by Matt Mullenweg, who co-founded WordPress (the software that runs this blog). Automattic support WordPress.com, as well as some of the core developers of WordPress.org, and a variety of other WordPress-related projects.

I’ve been working with WordPress professionally for two and a half years now (running the UMaine.edu home page and roughly 350 department sites at the current time) and I have used it personally since around 2006. I’ve had a lot of fun developing plugins for WordPress, tracking down bugs, and making feeble attempts at patching core bugs (I’ve never gotten to the point of submitting patches, mostly due to time).

So I was very happy when Nick Momrik got in touch and offered me the trial contract. I worked on a couple of projects (updating the Slideshare shortcode for WordPress.com as well as an enhancement to WordPress.com’s Publicize feature, soon to be launched). At the end of June, I was fortunate to speak with Matt Mullenweg, who offered me a full-time position with Automattic.

And, I’m happy to announce, I’ve accepted the offer and am now starting my three week support orientation!