Tag Archives: anxiety

It’s Like This


It’s like this.

I have this jacket.

It’s a lovely jacket. Feels good on me, looks good on. Dapper, sharp, all the good things. I feel comfortable in it. More myself, maybe. I try it on and I like it so much I start wearing it all the time.

Til it happens; I get this spot on the jacket. Not sure what the spot is. It’s orangish, brownish, reddish, blackish. Just a spot, but one I can’t ignore. Given all the things I’m into, it could be poop. Or dirt. Or blood. Or just a slimy speck of something that may once have been, but is definitely no longer, food.

And well, it’s in this really conspicuous spot. Very, very obvious to anybody looking in my general direction. Like a tiny martian on my sleeve singing Glory Hallelujah at the top of its little green lungs.And I don’t have a way to clean it. I first try to fold up my arms just so, which works to cover it, but I can’t keep my arms crossed forever, not to mention I look like a standoffish SOB. And I assure myself (because it’s true, and this I know inwardly even if I have to convince my lizard brain) that nobody will actually notice it if I do uncross my arms, it being tiny and inconsequential and all.

So I uncross, and nope, it’s there, and there’s absolutely no denying it’s there. I rub and pick at it in a futile attempt to clean it, but it’s well and truly sunk into the fiber like blood into a shag carpet. Also I’m drawing even more attention to it with all the rubbing and picking, so it’s time to take it off. Into the corner it goes, fhthump.

Except now, see, there’s a new problem, because the whole outfit I created? This entire look, entire ensemble? It doesn’t work without the jacket. I mean, shirt, pants, shoes, belt — it’s all doing a job, but the jacket was central. And now it’s not only stained, it’s also crumpled up and hoovering dust off the floor. And worse than that, now I feel like a heel because what was a simple stain is compounding thanks to my neglect and frustration. And worse than that, this is all just ridiculous. This is all because of a stain. A tiny one. A pinprick of an imperfection. A rounding error compared to the jacket as a whole. Honestly, it’s probably not even visible if you didn’t already know it was there.

But there’s the rub, innit? I see the speck. And the wrinkles. And now, the dust. And how long has that speck been there, anyway? For that matter, is the color of this jacket really as bright as I thought it was to begin with? Does it even tie the outfit together like I thought? Maybe the thing looked terrible all around and I didn’t know it. Chroist, probably it’s just as well the jacket got ruined. Now it looks outwardly like crap, to go with the fact that it was always crap from the get-go.

I should probably just chuck it. It’s ruined now anyway. Can’t believe I ever thought I looked good in it, to be honest.

All that?

That’s what my particular flavor of depression looks like … or anxiety or malaise or seasonal affective disorder or whatever the hell it is that’s going on with me. Except substitute for the jacket my job, my role within the family, my creativity, my entire sense of self.

So… um.

I’m taking Lexapro now, so there’s that. Have been for about two weeks.

And I know I’m being a little bit silly. Even a lot silly. And I know that the jacket can be cleaned. And even if it can’t, there are other jackets.

But that stain is still pretty large in my vision right now.

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Simmering my Brainmeats in a Fragrant Crockpot of Creative Doubt


My Flash Fiction from last week is enjoying a bit of success over at terribleminds.com.  So good, in fact, that I stand to win a free e-book off the back of it (yay free stuff!).  That thread is here:  Three Sentence Stories.  And it got me to thinking, which is a bad habit I have.  Because I love these little Flash Fiction challenges; I take great pleasure jumping into them with both feet no matter how difficult or ridiculous or outside of my comfort zone they may be.

If you’re going along with this post, you might want to check out my series of stories from last week, because I’m stewing over them right now.  Simmering my brainmeats in a fragrant crockpot of creative doubt.

Writing the last one — I should say the last set, since I expanded on the topic and wrote way more than I perhaps should have — was instructive, because the development of the stories was so strange to me.  With only three sentences to tell a story, I agonized for the weekend over what story I could tell, what characters I could bring to bear, what possible development and twists I could effect within such a short period.  My first story was good but fell into my typical vein of the dark and somewhat horrific account of a more or less mild-mannered somebody taking part in senseless violence.  It’s a little bit of a motif with me, I’m afraid, and I’m just not sure how effective it really is.  It wasn’t bad, but the moment I wrote it, I realized just how much of a step into an old shoe it was, which is why I decided to write another one.

So I rebooted, kept my central idea and parameters, and brought in new characters, new conflicts.  New perspective, new story, new twist.  And v2 was better, I think, though it still fell in the same dark, depraved vein of the first.  But twisting the idea in my brain felt refreshing, so I tried again.  If the first story was a cruise down a familiar highway, the second was a short detour on a quaint exit ramp for a franchise burger.  A bit different but nothing incredible.

So for the third go-round, I decided to take a hard left into the ditch.  Rather than characters, I characterized inanimate objects (more or less), let them talk and explore human emotions and ideas, and … end up at the same dark murderous place.  Hmm.  The new take on characters was like a fantastic little food truck discovered set up around the corner from my office.  Totally new and exciting food in a familiar and comforting setting.  I knew I was getting warmer.

On the fourth go-round, I struck gold.  I re-imagined the central idea once again, personified an inanimate object and used my scenario to describe a situation that happens every day.  Not an earth-shattering revelation about everyday, just a little thought experiment on what might be happening when the vending machine at the end of the hall rejects your dollar.  Somehow, it felt like gold.  An ostensibly ridiculous premise with an endearing (at least, I think so!) character whom you don’t expect, giving an unexpected perspective and staying light and upbeat.  So it was a bit out of my comfort zone, a bit funny, a bit ridiculous, and very much me.  As I was writing it, before it was finished (yeah, that quickly, even before I could finish three sentences), I could tell it was the best one.  That “magic” was happening, that crazy feeling where you feel like you’ve tapped into the magical mind-juice of the universe and your pen (okay, your keyboard) is acting as a conduit for the timeless universal stories that speak to everybody.  You know, a good writing session.

The fifth attempt felt a little forced, so I pulled the plug after that one.

So, to reflect, I wrote one story in my usual vein, a second with one foot out of the vein, a third with an eye on a different horizon, and a fourth that struck out toward that horizon and — by all accounts — seems to be resonating with folks who read it.  So now, I’ve got another prompt in front of me for the weekend, and I’m all in my own head, wondering if I need to write three junk stories before I get at the “real” one.  For that matter, I’m working on an extended short story and boy oh boy, does it feel awkward and forced.  Like I’m in touch with the central idea, and I’m enjoying the premise, but I can tell as I’m writing it that I’m not telling the story the right way.

Do I need a few crap attempts at the topic to “clear the pipes” so that I can get down to writing the story that I want to write?  If so, how far do I have to carry those stories out?  When I wrote Rejected v1, it felt like a pretty good story to me, but in retrospect I can see that it’s awfully derivative.  The current version of Powdered Chaos, at about 30% completion, already feels crap.  Do I need to carry it to is conclusion before I take another stab at it?  Or, having written about 4000 words on it already, can I legitimately realize it’s crap and start over without crashing my creative process?

In short, just what the hell is my creative process anyway?  This is seriously bugging me, and it’s bogging down my writing hard while I’m trying to carry my momentum through this lull before I jump into editing Accidentally Inspired.

Need to figure this out.  Anybody else have anxiety like this about your drafts?  How do you attack it?  Do I just write the crap to clear the pipes or do I resist the urge to waste time on the crap and hold out for the good ideas to strike?


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