Obligations Hanging Over Me

It's been a rather busy month since I last posted. Like most good plots, the plans I had for the month have not survived contact with the enemy. This will be the not entirely happy post for some of it, but there are good parts at the end.

Work Obligations

I took two weeks off from work to try to decompress but the massive project that was being rammed through meant I had to work way too hard before going on vacation. The end result was two weeks of burnout, sickness, and basically crashing harder than I have in a long time.

Coming back was just more of the same, just slightly less frantic. I've been calling them “meeting trains” where I end up getting pulled into two to six hours of back-to-back meetings with no break between each one. I've always struggled with carving out time for myself, which isn't helping but it starts at 08:30 CT and frequently goes until my lunch at noon.

I don't know what to do, because it isn't a simple “just assert yourself” type of answer. I'm working on it, thankfully I have a fairly good support network but it still feels like I'm “quietly quitting” (e.g., not having meetings for eight hours and trying to frantically work the other four to keep up with other obligations).

Writing Obligations

I have two current writing obligations: my monthly submission of 8-10k words that has to be done and a commission I took on so I could try getting a little more money. The commission is a 60k word novel, but like all commissions, I can't really share it with anyone which means I write it, and then it goes away forever.

My original plan was to blast through at least the monthly and get a sizable dent in the commission. That didn't happen and I had to end March with an apology that I wasn't even remotely close. Since then, I've managed to get the 10k words for March and about a quarter of the April obligation done.

The commission is at 10k words, but I ended up deviating from the plot because I couldn't get into it unless I rub some of my own favorite plots into it. So, even though I'm 10k words in, I honestly don't think I can say I can charge them for that; but even so, still have 50k words to the minimum of that commission. Thankfully, I have a few months for that, I just have to keep showing reasonable progress from month-to-month on that.

Publishing Obligations

I publish book for Typewriter Press. It isn't much, just me and some writing friends for the most part. In some regards, I'm just formatting ebooks and print while others I manage sales (but not marketing).

Randy Roeder is in the process of publishing his third book and I've been working to make it as good as I can. For the most part, I have this down to a fairly simple pipeline but it still takes time.

Service Obligations

This is a harder one. Over the years, I stumble into helping people and I have a tendency to keep doing it because it is the right thing to do. Right now, there are two of them.

A local wine store that had their website infected with viruses and I rebuilt in WordPress right before Covid struck. I don't do much other than make sure their website has a backup, occasionally download it to give it a second location, and patch their custom WordPress plugins to do the fancy things they wanted. Despite the fact I really don't enjoy coding WordPress anymore, I still do it because the owner is also only person I've volunteered to help that actually pays me on occasion, which is nice.

The other is a forum that I helped saved twenty-something years ago. I've helped the owner save a couple thousand dollars a month and been doing maintenance every six months or two. Unfortunately, he died and left a mess. A large mess that his widow couldn't handle, so I ended up helping her by being the technical support for his end-of-life but also separating the forum from her so it could stand on her own.

That also meant that I went from only checking on the software every few months to the new owners needing constant attention. Partner says I should stop, so I'm working to walking away from that but… they need help and I struggle to say no.

Personal Obligations

Mentally and emotionally, I've been spiraling for months. I really need to do something about that, but it feels like I'm treading water at this point for so long that not much feels like “fun” anymore.

A bunch of that was my entanglement that has haunted me since October 2021. At the beginning of March, I thought we were over it, but then Partner comes in with an announcement that the bumper to the minivan fell off. Fortunately, I had a bonus which paid for that so it felt like things were getting better.

Then we had a short ice storm. I thought the driveway was ice free, but I missed a patch while I was taking garbage out. One nasty slip and I smashed my right knee hard into the concrete. I've been in pain ever since so I honestly can't say things are better but I'm trying really hard not to notice the every three week pattern in hopes that it will finally resolve itself.

It's hard to explain the drain of having things go wrong so consistently. Using the water analogy, it is like swimming on a windy day. Every few seconds, the chop shoved you away from your destination and you have to push yourself to keep your head above the wave to avoid it. On the shallows, it isn't so bad, but as you are swimming, that extra effort starts to pull down on you.

Writing Obligations (Redux)

Because of the spiraling, Partner insisted I go back to the writing group. Writing is what makes me feel good, ideally writing about my topics instead of others, so I need to focus on doing something that isn't an obligation.

So, I started submitting Allegro to the Noble Pen Writing Group in Cedar Rapids. Feedback has been nicely positive, but I kind of feel like that is normal. But it is nice to be able to just talk about my plans for Fedran and hear that the group is much more receptive of Allegro than the other books, mainly because it isn't centered on trauma and abuse like Sand and Blood and its sequels.

Then again, Sand and Blood was “only” going to be a twenty thousand word short story to help develop the world while Flight of the Scions was being considered for publication (it didn't get accepted and Sand and Blood turned into almost two hundred thousand words over three novels).

I'm proud of my writing and going back has helped me want to start writing again. So, that is a good thing.

Family Obligations

Finally, there is family obligations. I'm working on my mother-in-law's bathroom to tile it. This is not one of my better skills, but it has taken a while since I had to take the end of 2022 off to deal with my hospital visits and then it was freezing outside, which is hard to do tile work. This weekend, I resumed working on it in hopes of getting it done within a month or so.

But the shining part of the last month was the kids. They have helped with my sanity with a newfound love for video games. Child.1 has been frequently asking to play games and my priority system says their request takes priority over almost everything, simply because I want to be there for them as they grow up.

At the moment, Child.0 is really into Core Keeper and Minetest. I'll admit, I'm a little frustrated with Minetest's limitations (see the packages thread for details), but there is something to be said about the joy of seeing the newest house or underground base being built.

Child.1 has different interests. Mostly we are playing Wildfire and they enjoy setting everyone on fire. It is a hard game though and we are coming up to the limits of our combined skill levels but we are still trying. It is also fun just to set everything on fire and let it burn.

They also just got into Spiderheck which is much in the vein of Stick Fight: The Game, Rounds, and Boomerang Fu. There is something to be said about fighting spiders with light sabers and plasma cannons.

Next Steps

I try to avoid negative posts in my blog. In this case, I'm trying to bring my foes out into the open so I can address them. It also lets friends and family know what is going on, but to explain the silence but also because it is hard to ask for empathy.

In the end, like everything else, it will pass. In other words, my favorite motivational quotes that is also one of the inspirations for Sand and Blood:

“Just keep swimming.” — Dory, Finding Nemo