The Harshest Judge

For the last year, through moves and illness, I’ve actually been writing.  But something a close friend went through recently made me think that the experience I went through, for 2 years before that, was an actual universal thing.  And that some of you might benefit from hearing this.

I don’t know why people are the way they are, so please don’t expect me to explain.  I know some people, no matter how they f*ck up, always have excuses and deflections “it wasn’t me.” or “the sun was in my eyes” or “I had a headache” or “they did it!”

And some people, any small falling or lack of perfection is used as flagellants used their whips: to tear out chunks of their own psychological flesh.

And some people who present as the first, are actually the second, and are erecting these non-excuses as a way to forgive themselves.

I found in a short story, long ago “born owing money.”  (Of course, we’re all born owing money, thanks to the blue model, but that’s something else.) It sort of aplies, and I’ve used it.  But the thing is, it’s not money — though a lot of the people with the self-flagellation mind set are born in strained circumstances, myself and older son very much included — it’s “owing something.”  Some of us go to bed every night and frantically search our minds for how we’ve justified our existence during the day.

In retrospect, grandma must have been one of those.  Yep, born in strained circumstances, because her dad died six months before she was born.  She was born with four teeth (early dentition must run in her family because Robert cut his first tooth at 2 months of age.  And yes, I did nurse him another 16 months, and yes, I want a medal.) and apparently the village said it was so she could eat the day-old-bread that was all her mom could afford now.

Maybe it was that.  Or maybe that’s just a contributing factor.  I know it was a joke in the family that as soon as you crossed grandma’s threshold (particularly in the years of her widowhood when she lived alone, but maybe before too) she recounted her deeds of the day “I scrubbed the flagstones, and I mucked out the chicken house, and I–”

It wasn’t just that she did more than anyone else would in a day — even at 80 — it was that she had a compulsion to tell us about it.  And it wasn’t until I caught myself doing it, in the years the kids were little, and I was bringing in next to no money , that I understood the psychological mechanism.  It’s a justification: look, I do have right to my bread, my bed.  Look, I’m useful, I can justify my existence.

As I said, I don’t know how many people are really like that, as a lot of them masquerade as primadonas  and self excusers.  But the person they’re excusing themselves too is mostly themselves.

I do know it’s a very difficult way to go through life — ask me how I know!  or rather don’t.  You’re not stupid — and a particularly difficult way to be a writer.

Recently I’ve been going over the manuscript of Sword and Blood — musketeers, vampires, and very mild b & d woman on top (which in the next book becomes less mild and man on top.  BUT that’s a long story) — and I accidentally printed the one with the comments of when this was printed by a medium press.

I knew that edit was attrocious — the second worst I’ve had to date — because it was so bad even I could tell.  Look, when you keep insisting the name of the musketeers is the name given in some silent movie, apparently unware that there is a book, when you question things like “why was over thirty too late to have the smallpox? This makes no sense” let alone the fact that it’s a line from Dumas, as she’d have known if she bothered to crack the book, (and why is obvious.  In a society where small pox is epidemic, it’s a childhood disease because you only catch it ONCE.) even I can see most of the comments/corrections are out of the water crazy.

But I felt so guilty about rejecting the comments (which I did snark back at the time) that over the years I’ve convinced myself they MIGHT have had SOME validity.  I was kind of glad I printed this manuscript, because these many years removed from the book, I can look at those objectively, and yep, they’re crackers. This person apparently also had no clue what copyeditors are supposed to do, as she would change wording (destroying the rhythm of the sentences, which is important in emotional scenes) but leave glaring spelling and grammar mistakes (yeah, I make those, mostly typos.  Deal.)

The point here is not to pile on that copyedit, which is now three years in the past, and which mostly I discarded then and will discard more so now.

The point is to say that even as bad as that was, I tried to convince myself that there might be SOME points buried in it.  (There aren’t. Not at this distance.)

Which is why many years ago, Kristine Kathryn Rusch told me to stop taking workshops and to let someone else filter editorial letters for me: someone who was not afraid of me and who was strong enough to tell me if I was off my rocker.  Not because I don’t take critiques well, but because I take them too well.  I accept everything someone says.  And if someone tells me a story sucks, I believe them implicitly.  Because I don’t believe myself, and because I engage in self-flagellation on a regular basis.

All this is a long way to bring us to the meat of this subject.

Those of us of a self-flagellating disposition tend to ignore illness and impairment, and TRY to fix things we think are laziness or stupidity or–  which are really physiological.

A good friend, recently, spent two weeks blaming himself for not writing. He had taken the time from the day job.  He had the time to do it.  But he couldn’t concentrate and was tired all the time, so it must be all his fault, and he must be lazy/cranky/upset.

Turns out he was hyperglycemic, and has gone full-on diabetic.

In the same way for two years, I blamed myself because I had the entire story in my head, but would sit at the keyboard and SOMEHOW couldn’t type it in.  The exact words, the concentration needed to put them in pixels, vanished before me like .. will o the wisps. I could write short stories, but even those were like lifting a HEAVY weight.  I felt as though I were in a stone chamber, with only one opening capable of admitting a fortune cookie strip of paper out at a time.  Blog posts are short enough I could get them out at a burst of little five word segments, but short stories… were longer.  And I had to pass the entire story out that way, in three to five word increments. Novels?  Impossible.

I thought I was broken, but mostly I thought I was lazy.  I flagellated for a personal failing.

And then I had surgery and we realized the problems I’d been having for 20 years, worsening every year had a very biological/hormonal basis.  And then we moved, and moved again.  But even through the moves, that feeling that I can’t type in what is playing out in my head is gone.  And I can think from a to be with no problems.  Which means I can write.

The point of this is: it was all physiological, but the harshest judge, the one in my head, the one that demands I justify my existence, kept accusing me of laziness and gold bricking.

There is a Phil Dick novel (I can’t remember the rest of it, but I remember that part) where he says that every human is given a defender and an accuser.  More or less the guardian angel and the devil’s advocate, if you think about it that way.  It rang true to me then, and it rings true to me now.  In some of us, one or the other –the accuser or the justifier — is stronger.

And if you’re one whose internal judge always listens to the accuser, someone born “owing money”, someone who must plead his reasons for existing to himself every single day, I’m here to tell you to let up.

Your honor, the defendant might be as bad as you say.  Or he and she might ill.  Consider physiological justifications, particularly if you’re of the sort that drives yourself and pushes yourself.  If that changes suddenly, there’s a good chance your body is to blame.  And when your body is ill it affects your brain.

Tell the hanging judge to put on a white cap, and even if you’re not sure what can be causing things, and even if doctors are not finding anything wrong (as they didn’t with me for decades) consider that there is something wrong.

This is not a justification to sleep on the job, but to give yourself a little break.  Be kind to yourself.  You can always bind yourself to the grindstone later.

Right now, have a cup of tea or coffee, read a book, take a walk.  Allow yourself to be human.  You can always kill the miscreant in the morning.




217 responses to “The Harshest Judge

  1. Bravo.

    Now, will you just keep that in mind for yourself?

  2. Blond_Engineer

    From what I understand, most creative people have the ‘inner critic’, that little voice that tells them everything they create is garbage. It’s probably the leading cause of substance abuse among creative types, the need to drown out that pernicious whisper while you lay your soul bare to the world and offer up the fruits of your labor, whatever they may be.

    • This.

      I have got to get finished rewriting The Steel Breeds True and get it up on KDP. A big part of it is Amanda’s struggles with her own internal editor.

    • My inner critic’s goal is to never make another mistake in *any* area of life. Which is laughably absurd but still … it’s always there.

      • This. Also “unless you do it perfectly it’s not good enough”. For me you can add “so since you are going to mess up anyway no point trying.”

        Every damn little mess up I do, and I get this urge to lock myself in my apartment and never come out. Can sometimes take several days before I can again go somewhere where I have to interact with other people face to face. Internet is easier but part of that is because it’s slow enough – when you want it to be, no need to fire the response without thinking about it a bit, now is there? – that I have far fewer foot-in-mouth accidents, and frankly I don’t really have that many in real life either but that is partly because I have a tendency towards overcautious. And I guess most of them are things nobody else notices but me anyway, but I notice them way too well.

        And yep, jobs, studies back in the day and so on have suffered too. Even with the SAD I kept trying, but as said I might have been able to at least get my degree from university if I had worked harder before it got really bad, but while that was in great part sabotaged by bad work habits – due to the fact that before university I had gotten used to getting by well enough without working for it much – other problem was occasional periods of days and later sometimes up to a few weeks when I just stayed inside and read or watched television (did that back then) because I had not passed the exam even on the second or third try, or had passed but with bad grades.

        Took work to get where I could force myself to try again.

        And I remember the failures, all types. Much better than successes. It can be hard to reassure myself that most other people probably don’t, or in fact plenty of times never even noticed them in the first place because I am not that important to anybody. Or if they remember they most times don’t remember them as something this particular person did, only as something that some generic Somebody did.

        And remembering the fact that all those other people mess up too, some way more than I do, and hardly anybody produces perfect, and when somebody sometimes does it’s not something they do every day, and that even the geniuses have more failures than successes – Huh? What?

        And then if you do notice how much you are piling on yourself, well, that is rather self-centered, isn’t it?

        (And how do I deal with these moods? Pretty often sort of like I just did. Pile it on – all your failures and shortcomings and whatever – until it starts to look absurd, and funny. Because sooner or later it will. Nobody is that bad, not even me).

    • Yep. I am a musician/songwriter and have worked with many others over the years. We all share the same neurosis regarding the quality/validity of our work and level of our own talent. Every time we pickup our instrument or our pen the “The Critic” looms over our shoulders speaking harsh and unkind words into our ears.

      Even after 40 years I have a hard time telling the *@$$#^&* to shut up.

  3. I cannot relate to this at all. AT ALL!

    • Some genetics you get by adoption.

      • Some genetics are apparently time-travel-y.

        • well, if you adhere to RES’s and Robert’s theory that the soul is a multidimmensional thing not bound by time…

        • LOL… You have no idea how closely that idea relates to something I’ve been working on for years.

          Imagine how much fun it would be, were there to be an analogous situation to having a bunch of late-21st century Germans, who know all about how Nazi Germany really worked out, suddenly transposed to 1920s Weimar Germany, as the Nazis are making their grab for power. And, they’ve got the evidence to show “how it all worked out”.

          Now, posit a civilization where that sort of thing is a fairly regular occurrence, every so often, on a generational scale. Add in the effect of looping the genes, too, as people wind up doing assortative mating with their generationally-remote descendents and ancestors… Some planned, some not.

          • Sounds complicated. I’d read it.

            • I’m being passive-aggressive with myself by deliberately mentioning it…

              That way, I’m more likely to actually finish it. May need whatever comes before a beta-reader, at some point… 🙂

              • Alpha reader, I believe. Good alphas are a treasure. They’re the ones who read first draft, manuscripts with all the ugly bits, forgotten tags (I’m especially bad at the [PLACE] kind), and continuity issues hanging out for all to see. They are a blessed few who should regularly be plied with offerings of chocolate and scotch.

                • Hoity-toity alpha readers get chocolates and scotch. Cheap, found-behind-a-Denny’s-dumpster alphas get paid in drug store pizza and off-brand soda. *grin* Of course, ya tend to get what ya pay for…

        • Some genetics are apparently time-travel-y.

          What’s that old joke…?

          “Insanity is hereditary, you get it from your children.”

  4. And you just reminded me I need to call my doctor’s office. I’ve been putting it off for a week and it’s not getting better. Thanks.

  5. I have been going through a health-crisis since the beginning of March. With my kidneys starting to destabilize, I am having a hard time writing and especially editing. I was doing so well there for awhile. The last week before I saw my doctor, I thought I was just lazy. As you said, when I tried to edit or write– either the words wouldn’t come or everything became gray. I am taking a different set of medications starting today– and the world is a little brighter although I am tired as heck.

    So health– is a major factor when the brain stops working. It scares me because I don’t have anyone around me right now that can see when my brain starts to glitch because of kidney problems.

    Short answer– I understand.

    • Not long after I began reading ATH, I started thinking I wanted to meet you. And while I still do, I also realize it’s probably about the worst thing I could inflict on you and thus should (must) not, due to all the crud I’ve encountered.

      I’ve been fortunate (ox have strong constitution. Credit to early amendments, yes.). Some folks seem to call in sick with alarming regularity. Last time I did, the H.R. person asked $BOSS if I was dead. And that was three H.R. people ago, now. (And yes, ox hired before they called it Human Resources. Silly people.)

    • Don’t you have a dog? I think you posted once about having a dog. If you do, it might be worth talking to the folks who train service dogs. Apparently dogs can smell health problems before we can recognize them sometimes, and I bet kidney malfunction would be on the list of things that change your body odor enough for your dog to pick up on it.

    • I thoroughly hope that you get better soon.


      It is not like I have any selfish reasons, no, no, no. not selfish at all.

      I await the further adventures of one Hilda Brant, a former inn with unusual talents and friends …

      • Well Davi, Hilda’s mentee, is finding out some of the hazards of dragon magic. I already know that Hilda’s third book will be in Koenigsburg– as an unlicensed sorceress. 😉 A little taste–

  6. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Some of us have both problems.

    I can be very harsh on myself when I don’t met my standards.

    Yet, I can object strongly when somebody “call me on something” that I didn’t recognize as a problem or I think I’m being “unjustly criticized”.

    I know I can be a jerk but hate being called one when I don’t think I’m being a jerk especially when I think the “other person” is being one themselves. 😦

  7. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Yeah. I have problems with this. These past weeks I’ve been fairly angry with myself. I may have solved the issue if it was one of a) again not realizing that with the heat off, the central air would let my workspace get too warm. fans. b) I live in a very dusty place, and have allergy and sinus issues. I did something more about that a couple days before twigging to the temperature thing.

  8. We can often be our own worst enemies. Both in that we criticize unjustly and that we let bad habits slip. I still haven’t figured out to balance that bipolar pair.

      • I dun wanna!

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        But but… I’m a Dragon! 😉

        • Shifter. Um… I wonder if I have a walk part for a Drak B in my Dragon series.

          • Pizza delivery? That librarian, you know, the slightly odd one who is even more withdrawn than most librarians, and who has odd hobbies (like one here who needlepoints life-size Navajo rugs)?

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              The owner of an independent bookstore specializing in old and rare books.

              Plus points if the bookstore has a backroom that is larger than the building could contain. 😉

              • Have you been watching the TV show The Librarians?

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Afraid not.

                  This “idea” comes from my past thoughts of owning an independent bookstore along with the “Bibliophile” (Book Loving) part of my handle.

                  Of course, “bookstores holding old & rare books” have long been a feature in plenty of stories I’ve read.

                  Then of course, there’s plenty of fiction about places bigger on the inside than on the outside.

                  Now, as for a Dragon Librarian, Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series (the Cast In series) has the Arkon, the Librarian of the Imperial Library.

                  You Do Not Want To Mess With The Imperial Library, It’s His Hoard! 👿 👿 👿 👿

                  • Ook, said the Librarian. Don’t you know that all the best bookshops’ back rooms are connected by Library Space? That inter-dimensional place where all books, past and future, potential and actual, are tenuously connected. A dangerous place to get lost in, and never found again.

                    A wise librarian carries a ball of string, a good sharp knife, and a small pot of bookbinder’s glue. The books can be dangerous- the folks you meet in Library Space can be more so. *grin*

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      I hope you’re on good terms with the Arkon if you find yourself in the Imperial Library. 😀

                  • With apologies to Sir Pterry, of course. *grin* Mustn’t forget to add that..

                • Did that come back yet? I looked for it a while ago, but couldn’t find it.

                  • There was a second season last …. summer(?) and a third has been authorized.

                    Second season suffered some of the same problems as its first of a concept not thoroughly thought through, but also had some very strong episodes, particularly Ezekiel Jones And Hell’s Own Computer Game.

                  • There are two seasons available to stream from Amazon. That actually how I watch my tv these days streaming. It’s very nice. No ads. watch it when ever where ever, on a roku, on a kindle, pause it.

              • Not the shifter books. The war dragon books.

              • And he’s building a 1:1 model of the planet Saturn?

            • What’s odd about needlepointing a rug?

              • The scale, and the subject matter. He does Ye-i patterns, Two Grey Hills, at least one Ganado Red, and other very traditional Navajo patterns. Most needlepoint folks I know make smaller pieces, or more needlepoint-traditional designs (floral rugs, garden scenes, sports stuff, what have you).

                • I have a book needlepoint patterns for men that includes a rug with seal –emblem? of the CJCS on it. I’ve seen patterns for rugs in Kaffee Fassett’s books.

            • Professor Badness

              Or makes chainmail armor by hand!
              (Looks in mirror, hangs head)
              Um, never mind.

  9. IMHO Sword and Blood is a damn fine read. Pity it has all those Musketeers and vampires in it. And I find their use of burners and brooms to be a tad anachronistic.
    Is JOKE OK, give me a break.
    Serious question, S&B is the first in the series. How many more are either already written or in work?

    • The next one is half written, and the third one is written in my HEAD. It all got downloaded into my head one fine August afternoon. WEIRDEST thing that ever happened to me.
      However, if it does well, it will continue, in modified form,with the next generation (tracking 20 years after and the Viscomte de Bragelonne.)

  10. “from a to be” – from conception to reality. Beautiful shorthand! Mind if I borrow it?

    • considering it was a typo, sure. Good Lord, I need more Death Wish coffee.

      • Until you enter PSVT there is no such thing as too much coffee

      • I took a creative writing class through the U of MD extension program while working in the S. Pacific. The prof said that if something odd like this pops out of your keyboard, don’t immediately correct it – the monsters of your id might be trying to tell you, or the world, something profound. Of course it could be, indeed it is more likely to be, just a typo.

        • Once upon a time the words “binge” and “reactor” hit me at the same time. The result was the pondering of a nuclear-fission powered (vertical) cylinder engine (sub-critical pieces held apart by gas… that would cool/condense bringing them close and going supercritical, heating the fluid (into) gas and forcing them apart.) No idea if it would actually work, and even if so seems an insanely dangerous design. For the record, I was stone-cold sober at the time.

          • It might work, but NASA is ahead of you with a better design that could be modified to work with your notion:

            One of their nuclear rocket engines that were designed before the ban on nukes in space was signed, used a gaseous chemical that contained the fissionable material, and the reaction chamber was a pressure vessel where the gas was pumped in, and the higher pressure brought enough atoms in proximity to give a sustained reaction. If the reaction got too hot, it would just need to bleed off some of the gas into a lower-pressure chamber. In essence, the reactor worked kind of like a, air conditioner, where the high pressure side got hot because of nuclear reactions, and the actual propellant would be run through the reaction chamber to be heated and become the rocket exhaust.

            To modify it, you could put the gas into a piston/cylinder, then push the piston in, causing the gas to heat up, making it expand and cool down, then (assuming you had either a flywheel or multiple cylinders to work together to force each other to compress again), it would recompress, reheat, reexpand, cool down again, rinse and repeat. This kind of thing could run many cycles before the cylinder needed to be emptied and refilled.

            I like it.

            • Sounds kinda like a NERVA engine, but IIRC the reaction mass only supplied the heat to the propellant and did not come into direct contact with it. But it has been a long time since I read about it.

              Then there was Orion

              Bring back old Bang Bang!! 😀

              • You’re right, the reactants only heated up the lines carrying the propellant, it wasn’t expelled, nor did it come into contact with the propellant at any point (unless problems, of course). I liked it because of the inherent safety factor – keep a couple of pressure bleeder valves open into some low-pressure tanks, and it almost couldn’t overheat.

                • Sounds like the Nuclear LightBulb Concept applied to a piston engine design


                  Uranium hexafloride gas confined in a fused quartz chamber. The thermal radiation can pass through the transparent quartz crystal walls of the lightbulb, but the uranium vapor cannot. This means no lethal uranium enters the exhaust. Propellant flowing over the lightbulb is heated to high temperatures by the thermal radiation and is expelled out the rocket nozzles, producing thrust.

                  The whole thing uses about 25 pounds of uranium.

                  The only downside is that the uranium is stored as uranium hexafluoride gas. Florine when on it’s best behavior is dangerously corrosive and will violently react with just about anything it encounters. Someone once noted that really hot high pressure fluorine loses its gentle and forgiving nature and becomes a real b*tch to work with.

                  After old boom boom, this is my second favorite rocket engine design.

                  nuke viam tuam ad astra

                  • Free-range Oyster

                    fluorine loses its gentle and forgiving nature

                    I knew I recognized that turn of phrase: it’s from Derek Lowe’s classic column on the terrifying glory of FOOF.

              • “Then there was Orion

                Bring back old Bang Bang!!😀”

                Everytime an Orion drive is mentioned, the old Johnny Popper motors come to mind. That is what I imagine it would sound like, being in a spaceship powered by an Orion drive. 🙂

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  From Pournelle & Niven’s Footfall

                  “God Wants In Now” (rough memory). 😉

      • Bloody Zarquon, am I amongst the last creatures on earth not to drink Death Wish coffee? Not that I don’t ingest dubiously large quantities of caffeine by other names/means, mind.

        • Older son infected me.

        • I don’t make coffee at home very often, so I get the “Mocha Charge” out of the cappuccino machine at the gas station. If I bought expensive coffee like that, half of it would go bad before it was ever brewed.

        • You are not alone, Orvan. Diet soda pop and black tea are my stimulants of choice. Coffee (without froo-froo or cream-n-sugar) tastes too bitter for me to drink it.

          • scott2harrison

            Try cold brewed coffee. You used to be able to get it at Borders coffee shops before they went away. I don’t know who sells it nowadays.

          • I like my coffee bitter — like the tears of my enemies.

        • Another non coffee drinker here. After a coffee-OD-induced nasty day in grad school, I gave up the stuff.

          • You can OD on coffee? What species are you, anyways?

            I sometimes go a week or two at a time (especially in winter) without drinking anything but coffee. Well, I used to, I have my grandmother living with me at the moment, and she always has milk in the fridge, and I like milk with my meals. I just hate to shop, so I only would go grocery shopping every month or two.

            • *sad* There’s a point where when I’ve drunk too much coffee, I don’t have a wakeful feeling any more, it’s more ‘ooh. keyboard. Pillow. Zzzz’

              I blame my college days.

              • Ah, coffee doesn’t affect me one way or the other, nor do most energy drinks (creatine does to a very minor extent) I can go to sleep while drinking them, but caffeine doesn’t make me sleepy. Of course if I don’t have it I get a splitting headache 😦

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Too much coffee can make me a little hyper.

                  Coffee near the end of the day can make it harder to “shut off my brain to sleep”.

            • Robert ODed on coffee in middle school. He peeled his stomach lining and I quote “breathing became voluntary.” Notwithstanding which he’s still an addict.

            • Did that when I was about 16 or so– it sucked. Not medical levels, but it was a combination of not having drank coffee very long and drinking a LOT of it, plus probably lack of sleep.

            • I used ta be human …. 😉

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              I never touch coffee. I drink green tea rarely, as in I might not have any for years. I’m not organized enough to take regular amounts of caffeine without having problems from high doses and low doses.

              When I’ve needed something hot to drink recently, I’ve often just heated water.

          • Also non coffee (non-smoking{of any thing}, non-drinking, non recreational substance user, etc…).

            Coffee and caffeine in general doesn’t affect me like most people. I can go right to sleep after six cups of Herculean coffee. Or, I can stay awake for three days after one soda pop. No idea why it works sometimes, it doesn’t others.

            I tend to avoid it these days (save for rare bits of chocolate) due to the unpredictable three-days-awake thing as much as the instant-narco-nap thing.

          • I do drink coffee, and if it’s good enough will have it black. It’s that I am not drinking that particular coffee, noted for its higher caffeine content.

        • No, no I’m likely unable to obtain that and while it sounds bloody awesome I have to think things like “you really don’t want your heart to race that much, do you?”

          (…I still want some anyway!)

        • No coffee here! Never was a drinker.

        • You may rest assured, friend Ox, that I will never consume that mess. Coffee is nasty. I prefer pouring hot water over foliage, and then putting bee vomit in it.

          • tea with or without caffeine?

          • Far too often coffee will smell wonderful and taste lousy. Really good coffee tastes as good as it smells – without additives. This is, alas, rather a rarity (not the MLP…) at least unless one gets all fancy and high-precision about things or so I am given to understand.

            • Try Sical. My uncle used to own it and they’ve kept remarkably faithful to his formulation/roast.

            • /em Has a sudden flash to a commercial:
              block letters:
              *clip of Rarity flipping her hair*
              *clip of rarity cutting her own prized tail off to repair the damage done to a sea serpent’s mustache*
              *clip of rarity beating the goblin-dogs*

      • Mayhap, some of this? Deadman’s Reach:

  11. This post really home for me, because I’ve been struggling for ages with the feeling that I’m not pulling my weight, that I ought to be accomplishing more. On another forum I frequent, I was talking about how I thought that, with no conventions this month, I was going to be so productive and get a whole bunch of stuff done that needed to be accomplished. I even made a list of the things that needed doing. But with the month almost over, I was looking at the list and I have all of three things crossed off as accomplished, and I feel .

    Part of it is the money pressure, which wouldn’t have been so terrible if we’d been able to get booths at our mainstay March convention (even if sales at it came in at two-thirds to three-fifths of target, like so many of our cons of late, it would’ve covered the shortfall we’re struggling with). But there’s also the frustration of how I can’t seem to keep multiple projects moving forward. As soon as I start pushing on any one thing enough to get any kind of real momentum going, everything else grinds to a halt. So I end up thinking, other people are able to write multiple novels and short stories and maintain websites and keep a house in presentable condition (not perfect, but at least in a condition such that it’s possible to have someone over and not feel embarrassed) often while doing a day job as well,, so why can’t I?

    And I’m realizing that I honestly have no idea of just what is a reasonable expectation for what I should accomplish in a given period of time. I spent so long struggling under the opprobrium of people who believed that, because I resist doing busywork for the sake of looking busy, I must be lazy and unwilling to pull my weight. So now that I’m away from the jobs where I was judged on the appearance of productivity, I have no way to figure out how to evaluate my own productivity or lack thereof.

    • Argh. That should be “hits home.”

      Why can’t I see those kinds of errors in a post while it’s still in the editable box?

    • So I end up thinking, other people are able to write multiple novels and short stories and maintain websites and keep a house in presentable condition (not perfect, but at least in a condition such that it’s possible to have someone over and not feel embarrassed) often while doing a day job as well,, so why can’t I?

      That might depend (everyone say it with me) on how you define it.

      I know my mom was a ranch hand, and a substitute teacher, and a 4-H leader, AND had three kids no more than two years apart each, AND kept the house decent…. by going totally Wolverine on each challenge as it came up.

      Mom (grandma) is coming to visit? ATTACK THE HOUSE!

      There’s a BBQ coming up? ATTACK THE GARDEN!

      Dinner to be made? ATTACK THE DINNER!

      Sustituting and the kids will have a watcher tomorrow? ATTACK THE JOB!

      Keep a constant track on all the stuff you want to get around to, and totally focus on what needs done RIGHT NOW.

      Note: may still result in the realtor seeing your house an absolute mess due to food poisoning, but gives you an excuse for why you hate random company.

  12. Reality Observer

    Whuf. You are ranged, on target, and placed a solid hit here today.

    Like many here, I seem to have very similar problems. Why the h**l am I not producing?

    Well – I decided to start a daily log earlier this month (March). Circumstances are that I am the chief cook, bottle washer, laundress, and maid for a family of four (five when the son returns from Virginia). They won’t let me have the “Domestic God” title, which is fair – I really don’t do the thorough house cleaning that should be happening, I just keep it at a “usually tolerable” level. Besides all of the “manly man” things I’ve done all along.

    It has been an eye opener, though. Yesterday, I didn’t think I did all that much. The log says, though – seven plus hours on “domestic” stuff. Urk. Nearly eight hours on Tuesday. Most days are like that. (Last week, through Monday, not so much – but those were days I was on the sick list, and doing only the absolutely essential daily tasks, about two hours a day.) I’m no longer young enough to do a full time job and another nearly full-time job. This explains a LOT.

    Now, the log also tells me where I can probably cut back on some things and put that time into writing. Like “other people’s blogs” – although there are still at least two daily “must reads” there (ATH and MGC, if you are wondering). Plus KKR on “Business Musings” days.

    I suppose I could have also skipped the two hours I spent yesterday writing to a total stranger who is even further down the learning curve about this business – but… Or the three quarters of an hour this morning making my final decisions on the Hugo nominations – but… (Actually, I probably won’t have that next year, I’m done with them, from all indications.)

    Cooking, kitchen patrol, yard work, bathroom cleaning, laundry, vacuuming – sigh. There are probably some efficiencies to be squeezed out of those yet, but not all that much.

    Still stubborn, though. I refuse to lower my sights; there will be product someday. I just don’t know when.

    • So very much this. Moxie is barely eight weeks old, and Wee Dave is precociously two. And Mrs. Dave goes back to work tomorrow. I’m barely limping along on a couple of projects, and I fully expect to grind slowly to a halt over the course of the next week or so. Still, change is the only constant, and I have hopes that better things are coming.

      • Reality Observer

        I remember those days… Note that I do not have diaper patrol, nose wiping, “Daddy come see…” on the list. (Well, maybe the last.)

        All of that does eventually pass (and you wonder just when that snuck up on you), but you are definitely someone that needs to take today’s wisdom to heart.

        • Oh, I try to tell myself something similar once in a while. Every five minutes or so. Doesn’t always help. Depends on the day.

          • Reality Observer

            Um. Not going to tell you all about future attractions, nope. (I’m sure you have the skinny on them, anyway…)

        • Then comes the day when you are working at the kitchen sink and, having been well trained, on seeing the first rabbit of spring in the back yard, shout, ‘BUNNY!,’ only to realize that The Daughter is now settled in her own place a county away and there is no one to around to respond with utter glee.

          • Reality Observer

            Well, there is still when The Daughter (either one, for me) is All Grown Up – and hearing that announcement, still goes “Squeee!”

            That’s when you realize that you at least did the majority of your job right.

            Yes, that only happens when she (or you) is visiting – but still very satisfying.

  13. Christopher M. Chupik

    Speaking as someone who could not finish their Baen Fantasy Award story in time to meet the deadline. Which sucks. The only upside is that if there’s a 2017 contest, I’ll have an entry ready in advance.

    I hate failing at something. And that’s a good thing. I’d be worried if I was comfortable with failure.

    • Hahahaha, I only found out about it a week before deadline, told myself I could probably churn out a story, then came to my senses two days later.

      • If you can’t write a story in two hours, you need to practice more.

        • ‘A’ story in two hours? Sure. Just keep typing, even if it’s crap (what I did many a time in the bleary-eyed morning before a deadline in college).

          A decent, with a bit of polish, edit, and oh-my-gerbils-what-was-I-thinking? last minute fix? Weeellll…

          • My big problem is the -have ideas, which vanish like mist, because every time I sit down at the computer, I risk a debilitating flashback. Sitting in the chair, sleeping baby in lap. The fact I have them now, often untriggered by anything I’m doing, wrecks me. I could be planning the next few days’ meals one moment and then suddenly feeling the loss the next was completely unexpected.

            Other times they just vanish, or, as described, is hard to put together into words any more.

            Rhys, who is grilled at least yearly to watch for signs of PTSD and other psychological signs of stress, asked for help because I’d run out of ways to deal and cope – and the ones I used to make it through the last year no longer work. It probably doesn’t help in any way that the death anniversary is next week.

            • SheSellsSeashells

              I am so sorry. (Speaking of hitting home.) I had something similar going on after my mother’s death – we were close, though that loss pales beside yours IMO. I mostly just lurk around this part of the blogosphere, but you’ve been in my prayers a surprising amount, FWIW.

              • Thank you so much. It helps to know that good thoughts, prayers and well wishing is sent our way. I’m not the only one who has the flashbacks; but Aff can’t afford to replace his smartphone yet (it’s the trigger for him, because he remembers buying that particular model because it has a good camera.)

                Speaking of losing mothers, I had a panic attack when I rang home to chat to my mom, and she wasn’t there… and wasn’t home until past midnight. It turned out she was with her Bible study group until late, as they were having some kind of symposium. I kept ringing up my brother at his place of work, and kept trying to ring the house, in case my Mom did get home. Eesh.

                I flatly told her I am not emotionally prepared for her to join my Dad yet and told her she’s forbidden, absolutely forbidden to pass away until I’m 90 or something. (No, not really serious but we kinda do have longevity in our genes from her side of the family.) She took it in stride and now lets me know when she’s not going to be around for a long while. But for a few hours, I was an absolute wreck and terrified I’d lost her.

                Her pet cockatiel on the other hand, still sulks at her if she’s out late.

            • Have you considered getting a new chair? Painting the wall a different color? Putting colored paper around your computer? Putting a different smell in your computer room? Just moving around the furniture?

              I know it is autumn where you are, but you can do some tricks that might help turn over a new leaf. Keeping things too much the same might keep triggering stuff.

              • Well, we’ve moved house, so the set up of my work area isn’t the same any more. The chair is still the same – largely because a new one that would let me stay in it (one of the ones rated for 8+ hours use) cost a couple of hundred; and there was a priority of getting the house cleaned up, fixed up and furnished. Also, bird, because I guess my need to cuddle something small and fluffy and cute was really strong. I’ll probably get a new chair sometime in the next few months. Riley’s a cuddler of a bird and adorable.

                Alas, we’re not allowed to paint the walls. Rental. I do have plans for decorating the wall above my Cintiq with that gorgeous Star Trek print when I finish the installment payments for it.

                So, changes happen but slowly, over time. Like everything else I would like to have happen, but it’ll change.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          True. I normally need a few weeks, at least.

  14. For me, it’s tactical– if I’m at fault, then I can fix it; even if what I did didn’t cause the failure, it could contribute to it, so I should consider what if anything to change about it.

    This is a very cleaned up version of that sausage-making situation. 😀

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Certain of my problems have many different sources. Some of them clearly outside of myself. I can generate long lists, and tie specific ones to groups I love to hate, and have no control over.

      Hate or dislike doesn’t solve the problems for me.

      If part of the problem is under my control, I can own the problem and aspire to solving it.

  15. I have a lot of experience with being lashed for not meeting expectations of other people, and grew up being told how lazy and selfish and irresponsible and useless, and good-for-nothing I was. I wound up both fighting those accusations (trying to prove that they weren’t true) and internalizing them, and it made me flat out miserable and chronically depressed.
    Gradually, I realized how unfair and wrong that judgment was. I still don’t have ordinary physical strength, and since my heart surgery for a progressive and incurable condition, I don’t have the stamina for extended stretches of more than light activity, either. My choice? My fault? My ability to fix? NO. So I spit in they eye (figuratively) of anyone (past, present, or future) who wants to dump on me (for their own usually selfish reasons), and pass to what I can do something about.
    It took me some time regularly pushing myself to my physical limits to realize that this extended to mental and emotional limits as well. There were too many times when the will to get up and do something that I needed, and wanted to do just wasn’t there when I was too tired, but came back when I had rested a little.
    I’ve learned that I need to be aware of my own limitations, and not push myself to exhaustion trying to exceed them. (The ancient fable of the tortoise and the hare is applicable.) As a result of not continually using whips on myself to meet the expectations of people who are never going to be satisfied anyway (because of their problems, not mine) I am slowly emerging from a state of chronic low-grade depression. Now I’m in a race with degenerative diseases of aging.

    • Free-range Oyster

      Just remember, those weaknesses of the flesh pertain only to this vale of tears. Your perspective, your self-awareness, your diligence? Those are eternal.

  16. “the harshest judge, the one in my head, the one that demands I justify my existence, kept accusing me of laziness and gold bricking.”

    Yup. In me it comes in the form of ‘how dare you use the little bit of energy you have every day to WRITE? When there are so many things that need doing?’

    I record it in my Resistance journal, point out, logically, that my family would have an even harder time if they also had to deal with my being depressed all the time (the writing is my antidepressant), and ignore it.

    It keeps coming back – zombie judge. I keep shooting it in the kneecaps. The husband says he doesn’t mind. The problem is that this isn’t what I (mentally) promised him when I married him. And it results in me putting out effort when only I can that then wipes the writing out for days. There are still some things for which I’m essential; the rest I let go.

  17. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Breitbart’s intellectual defense of them losers is weaker than it needs to be. One can easily mount a strong intellectual defense. Intellectuals can be pretty daft, and the others are that daft by intellectual standards.

  18. I hope there’s a special room in heaven for all you writers as I would like to meet you there! This topic hits right at the heart of me!

  19. I did nurse him another 16 months, and yes, I want a medal.

    Probably too late for this info to be of use, but you don’t get a medal for that. What you get is Dan to tiss the boo-boo.

  20. The key to handling the demands of a harsh judge lies in determining what types of bribes are effective. Mine takes chocolate.

    There is also a curious affinity for circus peanuts (the marshmallow kind) but those earn no suspensions of sentence.

  21. interesting vid:

  22. one more link:

  23. In the same way for two years, I blamed myself because I had the entire story in my head, but would sit at the keyboard and SOMEHOW couldn’t type it in. The exact words, the concentration needed to put them in pixels, vanished before me like .. will o the wisps. I could write short stories, but even those were like lifting a HEAVY weight. I felt as though I were in a stone chamber, with only one opening capable of admitting a fortune cookie strip of paper out at a time. Blog posts are short enough I could get them out at a burst of little five word segments, but short stories… were longer. And I had to pass the entire story out that way, in three to five word increments. Novels? Impossible.

    I thought I was broken, but mostly I thought I was lazy. I flagellated for a personal failing.

    Oh Gods, that’s me, but without the blogposts bit because even those are often too hard to write. And yes, I know it’s grief, and deep, deep depression, probably the equivalent of emotionally taking limbs off, but I still blame myself for not being more, or stronger, that something eroded the cliff wall I’d been scaling and sent me crashing backward. I snapped last weekend, very badly, over something small, and I’m more upset with myself for the loss of control.

  24. c4c

  25. Raw thoughts get assembled and projected through a particular apparatus, as it might be English, with assists from any others that may be laying about agitating for lost causes. Sometimes Portuguese or maybe Latin bleeds into your diction. An accent structural in kind it is.

    I take it as evidence for the oft-disputed existence of “raw thoughts”. Polyglots are fun.

    • Mostly I speak backwards pre-coffee. In every language. And I often write this pre-coffee. Actually, lately I’ve taken to not being able to TALK pre coffee. My mouth just makes these disconnected sounds. It’s weird.

  26. MadRocketSci

    “Perfection is the first step to adequacy” – my inner voice. 😛

    Seriously though, I need to get my metabolism checked, because something is probably screwed up with it. I already deal with migraines, so at least I know what those (and the resultant spaciness and hangovers before and after) are now.

  27. That was a powerful post. I have some of the same self-flagellant tendencies: I believe I am only as worthy as long as the statute of limitations on my most recent success lasts.

    I think in my case, part of the feeling I was “born owing” was that I was a smart kid in an era when smart kids were praised for being smart*. (I was also a compliant kid, which sometimes makes me question just how smart I was). I was told I would do GREAT THINGS. The joke-destiny I was given in high school was that I (along with another student who was perceived similarly) would discover a cure for AIDS.

    Yeah. Even as a joke that’s tough to live up to. I am now a bio professor at a small, teaching-oriented college. There is never enough time for anything. I am lucky if I publish a paper every 2 years because I cannot come up with good research ideas and I am not good at roping other people in to help me….so I wind up doing most of it myself, in the odds and ends of time on weekends or between semesters. But it never feels like “enough.” I never feel like I’m “enough.” Part of it is not having married or had kids, I sometimes feel like my work is the ONLY proof of my existence, so to speak, and if I don’t keep pushing, it will be like I was never here.

    I…don’t know how to break out of that. And I’m also really good at hearing the one critic and believing him, no matter how crazy he might be, and ignoring the five or six people who are praising my work.

    (*This is a really bad idea. Praise the kid for overcoming adversity or working hard or whatever. But don’t praise them too much. One of my problems as an adult is that I can’t adjust to “if no one is yelling at you you’re an idiot, you’re doing fine” which is adult mode, because I got so used to “Unless someone is telling you what you did is good, you screwed it up somehow.”)

    • My brother had an OBVIOUS eidetic memory. (I had one too, but the scrambling of numbers made it hard to notice.) Given the style of schooling in Portugal (much like China or Japan. Memorization) he was told he was a genius and would do great things. I think it ruined him and made him a very unhappy man in the bargain. He’s been afraid to TRY anything all his life.
      I was fortunate in being born extremely premature and having the doctor tell my parents I’d be mentally retarded. They spent my entire time at home pushing me to try, not expecting much, and saying “Isn’t it amazing how someone who has issues can do this?” So I was free to try and fall on my face a lot of times, before I even got published. Which is what I wanted to do.
      PRESUME that you’re slightly brain damaged. Forgive yourself when you fall. Tell yourself you were just lucky no one noticed you were brain damaged while in school, but now you have to try, REALLY hard, and it’s really not your fault, should you fail.

    • We’ve got something along that line, with regards behavior. We’ve been telling our kids that good behavior is the minimum expected and trying to mitigate the bad manners that the children pick up from their peers.

      We spent a lot of time at a friend’s birthday party last night – and we didn’t get home until very late. All the adults there were praising how well behaved the children were, because they weren’t whining ‘when can we go hoooooome’ at their mum every five minutes. I laughed and said “Thanks, but you gave them free rein on your Wii and they’re getting to stay up waaaaaaaaaay past their bedtime. They’re utterly spoilt right now.”

      Then I got praised because they weren’t whining that the Wii didn’t have x game or y game, or that it wasn’t the latest model and that they were polite in asking for drinks, food, etc.

      Then again, I haven’t really gotten them asking for the latest model of anything, because we’ve been telling them that doing that would mean loss of computer privileges for a month.

      • Thanks for the reminder that gratitude is a conservative attribute. Teach your kids to be appreciative they weren’t drowned at birth of the least of what they receive.

        • Or murdered before they were born. Seems to be the standard that women are being encouraged to do or consider as an ‘acceptable choice’ – kill their own children, for their own conveniences.

          (Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind – Every time I’ve discovered I’m pregnant, that child is my child, and my body reflects that attitude.)

    • “Unless someone is telling you what you did is good, you screwed it up somehow.”

      I have bad news for you, which is actually good news for your development in the “learning that failing is not the end of the world” category: Unless it’s a blindingly simple project, you HAVE screwed it up someWHERE. It’s probably something small and unimportant, but the larger thing to remember is that NO ONE is perfect. Once you realize this fact and understand that it’s not the end of the world, you can move on. I screw up 10 times a day, on good days. I fix the ones that are either minor enough and easy to fix, or important enough, and let the others slide.

  28. richardmcenroe

    Those wrists! The iron thews of a master swordsman…