On taking a break from media

I went to this two-week short story workshop, which was amazing. I got back a month ago, and have been meaning to write something about it. I think about it almost every day.

I went to Readercon last weekend, too, and intended to write something about it. Haven’t.

The short story workshop left me with three stories with varying amounts of polishing needed. None of them are on sub yet.

I have this idea for a project that I want to develop. I’ll need collaborators. I’ll need a co-writer, and people who know more about audio files than I do. But first I need to figure out more of it.

I miss playing with interactive fiction and Twine. It’s been a long time since I even opened Twine.

I want to play with writing poetry.

All of these things feel like they’re buried under a pile of junk. I don’t know what that junk is. Maybe it’s the god-awful heat of summer, as I am a creature made of dry dead leaves and impending snow. But I think it’s something else, what with the existence of air-conditioning and sun dresses.

It’s time for drastic measures, you see. In the past those drastic measures would be “BAN TUMBLR, BAN TWITTER.” But I’m not on Tumblr anymore, not really, and Twitter is important to me. Also, not that distracting most of the time.

So I’ve unplugged my external hard drives. No TV, no movies. I don’t have Netflix anymore. I’ll always have YouTube, but it’s not an automatic reflex/refuge.

I might take a break from most of my podcasts. They’ll be there when I come back, after all.

As a test, I’m even going to refrain from picking up another piece of fiction for a while. Just to see what happens in my brain. I read a lot. I can take a break for two weeks. And I’ve heard so many writers talk about how they can or can’t read other things when they’re in the midst of a project that I finally realized I’d never tried that. I’d always assumed I was fine. So I’m going to take a break on purpose.

No TV, no movies, no podcasts, no fiction. It’s kind of terrifying, actually. Distractions are very comforting.

Does anyone else ever do this? Do you institute a media blackout, or other sort of drastic measures? Or do you have other tactics to get things done?

Minor update

Ahh, tiny wee little improvements. The Stories page is shiny and reformatted, and yet all the links to my interactive fiction still work.

This was more doing than you might think, because Past Me was a little dumb. Let’s just say redirecting parts of a subdomain while leaving other parts of a subdomain alone is a little bit annoying if you are a Casual Coder like me. Why did I even put my interactive fiction on a separate subdomain? I don’t know, ask Past Me, she’s the one who did it.

Anyway. Stories! There are lizard people, post-apocalyptic rocket farms, mysterious portals, space monsters, and (of course) space witches. Etc.

The Fairy Woods title art
The Fairy Woods: A tale of rescue, or not

I’m going to take a second to feature this story. The Fairy Woods took me ages to construct, but I loved creating each bit of the world and each character you encounter. It has multiple endings and some neat hidden tricks involving remembering states and paths and character choices, but of course none of that matters if people don’t bother to click past the first choice.

So, um. If you feel so inclined, check it out! You might get to fight a troll or chat with a witch or muddle your way through a labyrinth.

A slow art

SICHA: I meet a lot of people in their twenties, and they’re concerned. They want to get published, and I think, “Well, hopefully you’re going to live a little while. Don’t walk in front of any trucks.”

LE GUIN: I don’t think most people write very good narrative prose until they’re in their later twenties. Writing is a slow art. Music can be such a fast and early art. A good musician can be just terrific at 16. But how many writers are there … I mean, even Keats is still blundering around at 16. By his early twenties, of course, he’s writing immortal poetry, but there aren’t a lot of Keatses, really. There’s where you get “gift” to a degree that it’s kind of like a miracle. You can’t use the Keatses to talk about writing as a craft or an art or a practice or a profession. The geniuses—they’re off there, doing their lovely thing.

SICHA: They mess up the scale for the rest of us.

LE GUIN: That’s okay. You just have to realize you’re not going to get there, but so what? You can still do beautiful work.

SICHA: There’s room for plenty of people.

— Choire Sicha interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin

The long game is no fun. I want instant gratification!!

I don’t like to call things ‘resolutions’ because of connotations around the word (so tightly paired with inevitable failure) but obviously that’s the right word for: This is the year I get over my weird reluctance to pursue the sort of traditional avenues of improving writing. It’s a talent, but it’s a craft. There’s a certain amount you can learn from doing the thing, and there’s some you can learn from talking to others who are doing the thing. But I guess I admit that there’s gotta be more to learn from the right ‘traditional’ sources (i.e., ones that aren’t trying to nudge me into writing rainwater-in-an-ashtray literary fiction. I’m fine with a certain amount of that, but for god’s sake, give me magic too).

So I’ve got this list of books to read. Some of ’em will be disappointing; some’ll be great, I hope. We’ll see what else might happen.


One day recently, I was sitting at my desk, innocently doing some actual work, when out of nowhere I was struck by a thought.

“I wonder if I beat my previous on-sub length at [market redacted]?”

Oh no. Oh, honey, no. Don’t think about it! You submit, set a reminder to query according to the market’s guidelines, and you stop thinking about it. You don’t look at your stats. You don’t check the queue on Submittable. You don’t.

Reader, I have been obsessing. For the past few days I have looked at Submissions Grinder and watched the numbers go up, as expected, one day at a time. Looking at the Grinder doesn’t do anything! It’s not where I’m notified about decisions! It isn’t anything but a glorified spreadsheet, except it turns colors. Colors are so dangerous. I’m staring at two oranges and a red, which means those stories have been with the markets longer than average. Which means almost nothing.

I am veering into rejectomancy, which is my favorite mystical dark art, but oh it is eating me alive.

I’m three days past my previous best at [market redacted] so I’m foolishly hopeful. I’m on a second tier elsewhere, so I’m waiting with bated breath. Oh, never do this. Drink from the Lethe after you submit, and move on with your lives. Don’t start editing a novel, get antsy because it’s hard, and start obsessing over your short story submissions.

*checks [market redacted]’s Twitter for updates*