Month In Review: August 2016

Thin wooden boards with contrasting light and dark brown colouring.

August was a hard month. It always is. I hate August. It and February are the two chunks of the year where I want to skip and go to the next level. I’ve always felt bitter about this month, since I’d rather be in school, I hate summer, and I am a very impatient person. And ever since my brother died in 2011, it’s been harder. From July 24 to August 26, I’m reminded of the quick transition between life and death—the anniversary of his death on the 24th, and his birthday on the 26th.

I’d rather sleep through August.

Here are some of my favourite posts from this month:

A single adjective for August was depressed

Because that’s how I felt for the bulk of this month. I think it was in part because I went off my hormonal birth control for 6 weeks, and also because… well, because I have depression. The birth control helps. I can’t wait to be back on it at the start of September.

In September, I look forward to

  • My boyfriend moving in with me.
  • The start of my final semester in university.
  • Finishing my WIP (I will 100% make this a priority, even if I’m in school).
  • Starting a new bullet journal—the notebook should arrive in the mail this week, and I’m so so excited to 1) review it; and 2) showcase my new set-up.

I’m planning on including some university living posts for my final semester. I’ve experienced enough post-secondary life to impart some wisdom, especially when it does not relate to “decorate your dorm” or other on-campus living. I didn’t go that route, and I’m so fucking glad I didn’t. There will also be more bullet journal posts, I promise. With my new set-up that I have planned, there will be spotlights on individual spreads.

Autumn, I await your easy company.

Month In Review August 2016

“If I Can Do It, So Can You”

Now to Then

17-year-old with a chance to get away. Where is far enough? Where is too far? What can be achieved while there?

16-year-old with a sibling, recently deceased, a month away from 19.

Police officer.

16-year-old astonished by broken glass shining like a sea on wooden floors.

Police officer.

16-year-old watching a tray of homemade cookies dumped into the trash. Right there. Watching it happen.

16-year-old with a red handprint smear on a cheek.

16-year-old trying to protect the brother who would die next year.

Police officer.

16-year-old and 15-year-old and 14-year-old and 13-year-old and 12-year-old with self-inflicted scars. Grounding. Reconnecting. Punishment, because everyone else was right and this pain is deserved.

14-year-old who told lies about smears of red.

10-year-old curses and more redness smears on a cheek.

Police officer.

10-year-old in a dingy swivel chair, hand placed on a grimy Bible, a coat puffy and protective in a stuffy room. Face the camera. Tell the truth.

8-year-old hiding from broken glass.

Police officer.

A child’s parent wanted The Brady Bunch. A child’s parents tried to make it on their own, tried to avoid debt, failed and failed again. A child strategises, attempts to survive before puberty, and then through it, and then they want to know what the child will do at the beginning of its 50 years of adulthood.

Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt & Guilt

Everything is my damn fault and I need to do everything by myself and nobody helps me and how am I ever going to get a job when I can’t live properly let alone interact with a customer and I sometimes lie catatonic in bed because my mind makes poison in order to feed me and I’m made to feel bad for trying to do anything and for needing help to even get to a job because I live in an inaccessible place and brain.

Now

I saw a chance to get away when applications to colleges and universities were thrown at me. I took it. I took it and didn’t think of the loans. I moved away, free, still not legal (#OctoberBaby), and then the money hit me. It still hits me.

There I was, carving a path for my future while my tools continued breaking and I needed to rent them repeatedly. I’d get the money back somehow. I’d pay for the tools I used, the years it took me to carve through this mountain.

Do not judge my adulthood existence by your journey toward your adulthood. A tree planted in unsuitable soil cannot grow tall and strong, but this isn’t evident until it has grown up some.

Existing is a battle when you have mental illness and are an abuse survivor. In my first year of university, I was almost forced to withdraw from school because my grades were so poor. In my second year of university, I wanted to commit suicide.

It’s hard to consider making money when you’re simply trying to live. To breathe. To wash your damn body. How can I put on a face and say, “How can I help you?” to a customer who might yell at me? Especially if every yell at me brings back memories of trauma.

I sit on 40K and will never have children until I can ensure (and insure) they don’t go through the same financial strife. The same guilt of being another indebted child as I am. My mind and its pools of poison tell me that I owe something to everyone.

And sometimes society tells me I owe something to certain people. I owe nothing to people who biologically created me, but failed to take care of me. Who failed to repair a link every time it was broken. Who failed to say sorry when they hurt me. Who failed to acknowledge that they hurt me.

I owe no explanation to people who managed to work their way through high school, and then college or university. I owe no explanation to people who question my anxiety about finances. I owe no explanation to the acquaintances who want to know why I don’t want to pay $7.99 + tax at a restaurant for a shitty entree, and thus do not want to go out.

We can’t all work through the strife. When you’re a child and all you do is work on living… when you’re a child and your life is only strife… when the glimmers of pleasant memories come so infrequently that you think they’re just nighttime dreams… You can’t make your adult self part of the economic sector without wanting to die. Without waiting for something to jump out of the bushes and tear you apart. Without beating yourself up for not doing everything correctly, for slipping up, for accidentally breaking something at work, for getting an order wrong, for working overtime, for crying in the break room, for snapping at a customer, for avoiding people because otherwise you’ll break under the weight of your own guilty and traumatised conscience.

I am very unemployable, and it isn’t my fault. I’m trying to be better.

I am very much in debt, and it isn’t my fault. I’m trying to work through it.

I chose to go to university. I chose to go into debt. I chose to try and earn something—to earn a degree in the hopes of learning more about myself and about a future career field. I chose and I chose and I chose, and my priorities (1. not dying; 2. not hurting myself; 3. wanting to not do either number 2 or number 3) aren’t the same as yours.

I am not the same as you. We do not have the same story. We do not climb the same mountains. You, with a tall mountain of responsibilities. With crags and nooks that require effort to ascend.

I, with a tall mountain of responsibilities. With wolves and banshees chasing after me. With avalanches called upon by the demon of my childhood. With crags and nooks like yours, but just out of reach of my stunted motivation.

I am not the same as you. Your journey—where you gained something through hard work, by hustling, with careful planning—is not my journey.

My journey—where I needed to work hard to continue going, where I gained an, “Alright, if you want, but we can’t help yet,” and self-doubt, and where I had no rest since my memories began—is not your journey. It is mine. And you have no right to wonder why it is so different from yours as you sit on a rocky outcropping, eating organic trailmix, and ask why I’m still so far down, battered, bruised, with the handicaps of scars and pain slowing me down. The least you could do is shut up. The most you could do is offer some help.

In unrelated thoughts, a happy birthday to my brother today. You would have been 24 and that blows my mind—not the age, but how long you’ve been gone. You stopped ageing when you died and now all of your siblings are older than you.

Writing Wednesday: Depression

1. A balloon

In a bundle of carnival balloons held by a clown’s hand, I am the one floating near the clown’s head. I do not soar. I do not reach and inspire. I bob along.

Perhaps I am a pleasant colour to one child. They ick me, but by the time their parents place them asleep in the car seat, I’m gone. I slipped away at some point and became forgotten; lost; away. I do not drift to the sky. I skid into a dark place and deflate.

2. A rock in a river

Once, I was large and imposing. I splashed down into the world, into a creek, and let the water crash around me. I enjoyed the view and the rush.

But now the water is poison and strong. I am whittled away to a stone, a pebble, a grain of sand, until I disappear into microscopic debris. I am sent elsewhere and might well have not existed in the first place.

3. A blanket

Somehow, I am a barrier. I lie between the real world and the comfortable world. I want to be in both places, but can’t be in them together: I must decide. So often, I return to the comfortable world. The one without light, without movement, without action. A suffocation and one that needs no effort.

There is no production. There is no development. There is only easy, comfortable, decaying stasis.

Writing Wednesday Analogies For Depression 24

Bullet Journal: My Favourite Spreads

Bullet Journal 101 Series on CorylDork

I’m preparing (well, waiting…) to move my BuJo to a new notebook. I’m so excited to finally have a dot grid book! I ordered one from The Book Depository—along with class texts for my final semester, hell yeah—and I’m expecting it to arrive next week.

And of course next week I’ll have a post all about moving into a new bullet journal.

(No promises; post deliveries can be delayed. It might not be another 10 days until it arrives—but I’m hoping.)

But for today, riding off the previous bullet journal post, about finding inspiration, I thought I would continue and show some of my favourite spreads.

I work mostly with daily logs, but have since incorporated a few monthly and weekly logs. I figure, “I’m moving out of this book soon; I may as well try new things before the fresh start.”

So, below are pictures of the spreads, along with what I liked and disliked. I hope you can get a few ideas for yourself!

(Also, excuse the shitty focus. I’m not trying to impress anyone here, so my photography was slap-dash.)

Daily Logs

Daily logs are primarily what I use in my bullet journal, so I have an abundance of them.

Bullet Journal Daily Spread 1

Tuesday March 8

Liked: pizza doodle (and accompanying text); chevron banner

Disliked: pretty much everything else. This spread was close to when I still used signifiers in a dual-column display, along with putting spreads in the index.

Bullet Journal Daily Spread 2

Tuesday March 22

Liked: Header! Washi tape!

Disliked: It’s just one single list of everything and I really, really don’t like that.

Bullet Journal Daily Spread 3

May 10 – 12

Liked: sections; box designs; header text designs; like, almost everything makes me happy in this spread.

Disliked: The glitter star washi tape has actual glitter on it and is a pain in the ass to use, so I rarely use it.

Bullet Journal Daily Spread 4

Tuesday 19 July

Liked: the centered time codex is my favourite part, but I also love the quote (sha-bam, promotion for my recent post about “Feeling It” versus doing it); the divide between “Tasks” and “Agenda” really helped me plan out my day better.

Disliked: I… can’t think of anything I dislike. I love this spread. This is my favourite. I love that washi tape.

Bullet Journal Daily Spread 5

Saturday 6 August

Liked: Everything! Especially the doodles for where I had my giant cooking/meal prep time!

Disliked: It’s very bland and not as colourful as I would have liked. Some more markers or washi tape would have made this spread as darling as the previous one.

(Pst, there’s some worldbuilding notes there for my WIP. Sneak peek!)

Bullet Journal Daily Spread 6

Saturday August 13 and Sunday August 14

Liked: My energy trackers, particularly the horizontal one. This was a brief stint that I know I’ll return to once I have my dot grid notebook.

Disliked: I preferred having the time tracker in the center as a divider, so having them to the side or at the bottom really didn’t jive well with me.

Monthly Logs

In the middle of July, after I returned to Windsor, I invested more time into my monthly logs. I knew I needed a long glance at the weeks for my freelance work to be planned out (and prepared for).

Bullet Journal Monthly Spread 1

July

Liked: Having a calendar was beneficial, and I liked the tracker.

Disliked: The fact that it’s not a full month really bugged me, but I didn’t want to bother putting in the previous week and a half (and taking up more space than necessary). The tracker wasn’t used as much as I hoped (clearly) because it was just on this page. I need a reminder more often so I know what I’m tracking.

Bullet Journal Monthly Spread 2

August

This is pretty. I’m going to do this for every month.

Bullet Journal Monthly Spread 3

August

Liked: Everything.

Disliked: I should have put this onto two pages. The page after this one is the first week of August in a spread (which I didn’t like much).

Weekly Log

Only one! The others didn’t turn out as great.

Bullet Journal Weekly Spread 1

I moved (well, duplicated) a tracker-type thing to a weekly spread. This is easier for me to check off, especially because it references the goals for the week. I loved this layout, since it gave me a small calendar look, listed the deadlines (I don’t like them cramped onto a calendar), and gave me tons of space. A+ would do again.


I hope you can find a bit of inspiration here. I’m very, very excited to move into my new dot grid bullet journal once it comes in! Doing this mini review of my spreads has helped me figure out what I really want to include in the new one. I’m filled with ideas and excitement.

Bullet Journal 101 Favourite Spreads and Logs Review Likes Dislikes What Worked

How I Run My Blog (+ Scrivener Template!)

I’ve been running a blog far longer than the 8 months represented in my archives. But the blogging community has evolved alongside trends, priorities, and social media. I certainly don’t blog the same way I did in 2009, when I still talked about high school crushes and my blog changed its appearance at least every other month. My content has changed, and so has my method for organising and producing that different content.

The Editorial Calendar

I don’t remember where I read about this, but I remember it was definitely on another blog… about blogging and lifestyle. I wouldn’t consider myself a “Lifestyle” blog, but I suppose that’s the niche I fit into because I blog about my life. (And creative writing and writing craft and mental health and gender and sexuality.)

Basically, an editorial calendar is a way to plan out what content you’ll post and when you’ll post it. Some blogs, particularly DIY blogs, tailor their content to trends based on certain months: school crafts in the fall, Christmas crafts in December, summer crafts through June and August. If they have an idea for an Easter craft, but it’s the middle of July, an editorial calendar for their blog ensures that they can get that idea out the next time Easter comes, and gives them a place to plan, expand, and brainstorm.

Some editorial calendars are simple calendars, with sticky notes or pencilled-in blog post titles. They might include social media presence reminders (posting a picture on Instagram, sharing a recent blog post 3x on Twitter the day it goes live, etc.) Some small information about meta-data, like the blog post category, can be included too.

My editorial calendar serves mostly as a place to brainstorm, plan, draft, and back up my blog posts.

My Software & Process

I use Scrivener for the majority of my writing, whether it’s for the blog, my fiction, my works-in-progress, or my poetry. I love the folder system, as well as the ability to store meta-data, on top of the writing experience. I can quickly draft a post in Scrivener, decide on a category, and stick it into a folder for later use—whether it’s in a future month or in my “Stock” folder.

Currently, I plan out a month’s worth of posts near the beginning of the month. As I’m writing this, it’s August 2—but I have this post planned for today, August 19. I wrote a few other posts the day I wrote this one.

I write in advance because I burn out easily. That happened in July, when I didn’t have enough content pre-written and I was back-and-forth between two cities (five hours away from each other…)

I prefer Scrivener because it puts me in that writing mindset. When I’m in Scrivener, I have very minimal distraction. I also have everything I need right where it’s easy to get to.

Meta-Data

Categories

I write on certain topics. As much as I’d love to post recipes and food adventures, CorylDork is not the space for that. I reserve this website for blog posts on my personal life (to my own discretion), gender and sexuality, writing, and student life—which includes organisation and lifestyle stuff.

I pay attention to how often I’m posting in these categories. I want a variety of content for all the things I write about, so I use the “Outliner” view in Scriv to see which categories are dominating, and which I need to shine some light on again.

Post Schedule

I post three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. One of these days is a themed day: Writing Wednesday, so the other two days are free game for anything in my other categories.

Word Count

I like to vary the length of my content. By default, my Writing Wednesday posts are generally short. Most of my blog posts range between 500 and 800 words, and I’m okay with that.

WordPress

I blog using WordPress on a self-hosted server (so, I have the files from WordPress.org, rather than a domain purchased through WordPress.com), so my dashboard might be different to any WP.com users.

I use the following tools for my blog posts:

  • excerpt
  • featured image
  • category
  • tags
  • scheduling

The scheduling tool is by far the most handy. I can write up the post, include all the data I need, and then change the “Post immediately” section to a specific day and time.

I also use a few plugins, but they aren’t particularly integral to a simple blogging system.

Hootsuite

I use Hootsuite to schedule a few (maximum 3) tweets to promote my blog, and occasionally on Instagram. When it comes to social media, I’m not hardcore into promoting. It’s something I think I should do a bit more, especially since I get loads of hits from Facebook when I post over there, but hits and pageviews are not my current concern. I like to blog consistently about a selection of topics.


My biggest tip for bloggers is this: focus on what you want to say.

If you want to talk about something, make sure you have enough to say about it. Make sure you can be consistent in saying what you want to say. Others would tell you to “think about why you started” but that’s literally the shittiest motivation I can think of (I started blogging because I wanted to bitch about people. Not a good reason to continue blogging).

You also don’t have to blog often. I blog 3 times a week, but that might be too much for you to maintain for a longer period of time.


Anyway, as promised, below is the Scrivener template for a Blog Editorial Calendar! This was created with the Windows version of Scrivener, but hopefully it also works for Apple users.

Blog Editorial Calendar.scriv

Happy blogging! Remember: it’s okay to stop blogging for a bit and take a break when, and however long, you need it.

How I Run My Blog

Writing Wednesday: “Sentimental Scenic Sin”

Writing Wednesday Poem Sentimental Scenic Sin

Sentimental Scenic Sin

I am a desert cactus and you are an aloe branch
sitting on the grocer’s stand
somewhere in Bangladesh. The vacuum-sealed
bell peppers eyeing me across the aisle
shine for moister air. You are a riverbed
to the Atlantic, where a ship sunk,
four murderers destroyed their innocence, and a ravished
corpse drowned; and I
cook vegetarian curry in an apartment building
with flat-packed cans of tomatoes.

I mailed you
a book covered in ships and a hardbound cover; you will find
the blazon’d trail of dusty graves and
sediment layers which lead to me.
I shoved the map in a mailbox and
you peeled back the tongue-moist glue
too late—I have written a love letter on
the fibres from yesterday’s Amazon. She is a musician and
you are a computer technician in Buenos Aires.
I am a cactus tended beside the balcony door, and you
are aloe consumed by the neighbour’s
blender, for the spouse’s
newest trend in
health food smoothies.

I am a driftwood pipe and you are an ivory tusk
on display in India next to the English colonial
tradition. I sigh against lips of a skilled
flute player who moved in down the street, from
neon-lit streets in Japan; she
studies political science and I will not marry her.
You smack glass windows, angry-fisted,
because the sky cried on your laundry and you have no socks
for your corporate meeting.
You bring in eighty thousand a year and remember me
through the glare as you gaze to a Catholic city, and
I would have married you if you lived on an elephant
because they can swim
better than I.

Thoughts On Meat

My dad and his five sisters grew up on a farm. They had a few horses, cows, chickens, and a number of other foul.

One anecdote my grandma likes to tell me is of a pet goose one of my aunts—my dad’s sisters—had. The goose was good for a while, but started to get real mean. My aunt came in one night in October and said to my grandpa, “I want to get rid of the goose.” They had goose for Thanksgiving.

It’s a type of black humour that I don’t agree with: eating your pet, in a sense. True, they had a small farm, but the goose started out as a sort of pet. I’m exposed to jokes about eating your pet. I have a rabbit. It seems that every damn middle-aged man who discovers I have a pet rabbit asks some question about what kind of stew I’ll make, how much meat is on him, how scrawny he is and how he won’t amount to a good soup. Fuck off. Just fuck off.

I’m not opposed to eating meat. It’s hard to oppose eating meat when your relatives raised and slaughtered livestock. Meat-eating is normalised in my family. One of my aunts recently remarried and moved to Florida, where she is starting her own little farm. My dad has thought about raising chickens in his backyard because the price of chicken is increasing.

I think it takes a certain kind of person to be a farmer. I couldn’t be a farmer. I like the distance I have from livestock. I can’t handle giblets very well, let alone skinning and dressing an animal. I probably couldn’t do it with fish either. But I’m still going to eat meat, because… well, it doesn’t matter. I don’t have to justify why I eat what I eat, because what I eat doesn’t require a bibliography to count as acceptable. My food is not your problem. My food is not your concern.

Part of why I’m okay eating meat comes from the fact that my dad, my aunts, and my grandparents were okay producing that meat. On my mother’s side, her aunts and uncles were farmers too. I am not far distanced from the realities of taking care of and eating animal products.

One time in a class, the professor asked if anyone knew how to milk a cow. I was the only one to raise a hand. I think the majority of people in urban places are used to an urban life. I know how to milk a cow and I know how to churn butter. There’s a fad mentality about “knowing where your food comes from”—and I do. I know what I’m eating when I eat eggs, butter, milk, steak, chicken breast. I know I’m eating something that was living. Same with plants. They were once living, but with a different source of energy and a different type of life. I get grossed out by giblets, but I also get grossed out by the slimy inner seeds of tomatoes.

The entire universe works on a life-death cycle. I will die and provide sustenance for some other life form. I want to be cremated, so my carbon ashes will fertilise something. Even if only worms eat me, at least I’ll be returned to the cycle. Everyone is part of a greater cycle, so it’s up to you—the luxury of humans, actually—to decide where you fit in that cycle. Where in that food chain you’ll sit.

It’s like in The Lion King, when Simba asks Mufasa about eating antelope. Mufasa tells him, “When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass; and so, we are all connected in the great circle of life.”

You could be the antelope or you could be the lion. Or you could be both.

(I am aware of the large-scale effects of meat eating and production; I am one person who does not eat a lot of meat and tries to contribute less to that unfortunate reality. Don’t jump down my throat about how I’m contributing to the atrocities of capitalist livestock consumption, because I’ll be dead in 50 years and I buy and consume less than 1kg of meat each month.)

Thoughts On Meat

Literary Tips: Symbolism

A symbol is a word or phrase that signifies an object or event which in turn signifies something or suggests a range of reference beyond itself. Symbolism is the collection of all these symbols or other symbolic elements.

More simply, a symbol is something small that reflects on something bigger than itself.

Symbols are a key part of everyday life, in a broad sense. Marketing firms use symbols inherent to the culture to pitch products. Symbols appear as icons on road signs, public transit, your phone. The letter “A” can symbolise so much: the best of a list, the best effort, the beginning. Canadian symbolism would likely use a goose to symbolise aggression; a beaver for hard work; forests for industry. They can be single words or images or animals, or they can be phrases—the Stars and Stripes is a symbol. When you get down to specific cities, more symbols can arise. It’s impossible to escape symbolism.

The symbols and symbolism I most enjoy, from a reader and writer’s point of view, are called “personal” or “private” symbols. These are built throughout a poem, a short story, or a book. Personal/private symbols are made by building associations to a symbol by giving it meaningful attributes that add to the symbol’s reference. Like taking an ant, putting a tie on it, and looking at it through a magnifying glass. The ant is the symbol, the attributes are the tie, and the symbol’s reference is the view through the magnifying glass. An ant could symbolise hard work, but adding the hat adds another attribute—let’s say business and commerce.

A personal symbol takes a symbol, but adds or changes something about it to make the symbol reflect on something different from the norm.

Let’s take the example of the lion. It symbolises pride and courage. So what other associations can be made to the symbol? It is an endangered species, faces habitat destruction, and is a victim of poaching. How can those meaningful attributes add to the symbol’s reference—how can it add to pride and courage? Destroyed pride. A threatened ego. The lack of courage and bravery.

In one of the books I recently read, the protagonist is directly associated with juniper—a type of tree—instead of a flower, like her mother is. Later in the book, in a separate instance, the love interest scrambles through a patch of juniper. Boom. Symbolism. The common association of flora (plants and flowers) to women implies they are delicate, beautiful, and to be looked at; but contradicting the flora with further description (the juniper) changes the symbol. The author adds meaningful attributes that alter the reference.

The lines between simile, metaphor, extended metaphor, and symbolism tend to get blurred. But when it comes to symbolism, it looks at something small that generally relates to a bigger picture, idea, event, or concept. The lion symbolises an abstract emotion or quality. The juniper symbolises a character. A letter (“A”) symbolises status and starts.

A recurring theme or topic in your writing can be tapped into more when you use a symbol to refer to it. If you can find something concrete and smaller than the abstract, use it as a symbol throughout the book or poem! It can help link together all of your writing and reinforce the thematic elements.

Literary Tips Symbolism

Writing Wednesday: WIP Excerpt

Zephyr stood in one of the Academy’s courtyards, his bare feet gripping carefully arranged stonework, and tried to focus his sight. His classmates stood around him like a circle of mirrors with varying faces and bodies. Any one of them could be him, with their dark skin, dark hair, and pale robes extending to their wrists and ankles. They fitted like a jumpsuit, but flowed, unfitted, for easy movement. Zephyr stole a moment to look around at his peers to his left and right, trying to remember if he knew their names at one point. But their faces were set like water in glasses: still and heavy, but without hardness. Their eyes gazed into the Void, a place beyond their sight, but still glimpsing the world around them. When Zephyr had shown this look, this pose for concentration, to his twin sister Dwyn, she laughed at him.

The Void? Really, Zeph?” she had said. “We call it spacing out. Maybe even closer to going into a trance. You Mages sure are… upbeat.”

A student across from Zephyr had broken her concentration on her own Void and Zephyr caught her blinking rigorously. Any bodily movement and the Senior Apprentice would scold them, force them into group meditation again, and restart the class. They were nearing the end of the lesson. Zephyr looked at the girl’s face—it was Nerissa, standing a few people away from her ex-girlfriend Harlow. He glanced between the two: Harlow entirely lost to the Void, encompassed in that liminal space between “here” and “there,” and Nerissa readjusting herself quickly. She’s supposed to be top of the class, he thought. At least I know you don’t need to be perfect to be number one.

And you’re number two, he reminded himself.

He closed his eyes tightly, visualising colours until his mind’s eye was a kaleidoscope of jewel and earth tones, shifting between vibrant and muted, saturated and dull. He opened his eyes and transitioned to the Void.

“Presence is key,” the Senior Apprentice said. She stood somewhere among the students, but Zephyr only heard her voice. He saw no lips move and could not pinpoint where the sound originated. Like a ventriloquist, he thought. Throwing her words into the wind like sand.

“If you lose yourself at any moment, you will stumble. You stub your toe. You knock over a dish and it breaks.” Each of her words brought a vague memory to Zephyr, as out of frame as the stones and students in his peripheral vision; as unfocused and blurred as what his open eyes stared at. The Senior Apprentice’s voice became more ethereal, like smoke in a breeze, as she said, “Each of these mishaps, these misfortunes, occur because half of you is somewhere else. It does not matter where it is: it only matters that it is not with you. You can look for it and wait for it to return, but”—she smashed something into the center of the circle and a few students gasped. Zephyr witnessed the clay pottery pieces spread like a stain on the courtyard. He almost lost himself to a curiosity to look for designs on the pieces or where the pot originally sat before the Senior Apprentice had retrieved it.

But he stayed in the Void. Nothing. Nothing.

“Even good things can happen when you are not here,” she went on. “Hours pass and good news arrives. Water boils. Plants grow. You sleep, possibly dream, and wake up. It is impossible to be present at all times, but it is possible to be present when it is important.”

An uncountable amount of time passed as the students stood in their circle in silence. A collective breath moved through them, an inhale and an exhale, not synchronised or perfectly paced, but existing within each of their lungs as they meditated.

Zephyr released involuntarily, letting his chin fall closer to his collarbones, and his face flushed before he noticed an felt a slight, invisible tap in the back of his head. He whirled around and saw the Senior Apprentice behind him. She stood with another woman in the shade of the cloister encircling the courtyard. She spoke to the Mistress—the head of the Academy, a master of magic—who fixed her gaze on him. The Senior Apprentice turned to see him. A gust of wind blew into the courtyard and brought the smell of fragile dehydration, typical of Ysenia and its entire existence in clay. Zephyr blinked and squinted against the billowing dust, and abruptly felt the warmth of the sun. He lifted his brown face up to the sky, noticing it centered above the courtyard, and looked back to the women. The Senior Apprentice pointed at him and the Mistress nodded. Zephyr glanced to the other students, all of them in their Void, and left the circle.

Feeling Like It vs. Doing It

The crux of my procrastination is that “I don’t wanna” or “I don’t feel like it” emotion that serves no purpose. For me, it’s worse than laziness.

It’s apathy.

It’s not caring enough at that given moment to do something that I truly want done. It’s a thick blanket on my dreams and goals, and all the little steps it takes to complete them.

You don’t have to feel like doing something in order to do it—even if it’s a creative endeavour. The Muse is a philosophical idea. You don’t need to rely on this personification of “inspiration mixed with motivation” to produce anything. Sure, it may not feel as nice as it could, but that’s the point: you don’t have to feel nice about it. You don’t have to feel anything.

I’ve lived most of my life believing my actions and my emotions need to be married while doing something creative. Painting, drawing, poetry, writing, singing… These all sit within the arts (and there are others, which I’m not skilled at). And the arts need emotion, right?

Wrong.

A career (or intended career) in the arts has become so laced with an emotional investment that people think there needs to be emotion in the artist in order to produce emotion in the viewer. But that’s not true. In my experience, you just need to be saying something. That’s it. You just need to be saying something, whether it’s the truth or a lie, and some reaction will form in the reader or viewer or listener. You, as the creator, don’t need to do anything else but make a statement.

If you aren’t writing confessional poetry, then you don’t need to feel anything in order to write it.

You do not need to sit in a place where you want to do what you’ve decided to do. This doesn’t remain isolated to creative acts. It can be anything, whether it’s having a shower, going for groceries, or doing a school assignment. Why do you have to “feel like it” to do it? Can you imagine if you lived every action of your life invested in the desire to do that action? You would be exhausted after half a day.

What if a firefighter didn’t feel like risking their life? What if they didn’t feel like responding to a car crash? Do they let their lack of desire stop them from doing what needs to be done? No. And the arts are no different.

The point is that I’m not taking into consideration whether I feel like doing it. I may not feel like sitting and writing a blog post—literally how I feel while writing and editing this post—but I do it anyway. Because it doesn’t matter whether I feel like it. Because what matters is that, from the depths of my being, I want it done.

I want the end product. That’s what matters. It doesn’t matter how I feel going into the start, because I don’t care about how I start or when I start. I only care when I have something at the end. Even a shitty first draft.

My biggest piece of advice for anyone is the motto I’ve been telling myself.

You don’t have to feel like doing something in order to do it.

Here is my disclaimer: I have chronic depression. I often do not feel anything. How can I do something, whether it’s creation or housekeeping or hygiene, if I feel numb? If the abstract location for my emotions has turned into a void? If I let the black hole of depression continue to dictate what I can, can’t, will, and won’t do?

I will not let the whim of indifference control me when it is kin to apathy.

Feeling Like It Vs Doing It