Looking for Structure in an Unstructured World: The Importance of Insignificant Routines

Although you would never think it if you wandered around in my house, I am the type of person who absolutely thrives in an environment full of schedules, organization and routines. All those things I rebelled against when I was younger have served me very well more often than not in my adult life. Sure, I’ve had to adjust the way I do things to accommodate my anxiety, and re-adjust again out of consideration of my decreased productivity potential and increased need for rest after becoming chronically ill in my thirties. But in all that time I’ve never stopped loving a list – I’ve just learned to cope with my need for shorter, more manageable ones.

During times of increased stress – which I’m fairly sure the last few years have been for pretty much everyone who is paying any kind of attention to anything – I tend to lean on the crutch of routine, even insignificant routine, to cut down on the likelihood of dropping into a doom spiral or battling constant paralyzing anxiety. But I tend to forget that any system, no matter how well-designed, will inevitably break down over time if it’s not properly maintained.

I’m fairly good a building routines, but I can be dreadful about maintaining them.

Dakota and Charley are also a big fan of routine, thankfully.

Since about mid-April, I’ve been in a state where my stress levels have increased to the point where it is finally impacting my ability to be functional on a day-to-day basis, and that’s mostly due to the impact it has had on even being able to control the things that were previously controllable. I’ve mostly been able to keep to the routines that keep my environment in working order – the dogs are fed & walked on schedule, the bills are paid, and the groceries ordered and put away. But over the last six weeks or so, I’ve lost my grip on my habits that primarily exist to self-soothe, and make sure that I’m taking care of myself adequately.

There have been too many nights of poor sleep, too many days where I couldn’t force myself to cook so my food intake suffered for it. Just too many times where I got caught up in something I had zero power to effect, and in doing so, missed out on opportunities to improve something within my sphere of influence. I’ve allowed the gloom to fester, and I’m finding it takes more and more effort to control my temper. Probably the hardest pill to swallow is that – in theory – it should be far easier right now to maintain good habits & adequately recharge my personal batteries than it has been in years, and I cannot seem to keep it together even on a very basic level.

I’ll admit this post has gone far off the track that I had planned for it; my intention had been something a little bit lighter about how so much of modern gaming is designed around the player feeling the need to build routines, from MMOs with daily quests & content lockout schedules, to mobile games with login rewards, to single player experiences like Animal Crossing & Cozy Grove that rely on real-time mechanics. I had been engaging daily with several types of games with these mechanics even after taking a break from MMOs; Cozy Grove every morning, and a couple of mobile games on my tablet every evening. But over the last few weeks, I’ve abandoned all of these things that asked for regular interaction. For me, those daily insignificant tasks were comforting, and even while I have no particular desire to go back to those specific games, I’m feeling the loss of the meaningless structure they were providing me.

The fact that I’m able to – more or less – put these feelings into words makes me feel like I might be pushing through this particular rough patch. I’ve come to terms with the fact that, yet again, I need to take a hard look at my life as a whole and put some serious energy into re-prioritizing if I want to be in a better place than I am currently. The constant war against both entropy and stagnation is both physically and mentally exhausting, and I admit that I’m not entirely sure I’m up to the task of diving headfirst back into it, but I can’t shake the feeling that I need to do something.

The Importance of Having A Room of One’s Own

with all due apologies to Virginia Woolf

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

In August 2020, instead of our normal Blaugust shenanigans, instead we had Promptapalooza. We’d just done an off-schedule Blaugust-style write-a-thon a few months before to help us feel connected during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. So in August, we instead went round robin style with prompts that were assigned to us, making sure we wrote about our own on a specific day, and then we also wrote entries about other prompts as the mood struck us.

I’m bringing this up now, because my prompt was – for me – a doozy.

Tell us about your physical creative space, and how it influences your content creation.

At the time, I felt like it was never going to get better for me, and it made that post really difficult to write. I like to think I can hold my own talking about just about any topic, provided I don’t have to do a whole lot of soul-searching to do it. I spent days on that post – trying to balance being honest with not being too damn depressing. I was fighting a feeling of being unwelcome in my own home – like there was no space for me to exist.

I’d like to tell you that I figured out some magical means of making myself and my needs a priority, but the real answer is far more mundane. We had a significant financial improvement in late 2020, and that enabled us to do a lot of things that were previously out of reach for us. The first priority was dealing with the problems in our house that were going to lead to bigger – and more expensive – problems down the line, and to replace some appliances that were fast becoming non-functional. We struggled through almost 6 months of having contractors in our house, fixing things that were long overdue to be fixed.

Part of that was tackling the entrance to the converted garage at the end of our house. It’s a room that just collected junk, over and over, because it wasn’t really a livable space. The sliding glass door was no longer functional, so we had that taken out, and replaced it with a more standard exterior door and a brand new chunk of wall. After that, every time we needed to rent a dumpster for some other reason, we got some of the trash out. We paid someone to pick up the larger pieces and dispose of them. By the time the rest of the work was done, the room was only half as cluttered as it once was, and most of what remained were things we wanted, but didn’t have space for.

So I decided to reclaim the space for myself.

When you’re used to being the person who makes sure everyone gets what they need, it’s not hard to neglect yourself, and I wanted to make sure everything else was handled before doing something that was just for me. While I would love to say that it just took a few weeks and a new coat of paint, we worked on the room a few hours a week from December of 2021 until … well, I’d also be lying if I said it was 100% done. But, I am finally moved in. I no longer feel like I’ve been tucked into a corner and forgotten about.

I finally have a room of my own. It’s just shy of 11′ x 17′, which is small for a garage, but plenty big enough for a combination bedroom, office & crafting space. We ripped off the old paneling, and then skimmed, sanded and painted the walls. We pulled up the astroturf and got some vinyl flooring and an area rug. My stepfather replaced the fluorescent lighting with LED and made sure there were enough outlets for my purposes. We cleaned absolutely everything, usually multiple times. We took a space that was neglected to the point of uselessness and made it cozy.

Sure, there’s still clutter that needs to be dealt with, and we’ve still got the lingering remnants of construction materials and tools taking up space until the next project – a full basement cleanout – is completed. Some of it I still need to use in here, some just doesn’t yet have a better place to be moved to. I still plan to add more shelving and storage space, and put some art on the walls.

But my books are unpacked for the first time since we moved here in the beginning of 2016, and I’ve gathered craft supplies from all the nooks and crannies of the house and centralized them. My desk chair no longer leans perceptively to the left. I have a (new, larger) desk for my computer set up, and a separate desk for craft projects. Most importantly, I have a door that closes, and I’m far enough away from the parts of the house that tend to be more active that I can bask in the quiet and the uninterrupted time for both work and play.

It’s not done, but it already feels worlds better.

Roadblock – My First #JustOnePercent Slump

Today’s entry should be about the next game on my list (Network), but I’ve been unable to get my butt in the chair and actually get the playing part done. I’m fine with being in the chair to endlessly doomscroll through my Twitter feed, or to browse Reddit, or even to do a little online shopping, so I though maybe I just wasn’t feeling the game.

Now, when I’m not feeling a particular game, both during and outside of this particular project, I don’t immediately jump to blaming the game. Which is not to say that it is never the game, but first I check my current mental and physical state. Is it a really bad pain day? Am I too tired to start something new? Am I overly stressed about something? Have I remembered to eat and drink appropriately throughout the day? A lot of times, it’s one or more of these issues, and if it’s a problem that’s actually solvable (usually the eating one), I do that and give it a second chance.

So yesterday, I ate some dinner, took a couple of Tylenol and a nap, and tried to come back to it, and lasted five whole minutes. At this point, I conceded that maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a janky horror adventure title, and jumped to the next game on my list – Polyville Canyon – which I had actually been quite looking forward to. I managed to stick with that for thirteen minutes.

Instead of persevering with either title I had just bounced off of, or frustrating myself further by jumping further ahead in my list, I just accepted that it wasn’t happening today. There’s no shame in falling off schedule now and then. I’ve been going hard on this project for three months now, and I keep pushing because there are just so many games I’d like to look at.

On the other hand, who does it serve to push myself into burnout territory? Not me, certainly. Not anyone who read this blog, nor anyone whose game I might talk about when I’m just not feeling it. So I’m going to give myself some grace, and accept that I may either miss some titles this month, or end up with some weeks that are packed full of project posts. I need to be okay with either one.

I think, generally speaking, creating goals for oneself is often more important than actually meeting all of them.

Leaving Azeroth

When I logged into Battle.net on March 12th to cancel my World of Warcraft subscription, I confirmed what I already knew – I hadn’t logged in for more than a full month. A few days prior, I had skipped out on our first raid of 9.2. I hadn’t intended to miss it, but I’d had a couple of really rotten days in a row, and not only was I not in the best headspace for learning new things, time had gotten away from me, and I hadn’t even managed to do the most rudimentary prep for it.

That was the last straw. I finally had to confront the complex feelings I’d had about the World of Warcraft, and my place in it, that I’ve been struggling with pretty much since the middle of the first tier of the expansion. The only thing that I’d been hanging on for was to keep spending time with the friends I’ve had in game for over ten years now, but since I can’t even push myself to do the barest minimum in keeping up with the game outside of raiding, I’ve managed to even spoil that for myself.

Sure, I technically meet the minimums our guild requires, almost entirely due to raid drops from the previous tier, since I’ve been doing almost nothing but logging on for raid for months now. And I’ve never been a top performer, not by a long shot, and as time goes on, it takes me longer and longer to learn the fights. I spent most of the last tier feeling more like a dead weight holding the raid back than as a useful member of the team. I no longer bring any kind of unique utility, and I’ve been scaling back on my administrative tasks for quite awhile now. While I don’t doubt my friends still want me around, I am equally sure that they don’t need me anymore.

I’m hesitant to say that this is a forever goodbye – in a few weeks, Blizzard will be announcing a new expansion, and maybe it will reinvigorate me. Maybe I’ll get an attack of FOMO and decide I’m not willing to miss yet another end-of-expansion boss kill. Maybe this subscription lapse will only last a little while. But it feels like the end of an era, like leaving home for the last time, and I’m far more emotional over the whole thing than I have been any other time I’ve taken a break.

This blog is supposed to be primarily about gaming, with a smattering of my other hobbies & interests. As such, I usually tend to shy away from talking about anything overly serious, personal, or worst of all, personal and serious. It doesn’t feel like the right space for those things, most of the time. But I’m about to get pretty heavy for a minute. If that’s not what you’re here for, peep the cute dogs below and then move on.

It’s not about the game, not really. It’s about losing yet another community, one of the last few places I feel like I fit in. I cannot separate the feelings I’m having about stepping away from a video game that I have been finding myself increasingly frustrated with for about six years – since Warlords of Draenor gave us the earliest iteration of Mythic dungeons – from the other grieving and losses I’ve felt over the last two years since COVID19 showed up. Now, watching so many people in my orbit jump on the bandwagon of “Time to return to normal!”, I’m having a harder time than I have at any other point in the pandemic. I’ve known all along that as someone with a chronic illness and increased risk of long-term complications that I would be treated by society as expendable, but now I’m feeling like people I know and care about see it that way as well, and it’s absolutely wrecking me.

My official diagnosis is Fibromyalgia. My symptoms started after I caught a virus, and was the sickest I have ever been in my life. It was the spring that everyone was worried about H1N1, and I had no idea that the week before I caught it was going to be the last time things were ever “normal” for me.

For about six months after I “recovered”, if I wasn’t at work or at doctor’s appointments, I was sleeping. Spending 14 or more hours in bed on a weekend was commonplace. It didn’t matter – I was still exhausted all the time. The primary care doctor I had then didn’t believe there was anything actually wrong with me except my weight, prescribed exercise for someone who was tired, in pain, and falling asleep at the wheel, and managed to drag his feet long enough that I lost both my job and my health insurance before getting any answers. I was in my early thirties at the time.

It was about another year before I could access health care again, and start working towards a diagnosis and eventual treatment. In a way, the delay was probably best; by the time I had a name for what was happening to my body I had mostly become acclimated to it, and didn’t expect it to be something fixable anymore. I learned to live within my limitations – I had already grieved the life I expected to have. Nothing was ever going to be the same for me again.

I think if you talk – really talk – to anyone with a disability or chronic illness, they are likely to have a similar story. It’s not just an adjustment, but a loss, and there is grief. There is no getting better or returning to normal. The pandemic we’ve been living through for the past two years is the same, except society hasn’t accepted its limitations. It keeps pushing itself too far, doing more and more irreparable damage, stubbornly taking a bad situation and making it worse over and over.

The world is sick. It isn’t going to recover, and it has been – so far – unwilling to accept this fact.

Maybe it’s because I’ve already been through this so I have the experience to reflect on, or maybe it’s because I know that yes, it absolutely can happen to me, but I’ve mostly decided that for me, there will never be a return to the way things were. I will probably never eat inside a restaurant again. I’ll never see another movie in a theater. I probably will never travel by airplane or go on another cruise. None of these are things I’m willing to give even more of who I am to experience, not when I’ve already had to let go of so much of who I wanted to be.

But no one that I used to spend face-to-face time with in the before time is willing to give these things up. For them, things are improving, while for me – who has been fortunate enough to have fared pretty well overall during the past two years – they’re getting worse and worse. My world is getting smaller with every choice the people around me are making for themselves. I don’t blame them, exactly, but it’s hard to be left behind.

It’s exhausting to feel like, by advocating for myself, I’m being a killjoy and a burden, and not being able to not do that offline is also a huge part of why I’m leaving my friends in Azeroth. I can choose to not be a burden to them, so that’s the choice I’m making. Coming on the heels of the realization that the more “normal” society at large wants to be, the more risk I’m at every single day, despite how much I’ve already given up, withdrawn from, and continue to avoid, it’s painful, but it also feels like the right choice, at least for now.

So Many Subscriptions!

Our household is currently prioritizing getting our entertainment / discretionary spending under control, and – at least for me – a big part of that is figuring out where the money is going. Sure, I could have just made a spreadsheet, or gone super old school and written things down in a pocket sized notebook, but I decided to grab an app for that.

Spending Tracker is a pretty bare-bones budgeting app, but it had exactly the features I was looking for. I did pony up the $3 to unlock all of the paid features (which is not a subscription, but just a one time charge). At the beginning of the month, it resets my budget, carrying over any excess from the previous month, and then, whenever I spend money in the categories we’ve decided are part of discretionary spending, I log it.

I was a little thrown off, however, by how much of my monthly budget is tied up in subscription fees! We are excluding from our personal budgets services we both use, so this doesn’t even include our TV streaming services, our Audible account, or our Spotify family plan.

Currently in my monthly expenses I have subscriptions to World of Warcraft, XBox Game Pass, Humble Choice and GooglePlay Pass under gaming, as well as Kindle Unlimited under books. While I’m glad to mostly not be acquiring more stuff, I still feel like I’m not utilizing most of these well relative to their costs. While I realize we’ve been lucky to have had continued financial stability through the past couple years, but as a result, I’ve been throwing money at anything that looked like we might be able to squeeze a little distraction or joy out of it.

Over the next few months, I’m going to be taking a closer look of how much value I’m getting from each of these services. Although I have more free time than most, this is still probably quite a bit more media than any one person needs to have access to at any given time, especially when you factor in the media services we share. I can only read so many books, play so many games, and watch so much television in any given month.

Do you have any subscription services you can’t live without, or are you still paying subscriptions for things you honestly aren’t getting that much value from? Or are you the type of person who just wants to purchase all your media? Tell me about it in the comments.

Where I’ve Been

I am not sure how it’s come to pass that it’s been almost three weeks since my last post. I don’t even have any great excuse – everything just sort of got away from me for a little bit. Part of it is that I haven’t been doing a whole lot of gaming (although that seems to be picking up again), and part of it is that I’ve just been busy with a whole bunch of super-duper mundane stuff.

I’ve actually been spending a good chunk of time working on crafty stuff – more on that in a bit – so I’ve decided to get my spook on a little early this year. I spent a whole weekend watching my way through all five Final Destination films. I’ve also zoomed through re-watching the first three seasons of American Horror Story in hopes that I’ll continue right through to all the seasons I haven’t gotten around to yet, getting myself all caught up.

While I’m finding myself actually enjoying television again, I mostly picked it back up because I joined in on a Stitch-A-Long with some of my crafty friends. I had hoped to get started around the beginning of the month, but my supplies were delayed in the mail, so I spent a whole lot of time over the course of a few days trying to get my frame completed before the patterns started releasing on the 17th. Since then, I’ve managed to stay (mostly) caught up, although I do still have some decorative frame parts to finish up.

Since I rarely do anything halfway, this has lead me to spending way too much time on Etsy, picking out other patterns to play around with, and then ordering a whole bunch of supplies, so I really hope cross-stitching sticks for a bit this time. We’ve run into a few issues with the renovation projects, which have resulted in further delays into getting back into a dedicated crafting space, so having projects that are relatively compact that I can work on pretty much anywhere has been fantastic. I’d mostly stopped stitching because it seemed like on the days my eyes were ok to do it, my hands were killing me or vice versa. I’m pleased to report that so far neither are giving me too much trouble, provided I remember to put my damn readers on while I’m working.

Otherwise, the majority of my actual gaming time has been spent on co-op endeavors: I’ve been attending weekly raids in World of Warcraft (main raid every other week, and then alt raids on the off weeks as of last week), and playing Factorio with a friend on Tuesdays. When I’m on my own, I’ve had trouble sticking to much of anything since wrapping up Psychonauts 2.

I did spent a few days replaying (almost all of) Ghost Master, since that’s one of my go-to comfort games. I’ve probably run through the first 2/3 of the game about 20 times, and finished it at least half a dozen. If whatever deity is responsible for deciding on remasters is reading along, please give this one some consideration. The game is so great at its core, but it’s coming up on being 20 years old now, and man, it has not aged well at all.

I still have a few chaotic weeks coming up, but things feel like they’re starting to return to normal, more or less, so I’m optimistic that I’m going to be playing – and therefore writing – a little more. The weather is already getting cooler, and I’m starting to plan ahead for another cozy winter of not doing much that requires putting on pants.

Origin of a Gamer – Getting to Know You Week

Much thanks to GoG.com for giving me the inspiration for this post!

I am now Of A Certain Age, and if I’m being really honest, I don’t entirely remember the order of things from my childhood. I remember my uncle, who lived with my grandparents at the time, having an ColecoVision, which according to Google could have been as early as 1982. I remember many, many hours spent playing games on an Atari 2600, which was originally release a few months before I was born, and was, in fact, the majority of the console gaming that I did prior to being an adult. I definitely cut my gamer-baby-teeth on Space Invaders, Megamania, Pitfall, and yes, even E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. But I don’t think any of those were what really got me into gaming.

I didn’t really fall in love with video games until I spent some serious time with computer games. I vaguely remember having some sort of computer at home, with a few text-only video games accessed via cassette tape, but I don’t really have any strong memories of what exactly I played like that, or where that machine ever ended up. No, the first video games I remember getting really invested in, I wasn’t even playing.

From the time I started school until we moved after I finished fourth grade, I spent most of my afternoons with my grandparents and my uncle on my mother’s side. If I do the math (and boy, do I hate doing the math), in 1986, I would have been nine. My uncle, who I realize now must have had the patience of a saint, would have been around 25. I don’t know that Might & Magic was the very first game I watched him play for hours on end, but it’s the first one I remember that I can put a name to.

I can only imagine I asked a bajillion stupid questions, as children tend to do, and he was always great about talking me through whatever I didn’t understand. I remember using the code-wheel and game manuals to help him get through the onerous copy-protection. And I remember being absolutely entranced in this oh-so-pretty fantasy world he kept in a small box on his desk.

It wasn’t until I was in my teens that we had a computer at home that I had regular access to, and I didn’t have a machine of my own until I was in college, but playing games on PC always seemed like the “right” way to play. This is probably why I am, to this day, crazy clumsy with a controller, and really awful at platformers. I would occasionally play console games when I was at a friend’s house, but the games I really enjoy were all better suited to mouse and keyboard. In fact, some of those games I really fell in love with in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I still go back and play to this day. The very first game I ever purchased on Steam was a copy of a game I played to death when it came out in 2003.

Sometimes, I feel like this is a thing I probably should have grown out of by now, but mostly, I have a deep appreciation of the evolution of gaming just from having seen it grow as I have also grown. I cannot even imagine how different my life would have been if I hadn’t had my uncle to introduce me to this absolutely fascinating world.

Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: You all don’t need me for this one, do you?

Nerding IRL – Chopped Challenge

Since subscribing to Discovery+, we’ve found quite a few shows that are pretty fantastic to just have as background noise in the house. There are oodles of seasons, and they’re fun to watch, even a few minutes at a time. Recently, our background show of choice has been Chopped. Personally, I’m not much for cooking, but I love tumbling ideas around of what could be made out of the mystery ingredients.

However, we have a friend who loves to cook, feed people, and play with new ingredients and flavor combinations. When he told me he would love to try making a meal Chopped-style, an idea was born, and I’ve spent more time than I care to admit brainstorming some fun “baskets”. This past Saturday, we finally got together and had a three-course Chopped-style meal together.

We worked out all the details and some rule revisions ahead of time. We decided to set “goal” times rather than firm times, and made those goal times a little longer than what the show allows for. We also tacked on a few extra minutes at the beginning for tasting and planning, and allowed for a couple of questions regarding the ingredients to be answered by anyone not cooking. Obviously, none of us are professional chefs, so Google was our friend in a couple instances.

Since a home kitchen isn’t going to have all the ingredients (or gadgets) you see in a cooking show’s pantry, I tried to make sure that a fairly complete dish could be made from each dish with just adding some basic staples & spices.

For me personally, there were two ingredients in the very first basket I’ve never eaten! I’m not a very adventurous eater, and I’m probably a less adventurous cook. But the dish we got was super tasty. The pork rinds got crushed up and dusted over the duck wing, the candy was turned into a sauce with black pepper and garlic that went on both the duck wing and over the lotus root. The lotus root was pan fried in chili oil and was a great vehicle for all those lovely flavors.

I honestly don’t know what I would have done with this collection of ingredients, but I never would have come up with this dish, and it was so damn good. He took the meat out of the patties and tossed the breading, and cooked that up with onions, lion’s mane mushrooms and some of the hominy. The chocolate, cactus pear juice, and more of the hominy went into an absolutely delicious sauce, and he served the whole thing in a big bowl over some white rice.

In the dessert round, there was another stroke of genius I hadn’t anticipated. He crumbled up the toaster pastries, mixed them with some butter, and put the whole thing in the over to bake like a cookie. Over there was a layer of apple butter and the melted cheese, The prosciutto was fried up in a pan, and the mangos were cooked in sugar and a little water, and then put on the top. Everything worked together, and not only did we all clean our plates, but we also kept going back for bits of that toaster pastry cookies until it was all gone.

Overall, we all felt like the night was a huge success. My friend rated the difficulty of the ingredients provided as being “just right” – challenging without feeling overwhelming, and everyone walked away happy and with full bellies. We’re considering doing this as a monthly event going forward.

Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: Do you have any regular bit of nerdery you get together with friends to do? Alternatively, if you were to take any game show or competition show and turn it into a real life event, what would you choose and why?

Blaugust: Motivation & Momentum (or the Lack Thereof)

When Belghast first posted about Blaugust 2021, I told myself it’d be absolutely ok to go for one of the lower tiers. After all, I know I can do it – I’ve taken the Rainbow award for daily posts during 2019, and in the slightly different but ultimately similar 2020 Blapril.

But waking up on August 2nd without a post ready to go just felt weird, so it appears that I am going to try to put a little more oomph into this than I had originally planned on. Which is a bit awkward since my blog motivation has been super-low the past few months, which I think is due in large part to my overall motivation being equally low as of late.

The question then is this: where do you find motivation when it’s not in the places you would normally find it? When I start to lose motivation towards the end of a project, I can usually push through solely on momentum, but that’s not really an option at the beginning. Without motivation or momentum to rely on, I’m stuck with what always seems to be my default position of sheer stubbornness!

I’m still not sure exactly how Blaugust 2021 is going to go for me, but watching other participants come out of the gate strong and with a whole lot of gusto has invigorated me. I think my biggest stumbling block is not going to be the time actually spent writing but rather the time where I need to be doing (or at least thinking about) something interesting enough to be writing about.

… which this particular post probably is not, but in the interest of not starting out way behind, it’s what I’ve got today.

Welcome to Blaugust 2021, participants and readers!

Promptapalooza #11 – A Space to Create

Blaugust Promptapalooza 2020 is this crazy year’s crazy twist on the August blogging challenge cooked up by Belghast over on Tales of the Aggronaut. Instead of writing every day, a whole bunch of us have committed to being “prompt-bearers”, and today it’s my turn!

Tell us about your physical creative space, and how it influences your content creation.

Promptapalooza (August 10th, 2020)

I’m going to ‘fess up here. I wanted to throw this prompt back. I almost resented it – obviously, Bel doesn’t know anything about my creative space and the prompts were distributed randomly. I wasn’t being called out, but it sure felt that way for a hot minute. But I realized the fact that I reacted to it so strongly is exactly why I should write about it.

Because of this, I’m going to tell you now that tomorrow’s prompt will be presented by SDWeasel over at Unidentified Signal Source, in case you don’t make it all the way to the end.

Apologies in advance for my lack of pictures on this one. This is going to be hard to write, possibly hard to read, and I just don’t feel like I can illustrate it for you as well.

I really don’t feel like I have a “creative space”. I have a space where, sometimes, somehow, almost in spite of myself, I manage to write. My desk is small and cramped. My computer and all of its peripherals have seen better days. The floor in here isn’t level, so I am forever listing slightly to the left, and my chair actually partially blocks the access to the hallway leading to the other side of the house.

To top it off, it’s never quiet here. There’s no door I can close. I’m frequently trying to block out the television, a barking dog, half a conversation taking place on Discord, or all of the above. I do have a headset (and use it when I really need to), but extended use tends to give me a headache, and I’m clueless about how to find something more suitable.

Basically, my creative space is everything I don’t want it to be. But I make it work because the alternative – giving this up until I can get my space in order – is untenable.

I’ve said it before – I don’t really write here to build a following. In fact, self-promotion past an automated Tweet and an occasional link drop on a Discord channel or Facebook group would likely be the end of what I’m doing. No, as much I as love the interaction of blogging when it comes, it’s not why I do it.

For me, writing here about whatever strikes my fancy is structure and purpose and one of the few things I do for my own satisfaction, and I’m not ready to give that up.

Sadly, this is sort of a recurring theme for me. When we moved into the apartment we lived in before this house, I was determined to prioritize making a “writing nook” for myself. It was full of books that I loved, and good intentions. However, I was still learning how to balance a job, domestic responsibilities, and adjusting expectations due to a chronic illness, and instead of being a source of solace, it ended up being a constant reminder of my failure to prioritize creativity.

I realize now I’m going kind of far off prompt, but it’s a recurring theme for me. There’s always something more important to do, something else that space needs to be set aside for, and I couldn’t possibly make that kind of commitment.

We live in an old, poorly maintained home, and are trying to make it into a space that works for us – slowly, with limited funds, and even more limited DIY-ability. Both my husband and I struggle with different disabilities, and there are days that we can only manage the bare minimum as far as housework goes. The dogs get taken care of, and we make sure we eat something. On the better days, we struggle to get caught up, and it’s rare that we have the energy and the finances required for the bigger projects we want to tackle.

We are about four and half years behind on our five year plan, and every time we manage to squirrel away some savings, something critical breaks. This year, the savings account is going to get emptied out to replace the heating system. We do have a room, currently being used for storage, which is allocated to be my quiet place, but it basically needs to be gutted first, and that particular project is going to take a huge allotment of energy, so it keeps getting put off.

At this point, I cannot fathom just … waiting for the right type of space to create. I’ve hit a point in my life where I feel better about making do than not making anything. I may not have a creative space that speaks to me for another five years, but that doesn’t mean I should neglect the part of me who wants to write, and craft, and paint, and draw. Right now, I can’t dedicate space in my home, but I absolutely must dedicate space in my life.

I know this whole post is pretty far outside what I normally write about, and for those of you who made it this far, I have a small reward in the form of a picture of my adorable dogs. They’re also not really into the idea of me having a quiet space to make things, but they’re fantastic for my mental health, so we’ll allow it.