the work of our hands

You guys don’t mind I use you as my psychiatrist, right? I mean, I wouldn’t want to let one of them into my head, even professionally, because … well… You guys know what I keep in there. There are several worlds, not to mention other bizarre things, like magic systems, a handwavium explanation for anti-grav and…. Do you know what could happen if some guy trips unaware over it? Or some woman, of course. Dear Lord, my first world which is now finally getting written (from an outsider perspective, sort of) is enough to send a conventional woman into the fetal position, whimpering, for a few years.

So, to quote much younger, more hopeful and infinitely more optimistic friends, I’ve been trying to work on myself.

Oh, no, not on all of me. Good Lord, people. If you count all my quirks, weirdness, things I can’t do and things I must do, it would take a couple thousand years to get to all of them. At last assessment, I don’t actually have any reason to expect a Lazarus Long type of life expectancy. Which, btw, has its own issues — not expecting it, I mean — but– anyway….

The point is most of my quirks are not really that irksome except to husband. No, wait, I don’t mean that. Get your minds out of the gutter. I mean stuff like “the way to make Sarah feel better is to take her to see dinosaur skeletons.” Why? Don’t know. Frankly, don’t care. It’s irksome to husband because, when our governor wasn’t hell bent on infringing our civil liberties, that is, if he noticed I was mopish, he had to drop everything and drag me to the hall of life in the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Or stuff like “my office has to be yellow. IT HAS to be yellow.” Why? Who cares? paint is cheap.

Anyway part of what I’ve been working on is the stuff affecting my writing, or the lack thereof, or the aim of my writing, or giving myself permission to write what I want.

I started working on it about three years ago, and … well, like working on an engine you’ve been keeping in a barn for years, there are signs of it sputtering to life, then it put puts off again, and I go looking for the next problem.

What caused the wheels to come off — a little over ten years ago — was illness. Organic stuff will mess you up. I held on, barely, but it destroyed the method by which I’d been forcing myself to work and left me without a system. Which I need– And– well….

The method I had before was no great shakes, which is why it was so easily overturned, to be fair. It depended on my chasing myself around, sometimes for months, then forcing myself to sit down and “write the fricking novel.”

The method resulted in anywhere between one and six novels a year, but depending on how much I had to tie myself to the chair to write, could also result in my performing seriously under par.

The method that’s emerging is much better and more regular, but it keeps running into new and interesting snags. This is not new, btw. My “favorite’ as my relationship with Prime Crime was disintegrating, was my brain throwing some sort of switch in my body, so I wrote a paragraph and fell asleep. No matter what hour of the day or night, the switch flipped, and I’d fall asleep with my head on the desk. That one was fun.

These days, yeah, it’s partly my brain, but it’s probably — mostly — that I really have a ton of stuff to do. I’m not blocked as such, but I keep getting pulled off to work on things. Sometimes very strange things. Yesterday was reorganizing the cat box room.

And now, part of it is that I’ve neglected these things since the move, but as we face another move, I need to sort, cull, get rid of things that don’t work, etc. We did about half of it in the last move, but since then things have changed, so more will need to be done.

And part of it is, yes, I broke the writing pattern and I’m trying to form a new one and my brain is ever uncooperative.

So I went digging and trying to find out why…. Why even cleaning the bathrooms ranks higher in priority.

I figured probably part of it out. I doubt that it’s more than a corner of the whole, but there it is….

Growing up — in case this hasn’t been obvious from other things — mom hated books. No, let me revise that, mom hated fiction books. Fiction in movies and TV was okay, but fiction in books was teh devil. Not in a religious sense, mind you.

In fact she wasn’t very coherent on why she hated books. She would just start fussing, or throw them into the neighbor’s field or something. And heaven forbid she caught me reading.

I honestly think part of it was that her father preferred books and learning to his kids, and she married a very bookish man, who I’m sure she perceived as neglecting giving attention to honey dos, and then she had two bookish children, who neglected various things for books.

Or it’s possible that being an Odd herself, and mostly hiding it, she decided the source of her Oddness was books. It wasn’t. I mean, she listened to a channel on the radio that was the equivalent of great courses, and ran through history and mythology and stuff, which is why she tried to name me Eurydice. But this is not mom’s psych session. It’s mine.

For years, I trained myself to such a point, that I would have hiding places for books and hide them if I heard footsteps anywhere near. This was so ingrained, it took my new husband almost a year to realize I wasn’t sitting around staring at walls, but in fact flung the book under the sofa, or dresser, as someone approached. It took both of us a lot more years to break my habit.

At that, mom also probably thought that I sat around staring at walls a lot, which probably fed her certainty I was bone lazy.

In any case, the problem was this: if mom caught me reading she would get me to “do something useful” which usually translated into some house work she thought I’d find unpleasant. (I actually like housework and most “violent” manual labor. Particularly if it also requires attention to detail. But I don’t thing she ever realized that.) If she caught me writing and she was fairly sure it wasn’t school work (and sometimes it was) the same.

HOWEVER if I got out an embroidery frame and was working at some handywork — very rare, as I had to restrict myself to things mom didn’t do, or she’d take it out of my hands to “show me how it was done” and finish it herself. So mostly I did elaborate cross stitch because mom hated it (and her eyes might by then have been too bad for it) — all the stops were pulled. Suddenly it was “Do you want me to get you a cup of tea?” and “Do you need a light for your work?” and “Come and sit on the nice chair so you’re more comfortable while you work.”

Honestly mom might need a blog to work out her quirks, herself, because honest to bog, she can’t possibly have thought I was going to make a living as an embroiderer, could she?

And well… though she assured me that reading and writing would never earn a living, that’s exactly how I have earned a living.

So — dear psych victims — imagine my frustration when I find I’ve been doing to myself what mom did, partly because I feel guilty if I’m “just” sitting around reading, even if it’s research or study for a book, much less if I’m “just” writing even though that makes me money, while cleaning the house, cooking and doing various weird crafts (snails. I’m painting snails on gourds. Also shut up.) doesn’t actually do anything for our monetary well being.

Husband in fact pointed out as of right now, the limit on my earnings is how much I devote to writing. And two hours a day is not enough. Which is why we have workmen doing things I could do very well. And btw, will get others to do other things I could very well, including on the other side, when we buy another place, because as husband pointed out, given the long tail it’s better, in the long run if I write to pay for it. More money in the LONG RUN.

It all comes down to: assume I won’t live two thousand years (likely, very likely) and live about the average for my family for women (assuming the wheels don’t completely go off medicine, and also no dramatic improvements.) I have about 20 years to write all the books I want to write. Let’s say it won’t be done at one book a year. Heck — looks worried — probably not at six books a year.

What do I want on my gravestone “She was an amazing housewife?” or “Her books helped me survive a really rough time, and there are so many of them?”

Yeah, I know which one I want. Particularly since I’ll never be an amazing housewife, because sooner or later I start doing carpentry in the living room again. It’s a compulsion. Also, I don’t have a workshop.

So. So that is what was in my way, gentle readers. The thing that, this week, kept the engine dying down again. “The work of our hands.”

Well, yes, I can do very nice embroidery. But let’s be honest. Lots of people do it better than I do. And I do crochet on long car rides, anyway, when I can’t do anything else.

But there are a few dozen of books in my head. And they will have to come out. And no one can do them for me. And at this point, mom’s opinion doesn’t count.

So, let me get some oil and see if I can get this machine to go.

31 thoughts on “the work of our hands

  1. I’ve heard that psychiatrists can be as crazy as their victims (I mean patients) so why should I let one of them into my head? 😈

  2. Well, all I know is last time “what I WANT to write” came flying out, I couldn’t wait to read more of it.

    Also, what Paul said… in my observation, shrinks become shrinks because they’re trying to work out what’s wrong with their own heads.

    1. I’ve also heard that if they weren’t crazy before, their training involves messing around in their own heads which drives them crazy. 😈

      1. I’ve learned to say that Skinnerian psychologists are very effective.


        Technically speaking, sane, or sane enough, psychologists do exist. But for a really effective psychologist, you want someone grounded, in addition to sane.

        1. I know a double psych (psychiatrist/psychologist) who is very good at what he does, sane or not. BUT he knows I don’t want him in my head, so he just pushes me towards books to read and backs off.

      2. Given some of the really freakin’ weird theories that still make sense when you are in the middle of them– just kind of fail on contact with happy humans– I can see the training doing that.

        (Of course I read psycho books. Same reason I love mythology and fantasy and scifi and coherent theology– it’s about understanding people, and if you get a good one you can find some aspect you didn’t understand before. But if you get a bad one but think it’s good and then go APPLY it….. *shudder* So no risk I’d become one!)

        1. Basic issues: Humans are really complicated. Measuring humans is also really hard. You get information from observation, because nothing automated has, as of yet, been reliably useful for grokking human minds from. Humans don’t live long enough to observe every ‘type’ of human mind very well.

          So, in psychology, study of individual human minds, you get a lot of very specialized experts, with theories that explain well a narrow slice of dysfunction. Some folks, purely by accident, end up working with a bunch of very similar people. The people writing the books, and the people reading the books, include a large fraction who take seriously for everyone a theory that is based on observing a narrow slice of human.

          Sociology is in theory trying to aggregate things within one’s own society. Sociology has problems, where it isn’t outright fraud.

          Anthropology is both aggregating and individual, mainly directed at outside cultures. Also, problems.

          1. “Anthropology is both aggregating and individual, mainly directed at outside cultures. Also, problems.”

            At least anthropology’s problems have a chance of being not quite as bad as those of anthropophagy.

            I hope.

  3. quibbles about the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist

    I can’t, in any expert or systemic way, give you advice to help you put your head together better, or help you work through problems. I am neither a priest nor a psychologist.

    I also definitely can’t give you chemicals that might possibly help you function better, if we are very careful.

    1. As I understand the difference, a psychiatrist can prescribe “medications” and a psychologist can’t.

      1. Correct. A psychiatrist is an MD and thus has full prescribing power. A psychologist doesn’t have the medical degree and isn’t considered qualified to decide on what medication might or might not be appropriate.

        (I found this out a few years ago when I wrote a short story with the main character going to a psychologist and getting a prescription for sleeping pills. One of the beta readers set me straight.)

      1. The chemicals are crutches. Literally. You use them while the bones are knitting and not one minute longer.

        Unless you’re allergic, which is a different problem.

  4. she tried to name me Eurydice

    I’m sorry.

    I have about 20 years to write all the books I want to write. Let’s say it won’t be done at one book a year. Heck — looks worried — probably not at six books a year.

    At some point, I think all writers have to accept that we aren’t going to write all of the books that we want to. At my current pace, I could finish all the books in my idea file around 2027, but I know that won’t actually happen, because new ideas will come along and bump the old ones out of their place in the queue. Probably I won’t finish even the ones I want to write now, let alone all those that will come to me in the next ten or twenty years.

    All we can do is give the muse free rein and try to finish as many as we can.

    Beyond that, I don’t think you want any advice from me. My psyche is one messed up place right now, and if I tried to counsel anyone, I’d probably end up talking both of us into suicide.

  5. I know that there are novels I will never write. Not so much because I can’t write them, but because the market is so niche as I would have be on the scale of “I’ll read anything GRRM writes, because!” to even see me break-even on the novels.

    And, there are a few other creative projects that I really want to do, but I would need an artist for them (comic books/manga).

    But, if all I can do is all I can do-then I’ll do all that I can.

    As much of it as I can, as quickly as I can.

  6. Perhaps your mother and my mother should meet. My mother grew up in a tiny village in Germany (born in 1938) that by pure chance ended up on the right side of the East/West German border.

    No one can do anything as well as she can and why aren’t you working except everything you do is substandard compared to the way she does it and you should be eating more because cooking is the way she shows love but you’re too damn fat and you should eat less.

    No, she is not malicious or cruel in any way. But it’s not an easy relationship.

    You are not alone. I have to tell that voice (my mother’s!) to shut up almost every hour because whatever I’m doing is substandard and no one will ever want to read it.

    Best wishes to you.

      1. Yeah. That. You can’t win and you’re not allowed to not play. This is why my sister-in-law and my nephew’s wife don’t eat at my mother’s house. They’re ‘not hungry’ because they ‘ate earlier’.

  7. Old habits . . . and mothers . . . can really get stuck inside your head. I had my mother’s voice inside my head criticizing me for decades after I’d moved halfway across the country. In a step toward honesty, she’s been replace with my own voice wanting an explanation for everything, like a toddler saying “why?” over and over. Maybe I’ll start telling her to shut up and go read a book . . .

  8. if mom caught me reading she would get me to “do something useful”

    Mine as well, but in her case she was right. Grandma would read while (pretending to be) dusting, mom had a spot in the mango tree that was basically invisible, and I would run away from school and hide in the library.

    Of course, unlike you, we all *are* lazy, and would happily spend the rest of our lives buried in books if we could get away with it. Mom tells me she used to have this recurring nightmare that she missed Gabriel’s final Trump because she was hiding in the out house reading and “Just one more chapter!”

    So, from a realio-trulio skiver-offer: That is not you. Read! Write! Create! And then I can pay you cashy-money for your books instead of just my subscription to your website.

  9. All of that only sounds a problem if for some other reason you get shoved in front of a shrink.

    If the ideas aren’t causing you problems then you’re probably good . I’m not a medic though.

    in the DSM odd beliefs have to be part of established religious or similar ideas . virgin Mary is OK . for example.

    The rest is only a problem if when sent there you start rambling on to someone who may be listening really carefully to figure out what diagnosis he or she can use to help you.

    My wife is embarrassed by her former work as a psychiatric nurse.

    And no that’s not how we met 🙂

    It was a former friend who is still in the job , and introduced his latest girlfriend/ drugged ex patient to me the only time we met.
    He liked all sorts of Drugs not just medicines and rambled on. His latest semi conscious conquest asked on hearing a familiar name.

    Paraldehyde , Is that the one you gave me that’s sticks to the glass….

    Good luck

    1. I’m not a psychiatric patient. If I ever landed on that, it would be due to semi-chronicle depression, but I don’t believe in taking drugs for that, and I’ve learned to Dree My Weyrd.
      It’s more that all sorts of training from childhood is in the way of my writing, so I’m trying to “work on myself” which my kids, bio and fan kids tell me every human being should do.

  10. “she tried to name me Eurydice”

    My parents named me Arwen which I like but they also gave me a very flexible middle name.

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