The Death of a Gaming Computer

A few minutes ago, I tried to bring the system back to life. Because I use red coolant, when the hastily affixed tubing failed, the system sprayed fluid onto me, my desk, and the closest wall, like arterial blood spurting from an open wound. That was the breaking point, for both the system and myself.

Let me start from the beginning. Some of this I’ve talked about before, but I think I need to go over this again just to give myself a little bit more closure.

At the beginning of September 2020, I decided it was time to start building a new gaming computer in anticipation of Cyberpunk. I built the previous system most of a decade before that, so it was well past time. With everything else going on that year, I needed the new system.

The 30 series of RTX cards were just about to come out, so the timing seemed right. This was before the card shortage hit, so I didn’t know what kind of an undertaking it would be to build this new system.

Like everyone else, I ran into bots and scammers and chip shortages and online stores that liked to bait and switch. I found an online vendor that looked like you could get in line, and months later, they canceled my order only to put up the same card for fifty bucks more.

In February of 2021, I finally found the card for my system, but there was a catch. It came with a water block already on it. To use this card, I needed to build my first custom loop.

I went for it and started reading everything I could on water cooling. I watched a bunch of JayzTwoCents videos. They were particularly useful and entertaining, and I’m still watching his channel on YouTube to this day. It’s good stuff.

My first attempts at getting the loop going succeeded, but in weird ways. I went too cheap on the pump and radiator, and though it kept the card at 60C under load, it looked like hell. The pump and reservoir didn’t fit in the system, so I had tubes hanging out the back. Then after a month or so, the pump died and I had to replace it.

The next pump lasted a little while longer, but still didn’t fit in the case. Noise issues bothered me, and I wound up replacing all the fans. The filter in the second pump melted and destroyed the pump, so I replaced it again.

I started with basic distilled water with an additive, then went to specially bought coolant, pre-colored and ready to go. The newest pump, the XD5 from Corsair, actually fit in my system and looked really good. My gaming system started to look like something to be proud of.

The temperatures started going up, though. Under load, the GPU sat at 88C. Not good. So I continued to tinker.

I bought a 360mm radiator and hard tubing to replace the soft tubing. I learned to bend the tubes and use the new fittings, and again, the system started to look more impressive. My hopes were that the changing in tubing would allow greater flow, and the radiator would grant more cooling capacity. It shouldn’t have been necessary, since there was only one device on the loop. All that work reduced the temperatures about 5 to 6 degrees, but only sometimes. It was still running too hot.

After replacing everything else, I looked at the water block on the GPU. It didn’t have a backplate. It didn’t seem to cover all of the components on the card. In the last rounds of updates and upgrades, I’d taken the block apart and cleaned it, but that had no effect. I decided to replace the block with one from Corsair.

The block arrived yesterday. I took the old block off, installed the new one. Everything seemed fine. I had to bend new tubes because the holes on the new block were about half an inch off from the previous. I anticipated this, and I had the tubing on hand, ready to cut and bend.

Everything fit back together. I added fluid to the system. No leaks. It was ready to hook up and post.

For about twenty minutes, I felt like I accomplished something. The system came right up. Everything looked good. I put the card under load, trying not to hope for too much. I wanted to bring the temperature down 20C so that it would sit in the 60’s again.

I used Valheim as my test app. For some reason, it demands nearly 100% utilization of the GPU at 4K. I ran around on screen, with FPS higher than I’d seen before, and temps lower than I dared to hope for. The temperature never went about 44C.

I did it. I spent all of that money and time and effort, and it finally paid off. I had the gaming system I set out build, satisfying a quest I started over a year ago. With my own hands, I put this beautiful system together, and I was happy. Amazed, and happy.

Then I saw strange artifacts on the screen. Then it went entirely green. Then the system began to hang.

I reset, and the desktop came up for a little bit. But then the artifacts again, and the green, and then nothing.

For a little while, Windows recognized the card but refused to use it. Since I recently upgraded to Windows 11, I thought there was a possibility that the upgrade messed up the drivers, so I completely uninstalled and reinstalled them.

At this point, I knew what happened. During the process of putting on the new water block, I did something to the card itself. Maybe a string of thermal paste from the previous block draped across some components on the card, creating a short. Maybe I touched something I wasn’t supposed to. I don’t know what happened exactly, but as I went through all of the software solutions, I already knew in my heart that this was a hardware problem.

I did a clean install of Windows, installed the latest NVidia drivers, and nothing changed. Windows recognized that the card was there, but it wouldn’t use it. There was a problem with the card and no amount of tinkering with the software was going to fix it.

When I woke up this morning and decided to take the block off again and try to clean the card more thoroughly before putting it back together and trying again. I used a dry brush to remove left over gunk I couldn’t clean last night. I went over the whole card thoroughly. I didn’t see anything burned out. It looked good. I started to build up some hope again.

I told myself not to hope. Hardware problems like this are rarely so easily solved. Yes, I cleaned it, and yes, it looked right, but I needed to keep my expectations in check, because I didn’t want to break my own heart. I’ve been struggling enough as it is lately. Confidence issues. Depression. My faith has been in tatters. I’m tired all the time, thinking dark thoughts more often than light, and I did not want to hope for this because I did not know how I would handle the disappointment.

Faith, hope, and love. While talking to myself, saying not to hope, I thought of Corinthians. Basically, when all else is lost, we still have faith, hope, and love. But my faith is ruined. Hope feels like breathing shards of glass. And love, I don’t feel like I deserve.

When I took the card out to clean it, I had trouble getting the fittings loose. When I put the card back in the system, I tried not to tighten them as much.

I did not dare to hope too much, so I did not spend as much time making sure the fittings were seated as properly as I usually do. I never had a problem with leaks before. Why would I have a problem this time?

Without putting the front glass back on, I put the system in its place, hooked it up, and turned it on. I wasn’t going to have it on for long, anyway. I had no hope of the card coming back to life.

And then the system bled everywhere, as I described in the beginning.

I didn’t log into Windows. I shut it down, then went and sat in a chair, wishing I could cry, but unable to produce even a single tear.

This is a loss. There is a hole in my life. There are many holes, actually. This one’s just the freshest, and its painful because of how much it cost, and how I have no one to blame but myself.

Before sitting down to write this, I cleaned up all the fluid. The system is sitting on my workbench again. I cleaned it as well. I don’t think any of the other components are damaged. Maybe someday, I’ll get another video card and bring it back to life. Maybe I’ll wait and start a different system when there isn’t a chip shortage.

I don’t know. I’m very sad right now. Writing this all out helps. I’m still very fortunate in a number of ways, and I should count my blessings and keep my chin up, and all that. But it hurts, and I think I need to sit with the pain for a little bit before moving on. I need to give myself permission to feel sad about this.

Somewhere out there, someone hates me. I’m the villain in their story, the antagonist whenever I show up in their life. I don’t know who they are, but I hope they find out about this moment I’m going through. I’m miserable, feeling utterly defeated. I hope this low point can at least be the high point of their day.


The Inexplicable Hate for the MCU

I just watched the Honest Trailers for the Hawkeye series, and I can’t say that I loved it. There were a couple of jokes that made me smile, but I think I’m tired of people shitting on the MCU just because it’s the trendy thing to do right now.

Am I a biased MCU fan boy? Probably. But I don’t think the criticism thrown at a lot of MCU properties are fair or compelling anymore.

For example, I see a lot of criticism about all MCU properties being formulaic. This makes me pinch the bridge of my nose and sigh, for two reasons. 1) That’s just Hollywood, baby. 2) Aside from Shang Chi and Eternals both using special effects, there’s not a lot in common between the two, and they came out one after the other.

If you like movies, you don’t really care that the MCU tends to follow a formula, which is the 3 act structure. Seriously. Look at movies both financially and critically and you’ll find that the 3 act structure dominates the box office. It’s comfortable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is room for stories that don’t follow this structure, but those rarely make money. Not all art has to make money.

But while I’m mentioning art, let’s talk about the MCU. The way the MCU works is, there is an overarching plan and a color palette to keep everything in the same universe and coherent. The color palette is how you can have Black Widow and Guardians of the Galaxy in the same series. Though it can make things look similar, it still allows for moments of breath-taking beauty, like what we see in Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther.

There is an overarching plan and a similar color palette, but then vastly different directors are allowed to make the movie they want to make. Kenneth Branagh and Taika Waititi are extremely different directors with vastly different visions, and they were able to make completely different Thor movies. You can say that Waititi’s vision is the superior one, and I will agree that it was more fun, but you cannot tell me with a straight face that these MCU properties are all the same. They’re not, even when they hit the same beats.

So why is it common to hate on the MCU these days?

It’s because it’s easier to tear down than to build up.

It’s because controversy gets clicks. More people read about Trump than they read about Biden because Trump is a train wreck, and we’re all gawkers. You’re more likely to click a link talking about how the MCU sucks than one which heaps praise on an already successful franchise. The former is controversial, because it is counter to the critical and financial success of the movies. The latter is just marketing.

I think the people that make their money off of media, the Screen Junkies and critics and media influencers, are out of interesting things to say about the MCU that isn’t a tear down. If there was a sports team that won 85% of its games, fans would stick with it for a while. Then they’d get bored, because the outcome is predictable, and then the only thing you’d see about the team is how much they “suck.” People would write articles about how this team only won by 9 points instead of 20 in their last game, or how they always use the same plays to win games.

Quick side note… you may have noticed I stopped writing the blog every day. So much for that New Year’s resolution, right? Well, the resolution wasn’t about writing every day as much as it was about writing. I had a few days where I didn’t have anything interesting to say, and I was distracted with other cool projects, which I’ll talk about later.

I’m going to keep trying to post more frequently. This is the only “new” writing I’m doing right now. Once I’m done with the revisions of Synthetic Dreams, I’ll consider starting something else. I have no idea when those revisions will be complete, because there’s really no reason for me to rush and get it finished.


The Critique Group Boost

If you’ve been reading my posts over the last week or so — you haven’t been, but that’s okay — you might have seen a tendency towards depression and negativity. I’ve just been feeling so down. I prefer to be honest and fair, so whatever I’m feeling in the moment is going to influence the tone of these posts.

This is the main problem with writing a post every day. Normally, when I’m feeling like my post is going to be less than positive, I can choose to not post anything. This can go for days, weeks, or even months. If you’ve ever looked at my archive and seen huge gaps, it’s mostly because I didn’t want to post something negative.

Now I’m feeling quite a bit better, so this should be better.

One of the reasons I’m feeling better is that I’ve been really active on a couple of projects. I’ve printed most of the large pieces required for the next keyboard, and I’ve ordered the switches and wires and the microchip which will run the whole thing. I watched some instructional videos, so I know how to wire this up. I’m prepared! When it’s all done, it may not be the prettiest, but it will be the most personal.

Also, I realized that if I ever write an actual cyberpunk story, this completely custom keyboard is the instrument I’ll use to write it. It makes me excited.

The parts I need to buy to build the keyboard are on order. Also, the parts I need to finish upgrading my gaming PC are on order. Multiple projects are moving forward at the same time, which feels like momentum. It feels like I’m doing stuff.

Beyond all of that, I had a really great meeting with the critique group on Saturday. It isn’t just that they said nice things about my story. They did say nice things, but I think getting to be part of a community hit me like medicine.

I’ve also been attending the Shut Up and Write groups, thanks to Mike Baltar. During yesterdays’ meeting, I worked on the revision of Synthetic Dreams. I really want to get that to the point where I can share it. Then I can move on to the next story. Maybe that cyberpunk story. Maybe the fantasy story I tried writing in 2011.

I’m feeling better. Hopefully this is a trend and I’ll feel good tomorrow, too.


Dreaming of Getting Better

I don’t usually remember my dreams, but the one from last night hasn’t completely faded yet. Something happened in the world and people were given something that granted them the ability to regenerate. Death and sickness should have been a thing of the past, but I became sick anyway. I struggled to breathe and move around while people all around me looked on with concern. Towards the end, some decision was made. Surgery? Burial? My family was going to move on without me? I don’t remember the exact detail. I just remember hating it. The anger rekindled my will, and I forced myself up. I went to a sick and made myself cough up all of the things filling my lungs. The large particulate matter refused to disgorge. I stuck my fingers deep down my throat and grabbed strings and mud and bits that aren’t supposed to be in the body and pulled it all out. The last foreign object I removed was a near perfect gray and white feather. As I looked at it in the sink, I breathed easy.

Then I began stomping around the room, forcing strength back into my limbs while my family watched with concern. I shouldn’t have been able to do that, one of them said. “The regeneration didn’t take, so how is he regenerating?” someone else said. I heard their doubts, and that just made me grit my teeth and stomp harder. In the end, I emerged from the house and started stomping around the world, which did not seem ready for me.

As I was writing this recount of the dream, I wondered if this had anything to do with the pandemic. When I first woke up, I thought this was more about what I’ve been talking about lately, which is the depression and anger with myself. Maybe the dream is about fear of getting sick, but I think it’s more about knowing that I’m already unwell in my head. Everyone else in the world has something given to them that helps them, but it doesn’t help me. I have the ability to get better on my own, but I have to choose to do so. If I don’t make that choice, the world will move on without me.

As I slept, the first piece of my new custom keyboard finished printing. Each of the main pieces will take 6 hours. The second piece will be finished around 3PM. We visited Home Depot last night just before they closed, to make sure there were fewer people there, and I picked up a new soldering iron and a heat gun, the tools I need for the keyboard and for the liquid cooling in my gaming PC. Progress is happening with both of those projects.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about writing and the critique group from yesterday.


Running on Empty

Yesterday’s post felt honest, but mean. Not all truths need to be delivered with force. If someone asks if their dress makes them look fat, you don’t have to lie. You can say, “It’s not flattering to your figure” or “it’s not my favorite outfit you’ve worn.” You can say yes without making it a personal attack.

Feeling a little bit more rested today, I committed a personal attack on myself. Not a whacky, zany kind of thing like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar. Not even an ironic scene like in Fight Club.

I’m just… empty. When I reach inside for self-compassion, I don’t find any, just like I’m not finding much in the way of creativity or cleverness. I feel tired all the time, even when I’ve had a good night’s rest.

Today, writing the daily blog post is hard, because when I look for something to say, I’m not finding anything profound or useful to put into the world. Just echoes of the stuff from yesterday, because I’m cavernous and hollow inside.

I’ve tried playing my instrument a few times. It’s like finding warmth from a struck match. It’s momentary and painful if I try to grasp it. There’s nothing to kindle to flames, so the moment burns out and I’m cold again.

Editing Spin City for the critique group is good. There is some really clever dialog in that story. The story itself is clever, and I wish I could go back in time and give it to my younger self. It’s the kind of story he wanted to write. But then I look at the business of writing and I think of what it would take to get the book in other people’s hands, and I get that hollow feeling all over again.

3D printing and gaming. Replacing the custom water loop in my computer. Cleaning up parts of my garage. These are all short term solutions to a long term problem.

I don’t know how to refill the well. I don’t think it can come from outside. I don’t think anyone can give me a few choice words and rekindle my inner fire. I have to find the answer myself and then do the work.

The challenge is that I don’t want to do anything. Everything I am doing right now is an act of will. And there’s only so much of it to go around.

I finished this post, though, and I’m attending the critique group soon. After that, I’ll probably start the print of the new keyboard I want to build.


Too Much Self-Reflection

Zoom meetings and Teams meetings and all of the online video conferencing software has me doing something all the time now: looking at myself.

It isn’t narcissism. I’m not in love with what I see. Far from it. The meetings start and my camera picks up my face, and it’s there in front of me along with everyone else’s. I can’t help be see myself.

My hair is thinning. I look tired. My face is easier to look at when I smile.

I can’t be certain that people are seeing me the same way. It’s my face, so I’m going to be hypercritical of the flaws, which stand out to me. If there is beauty in my countenance, I do not see it. If someone were to find my ever-punchable mug attractive, I cannot fathom why. Yet it’s there every work day in front of me, ready for me to judge in the harshest terms. Harsher than I would ever be with someone else.

My cruel judgement is not reserved my appearance alone. In fact, I am more for critical of my voice, personality, and abilities. I wonder sometimes how anyone can stand to be in meetings with me, or take me seriously when I offer suggestions.

If you ask Melissa, it’s not a lack of confidence. She will tell you that I’m brash and cocky, which is more or less true. I think I’m just tired of my living in my own head, putting up with all of my own bullshit, and feeling trapped inside myself. Have you ever met someone that you just can’t stand, and you’re not sure why? That’s me putting up with myself.

In spite of all that, I’m doing the work. I pretend I’m as good as everyone around me need me to be, and no one seems to see through it. I roleplay as a version of myself that is competent, and somehow tasks get done. Maybe not as fast as I want them completed, but that’s a matter of time management and energy levels. I don’t ever have enough time, and some days it’s hard to get anything done when on the inside, I’m spending so much effort trying to ignore myself.

This all feels too personal. Too honest. Too much self-reflection.

Like I’m staring at myself in the Zoom call again, wondering why eyes keep getting drawn there, wishing I could look away.

Tomorrow, my critique group will meet again, on Discord this time, and we’ll go over the next 10,000 words in my story and Mike Baltar’s. My image will be up on the screen again, and I’ll put on my best smile and try to be as present as possible. It might be a good day, and I might be all there. Or it might be a bad day, and it’ll be one of those meetings I get through rather than enjoy. I’m not sure. They’re good people that I enjoy and respect very much, so I want to be present for them.

They will have things to say about my story that my ears will hear correctly, but my mind will twist into barbs. The words might be “I liked this, but I wish it was…” and my ears will capture their voice but my brain will be interpret it as “If you were a better writer, you would have done…” I’ll spend a significant amount of energy focusing on the words, trying to translate them back to reality, rather than allow the suggestions to become fuel used by my cruel inside voice.

We’re all going through this, aren’t we?


Vaccine Mandates

The Supreme Court struck down the Biden mandate that all businesses with 100 employees or more require vaccination or testing. Healthcare workers can still be required to vaccinate, but it’s not going to be enough.

At the same time, we have a truly frightening surge of Omicron right now. The numbers are bad.

As a footnote, Glenn Beck has Covid for the second time. He never got vaccinated, and he’s apparently taking de-wormer.

Vaccines shouldn’t be a political issue. Vaccines save lives. They’re proven to be effective at keeping people healthy. We’ve had them for a very long. They don’t cause autism. They aren’t a way for the government to track you. It’s just good science applied to keep people alive and healthy.

I’m not entirely surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision, but I am disappointed. I had some hope. There was a vaccine case that went to the Supreme Court in 1905 in which the court upheld that a state could enforce vaccines, for the purpose of protecting the common good.

When it’s not political, we don’t have a problem complying with rules and laws that are there to protect people. People aren’t citing a religious preference to driving on the left side of the road instead of the right. People aren’t using conspiracy theories or debunked science to keep restaurant workers from wearing hairnets or washing their hands. Seatbelts laws are enforced. You will get in trouble if you are caught shitting in public outside a restroom. You’re not allowed to just hit someone, even if they make you angry.

You know. Laws. We have lots of them that infringe on an individual’s ability to do whatever they want, so that the people as a collective are protected.

If vaccines and masks and this whole stupid virus wasn’t the subject of political grandstanding, this wouldn’t be a question. We’d look at the numbers, squeak a collective “YIKES,” then do whatever we could to protect our friends and family. Barring that, we’d do whatever we could to protect our precious economy.

Make no mistake, having everyone get sick for a while, repeatedly, is a bad financial decision. It causes delays and shortages, and scarcity makes the prices go up, and… oh look! The exact problem we’ve all been facing since shortly after the pandemic began!

The Supreme Court blocked the federal government from trying to stop the spread of the virus, but individual states could still enact their own mandates. They should, but most won’t. So people will still travel across state lines, unvaccinated, unmasked, and the virus will continue to spread.

Omicron is bad. What will the next variant be like? And the one after that? With the way Omicron is exploding right now, we should probably expect multiple variants taking hold in the coming weeks and months.

I want to tie this in to writing, somehow, but the only thing that comes to mind is that this is what is occupying my mind instead of fiction. This is the kind of thing that distracts me from work. I’m not in any direct danger, but this is my home, and whether I like them or not, these are my people. How can I look away when I see us headed for a cliff?


Gaming PC: The Money Pit

I’m staying in on Wednesday nights, and since I’m not ready to do much writing, I’m playing a lot of computer games. Thankfully, I’ve got a group of friends to play with, which is really helping me get through some tough times.

Just before Cyberpunk came out, I decided I needed a new gaming PC. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about it a little here. This was right before the 30X series of NVidia graphics cards came out, and right before it became ridiculously difficult to get a video card at all.

I started building the system in September 2020 and ultimately finished it in February 2021. I had most of it at the beginning of November, but I had to get a temporary video card while trying to get a 3080. When I did finally get a 3080, it came with a custom water block on it. Which meant I needed to learn how to do custom water cooling.

Honestly, this was great! I’ve always been a bit of a technophile and getting into water cooling expanded my enthusiasm for this already expensive hobby. I watched a lot of tutorials and then went relatively cheap on the radiator, pump, and tubing. I already had an AIO for the processor, so I had somewhat limited space in the case for cooling the video card. But I managed to get it working, and it was great! Even if it was a little bit ugly.

The pump was ridiculously loud, so I ordered another one. The new one worked pretty well for a little while, but then the cheap plastic filter inside broke down and filled the entire loop with floating bits of waste. The temps on the card went through the roof, and I was afraid I was going to ruin it if I didn’t do something. I temporarily switched to the old, noisy pump, long enough to limp along while I waited for a more expensive pump and reservoir combo to arrive.

With the new equipment, I was able to internalize the loop and suddenly, my gaming computer started to look a little bit more professional! But some of the fans were kind of loud. So I replaced all of those. Now they all match!

But now, the cheap reservoir I started with is starting to seem bad, and the flimsy tubing might be restricting water flow, so while the system is working, the temps are kind of high and the system is not performing as well as it should. Last night, I ordered hard tubing, a 360mm radiator to replace the 240mm, and all the fittings I should need to install fresh plumbing in my system.

What’s the lesson to learn here?

  1. Don’t go cheap unless you really know what you’re doing. I could have saved a lot of time and money and emotional stress if I’d paid a bit more from the beginning.
  2. If you care about something, be prepared to put the maintenance in. Just throwing the parts together and hoping for the best isn’t going to lead to a lasting solution.
  3. Expensive hobbies are expensive, so don’t be surprised when the money pit has no bottom.

I think there are parallels I can draw between the build of this system and a writing career. I keep considering self-publishing The Repossessed Ghost and I keep hesitating because I can’t shake the feeling that to do it right, I’m going to have to spend quite a bit of money. I’m going to want to hire an editor, a cover artist, and pay for some kind of advertising program in order to spread the word about the book. It’s starting a business, which itself is a money pit with no discernable bottom… at least at first. Money is supposed to flow to the writer, but sometimes the writer is a small business owner, which changes everything.

If you were wondering, my gaming system runs Cyberpunk really, really well. I play it at 4K, ultra settings, at just under 60FPS. When I get the radiator replaced and my cooling situation under control, I’ll probably get over 60FPS consistently. And maybe that’s the last parallel: whether it’s a gaming rig or a writing career, you have to decide what you’re willing to settle for. At this point, while I still have the will and patience to hold out, I’m not ready to settle for less than my dream.


Living with Uncertainty

I dreamt of some code changes I wanted to finish before a meeting today, where I needed to present the current state of a project I’m woefully behind on. I stayed up late last night getting the project past a milestone, and I took some time to polish it this morning. Then, in the meeting, it didn’t go well.

The code is cleaner and easier to read. It’s just not quite there yet.

I worked on it when I could today, but my new schedule and responsibilities keep me from coding most days. It’s good and it’s bad. Good, because this is the natural evolution of my career. I can’t remain a programmer forever, because there isn’t enough time in the day for me to stay up-to-date on all the changes. I can help other people by bringing with me all the things I’ve already learned, but year after year I’m just going to fall further and further behind the technology until we reach a point where I don’t bring a lot of value to the table.

So I’m a team leader, now, with more non-technical responsibilities. It’s an exciting time! But it’s also a time where I feel uncertain a lot. As a programmer, you can look at the product you’ve created and know objectively if you’ve done a good job. Does it compile? Does it run? Does it satisfy all of the requirements? You’ve done a good job.

My new responsibilities aren’t quite so cut and dry. Am I providing enough help to my team? Am I shielding them from stuff so that they can focus on important tasks? Am I acting as a good bridge when I’m called upon to convey the needs of my team to other people? Who knows?

My boss has told me I’m doing a good job, so I’m trusting him on that. There’s still a lot of uncertainty, but I guess that’s part of the job.

Maybe when I get better at handling the uncertainty in my day job, I’ll be better equipped to handle it in my writing career.

The parallels are obvious. I can know with some degree of certainty if I wrote the story well. However, I can’t know if it’s going to sell, and most of the time, I won’t know if I’ve done a good job selling it to an agent or publisher. Maybe I did a terrible job, and that’s why they’re not picking it up. Or maybe I did a fantastic job, but the work isn’t right for their slate, or one of a thousand other factors are at play making it impossible for them to pick up my story. Again, who knows?

This is the Uncertainty Phase of my life. I have to keep working and trying to move forward, even if there’s fog on all sides and I don’t know if I’m turned around and going the wrong way. I have to trust that I started off the write direction, and try not to veer one way or the other, while hoping that there isn’t some chasm right in front of me.


How to Gain More Executive Function?

Yesterday, I wrote a really nice blog post detailing what I could learn about writing from my experiences with my 3D printer. Not a writing advice post, where I talk about verbs and adjectives and different ways of telling a story. Yesterday was more about the mental health of the writer, where after some trauma, things may not be in balance and writing simply won’t work until some maintenance has been performed.

That was about all I managed to do yesterday. I’m a little bit behind on a project at work, and I had every intention of making some progress on the code. There’s not that much left to do. Instead, I sat in the garage, staring at code, unable to make myself program. I spent around 6 hours in that state, trying to trick myself into moving the ball forward. It just wouldn’t happen. In the evening, I gave up and let myself watch videos and play a few games. Nothing too serious or intense, because the same lack of energy that kept me from programming kept me from doing anything else too involved.

Last night, I had trouble sleeping. I kept waking up with my limbs numb and tingling. Flexing my fingers, I could feel every tendon and ligament, and all my joints felt stiff, like they were locking into different positions. This happens to me from time to time, and I usually just wiggle my fingers a bunch until my circulation is flowing again. Last night, it wasn’t working. I struggled all night.

When I finally got up to the alarm, I knew I couldn’t work today. It was going to be worse than yesterday. I had no energy, and I knew it would be a bad idea if I tried to deal with anyone today. I called in sick, then went back to bed for another hour. I wound up out in the garage anyway, with the code open in front of me. Again, I could not bring myself to program.

This evening, I’m going to try again. Maybe I’ll be able to snag a tiny success, which can lead to some more productivity and I might be able to push things forward just a little bit more.

I know I’m not the only one that struggles like this. I’ve seen people describe it as a shortage of executive function. Some days, I can do anything. Saturday felt pretty good, as I focused on several intense tasks throughout the day. Sunday and today, I couldn’t do anything. Tomorrow must be better, because I have work to do.

What do people do to gain more executive function? There are some tricks I’ve used in the past, but it doesn’t seem to come without cost. I can distract myself music. I can force myself through sheer will. I can make lists or notes on a whiteboard. I can do small, easy things first, which sometimes give me enough of a positive kick that I can ride it into doing larger, more complicated things.

Yesterday and today, I didn’t have the energy to even try this tricks. Everything was just… hard.

I’m writing this tonight. Obligation is pushing me forward, and I’m hoping that when I’m done and I hit “publish” that it will be one of those small victories that will propel me on to the next task. I don’t know, though.

I need to seek help. The problem is that takes a lot of effort, and when I’m having trouble accomplishing anything already, there’s no room in the budget to take that kind of action.

Tomorrow will be better. It has to be.