It’s not so much of a resolution, but reality kind of kicking me into gear. With the start of the new year and a new decade, I realized that all the dreams I started working on for Aserra in the last decade have not really gone anywhere. While I did give myself the opportunity to pursue my education, and with my writing courses I gained a lot and made a little progress, I’m still not even close to completing my first manuscript.
In my personal life, and even a bit in public, I’ve talked quite freely about my ADHD. This is something that has affected my entire life, but only in the last decade did I start to recognize it, and it took until last year to get a proper diagnosis and start medication to manage it. It is frustrating to look back on my struggles through high school and my twenties and know that there was this huge piece missing that could have made it easier for me to get through it. I was misdiagnosed as bipolar in high school and prescribed inappropriate medication that only killed my creativity, enhanced physical tics, and didn’t produce results. In my twenties, I floundered. I managed to get my high school diploma through an alternative school. I was crippled by anxiety and depression, not helped by a toxic relationship that made me question my self worth. Finally, in my thirties, divorce shot me forward like an arrow. I started attending community college and I dove in 100%, going straight through to get my Associate’s and a transfer degree. After a one term break, I started University to complete a Bachelor’s. Now that that’s done, I got a little lost. I spent a lot of that post-graduation time seeking help for my mental health, and I had to fight tooth and nail to finally get diagnosed as an adult. It is a massive relief to come out the other side vindicated and medicated properly.
It’s helped, but I’m still working on myself every day. Most people think of people with ADHD as unable to sit still and focus, but it’s so much more than that. The worst part is executive dysfunction. Executive function is a process in your brain that allows you to regulate and control other processes. It’s basically the cognitive equivalence of a manager who directs their assistant managers who direct their employees who interface with customers. Well, with ADHD, your manager doesn’t know what the fuck their doing and the whole business is in shambles. Executive dysfunction can paralyze by leaving a person unable to comprehend how to even start simple daily activities. Added onto that, we have a poor grasp of the passage of time and constant chatter in our minds. Undiagnosed adults often find coping mechanisms to get by and function in society, but historically ADHD has been poorly understood and severely underdiagnosed in girls and women. I’m one of those who fell through the cracks because I didn’t present like they expected me to (like a boy) but the signs were there all along.
I’m getting the help I need, but these hurdles will always been something I have to deal with. It’s getting easier to get over them at least. Depression and anxiety are often co-morbid or a direct result of ADHD symptoms. I have been on anti-depressants for several years, which have been helpful, and I now take in combination with ADHD meds. Anxiety is one of my coping mechanisms. I’m usually early to appointments because I’m so anxious that I would be late (re: unable to register the passage of time on my own) that I wake up early, prep early, and leave early to stave off my nerves.
And then there is deadlines. I usually make deadlines, but at the same time, I cannot seem to do the work without the looming pressure of a deadline weighing down on me. If I got an essay assignment that was due in a month, I would tell myself that I would work on it a little at a time over that month, but as soon as I got home, I would forget. Or I would look at it, feel uncertain of how to even start it and put it off for later, then eventually forget. Then, when the deadline was approaching, I would realize that “oh shit! I need to do this!” and hastily through together a half-assed essay.
Thankfully, my half-assed is generally A material, so it never reflected in my grades. I even worked as a writing tutor–though, I advised my students to do as I said, not as I did.
Lots of students use this method of course, I’m not unique in that. However, the thing is, I really would try to work on it earlier and be completely unable to focus without the pressure. There’s this thing about executive dysfunction–if your motivation to do something is fueled by the need to be accountable to someone else, it acts as a work-around. I suddenly had the pressure of the approval of my teachers and my grade that affected my student loans (because if I failed, I would suffer the consequences of losing funding and dealing with bureaucratic red tape to fix it). If I have an appointment, I have an obligation to show up for the sake of another person (my doctor, adviser, social worker, etc.).
In the same way, that’s why I think our collaborative fiction-style RPs worked so well for me. Not only was it a hyperfixation to immerse myself in a creative endeavor (hyperfixation is another ADHD thing), I was accountable to my RP partners to progress the story, because if I didn’t show up, they would leave.
Progress on Aserra
This is where it comes back to writing. If I just sit on my own and try to hammer out a whole book, it falls apart pretty quick. The potential accountability in the long term doesn’t register with my brain, I need more instant validation. I got this in my writing classes where I would workshop a chapter, get feedback, and then feel motivated to continue–but our classes were only ten weeks long, which was really only enough for one chapter or short story. By the next writing class I took, I might see a handful of familiar faces, but the majority wouldn’t see a continuation from the chapter of the previous term.
I need the accountability I once had with role-playing, but at the same time, I don’t want to just put my work that I plan to try to publish traditionally out there for anyone to read. Sometimes I would send a chapter to a single friend (usually Rory) but one person’s feedback isn’t enough, especially if it’s overwhelmingly positive (still, thank you for humoring me, Rory!). A counselor suggested to me that I release what I have done to a group of people, which I put off because I got myself stuck in an over-editing loophole, but with the start of the year, I realized I really had to do it!
I put the prologue and first two chapters of The Dollmaster up on Google Docs and invited a handful of people familiar with the story to come and read. I’ve only gotten a little feedback so far, but I’m trying to work on the next chapter. If you have been invited, please read what I have up and give me a little feedback, whether that’s a private message, a comment on the file, or what have you. Intend to add more content every month, but I am working on building better work habits writing daily. I think I’m doing good so far! I only was able to finish one scene of chapter three for January, rather than the whole chapter, but I just need more practice to build up momentum.
As a note, I am only inviting people that I actually know to this beta-read. I don’t expect anyone outside the Aserra family to read this blog, if anyone at all, but it is public, so I just want to say that.
Now, I had intended to do more work on TDM chapter three this week, but instead I wanted to set down some plotting for the whole series, and I hyperfixated over that for the last few days. I have decided to pursue five of our other stories following Dollmaster. There are yet more to be told beyond that, but I’m trying to weave this together so that there is interconnection and characters can crossover between stories. This will include Atissran’s Tower, Cursebreakers, rehashing the Vampire Hunt story from EKD, a story following Thalia, Avion, and Talen to find Avion’s mother, and a story set in the Forsaken Land around Sevrina and Gale.
Also, I have wanted to make use of Wattpad to get some exposure, and I was considering how to go about it. I don’t want to put TDM up there, but what I’ve settled on is working on some of our more episodic stories, such as the Voyage to Ertia adventure, the magic school, and Alera’s inter-dimensional vessel.
I really, really hope that I can manage all this at the same time. I want to put these stories out there, I believe in them. I love my characters and I want them to exist outside our little role-plays.
Addressing Concerns of Ownership
I don’t want to use any one’s characters or concepts without their permission. For everyone who has a role in Dollmaster, I have contacted them for permission to use their characters, and I also intend to credit you as a contributor (and potentially offer you a small piece of the pie if I make it). If you do not want your character in my hands for any other stories, please let me know and I will honor that.
Also, in plotting the other stories in this first phase, I have tried to trim down the number of major characters. I didn’t trim many, but I did opt to replace Kiras in Cursebreakers with Nat/Varien (who I am settling on the name of Taniel for). I want to reuse characters from previous stories as much as possible and intertwine backgrounds to fulfill their personal stories. If you don’t want a character used in a story, I can re-cast their role with another in a relevant way (if not drop them all together).