Sunday, March 30, 2014

The big issue I have with betterment.

It can be easy to feel like you truly know someone through reading their blog, but I think this is quite false.  There are any number of reasons why someone's blog can fall to the wayside in their life.  When things are busy and going very well, it's difficult to turn back to the blog.  When you're turned your bed into a nest and have trouble getting out of it, it's difficult to turn back to the blog.  While I haven't turned the bed into a nest yet, I've certainly been teetering on the edge lately.  I'm not depressed by any means, but if I don't act, I may be soon enough.  I want to use the word "malaise" or "ennui" here, but I think those words are generally reserved for people cooler than me.

While I don't like talking about work on here (although, I touched on it in my last entry as well), the fiscal year end has me completely run off my feet.  In addition to regular 'year end' stress, my particular role is running one body short, effectively doubling my workload.  For the past two weeks, I've been arriving home much later than usual, and just vegging out until bedtime and then getting up and doing it all over again*. 

The real culprit here, though, is the weather.  I like snow, but I can't remember when we've last had a winter so long.  It's severely bummed me out.  This weekend seems to finally be showing true signs of spring, so I'd like to shape up and get myself back in order.  I haven't stepped on a scale in awhile, and I'm a little worried that I might be back up to my university weight, which I swore I'd never return to.

There is an entire in industry dedicated to pulling up your socks and facing issues head on.  And in some ways, it's hard not to try and reach out and see if any of them will help. 

The pile on the left is what I feel I should be reading.  The pile on the right is what I plan to read.  Both piles will be put off.


My relationship with these books is strange.  It is important to note the following: of the self-help books shown above, I've actually only purchased one of those myself ("It's your money" by Gail Vaz-Oxlade. Given that she's more finance oriented, I'm not including her in the below indictment).  All the others have just shown up, dumped on me by well meaning friends and family who were trying to clear their houses of clutter**.  I always approach these subjects with such indifference; so many of them have let me down in the past I look for the similarities in all these books.  For example:

Give it up to a higher power

So many of these damned things have a pervasive thread of religion/spirituality running through it.  God is like herpes for self-help books.  You could write a self-help book that doesn't mention God at all, but as soon as it's set on the shelf with others and it'll break out in God faster than you can say "Abreva."  This element doesn't expose itself until you've reached a level of commitment with the book, around chapter/step/aura 3 or 4 of the book.

My favourite of these are the books that insist you can do without this element.  "Just focus that energy on something else, like a rock," they'll say, effectively insulting theists, atheists, and anyone who dabbles in good sense.  Fuck you and fuck your book.

Dedicate your life to this book.  Teach it to others.

Speaking of herpes, once you've jumped through all the hoops of a self-help book/system/lifestyle change, most of them will encourage you to go out in the world and tell people about it.  Whatever you do, don't give them a copy of your book (you'll need it for reference should you fall back into old habits!), make them buy their own.

The book tells you this so that you'll help people, not to sell books.

This system WORKS

There's a really great element to the entire trend of self-help.  Say you start reading one of these books, and it has a lot of great advice in it***.  Then, your life gets a little busy.  Maybe you're helping plan a wedding, in a custody battle, doing hostage negotiations, or the most recent girl you've locked in the basement is proving to be a handful****.  It doesn't even have to be this extreme, the end result is you can't dedicate as much time to the book as you had intended. 

Even if you do dedicate your time and energy to it - following the directions as closely as you can - things don't go as well as you'd expected.  There's no way the book has failed you, you must have failed the book.  All of these books (even the good ones), have this way of making people feel like shit, when they should be getting people to feel safe, or even excited.  These books are like douchebags at the bar that all women should try to avoid*****. 

A photo of a dick on the back cover that you can compare your life with

"In addition to Better, Faster, Stronger,Clive McEnvy has written three bestsellers and two failed erotica novels.  He lives in the east-central district of Toronto (read: the beaches), with his wife, matching Volvos, and two chocolate labs.  He is better than you, and your purchase of this book is going towards owning a third racehorse that he never sees, due to his horse allergies." 

I don't know if I'm actually bitter, or if I just want every book to have a barefoot Shel Silverstein on the back.

Everything's going to be okay.  I was torn between a picture of him or Tom Baker.
I know that at least a little of my problem with these books, is me (I guess the "negging" works on me, too).  It's very hard to want to absorb and move forward with something when every fifth page inspires you to wail and gnash your teeth.  I won't go so far as to say that I think all of them are frauds, as I think a number of them are simply misguided (like psychics).  Most are bad writers, and I think the ratio of bad to good is higher in this genre than others. 

We need to stop publishing these guys, and I, for one, need to stop reading them.  My big problem is focusing on what's important and doing the work.  Self-help bullshit is just another way for me avoiding focusing on the things that will really enable me to move forward, not just give me the illusion of progress.  The time I spend sneering at these books stops me from reading more interesting things, and in the long run, stops interesting things from being published.

Well, that file box isn't shrinking anytime soon, and I've got somewhere to be later.



*Not to mention that I should be working right now.  I've brought a filebox of items full this weekend, and I haven't touched it yet.
**which is probably a step in at least one of those books shown.
***I'm not denying that there's probably a lot of good advice, maybe a nugget of truth every 30 pages or so.  What I am denying is the thought that most of these books are worth the money.
****or, say, it's fiscal year end.
*****also, those kind of vicious douchebags only fuel the idea that being a "nice guy" means you're somehow entitled to sex.  There's so much sexual cluelessness in the world lately it hurts my brain.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I took a vacation day yesterday.

I don't like to write about my work on here*, I took a vacation day yesterday to try and relax and it seemed to have the opposite effect on me.  One of the people I work with even texted me with a work related question while I was off.  Like, seriously, you can't wait one fucking day? Why do you think I'm not at work right now?  Do you think I'm just off, pining to hear from you and just daydreaming about being at work?  Well, I kind of was, but it wasn't the good kind of daydreaming.

Knowing I had today off, I logged into the network on Saturday and did about 4 hours of work.  Regardless of the time off, I knew I was going to be doing it.  It's the kind of work that you need uninterrupted time for, which I was just not getting at work at all.  So, I successfully ruined my Saturday.

On the bright side, I babysat my niece and nephew that night, which meant my nephew kept getting out of bed until I stopped trying to put him back in it and he fell asleep against me while watching Thomas.  I don't mind it when he does that.  I love my niece and nephew, but sometimes it's difficult not to resent them a little.  The amount of energy I put into being a great aunt might be better spent talking to other people and maybe trying to start my own family**. 

On Sunday night, I went to bed with fantastic visions of sleeping in the next morning while everyone else went to work like a sucker.  Instead, I woke up at three am to a horrendous nightmare of me working in a grocery store during the zombie apocalypse.  I was in the upstairs office and they just kept coming.   I woke up incredibly stressed out, but also disappointed in my brain, because I'm getting pretty sick of the zombie craze, with sleep being the only place I could normally find to get away from it.

Now, I don't want to go back, because there's going to be a tonne waiting for me.  Also, I'm in a course this morning***, so this morning's garbage will have to be added on top of all that.

Hi-ho, off I go.



*for several reasons, including "don't bite the hand that feeds you", complaining gets you nowhere, and "oh, you're that kidAmy?"  That last one is kind of funny, because I'm pretty sure I'm not that difficult to track down.
**which is, of course, the best thing you can say to a man during your first coffee date.
***my workplace is really great that way.  :)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Fucking idiot

I talk to a number of people through the dating site on a regular basis.  It's not that I'm not shy, I'm just used to the online dating scene.  The one who seemed most promising to me just told me moments ago that he has a wife, and that he hopes that's "not going to be a problem."

YEAH, I'M DONE WITH THIS ONE! BRING IN THE NEXT GUY!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

On Writing

I've spent the evening working on a piece I've been trying to nail down for awhile.  Every so often, I'll be chatting with a writer somewhere (anywhere), and I'll receive this tidbit of advice:

"Well, kidAmy, at some point, you have to ask yourself if you want to be a serious writer or if you want to live your life doing... I'm sorry, what the hell do you do for a living again*?"

This is often said by a member of the opposite sex - somewhat condescendingly - who is trying to dole out advice**.  The condescension is my own fault, actually;  I've often put on the costume of the beginner in an effort to chat up male writers I think I might want to marry*** someday. 

"Oh, I would so love to write, how do you do it?  My little brain couldn't handle the big ideas you come up with!"  Shortly thereafter, I excuse myself to the washroom, where I punch myself in the face and then bitch about him on twitter.  Being a fragile woman is hard.

At any rate, I was at work recently when I realized that maybe I didn't want to do this for the rest of my life.  I believe someone was staring me in the face, waiting for me to answer a question as to why I hadn't completed their job that day.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not handing in my resignation tomorrow (I really quite like my job), but I have resolved to complete the first draft of this novel in the next half year****.

This big decision was confirmed when I found myself giggling out loud at several Dilbert comics in a row*****.



*It's something vaguely paperworkish. With a cubicle, and friendly coworkers, and dickhead coworkers.
**And my decision to keep a roof over my head and food in the fridge is a decidedly unimpressive route.
***Sleep with.
****Lawrence Block bangs them out in four weeks, the hardworking, totally deserving bastard. 
*****They're just like us!  With his dog in the office, and his tie that never lays flat.  Oh, that's our Dilbert.  (I'm typing this, but my eyelids are saying "kill me" in morse.)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Today is Charlie Brooker's Birthday.

I really cannot stress how huge an influence Charlie Brooker is for me. Yes, a lot of his fiction is a little reminiscent of years gone by (Steve Allen and Harlan Ellison, to name only two), but that's why I love him. 

I realized the other night that overall, I'm really not impressed with contemporary science fiction.  Far too much of it is in the space soap opera/space cowboy vein (eff you very much, Roddenberry).  I dislike those in their purest forms (exceptions include anything involving Steve McQueen or Alan Ladd), why the heck would I want to watch it on a spaceship?

My favourite form or era of science fiction was creepy, harrowing, even (It's a cookbook! We're headed to that planet third from the sun!  Be sure to give the little ones pebbles they can throw, too! The key to the future is removing words from the language, not adding more, silly! And so on,
until my stomach hurts).  Even in it's simplest forms, it's asking difficult questions, turning a mirror on society in ways other art and writing fails to do, despite best efforts.

When I see the faces of everyone gathered in the pub to watch the prime minister star alongside a pig, or we see the little girl taking a cupcake up to the boyfriend-bot in the attic, I really feel like there's classic, harrowing science-fiction at work.  And the episode titled White Bear, well, that's just phenomenal.



I first encountered him on 10 O'Clock Live, which I'd started watching because of David Mitchell (and Jimmy Carr, who is always fun).  I was floored; I liked Mitchell's political rants and really thought someone couldn't get much more acerbic than that.   Unfortunately, the show was a little uneven, and awkward at times (the fact that it was aired live may have contributed).  IMDB indicates the show is still going, but nothing new has aired in 2014.


As with a number of people I admire, I think what I like most about him is his tireless work ethic.   I swear the man's never been out of work.  I just hope other writers find him as inspiring.   I hope we get lots more out of him.

(I couldn't work it in, but while reading a little more about him this evening, I learned him and his wife have had their second child just a couple of days ago, so that's lovely.)