On Motivation (or lack thereof)

This short essay is part of a series called ‘Writing on Writing.’ This series takes a few different forms, and in this post, I’m discussing some of the things affecting my writing right now. Want to see content like this more often? Consider supporting me on Patreon.


I am writing this very reluctantly. Not because I don’t value all of you (because of course I do) and not because I’ve stopped liking doing Patreon (I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done). I am just feeling very, very tired.

I suppose I’m still recovering from Covid just a little, though my energy feels back to normal overall. There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life right now, too. There’s the job hunt, which is generally unpleasant, and then larger issues around the news and midterm elections and the general state of the world. 

I have this really bad habit of looking at really negative things on Facebook. There’s a particular profile belonging to an extended family member of mine that I seem to enjoy torturing myself with. I won’t go into details, as it’s unnecessary to put all of you through it, but I’m sure you can form an idea of what I mean. I tend to excuse looking at it by saying I’m ‘doing research’ or ‘understanding the other side.’ But really, what am I actually learning from looking at it? The particulars of pro-gun talking points or the newest anti-Pride rhetoric? And what do I actually gain from ‘learning’ those things?

In the end, all I’m doing is making myself sad. What’s so tragic about this is I’ve always liked this extended family member. Our interactions have only ever been kind, and they have always made an effort to keep up with me and check in. We’ve never been close, but nothing they ever said or did gave me the impression that what they’re really thinking is so negative. Because really, what I’m seeing when I look at that Facebook, is that they hate me.

That sounds extreme, of course. Like I’ve said, they’re very nice to me when we interact. Just a few months ago they reached out to see how I was feeling after my first bout with Covid. They tend to like my posts when they’re about things like traveling with my parents or school accomplishments. In fact if asked, they’d probably say they don’t hate me at all, despite the fact that I’m queer or pro-choice or any of the other stances they don’t agree with. But I also know that if they didn’t know me, if I was just some person that was described to them as being all the things that I am, they would say the most vicious things. And that is really disheartening. 

I think deep down what has me so tired right now is that I feel kind of hopeless, but not in a way that I’m used to. I’ve struggled with depression for years now, and that personal hopelessness is something I’ve learned to manage. This is a different feeling. It’s a lot less personal, but also a lot bigger. As much as I tell myself that the true majority of the country is more left-leaning, or that the only thing I have the power to do is live my own life the way I think I should, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that it doesn’t matter. It seems like the bad guys are winning.

I’ve always considered art to be incredibly powerful as a tool for empathy and compassion. I still think that’s true. But in my day to day, when I’m sitting down to try and work on my own art, I’ve wondered what the point is. It’s a really awful feeling, and so far, I’ve been very unsuccessful at talking myself out of it. Things aren’t all bad, though. For the first time in months, I’ve finished reading two books and I’m quickly working my way through two more. I’m going on walks by myself or with Peggy Sue in the sun, which I know is good for me whether I feel it in the moment or not. I’m applying to jobs at companies and institutions I believe in. I’m going through the motions, waiting for the good feelings I normally have to come back. And I’m sure they will come back. It just kind of sucks right now.

I hope you don’t find this post too depressing, and please don’t spend any time worrying about me. I honestly feel a little better now that I’ve gotten to the end of this, which I think says something about the value of my strategy. If I just keep doing the things I know are good for me, I’ll get out of this funk. It’ll just take time.

Love and gratitude to all of you.

Thoughts on “Indiscretion”

This short essay is part of a series called ‘Publication Reflection’ where I look back at my published work. Want to see content like this more often? Consider supporting me on Patreon.


Illustration that accompanies my zine Indiscretion

When I promised this zine a couple weeks ago, I’d thought I would only use old pieces–one published (“Coffee Talk”) and two that I considered unpublished.

“Coffee Talk” went in seamlessly. I think it’s a lovely little piece, so I didn’t change a thing. Then, I dropped in the other two pieces: “Observations From a Pew in Church” and “When It’s Over.” These are pieces I wrote as an undergrad around the same time as “Coffee Talk.” For that reason, I was thinking they were stylistically similar, and in general, I was right. All three of the pieces were in third person, and all three operated on themes of sexual indiscretion.

The theme wasn’t quite tight enough though, I think. The original version of “Observations” didn’t mention cheating at all, instead, the main character spends a bit of time fantasizing about Lacey. I wanted the ‘indiscretion’ to be more explicit, so I cut the fantasy and instead dropped a sentence that clearly showed Mary was actively cheating on her husband. I like this version a lot better than the original, which I think bordered on melodrama. It feels a bit more realistic to me, even if it is kind of bleak.

Then I looked at “When It’s Over.” I just didn’t like it. It was depressing in a way that I just didn’t find enjoyable. So then, I found myself a tad stuck. I felt that the piece needed three pieces to truly count as a collection, but I didn’t have anything else about cheating. After I got over the messiness of my relationship, the topic lost interest for me.

So I wrote a new piece.

“The Thing About Cheating” was something I wrote pretty dang quickly. I wrote the first three paragraphs ending with “Can you remember that first time?” and then turned to a software called charNG that I discovered on Gnoetry Daily. Gnoetry Daily was introduced to me as a service to help create super weird poems, but I wanted to use it for fiction. I wanted to revisit those moments of cheating I’d just outlined but disorient them. So I plugged the original paragraphs into charNG and edited them down to create what I thought was a good-sounding (and good-looking) re-visiting of the beginning paragraphs. I wanted it to feel like the narrator was starting to lose their way, desperately trying to find the reason they started this in the first place and realizing it just wasn’t worth it. Then, I had to think through the ending. It felt amazing to end it on not knowing what happens next because the next two pieces explore that. “Observations” has the cheating character contemplating her wedding, and “Coffee Talk” has the woman deciding to stay with her husband despite what he did.

Overall, I think it ended up being a lovely little collection of things, and it was great to have Patrons to thank on the acknowledgments page. I am so, so grateful for all of you, and it felt incredible to put that in a zine.

Love, gratitude, and happy reading.

Deeper

This flash fiction originally appeared in the print magazine Please Xerox.

Like what you read and want to help me create more? Support my work through PatreonVenmo, or Paypal.


I feel bad for not picking Nicki because she is so desperate for appointments. I have been here for two hours and her chair has stayed empty, and as Dave whispered to me, this is like a barbershop. If the chair is empty, they aren’t making money.

Nicki is in the corner drawing while Dave adds color to my skin. At first he penned the lines he wanted to follow, but now he knows how he wants it to look. He’s free-handing purple and green across my thigh and I trust him because Dave is the same age as my hairdresser and they start the same conversations. How’s your mom? Tell me about that girl you like at work. Have I told you why I hate my sister’s new girlfriend?

“I overheard these women talking about their kids getting tattoos,” I say, “and the comparisons they make are so weird.”

“I used to hear it’s like wearing the same shirt for the rest of your life,” Dave says.

“These women were saying it’s like wearing the same hairstyle forever.”

Dave smiles, his eyes never leaving his work. “Like they’ve changed their hair in the last twenty years.”

Blood is pooling on my leg that he wipes away before continuing to cut me open with a needle. “I wanted to tell them it’s more than that. It’s deeper than a shirt or a haircut.”

“I don’t think they would find that comforting,” Dave says.

Nicki finishes her drawing and pins it on the bulletin board by her chair. She says, “I love this. I hope someone picks it.”

It’s a character from an adult cartoon, a mad scientist with bugged out eyes. “Put it on yourself,” Dave tells her. “That way it’s yours.”

Nicki doesn’t comment on his suggestion. She goes back to drawing and the store remains quiet except for the buzzing of the needle.

“People get so afraid of changing their minds,” Dave says, almost whispering. “But we don’t change nearly as much as we think we do.”

“So why do you make such a good business on cover-ups?” I ask.

Dave draws a line at the top of my thigh and my skin jumps. “Almost done,” he says. He adds white to my body and I think he’s forgotten my question but he sighs as he finishes the last line, rubs my leg with the wipe one last time.

“Sometimes people get what they think they’re supposed to get,” Dave says. “And then they decide to get what they wanted in the first place.”

“Are they hard to do?” I ask. I get up, look at myself in the mirror.

“Yes,” Nicki says. I didn’t know she’d been listening.

Dave shrugs. “It’s all about understanding how colors work together. You just have to know how to layer them.”

I look at Nicki in the mirror, curious to see if she’s still listening, what she thinks about Dave’s assessment. But she’s looking at the drawing she made, chewing on her lip.  She takes it off the bulletin board and drops it into the trashcan by her chair. She looks up then, sees me watching. She looks back down at the trashcan. I think maybe she’s going to rescue the drawing, but she doesn’t. She just stares down at it. 

When I step out the door, she’s still looking down.