Bicep curls for the brain

Once again, I’m trying to get back into the habit of meditating. Or maybe just into the habit, since I’ve never quite made it firmly stick.

Two things are helping this time, though. One is telling myself that it’s okay to just go for ten minutes: I don’t need to push to increase that to fifteen or twenty or thirty. Maybe once I’m really and truly in the habit of ten minutes every day, but not until then; it’s a lot easier to declare “for crying out loud, it’s only ten minutes” and then just sit down than it is to mark out a longer block of time.

The other is akin to the epiphany I had some years ago about balance. I stopped thinking of it as a state (I am balanced) and started thinking of it as a process (I am balancing) — which had the effect of making me better at balancing, because I no longer thought of any deviation from the center as failure. It’s just part of the process of balancing, and the rest of the process is bringing yourself back to center.

Same thing here. Meditating isn’t the state of having my mind clear and focused on my breathing. It’s the process of noticing when my thoughts have wandered, and bringing them gently back to my breathing. At least in mindfulness meditation — I don’t have much experience with other kinds. I’ve started thinking of it as bicep curls for my brain, strengthening my mindfulness every time I return my attention to my breathing. Except that bicep curls are an effort, and this isn’t supposed to feel like heavy lifting; the metaphor breaks down after a while. Even so.

Process, not state. Understanding that wobbles happen. Not giving up, but trying again, and accepting that “trying again” is how it goes. As the most recent newsletter from 10% Happier said, it isn’t about not having thoughts, but about not getting caught up in them. Letting them pass by. I keep telling myself, “I can think about that later.”

Less than ten minutes later. Maybe someday I’ll get back to longer stretches, but for now, ten minutes is a good workout.

New Worlds Theory Post: World as Palimpsest

One of the funding goals the New Worlds Patreon hit very early on was a fifth bonus piece in the months that have five Fridays. I use these to talk about how to worldbuild, rather than what to worldbuild about, and this month I get metaphorical: thinking about your world as a palimpsest, containing the incomplete and half-erased layers of different social structures and practices.

Remember, the New Worlds Patreon isn’t just the essays: it’s a photograph every week for patrons (themed to that week’s topic as much as I can arrange), ebooks at the $3 and above, the ability to request topics at $5 and above, a bonus essay on how I’ve approached worldbuilding in my own work at $10 and above (which lately has focused on Sekrit Projekt R&R, to show the process more or less “live”), the ability to ask me questions about worldbuilding in your own work or someone else’s at $25 and above, and at $50, a critique from me every month. If that sounds appealing, or you’d just like to support the project, you can do that here!

Awards eligibility post

I don’t have a large amount of stuff to announce for this year in terms of awards-eligible material — no novels this calendar year, and my only short story was “At the Sign of the Crow and Quill” — but I do have something to mention, which I realized while I was at Worldcon.

Most if not all of the time, the individual episodes of a Serial Box season are novelette-length. And at least for the Hugos (because I talked to someone involved with the Hugo rules about this), they are certainly eligible to be nominated in the novelette category, in much the same way that individual episodes of a TV show are eligible to be nominated in Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Which is interesting because while the novella category is booming these days, thanks in large part to Tor.com, but also more generally to the way that digital publication has made a novella a useful size of thing to publish . . . the novelette category has really been languishing. They’re too long for most magazines to tackle, except maybe at the very short end — 8K or so — but too small to really sell well on their own, even in digital format.

But Serial Box is over there putting out dozens of novelettes every year. Yes, they’re installments in longer stories — but I can vouch for the fact that the Serial Box approach really emphasizes making them act like episodes in a show more than chapters in a book, i.e. each one is designed to have its own distinct shape, rather than just feeling like a slice taken out of the middle of something bigger. So nominating a Serial Box episode makes sense, in a way that nominating a chapter out of a book wouldn’t.

My three episodes for Born to the Blade are “Fault Lines” (1.02), “Spiraling” (1.06), and “Shattered Blades” (1.10). The season is eleven episodes long in total. If you particularly enjoyed one or more of them, or if there are stand-out episodes in some other Serial Box project you’ve read, then consider nominating them in the novelette category. Let’s get some fresh blood in there!

NEW WORLDS is now in print! and other holiday gift news

I didn’t actually plan to have this ready just in time for Cyber Monday, but that’s how it’s worked out.

NEW WORLDS, YEAR ONE: A Writer's Guide to the Art of Worldbuilding

New Worlds, Year One is now available in print! You can get it from Amazon (US and UK), Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Book Depository, IndieBound, and Indigo (in Canada). You should also be able to get your local store to order it in.

Speaking of local stores: if you would like a signed copy of anything from me, the way to do that is to contact Borderlands Books in San Francisco. They’ll notify me, I’ll head up there and sign it, and they’ll ship the book to you.

And finally, if you’d like to order a photo, feel free to browse these galleries and let me know what catches your eye. I can order prints on normal photo paper, but also on a wide variety of other media: acrylic, glass, aluminum, canvas, wood, and so forth. Prices vary depending on the medium and the size you want, but drop me a line and I’ll give you an estimate.

Friends don’t let friends get arthroscopic ligament repair surgery

So the orthopedist I’m going to right now because I’ve been having pain in the arches of my feet says that the common method of arthroscopic surgery for ligmaent repair doesn’t really work. I’m inclined to say he’s right, because of the two anterior talofibular ligaments I’ve had mended in the last decade, one is down to a shred of its former self and the other has gone AWOL entirely.

(Apparently ligaments can just . . . dissolve. Who knew.)

If I could travel back in time, forget about killing Hitler. (We all know that doesn’t work anyway.) I would go back thirty years and tell my childhood self to do ankle-strengthening exercises, and not to sit in certain ways that normal people are allowed to do but for people with ankles as loose as mine amounts to spraining them slowly and repeatedly over a period of years. Convincing an eight-year-old she needs to do daily physical therapy for the rest of her life is easier said than done, but “you’ll save yourself 2-4 ankle surgeries later on” ought to be a compelling argument: the two I’ve already had, and the two I’m crossing my fingers I can forestall.

Yeah. My ankles continue to suck, and their suckiness is now starting to cause arthritis in the arches of my feet. The good news is that the cartilege in my ankles, which is the big point of concern for my doctor, is apparently pristine; that means I don’t have to have surgery right now. We are in “wait and see” mode: I have PT to do not just short-term but in perpetuity, and I have slippers that will help stabilize my feet when I’m walking around the house, and if I’m very very good and a little bit lucky I might get to skip the part where they have to put cadaver ligaments in my ankles to replace what isn’t there anymore. Which, given the recovery for that and my tendency to form keloid scars if something sharp looks at my skin too closely, is good.

But if somebody could provide me with a time machine, eight-year-old me and I need to have a chat.