Hypnagogia…

Can I talk to you about some weird shit for a minute?

Good.

(This post is probably of more interest to the creative types, but hey, we’re all creative in some way. So, keep reading.)

I’ve spent a lot of my life sleep deprived.

Like, a-fucking-lot.

It started with insomnia when I was about 10 years old. For the next 14 years or so, I never slept any way that one might consider regularly.

Some of it is depression and anxiety. Some of it was due to hyperthyroidism that went undiagnosed for more than half my life.

I sleep much better, and more regularly now. Thanks for asking.

Anyways, being an insomniac one tends to become obsessed with sleep. At least, I did.

Ways to get to sleep. Methods for staying asleep. Little tricks and tips to lure the Sandman into my twitchy trap.

I even learned to lucid dream. I was 11.

When you’re obsessed with something, you tend to notice it, in all its detail and variance; to notice even the smallest thing about it.

Which brings me to the title of this post.

Hypnagogia is that state between wakefulness and sleep.

You’ll feel it most either when you’re dozing off, or between vicious slaps af the snooze bar.

I used to call it the body buzz.

It’s amazingly relaxing, mainly because one is in an almost completely relaxed state when one experiences it.

(One might also experience atonia, which is where one’s muscles go slack. This is natural. Keeps us from acting out our dreams. Also leads to what is sometimes referred to as Night Terrors, that feeling of being frozen with something in the room, maybe sitting on your chest. The old, old term for that is Nightmare. Mare being an old word meaning Goblin, and night, well, you can figure that one out yourself.)

But I digress,

Hypnagogia is a feeling in the body. But it can have other effects.

There is something called Hypnagogic Hallucinations.

One version of this manifests as the previously mentioned night terrors. It’s when your brain starts the process of dreaming, even though you’re not quite fully asleep.

And it’s seriously fucking cool.

Besides anxiety-inducing visions of some dark creature come to suck out your soul, you can also get some really trippy consciousness effects.

Out of body experiences.

Seeing ghosts.

Hearing music.

Having whole conversations with the dead, or people you haven’t seen in years.

It’s all perfectly normal. That is to say, it’s not paranormal in origin. It’s just something your brain does, that you happen to be aware enough to notice at the time.

And here’s where it gets interesting for creative types:

Because you’re in a state of near perfect relaxation, and because you feel slightly euphoric, and because your subconscious can float to the surface and interact with your conscious mind on a visible level, you can, if you were so inclined, use this state to solve problems, to spool through various options, or to come up with something you’ve never thought of before.

If that doesn’t get your attention, I’ll say it again, because it seriously fucking should:

To come up with an idea you’ve never thought of before.

That’s like the Holy Grail filled to the brim with pure Peruvian flake cocaine, for us creative types.

An idea we’ve never had before?

Or an idea seen from an entirely different angle.

Shit. That’s Mardi Gras laced with Absinthe.

(not that I know anything about Absinthe, or pure Peruvian flake cocaine for that matter. Not me. I would never. Why are you looking at me like that?)

I’ll not get into arcane descriptions of my own experience with the phenomenon, because generally it’s difficult to put those experiences into words. They leave an impression, and you can milk that impression for inspiration, for generation, for cogitation, if you like.

I just wanted to tell you about it.

Maybe you’ll investigate on your own.

I hope you do.

It can be a marvelous experience.

One caveat: it can also be terrifying.

It’s much like a psychedelic experience that way. Your experience depends largely on set and setting.

That is to say: you need to be in a setting where you feel safe and comforted. And you need to go into it with a mindset that is open to whatever happens.

Seriously. Whatever. Happens.

If you meet a monster, recognize that it comes from inside you. Ask it to tell you its story. But don’t run from it. It’s like trying to run from your own shadow. It has something to tell you. Let it.

Don’t be afraid. And don’t worry if it doesn’t come easily to you at first. It might take a while of trying, but you’ll get there.

(There is some suggestion that bumping up your acetylcholine levels will aid in achieving the state, as well as lucid dreaming. If you have pills available, good for you – they’re usually not distributed outside of medical testing. If not, eat a dinner with lots of eggs. Eggs contain a ton of choline, which is an acetylcholine precursor. Tree nuts as well. If you’re a cigarette smoker, smoke one before bed. Like you don’t anyways? Nicotine binds to the same receptors as acetylcholine in the brain, which will leave more of it floating around inside your noggin. Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. You knew that, right?)

So, there’s your introduction to Hypnagogia, if you hadn’t heard of it before.

Good luck,

And sweet almost-dreams.

Until next time…

 

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Something About Writing…

So, it’s been a minute since I wrote anything about writing.

(Feel free to untangle that linguistic knot at your leisure.)

Truth is, I haven’t felt much like writing, lately.

I’ve wanted to, just like I’ve wanted to go to the gym, and fold my nearly week old clean laundry – which my wife will remind me is utterly wrinkled by now and should be thrown in the dryer for another ten minutes before the afore-mentioned act of folding, but I haven’t been able to muster the energy or motivation for any of that.

This week has felt like a slog.

Right now I’m trying to make sure the weekend doesn’t drag through my heart in a similar manner.

Oh, I’ve had ideas. I’ve written notes. Even some dialogue.

(Dialogue is one of the easiest ways I know to get in a character’s head. Start talking like him/ her, and usually I can assume the ghost of the character’s personality. His/ her reactions to certain things, at the very least.)

Depression’s like that. Some moments you fly. Some you drown. But most of the time it’s a squelchy trek through a sinking bog.

So, here’s the point where I decide whether or not I’m going to give you an update on my various projects, or go off on a tangent related to a post a friend of mine wrote the other day about writer’s block.

Maybe I’ll do both.

So, updatery first:

I’ve stalled out on my WIP; mainly because I have ideas, but I’m not sure I know where it’s going well enough to steer it in any particular direction. Part of that is knowing the characters better. So, most of my notes lately have been about the main characters and their antagonists.

But then, a different voice came to me. From a completely different story, in a different universe totally unrelated.

New notebook. More notes.

I had thoughts of writing a spooky Halloween story, and submitting to an anthology. Some interesting starts on that, but it isn’t cooking. So, it gets moved to a back burner to simmer. It’ll probably get written in October, when the first crisp day hits, but that’ll be well past the anthology’s deadline. Sometimes it comes on time, and sometimes the conductor’s been drinking rot-gut whiskey and the train slows to a grinding halt several miles outside of the station.

I’m learning as much as I can about marketing for self publishing, and wondering if I’ll ever be able to save up enough cash to finally light the fuse on that rocket.

Little by little, I’m getting there. I think?

Trying to keep this blog humming – if two days a week makes any kind of tune.

I need to find more Beta Readers, and maybe a steady Critique Partner or two. The search continues.

What was the other thing?

Oh yeah, Writer’s Block.

Lot’s of people have written interesting things about it. Namely my friend, author, Brad C. Hodson. You should check him out when you get a chance. His site’s here.

It’s distinctly possible that we, as writers, write about the dreaded malady as a way of end-running around the damn situation – just to get the words moving, even if they aren’t the ones we originally wanted commit to print.

(I may or may not be doing that presently. I can neither confirm nor deny…)

For me, the Creative-Condition-that-Shall-Henceforth-not-be-Named usually occurs only as a result of depression and too much stress.

When I performed poetry, and coincidentally hung out with more poets, I ran into many of the “I can’t create unless I’m miserable” types.

I was never one of those.

Whatever emotion I was feeling at the time tended to dictate what I wrote.

But hey, that’s art.

Depression and misery, on the other hand, sit my ass in the chair and demand I stare off into space, a thousand yards and counting.

Pretty sure, given the frequency of my condition, all of my friends have seen that faraway look in my glassy eyes, at some point or other.

“Tess is searching the middle distance again.”

“OK, what’s new? Just make sure no one tips him over, this time.”

I’m sure, if I had been all there, I’d have heard the rest of that conversation.

Depression, for me at least, is one of those things where your body takes over and says, “Nope, don’t care what you want. Pay attention to this thing. Right now!”

It’s kind of like getting knocked out. Your organism knows it needs to focus on protecting itself, and does not give a single, blessed fuck what your conscious mind had planned.

That’s when I can’t really write.

It’s not that I feel uninspired. I write through that shit constantly.

Inspiration is a peak experience. And without the aid of chemical intervention, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as you’d like to believe. It’s rare, and wonderful, and that’s why we creative types talk about it all the time; trying to savor some of the remaining glow I guess.

The biggest problem with my experience of depression is, you remember that thing I said about focusing, yeah, that. It doesn’t want me to focus on my writing, or my physical health, or my job, or my hygiene, or pretty much anything else.

And if you’ve been depressed – not sad, but properly depressed – you’ll know that running away from that feeling as hard and fast as you can is the only other thing you can really think about.

And those two impulses: to run and to twist in on yourself, are in constant, shifting tension.

I call it The War in my Head.

Maybe you’ve felt the same way?

So, when I’m firing on all cylinders, when I’m not depressed, I don’t experience that thing we agreed not to mention again.

I might have to switch to a different project for a bit, but that’s about it.

I’ve been writing, fairly steadily, for about 20 years now.

If I’m not sunk, neck-deep in my own sucking mind-hole, I write and keep writing.

I don’t imagine that my experience is indicative of anything that might be called an average, or norm. I hope to [insert favorite deity here] that it isn’t.

The hardest thing for me to do, when I run face first into the concrete abutment of my emotional damage, is to tell myself it’s okay.

I can let it sit for a while.

(Sometimes I’ve let it sit for a long-damn-while. My last two completed novels each took about three years or so to complete. That’s chronological accounting. In working hours, they took maybe three months a piece, total. And the last one was 110,000 words. Once I knock the rust off, the skills tend to return with alacrity.)

Sometimes I struggle to remind myself that it’s okay to sit and stare holes in the nothingness beyond.

And some days I beat myself up for it.

No one’s perfect.

Anyways, I’ve probably rambled enough for one post.

If you made it this far, thanks.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

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A Saturday Morning Rant…

What kind of President of the United States doesn’t know that the FBI aren’t the ones you call to investigate a sexual assault?

How did we put an idiot of this caliber into the highest elected office in our land?

And what kind of maliciously ignorant, grotesquely prideful, and inhumanly bloodless thumb-up-their-bum-and-grinning assholes continue to not only support, but praise the callous and destructive actions of this toadstool Schmuck-in-Chief?

As an addendum to the issue raised by Ms. Ford, re: the senate confirmation hearings:

Who the fuck are we if we don’t stand with the victim against to powerful and privileged?

We sure as shit aren’t Americans anymore.

I don’t give a fuck how many flags you’re flying or when you stand for a song, if you’re not siding with the underdog in this case, you don’t get to call yourself a patriot.

We’re a nation created by the underdogs, the ones without the power and privilege.

We used to remember that.

We used to value that.

(Ok, that’s a subject for a whole other rant, so I’ll end this here.)

So, that’s my rage filled morning.

How’s yours going?

 

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The Price We Pay…

I am a 40-year-old, white, heterosexual man. (Also, cis gendered, but I’m not terribly fond of that appellation, as it smacks of non-scientific taxonomy. But alas, here we are.)

I am beginning to grow accustomed to the possibility that the wider culture won’t care about – or even want to hear – what I have to say anymore. (ok, I’m not sure they ever did, but whatever.)

I have mixed emotions about this.

On the one hand, I have always wanted to be seen, and listened to, and taken note of. (I think we all do.)

On the other, I truly believe, in order for our society to progress to what it can be, folks in my category have to get comfortable with the idea that their voices won’t be the loudest in the room anymore.

That’s ok.

I never wanted to be heard because I belonged to some group or other.

I wanted to be heard, and noticed, and remembered for the things I said and did.

(I still despise being dismissed, for just about any reason. Probably that’s my own emotional baggage to carry? It might be. But, I still find it difficult to swallow anyone being dismissed out of hand. Yes, there are exceptions; Nazis, the KKK, religious extremists of every faith – we can generally dismiss their views because they don’t respect our right to exist, or even have the conversation. And that’s on them.)

– A Brief Interlude, before I get Back to the Point –

Some years ago, I had a conversation with someone who, at the time, was a friend. He – and you just knew it was a he, right? – was ranting and raving about having to pay taxes. And here is what I told him:

It’s the price we pay.

It’s the price we pay for the protection and cohesion of our government, our society, and our way of life.

And it’s a damn small one.

No one’s asking the general populace to take up arms and go fight wherever we think it’s needed this week.

No one’s asking you or I to clean up after natural or man-made disasters, with our own two hands.

No one’s asking us to interrupt our lives at all, except to vote, and even that’s voluntary.

And yet, water still comes out of the pipes. The police are still on the beat. The lights stay on and the roads stay open. We are free to believe, and worship, and think, and speak how we like – provided it doesn’t cause material harm to another citizen, (also a tiny price to pay for those freedoms).

I wish I could say that the power of my argument changed his mind.

I wish.

But enough of fairy tales…

…Let’s get back to the point.

The point is, if you believe in the Idea of The United States of America, then you have to accept some things.

If we are to be what we say we are: Equal under the law. Equal, in each other’s eyes. Equal in opportunity, then we have to take steps to level the playing field. Steps to ensure each of our citizens has that equal opportunity.

And that means, whether you like it or not, programs like Affirmative Action, a Progressive Tax, Equal Opportunity Employment, Quotas and Special Considerations are necessary.

And it also means the privileged class might need to take a back seat, for a while, until everyone’s gotten on similar footing.

If you believe in the promise of the U.S., then you have to believe in that.

It is the price we pay to live the dream we wish to live.

We’re not asked to sacrifice much in this country. Our forebearers did the vast amount of the heavy lifting on that front. But there are still sacrifices to be made, work to be done to preserve and protect this beautiful idea we call home.

No one is happy to sacrifice.

Sacrifice means giving up something important. And it’s going to be different for each one of us.

For me, someone who is almost pathologically non-competitive, it might mean working harder, and getting better, doing all I can, and still not getting where I want to be. (Don’t get me wrong, I still want to be there, or close, at least.)

And that possibility bothers me – I’d be lying if I said it didn’t.

But it is the price we pay for the larger dream.

The dream of what we can be.

The Dream of US.

 

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PCBC: Argument – the Wrap Party…

So, what’s left to say about arguments and how to have them?

Well, a shitload more than I’m willing to post about here, at least for the present.

For this, the last post in this series, I am not going to write some long, dry summary of all the other posts. (Go ahead and thank whatever spiritual/ cosmic forces you deem appropriate). If you want to check out the whole series you can here: Putting the Civil Back in Civilization: Argument: an IntroductionPutting the Civil Back in Civilization: Argumentation for the Very Busy (part II)Putting the Civil Back in Civilization: Argument – Pt III , and PCBC: Argumentation – Pt, what is it, 4? Yeah, sure, Pt. 4. Why not?…

That’s more than enough to keep you busy, and if you didn’t read the other parts of the series, you wouldn’t be interested in a synopsis here.

So, we’ll skip it.

(Cheer if you must. I’ll wait…)

If there is anything left for me to say on the subject, it might be one more reason to get a better understanding of logic and argument.

Human beings are emotionally driven animals.

We just are.

Anyone who tells you humans are rational actors is full of enough excrement to comfortably run an alternative fuels methane factory for the foreseeable future.

Don’t believe these people, and under no circumstances take as read any theory they propose that hinges upon humanity being rational actors.

(They’re either lying outright so that they can manipulate you, or they have so thoroughly snowed themselves into believing this offal they are dangerous to be around.)

Seriously, I’d take the time to lay out why I think that humanity isn’t rational, but you could just think of the people you’ve met in your life; were they always or even mostly rational in their decisions beforehand, or did they rationalize their actions after the fact?

The brain is good at that – coming up for believable reasons for why we did a thing. I think there’s even a special part of the gray squishy stuff that does it. Go look that up if you want to peer over the edge of the Free Will debate. That abyss is deep and tends to stare back.

So, I’m sticking with the assertion that human beings are not rational, but rather emotional creatures.

(Bonus points if you marked that statement as an unsupported assertion. I knew you were paying attention, you beautiful thing you.)

And, to say that we are emotional creatures is also emphatically not saying that we are solely emotional creatures.

We are not wholly any one thing.

We have the ability to reason.

It’s a tool, like math, only cooler.

Reason lets us step outside of our prejudices and biases. It lets us try to come nearer to the truth.

Argument allows us to articulate that truth, and to be persuaded to look at other truths we may not have been able to see. Or, at least, to see those truths in a different way.

If you have an instance where you need to be right, availing yourself of reason and argument will help you flense away the bits of thought that will make you wrong, especially if you have a good partner to argue with.

(Yeah, you can argue with yourself. Philosophy students have to do it all the time. But it’s a lot like sex: not nearly as much fun when you have to go solo.)

In the end, reason and argument help us to find the truth.

Or, as close as we can get to it.

That’s what it’s about, folks:

Finding the Truth.

Good luck on your search for truth.

As always, I’ll be around if you have any questions or comments.

Until next time…

 

 

 

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DragonCon Days…

It’s Saturday, here in Atlanta, and I’m in my third day at the convention.

There are a lot of people here for the con. And by a lot I mean: holy shit, how many people can you pressure-fit into 5 city blocks?

Just about all of them, as it turns out.

Still, this is about the most relaxed I’ve been at Con in years. This many bodies, all shoved in together, tends to set the brass clock of my anxiety banging away in its big, shiny bells.

I’ve been working on it.

(and no, not just by being drunk. Although, anyone who tells you alcohol doesn’t help is lying to you, or trying to sell you on some new religion that requires you to give all of your worldly possessions to the church and all dress in the same beige outfits woven from the same scratchy-assed material, while selling flowers at airports. Ok, maybe not that last bit, but you get the idea.)

No, I’ve been working on my anxiety, in multiple situations. I’m constantly practicing while amongst the crowds. It seems to be working well. But it’s also emotionally and mentally exhausting. No getting around it.

And that means, like it or not, I have to pay careful attention to my self care while I’m here.

Get away from people. From everyone. Sit down

Be quiet. Meditate if possible.

(For anxiety, I am fond of good old Mindfulness meditation. It gives you an anchor and helps you get better at returning to that anchor.)

And I was doing fine with that until last night.

I got caught up in the Con, and paid for it this morning with one of the worst migraines I’ve had this year.

The ghost of it is still clawing at my brains.

Hard way to learn that lesson, but it’s a lesson I’m not likely to forget, for sure and for certain.

I haven’t met anyone you’d consider famous, but I did get to meet and speak with an author whose work I enjoy.

(Laura Ann Gilman, by the way. And quite by accident. Sometimes you get lucky. Still looking to meet Myke Cole and Richard Kadrey. Weekend’s not over yet.)

Something about the “fan” thing I don’t understand. I like that I can meet people whose writing I admire, but I know we’re not friends. I just want to thank them for the work. Tell them I appreciate it. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to pick their brains, but failing that, what is there to do?

And somewhere, in the dark, cobwebbed recceses of my brain, a tiny voice whispers, “that’s just the anxiety talking,” but it’s loud as hell at this Con, and that voice gets drowned out more than I’d like.

Did I mention there are several metric tons of bodies here? Seriously, like 80-90k today alone. All of them making noise.

And so, I have to try to focus.

Even something as simple as pecking out this post on my phone helps.

Take your therapy where you can get it, is all I’m saying.

I’m not sure where I was going with this. Hell, I didn’t think about where it was headed when I sat down to write. Maybe I got there, maybe not.

Either way, time to head back into the fray.

Until next time…

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Weekend Plans…

I’ll be at DragonCon, in Atlanta, this weekend. Actually, I’m heading down on Thursday.

This will be my 17th con. I’ve only missed one in the last 18 years.

It’s weird to think about it like that…

…Anyway,

I may or may not be posting from con. I’m not taking my laptop, but I do have the WordPress app on my phone. If you’ve ever read one of my short, untagged, uncategorized posts, likely it came from my phone. So, it’s not impossible, but the thickness of my fingers does not mesh well with small touch-screen buttons. Add to that the fact that I’ll probably be some form of inebriated for most of the weekend, and well, slurred text is not something I want to foist upon any of you kind enough to be reading my deranged thoughts.

But I digress.

DragonCon is a thing I’ve done for nearly twenty years. That’s long enough to be a tradition at this point.

I’ll admit, it’s lost some of its magic over the years.

It’s gotten four times bigger in almost twenty years, and I’ve gotten 18 years older.

Tell the truth, by this time, I wanted to be one of the people I would come to the con to see. But, my writing career has not met or exceeded the hopes of my 22-year-old self. Turns out I’ve had a lot more obstacles than just sitting down to write. And a few hope shattering false starts along the way. I suppose it happens that way sometimes. But it’s never too late.

And I couldn’t stop writing if I wanted to.

It’s a thing I do. It’s part of me.

I think I’ve gotten off track, again.

So, DragonCon.

I’ll be in Atlanta. If you’re around, stop me and say hi. I’ll likely be tweeting. @tessrants is my handle. If you get me at the right time, we might share a song or two – but don’t let that stop you.

I hope your holiday weekend goes well.

Until next time…

 

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