Guess Who’s Starting a Book?

 

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Photo by Ewan Robertson on Unsplash

That’s right, I’m honestly, truly, starting a book. Can you believe it? I sure can, because it’s been the only thing I’ve thought about for the past freakin’ year.

It took me a whole lot of time to just get to this planning stage of writing the book, mostly because the way I talked to myself and others about it was so…negative. I was so afraid to start this book because I didn’t talk myself up enough, didn’t show enough of what I was capable of to those around me, and eventually, started seeing myself as someone who couldn’t actually do it. 

But no more! I’m a whole new woman, now! I had to work through a lot of thoughts that said I wasn’t good enough, and I still have those self-doubts, but they’re now a small voice in the background instead of an obstacle in my way. 

As some of y’all may have seen, I have been very inspired by magical girls/Sailor Moon lately, so the book I’ll be writing is very much that sort of direction! However, it’ll be a bit more modernized, and it’s going to be deeply queer. I loved the queer aspects of the original Sailor Moon, but I’m going to be adding so many more central queer characters, because listen, it can always be more queer. I’m all about putting the kind of content in the world that I want to see (and that I hope others want to see), so why not write that story full of magical queer people? I think it’s time.

I’ve been doing a world-building questionnaire to help me flesh out the magical concepts in this world, starting character sheets so I can fully understand each character in the story, and will eventually do some sort of loose outline that will help me stay on track for events in the story. I go back and forth between thinking I just need to jump into the novel and go, and knowing that I might need all of these planning materials to stay on track, because the longer I go without actually starting, there’s a less chance of me, y’know, actually starting the damn book. Ultimately, the planning materials are good for me, and have been getting me more excited for starting the book, while helping me explore more concepts to put in it than I originally thought of.

So, yes! Expect me to be getting more neurotic and more over-the-top artsy-fartsy as I dive into the grueling, but rewarding process of starting and finishing a novel! I will still try to work on some shorter pieces while working on the novel, as well as regularly updating y’all on here. 

If you’d like to be a little more involved in the novel planning/writing process, I encourage you to check out my Patreon page! There is where I will be posting all of the character sheets, the world-building doc to explain how magic will work, and a slightly more detailed summary of the plot of this book. As I begin the writing process, I will also be sharing excerpts of the book, so this would be the best place to see it unfold as it’s being written. Your support would mean the world to me, and to thank you for this, you’ll get to see so much of the behind-the-scenes work that will go into writing this book! Neat!

I am super pumped to start this journey. I am elated that I’ve finally found the drive to finally start this novel that has been playing out in my head over and over, because it’s a story that I cannot wait to get out into the world. Be ready for more posts about the strenuous and emotional process of writing, Instagram posts of me at various coffee shops to get writing done, and a whole lot more ecstatic talk of magical things! This is essentially my brand, though. So…nothing new, there!

 

New Piece on Medium: “Pennies”

So this piece that I put up on Medium today is only slightly spooky. Just a bit. Not like, overwhelmingly so.

My older brother once told me about this penny superstition, where he would find pennies in unsuspecting places during times where he was worried or off-balance. Both him and my sister-in-law had found them in several situations, and each time they would tell me about them, I would find it just as bizarre as they did.

Then, I found a penny of my own in a similar situation. The bizarre part? I was at least 99% sure that I had never placed a penny there.

If you’d like to check out this piece, click here to go to the story on my Medium page! I had a lot of fun writing this, and it was very cathartic, both to create and to share with you all. Hope you enjoy it!

My Writing Is Getting Published!

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So you know how I was talking about the fact that I’m going to have some writing published in a book, soon? Well, that book is now available for pre-order! The book itself is a collection of excerpts from Arizona-based writers, in both fiction and non-fiction genres. I’m not only excited to see my excerpt in a solid, tangible book, but I’m also very excited to be featured along so many other talented writers!

The excerpt I wrote for the book discusses some feelings I had around my mother’s passing. A parent passing away is such an interesting (and yes, painful) time for introspection, and pondering about how life will be much different due to the fact that they’re gone. I had some complex feelings surrounding her death, and it was not only cathartic for me to get these words out into the world, but was cathartic to turn these feelings into a strong piece of art. I really did put my heart in it. I wouldn’t have submitted it if I didn’t stand strongly behind it.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering this book, here is the link that you can use to get a copy of your own! It will be out on October (date here), and I can’t wait for you to read it!

Some Well (Or Ill) Timed Imposter Syndrome

I’m not the only writer who compares himself to others. I’m not the only creator who feels like his creations are worse than they actually are. In the world of artistry and pulling ideas out of your head to turn them into a creative piece, looking at your finished product (and at times, your work-in-progress) and thinking “this is a pile of garbage” is just a part of the process. It doesn’t have to be, but it usually is.

Lately, I feel like I’ve been slinging out a bunch of hot, smelly garbage when it comes to writing. I can smell it even before it hits the blank document, and I immediately discourage myself from the idea that anyone else would even want to look at it. It’s been hard, because every time I finish the grueling creative process with my writing, I get such a damn rush that I can’t get from anything else. So feeling like everything I’ve been doing lately is subpar, plus seeing the success of so many other writers, makes me feel like I don’t have what it takes to let my creativity shine. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m quite ecstatic to see others succeed, especially when they’re other queer writers. However, I start to feel like I need what they have in order to succeed, and I talk myself down into thinking that I’ll never have it. Nevermind the fact that what they have and what I have can exist at the same time and be equally as successful; my brain thinks I just won’t make the cut.

This all changed when I just recently received this email:

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Okay well, I’m exaggerating. Not ALL of it changed, but it did take me a little bit out of the immense imposter syndrome I’ve been feeling for a bit. Like I don’t know if I actually deserve the success I get because I don’t believe I’m at the level of other successful writers.

I keep going through these motions of being a writer where I feel like the talent just isn’t there, like people are just saying I’m a good writer because it’s better than saying I’m a bad one. Even receiving this email (which, don’t get me wrong, I am THRILLED about it), I feel like I’m still just some run-of-the-mill gay writer on the Internet.

This publishing house wanted a short, 1250-word excerpt for their collection. I could have just combed through my old projects and sent one of those out, but what did I do, instead? I busted my ass to write a whole new piece from scratch. I didn’t have to, as I didn’t have that long of a time to write and edit a whole new piece to send to this publication, but I did it, and that work paid off. Yet, I still feel like it didn’t actually happen. Like maybe it’s going to slip away, somehow. How, exactly? I don’t know, but I keep feeling it.

Regardless, I’m trying to stay on the lighter side of it. This is my second publication I’ve gotten in to! That’s huge! I wouldn’t have been given this if there wasn’t talent in what I do. I worked hard for it, and I know I deserve it, and as long as I keep reminding myself of that, I know I can move forward and continue to put that energy into something bigger and better, so I’m going to do what I can to ignore the imposter syndrome, and keep writing the way I know I can. This may sound all kinds of cliché, but gurl, I just learned that I’m getting published. I can get a little sappy and cliché if I want to!

And believe me, I’m just getting started. I have bigger ideas that I will for sure be putting some good energy into, so once this imposter syndrome stops being so damn loud (which may never happen, but I’m feeling optimistic while writing this), the world will see just how mighty my pen can be! (Not a euphemism, ya nasties.)

A Geek in the Community

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Photo by Geeky Shots on Unsplash

I chose a username about 4 years ago, with the intention of making my presence based on me being just one voice in a community of diverse individuals. “AGeekintheCommunity” was supposed to be a way for me to assert that my voice was only one voice among the community (at that point, it was for LGBT+ topics), but it had a double meaning in the sense that I felt like I was a geek that traversed through many different communities. I wanted to try to portray that my voice is distinct, but not the only voice who has an opinion on the topic.

Though I consider myself a “geek,” which in my realm, means being incredibly passionate about a certain something (usually TV shows, movies, books, etc.), it was starting to feel strange trying to brand myself completely off of that. At first, it was easy to embrace that I would be a geek in any community I moved through (which, well, is still a little true), but it hasn’t been until lately that it feels like it shrunk me. It reduced me to being “just another face in the crowd,” as people say.

I know I’m just another geek in the community, but I don’t want to feel that.

Due to a lot of discouraging experiences, I’ve felt like nothing special for most of my life, and I don’t want those insecurities to start bleeding into how I present myself online, or the quality of work I put into my creative projects. I’ve known that I have a lot of talent to offer, but I have rarely felt that I do, and I know I need to break out of that cycle if I want to believe in my talents. Can a simple username change across all of my platforms be enough to make me feel the uniqueness that will inspire good work? I don’t know, but it can’t hurt to try.

Originally, the name change across all my social media was due to the trend of writers/authors using their real names as usernames, as well as the domain names for their websites as a means of making it easy for people to find their work. I was scared to do it at first, because it would mean going from a catchy username to just, you know, my name. I had been thinking about it months before changing, but always talked myself out of it, or listened more to the people discouraging me from doing it. The thought started nagging at me even harder lately, and I figured that it was just time for me to do it. It’s “Now or Never,” you know, like the Blair St. Clair song (she’s a drag queen, in case you didn’t know). I’m pulling myself together, and all that jazz.

I still love AGeekintheCommunity, but he’s not who I need. He got me started, but it’s my turn to lead myself into something amazing.

It was originally supposed to just be a thing I did for a more solid web presence, but I found something deeper in the username change. Maybe the hinderance that AGeekintheCommunity gave me was so subconscious, it wasn’t until I went through with the whole process that I see where it could have been holding me back. “JeffBrutlag” might be less catchy, but it’s me. It’s the identity I’ve lived with, and am learning to love. There is complexity, experience, and talent behind that identity that I know will do amazing work. I can put in the effort to make my identity pop; AGeekintheCommunity will always just be “a geek in the community,” no matter how good he is.

So look out for me on the world wide web, friends! Jeff Brutlag is ready to kick some metaphorical teeth in. He’s still a big geek, though, so don’t be too intimidated.

(The only place you may still see the username “AGeekintheCommunity” is Facebook, because apparently “Jeff” isn’t a word that’s “allowed on Facebook.” Their platform can go down in history as the first hater of my name change. That’s like, kind of cool, I guess?)

Empty Wells

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Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I’m just going to blurt out a bunch of stuff that I’m thinking because I’ve been super unproductive and I need to at least write SOMETHING this week that makes me feel like I haven’t been incredibly lazy (when it comes to writing, at least. I know I’ve been working hard in other realms of my life.) I’ve been waking up about two hours later than I normally have been, and I feel like that’s been spiraling into how I run the rest of my days, and I’ve honestly been hating it. I used to be great at just getting myself out of bed, but lately, I’ve been like “eh, let’s close our eyes for another 5 minutes,” which then somehow turns into another hour and a half. I can’t say I’m proud of this, but I try to give myself the benefit of the doubt by suggesting that my body needs that extra sleep. For what reason? I don’t know, but listening to your body is important. However, I now feel like my body is taking advantage of me.

I have writing projects I know I need to get done, but like most of the writing projects I’ve been working on, there’s a fair amount of emotion that goes behind it, and those emotions haven’t been easy to confront. I keep thinking “is it too soon to write about this?” But those thoughts are so often combatted with “if I don’t write about it now, then the feelings just won’t be the same.” Which, I guess both are true, but all in all, I feel like this is all just a subconscious excuse to stall. Why am I stalling? What is there to wait for? I’m not getting to success any faster by staring at a mostly blank word document and hoping I can get words to appear. I have to put the work in, and I have to do whatever it takes to just get that work done.

But…of course, there’s another side to that. These last few weeks, I haven’t been in the mental headspace of allowing myself some relaxation. About a month ago, I was doing well at telling myself “okay, just ONE episode of Jessica Jones, and then you have to get to work,” and that was keeping me on a pretty good track. Lately, every moment of my day has been filled with me thinking “okay, you have to do this right after you’re done Twitch streaming, today,” and subsequently, trying to fill every moment of my day with trying to stay productive. It’s kind of been driving me crazy. Sometimes I feel like my mind is just trying to tell me to stop, relax, and give myself a damn break before getting into the work I need to do. Maybe I need to listen to that.

But it’s hard, because I also feel like I haven’t been productive, despite organizing and running a month-long charity campaign on my Twitch channel for The Trevor Project (which is still happening), which alone has been enough work to be considered a job. When I’m not working on that, I’m sitting in front of my computer, trying to be productive by sheer willpower (with little to no results), so lately, there hasn’t really been a moment where I’m just…relaxing, simply for the sake of it. I’ve valued balance for so much of my life, and now, I’m trying to sweep that under the rug. Maybe that’s been a detriment, a product of the environment I was raised around that doesn’t agree with my brand of adulthood. I was taught that being busy means being productive, and that relaxation was a privilege granted when you’ve been busy enough to earn it. While I believe in staying busy to be productive, I also heavily value my time where all I’m doing is something that requires little to no productive effort. Though, whatever the reason is, I know me best, and losing touch of that has started to make me slip into a version of myself that’s hindering progress.

I don’t like being my own worst enemy, but as a content creator, that can just be part of the job description. For so long, I’ve fought between “I just want to relax for a bit” and “I’m not being productive enough,” and I’m realizing I need to finesse that combination in order to create some progress. I sometimes punish myself for taking breaks when I know I have a lot to do, and for sleeping in when I wanted to be up earlier, but maybe that’s part of what’s hindering, well, everything. I put this pressure on myself to hopefully avoid the pressure someone else may put on me, but I’m starting to feel like I’ve been going about it the wrong way. Willing myself to squeeze words onto a word document, when all my body wants is just forty-five minutes to escape reality, might be what’s drying the well of productivity to the point of cracking. A moment to just breathe might be what I need in order to re-fill it.

I guess this is when someone would say “treat yo self.” Make sure you’re treating yourself for the hard work that you do, because you deserve little rewards throughout your week. Keep yourself motivated, and know when the well is empty. Find healthy ways to fill that well. Kick ass. Repeat.

Supportive People are the Best People

After deciding to make a career off of being an independent writer/creator, I’ve been ultra in-tune to the attitudes about my decision from others. On that same note, I’ve been ultra sensitive when I feel like someone is discouraging me from that kind of a career, even if its something as simple as a look that suggests that I’m crazy. In a sense, I sometimes feel like I am crazy in regards to this career path, but hey! I’M STILL DOIN’ IT. 

With these thoughts rolling through my head constantly, I recently had a conversation with some friends about this new-found career path of mine. Of course, I felt like the question was approached with a tone of “what are you even doing with your life?” Granted, I lost my mother in October, and I was in the process of looking for a job at that time despite the stress of her being in hospice taking its toll on me (which meant that the job search didn’t end up lasting too long), so I’m sure most people I know have a giant question mark in their head as far as where I’m at with my life. My friends all seemed fascinated by what I was aiming to do with my life of trying to make it as a writer/content creator, and though I didn’t really know how to respond to that particular sentiment, I found it more invigorating than the alternative: making me feel like this big choice I made would ultimately fail, making me poor, homeless, and more of a disappointment than I may already be to those who disagree with what I’m trying to do. Can you tell that I’ve been thinking about this a lot? 

And this isn’t to say that I’m uncomfortable with the decision to become a full-time writer, trying to become successful through my creations. It’s felt like the right decision to make for over a year, but never really became a viable option until just a few months ago. It’s the one passion of mine that has stuck around for the longest, while everything else seems to come and go. While I recognize the unconventionality of it, and what could happen if I don’t succeed, all signs in my life have seemed to point in this direction. So whether or not people support it, it’s still something I have to throw all my efforts into it. 

To the credit of others in my life, the group of friends I spoke with weren’t the only ones to be enthused with the choice that I made for my career. Plenty of other friends and family found it exciting, and thought that it’s definitely something I could pull off. Every time I talk about this scary, but ultimately fulfilling decision I’ve made for my career, and I get a supportive response, I feel hopeful. That sounds cheesy, and I know you probably just thought “okay, cool” but there’s honestly not a better way to describe how it feels. The feeling of hearing someone tell me that they think I’ll be successful at what I’m working toward is almost as satisfying as accomplishing that thing, itself. It’s like the kindling to a bonfire of a career. 

The more I discover which people in my life are supportive of my big career choice, the closer I feel to them, and the more I become aware of the kind of people I need to surround myself with. That’s not to say I only want people in my life who approve of every single thing that I do, because we do need those people who keep us grounded, too. However, there’s a difference people who try to keep you grounded, and people who try to pull you so far into the ground, you can’t see the light. Having people in your life that lift you up rather than drag you down, especially when it comes to things you’re passionate about, is such an important part of feeling secure in those decisions that you make. You don’t necessarily need that support to know you’re doing the right thing, but feeling that it’s there certainly takes literally a ton of weight off of making the decision.

This video of Will Smith made its way to my Twitter feed, and I feel like it’s so applicable to what I’ve been talking about, and a great reminder to us all about the kind of people who deserve our time.

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