Meditation

The heat still radiated out from the walls, although the sun had ceased to blaze about an hour ago.  Lee could feel the sweat sticking to her, evaporating all too slowly.

But how are you going to do it? she thought.

It amused her:  she worked surrounded by books, with the ability every day to take home a new writing, and yet something had stopped her from even opening anything that wasn’t based in reality.

Nearly every day, she tried to write, and even then found herself avoiding what she had once been happy to resign herself to, as life’s work.

Somewhere, buried under mountains of excuses, fears, and projections, lay the reason why.  But she didn’t know it, couldn’t see it.  There was too much in the way.

I have to open up if I want to be creativeWithout it, my work will suffer.

How many generations of artists had lived through eras of their work being constricted by the pressures of the market?  For how many years had Lee lived with the spectre of her own…shall we say…mental irregularities?

She hesitated to call herself “insane.”  Insanity was a legal term.  It meant a person couldn’t tell right from wrong.  She wasn’t insane in that sense.  But her fear,

if I let them see who I am, I’ll just show the world I am insane,

that stopped her.  Over the years it was possible to learn how to blend in, how not to frighten people by being too friendly, how to avoid glares as a reward for eye contact.

Even the word for it — schizophrenic

The vast majority of people, even educated people…even her professors — didn’t know what it meant.  They had a tendency to link the term with multiple personalities, which was not even close to what she meant when she used the term in a clinical (not pejorative) sense.

So she just didn’t use it.

Due to complications, she couldn’t even say, though, that when people did use the term wrongly, based in 19th-century dogma, that they used it inaccurately.  No one’s mind is wholeSo why am I so scared of opening the door to…that?

I’ve stood here, watching you, every day…writing these things out.  Have you forgotten your primary purpose?  Since you have gained to fortitude to begin to live, your fear has overwhelmed you.

Because now my employment depends on…

depends on appearing “normal?”  That’s why you chose the field you did.  You know it is normal within the arts and within letters not to be “normal.”

But I don’t know if I’ll stay,

You are not trapped.  Believe me when I say that I hear you where you fear becoming another like the ones you try to separate yourself from.  But you are not them.  You have not reached the point of spewing diatribes from upturned cartons on the sidewalk.  And I know a thinner line than you would like, divides you from those you smell before you see.  But you have care.  They don’t.

Then what separates us?

Lee looked over her shoulder at the dimming twilight.

I’ve never been hospitalized.  I’ve never been homeless.  I have access to medication and mental health facilities.

I don’t want to be hospitalized.  I don’t want to be homeless.  I don’t want to lose access to medication and mental health facilities.

This world was not made for me.

But you live here.  And if you want to be an artist — no.  If you want to make an impact on the world, you have got to face the idea that people will come to know you.  I know you’ve been hurt in the past, but you’re no longer a child.

I only live among children.

Listen to me.  Which part of you/I/us are you talking from, now?

STOP BEING CONTROLLED BY FEAR AND DO YOUR DUTY.

can you live fearlessly?

Just me, bein’ strange…(TW: religion)

Ah, hello.  If you’ll excuse me for breaking out of character…or into it, as the case may be (voice? what voice? I have to have a ‘voice?’)…I might as well tell you that this is a “creative writing opportunity” during which I get to “be myself” for the first time in months.  But I’m not too practiced at it, at this point, so I hope you can forgive any lapses in cognition.  (and voice.)

This post follows an old pattern established on our side:  other voices step in to say what our original voice feels s/he cannot.  (This used to happen a lot; our previous author has mentioned being largely silent as a child…I was one of the first voices s/he developed with the necessary aggression to speak things others may not like to hear.  I essentially was the identity with the “egg tooth” which enabled us to “hatch.”)  I may clarify what the previous post was actually about.  It has to do with me in specific.

During the amount of time when we were a very young adult, there was a period of time when…we were studying the paranormal, and a large number of alternative religions.  At the time, this person was feeling very outcast, like they may not live much longer (it was a constant battle to avoid contemplating throwing ourselves off the roof of our 5-story dorm), and as such there was nothing to stop him/her from investigating things which someone with a higher “honor” status would never touch.  That was, we had nothing to lose but our lives, and that seemed as though it would be gone sooner rather than later, anyway.

I feel like I — or we (the pronoun issue is so trying) — are coming to a better understanding of one of these alternative religions.  I really don’t know what has happened within the last 24-48 hours, but what we learned from a daemonolatry enclave has started to make sense.  At first it was easier to investigate Satanism (isn’t it always?), though within that specific subculture (Satanism, that is) there is a great deal of ego which usually isn’t pleasant to deal with.

I should clarify:  there are at least two kinds of Satanism, more if you get into really studying cultures and the niches people have carved out for themselves online.  What I’ve understood to be the more popular of the two is called “Atheistic Satanism,” or “LaVeyan Satanism,” (although here there is a split between the Church of Satan — which LaVey founded — and the First Church of Satan, which one of his students [John Dewey Allee] founded:  and if I’m correct, at a later date).  Despite the name…the official belief in the Church of Satan is that “Satan,” as a supernatural being, does not exist.  I quipped long ago that this is the reason Anton Szandor LaVey (the founder) lived as long as he did (this is the guy associated with the infamous “Black House” in San Francisco…though I don’t know if that place is still standing — I remember hearing something about it in the late ’90’s, but that’s all).

The other major form of Satanism is one in which there is an overarching belief in a metaphysically real “Satan,” though I have found…that the name doesn’t necessarily fit the station of this deity.  Using the term “Satan” immediately references the deity against a Judeo-Christian/Islamic framework (referenced from within Satanism as an “Abrahamic” framework).  While that is the present dominant paradigm…and would demonize this form of, “Satanism,” for being a challenger to it at all…I don’t feel it does the religion justice to name it what its enemies would call it.

It’s like continuing to call Native Americans (etc.), “Indians,” long after the argument has been ground into the dirt that Columbus didn’t know where he was going and didn’t know where he had landed.  We get it.  Everybody gets it.  But we still keep calling American Indigenous/First Nations, etc., people “Indians,” and every time someone says “Indian,” it means we have to ask for clarification as to what they mean, because the term has been historically applied to distinctly different cultural sets of people (neither of which are homogeneous) located on opposite sides of the globe.

Of course, though, calling “Satanists” by said term can bring out the worst in people, which — may have been a reason for Atheistic Satanism to exist in the first place (to show others their flaws, that is).  Overall, though, Theistic Satanists — in my experience — do just want to live as they are and be safe and unmolested (like, pretty much, everyone else).

Anyhow.

There have been a number of differing names for this variant, depending on which school or cult (yes, some of these legitimately fall into “cult” territory, and not the benign type) one is dealing with.  I generally use the term “Theistic Satanism,” as it’s one whose provenance I’m already familiar with.  The subtext is much different, depending on what name one uses, here.

The problem, majorly, is that Atheistic Satanists and Theistic Satanists are different types of people.  Most people enter the Satanist “scene” through LaVey’s writings:  and to be clear, from what I can tell, LaVey just wanted to make a statement that he was against whatever the mainstream liked (“Satan” = “Adversary”)…which means that today we still get people who want to claim self-sufficiency and ultimate individuality (a reversal of interdependence and selflessness) whose clothes came from Vietnam.  Some of the ways these things work out just do not make sense.  In addition, reversing valuation on everything (besides hinting at possible Oppositional Defiant Disorder) is a really easy way to make yourself emotionally sick.  Some psychological ways of being have endured for millennia because they work.

On top of this, during the time Atheistic Satanism was founded/in the news (I am thinking this was the 1970’s?), the dominant culture was far-Left (Hippie); which means that LaVey’s writings tend to the extreme Right.  Which means that then we get this huge influx of people who identify with LaVey’s vision who are conservative to a concerning degree (I guess he didn’t mind people conforming to his brand of rebellion?).

I don’t believe that there has been a form of Satanism which has not been profoundly impacted by LaVeyan influence.  The exceptions being things related to the key term, but more difficult to find; such as hereditary Daemonolatry sects.  I’ve heard it said as regards the latter that “all Demonolators are Satanists, but not all Satanists are Demonolators.”  There is a subtle difference here between Daemonolatry and (Theistic) Satanism, in that one approach is essentially building a relationship with lesser Divine spirits (approaching polytheism, though not necessarily technically so), and the other is focused largely upon one Deity (in this case, “Satan”).

Of course, I am telling you this now, but…please for the love of all that is holy, do not take it as permission to go and dabble with Daemons.  To unknown people and to people who mistreat them or don’t respect them, the Daemons can be harsh.  (I am not going to get into why I feel this way; that’s not my story to tell.  However, my sense is that they live on a different order than us, and as such, our [short, fragile, time-bound] lives are not as important to them as they are to us.)

What I’ve seen proposed before is the idea that “Satan” is the All and that the various Demons are facets of the All.  This didn’t really make sense to me until I realized that what I had been talking about:  the Infinite (really infinite potential, corresponding to Yin, I now recognize) may have branches which relate to various concepts.  At any one time, at least one of these branches of the Divine is working through a person (I would think; then there is my experience of feeling empty).

In contrast, the Demiurge (false God) would then not be the true God because of being delimited by descriptions.  And yes, I did just get into Gnosticism…which may have something to do with mystical Judaism (I’m thinking of Qabalah).  (And no, that is not a misspelling of Kabbalah; Qabalah is how it is spelled in Ceremonial Magick circles — distinct from Hebrew tradition.  No, I don’t know if I trust the Ceremonial Magickians more.  Yes, that is an alternative spelling of “magic.”  Look up Aleister Crowley if you’re wondering why I’m using it.)

That is interesting, though.  Infinite potential reading as Yin…and reading as something which is qualitatively similar to (but not equivalent to) the All.

If “Satan” is Infinite potential (Yin) and the Daemons are his aspects, what is Satan being defined against (Yang)?  “Finite being?”

That…actually sounds as though I may have hit upon something.

I think I’ve done my job, for tonight…

Reflexive creativity

I am obviously not being creative enough, because last night I got the urge to do something I haven’t done in a long time:  I attempted to visit a forum which caters (or catered — it’s now mostly abandoned) to people with marginalized and controversial identities.  Then I realized that I was falling back into the pattern of reflexive creativity (that is, turning my creativity back upon myself, as happens when I don’t use my external creative outlets [drawing, painting, writing, beadwork, jewelry] enough), and instead of writing about what I wanted to write about online (where negative attention would be much more likely than positive attention, and may make my online surroundings unsafe), I went back to one of my paper journals.  Particularly, the identity journal…which I hadn’t used for about a year.

With things going the way they are now, it will likely be safer for me to do this when these urges come up, instead of publishing under any unique user account like WordPress or Facebook.  It will also be easier to keep things straight where it comes to my particular perspective (that is, I won’t have to play along with the groundrules as I basically had to, when I was dealing with talking about this in groups [for the sake of inclusion] — thing is, without the groundrules, it sounds a lot more sane, and can probably progress much further than it was originally taken).

Part of what prompted this was some input I’ve been getting from a blogger or two on WordPress.  Nothing direct, just indirect, “it’s OK to think and say things others wouldn’t,” type of support.  I don’t feel safe enough to do that in public, let alone connected with a traceable identity, but then I realized that paper journals preceded blogs and may be superior to them in at least one sense, which is privacy.

I could only stand writing for about twenty minutes, last night…then, I think, I lost sight of what I had originally intended to write (I need to make a habit of making quick notes when I start…how am I supposed to remember why I started writing when I’m off on my third tangent), or I had encompassed the reason I started to write, and reached a natural breaking point.  The second sense in which paper journals feel superior to blogs (to me) is in the ease of drawing and easily adding visual input and notation into their pages.  It isn’t as easy with a lined journal, but I looked into my art journal after having written the entry in my identity journal.

I was…seriously…that stuff still blows me away.  It’s like, how can I have this talent and not be using it (and the answer is that I want to use it for good, not evil, therefore my options are limited and I need to find a secondary route of employment).

In addition, I have the seed of a story (at least its beginning) in the art journal, and was reminded of it when I looked over it again.  In turn, I had been building up to that seed, for years.

It seems that when I’m either 1) off medication, or 2) in an active phase of illness, I’m much more creative than I am when I’m stable.  I don’t really know what lies behind that — if it’s an impetus thing (something, for some reason, causing me to work things out creatively), or a coping thing (whether I’m really coping with the outside world or with some distortion of it which my imagination has made), or a brain-chemistry thing…I really just don’t know.  I know that it’s generally harder for me to function in society when I’m less-medicated, but then I gain the ability to shift back toward a generative stance where my thinking is more free than seems to be tolerated…at least, online.

Anyhow, I also asked someone today for help with finding books on creativity where someone could be trying to write, but something like trauma keeps coming up every time they try to.  Yes, there are a couple of designations in the Dewey Decimal system for that!  (I figured that if there was a cookbook specifically on seaweeds, then maybe there was a chance that there was a book on being creative while mentally ill, and how to do it without making things worse.)

I’ve basically been avoiding creative writing for a really long time…since I graduated with the degree, I think.  I had noticed that since I began the second medication I’m still on, writing was much harder for me; my mind just got a lot quieter.  In addition, and I’ve said this before, it engages part of my brain which makes up what it sees to be the most likely scenario for a given incomplete data set, which doesn’t help me in real life.  Mostly because my core beliefs are skewed because of years of peer abuse, and then the illness that kicked in (probably because of the abuse), magnifies that.

Because of this, I’ve been thinking about Dialectical Behavior Therapy…which doesn’t sound fun, but does sound as though it could help me function better…and maybe get off of some of these medications (particularly the ones which aren’t related to anxiety, though it would be a trip if I could lower that one, too).  …Though I am not sure I would still be functional off of the medication which quieted my brain:  it takes care of multiple symptom classes.

I’m trying to think of how long I lived with overt symptoms without recognizing them or treating them with meds…I really can’t remember how old I was when I began, but I had to have been at my latter University in undergraduate work.  My memories from that time (of noticing my brain working differently) are from inside college classrooms…and I know that my judgment was flawed before then (although I couldn’t tell, at the time [actually coming to recognize that I had substantial cognitive impairments took about 10 years down the line…or it felt like that]).

It would probably be clear from the above, but I just realize now that I only implied that I would like to write, again:  I didn’t actually say it.  (Show, not Tell?)

Ya huh.  In any case, one of the books we found at the Library, I already own, so I can take a look in there…and see if I’ve read it already.  My ultimate goal would be to be able to write creatively again without making myself sick, in the process…

understimulation…

Well, I’m kind of getting sick of not being productive.  Generally, I use my blog entries to map this; but it seems I can’t write often enough and deeply enough to satisfy my need to see my own thoughts expressed.  I wasn’t always like this.

I can see this starting out when I underwent my first attempt to write a novel in high school…recently, it’s been more reinforced by my having been in the Art program and expected to produce.  Granted I have been out of the Art program for a semester, but it’s only been one semester, contrasted with the four recent semesters where I needed to create in order to stay functional in the program.

And prior to that, the stimulus was the Creative Writing program, also a production program…which I am not sure is an entirely functional bet for me to put my energies into, at this point (I think I’ve mentioned before the fact that designing narratives and drama and writing them out tend to stress me.  It just doesn’t get me out of my own cerebral mess, probably not least because I have difficulty telling “fantasy” apart from “reality”; my narratives tend to weave these together in a way that trips me out, and personally resonate with me to the point that it’s difficult to continue working on the project).

As regards the art…I think I have reached a point of impasse where I need to consciously decide what I’m going to do.  Most of what I’ve been doing very recently has either been reading (what was important and left over from last semester), looking up things to understand the reading (the last two readings have generated at least eight new links), checking in books (one of the optional lectures from last semester has turned me on to two new books), and doing the career analysis-type stuff.  This is along with prep work for my vocational program…which is going amazingly well, though I probably shouldn’t say too much about that.

Accordingly, the creative energies have taken a bit of a back seat, particularly as I’ve realized that intellectual stimulation will also (like art) keep me out of the self-analysis abyss.  (By this I mean that I tend to analyze my own situation to the point that I may or may not realize that I’m operating with a limited amount of data which lead me to inaccurate conclusions as regard myself and my position in the world, because of one or more hidden information needs.)  In turn this has me questioning exactly what role I want or need art to take in my life.

It’s unquestioned that it’s something I enjoy doing; whereas the lure of reading — or writing a hard-copy version of a reflection on yesterday — was not enough to get me out of bed, today.  It’s also unquestioned that art is difficult (especially in light of the anxiety which causes me to worry about toxin exposure, not to mention my ongoing struggle with perfectionism) and that I’m not sure if it ever stops being difficult.  Maybe I don’t celebrate it enough when I’ve made something that fulfills me?  Maybe celebrating it too much causes me to worry I won’t be able to attain that level again?  I’m not sure.

In addition, I am also now on the lookout for meaning in my art, and in the art that I view.  In my best pieces, I can see it…then there are the exercises which can just turn silly, like when my Watercolor professor had us paint a toilet paper roll to teach us how to work cylinders.  I am not sure where the line is drawn between “practice,” and “communication,” and I’m not sure “practice,” is worth it, without “communication.”  The major issue is that the communication arises through practice.  The thoughts and patterns which need to arise and may become visible, may not be visible without creative play.  That is, intentionality comes in at a distant second to intuition…the latter of which will show me things I have been thinking and not know that I have been thinking.

But then, how to start out in practice without a clear subject matter?  I certainly don’t want to be painting bowls of fruit for the rest of my life…though maybe I just need to stop judging the bowls of fruit?

Maybe I can go through my archives tonight and try and figure out what strikes me, and why.  Or I can try doing random doodles on the sketch pad that is on my altar table for this reason…

Can’t sleep. Rethinking situation for webcomic series.

Alright.  I took a nap from 7:30 to 9:30 PM and also ate a huge piece of pizza and two bowls of lentil soup, tonight.  Accordingly, I now have indigestion and can’t fall asleep.

Which is kind of a shame, because I’m really tired.

I’m also still recovering from whatever sickness this was that I caught…but I’m guessing this isn’t really necessary information for this post.  🙂  Point is, I’ve been tired all day.

I’ve been cruising around some tags tonight, notably the “webcomics” one on WordPress.  One of the things that I’ve realized from doing so is that writing — particularly for comics — doesn’t have to be as deep and involved as I’m getting into with my own most recent story.  This is a pattern going back into my history, though.

While I was laying here hoping for melatonin (the kind that comes from my brain, not a pill) to do its work, I realized that one of the reasons I’ve been avoiding fiction writing is that it seems escapist, where it comes to my own motivation to write.  Then I realize it sounds escapist, and recall myself back to the real world:  you know, the one in which I am constantly mistaken for a girl (I don’t consider myself a “girl,” or woman, for that matter) — and get depressed.

There is an easy fix for this where it comes to my current story, though:  keep it closer to reality.  This will probably be far more gritty, but actually more realistic and maybe easier to write.  Plus, it will likely ring less of escapist fantasy.  Will this end up being the only story I have to write?  I don’t know.  I hope not.  It’s worth a shot, though.  One story is better than none…but if I’m going to write, I need to protect myself from myself…

…and also I’ve got to decide what I’ll do if writing this makes me want to start T.

I’m going to try and fall asleep now.  It’s been 30 minutes since I got up.  I’m still burping up acid, but…I’m tired.

Beginning work on a creative writing/illustration project.

Hmm.  I haven’t gotten to start on my schoolwork yet, today.  I know I should prioritize work for my Database class, as we have a group work session coming up.  What I have done is begin listing out worldbuilding attributes of the story that I want to write (and probably illustrate).  I haven’t started with the story’s universe or irrelevant details, so much as the known attributes of the story which I’m already certain of.

(I’m trying to hold to my original vision because of realizing that the imagery I’ve been dealing with for a while, actually is fairly loaded with relevant symbolism.)

I started this work today because I tried to start writing from nothing, and realized that most of my writing recently has been either on the blog, or academic; not creative.  I also remembered what happened when I tried to go about this the way I had been taught in my English classes:  no planning, no research, train-of-thought.  What that has gotten me in the past (when taking on a novel-length project) is a lot of wasted effort.

If I can get the facts and plot synopsis straight at the beginning, it will give me something concrete to build around.  Sometimes, just to get the structure straight, actually thinking this stuff out in writing beforehand, does help (even if, yes, it is in outlines, or other documents which the general reader never sees).  And I don’t mean rough drafts; I mean prep work for rough drafts.

This is needed, at least, when I’m doing something like this, and the story has an indefinite length.  It may be short; it may become a series of short stories (which would be particularly sweet — and ideal — if I dealt with this series in graphic format); it may be novel length, with chapters.  I’m hoping it doesn’t become a saga like Dune…though that is a possibility, particularly if more complications come up later; and I should try and be open to it.  Even though I’m kind of not.  😉  I kind of don’t want that.

I’m fairly certain that this series will be aimed at an adult audience, at least.  I’m thinking that…due to the (mature) subject matter, it isn’t meant for kids or teens — although it would have been a nice thing for me to find, before I was diagnosed (mental health issues are a major theme).

Something that I didn’t mention in my last two posts last night is that I had a dream near waking, which ties two broad branches of storylines which might otherwise be separate — and one plotline which I had left off of since late college — into one whole.

What is becoming apparent as I note down the essential elements of the story:  This story isn’t set in this society, although it is generated from it.  But just realizing that it is in no way this world, is really freeing.

There have also been things happening in current events which are kind of showing me that things are possible that I had closed my mind off to, as a teen.  Kind of scary, but it does broaden my horizons.

I have also come to the point of not knowing just what the subject of my art should be.  I read that illustration is not defined by a style, but rather illustration is defined by its role as support to a main body of information (text, in this case).  If I work on this story, it will give me material to draw from in my art.

I should post this and get to work.

These dreams will draw you in…

What a difference not-writing makes, eh?

I’m becoming much more aware of what happens when I don’t write every day.  I still have my Random Thoughts journal…which is in the blue book I meant to begin a larger project within (the “how to survive when you have a brain like mine,” project).  The major issue with this is that I have been feeling it is a large risk for me to put those latter thoughts to paper (or keyboard)…at least in a place where they may be seen (as when I may take this book and write within it, in public).

The positive thing is that, without the grounding of writing something related to hard reality each day, my thoughts are actually breaking free of the limitations of what I see as the physicality of my situation.  I am not sure if this means that I’m breaking further from reality or not…

In particular, I slept for quite a while today.  I’m trying to keep my immunity up, as yesterday was particularly weird where it came to trying to keep hydrated (I had a sore throat, and trouble speaking, for no discernible reason except dehydration…but I ended up drinking at least 36 ounces of water at work).

While I was asleep, I found a…recurrence of a bit of a story I had been thinking about for years as a teen and young adult.  It started out as a response to vampire fiction (I was that young), then moved into urban paranormal fantasy.  At this point, I’m seriously considering making it about aliens — because it is, basically, about aliens and alienation, hidden worlds, etc.

I have two lead characters…one of whom is human, one who is not.  (In my Creative Writing program, we were given a quote which said that writing a book was a disease that you’re only cured of once the piece is finished…but I can’t remember who it was attributed to, or the exact wording.)  The second started out as a strong side character, but that…led into more.  He had the ability to enter and determine the environment of dreams…and in this, his character design was clearly non-human; his reach and interactions, fairly intimate.

It would be interesting to write this.  There is that thing about Proxima Centauri b being within the habitable zone for life, though at this point in our technological development, it would take until 2060 to hear back from any probes.  Meaning, obviously, that by the time we hear back, most of us who are presently cogent enough to understand the significance of this, will be either old or dead.  But something like that could be used as an excuse to write a story which may actually not be sci-fi (as to be sci-fi, I’ve heard, it has to actually be possible), but rather paranormal urban fiction involving aliens.

I find it very, very interesting, the way my thoughts have turned when I’ve had to keep them inside, and have not been presenting them to anyone.  Because of the lack of fear of judgment, I’m able to do certain things like fundamentally question key foundational tenets of belief systems which I had previously held without question.  Like the idea that actions taken in the past determine the future; that time is linear and only flows in one direction.  That everything in the universe is built upon and explainable via rationality and logic.  Or, and I was working on this one before — that the Universe is inherently moral.

I was having a conversation with M the other day where I said that it doesn’t matter if every decision made in a philosophical system is completely on it and accurate, if the fundamental tenets of the stance (or “canon”) are flawed.  If the fundamental givens aren’t accurate to reality, everything that unfolds from that point is also not accurate to reality, and the philosophical system may cease to apply to reality in any beneficial way.

I’m thinking that fiction writing might actually be a good place to work some of these issues out.  Once I start breaking fundamental rules of thinking, it helps to be able to work at this from several different angles (as I am not entirely certain that any one of them is correct, nor should I be).

So…maybe I’m migrating back to fiction as my art or craft of choice?  I’m not certain.  What I do know is that the dream I had impacted me fairly severely, in a beneficial manner.  …And hey, maybe I want to start work again on character designs.

I should also try and work some of this out in my head, so I can try and parse what the story is actually about…not to mention its optimal length, and format…

…and I should consider giving at least one of my characters the trait of being impacted by mental illness.  Guess which one…