The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: Why I Canceled my Kickstarter

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I didn’t start out today intending to cancel my Kickstarter for One in Blue, The Other Green. It just kinda happened. I wrote a brief blog for my backers but I wanted to talk about it a little bit more here, on my personal space.

First off, physically I’m okay, mentally I’m wavering but I’m neither manic nor depressed, I’m just trying to pick up the pieces of my life and putting them back together. I’m not well, I know this, but it’s not like previous episodes. Mostly it’s anxiety (which I recognise as a withdrawal system from my medication), the weird weather makes it worse as does stress.

I realised this morning, I need to take the pressure off. No self-enforced deadlines, no unrealistic expectations. I spent the last two Kickstarters, though successful, going over budget something which as been worth the expensive but something I’ve also had to absorb. It’s going to be May/June before my the combination of that and my personal debt has been paid off.

Fortunately, I still have excellent credit and all the cards seem to be 40 months of 0%APR at just the right limits. I just sorted out the second half of my debt and thanks to a little adult advice from other people older than me (no one ever taught me about how to use credit card sensibly), I’ll save around £600 in interest alone whilst also being able to easily snowball the debt. The important thing is: I got myself into this and I know I can get myself out.

That’s assuming I don’t have any more manic periods.

But even if I do, I’m trying to wean myself off relying on plastic and working out how much I realistically need. This means, perhaps, taking a month or two more to pay off the debt but allowing me to live off of cash (I try to live off £70 a week but it’s looking like, realistically, I need at least £100 to break my credit card habit). My main credit card remains there (now clear and in credit for the first time in two and a half years) as an emergency option (and is tied to my phone for specific stores so I don’t have to actually have it on me, which makes it easier).

I’ve discovered the trick with credit cards is just to not have them available. The ones with my debt on them aren’t maxed out but they do stay, unused, in a secret spot. They’re out of my line of sight which means it’s easy to forget about them (I use the same trick to keep an emergency note on my person). Plus the aspie in me really does enjoy putting money on the cards and watching the balance go down, it’s my favourite part of getting my benefits in.

I’ve tried to be more organised financially over the last couple of months; all my household bills are automated and I’ve just changed my media consumption for Spotify and Netflix so these are paid with money on my Paypal account (from Patreon) rather than automatically going on cards. Those are the only things I really enjoy and music makes me a happy author. Having those two things really does help distract me and keep me writing. I need background noise to write, you see, and music/movies on demand is a dream come true.

And that, folks, is what I want, though, right now: to write. To focus on stories and not have the pressure of publishing/editing hanging over me (which it will, assuming the project had funded, which was looking unlikely).

To focus on stories and not have the pressure of publishing/editing hanging over me (which it will, assuming the project had funded, which was looking unlikely). Instead I’m asking people to consider my Patreon instead, to help me finance writing and research. The publishing, that can wait until I’ve sorted myself out because I really do need to be in a good mental place to be able to withstand editing.

I’m delicate … to the point where I’ve actually asked my crit group if I can take myself out of the rotation for a bit because, while well meaning, their comments on my stories will make me so much worse. Plus I’m totally out of writing short story mode (and will amend my Patreon tiers accordingly, when I get a second). I feel like a glass with water in it being dropped to the floor, from the wrong height I will shatter. This is part of my illness and will pass but until it does, I need to protect myself in any way I can. This includes sending out stories because rejection is, similarly, over-personalised when it’s actually not that at all.

I just can’t face it, any of it.

I’m coming up to the end of almost a year of therapy, realising I could do with another two or three in order to put myself back together. I’m about to start CBT but that’ll be ten hours maximum and will hopefully help me deal with the low moods/pesky anxiety. The worst part is I have to ring my GP tomorrow to get my valium sorted because I’ve had so many anxiety attacks in the last month. I get 28 tablets … that’s fourteen days’ worth IF I take them (10mg works for me). I always feel, despite valium being the one drug I don’t have a dependancy on, that ringing up and asking for a prescription somehow makes me a drug addict whereas, in reality, I simply don’t want to run out (which I know is actually smart, adult behaviour).

I’m aware of the anxiety, painfully so. I’ve been waiting for something to come in the post which has been stressing me out (because I must have said item and feel like I have to wait for the postman). Each day it doesn’t turn up, each day I find myself at home waiting for the delivery only to be disappointed, it doesn’t help. I also know the meds help but taking them, it’s a battle all of it’s own, even though I use them sparingly. Panic attacks are not fun and, for me, I don’t hyperventilate, I just clam up and my flight instinct takes over.

I hate it when it does that but then my brain, thanks to the PTSD, is now wired that way.

The other problem is anxiety stops me writing. I want to do it, would rather curl up at home with Netflix on and my manuscript open, than go to a movie. Yet, because I’m anxious, I find myself unable to write. To open and close the file, to write part of a scene and panic about whether I should wait for the postman or just get the bus because I don’t want to be alone in my own skin.

At the same time my memory makes it hard for me to remember details and obsessing over those, over not making mistakes (despite this being a draft one project and so required) isn’t helping me. I know I should write everything down as I world build but I don’t want to, I want to tell the story and so it’s balancing those out. I’d like to hire an assistant but, again, that’s just not financially possible (and I’m not good at delegating).

So, before I start publishing again, I need to sort myself out. That’s the priority: self-care. I’m trying to eat at least one proper meal a day (something filling and healthy), I’m snacking on a lot of carrots and doing exercise. I’m being diligent with my expenses but also understanding sometimes it’s worth paying more for convenience, especially when you’re all out of spoons.

Right now, I need to just take some time, chill out and look after myself first. I’ve spent so much of my life being altruistic, being around for everyone else that I’ve never been good at recognising that sometimes it’s me who needs a shoulder to cry on or a dog to hug (I’m hugging every dog I meet at this point).

That’s why I cancelled my Kickstarter but I don’t regret it, there’s no shame in it. Sometimes you just have to prioritise and this is definately one of those times.

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The Balancing Act: Finding “Solace”

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My self-worth isn’t great right now. I’m trying to write but it’s like getting blood out of a stone. My brain screaming at me that I’m a terrible writer, that the two rejections I had this week were personal and signalled my ultimate failure as an author. I cringe at the thought of sending more stories out and yet there’s a call coming up that I’ve promised myself I’ll submit a story to.

After the name-changing of the other day, I had a temporary high which means, of course, my mood was always going to crash back town. It’s not as bad as it was a couple of weeks ago but it still feels particularly dark at times. I can find fractured moments of happiness in Disney movies and the Game of Thrones rumour-mill, listening to certain pieces of music and eating things which are bad for me. Though I do have a bag of carrots in the fridge that I’m sharing with the hound.

Yesterday I didn’t write a word all day. Instead, I wasted time on the internet, reading and posting until it was time for an appointment on the other side of town. I took the bus because I couldn’t face the walk from either of the two routes I can use, I even arrived early because it was better than lingering in Starbucks for another half an hour.

Of course, I could have slept in, I could have been kinder but I’m a creature of habit. I did, however, walk back into town, past the barky German Shepherd Uni hates. We had lunch, which was cheap and filling (bonus points to the fact I was craving cabbage and new potatoes). We capped off the day with an epic 99 that took me back to my childhood. The seller even made Uni a micro 99 which she definitely appreciated. It was exceptionally warm and poor Un, well she’s getting fluffy again.

As part of my run of jobs on Monday, I booked her a slot to be clipped for the summer. It’s expensive but worth it, she’s already feeling the heat and it’s only just gone from sub-arctic rain to a few, precious, glorious days of summer. She’ll thank me in two weeks. In the meantime, I’m carrying water and her bandana, even retiring my jacket because denim and heat, they don’t play well together.

My big focus for this week is the short story I need to write. It’s a space mermaid story and I’m hurrying to get it done not because the call is coming (it’s at the end of the month) but because I want to have my crit group look the story over first. I have a better idea of the storyline for “Solace” but my desire to write, it’s still not easy. Plus the deadline is making it much harder, inducing a panic that I won’t be done by 1st July.

This annoys me as normally deadlines are my fodder, my fuel. The trick is, of course, to go back to what MRK taught me in the short story class I did. Outline the story, write down what happens and then, when my muse returns in a coffee-fueled flood, do the story. Worse case, as long as it’s done by Wednesday, the group won’t be too put out but I still feel bad. We each understand everyone has problems writing sometimes and this week, it’s my turn.

I want this story to be good, though. I want to love writing it, the desire is there, but my mood flattens it. I want to nip to the garage, buy a pint but I can’t afford to lose either the money in my purse or the addling of my brain. So I’ve put on Game of Thrones and am trying to outline, hoping that will help. At least I now have a much clearer idea of the antagonism in the story and the ending.

That’s something and, right now, I’ll take anything I can get.

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Cats Make the Best Muses


This is how the Mighty D spends most of his day, denying the light and curled up on one of the various pieces of furniture. Normally he moves between them, having his morning nap on the sofa, his afternoon one on my bed.

The rest of the time he’s sitting on my mousemat staring at me.

He looks so stern when he does it, almost disapproving, as if to say: “Why aren’t you writing?”.

His tail moves like a snake and sometimes, in the winter, he’ll curl up on my hand because it’s warm right next to my second screen. Plus I think he begrudges me watching Netflix when I should be petting him.

FYI: Bengals think they’re kings of the universe and must be petted at all times.

You’ve gotta love his persistence.

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The Problem with Words, Visual Impairment and Bipolar Medication

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I’ve just finished a massive project and despite going through it, I’m mortified to find it still riddled with errors. Some of this is down to my inner editor (my brain is adept at replacing blurry images with best guesses) and the rest is simply due to how close I am to the text.

Previously this would never be a problem, when I was working for magazines there were editors to proof-read, plus my vision was much better. Now I’ve hit my thirties, it’s deteriorated at a rapid rate, even if I can still see ‘more’ than most of my friends. I’m still blind and have noticed it’s becoming increasingly difficult.

My vision is breaking down, my eyes hurt and I’m getting more eyestrain-related migraines than I used to. I know I could simply cut down on my time on a computer but … well, no, that’s never going to happen. It’s particularly hard when you only have a half-working eye to begin with.

Worse, my medication has wrecked my memory, meaning my previously pristine grammar is now tarnished. I can’t remember the basics and often get the simplest things, like it’s and its, mixed up. My brain is flagging it up and an error and I no longer know which is right.

Now I’m not so sure and it’s embarrassing.

I started using Grammarly a couple of months ago, mainly for little things like blog posts and Facebook. Now I’m running documents through. Yesterday I realised I’ve spent the last week mixing up ‘alliteration’ with ‘iteration’ and I hung my head in shame. Words and meanings, that’s my thing, the only thing I can do well. I used to be able to spell anything …

Unfortunately my bipolar medication doesn’t come with useful notes on specific side effects like ‘may find understanding of grammar and spelling is reduced’. It’s not a great mix, especially when I make more efforts than most to go through my text and nix any errors. There will always be a couple that escape the net but it doesn’t make me feel any better.

All I can do is find my way around it, such as feeling chunks into online checkers and seeing what gets spat out.



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How to Become a Short Story Writer

Writing a Short Story2

Someone I know wanted to know how one becomes a short story writer (aka someone who submits stories to real markets/bears their soul and waits for it to be ripped to shreds). I think I’ve covered it all in this handy flowchart, if not let me know and I’ll update it.

So how do you become a short story writer? Or, rather, a published one?

I’ve only sold four stories, all to anthologies, so I’m in no way an expert. I’m just passing on what I’ve learned so far.

  • Write a short story

This is the hard one. You actually need an idea that you can encapsulate in around 5ooo words (technically the SFWA upper cap is 75oo but many magazines say up to 6k, while others will let you submit up to 10k. It depends on the market). The subject depends on your own preferences (mine is speculative fiction, fantasy and SF) and Submissions Grinder is an important way to find the right market, as is reading the publication you’re submitting too (many of whom make their content available online for free).

  • Let it rest

Think of your story like a cooked joint of meat, you want to let it settle so that the meat is nice and juicy. In this case it’s so that you can re-read the story and catch mistakes/problems in the narrative. Cat Rambo recommends at least a week (I try for three to four) before revisiting a finished story.

  • Edit

Revisit the story; edit it, rewrite it, fix it. Then let it rest again, or send it out to be beta-read/critiqued.

  • Critique it

If you’ve got access to beta-readers or a crit group, use them. Yes it’s supposed to feel like someone is scooping your heart out with a spoon but don’t worry, all will be the better for it. Just hang on in there. If your crit group are harsh it’s because the story needs it. If they’re actually mean, leave.

  • Submit the story

Submission Grinder is a good way to find markets, as is reading them. You email, they respond acknowledging reciept and then you wait. And wait. And wait. Some markets your submit just because they have a fast rejection times, others take a while. Be patient.

  • Rejected

Rinse and repeat. Then do it again. Break out the wine and chocolate.

  • Acceptance.

Rare and fabled; break out the wine and chocolate.

  • Get a contract

Sign it, celebrate. This makes it real.

  • Rewrite requests

Tinker, accept all changes. Wine and chocolate. Contract.

  • Publication

Go you.

  • Write a short story

Haven’t we been here before?

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The Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: On Trying to Be Productive


Last year I discovered this piece on being accountable to the Muse. It’s great advice and totally worth following … unless you have bipolar.

My problem is that I tend to hyper-focus on specific stories or novels for a period of time. In the past this has been tied directly to my manic periods (which usually last around two weeks). This can also be awesome when it comes to producing short stories but sucks for novels, as I usually burn out half way through.

I was going to plan my year out, block off time for a couple of specific projects (mostly novels). Except that doesn’t really work for me, aside from putting more pressure on my otherwise short attention span and stress levels. Now keeping my stress levels to a minimum is my most important focus: stress triggers my mania, Quetiapine be damned. I’ve recently up my dose to 600 mg and feel back on something of an even keel (I’ve learned I get six months before I need to up my dose and, as far as I’m aware, the maximum for Quetiapine is 750mg).

© Angelia Trinidad/Passion Planner
© Angelia Trinidad/Passion Planner

One thing I have found invaluable is my Passion Planner (it’s a Limited Edition Twilight Compact, making it A5 sized and the perfect size). Except rather than using it to plan out what I’m going to do, I instead use it to mark what I’ve done. With lots and lots of stickers. I find recording what I do is particularly cathartic, be it bus journeys, rejections, submissions or meeting friends. I even stuck a photo of me with my new nephew in there to remind me of how cute he is.

I mark out my day, who I met, what I did, using the main page layout. I note submissions/rejections in the Space of Infinite Possibility (blanked out to preserve a couple of details I can’t make public at this time). I try to have one or two things I need add into the To-Do Lists (personal in this case is my life and on-spec story projects, work is used for Kickstarter-related projects, sold stories and notes). I try to have a focus each week, in the above case it’s getting the final edits done for A Star Filled Sea finished and sorting out the cover changes with Scarlett. I also spent an entire week changing website hosts, wiping my WordPress installation due to a bug in Jetpack and reinstalling my lovely new blog.

Le Sigh.

I’ve also found myself getting addicted to stickers; I like making my Passion Planner truly mine and have quite a selection of Japanese washi paper stickers/Sailor Moon ones and random planets I bought from Paperchase. I like the personalisation aspect as the more I like something, the more I’m going to use it. The washi ones (made by a Japanese company called Mindwave) are almost like watercolours and look beautiful, I’ve also found somewhere that’s not Etsy to get them stupidly cheap which helps. I treat these friparies as a way to spend a little money but boost my mental state significantly.

I find the time used meditative, as well as reminding me of how productive I actually am (which is helped by turning Facebook off), especially from a writing/life perspective. I get out most days and that also helps as, if I’m writing, I find my local Starbucks to be an ideal place do it. I get warmth and coffee, power and WiFi, people to pet my hound and I don’t suffer the almost claustrophobic anxiety I get while at home.


The one thing I am trying to do, as it helps my productivity no end, is go to the gym and Zumba twice a week. The gym allows me to warm up/do a mission of Zombies, Run! and Zumba, which forces me to stop thinking about everything and focus on not dying of a heart attack mid-session. I’ve done a class long enough that I know the song and movements off by heart which really allows me to push that extra mile and sweat. Plus there’s the social aspect of catching up with friends and actually getting out, even if it’s bloody freezing to walk to and from in Winter.

But there are some days, like today, when I just can’t write creatively. So I blog, I Netflix and YouTube and I try not to beat myself up about having a bad/non-productive day. Sometimes a down day makes for more productivity and following day.

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FitBit Charge HR Exercise Data

Screenshot 2016-02-04 22.09.59I went to Zumba last night and this is the data my FitBit Charge HR recorded from the experience. What it doesn’t show is the fifteen minutes preceeding it when I went on a treadmill to do a mission of Zombies, Run! This is how I’ve started warming up and I’ve seen a really drastic difference in how much I can do in Zumba.

I’ve found my Quetiapine doesn’t help my weight (neither does zombie snacking after I take my sleeping medication) so last year I rejoined the gym just around the corner and signed up for my friend Jeanette’s Zumba classes. I got chatting to one of the personal trainers in the gym earlier in the week and we started discussing the FitBit (which I bought earlier in the year and totally love) and tracking your day. I use mine, for example, to make sure I get exercise and enough sleep (too little is bad for my bipolar).

So he asks me what my heart rate gets up to during Zumba.

Me: “Erm 105 maybe.”

Him: “You need to be somewhere in 130-40.”

Me: *snorts with laughter* “Oh wait, you’re serious.”

The thing is, since doing my little warm ups I’ve found I’m actually able to get close. As you can see above (OMVGs, the data you get access to is amazing), I hit 136 at the peak of the really intense songs. I actually started sweating (eww)! But this is, apparently, a good thing. I certainly feel better for really pushing myself, my left knee not so much. The best part, though, is that my brain is turning off and I get an hour to focus on something else other than plots and how much money I owe. Actually though, I tend to find more plot bunnehs that way and solve more kinks in my writing which is an added bonus.

Endorphins are supposed to be good for you and I leave the classes feeling focused (and knackered) which means I want to get a bit of work done or send a story out afterwards. Now if I can just stop eating cheese-covered garlic bread for my supper …

One thing at once eh?

EDIT: 139 get!

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