We Made It Another Year

Looking back on 2023 — and loving the present in 2024

Well, friends. I have found myself a new home for my newsletter. After looking at my options (regarding UI, style, and price), I went with Beehiiv. So, here we are — shiny and new in time for the new year.

With the new platform, I’ve changed the name of the newsletter to Infinite White Space, representing approaching the blank page as a creative with all the opportunities, possibilities, and anxiety that that implies for writers, artists, and creators.

I’m also thinking of merging my newsletter with my blog, so you could be seeing a bit more from me — though I don’t plan to post more than once a week (and let’s be real, it will probably be much less than that).

At any rate, it’s that time of year, so—

Looking Back on 2023

At the start of 2023, I declined to set myself a year-long goal for my creative and writing practices. This was in part due to the existing projects I had going, as well as the fact that my available time and energy can fluctuate throughout the year.

Instead, I wanted to focus on how to prioritize the work in front of me for any particular day, week, or month, so that I could adjust in line with changing conditions. The four parameters I used to make these adjustments were as follows:

  1. Am I being paid for this and, therefore, am I under deadline for delivery of the work?

  2. If I'm not being paid, is it a collaboration? Are others waiting to continue their work based on what I deliver?

  3. Is this project what I'm most excited about at the moment? Am I passionate about it?

  4. How much energy and time to I have available? Do I have the capacity to work on something at this moment?

Although I didn’t necessarily stop and ask myself these specific questions every time I sat down to work on something, having them in the back of my mind and returning to them throughout the year helped me to refocus when needed. As a result, I feel pretty good about the work I accomplished and completed in poetry, games, and other forms of writing in 2023.

On the poetry front, I delivered the final manuscript for my new poetry collection, Necessary Poisons, to my editor at Interstellar Flight Press. We’ve gone through a few rounds of edits and the manuscript is essentially complete. We’re currently moving toward publication sometime later this year.

For games, I have continued to collaborate and work on two ongoing indie freelance game writing projects. One of these projects I am under NDA for an can’t speak about in any detail. The other is called Monochrome Heights, a rad platformer with a unique game mechanic being developed by Patrick Knisely. For this project, I helped edit and finalize the barks for the demo, jointly developed the overall story structure, wrote scenes and dialog, and outlined small gameplay sequences, among other work. Quite a bit still needs to be done to finish the game (and Patrick is carrying the brunt of that work), but I’m having a blast working on it with him and I’m excited to share it with everyone once it’s completed.

In the midst of all this work, I also delved into writing some nonfiction essays. While some of this work was paid, these were mostly passion pieces involving thoughts and words that I couldn’t get out of my head until they were on the page, including:

Outside of publishing itself, I also renewed my connection to creative communities by attending a few poetry readings and open mics, which I wrote about in a previous newsletter. Staying connected to community and supporting fellow writers and artists is something that brings me joy and fulfillment, and it felt so good to return to these spaces.

Poetry Invitational 2023 at the San Jose Museum of Art: Top: Lorenz Mazon Dumuk reads his response to "Weep" by artist Kelly Akashi. Bottom Left: Sophia Rodriguez reads her response to "Sky Cathedral by artist Louise Nevelson. Bottom Right: Asha Sudra reads her response to "Swell" by artist Kelly Akashi.)

Other Wins

The most exciting thing to happed in 2023 was the birth of my niece. Little Sophia is a wonderful little thing, and it brings me so much joy to see her grow and start to laugh and babble and wiggle around. Before long, she’ll be crawling and causing so much trouble for my brother and his wife and I can’t wait to see all the delightful trouble she gets up to.

It has also been a good year for travel. My sister and I visited Poland for a week, which was a phenomenal experience. Since she’s a history teacher, we visited a ton of museums, learning about the history of Poland — much of which included weighty subjects that were deeply emotional, but so important to acknowledge. At the same time, the country was beautiful and friendly, with excellent food, and we loved exploring.

Traveling in Poland: Krakow, the Mermaid of Warsaw, a cheese-making hut on the road to Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains, and me in Krakow.

Another great trip involved my first experience on a cruise on the Mediterranean through Spain, France, and Italy. We were traveling during a massive heat wave, so we didn’t spend as much time on land and in the cities as I would usually prefer, but having the ability to return to the ship to cool down and rest was a blessing.

Nevertheless, we saw brief glimpses of many beautiful places. In particular, I fell in love with Rome — a city rich with history and art — and I hope that I will be able to return at some point and spend more time there — a week, a month, or maybe even longer. I would love to have enough time to more fully explore this city and it’s many, many museums and historical sites.

City skyline of Rome; harbor in Portofino, Italy; replica of Michelangelo Buonarroti's La Madonna della Pietà at the Vatican; and street art in Barcelona, Spain.

A number of smaller trips involved spending a few days in Vegas, visiting family in other states, and getting jump-scared during the Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios — all of which were good times.

It has also been a great year in terms of the books and media that I’ve been enjoying. I’m currently in the process of putting together my lists for the things I’ve loved over the past year and will be sharing those soon. In the meantime, if I had to whittle it down to just one book, one movie, etc., then this would be my list:

  • Book: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin – A moving story of two friends who set out to make a video game together, who then evolve into professional colleagues and experience trials and tribulations along the way. A fantastic expression of the creative experience and the complexities of friendship.

  • Movie: Talk to Me – A tense and thrilling horror movie about teenagers who discover an unsettling party game.

  • TV: The Last of Us – One of the best video game adaptations of all time, bringing the story of a man hired to safely transport a young girl across the apocalyptic landscape full of fungus infected humans.

  • Game: Alan Wake (Remastered) – Despite the sometimes frustrating combat, the game drew me in with its meta-narrative about a writer who is hunted by an ancient darkness and his written words have the power to alter the world.

  • Music: Lorn – My Spotify would clearly show that Lorn is the artist I listened to the most. And “Acid Rain” is the song that made me fall in love.

Among the few goals I set for myself last year were to move my body more, keep up with journaling, and incorporate more mindfulness and/or spirituality into my daily life.

I managed to meet my first goal well. I signed up for a new gym close to home, worked with a personal trainer to get comfortable with strength training, and even started working on building up my running again (two years after falling on a run and fracturing my elbows). This progress got derailed a bit over the last month, due to COVID hitting me hard, but I’m starting to feel better enough to get back into the rhythm of things.

With my journalling, I was semi-successful last year. I journaled more often here and there, but slipped back into using journalling only as an emergency anxiety and/or insomnia solution as needed. To a certain extent I’m fine with this. While I would like to write down my thoughts and feelings more often, even just having my journal as a tool to turn to in order to support my mental health is a net positive as far as I’m concerned.

My attempts at incorporating more mindfulness and/or spirituality have been limited. Over the past year, I would randomly meditate for a few minutes or draw some tarot cards, but had no sense of a regular practice — and this is something I still feel I’m missing.

How was your 2023? How did you do in approaching your creativity and goals?

Connecting with the Present in 2024

As I’m looking to the year ahead, I find myself considering (as I always do) how I would like to turn my focus creatively and for my career, as well as in terms of my mental and physical health. A part of me always sees myself as in revision — as though I might be able to fulfill the right series of objectives to achieve the idealized version of myself I hold in my head.

Recently, I listened to an episode of the Hurry Slowly podcast, in which the host Jocelyn K. Glei looks at productivity culture and the wellness industry and how they always have us looking forward, reaching for the possibility of what we could be — if we just did more, were more mindful, or were more healthy. Wellness culture often gets disguised as self care, when it’s really just another item on the to-do list aimed at bringing us to our future self. In this way, we are perpetually looking toward the future, rather than existing in the present.

We are always striving, never living in the moment.

In her reflections, Glei explains how “healing can only occur right here in this moment and that if we accept ourselves as we are, we can see how we already embody so much of what we yearn for.”

I think one of the reasons I like my approach to my evolving creative goals from last year, based on the four questions at the top of this post, is that it allows me to respond and reassess based on where I’m at in the present moment. What work do I have immediately in front of me? What do I need to get done? What can I get done? What will bring me enjoyment?

The present is where we exist and this is where we have the power to make choices — and the here and now is where we act and grow and heal.

When I go to the gym for strength training, running, yoga, or dance classes, I do it because (despite the initial difficulty), the act of moving and stretching by body makes me feel good. In the here and now, I feel stronger, a bit more flexible. My back and neck and overall muscles feel better. If I exercise with the aim of loosing weight or achieving an imagined idea of my fitness, then I find myself less interested compelled to move. It’s the act of enjoying the movement and its effects that makes me want to do it.

Therefore, my plan or goal is to move forward with this sense of presence in mind and to continue to tune in to where I’m at, allowing myself to make choices to work on a project, go on a run, read a book, or just rest — and take pleasure in being where I’m at whatever I’m doing.

Do I have about 50 projects (novels, stories, poems, screenplays, games, etc.) that I would like to finish some day? Yes. Do I want to run and journal and be mindful and travel and spend more time with my creative communities and do all the things? Yes.

The multitude of things I would like to achieve in my life are ever present.

But the me that is always a whole and complete person regardless of what I accomplish or not is also ever present. And it seems a blessing to give myself the space to exist in that wholeness.

Good Reads

Maria Popova at The Marginalian discusses how the act of beginning something new, whether a creative work or other project, is “to cast upon yourself a spell against stagnation.” In her post, she refers to the writings of Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue, specifically his book To Bless the Space Between Us. She includes quite a bit of wisdom, including this quote from O’Donohue:

Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally. To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginning might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over.

Theodora Goss shared a beautiful poem about living life fully, called “I’m Going to Die of Something.” Here’s a fragment:

I wish I could live forever. Don’t you
want to live forever, like the ancient
gods, always young and beautiful?
No one ever told them that ambrosia
damages the liver or kidneys,
that it contains saturated fats
or too many calories.


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