Weekly Words 07-13/10/2018

07/10/2018: 1889

This revisitation of my shitty YA werewolf novel is going surprisingly well.

I think I’m definitely belabouring certain points, and normally upon noticing that I would start to feel deflated – but instead, I’m feeling motivated, because I’ve just finished the first chapter of this reboot and that means …

I have something to work with.

It feels real is what I’m saying, in a way that a lot of my experimental first chapters often don’t – in fact I can’t remember the last time I felt this way. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this way, actually, like what I’ve written is an actual Thing from chapter 1, as opposed to having to wait until either I’m almost finished or actually finished and looking back on it. I feel like I’ve just leveled up or something.

Time to grind some more XP.

08/10/18: 3015

This is quite startling, to be honest.

As it turns out, I had more to say than I thought I did in this first chapter, but it also kind of ruined that feeling of it being “real” that I had when I put it down the other day. All in all, though, this still feels like it’s heading in a good direction, one that I want to continue following in.

And it’s my shitty YA werewolf novel. How did this happen? Yes, it’s a reboot rather than a revision, so perhaps continuing to refer to it as my shitty YA werewolf novel is something I should stop doing. Though I still feel the description fits.

And while I do feel like I miss that sense of it being “real” from yesterday, I also now feel excited to get on to chapter 2, and for that to become “real”.

I’d been hoping, fantasising about getting that feeling of giddy excitement that I had when I first embarked on this project back in 2015, and that hasn’t happened – instead, I have a new feeling of giddy excitement, and it’s not for the writing process that I’m using, not for the fact that I’m forcing myself to write really fast and thoughtlessly and as a result also permitting myself to write whatever the hell I want with no judgement. I’m excited that I have a story to tell, and that I’m telling it.

Like, shit, when is the last time I felt this way?

I honestly think I haven’t felt this way since I was 13 years old, and decided that I wanted to be a writer.

And having now written it down and finding that a mild breeze has not blown it away, I’m taking that to be true.

I have wanted to feel this way for a really long time. I’ve obsessed over it, how to get it back, how to engineer circumstances to cause it to happen to me again. I’ve tried to come up with the perfect story, the most “me” story I could think of, tried to just let myself do whatever and have total freedom, tried to make myself stick to rigid schedules and regimens of writing to achieve this goal. And now I have no idea how to explain how this has happened, how to break it down into a formula so that I can repeat the experiment again in the future. I just know that I’m feeling it now, and that it’s fucking great and I’ll probably end up crying at some point in the near future because of it.

And really, isn’t that good enough?

I think it is.

09/10/2018: 1829

Didn’t end up crying, as it turns out, and the feeling is gone – but I’m fine with it, and that’s a first.

I’m fine with it because I’m pretty sure I’ll get it back again, sooner or later, because the one thing that I know about it is that it comes to me when I’m writing something that means something to me. And I feel like I’m getting a bit better at doing that.

For instance, today I did not work at all on the Wolf Gang reboot – but I did finally write out a film trailer that I dreamt up one day and served as more or less the main premise for the dark high fantasy comedy trope-playground I think I’ve mentioned obliquely a few times over the course of this year. I’ve tried to write it a few times and always gotten tripped up by my own overly-literal brain, trying to make me be all linear and fact-checking and proof-based and shit. However, as it turns out, it was actually very easy to make myself write this trailer, and I’m starting to think that being literal-minded is actually an advantage when it comes to writing down literally what I have in mind. I’ve always thought it was a weakness of mine, a personality flaw, a hindrance to my creative capacity – now, I’m starting to see how it can be an extremely useful tool, and (really obvious how-did-I-not-think-of-this-before) ways that I can turn this perceived weakness into a strength.

It also makes me want to work on this dark high fantasy comedy trope-playground project a bit more – I do think that my Wolf Gang reboot holds the majority share in my creative stock right now, but then again, I’ve always wanted to find a way to be working on more than one thing at a time and make it work.

I care about both of these projects is the point. I’ve been looking for a story that feels like it’s “mine” all year, and that was something quite specific, something I thought I would recognise when I found it. But I get the feeling that I was right when I started thinking that maybe it’s just about commitment, that if you stick with something and make the decision to hold to it, that’s where a sense of purpose and fulfillment comes from.

And of course, both of these stories are mine.

Meh, whatever. I should probably give up on trying to figure out how my brain works at this point, and just appreciate that over the years I’ve found some ways to get what I want out of the process. Also to appreciate how much fucking writing I’ve gotten done this week already. Not just time, but word-count too, really does fly when you’re having fun.

I like it a lot when writing is fun.

11/10/2018: 1221

Back to werewolf shenanigans.

This was supposed to be a horror reboot, but it turns out that it’s just a slightly less intentionally tropey shitty YA novel so far – which is okay. I’m fine with just having horror elements and trying to do them justice. So far it’s just the main dude complaining about his unrequited crush on his best friend, and before you ask if this is even remotely interesting the answer is that the best friend is a girl. I use the term shitty YA werewolf novel for a reason, folks.

But it’s getting written, and tomorrow I’ll probably start re-writing what I’ve written tonight purely because it’s not what I had in mind and feels like I’m getting off-track. I had a couple of false starts before I found my way to what is currently chapter 1, so I’m fine doing the same thing with chapter 2, and however many other chapters need a bit of troubleshooting before they find their identity. Part of it is also that, well, this story is uninteresting, and I have some ideas of how I can change that which I’d like to explore.

13/10/2018: 10475

Or not. Whatever.

So maybe this reboot isn’t as clear in my mind as I treat it as though it is. I thought for sure I had a scene to write, a determined sequence of events that could not happen any other way, and yet instead what came out was some out-of-left-field mess that I now have to deal with one way or another, and it’s just so …

It’s writing. It’s all writing. This is what writing is; this is what writing has always been and always will be, and the only difference between it working or not is sticking with it until it does.

Or having a plan but fuck that shit I ain’t getting paid for this!

Weekly Total: 8886

Well, hello to you, too.

I know I’ve hit 10k+ like one week out of four for the past few months; it’s a thing that I can still manage, and while the inspiration has certainly worn off a bit by now I think this week has been a really good momentum-growing endeavour. I don’t quite know what the best approach is for the werewolf reboot, or the high fantasy trope playground that is also my compromise to the part of myself that wants to fix Suicide Squad by writing a fix-fic, but the momentum is there, the ideas are still forming, and I’m writing, so it’s happening.

Though I do need to get back on track with Mark and Jessie. I really do think at this point that re-reading it is more or less entirely pointless in terms of keeping things, so I will just try to get an overview of events written down and see what I can shift, what I want to delete from existence, and where new stuff that is not the most unbearable writing I have ever done can slot in.

And I need to see my doctor, because while the “bug” has more or less gone I still feel weird, and after this long that is concerning.

See you next week, if I’m still alive.

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Weekly Words: 30/09-06/10/2018

01/10/18: 2363

Do you know how hard it is to think of how to do werewolves in an original way?

This evening, feeling like my bug might have returned, I decided to try to make up for a day of procrastination and indecision by making myself actually give something a go, something I’ve been very hesitant about yet devoted a considerable amount of thought to: rebooting my shitty YA werewolf novel. I don’t know where it’s going, it’s not the same giddy, throw-the-kitchen-sink-at-it, writing-by-the-seat-of-my-pants euphoria as the first time around, but … I mean, I wrote, and I didn’t stop writing or really want to stop writing for a good 2 hours or so. It doesn’t have to be euphoria; I’ve already invented this wheel. Maybe now I can just enjoy seeing that it works.

I wrote basically two first chapters, or perhaps two prologues, alternate inciting incidents for my werewolf characters. I feel like if I’m going to do this, then I want to do it my way, and the question that I’m trying to answer right now is whether or not I have anything original to say about werewolves – or anything at all, really, that isn’t part of my potential PhD thesis, and if so how I want to say it.

In the meantime, though, it’s good to see that the taps are still running.

04/10/18: 38

I watched two films this week that have lent me some much-needed inspiration: It Follows, which is just a good movie that you should see if you haven’t already (I hadn’t until this week), and The Covenant, which is a decidedly poor movie that you should see if you haven’t already (this was my second time, and it was even more deliciously abysmal than the first time).

Basically, now I want to write a horror story.

Not necessarily a straight-up horror story; maybe more of a teen drama-comedy with horror elements – I’m thinking that this reboot/reimagining of my shitty YA werewolf novel could work pretty well in this regard, especially as the original concept that I had for the story actually resonates with these two movies as sources of inspiration.

The Covenant, for those who don’t know, was surprisingly enough made before the Twilight films, even though it seems like a flimsy attempt by a studio to make a “for boys” version, complete with classic tropes such as teenage boys speculating about what kind of underwear (if any) girls are wearing and then using their magic powers to, uh, verify, the main, queer-coded villain threatening the safety and/or sexual virtue of the main dude’s (female) love-interest, and the line “Harry Potter can kiss my ass”. I can see why it wasn’t a hit is what I’m saying here. But the premise is so fantastically basic: four teenage boys are descended from four of the Ipswitch families accused of witchcraft, the details of which have been dramatised in The Crucible, and spoiler warning they are actual witches – yes, boy witches, they stole my fucking idea, never mind – and there’s a fifth family that was supposedly wiped out but spoilers it wasn’t and that’s the main bad guy (played by a pre-Avengers Sebastian Stan chewing any and all scenery within a 5-mile radius). The “club” aspect is closer to the original idea that I had for my novel …

And the horror element is also closer to the tone that I had in mind, which thanks to It Follows I have gained new enthusiasm for trying out again. I think horror is hard to manage in any medium, and I feel like it works better on-screen than on-page, if for no other reason than that visuals can always be more literal and immediate than words. So maybe this will be a screenplay or something.

In any case, I’m looking forward to writing maybe a bit more than 38 words of this thing tomorrow.

05/10/2018: 2284

I’ve done the math, and 2284 is indeed more than 38.

So this new iteration of my shitty YA werewolf novel, Wolf Gang, is already much more predictable and cliched than the original, and I won’t say that it feels better, but it feels clearer. I have a better idea of where this story is going, because while the problem with cliches is that you’ve seen them a million times, that’s also a strength when you’re basically trying to vomit up a story as quickly and thoughtlessly as possible.

And it was relatively fast; I wrote that – minus the 38 from yesterday – in about an hour and forty, even though it felt like it took about three hours. I have a bit more of a plan for this one than the original manuscript, which was a very fun experiment that I’m just not going to try and replicate, regardless of how much I really, really miss that buzz of excitement and clarity of purpose and whatnot. But I’m going to go by the same principles – I want to focus on going with whatever idea feels the most story-ish to me, and try to not over-plan things, while at the same time allowing myself to think ahead just a little bit. I loved working out the story as I went and feeling like I had planned it out all along (because it was so predictable), but I also know that it’s very satisfying to have a plan and see it through to completion. I’m not going to try and completely shut down every original idea that I have; I’m just going to prioritise the ideas that come naturally to me in the story, and only concern myself with how obvious of an answer they are to me rather than how good of an idea they may or may not be. I just want to do it to a vague plan with a few semi-planned-out scenes that I have in mind.

And I want to make sure that I keep up with reading Mark and Jessie as well. It’s gotten to the point where I’m wondering if I just need to go back to Tallulah after all. But I can always read that over again after I’m done with Mark and Jessie, if I really want to. I doubt I’ll find any more answers than I did when I read it over last year, but it’s an option.

I still think I’d rather read my one and only completed manuscript of Realm of the Myth, though, if I am going to re-read something of mine instead of moving on to revision. Revision is the ideal plan; re-reading something else is a backup safety-net comfort-plan.

As for Wolf Gang – well, it was a writing exercise the first time around, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t use it as a writing exercise this time as well.

06/10/2018: 1074

Finished The Girl With All The Gifts today, partly because I was determined to not let it sit on my bookshelf until it was due back like the first time I hired it out, partly because I think this bug thing really might have returned and it made being slightly bedridden slightly bearable. Then I decided I really was committed to trying out this reboot of Wolf Gang, and it does feel good to have gotten this writing done.

Weekly Total: 7313

Despite feeling a bit crappy today, I’ve actually had a pretty great week health-wise – started off my exercise for the week with a 4 km walk, went for my usual 20-minute walk almost every day after that, with a shorter walk the day after. I’ve been drinking lots of water and eating more conscientiously, paying attention to how I feel I actually need to eat versus how much I feel I can eat, and trying to fill that quota. My friend bought a giant aquarium for her axolotls this week on a whim, and I found it a bit confronting – and revealing – that I related so strongly to this particular purchase. Even when I don’t own pets (I haven’t for the past 17 years), every now and then I’ll see a large pet enclosure of some kind and just want it. I have some primal urge to take big, well-defined spaces and just have them, and once I have them then I figure out what to fill them with. Similar to how I used to think of my book-writing process in terms of how many books would be in the series first, and only after that deciding what the actual stories would be about.

And, I now realise, similarly to how I approach feeding myself.

Which is really distressing, but also helpful, because now I can see the pattern and … well, it feels helpful. I feel like I have just that little bit more self-mastery than I did before I put this all together, however embarrassing it is to recognise that this is how I operate. Because I am also recently realising that I am not a limitless void that I can just shove anything into without any regard for what filling that space does to me. I have to care about it. I have to care about myself.

Shit’s hard, yo.

But important. And I feel like this has been a week of figuring out important things, and keeping important commitments.

Feels good.

Now I just need to not be contaminated with alien life-forms anymore and I can start enjoying it.

Monthly Words: September 2018

Monthly Total: 17592

This month was an important month in the history of Weekly Words. The goalposts were shifted, and while I generally have mild allergic reactions to shifting goalposts, this time it was necessary in order for this initiative to have any kind of meaningful purpose for me as a writer – in particular, any purpose related to me using my time and energy to keep my writing muscles nice and warm and limber, so that I can use them and stuff.

I will admit, though, that I absolutely miss those ~40,000 word-count totals at the end of each month, because goddamn big numbers do it for me. I like big sums and I cannot lie. Especially my own.

Ahem.

Adding to this little nostalgic mope of mine is the fact that I haven’t done very much freewriting or kept up with my morning pages this month. All of that “commitment” shit I was spouting a couple of weeks ago – I still think it matters, but the moment has definitely passed, and if everything following that moment has been the test of whatever lesson I thought I’d learnt that night then it is a test that I have definitely been failing.

But that’s okay, because the test is ongoing. In fact it doesn’t, and can’t, have an end-point. The end-point is when I die, because until that point I am going to be finding ways to put my stories into the world …

As well as other things.

I’ve had this revelation before; I’ve ranted about it way more than once; I need to do things other than write. This weekend away (coming home only to “sleep” between the two days) at the marae put me in touch with a wellspring of energy and commitment that I don’t often have access to because my life just doesn’t require it of me. I ate a lot less than I normally do while spending far more energy than I normally do; I was exhausted but couldn’t get to sleep because my head was buzzing with everything that had happened during the day and what might happen the next day … maybe I can call this weekend the “real test” of all that commitment stuff instead of the copious amounts of writing commitments I have not been keeping …

And my life just feels so small now, and I know in a day or two I’ll acclimate to it again, and that’s disappointing and distressing. I don’t think I could have taken any more than this weekend gave me, but at the same time I could stand to have it again sooner rather than later.

But then again, honestly, as much as I am glad that I went – which I am, no question – I don’t want to just remember what a good time it was and how good I felt being there and pine for it. I want to do what I can do get that energy in my life as I live it.

And that’s where the whole commitment thing comes in.

Also the “cutting out distractions” thing, the “actual down-time” thing, the “keep up with exercise” thing (this month has been absolutely garbage exercise-wise but at least it’s the end of winter now right), the “do things other than writing” thing … but the bottom line is still commitment. I have what I need to make these changes and make them stick: I have the time, I have the resources, and I have at least some of the knowledge. And as that quote said, only by using anything and everything at your disposal something something something emotional validation.

If you keep on learning the same lessons over and over again, it might be an idea to start paying attention.

Weekly Words 23-29/09/2018

26/09/18: 960

I think I’ve figured out why I can’t seem to make myself do things that I feel like doing.

I mean, besides talking about myself like some kind of unwieldy object that I have to manipulate into various positions for maximum feng shui or something – up until about 20 seconds ago, I was on my laptop, half-watching youtube, and also had my PS4 on, quarter-browsing movies because I never saw Solo in theatres (and at the time of writing there doesn’t seem to be an option to rent it, which is irritating). I’m not really doing either of these things – not committing. Look at me having continuity and shit.

I’m also not committing to doing something enjoyable, like playing one of several games I’ve bought over the past months because they were on sale and I’ve been interested in them for a while (never mind the ones I bought with the PS4 at full price because hey Christmas), or something productive, like reading Mark and Jessie’s Christmas like I keep telling myself – and anyone who actually reads this blog, which I wish I could somehow get statistics on – I need to and will do.

And it’s because I know that, if I start playing one of those games let’s say, I will have made the decision to not do something more productive, like read Mark and Jessie’s Christmas, and if I read Mark and Jessie’s Christmas, I will have started on the path to doing things that I can’t feel enthusiastic about because it feels like an obligation and it won’t stop with just my self-appointed mission for this month/year; it will be an endless slippery slope of expectations that I have of myself that I feel incapable of meeting.

Whereas if I sit in between two screens cluttered with tasks that I don’t ever have to fully commit to, I can remain on the edge of making either of those decisions; I can be just about to make those decisions forever. Which, somehow, makes me feel like I’m meeting my quota of “doing stuff” without actually, y’know, doing it. I assume it’s some kind of internal nervous process that operates on the principle of “it’s the thought that counts”.

This is stupid.

And now that that’s out of the way: Slice of Cherry (not “A Slice of Cherry” as I said in my last post) was an overall satisfying read, and while it didn’t delight (or bother) me as much as Bleeding Violet, it did make me question why, exactly, the depiction of a girl living with bipolar disorder in Bleeding Violet troubled me more than the depiction of two girls who literally go around abducting and murdering people in Slice of Cherry. My first response to this question was a moralistic chorus of assorted talking heads saying “we are all desensitised to death and violence because media”, which yes is probably true. We all feel pretty well-qualified to discuss death, joke about death, and in art represent death – but should we? Murderers in particular, I think, are such a trope in fiction that it feels very strange to even consider that there might be a problem with depicting them in certain ways in fiction because there are also real-life murderers. Then again, I felt uneasy enough watching just one episode of Dexter that it put me off the rest of the series (which by all accounts sounds like the sort of idea I might have for a character and story, projection much), so perhaps I care more about the representation of killers than my largely positive reaction to Slice of Cherry would suggest.

Speaking of killing: I’ve finally continued reading Mark and Jessie, and even finished a chapter – it finishes with the characters getting to the part of the story that I’ve been waiting to get to, because I remember it being, if not good, then at least considerably less shit than the rest of it, and dear god the shit I had to read in order to get to this point, it was like I left it there as a test to my own fortitude when I inevitably came back to read it over for revision purposes. There are characters in this book who kill … not other characters, really, but fictional people who exist in the same book as them. It’s done really badly. I hate this fucking book. The book, not the story. The story is great, but in its current form it is told so thoroughly badly that, once again, I am questioning whether or not it is even worth reading back over this thing to try and salvage any of it …

But I feel that I have gotten to the part of the story that is worth salvaging at long last, and that there is some writing to follow that I may actually want to preserve in the form of a copy-and-paste. Only one way to find out.

And in the meantime – I actually wrote something today. One of my numerous projects that I’ve been picking up and putting down all year, one that I really want to get going but keep stalling on. I just got rid of the stall – a third chapter that ran full-speed into a brick wall – and now, while I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have momentum, the runway is at least clear. I’m looking forward to the flight.

27/09/18: 1015

This is nice.

Weekly Total: 3126

Not this week, no precious, not this week!

And that’s cool. I went to a marae over the weekend for Youthline and it was intense, overwhelming, and very emotionally reward. However, what meager sleep schedule I have managed to cobble together over the years has been thoroughly destroyed, and the last time I got this little sleep despite being tired was when I woke up with some kind of stomach bug this time last week. Which still isn’t quite gone, I don’t think; I don’t feel sick anymore, but there’s still some gastro issues haunting me.

Also thoroughly destroyed are my writing aspirations for this week. All of my energy went into recovering from the bug, then straight into having lots of anxiety about the upcoming marae event, then into the actual marae event which, while positive and personal-growth-inducing and all the rest of it, made it very impossible to give energy to anything else while it was going on.

And like I say, that’s cool. Writing is an ongoing goal of mine because it feels good when I write things that I want to write. I got other things that felt good done this week, including finishing reading my 2 library books (Hex Hall was rather enjoyable, got the sequels in transit from the library) – and hey, the writing that I did accomplish felt good, too. It’s going good.

And it’s also light out for me, perhaps for the next couple of days. Return to me, electrolytes …

Weekly Words 16-22/09/2018

17/09/18: 1805 + uncounted freewriting

Today was going to be a write-off – ha – because “I don’t care about any of my projects” and “I should be focusing on reading Mark and Jessie instead anyway” and “I am doomed to a life of social ineptitude and spineless passivity how dare I try to convince myself that joy exists” …

And I was okay with that, because today I felt like shit for almost the entire time that I’ve been awake, stuck and guilty and frightened and resentful, and while I didn’t want to feel like that I also had no real motivation to try anything to stop feeling like that. Yay mental illness.

But somewhere between 10 and 11 PM, I made myself pick up that copy of Story by Robert McKee that I bought for myself as a late birthday present, and it just …

Spoke to me.

I’ve only read the introduction and first chapter, none of which have instructions or clarify terms or anything like that. But he talks about story, and how, in Hollywood in particular (at the time it was written, in the ’90s, though it sounds like how I feel about Hollywood two decades later), there is a dearth of story. He also talks about why story matters – and how it matters:

Rare as story talent is, you must have some or you wouldn’t be itching to write. Your task is to wring from it all possible creativity. Only by using everything and anything you know about the craft of storytelling can you make your talent forge story. (28)

While I already think Mr. McKee and I are going to diverge in a number of ways in some of our opinions and approaches, this really struck a chord with me – specifically, the “only by using everything and anything you know about the craft of storytelling” part. Everything and anything. I have never actually thought about telling stories like this. I’ve either not thought about it at all, or I’ve thought about it in that ultimately cliche and lazy way, where there’s The Way to do it and I just have to learn it. As soon as I read the words “everything and anything”, I realised that what I’ve felt has been missing from my writer’s life – giving a shit – is something that isn’t just related to the stories I’m trying to tell, but how I’m trying to tell them.

Everything and anything is exactly the way I want to tell stories – because that’s how I find out how to tell them. And what matters to me is telling them the right way for each story. That’s something I can’t be taught, but it is something that I can learn. By doing it, in every and any way that I can think of, and everything and anything I can’t but might find out from someone else, until something sticks.

I can’t remember exactly how much this book cost me, but for that sentence alone it’s already paid for itself, as far as I’m concerned.

Also, I made myself do some freewriting, on pen and paper no less. And it was a better idea than doing it on my laptop; I figured it out, actually, why exactly it’s better than doing it on a laptop: because on a laptop you have time to think and consider and easily correct yourself – so doing something where you’re supposed to not self-censor and break free of your inner critic and all that shit is not really what a word processor is for. Pen and paper is commitment, and since freewriting is committing to whatever happens, it’s perfect. You have to live with the slopping spelling, the nonsensical grammar, the fact that it takes up physical space and you did it – you have to live with it and be okay with it, and that’s why pen and paper is so immeasurably superior to digital when it comes to freewriting that it doesn’t matter I want my fucking word-count and I don’t have one because pen and paper doesn’t keep track of these kinds of stats for you this was supposed to make things better goddammit THIS IS WHY PEN AND PAPER IS DEAD.

Technology may be the cause of society’s moral deterioration, but at least it keeps things tidy.

Oh well. I estimate it was probably somewhere around 700 words – not that words actually matter with freewriting. Frequency and duration is what matters, and frequency much more than duration. The way I’ve learnt to freewrite at least (and seems to work) is to use a timer; I’ve tried just filling up a page instead, but I’ve found the timer more effective – the main point is that it’s an arbitrary cut-off point, because you’re not trying to neatly tie it up or reach a conclusion, just to write, everything and anything you can think of, until it’s time to not write anymore.

 

18/09/18: 819

I definitely need to keep reading this book.

I also need to read my remaining library books, which I’ve already renewed once. Next on the list is A Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves, who wrote Bleeding Violet, a book that I read, really liked, wrote a review for and then took the review down because the book is … difficult to talk about. For me, at least, seeing as the thing I was most iffy about was the depiction of bipolar disorder in the book, and it’s something I really don’t know anything about. Specifically whether the depiction was respectful, accurate, etc. So thank Christ A Slice of Cherry is just about teenage serial killer sisters.

I have a lot of shit I need to do. Yesterday’s little pick-me-up was just what I needed, but there’s so much more I need to get on top of, some important decisions I need to make. Commitments that need my attention.

For me, what McKee meant by “using everything and anything” was commitment. I felt so jazzed yesterday because I’ve been lacking in commitment for a while now, and what it made me realise was that the feeling of being stuck, of things having no meaning or importance to me, was all a lack of commitment on my part.

And, I mean, some of it is just kind of dull, but the things that I enjoy doing that felt flat – I think now that I would have felt differently if I’d been more committed. You get out what you put in and all that. It’s as much about what I bring to the things that I do as what I get out of them on their own.

20/09/18: 1254

I have been such a fucking hippie this week.

Maybe that’s why I woke up feeling sick today; I don’t think my nervous system is equipped to handle such unadulterated earnestness as I have been experiencing over the past few days. That or I ate something weird, but it is far more amusing to think that my body cannot physically handle anything other than an attitude of permanent snide, deflective irony and cynicism.

Also, I have found the actual downside to all of this kick-up-the-ass motivation: the impossible expectations that come with it. “Wow, I was so inspired that day, now I’m going to be that inspired every day for the rest of forever because it happened once“. My brain is an idiot. But I guess I can’t blame it; it’s not like I’ve raised it to be anything other than that. Anything that looks like The Answer to my problems I just tend to jump on and try to drag out for as long as possible; if I were to think of my moments of inspiration as friendly and lovely dinner guests and I treated them this way, the reason for why they never seem to want to stick around suddenly becomes much clearer.

Though having said that, the thing about commitment – I know it’s true, and I’ve known it for a long time. It’s putting it into action that I flake out on – yet I’m still excited to see where I can go with it, now that I’ve got the bug, so to speak. Also potentially an actual bug, because I still feel kind of sick.

Weekly Total: 5896

So as it turns out, it was an actual bug. Yay.

Or maybe not a bug, but fever and chills and gastrointestinal issues, oh my. I didn’t get any sleep on Saturday night, and while I think I got about 2 hours of sleep (altogether) last night, I was made to directly encounter my own brain on sleep deprivation, and it is a confusing, distressing place. I think I was on the verge of sleep for most of the night, but kept from it by the unending loop of not-remotely-lucid thoughts about the different metaphysical governing laws of the 12 universes from Dragon Ball Super. None of these metaphysical governing laws are actually part of the show, by the way; my sleep-deprived brain just decided it would make up fanfiction game mechanics for this god-awful show that I’m still watching. I would think up some random set of rules that frustrated me because they were annoying, think them through, finally have them all worked out and then my brain would go: “no but wait, they work this way”, and then that would frustrated me and I’d have to work through those rules, and then once I figured them out my brain would go “no but wait, they work this way”, and this turned into an endless loop because eventually, once I had exhausted my two or three sets of rules that I had to rationalise to myself, I just looped back to the first one and started again. I am not quite sure how it is that I was unable to realise that I was doing this yet had the energy to keep fucking doing it for the entire goddamn night – and actually that’s not true; I did realise that I was doing it – and kept doing it, because I dunno I’m a fucking insane person or something. Which is what it felt like, honestly: it felt like I was seeing into the terrifying hellscape of the brain of a really mundane psychopath who for some reason had a lot of thoughts about Dragon Ball Super, which is the worst kind of psychopath by far.

I am trying to console myself my explaining this as a combination of being awake for too long and not doing enough physical activity during the day to actually get tired enough to just conk out – I have never used that phrase before, feels weird – but it’s also potentially given me a very interesting insight into my own inner workings. My brain is always on, it seems, and interested in solving problems, but doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone, doesn’t have an off switch. It’s distressing because it feels true, regardless of how much of that was just due to being very sick.

What? Writing?

Well, as you might have guessed, I didn’t really have it in me to do any. I was actually expecting to do that yesterday for me and my friend’s co-writing session, but she had a lot of stuff to do that day and I stayed at home in case I was contagious/because I was exhausted, so I think it was for the best. I did get to video-call in to play our D&D session, though, where I finally got to be a real paladin, and it was good.

This might just be another week off, because whatever transcendent commitment-high I was on at the start of the week has most definitely been ended by this stupid maybe-a-bug thing. But I suppose this could also be seen as a test of said commitment, to follow through because I said I would instead of just because I felt like it at the time.

Right now, though, the only thing I care about committing to is drinking too much water to flush this crap out, and hopefully get a proper night’s sleep tonight. And beyond that, my brain is too destroyed to comprehend anything beyond that. Peace.

Weekly Words: 09-15/09/2018

09/09/18: 2596

To continue in my new strategy of cheating I mean counting my word-count a bit more purposefully, I have counted these words that I wrote approximately half of – because, today, my friend and I finished the final scene in our co-writing project of 10 months!

We wrote it together, which was an interesting (and fun) experience, as up to this point we have written this entire show either episode about or scene about, so this was new territory for us.

We also watched a bunch of intros to old ’90s TV shows, and our show definitely needs one. Particularly one like Animorphs or Big Wolf on Campus. Which is to say like any of the predecessor shows to the likes of The Vampire DiariesShadowhunters, and of course Teen Wolf. We are continuing a proud tradition here. We will do it right.

12/09/18: 924

Why is freewriting so hard?

Oh well, at least it’s getting done.

13/09/18: 0

Seriously, why is it so hard?

I did get stuff done today though, and important stuff. Mostly paperwork. But I also finished The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee, after putting it off for, what, 3 weeks after going out of my way to get it from the library? Not because I didn’t enjoy it; I actually put off reading the other two library books I got out, before this one, just to read it. I enjoyed it. To be honest, I enjoyed the first 50 or so pages quite a bit more than the next 450, but that isn’t to say that those 450 pages were bad. I still enjoyed myself – I guess I just thought that the story was going to be about something other than it was, and skimming Goodreads reviews tells me that I’m not alone in this. As for what it was actually about – basically, it’s a very modern, overtly liberal Bildungsroman, replete with diversity and empowerment and calling out problematic behaviour …

Which is my bag, baby, even if it was a bit less, I dunno, meaty than I would have liked – the diversity and ethic of acceptance that drives this book was great to see, but it was a little … uncomplicated. The main character, Monty, is a privileged white boy (also bisexual, and that is explored regarding how it intersects with his privilege in other areas), and serves as, if not quite an audience stand-in, a privilege stand-in. Of the three central characters (Monty, his BFF/longtime crush Percy, and his younger channeling-Hermione sister Felicity), Percy is the most privileged and the most self-centred, and the various facets of diversity are represented through the lens of his percpective on them. In that sense, there is definitely some exploration of the problems people can face when, for instance, they suffer from a disability and/or social stigma and their privileged friends don’t understand, in the slightest, what it is like to actually have to live with these imposed social burdens, and that is good. But perhaps because it’s a YA novel, perhaps because the author just didn’t want to “go there”, or perhaps because whatever other reason, that’s about as bad as it ever gets. Percy and Felicity are much more likeable than Monty, but they’re also much more boringly perfect, the kind of Strong Character that gets criticised more and more frequently these days for not having much in the way of depth or complexity – although having said that, this book is all from Monty’s POV, and since Felicity is getting her own novel I am definitely keen to be proven wrong about my reading of her as a character who endures hardship as a substitute for having character flaws/depth. If Percy also gets his own book, I will be similarly eager to get my hands on it. Whether or not a character gets to take the perspective spotlight in a story can go a long way towards establishing their character, so while I’m not overly enthused about Felicity and Percy in this book (though I still liked them!), I would definitely be interested to see if that would change if I got to see things from their point of view.

And despite my quibbles, Gentleman’s Guide has well and truly validated my choice to swear off urban fantasy for a while and bring YA back into my life. While I wish that perhaps there had been more depth and complexity in this book, it was more depth and complexity than I’ve had the pleasure of reading for a good little while, at least more of the kind that I’m particularly interested in.

Weekly Total: 4702

This has not been a writing week. Just putting that out there.

It has, however, been an important week where I got some important stuff done, and having written this much at the same time is quite gratifying. I have more thoughts about Gentleman’s Guide than I initially thought so there may be a proper book review at some stage. Morning pages are just … maybe if I wake up in the actual morning they’ll be easier? I like the idea, I always feel better for having done them, but I think I need a more structured approach to them right now. I do think pen and paper is the way to go; typing means that you can type more or less at the speed of your thoughts, whereas pen and paper means your thoughts skip ahead to the next thing while you’re still writing the last one, and having to just pick up wherever your thoughts currently are is part of the reason that freewriting works. I actually think I need to differentiate between morning pages and freewriting, and that doing both is a good idea. Morning pages to get in touch with my thoughts, and freewriting to break out of over-thinking.

Tools. It’s about tools, and having the right ones for the job.

It’s also about me not stressing about how much I write so that I can focus on reading and the reading just isn’t happening. So that’s next week’s primary focus. The year is almost out, and I had a plan at the start of this year to have not only re-read and made revision notes on Mark and Jessie, but to actually revise it and have it read to submit to publishers. Short of finding a time-machine, I don’t think that’s a realistic goal anymore – but I may be able to do one revision pass on it this year. It just depends on me picking up the pace, and having a revision plan ready to roll.

One step at a time. I haven’t read it all yet; I certainly don’t have good revision notes. I don’t even know if I’ll have workable revision notes this year, if I’ll have to read this pile of hot garbage again before I can parse it clearly enough to do so, or what. I just have to finish this read-through and see where things stand. Which means finishing this read-through.

Am I Getting There? It doesn’t feel like it right now. I guess I’ll just keep going until it does.

Weekly Words 02-08/09/2018

07/09/18: 1445

I guess I’m having a reverse weekend this week in writing: I’m taking two days on, rather than two days off. Today and tomorrow I will do writing, and for the past five days, I will not.

Time means what I want it to mean.

As does my writing progress, and I have come to a decision. Since I am not writing for a living, yet would like to, I need to get into the habit of doing things that writers do for a living. This would include focusing on my priority projects – and writing. Not always the same thing. It so happens that I find myself in such a position right now.

Mark and Jessie is my writing priority, and I have been neglecting it. I think it’s because of the word-count thing; there is no way for me to measure my progress with the Mark and Jessie project, because right now it is a reading and note-taking project, not a writing project. That’s fine, but what’s less fine is the way that I’ve been trying to force myself to only write projects, to contrive reasons for why I “should” be working on a project that I can measure in word-count, as opposed to the project that I’m actually supposed to be – and interested in – working on and moving forward.

At the same time – measuring the progress that I make in terms of regular writing has been very rewarding, and has helped me get perspective in all areas of my life, not just writing. I want to keep benefiting from this, but the way I’ve been trying it – well, it worked out for the first 3 months, and then for the next 3 it’s been pretty dire. The novelty has worn off – this is stupid.

But that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to write every day.

The solution is elegance itself – successful authors who write for a living write every day. Specifically, I have heard, they do this thing called “morning pages”, which is not only writing, but writing that helps them to do more writing. They keep focus on their work; they maintain their skill and focus, their discipline.

So, from next week on, my Weekly Words count is going to be, first and foremost, a count of my morning pages.

Because it’s still writing. It’s the exact kind of writing I want to get better at, too: writing without a filter, without worrying about making it “good” or it having to “count” – just writing. It keeps your hand in; it’s regular exercise.

And it’s not a project.

Which works well for me. In fact it works perfectly, because 1) I don’t want to focus on any writing projects other than Mark and Jessie right now, 2) it allows me to continue to benefit from the perspective that Weekly Words has given me, and 3) it enables these two things without forcing me to spend more time than I want to writing, or feeling guilty about not writing. It frees me from some of these ridiculous mind-trap constraints; it gives me a clear reason for why I have to focus on the things I think I really do need to focus on, for both my own well-being and that of my current main writing project …

And it means that, the rest of the time, I can use this energy and motivation that I have to do other shit … doing that other shit.

It’s crazy, but it just might work.

08/09/18: 916

Well, it didn’t happen in the actual morning, but it did happen, and that was in 10 minutes. So that’s, what, 91.6 words per minute? Of utter nonsense, sure, but not as much as I was expecting – or hoping, honestly, I kind of need to loosen up more – and that is a lot of words per minute as far as I can tell.

It’s hard doing freewriting digitally; the urge to go back and spell words correctly is amplified significantly by the fact that you are so used to having autocorrect step in to pretty up all the uglyinvalid spellings you do that when it doesn’t happen it throws you entirely off-balance. That’s one of the reasons I was hesitant to do it on laptop, but at the end of the day this is where I write, and I simply don’t have the physical space to house non-digital morning pages, or pages of any kind for that matter.

It’s given me some insight into “real” writing, too – so much of what I write, and what I assume most people write, during a first or zero draft is waffle. One of the reasons I’m looking forward to the end-of-year wrap-up of Weekly Words is to see how many words I wrote overall, and to think about how that could have translated into a Thing. But, the thing is – would it have? I did write a full draft of a novel – Tallulah – in about 8 months, and that was roughly 120k words long. But I cut it in half and wrote another 28k new words to fill it in again over the course of the next roughly 8 months. Word-count only means word-count; it doesn’t mean “progress towards getting a manuscript ready for submission”. That is something I learnt the hard way with Tallulah, and it was a valuable lesson. Right now, I’m appreciating the valuable perspective that today’s freewriting session has given me: yes, I can write a lot of words, and it’s fun to see how many I can write, and how quickly. Like, if I kept up that pace, I could have about 5.5k words written in an hour. If I wrote at that pace for 8 hours a day, treating this like a job, that’s about 44k words. That’s 6k words off a Nanowrimo’s worth of writing.

But while I could produce that number of words, how many of those words would actually matter? The first time I try out a story – and part of the reason why I’m so hesitant to get started on new projects – most of what I end up writing is story-math. I’m writing out my computations of my world-building and its consequences for the plot I want to have; I’m writing out my improvisation and revision of characterisation and motivation and foreshadowing; I’m over-explaining things for my own sake because all of the ideas are new to me and untested and I want to feel secure in my understanding of them. And while I think that’s fine and natural, it also translates into a lot of filler. Such as the filler I’m finding takes up about half of the total 160k word-count of Mark and Jessie. Having a whole bunch of words written does not mean you’re close to having a story told, no matter how fast you write them.

But.

It also tells me that shifting my focus to freewriting is exactly what I need to to.

Because that’s about as meaningful as any of my writing is going to be at this stage with most of my projects; and for those that are farther along, like Mark and Jessie and, when I eventually return to it, Tallulah, word-count is going to, well, count for even less. In fact I wonder now if it’s even something I want to keep track of. It’s taken the pressure off when it comes to getting writing done, because I now have a clearer perspective of what words are “worth”, I guess – the one exception to that is the co-writing project, but I feel that’s a clear exception because it’s not just my project, and the level of investment from both of us writing it came with a fairly comprehensive planning phase for me to refer back to. Also, external accountability. Mainly external accountability, actually.

Get a writing buddy, guys.

The point is that since I know now that word-count is not actually a measure of progress so much as it is a measure of commitment, as long as the things that I am using my word-count for are meaningful, the word-count itself doesn’t matter. I can just check off my “I did writing at all today” box every day I do it and be done with it …

But I spent a good portion of last year revising the ranger class in D&D 5E for my own … entertainment? Well I did it, anyway, I hope it was entertaining. I grew up with Dragonball Z. I like numbers. And big numbers, numbers that I made, I like especially.

Should I keep track of my word-count going forward, now that I know that word-count is basically pointless?

Weekly Total: 2361

Oh wait, this blog post counts, too. Because for one, I wanted to count my blog post writing when I started Weekly Words, and for another, if I’m just counting my commitment to making words appear on a computer screen, I have no excuse not to. This is like how much I bench-pressed today.

With my mind.

Actual Weekly Total: 3868

I have discovered the future, folks. And it’s looking pretty okay to me.