Holy crap it’s March

University starts … tomorrow. By calendar time. Where the hell did my goddamn holiday go?

But okay, to be fair I actually did do quite a lot over the four-month break. I attempted Nanowrimo for the first time; I discovered I wasn’t actually a writer; I made myself finally take a proper break from the novel I’d been working on non-stop for the past 3 years; I made myself start working out again (still in the process of that actually); I … bought a bike? Or was that before the holiday?

Also people seem to be reading my blog a lot more lately, by which I mean over the past 7 months I’ve had somewhere between double and triple the number of readers per month I’ve been used to. Which is pretty awesome. So whoever you are, thank you for boosting my ego, and I hope you got something of equal or greater value out of the transaction.

So I did get some stuff done. I also played far more World of Warcraft than I would like to admit, and have already gone back on my word to let my subscription run out twice. I refuse to Have A Problem for this fucking time-vampire and am going to cancel my subscription right now. Now that the month has rolled over and I have a month of game-time paid for. Ahem.

Seriously, while it may not have contributed to any bad grades or anything while I was playing it at undergrad, it just consistently sucks all the purpose out of my time. Or, to be more precise, it retains all the purpose, because I actively go over and dump said purpose into it like a bottomless sinkhole when I’m too afraid to try the things I actually want to do. While it is true that I am much less emotionally dependent on WOW than I was in the first year I played it for, it’s too ready of an excuse to avoid those anxiety-triggering ambitions of mine, and since I have Decided that this year is all about Taking Risks (“risk” here = “things I avoid due to anxiety”), the risk-aversion enabler that is World of Warcraft has gotta go.

Some risks I’m already preparing myself to take:

  • Ask somebody about what I’d need to do in order to study computer science and psychology
  • Investigate singing/dancing lessons
  • Investigate video editing/recording tools and put my YouTube channel into motion
  • Commit to a daily routine for exercise, guitar-playing, drawing, creative writing and study
  • Commit to handing in all assignments before the due date
  • Commit to not being such a hermit
  • Commit to kicking this social anxiety/depression bullshit in the genitals until it goes away
  • Commit to getting the weird neck tension that I’ve had for years out of my goddamn neck
  • Commit to actually reading the books I get out of the library
  • Finally record and release that Darth Vader rap that I wrote in 2011
  • Finally celebrate my 27th birthday, exactly one year after the fact, because turning 27 on the 27th is more important than obeying the laws of time which are a social construct anyway

And one more, I think, just for good measure:

  • Commit to participating in and completing Nanowrimo

Which is a euphemism for “write an entire novel in a month”.

That’s quite a list. I like lists. That’s a good start.

Right now I’m just focusing on preparing for what may be my final semester. I did not consider this before, but if I do decide to continue with Media and go through to Masters I might actually be able to get a job as a tutor, which would be, like, paid work and shit. It might not be a bad option to fall back on.

But that’s all stuff that might be happening in the future. In the present, I’m considering calling it quits with academia after this semester and just looking for work like a normal adult person. I’ve had an incredibly smooth ride in terms of my living arrangements, even for a millennial who came to adulthood just as the 2008 economic crash happened. I’m still anxious about the prospect of entering the workforce and having to deal with, y’know, people. But for the first time I actually feel like I might be able to handle it, if not now then soon.

As for how writing fits into all of this … I don’t know. A while back I made the assertion that no matter what happened I would always make time to write, that it was my lifeblood or some such idiom. That has changed. For the better, certainly, but it does mean that whether or not I make writing a priority if other things need attending to is no longer the sure thing it once was. It’s exciting, and it’s scary as well. It’s been such a constant, a port in a storm so to speak, an easy retreat to fall back to in the event that everything goes to shit and I don’t know what to do.

Kind of like World of Warcraft, actually.

And I’m going to let that stand. Writing has been as much of a crutch as it’s been a comfort – and not just a comfort, but a learning experience and tool at the same time, and of course a source of genuine pleasure and pride, about as often as a source of frustration and anxiety. I am glad that I’ve written so much over the course of my life, but I do regret not having done other things in addition. It is those other things that deserve some attention from me now, going forward, and while I have no current plans to give up writing, as I think to commit to such a huge change would be as stupid as committing to be writing for the rest of my life no matter what happens, I’m comfortable with the idea that I might just not do it for a while as well. That’s become a possibility in my life, and it’s liberating.

It’s been the thing I could turn to for reassurance when I needed to know the answer to who I was, what I wanted and what I was doing with my life. It’s not a sufficient answer anymore. Not on its own.

I mean having said all of that, when I make myself write these days I’m having more fun writing than I have in quite some time. I’m going to roll with that and keep doing it until it stops working. I still have plans for what I want to write and I’m looking forward to them, now more as actual possibilities than vague, free-floating hypothetical fantasy scenarios. I just have to keep making myself write things as they are in my head, push through the embarrassment and sometimes guilt and just get it done, and I’ll be okay. Better than okay, actually, if things keep going the way they’re going.

In the meantime, I’m going to go write a bunch of mechanics for one of the numerous computer games I may or may not ever actually get the chance to create and then go to bed before 4am. That’s another thing I’m going to have to commit to, but it’s so obvious it doesn’t really need to be on the list.

Oh all right.

  • Commit to waking up in the morning

Because as I’ve mentioned before, I’m actually a morning person trained to live by a night-owl’s schedule. There’s a lot of that kind of mis-training in my life. And it’s been that way so long that to try and un-mis-train myself is a risk in and of itself, even though it’s the healthy thing to do.

I think health is a risk I’m willing to take.

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A Meddlesome Mood

I’m in a meddlesome mood and I need to keep myself under control.

Meddling is one of the deadly sins of writers stuck in a rut, and right now that writer is me. Tallulah is calling for my attention, but I’m not convinced that giving it is the best decision. When I decided late last year that it was time for A Break, I wanted to go back to the original idea that inspired me, to explore the possibilities and get away from the story that I’d written, a product of my doing all the things I swore I would not do. I haven’t really done that. I’ve got another New Idea for how I could tell this story, and it’s not the original idea, and the thing is that I do regret not following through with that original idea, not seeing what would have come of it. But having said that, I do like the new idea, and so now I’m conflicted and indecisive because whichever one I go with is going to take time and energy to explore, and it’s time and energy I feel, on principle, should be used for something with a much clearer trajectory for goal-accomplishment. Kind of like how I’m thinking of starting a Bachelor of Science next semester instead of going through to Masters with Media, because I have no fucking clue how I’d make my media qualifications financially viable, and that is a thing that I need to consider. I’m thinking Computer Science is going to be a fairly safe option if I want a job at some point in my life. I could be wrong, but that applies to everything, really. I may as well be wrong about something I’m interested in.

Back to writing – I can feel myself itching to just do something, for its own sake, and I know that this can lead to decisions one soon after regrets having made. So either I need to take a longer break from Tallulah, or this is the point where I start doing pros and cons and, as I’ve said, I fear that it’ll just be an exercise in messing things up for me later down the line, or just an utterly unproductive undertaking.

As such I think I’ll do some work on my semi-parody, semi-straight YA Urban Fantasy thing. I will do this because I got up to a point with it where the only way to go forward was through an encounter with one of the Great Tropes. I don’t know if it has a name, but it’s the trope where the Hero is brought into the Special World and, for lack of a better analogy, is Sorted. I don’t have a Sorting Hat stand-in, because it would be too easy, but I do have a Hero who is brought into the SpecialWorld and now the denizens of that World have to make provisions for them – or not. I have to think about this logistically, the pros and cons and consequences of allowing the Hero into the Special World, and somehow get it all Right and Not Leave Anything Out of my considerations, nor my writing. This is where I have to be Better Than Other Writers who are all Lazy Talentless Hacks.

I suppose you could say I’m not exactly thrilled at the prospect.

That is, until I decide that I’m actually going to be a Lazy Talentless Hack myself and just make the characters do whatever I find the most entertaining to write, and whatever I find the most convenient to my intentions with the plot. That probably means that they’re all going to act like morons because I haven’t thought it through, and I have huge anxiety about being Outed as some kind of unoriginal fraud, and that’s exactly why I have to write this scene exactly like that. Do the thing that frightens you the most and all that.

I may possibly have some privilege in being afraid of really trivial bullshit that has little to no bearing on real life. Possibly.

But, we must all work with what we have, and I have some seriously faulty in-world logic to write. And hopefully it will keep me from meddling with things that I do actually care about not messing up, such as Tallulah, which I’ve been working on for three years now and am still only just beginning.

That’s probably something I need to look into as well. If I can’t mess it up, then can I ever actually get it right?

This is getting way too deep. Silly YA nonsense it is.

 

A for Affort

Because that’s how English works.

I wrote stuff! I actually made myself write, and it worked! It always works! Every time I have done it it has worked and I have felt better! It is a reliable and predictable pattern that I can use to my advantage! When will I learn!

I didn’t even finish the chapter like I said I would, but it doesn’t matter, because I got writing done and put down my word-count for the day and it felt good. Just gotta, y’know, keep doing it, but how hard could that be?

I don’t think I’m going to finish The God of Small Things, not this time around anyway. It’s reminding me of Bitten‘s jarring info-dumps that break up the action at really unwelcome moments; this book does have an arc that one could identify as the “plot”, but it basically only exists as a conveyor belt that takes you, the reader, from character to character, and upon arriving at each character you get their entire backstory up to that point. And look, I get it, it’s meant to be like that, it’s meant to be about observation and character quirks and little vignettes and anecdotes rather than a linear plot. I get it. I just don’t like it. It feels like bad writing that’s been dressed up and packaged as literary style, and that may just be due to my recent reading material influencing my view, but it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want to read any more of this book. Not right now. One day I do want to read it, just because I admire the author for things she’s said about social justice and the prose is really good and because it’s One Of Those Books You Need To Read. But it is not this day. On this day I write, and also read something else.

It’s funny; recently I keep getting these little bursts of motivation that I then allow to fade away unused, but then a rather short time later get all motivated again. It’s started coming more easily to me, this whole Getting Inspired thing, and that’s a very exciting development. I might even go back to the Nanowrimo project I gave up on. It came to me at a time when I was inspired but not motivated, and now that it seems I can pretty much create my own motivation at will – well, why not? I like the idea, I like the characters, and I think it’s a risk because there are so many moving pieces that could fall flat, and I’m all about risk-taking now apparently …

Whatever it is that I decide to write, I’ve gotta do other stuff as well. I’m going to at least act as though I’ve learnt my lesson about trying to make my writing fill in for all the other things I want to do but won’t let myself try. And at the same time, I’ll write the things I actually want to write, however bad or incomplete they may be right now.

After I get some sleep. I’m gonna need to start waking up really early for the next four weeks when uni starts, as every Friday morning I’ll have a six-hour workshop to attend. Fun times.

Why am I still at university again?

Time is on somebody’s side maybe I guess

University starts next Monday, and that leaves me with a week of panic and resentment to work through before dropping the panic for flavourless tension and, hopefully, exchanging the resentment for the same kind of thought-provoking intellectual investment that I found last semester. Honours has been great thus far, and while I do regret not having pushed myself to use my holiday time more productively (as always), I am excited to spend another four-ish months doing things that I like that aren’t “writing”, by which I have meant for the past 4 months “thinking about how I should be writing and that I would also enjoy it and then not doing it, ever”.

I don’t have anything to add to this. This is how it’s been since I started studying; I’m not used to having anything but free time, even though for the past 6 years my supply of free time has diminished due to having obligations to actually pass the papers I’m studying and shit. It still feels like a temporary thing, a phase that will pass me by and I’ll be back to normal where I just sit around all day doing – or not doing – whatever the fuck I feel like. Throw in the fact that “whatever I feel like” often involved lying in my room feeling apathetic about everything due to having pretty severe depression as a teenager, and then less severe depression but just as acute anxiety as a younger adult, and basically I am not set up very well to take advantage of this “free time” I keep referencing, a half-mythical fantasy that I have never bothered to investigate very heavily.

It’s all about risk-taking. I’ve been saying that for the past little while; I’ve been yammering on about it in my last few posts, and it’s just not enough. I wish I had had a full, fulfilling summer break, and instead I’m left with memories of wanting to do things and either not being able to do them or avoiding even trying. Again, nothing much has changed.

I believe I said this before the start of last semester too, but I guess it’s no less true now: free time basically doesn’t exist. You have to create it. And paradoxically, the way you do that is by doing more, not less. You don’t stock up on free time to fall back on during the dry season; it’s there and then it’s gone. I mean I say I wish I had more free time as I’m writing on my writing blog, during my free time. That’s how ridiculous the concept of free time as some kind of liberating resource is.

The thing I’ve learnt is that I only make judgments about how much time I have in retrospect, when I’ve spent it on something and look back to remember it. Especially if it’s difficult and crammed; the more you do, the longer life seems to be.

So this means I’ll be working on my creative stuff during semester, obviously. It also means that all of those Other Things I didn’t make myself do over the break will also get done during semester. I essentially want to make it so that I have no free time, ever, and it’s going to take a lot of discipline, and honestly I don’t think that I can do it. But I know that it’s what needs to happen if I’m ever going to feel like I’m capable of the things I want to be capable of.

It’s all about risk-taking. And the thing about risks is that they don’t matter until you take them.

I’ve had a lot of fancy ideas about how to manage myself, lots of esoteric psychobable deployed in the service of rationalising my labyrinthine procrastination habits, when it’s really just about anxiety. I’m afraid that I can’t live up to my own expectations, the expectations I think other people have of me, of everybody. I’m afraid that I don’t measure up. I’m afraid I’ll write something in a first draft that makes me a horrible person because if people read it they would be hurt by it, and that’s the same thing as them actually reading it. I’m afraid that I’ll never do anything I set my mind to and will live and die an absolute failure of a human being. I have been afraid of these things since I was 15.

And it’s all very well to say “Enough is enough”, but if you don’t do anything about it, you’re lying. If you can’t do anything about it, well, that’s another story, but so often the things we can’t do are the things we just don’t believe in ourselves to do. So I’ve gotta take a risk and do these things I don’t believe I can do, so that empirical evidence will get me to start believing.

And accountability is also good, so I thus announce that tonight I shall write the first chapter of my ridiculous vampire political thriller, where the only dialogue I have in mind is really offensive and presumptuous and I would want to punch the author if I ever read it, and I’m going to write exactly that. And now that I have put that statement of intent into writing, I am obligated to do it. Otherwise there will be consequences. Very serious consequences. Seriously.

Okay, writing now …

Literature

Throughout 2014 I would find books I Wanted To Read through the library’s search engine, dutifully pick them up once they arrived, and then let them sit on my dresser for a month without touching them. Eventually I stopped even picking them up, though every time they stopped being held for me I re-requested them immediately. Maybe I should be on that show Hoarders. I think it would be interesting for viewers to ponder the psychology of a man who hoards things he never actually has in his possession at any time.

Today, I forced myself to start reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, which is ‘A masterpiece, utterly exceptional in every way’ according to Harpers & Queen.

I have learnt two things since I started reading it: it has lovely language, and I fucking hate Literature.

Like, hate. I cannot fucking stand the type of book that tells you how good it is instead of actually showing it. So far I am reading The God of Small Things with a sense of unwelcome dread, because everything that’s happened so far has been dancing around The Point to build tension, set the tone, let it sink in for you how Profound this whole pagebound affair is and how very sophisticated you are for continuing to read it while absolutely nothing the fuck happens. To be fair, I kinda like it because it works really well for the story, because it’s a story about trauma and memory and unfulfilled, unrealised desires. It’s not like it’s done badly, and Roy’s prose is absolutely beautiful.

It’s actually less that I dislike The God of Small Things and more that I dislike this particular vein of writing, the writing that smells like pedigrees and judging panels and an announcement that this won the Booker Prize (which it did, and I can see why), and I think it’s because I made myself read some winning and runner-up entries into the writing competitions we have here, and there’s a certain, shall we say, pattern when it comes to what the judges like. It’s Literary, and it’s Clever, and it Has Meaning, and I just …

I just fucking hate it.

I don’t want to hate it. I want to allow for the fact that people write the way they write, that it’s okay to play by the rules and work hard to be linguistically adroit and succeed at it because you win the approval of literary critics. I don’t actually dislike The God of Small Things. I just dislike what it reminds me of, all the way through, even as I’m reading it and thinking “man, I like how this is written and I want to know what Really Happened in this story”. I hate the way I’m invested and yet dreading what my investment will bring, all the while telling myself that this is how it’s Meant To Be Read and so it’s Actually a Good Thing.

I requested this book because I saw a quote from Arundhati Roy on Tumblr that made me give Arundhati Roy my Official Certificate of Badassness, for whatever that’s worth. A great deal to me, because I like finding that influential inhabitants of my cultural consciousness have said things at some point in some context that I agree with. I would love to find an interview with her. She seems fierce and intelligent.

The God of Small Things makes me re-think my already diminished ambitions of Being a Writer, because there is only so much that writing can do for a story, so many ways in which it can be a useful medium through which to express and make manifest one’s artistic vision. I do sometimes complain about how badly-written the YA novels I’ve been making myself read for the past year or so are, how the storytelling is atrocious and the characters range from sterile role-models to uber-privileged power-trips in character form to the kind of romanticised abusers who make Heathcliff look like Jane Bennet. Even when one thing is good, there’s a host of other issues that balance things out. Thus far the Vampire Academy series has set my gold standard for such undertakings, and I have a lot of issues with Vampire Academy, much as I adore it.

But at least it’s direct. I dunno, I like using a lot of simile and metaphor in my writing just because I’m pretentious and myopic, and I can live with that. Beautiful prose makes me want to write beautiful prose of my own, and if nothing else The God of Small Things is very much a beautifully-written story. If you can call it a story. It’s a meticulously calculated ramble, a perfect representative of the Literary Tradition I have discovered I hate so viscerally.

I’m being far too mean to a book that I’m less than 100 pages into. I honestly do not hate this book, or begrudge it for being what it is. I’m just resentful of how freshly the most obvious comparisons I can conjure up are conjured up, and how much I hate them, and how that hate reflects so clearly onto The God of Small Things.

And okay, yes, it does bother me on its own terms. It’s not all second-hand dislike. But I’m invested enough to keep going.

I think it was a good idea to start with this book, too, because it’s so heavy and because it’s causing me a lot of internal conflict. It can only go up from here, right? I’ve got Cinnamon and Gunpowder to follow it up with, which will serve as the bridge between it and Primary Colours, which I am mostly reading because I want to know how American presidential election campaigns play out – in fiction. Also in reality, but the one I’m planning on writing about will be fictional.

And since semester starts in 2 weeks and I have done almost nothing that I wanted to do with my four-month break from study that comes every year, I’m not exactly sure how to spend these last two weeks of freedom. Should I get a head-start on academic responsibility and go read some articles that seems applicable to the shit I’m studying? Should I live as though I’m never going back to study and start up a whole bunch of projects that I’ll never finish because two weeks is nothing and academia is a full-time gig? (When you’re studying full-time, that is.) Should I keep doing what I’m doing and drag out the hours with distractions and procrastination until it’s time to Get Serious and I find I’ve left everything too late to be enjoyed at all?

That last one sounds horrible, and historically is the one I’ve defaulted to. I think I’ll do one of the other two.

I still have yet to force myself to write the uncomfortable, moral-offending things I want to force myself to write, like clearing a gutter of dead, suppurating leaves so that rainwater can run freely again. I don’t know if I will. I hope I will.

I’ve found it harder and harder to focus on the here-and-now rather than the if-and-when, mostly because of the distractions I’ve been indulging in. I found out that I hadn’t actually cancelled my World of Warcraft subscription like I thought it had, and therefore it will not be running out just before semester begins like I thought it would. I might have to uninstall it entirely. Which would not be a bad thing, just a big, commitment-making thing.

As my counsellor said to me, I underestimate myself far more than I worry about worst-case scenarios. Put in my own terms, I am the worst-case scenario.

I need that to change.

So I’m going to finish The God of Small Things, or read it until I can’t stand it anymore, and then do the same with Cinnamon and Gunpowder and Primary Colours, and I’m going to finish my first draft made of chapter summaries, and I’m going to find a way to watch season 1 of both Girls and Orange Is the New Black and maybe The 100 because it sounds like yet another idea that Hollywood has stolen from me, and I’m going to make myself write things I’m uncomfortable with being the one who wrote them, so that I can progress to the things that I can be proud of being the one who wrote them. I’m going to start my first YouTube video, on my shitty laptop webcam and unflattering natural lighting and really muted build-in microphone, with the knowledge that once semester begins I will not have the time nor the energy to finish it.

And then semester is going to start, and I’ll find out if that’s actually true, or if I can handle more than I expect of myself.

Man, I’m actually a little bit excited about this. I don’t know what to make of that.

I guess I’ll just be excited about it.

 

A first draft made of chapter summaries

It’s …

It’s actually not going too bad.

I mean I actually made myself write some of it today, so that certainly helped things along. This novel is currently 4 chapters in and stands at around about 2k words. Think I’m doing okay.

The other stuff, the stuff that I have anxiety about writing and offending people who will never ever fucking read it nobody gets to read my first drafts I’m not that masochistic anymore, I have yet to force myself to write. It’s important that I do so, though, because it’s been one of, if not the biggest source of writer’s block I’ve had in my life, and it’s been there for a long time. It’s important, vitally important, to be considerate of other people. But this is a first draft. Nobody’s going to fucking read it. Who am I trying to protect? God? I don’t fucking believe in god so it’d better not be god. Besides he’s omnipotent or whatever I’m sure he can take a little socially conditioned prejudice in an unpublished and unedited manuscript.

Shit, maybe I do believe in god and have just been in denial this whole time. That would fucking suck.

Part of it is getting specific, and finding specific things that I like. I’m talking scenes and dialogue and stuff here; I’m talking precise wording. A while ago I talked about how I think of my stories in visual rather than verbal terms, and it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about what I’d actually like to write when I think about “what I want to write”. I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing that, because when I’m able to do it it really clarifies things. Weird, right? Working with the medium you’re using might actually make you better at it? Crazy world we live in.

At the moment, my chapter summaries are summations of how characters feel about each other and what they do together, and it’s telling me something very important – and blindingly obvious – about Tallulah: it’s a character-driven story, and honestly could be written without any of the supernatural elements that inspired it.

While I don’t mind that, it does make me wonder if those supernatural elements will be distracting if I put them in. Currently, in the once-edited manuscript I’ve got and am casually totally ignoring the existence of, the story goes from a teen friendship drama for the first half to a supernatural thriller in the second half, and it’s infuriating. So much set-up leads to little or no payoff, and the stuff that gets introduced in the second half feels unwelcome. Part of that is because it took over from the other interesting stuff that I was looking forward to having happen, but the other part is because it is also interesting and deserved to be implemented better.

I’m not bothering with good implementation or structure with these chapter summaries; they go in whatever order I think them up in and I number them accordingly (they only have names for numbers right now). And to be fair, that’s also pretty much how I wrote the first draft of Tallulah – I just also tried to make it all fit together coherently, which didn’t work. And that’s fine. That’s not a crime or anything; we all want to make nice things when we make anything, and just because we fail at it doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. I just think now that it’ll be better for me and for my story if I completely disregard those kind of high-level concerns like almost every piece of writing advice I’ve ever heard tells me I should be disregarding them, that I should write absolute bullshit in terms of content, morality, structure, intent and execution if that’s what I’ve got on my mind, not try to dress it up to make it look more presentable, and just have that very honest work to reflect upon once I’m finished. Honesty is the best policy, after all.

What I’m looking for while I write these chapter summaries is a specific event, scene, piece of dialogue, something that comes fully-formed into my mind that I can then write down verbatim. That’s the kind of honesty I’m talking about, and I want to be able to do it without catching myself halfway through and telling myself that, no, I can’t do it because it’ll offend X demographic, because X demographic is never going to fucking read it anyway, this isn’t the finished product, this is my brain on first draft. I want that to be okay with me, and I believe now more than ever that I need it to be okay with me if I’m ever going to end up with a meaningful final product of any kind, in any creative work I do.

We live in a culture where fuckups are unacceptable. A lot of that kind of criticism is thrown at the “social justice” crowd – which I consider myself a part of, though how good at it I am is another matter entirely – but that’s mostly conflating rational debate with survival-venting and internet-published coping mechanisms, from what I can tell, which is not a fair thing to do. I’m not really talking about that, even though it’s certainly true that people who have suffered injustice after injustice in their lives are, shockingly enough, not always likely to suffer fools gladly. And that’s their right. I’m not talking about that though, and the only reason I bring it up is to make that point clear: people who are angry and unforgiving for survival and coping reasons are not who I’m going after here. I mean a culture wherein we’re not taught – not through our education system – how to mortgage a house or how to negotiate a lease, what to look for in a contract or what our legal rights are, and yet are expected to “get on with it” as though it’s the most natural, normal thing in the world. What we learn, if we get to study arts, is why our society sucks for not teaching us that stuff, but we still don’t learn what that stuff actually is and how it works, except for in broad theoretical terms, and even then it’s more about why Marx doesn’t articulate the structure of systemic social inequality quite as well as Foucault. The most important day-to-day information needed to live life as a legal adult are kept behind paywalls that most of us can’t afford, and the only way you get through it is trial and error. Sure, you learn from it if you’re lucky enough to withstand the fallout, but homelessness and bankruptcy don’t come from nowhere. We get locked into deals we don’t know we’ve made, are held to rules we don’t know exist, and are judged by a panel we can’t address. Our world is designed to fuck us over, and it does a fairly good job at it, though thankfully – or unthankfully, depending how you look at it – not so badly that society ceases to function entirely.

It’s not so much that we aren’t allowed to make mistakes as it’s that, when we do – because we will, given all the things we’re never informed about – the bottom drops out completely and we have nothing to break our fall. It’s all very well to say “learn by doing”, as I continuously do, but while I stand by that there are times where the cost of learning is far too high, and the doing should not need to be done to begin with. We are going to fuck things up, and we already know that there are innumerable forces at work that will not forgive us for it, or help us to recover from it. So I see it as our duty to ourselves and each other to not embody those forces for ourselves or each other.

Within reason. I’m still not giving Bitten a free pass.

Did any of that make sense? We should know better, we don’t because we aren’t taught better, so we should be allowed to fuck up?

Within reason?

I mean I guess that depends what “within reason” means.

That was totally not as helpful as I hoped it would be.

New strategy: I’m just gonna write badly and if you don’t like it you can deepthroat a live wolverine. This is my blog. I do what I want.

Within reason.

Use the fucking force

I assume I’m not alone here, but I have to ask – did anybody else get really frustrated with Obi-Wan Kenobi for not using the Force against Jango Fett, the elctro-staff-equipped droid bodyguards or General Grievous?

That is if anybody could get through being really frustrated with the existence of the Prequel Trilogy in general?

My point is that, while messing around with light sabers and doing cool choreography is all well and good, it’s spoiled by being very obviously one of the less pragmatic choices available.

There’s a point to this.

I have yet to follow through with my plan of making myself write exactly what’s on my mind for my first drafts. I have anxiety. It stops me from doing a lot of things.

But I’m going to force myself to do it. And I’m also going to delete my Tumblr account. Also right now I’m going to formally apologise to Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl for the huge rant/essay thing I wrote about Beautiful Creatures. I absolutely meant all of the things that I said, and that’s part of the problem. I still firmly believe that the book is a racist, sexist, seriously creepy piece of garbage and that Ethan is the most incredible – as in lacking-in-credibility – male character I have ever read. But there is no excuse for the personal attacks I launched at the writers as people. I don’t separate art from the artist, but at the same time – oh no, you wrote a straight, white, cisgender teenage male protagonist in a way that I didn’t buy. Somebody call the fucking world court to report a human rights violation.

I had a pet peeve and turned it into a blog post. Not the end of the world, but still not quite the level of quality I expect from myself. I’m quite sure they never read my post, but that’s not the point. The point is that I regret the way I wrote it. I was an ass, and for that I unreservedly apologise.

On top of that, I was also a complete fucking hypocrite. Seriously, who attacks somebody for misunderstanding the inner workings of a gender not their own, and then in an attempt to cement their argument, makes huge assumptions about the inner workings of a gender not their own? Me, apparently. Apparently I am That Guy. Fuck.

So, again, I am very sorry, and I will not do it again.

What I will do is start taking some goddamn initiative. Posts like the one I’ve just apologised for come out of my mindset, which has not been the healthiest for the past, I dunno, ever. I sit and stew in my own private thoughts and fantasies, and then externalise them in writing, and get a bit of an ego-erection out of it. It’s quite sad. It comes from spending too much time imagining hypotheticals through to full volue instead of considering the here-and-now, which in stark comparison is actually very incomplete. You never have the full picture in real life. You only get that in your fantasies.

That’s why people misunderstand other genders, cultures, sexualities, socioeconomic classes, religions, political affiliations, religions, life experiences – we are dealing with real life, and we go through real life not just with “our own narrow perspective”, but through a 120p resolution image where the sound is tinny and jumpy and cuts out half of the important stuff. That is reality. It is an incomplete picture for every individual who goes through it; empathy will get you only so far, and even then that mostly comes from being able to relate to somebody else’s situation through remembering what you’ve already been through yourself. We have an incomplete understanding of reality because we are an incomplete part of reality. Only when taken all together does every thing make up everything.

There’s a point to this, I promise.

I had plans for this academic holiday, a four-month holiday where I could have gotten so much shit done that wasn’t sitting at my desk every hour of the day trying to avoid playing World of Warcraft. I made the mistake of renewing my subscription last month; I will not make the same mistake again. I spent my time not just doing that, but lingering on the hypothetical, which was full and rich and complete, and it told me everything, accounted for everything, and it was hopeless. Then this morning I asked myself what life would be like if instead I tried thinking about what was actually going on. Mostly with other people. I have a really hard time remembering birthdays, and I keep telling myself that I’m bad at giving presents at birthdays and such because I can’t remember what my friends and family like. The truth is that I just don’t think about it. I think about things that might, could or should happen or have happened, and I miss out on everything else. And this only clicked into the Reality Check slot in my brain last night.

Seriously guys there is totally a point just gimme a sec.

The thing about making yourself focusing on what is rather than what could be is that you lose that comforting feeling of exact knowledge. With your own hypothetical scenarios, you know everything about them, because they’re in your imagination. What a fucking surprise. It’s comforting, it’s anxiety-reducing, and it can make you feel less lonely, or at least take the sting out of it. The reason I’ve spent so much of my life thinking about the complete hypothetical is because I knew that if I focused instead on the incomplete actual, I would come face to face with how fucking empty my life is.

I think 15 years of denial is quite enough.

Hypothetically, I know exactly how Tallulah works as a story, because my hypothetical Big Picture of Tallulah literally includes the phrase “it works as a whole story”, as well as “it’ll be so fucking awesome and rich and fulfilling to read once it’s done”, and “jesus christ people will love this fucking story it’s going to be so in-depth and have all of these fucking insights and shit and fuck it’s just so awesome I can’t wait“. That’s the beauty of imagination; you can fill in the blanks with whatever the fuck you want.

Actually, I know that Tallulah does not work as a story because it’s badly structured, bloated, has character and plot-arcs that seem like they’re going to be important and then peter off into redundancy at the critical moment to make way for something totally different, and I never had a clear idea of where it was going to go.

Actually, I know that I want to write – well, there are several scenes, bits of dialogue and action that I have thought through to completion. That is actual, not hypothetical. That is what is, not what might be. It’s incomplete, and it’s fragmented, and it’s what I understand, because it’s what I want, what I value, what I think is worthy.

It has been so long since I acted on that incomplete knowledge of what I actually have to hand that I almost can’t remember it ever having been that way.

Anxiety stops me, and so many other people, from doing so many things. Facing the un-wholeness of reality is one of them. Doing things like writing angry aggressive blog posts about seriously trivial bullshit is one of the symptoms. And I think, given the choice, I have to take the incomplete picture, because it’s relevant right now. It’s also my responsibility to do that. And, perhaps unintuitively, it also makes me feel more involved with everything.

If I had felt more involved, I might have written my Beautiful Creatures rant a bit more good-naturedly. I knew it was an inane, trivial topic to begin with, and I could have really run with that, but instead ended up taking it far too seriously. Too personally. I could have said what I had to say without being so mean about it, and I truly regret having used my energy to such aggressive and negative ends. I was not in a miserable or angry mood when I wrote that post, but I was certainly in a bad mental state, simple because I’ve been in a bad mental state, to varying degrees, for the past 15 years or so. I can’t imagine that didn’t play a part, but it was not so bad that I think I’m excused for my decision to write it the way that I did. If you wanna read something interesting, reassuring and uplifting about writing from a different gender perspective to your own, have a go at this. It’s from my Tumblr blog, so I guess I can’t say that blog was all bad. And it’s a much more productive use of writing than my Beautiful Creatures rant was.

If I had felt more involved – well, there’s the hypothetical again. “If” can cover a lot of imaginary ground. Not so much in real life. The truth is that when I make myself focus on what’s going on right now, I’m not very happy with how things are. But I can’t keep avoiding how things are if I ever want them to change. It may not always be under my control. There may not always be the choice to change things. I’m not trying to assign blame, or suggest that anybody who finds this instructive try to find new ways to blame themselves for not being more involved. Us socially anxious folks get way more than enough of that to begin with; we need to give ourselves a break. But while our reasons are as valid as anybody else’s, it’s just a fact: if you’re not being involved – and it may not be your fault that you’re not involved – then life is kinda shitty. The fact that often it’s not your fault and you literally can’t do anything about it is part of that shittiness.

Well, right now I’m lucky enough, I think, to have it under my control. Or to have part of it under my control, and recognise it. That’s the part I can understand, so while it’s not the full picture, it’s at least something I can use. It’s just that I’m so habituated to not doing that that it’s going to take some effort. I’m going to have to force myself into it.

And I’m going to force myself to delete my tumblr blog, because I use it in a way that I don’t condone. Like I forced myself to apologise for my Beautiful Creatures post because it was the right thing to do, and I don’t want to be somebody who just ignores responsibilities because he can. Not least because that’s a very “guy thing” to do, and if I ever have a son I don’t want him picking that shit up from me. Or anybody, but definitely not from me.

And I’m going to force myself to write those things that I want to write, just like I let myself write what I wanted to write when I ranted about how bad of a male character Ethan Waite is. Except this time it’ll be a private first draft that nobody will ever fucking read, exactly how it should be, and exactly how that rant could have gone, and then undergone revision and, perhaps, come out being the amusing, slightly self-effacing ramble I now wish it had been. Will it be good? Will it make me happy? I do not know. There is a lot that I do not know, and it’s never been any different. I’m just now getting to the place where I realise that, be that as it may, it’s still what I’ve got to deal with. It’s the only long-term strategy for any kind of fulfilling life, a life that I can be proud of living.

No more superfluous light saber choreography for me. From now on it’s Force-choke or gtfo, baby.