Perhaps it’s because it’s currently 1:34 a.m. and I’m staying up because my mp3 player needs its playlists updated, but I’m going to try treating this blog like an Actual Writing Blog for a change. This is a progress report.

The last time I wrote Tallulah, the book I’m Supposed To Be Working On, was over 2 months ago.

The last time I wrote something (outside of thesis stuff, which I’m not counting) was exactly 1 week ago. I guess I did write stuff tonight/this morning, but it was going back through the most recent version of Tallulah chapter 2 and tidying up some of the writing. Nit-picking, in other words, and so no, I’m not going to count that as “writing”. But I am going to count it, because I’m not supposed to do that. I’m supposed to leave it alone until it’s all finished, and then go back over all of it and revise.

How did I get this way?

How did I become so simultaneously pedantic and impotent with my goals? DO THIS DO IT THIS WAY DO IT NOW OR YOU ARE A FAILURE *proceeds to avoid doing thing and thus avoiding failing doing it and becoming a failure*

It’s … it’s not ideal. I know what to do about it, I’ve been doing it on-and-off for years, it’s been getting very, very gradually better …

You know what the most telling part of all this is?

I actually don’t care that I’m not writing Tallulah. Like, I actually couldn’t care less about it. I don’t feel guilty. I come to this blog with these “updates” about nothing happening and going nowhere for the billionth time all prepared to either blast the blogophere with my own personal brand of self-loathing, or to defend myself from it. I come prepared for guilt. But honestly, I don’t have any. I have zero fucks to give. I don’t fucking care if this fucking book never gets fucking written.

And I’m starting to think, at 1:42 a.m. in the morning, that maybe I’ve got a point there. Maybe I started writing Tallulah for the wrong reasons – the wrong reasons to found a whole from-conception-to-publishing novel-writing process anyway.

I wrote Tallulah because it intrigued me that the idea had ever even occurred to me. It was, as I’ve said many times before, a story that I never imagined I would come up with. You know how there are things in the world that, when you come across them, your instant reaction is to go “that is so me”? Tallulah was like the exact opposite of that, and that’s what made it interesting. Throw in some existential gender-perspective writer angst, post-university euphoria and a year and a half free to do whatever the hell I wanted, and you have the conditions under which I wrote the first draft. It was a fantastic, amazing, life-changing process that I would never dream of dismissing as a waste of time, even if Tallulah never does see the light of day beyond its current, unfinished manuscript state. I learnt a hell of a lot from it, and yes, a lot of that had to do with coming to terms with a whole ton of unexamined attitudes I held on gender, and for that I will always be proud and grateful for the experience. I can take that forward into every other story I ever write.

I just … I don’t know what I can do for Tallulah at this point. It’s become a burden, and it’s not getting any lighter. And I think that’s my fault – not like I intentionally sabotaged it or anything, but as in I have such horrible time-management habits that it was kind of inevitable that this would all eventually come crashing down around me. That I’d be unable to keep up with my own thoughts, unable to separate the wheat from the chaff and just have it all mixed up together in a bag that keeps growing until it’s impossible for me to hold, let alone dig through for the good stuff. That I’d lose control over this project, because I have exercised little to no control over myself since the first and only revision of a first draft I’ve ever completed, for Tallulah. I tried so hard, I got so far, but in the end, while it certainly matters, I don’t know if it’ll result in a finished story. I don’t even know if it can. It certainly doesn’t seem like it. I don’t seem to have the focus, inclination or skill to make it work.

I want to hate that, and I don’t. Maybe because it’s late and I just don’t have the energy to care; maybe because I’m used to sealing off my feelings so that I don’t drown in them when they come flooding in. I’m in a perpetual low-level rut, and have been that way ever since some traumatic event happened in my youth that made me stop trying. It’s pretty cliche, and I can’t even remember said traumatic event, but I assume there was one because it makes narrative sense and narrative explains everything, right?

What I actually want to write is the silly, under-developed shit I came up with right at the start, way back when I seriously (maybe put some quotations marks around “seriously” there we go) thought I was going to write a book every fucking year to come out between installments of Harry Potter. The ultra-iterative, self-insert power fantasy shit that I think ashamed of but feel, in the present moment, actually kind of ecstatic about. Or as ecstatic as I can be while actively suppressing every emotion trying desperately to register in my depression-blunted psyche.

Whatever the fuck I had when I was writing my shitty YA werewolf thing is well and truly fucking gone, and it sucks, because it was working. I looked back over my records (really want to keep better records as well) and I was writing that thing for a straight month. I was committed. And then I went to Malaysia and couldn’t pick up the momentum again. It was such a massive experience – and a worthwhile one – that I can’t regret it, but goddamn could I do with the drive I had between May and June.

And I know, as I’m writing this, what the lesson is: routine is important. It’s one of the most important lessons for people with depression or anxiety, and not one every one of us learns: you stick to your goddamn routine, because it will save you, keep you going, and actually lift you up and out of whatever hole you’re in, but only if you stick to it. And that’s the hard part, because depression and anxiety are kind of anti-doing-stuff disorders. That’s kind of precisely what they’re antithetical to, the getting done of things. I should have made no excuses and made myself write that fucking thing all the time I was in Malaysia, kept pace with my ideas, restricted my ideas so that they wouldn’t run ahead of me the whole time …

I don’t know if any of this is actually doable, but it’s what I think. Again, not really feeling much of anything, and that is the kicker. That is the pain, because if I felt something then I’d have a starting-point. I’d have some fucking clue as to what’s going on. But then again, feeling nothing is a pretty big goddamn clue when you have depression. It means I am in the grasp of a depressive episode and I need to do something to shake shit up real quick-like. And maybe if I succeed in doing that everything else will fall into place, and I’ll get my mojo back, realise that I actually can make Tallulah work, or that there’s something in particular that I am passionate about writing and then write that, or realise that I don’t give a flying fuck about writing right this second and would rather do something else and do that instead.

This is totally how you operate a writing blog, guys. Don’t look at me like that.

Shit ain’t happening tonight, regardless of what might happen later down the line, so I may as well go to bed. If I could find something that I enjoyed, I could just do that. And that’s the real issue with feeling absolutely nothing: how the fuck are you supposed to know what you enjoy? You can’t just think about X thing and go “oh yeah, I like that” except in a hypothetical, removed, objective sense, and that doesn’t help anything. I don’t need hypothetical enjoyment; I need something that fucking moves me. I don’t have that right now. I am worried.

There we go. I am worried. I feel something. Mission accomplished.

And now feeling sick so I will disclaim this entire post by saying it was a huge rant during a visitation of depression and that it doesn’t matter in the long run and everything will be better in the morning, because that’s what I need to hear right now.

That’s better.

And the fucking writing …

Fuck it. Author-avatar self-insert power-fantasy ahoy.


I wrote some stuff. Was it Tallulah?

Do you read this blog?

It wasn’t Tallulah.

It was another thing, a thing I’ve wanted to get going for a while, not quite with the giddy thrill of my shitty YA werewolf thing or the City of Bones ripoff shitty YA thing before it, but more of a considered, “hey, I should do this thing because it interests me” kinda deal. It’s a meandering beginning, which I specialise in, and I hope it picks up because this could be really, really good. Also, as always, doing things gives you the motivation you need to keep doing them, or me anyway, and I’m starting to feel like I can just make things happen and stuff and it’s nice. It’s good. This is a good feeling.

I really, really need to do this more. I don’t know if this is a positive trend overall, if I’m getting better over time at making myself do things because I know that once I get started it all goes downhill (in the good, momentum-building way) from there, or if nothing’s changing at all. The only thing I know is what’s happening right now, and maybe that’s the best I can hope for. But I do feel that by now I should be able to look ahead a tiny bit with a fair amount of certainty, especially when it comes to my writing. I mean I’ve done a lot of it; I should know my own patterns by now, right?

Anyway TL;DR: wrote some stuff, gonna write more stuff tomorrow, things are happening, yay.

Scientists Discover Evidence of Procrastination


FUCK symbolism.

You know why? Because all I ever think about these days is goddamn symbolism. I’ve become the very thing I swore to destroy: I have become a film director who cares more about flashy visuals than story. And before we get into this debate about story vs aesthetic, there is no debate, because in film aesthetic IS story. So when I say shitty film directors care more about flashy visuals than storytelling, I mean that their flashy visuals are filler, not that they should be less focused on visuals in general.

What was I talking about? Oh, right, myself. So yeah anyway, fuck symbolism, because thinking about symbolism all the goddamn time has detracted from me thinking about storytelling. Tallulah has suffered greatly for this, because rather than focusing on how to tell a better story, my thinking-space is now clogged with “man it’d be so cool if X happened because it’s symbolic of Y”, yeah you know what else would be cool is telling the fucking story so that you don’t NEED symbolism to get the fucking point across, FUCK.

I’m gonna write some Tallulah today; I expect it to be shitty and unsatisfying, but goddammit it needs to be done. You just fall out of touch with your stories if you leave them alone for too long, and that’s all it is, and it’s so simple yet so vital to the storytelling process: you must stay in contact with your story. Sure, take a break. We all need breaks. Come back refreshed and revitalised with a new outlook and a new plan. But come back. I have yet to learn how to properly take a break from a project, and as a result I also have yet to learn how to return to it. I don’t think, though, that taking another break and giving myself a “do-over” with Tallulah will help anything. I’ve spent too long on the benches, so whether or not I’m able to come back “properly” I do just need to come back, get shit going, and then try again next time.

I mean what’s the worst that’ll happen? I’ll write a shitty book? When has that ever hampered anybody’s success?

This Enthusiastic College Manatee Discovered One Weird Easy Trick to Losing Weight. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next.

Welcome, gentle readers, to another riveting episode of Jason Uses Bandwidth To Complain About How He Doesn’t Get Anything Done Instead Of Getting Something Done.

Turns out there are downsides to uncapped data.

Spoke to a friend tonight who is apparently doing a writing course with their partner and they’ve gotten into the habit of writing every day. It sounds good. It sound productive. It sounds like the kind of thing that only really works if you have external accountability. I remember a couple of weeks ago when I finally got my supervisor for Masters assigned to me, instead of a crushing feeling of despair at all the work I was going to have to do I actually felt motivated to do even more work than I was planning on. Spoilers: it didn’t quite turn out that way – but there’s still time. Just not motivation. But time. And hey, it’s not like I’ve ever wasted any of that before …

I mean that was going to be a self-deprecating joke but it actually just made me feel really depressed.

New angry plan: 500 words a day, and I swear by Dame Helen Mirren if I have to resort to clickbait parodies to prompt myself then that’s what I’ll fucking do.

Anger isn’t quite the same as motivation, but it’s gonna have to do for now. These 500 words a day aren’t going to be devoted to any particular project, other than just getting me to fucking write, to break out of whatever repression, embarrassment, self-censoring, whatever it is that’s keeping me from writing stuff.

You know what really sucks is that I fucking had this, I was rocking this shit a couple of months ago with my shitty werewolf YA thing and now it’s just fucking gone. I can’t remember how to do it, how to get into that zone, or what made me want to to begin with. I wrote about it and I went back and read those posts but there wasn’t enough there to lead me back into it. I was just blathering on about how great it was that it was happening, and it was, but just UGH it’s so fucking frustrating. I had it. I had it in my fucking hand, and now it’s gone and it’s like it was never fucking there to begin with.

No. Okay. What was it? Fucking seriously, what was it? Was it not having an MA looming over my life and giving me something to feel guilty about? Was it the fact that it wasn’t quite Winter yet and well that can’t be right June is pretty much the start of Winter in NZ? Was it that I was feeling like I had more going on in my life in general, and therefore writing was for enjoyment rather than trying to stave off the bitter cold of years of habituated self-isolation? Was it that I just lucked out? I really don’t want it to be that I just lucked out and that I can’t re-create that in-the-zone-ness; I want this to be scientific and repeatable, predictable, quantifiable. I want it back.

519; going good so far.

But this isn’t the kind of writing I want to get good at doing; I’m already good at this stream-of-consciousness bullshit. It’s easy. Because it’s not really about anything. And the writing I want to do should therefore probably be designated “writing-about”, because one day this skill I’m going to spend the next however the fuck long it takes honing and perfecting is going to be transferred to a novel, or a screenplay, or some other long-form writing that requires fancy things like narrative structure because it is supposed to be about something or other, because I enjoy that shit, but it takes so much fucking time. And yes technically this post is about something but it’s about how I’m annoyed at how I’m not writing about other things and have no motivation and, you know what, I’ve written about this so many fucking times that maybe there’s a story in here. Maybe this is the perfect clusterfuck of Refusing The Call, and will serve as a wonderful mire for some hero or other to wade through until they finally reach the wise old mentor again. Or, as is more likely, put in their own hard work and grab another mentor’s attention from the effort they’re exerting.

Just means they have to, y’know, exert. And the mentor in this case is motivation. There is no greater teacher than inspiration that you can run alongside for months, even years, because when we commit to doing something we learn what it means to commit to that thing, and discover who we are as the person who has committed to it. These are the lessons that dig in deep and leave stretch-marks on your soul. Even when it feels like they don’t stick, just like all of my lessons feel like they never even took place in my life, it’s just that there’s a whole lot of congealed bullshit covering them up. Underneath it’s still raw and traced and traceable. You just need to chip away at the surface to rediscover it – and, of course, to open yourself up to being marked with new lessons.

Just gotta do things.

So simple.

I hate everything.


It’s the journey that matters

The writing world is fascinating. You’d think that, as an aspiring Writer (though also somebody who vehemently declares themselves Not A Writer Anymore), I would be more interested in what’s going on with my kin. Apparently not.

Thankfully there’s this wonderful thing called Twitter that does all of my engagement for me.

There’s apparently been a huge shitstorm brewing with the Hugo awards, the most prestigious sci-fi literary awards in existence, or so I gather. Neil Gaiman and Ursula K. Le Guin won a bunch of them so I assume that’s all the evidence I or anybody else needs. TL;DR: a bunch of bitter white conservative cishet dudes are gaming the voting system to flood the nominations with their own selected nominees. It’s worked.

It’s disgusting.

The fact that the system works like that to begin with is … well, no system is perfect. It goes to show, though, that it is only angry white dudes who have opted to game the system in this way, despite it being open for exploitation for anybody with a chip on their shoulder and enough friends with enough money to do so. Then again, maybe that’s partly why it’s only angry white dudes who have managed to game the system.

The argument they’re making is basically that “the good old days” are gone, replaced by politically-correct placard-waving feminists, gay rights activists and people who aren’t white. Daring to speculate on things like pertinent social issues of the day, human nature, politics – absolutely nothing like the entire fucking point of science fiction. And one of them openly supports gamergate. I would pray for you, Hugo Awards, if I believed in any kind of higher power that responded to prayer. Instead, I just hope you get your shit together.

What really frustrates me is that within this viscous morass of inanity is, deeply submerged, a nugget of value: the issue of what is “typical”, and what is “neutral”. We’re talking about people like Orson Scott Card here, who openly and financially opposes gay marriage and gay people in general, yet has written one of the most widely-celebrated science fiction novels of all time, across political spectrums and social demographics. I haven’t read it because 1): I can’t be fucked and 2): I totally buy into personality politics and don’t really want to read something written by a raging homophobe. But that’s not to say that I don’t have my own problematic faves (hello Vampire Academy), nor to call out anybody who likes Card’s work from an artistic point of view. The one sliver of valid discussion in the Rabid/Sad Puppies’ rabies-infected rhetoric is that certain stories do get more celebrated than others – not the ones they’re talking about, because their outrage is so narcissistic they can’t help but miss the point – but, for instance, the Hero’s Journey.

I’ve been thinking for a while now that Joseph Campbell’s celebrated monomyth is not as universal as writers, editors and anybody who knows who Joseph Campbell is seem to claim it is. I mean it’s fairly obvious that it gets used to tell pariticularly sexist, racist, homophobic, trans-erasing and all other manner of regressive stories, but that doesn’t mean that the model itself is regressive. You could use the Hero’s Journey to tell a story about a trans protagonist, or Black, or disabled – it’s just that it either doesn’t happen very often or, as is more likely, mainstream readership doesn’t have it marketed towards them.

That’s what I thought up until very recently. While I still believe that you could do that – because, well, you could – there’s also a problem with it, because the monomyth is very heavily gendered. A posthumously published book of Campbell’s, Goddesses, does explore the feminine divine and the role it plays in world mythology and narratives, but I can’t help but find it a bit suspicious that Campbell never published these lectures in book format during his life – he obviously had a lot to say on the subject. I have to suspect a bias on his part, not finding the topic quite worthy of publication – or perhaps he had plans to do so but never got around to it, or was turned down, or fuck it why am I speculating on a dead guy’s motivations anyway the book exists and I want to read it.

But this book existing – as it has for quite a while – has done nothing to diminish the near-reverence that the hero’s journey is treated with, and it certainly doesn’t seem to have encouraged the big-money mainstream media to find alternatives to it. It may well be less that the gatekeepers of the storytelling industry view the hero’s journey as gender-neutral and more that they have a bias towards gendered-male narrative storytelling, probably without realising it, like I’m imagining Campbell didn’t realise he de-valued the importance of publishing a book about female and feminine myth and narrative. Perhaps unfairly, but I really don’t trust men. And being a man myself, I have quite a bit of material to back that stance up with.

Regardless, this question of whether the hero’s journey as a structure, rather than an actual story, is male-specific, because I think that it is. So what would a heroine’s journey look like? Would it be fundamentally different to the hero’s journey, or is the hero’s journey truly neutral enough to accommodate any protagonist, any setting, any quest, so long as the basic structure is kept in tact? I found a couple of articles discussing it, and in the process I think I’ve discovered my favourite topic ever: Narrative and Gender. There is nothing more me than this topic, and I need more of it.

The first article I found talks about what the hero’s journey lacks in terms of being a good fit for a female protagonist. There are a few points that I take issue with in the specifics of the argument – the suggestion that Katniss Everdeen is a heroic character in particular, though that is probably because I am a total book purist when it comes to the series – I absolutely agree with one of the big points: the hero’s journey, because it is an aggregate of myths and folklore throughout history, is inherently retrospective, lending itself to a “good old days” kind of thinking, and often that is exactly what happens (anybody who doubts me can go watch Seventh Son, and then rejoice in the fact that they are one of the only people in the world who watched Seventh Son). Trying to build a heroine’s journey out of the myths that Campbell works with in the hero’s journey, using the kinds of roles that he allocates to women in the monomyth, is a recepie for disaster unless you are looking to be very, very subversive. And subversion is fun as fuck, don’t get me wrong, but it also often feels like a response, a reaction rather than an action, and in doing so can feel like it has less of a self-determined identity. I hate stories like that. And thus the assertion in this article that a heroine’s journey must be “forward-looking” is one that I am absolutely on board with. The only issue for me is that it assumes that the monomyth is the full scope of our possible material to draw on for constructing a heroine’s journey, instead of looking at, for instance, some of the myths and folklore that feature girls and women in the leading role, but then seeing how prevalent and insisted-upon the hero’s journey is for storytelling at a commercially viable level, this implicit assumption is pretty fair. There’s only so much you can cover in a single argument and keep it coherent.

The second article expands upon this concept of the heroine’s journey, giving some specific examples of where a heroine’s journey would differ from a hero’s. Two points stuck with me in particular. The first was this line:

Sometimes, we rob the dragon of its fire by giving it a task.

Cooperation over confrontation, yo. It stuck with me because I cannot, for the life of me, remember this ever happening in a story that featured a male protagonist, unless that protagonist was also a small child and unable to fight his way out of the danger he was in.

The second is this passage, quoting Carol Pearson:

In our culture, the heroic ideal of the Warrior has been reserved for men–usually only white men at that. Women in this plot are cast as damsels-in-distress to be rescued, as witches to be slain, or as princesses who, with half the kingdom, serve as the hero’s reward… The Warrior archetype is also an elitist myth, which at its base embodies the notion that some people take their heroic journeys while others simply serve and sacrifice…

[Although] many women enact the Warrior archetype… they do not see slaying dragons as very practical, since the people who often entrap women are husbands, mothers, fathers, children, friends–people who insist that good women forgo their own journeys to serve others. That is why there often are no true villains in stories about female heroes.

Spirited Away, anyone?

Harry Potter is essentially in this situation until Hagrid comes along and jailbreaks him, and it is this tension that opens his story. It also makes for the tightest, most satisfying storytelling portion of Philosopher’s Stone, so very obviously this is one to consider. Also considering the kind of toxic socialisation that a lot of women and girls go through, where they are taught to put others before themselves, in both subtle and non-subtle ways – I’d say that’s a pretty damn solid setup for some heroics to follow.

But both of these articles – and the very act of questioning the gender-neutrality of the hero’s journey, or any other narrative model – also raise the equally serious issue of gender determinism, the “well why should a heroine’s journey have to be fundamentally different to the hero’s journey?”, and, of course, “why couldn’t a male hero’s narrative follow this supposed female-centric structure?”, never mind what happens if we have nonbinary protagonists (which I have yet to find any writing on). It is this question that keeps me from completely giving up on the hero’s journey as being doomed to serving the patriarchy, because I see the structure it offers as being, if not neutral, then at least very adaptable. But on the other hand, the proposed heroine’s journey – I like it a lot. I think we need more heroes like that; we already have a couple with Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and if this article is correct in its assumptions – well, I hope it is. I want more of this collaborative-effort-heroism, and definitely more diversity within that collaboration. And while the issue of gender determinism is a really important one that should not be glossed over just because the rest of the argument is good … the rest of the argument is good. Particularly the part about involving other people in the journey, because I’ve always been drawn to ensembles in my storytelling, and I feel lately that my more recent stories are missing that element, which is perhaps why I’m so loath to actually write any of them. Heroics are all well and good, and I love A Wizard of Earthsea for its introspective hero’s journey. But at the same time, that’s a pretty subversive twist on the formula as well, because in the end it is Ged who is the main antagonist and main protagonist. It is his arrogance and pride that threatens the world, and only through learning to accept himself as he truly is can he save himself, and thereby save the world. Granted, that also makes it an incredibly myopic hero’s journey, but no less pure of an example for it. It’s just that stories of a lone hero doing lonely hero things really doesn’t appeal to me, unless that loneliness is part of the journey. Because there’s more than one important person in the world, and it certainly takes more than one person to change it.

Even the Puppies get that part.

I lament the toxicity that seems to have engulfed the Hugo Awards, but I am also somewhat hopeful that it is a backlash that is indicative of the death throes of that particular way of thinking, rather than a resurgence of it. I hope that’s what it is. And in the meantime, I am very glad to have found some eye-opening discussion on the way that we tell stories, the gendered assumptions we collectively make about our culture’s most defaulted-to narrative models, and to consider the possibilities that arise from this discussion.

It’s also gotten me to dig myself out of my creative writing rut a little bit, and has taught me a valuable lesson: there’s interesting shit going on in the writing world, and it’s not just interesting to read – it’s also useful for getting me out of my own head, opening up my perspective and getting me closer to being as involved in storytelling as a craft, a philosophy and a culture as I’d like. Because just like the hero’s journey suffers from isolation and myopism, writing suffers from trying to “go it alone”. I miss having a writing buddy. I miss the feeling of writing in the company of others, because storytelling is a very social act. And I’m remembering that I need that part of it.

Bool Hauk

Apparently “hauls” are a thing? So obviously, as a zeitgeist-chasing millennial, it is my genetic prerogative to haul my ass onto this moving bandwagon.

So today I went to the library to get out more books I won’t read out of guilt for not working on my masters thesis instead, but I also bought some. I bought 3, to be exact, for $1 at my local library, and even The Book Depository can’t top that.

The culprits are:

English Grammar Essentials for Dummies, by Wendy M Anderson, Geraldine Woods and Lesley J Ward. It may shock you to know this, but I, a physically mature human person with a major in English and who has spent half of his life deluding himself into trying to Be A Writer, do not know jack fuck about grammar. This book has 1 rating on Goodreads – 2 stars – but given that there are no issues of gender representation to complain about or abusive male love-interests to swoon over I’m surprised it has a Goodreads rating at all. And since they didn’t have “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, this will just have to do.

The Swan Maiden, by Jules Watson. Swan maiden? Check. Irish folklore? Check. Less that 34 cents? Ch-fucking-eck. (Honestly I think grammar may be the least of my worries.) I randomly flipped to a page while I was looking it over and landed on this passage: “The woman’s skin was dove-soft, the man’s faintly tanned. Young and unlined. The hand reverently hefted the pale globe, the thumb brushing its dark centre. A scattering of gooseflesh rose in its wake and the nipple stood up, swollen …” (51) So … pretty much what I was expecting. Though maybe not “reverently hefted the pale globe”; that sounds like a Thesaurus moment. But in any case, seeing as I’m interested in Irish folklore and swan maidens – thematic cousins of the seal maidens; the Irish sure do like their shape-shifting ladies – I can at least try to tolerate some awkward prose.

(Also why is the woman’s soft skin compared to the colour of the man’s? Other than, y’know, racism.)

Grimm Tales for Young and Old, by Philip Pullman. I saw “Grimm Tales” and “Philip Pullman” and thought “while I have some tonal issues with the His Dark Materials trilogy – namely how the third book ruined everything I liked about the story – I respect Philip Pullman a lot as a writer and storyteller, and it is always fascinating to see what good writers have to say about the stories that form the conceptual bedrock that informs our storytelling culture”, and after I caught my breath I bought it. There’s 50 stories in here apparently, and at the end there’s all this information like “tale type”, “source”, “similar stories”, and then a little summary by Pullman of what he thinks of the story and what adjustments he’s made in his retelling of it. Looking forward to breaking into it.

I also meant to write a review of The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle, because that was the last library book that I actually read and really enjoyed. It’s good. I like my High Fantasy either focused on characters over lore and world-building, or written like a fairytale, where the story, rather than realism, justifies everything – The Last Unicorn happens to be both of these, so yeah, I liked it. Surprisingly good on the gender representation front as well, actually, considering this is both High Fantasy written by a dude and written in 1968. You should check it out sometime.

Currently I’m sitting on the library book I was not-reading before I went out and got another three today: Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac, a YA sci-fi dystopian novel featuring an Apache heroine, written by an Abenaki Native American author (though he’s also Slovakian and English, apparently). I read 2 pages and couldn’t be fucked, but that’s guilt-fatigue talking. From tomorrow onwards I am working towards doing All The Things, because I’d like that to become a habit of mine. So it’ll be article-reading to build up my annotated bibliography, plus reading books for pleasure, plus probably going to see a bunch of movies, plus doing whatever my own stuff is … you know the drill. Any and all of The Things will be done in this the fourth age of this world the age of men as in humans not men specifically although considering how LoTR panned out it may as well have been amirite –

Yes, well, I also have:

Who Fears Death and Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor. It’s fantasy, or possibly sci-fi, or possibly both, and its not written by a white guy. I got one chapter in Lagoon either earlier this year or late last year and really regretted not finishing it, so this is my redemption lap; and Who Fears Death just sounds like the kind of Hero’s Journey archetypal awesome that I adore, only with Nigerian mythology to inform it rather than … well, to be fair, the Hero’s Journeys I like often use a lot of Eastern philosophy, but I know absolutely nothing about African mythology or folklore so I’m really looking forward to getting a glimpse at it.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. The closest thing to steampunk I’ve ever read was Perdido St. Station by China Mieville, which took me 6 months to finish, and during those 6 months I also finished 3 other, better books. Though saying a book is better than Perdido St. Station is not saying much. Not for me anyway; it was tedious, long-winded, pretentious, transparently Marxist (I have no problem with Marxism but if you’re going to slip it into your fiction writing then at least get a fucking imagination), and half of the book – I am pretty sure I’m not actually exaggerating – was taken up with exposition about the fucking city that the story took place in. And don’t get me wrong, if you’re somebody who wants worldbuilding and nothing but, give this one a go. But you’d better be very fucking serious about the “nothing but” part; there are some very cool ideas in this book and it was just so sterile and dry that I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of them. I need story; I need characters. Not my cup of tea.

On the other hand, Boneshaker – don’t read Goodreads for a consensus on any given book, but it sounds like it could be enjoyable if not brilliant. And, again, steampunk. Always wanted to see what the fuss was all about, and this one has something that I’ve wanted to see ever since Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t give it to me: the Adventure Mom, the mother character who, instead of dying off-screen or waiting at home for the hero to return, actually takes part in the grand adventure. So I hope that part of it is satisfying. And if it’s not I’ll just rip it off and make it better anyway. Either way, something to look forward to.

My own writing has not gone spectacularly well today, in fact it’s gone absolutely nowhere. But hey, it happens. Might force myself to write those 200 words per day after this post; might count this post as my daily writing, because it’s over 1k words, even though that goes against my rules. But maybe my rules are stupid. In fact, yes, they are stupid. I can write whatever I want, whenever I want.

I just want this fucking novel to be finished oh my god why why can’t it be over and done with maybe I should actually just move on to the next thing this is taking so fucking long and I just maybe I don’t have the experience necessary to make this particular story work so maybe it’d be better to go on to the next thing and apply what I’ve learnt to something that has a better chance of succeeding from the outset however much I would like Tallulah to be my first published book ARGH so infuriating. It is really infuriating to not have a thing done, just sitting there open and unfinished. Kind of like most of the books I get out of the library these days.

Ah well. I’ll work something out. In the meantime, just gotta do all the things. Life is so much easier when you just force yourself to do all the things.

I think I will write those 200 words after all.

Boredom ritual

I have nothing to follow that up with, except to say that I really need to get me one of those.

And that’s pretty much it. I tried to write something today but all that came out were notes; there’s still plenty of daylight left (okay maybe not plenty it is winter here), and I’m going to try and devote the next however many minutes it takes to getting really fucking bored. No music – I’m realising that I use music to keep myself “engaged” in the same way that I use World of Warcraft to feel “engaged” – no videogames, no little notepad to scribble shit down in, no phone, even though it is totally blowing up and I will be letting literally millions of people down by not immediately responding to their textual communications. Just go and sit somewhere and just sit somewhere. I need to get incredibly fucking bored.

I mean do I need to feel like doing something to do it? No, I don’t, but …

This is getting too deep; boredom now, thinking later. If it works I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

Whatever works

So today I was yet again not writing, while also not doing any of the readings I’ve been tasked with reading, and instead leveling up Archaeology on my Night Elf Hunter while listening to the very enjoyable Imaginary Worlds podcast. On the one hand, it gets me through the day. It’s coasty. It’s … it’s just easy and simple and anxiety-free. It’s a way for me to avoid a whole bunch of potentially upsetting chaos (read: everyday life).

On the other hand, I thought, I have the privilege, the absolutely fucking disgusting privilege of being able to sit in front of my computer all day playing computer games and listening to podcasts, and nothing else. Ostensibly this is not true; I am going to have to do a shitload of work for this Masters to work, and I am going to do that, because I always do my work. It’s not always been enough, and it’s certainly not always been on time, but I’m getting over that phase. What I’m not getting over – well, let me phrase that differently: what I’m not getting towards is a point where chilling and coasting and avoiding potential, hypothetical stressors that, from experience, I objectively know stress me out far more to imagine than to actually go through, is not enough for me, to a point where my staggeringly charmed life becomes a platform for me to do all of the mind-bogglingly awesome shit that I keep imagining that I want to do.

And that’s the question I now face: am I just imagining that I want to do these things? I have one big project in November that I’m looking forward to, but other than that …

Because another thing I was mulling over today was how I Became A Writer, which was that when I was 13 years old I really liked Harry Potter and decided that I could Do That Too, and didn’t think about the consequences that pursuing this lofty aspiration would have on my psyche, my attitude, my prospects, my general well-being – and, I mean, it’s not like that would be reasonable to expect any 13-year-old to consider with appropriate severity, so that’s not the issue. The issue is that I threw myself fully into something that I didn’t understand the consequences of because it was a fantasy that I had, and being young and responsibility-free I had the freedom to indulge in it. It ended up being something that I pursued for many reasons, including fantasies of fame, self-esteem and, for some reason, beating people in arguments (that’s a power fantasy that I keep coming back to and I think I should probably talk to somebody about it), and because it was What I Was Meant To Do. I had, completely without realising it, done what so many unfortunate idiots have done throughout history, and that is to craft myself an epic narrative that justified itself by merely existing. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I actually considered that this was unhealthy, and not until early this year that I realised that I am not, in fact, A Writer. I am a person, and I want to do all sorts of shit.

Or do I? Because if I imagined that I wanted to be a writer, only to find that I really just wanted to Be Up There with J.K. Rowling because she wrote books I really liked, if I latched onto this grand ambition that was so grand it covered up the very small, specific reason for having that ambition to begin with and got carried away with it to my massive detriment, then what else have I imagined that I want when I really want something else, something far simpler, smaller and – quite possibly – more attainable?

Or, because I have anxiety and overthink the fuck out of everything: what haven’t I imagined that I want? Do I actually want anything at all? Or are my so-called desires nothing more than fancies I distract myself with while waiting for the ever-looming smog of anxiety to pass, knowing full well that that’s not how it works?

It’s not a question of what I want. It’s a question of if I want at all, and if I can tell the difference between actual desire and the fantasy of it.

Do I actually want to write Tallulah?

Do I actually want to learn how to draw?

To play guitar?

To sing?

To be confident in myself?

To make a YouTube Channel?

To Come Out Of Myself?

How can I trust myself to know any of this shit?

And if I can’t – which is the angle I’m going for, in case you hadn’t picked up on that – then where the fuck does that leave me? Because regardless of what I want, in purely practical terms I cannot keep on doing this. One day I will be forced to pick up the years and years of slack I have let slip from my hands, and I will be completely unprepared for it, and be bitter and resentful about it and dig myself at least one hole to sit and mope in when the bubble inevitably breaks.

And I just think of all the times I try to talk myself into being passionate, try to give myself rousing pep talks about purpose and discipline and doing something really big with my life, or even something really small and manageable and practical, and allowing for all of my neuroses and anxiety and depressive states and just …

Does this actually work for anybody?

How do people actually want to do things at all?

Because I don’t think that I do.

And I start to think there’s something wrong with me, because it should be pretty fucking apparent that you do or do not want to do something.

And then I’m like “oh right I have a history of depression” and it turns out I’m right, there is something wrong with me. He puts a point on the board!

And so I’m thinking maybe I need to re-visit the idea of medication.

It’s very privileged of me to have the kind of revulsion that I do toward the idea of me taking medication. Other people? Sure, other people might actually need medication, but not me. I’m just dealing with a behavioural thing; the reason I haven’t gotten through it yet is due to a combination of having to peel away so many layers before I actually get to the real shit that’s affecting me – which is just bad luck – and habits of avoidance and procrastination and delegation built up over the past 18 years, which is also bad luck but I haven’t exactly helped things any.

Except that this utter inability to tell whether I actually want to do anything with myself sounds a lot like depression, and I thought, honestly thought that I was past that. I know I’m a hell of a lot better. I have actually wanted things in the past year or so, and felt it very keenly. And maybe the rest of it is just fear and residual low self-esteem, symptoms that linger even after the cause has long since resolved. Ghosts in the machine.

They do say that self-diagnosis is a bad idea. I’m starting to see why.

What I’m really getting at, since I know full well that all this talk about medication and depression and the question of how we know that we truly want anything is probably not something I can adequately process at 2:13 a.m., is that I already know that my trying to convince myself that I should be writing Tallulah since I have more than enough free time to do so, should be doing all of these things that I tell myself I want to do, never works. What I don’t know is why it doesn’t work. What I wonder is if it works for other people, and why I’m the odd one out. Or if I’m just using a bad strategy and need to be doing something else.

As always, I know one sure answer: “just do it”. It always works. It has never not worked, in my entire fucking life, but the lesson also never sticks. And I know, objectively, that this is part of the lesson, part of what I have to learn: that I may never have that autopilot option available to me, considering how long it’s been and it still hasn’t gotten internalised, so if I want shit to go a certain way I have to make it happen, have to exert myself every single goddamn time and that’s just how it is, sometimes you get dealt a shitty hand, etc.

But then, I also haven’t really tried to make it a habit. And I know that works. I’m still doing my workouts in my room – far from nightly these days, but still a good 2-3 times a week on average, and compared to where I was last year I’d be lucky to get in 20 workouts in a 52-week period. I’m getting back into waking up in the actual morning as opposed to the afternoon, and I’m really liking what it does for my daily attitude and outlook. So maybe I do actually have to do that thing that so many writers advise other writers to do and literally write every single goddamn day. And when I say “write” I mean “add to the word-count of a specific writing project”. Because I do write every day, if you count texting and status updates. But I don’t want to count those. I want to count what we would all probably call Actual Work, and I want it to be regular and consistent and I want it to fucking go somewhere.

How do I know I want that?

Fuck it, maybe I don’t. Maybe I just tell myself that’s what I want, because that’s how I’ve learnt to try and motivate myself into having a purpose, because without a purpose, I have learnt to believe, I am depressed and miserable. Except I love not doing anything. I love boredom. I love quite moments to myself that consume more time than I can imagine. I also love getting so absorbed in some project that before I know it the day is over and I haven’t done a hundredth of what I have the energy to do.

I hate to say this, as an enlightened millennial, but I don’t think I can do this shit with videogames and social media in my life. Maybe I’m just imagining that, too.

But even if I am, so what? It’s all I’ve got anyway. What else am I supposed to go on?

The other alternative is that I simply don’t want to do any of these things, and that the reason I try to talk myself into wanting them is because I’m ashamed of who I am if I don’t want to Do Something With My Life. Because then I’m just some asshole living at home without a job and no social life and no desire to change any of it who is totally okay with it.

Okay not the social life part, but the rest of it. That’s not what a responsible adult looks like.

Jesus. Do I really imagine that I want to be a responsible adult? Is that really what my life goal has become? No wonder I can’t fucking talk myself into doing anything …

This all deserves more consideration, but for now: 200 words a day, starting tomorrow. I could say 2000. I could even say 1000. But I also want it to actually, y’know, happen.

200 words a day, starting tomorrow.

I really, really hope this works.


I have met with my Masters supervisor, who said I had a very rich, interesting thesis and seems like a pretty cool, very smart dude. I have a premonition now: given my propensity to get really exciting at the prospect of having a story to rip off, and given that my Masters is talking about various sci-fi and fantasy YA novel-to-film adaptations, and given that I’m going to be getting really fucking intimate with these films for the better part of the next 12 months …

My first book submitted for publishing miiiiiight be a sci-fi or fantasy YA novel.

I am a little concerned, but also excited, at the prospect of my relationship to these kinds of films transforming over the course of this thesis. I remember writing an essay on Alien way back in 2014, and while that semester was my worst in terms of my emotional state (and one of the worst grades-wise), one of the high points was watching that movie 3 times in quick succession and starting to get really intimate with it. I think there are some films that just perfectly suit particular kinds of theoretical inquiry, and Alien was one of them; even though I’ve seen The Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition) over 100 times, over the course of a decade, I feel more engaged with Alien, which I’ve seen a grand total of 3 times, all of which took place within a couple of months one year ago. It’s not just how much we engage with something that shapes our relationship to it; it’s how we engage with it. I’ve never really tried to watch LoTR with a critical mindset – for one, those movies are really fucking long, and for another they’re not very neat structure-wise, particularly in the extended editions, which makes them hard to sit through if you want to take notes – but I think if I could manage it I would benefit from the experience. It also might help me get over my hyper-awareness of anything even resembling anything that happened in the The Hobbit films, which has so far pretty much ruined the original trilogy for me, as if I needed another reason to hate the The Hobbit films, oh my god, I hate them so much.

These YA novel-to-film adaptations, on the other hand, I’m sort of in-between with in terms of my engagement, in that while I can’t help but be critical of every piece of media I come into contact with, I also enjoy them immensely, even the shitty ones, kind of more for the fact that they even exist than anything else in that case. The good ones I just enjoy, even if I do burn out pretty fast on some of them (coughDIVERGENTcough), and certainly using the word “good” to describe a lot of these movies is a stretch. But fascinating? Utterly. And I think that, even if I get sick of these movies along the way, my fascination will only grow. And it’s my fascination that I’m counting on coming through for me, to create some of that creative tension I’m feeling in want of lately and spurs me on to get back to creative writing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not a writer, but I love writing, and I’m going to be doing it my whole life, whether as a career or a hobby. The hope is both, and if we’re counting academia then it’s already kind of both, except I’m paying to write instead of being paid. Hopefully that will change also. In the meantime, I’m going to try and use this opportunity to get my own momentum going so that, even if I am not whipped up in an ecstatic rapture of plagiarism-lust that can serve as fuel to my writing fires, I will be getting some creative writing stuff done – and also to remember that, if that doesn’t happen, it’s no big thing, because I can do something else instead. I love writing, but part of that is because, contrary to what I’ve been telling myself all these years, I don’t have to do it. I love it because it’s not an obligation. It’s just something that I love, and if you love something, you can let it go from time to time.

Also holy shit I’m doing Masters. Let’s see how this goes!


Great expectations

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about pressure. I’ve thought about how I lack enough pressure, the tension that winds me up and make me so restless and frustrated that I have to do something, anything, to relieve it. I’ve thought about how I’m knotted in it, unable to untangle myself, to breathe, to recover before pushing on, and so instead I stop where I am and just dangle, waiting for the anxiety to pass even as I know the pressure – of obligation, or promises made with good intentions – still waits for me to meet it. Often I feel that both are happening at the same time; I am stifled by pressure while being simultaneously unable to find the “sweet spot” that will turn that pressure into creative tension I can use to drive myself forward.

I’m not really sure what to do about this. But it feels like there’s an answer in here somewhere.

In the meantime I bought six young adult novel-to-movie adaptations: Beautiful CreaturesCity of BonesVampire AcademyEnder’s GameThe Giver, and The Maze Runner, as well as the Twilight box set. And, seriously, this is all for academic purposes. Fuck knows I would not be buying any amount of Twilight anything if it wasn’t. (I did go halves with Mum on the box set though, as she lost half of her Twilight DVDs.) I’m so looking forward to the next twelve months.

Which will also hopefully include finishing Tallulah. My strategy of planning it in my head rather than on paper is absolutely foolproof and watertight, except for the part where I actually get around to doing it, and that’s the “lacking creative tension” rut I’m currently in. Hasn’t helped that I’ve started enjoying World of Warcraft again recently, right the hell out of nowhere – or perhaps precisely because I’m so close to a breakthrough with Tallulah and my writing habits in general, and my brain is well-trained to sabotage my every happiness. One of the two.

The other thing is that I’m getting excited about all my other stories; I was excited before while I was writing my werewolf thing, and to be honest that excitement never actually went away, it’s just that my focus was elsewhere. But I’m quite eager to write a bunch of chapters 1-3 of my various novels and just see what it looks like, see if there’s one I’m particularly fond of and that wants to be written more than the others. So maybe that’s what I’ll do: make a list of all the projects I’m enthusiastic about and write the first three chapters, planning them out and doing all of this weird new-age holistic writing stuff I’m apparently now really into, where I eschew such earthly things as actual writing implements and basic self-discipline to better connect with the cosmic Prose Eternal and write about how good it feels to think about writing on this blog about – supposedly – actually writing.

Or I could, y’know, do some actual writing.

But I do need to pick a plot of time and use it, and it has to be early in the day, like first thing in the morning kind of thing, and early in the morning. My plan to make myself wake up really early has suffered since coming back from Malaysia, and part of that is because it’s currently winter over here and mornings are pretty fucking harsh, but the alternative is to do what I’ve been doing up to this point, which results in zero writing actually getting done, and that’s not acceptable. Writing up to chapter 3 of Tallulah over the next couple of weeks sounds like something I could get good mileage out of. The other issue is that Tallulah is still very messy in my head, tangled with all the “what if” ideas I dumped into it in an attempt to make it look like a “real story”, and in the meantime all of these other younger, sleeker, more focused stories are frolicking around, enticing me to join them in their Bacchic revelry (in a completely sober and platonic way), and it’s because I can actually see where they’d go as stories, whereas with Tallulah I’m still struggling to de-tangle it in my mind so that I can give it a fair second chance at being something great. And I do want it to be something great. It deserves that.

All right. Tension. This is going to be hard to plan while still waiting for my supervisor to be assigned to me – another reason why WOW is so recently engaging for me – but I can still designate myself to waking up ever-earlier in the mornings until I hit, I dunno, 9am or something. Once I’m happy with that I can start dedicating those mornings to writing. And in the meantime I can make a list of the projects I’m going to write up to chapter 3 of, and plan out those 3 chapters.

This could be a lot of fun.

And it will definitely be a lot of work, but I need to do it. I think that’s where the tension is going to come from; like all motivation, most of the time it doesn’t come to you – you have to go to it. Better get on that.