Futurology

As time has gone on, as it tends to do, I have slowly started changing my writing habits. Mostly mentally, but of course your mindset affects your practice, and in practice I’ve gotten better at managing my writing effectively. This is not so much because of time-management, but because I’ve gotten better at letting myself write things that I actually feel passionate about. When doing that the time-management stuff more or less takes care of itself. That’s just creative writing, though. With academic writing – the writing I’m obligated to do – it is a time-management thing, specifically making sure that I spend time on my MA every single goddamn day. Today that has not happened yet, but because I have changed the way I measure my writing success from “how much did I do today” to “did I do stuff today at all”, that is easily remedied. And my supervisor tells me it’s all looking good, so I’m going to take his word for it.

Creatively, I have still been putting off writing the final 2 chapters of my shitty YA werewolf novel, and have instead made a plan for the rest of a potential 5-book series with this one as the first installment. I like it. It flows pretty well, and depending on how things go I might actually follow through with it – if nothing else it could be fun. But if nothing else, writing up this hypothetical plan for turning this one shitty YA werewolf novel into a 5-part shitty YA werewolf series was fun, and since enjoyment is the key mechanism I have found that makes me do writing, that’s good enough. Nothing else has to come from it. It is enough that I did it for its own sake.

And it’s getting me excited about finishing this novel, too, not because I’m thinking “as soon as I’m done I can start working on the next one” – although that is certainly a cool idea – but because it’s all investment in the story. And the more I let myself invest, the more I want to invest. It’s win-win. Whatever the opposite of a vicious cycle is.

Thus, I predict that my future holds a lot of productivity. Never count your chickens before they hatch, but at the moment at least I’m feeling pretty optimistic. I may as well enjoy it.

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The writing streak continues, yay!

I started this particular session of writing probably about seven hours ago, so that’s over 1k words per hour – not as much as I wrote yesterday (which I realised today I had underestimated, because I actually wrote several versions of a chapter and only counted the one I settled on, which I then abandoned today for one of the earlier drafts anyway), but still plenty. It feels good.

This story is turning out to be something that actually resembles a story, which I never really intended it to, but I’m not complaining. I like narrative. I like the ritual. And I’m letting this writing count as “real writing” at last, so I am very much enjoying writing right now.

I still have to get to work on my MA chapter; the sooner I finish it, the sooner I can move on to a more interesting chapter. I just don’t feel like it, especially when I can write this thing instead – but I do have to finish it. A large portion of my future depends on me finishing it, and what grade I get for it.

Tomorrow. I can do it tomorrow. For tonight, I’m done.

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Follow your interests, they tell you.

Not bad advice.

I’m not going to talk about what interests I’ve been following lately, but they’ve been resulting in a lot of writing getting done, and that’s what matters to me. This is the kind of writing that I tell myself doesn’t “count”, but when I’ve written this much of it, it fucking counts.

And it should count the rest of the time, too.

The thing with this project – one I’ve been working on, on and off, for almost 2 years now – is that it’s not one I ever pushed myself to finish; it exists mostly so that I can just write it whenever the mood strikes me, and today – and for the past few days, actually – the mood has struck hard. It’s the kind of writing that doesn’t “count” because it’s not something I’d ever want to publish or show to anybody; it’s just for me.

But it should still count, because a) it’s writing, and b) the more writing I do, the better I get at it …

And the more I write things that I actually enjoy writing, the more I remember that, actually, I do enjoy writing. I just don’t always enjoy writing what I’m telling myself I should be writing, and I think it’s about time I started learning that lesson.

Werewolf thing – fuck it. For now anyway. It’s just not doing it for me. And even if I’m never going to publish this particular story, it might still come in handy later down the line. I might be able to use parts of it somewhere else. But right now, having it just for me is absolutely what I want, and probably part of why I’m enjoying it so much.

I used to want to be a writer for a career. I think now I want to learn how to write for a hobby. Because if the past few days are any indication, it’s a fucking awesome hobby.

Wasted or Spent

It’s interesting that those two words can be kind of interchangeable. When you’re exhausted, for example: using either of those two words means the exact same thing. When it comes to your time, however, the meaning shifts; Wasted time is time not used “properly”, whereas Spent time has been employed with efficiency, productivity, responsibility.

Either way, it’s gone.

Last night, I used my time in bed not sleeping. It was my own decision; I thought this morning that it might have been the sertraline – I have gone back up to a full tablet per day – but now I’m pretty sure that it was all just me. I had reasons for staying up, so I did.

Said reasons I will not go into, but it involves something that I wrote before I went to bed. I was so invested in it that I couldn’t put it down, even after I turned off my computer and the lights. Was the night wasted, or spent? Well I got about 3 hours sleep, and only after around 8 am, but I woke up feeling pretty awesome. Then today I went for an unusually brisk walk, forcing myself to push on when I was ready to give up and finding that, actually, I wanted to keep going after all, and when I got back home I was fucking wasted. Or spent. I still did some bicycle crunches, push-ups and one of the exercises my physio gave me to do for my knee. I was well and truly wasted/spent by then. In fact I’d say wasted specifically, because it connotes a more intense state or effect. I was wasted.

And it felt like the most productive thing I’ve done in a very long time.

I have been feeling weird every since I started taking sertraline. I’ve been feeling kind of empty today. Insatiable. It’s not that I’m hungry – and I’m actively trying to watch what I eat this year – it’s more that there’s so many things that I haven’t done, or tried to do, and the wasted potential is eating me up from the inside.

Spent potential? I guess it is; I spent it on avoidance, panic, anxiety. Not by choice with those second two. The decision to not do something is still a decision. I have spent my life avoiding things so that I don’t run up against the wall of my anxiety. That’s something I’ve done. It’s why I keep doing it. If I’d wasted my life, then I wouldn’t do anything at all. I’d be dead or something.

Right now, I’m trying to write. It’s not happening, because nothing feels quite satisfying. Is this time being wasted, or spent? What on?

I don’t know that I can come up with the answer. But I do know that words matter. It’s why I write. It’s why I get frustrated with my writing, because the words often aren’t what I want them to be. It’s why I love writing, because words make things matter, no matter what they are.

Words are too powerful to be taken for granted.

So when you’re thinking that you’re wasting your time, try to think of how you’ve been spending it instead. It might change a few things for the better.

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Like any good writer, a significant portion of my time is spent around writing. As in circling around an ex-friend you recognised from across the room at a party, trying to put as many people and other obstacles between the two of you in order to prevent an actual interaction. Today, my circling led me to opening up a Word document and copy-pasting all of the current chapters of my shitty YA werewolf novel into it, so that I could tally my word-count. That word count is the title of this post. It also begins with the number “69”.

Hey, I’m writing this, that totally counts.

I feel like I had about two seconds to decide how I wanted to use the burst of inspiration I got from deciding to leave my old stories behind and just missed my window. Now I’m either waiting for the next one or going back to the old stories because they’re what I know.

Or, I guess, not waiting for inspiration to strike and making myself put in some actual effort to achieve what I want in life.

Is it writing, though?

Well, in this case it is. I want this book written; I want to see that shiny 80k word-limit shattered like the glass ceiling it currently represents for me. I want to get used to breaking that limit on the regular. I want to become a powerhouse writer who pumps out novels like it ain’t shit. It’s just that for the life of me I have no clue what to do with this final chapter. Some stuff “needs” to happen, but no, it doesn’t need to happen, because it’s my fucking book and I can write it however the fuck I want.

Basically the problem is this: should Harry Potter have ended by bringing the muggles into contact with the Wizarding World? I say yes. It should. Muggle/Wizarding relations should have been much more integral to the story as a whole, at least once Voldemort was back from the dead. Definitely once Harry saved Dudley from the Dementors. The fact that it remained a closed system is a massive missed opportunity, and not least because it left the issue of how wizards and witches are basically the master race unchallenged.

But at the same time, I was never disappointed by it. I liked the closed system. I might wish that it had been different in retrospect, but the grass is always greener in your imagination. And ideological ickiness aside, the story holds itself together because it’s about the closed system, so the fact that it ends on the note of keeping that closed system in-tact works for what its mission statement is.

The issue for me with my shitty YA werewolf novel is that my mission statement was never so neatly defined. It was just “yo I like werewolves a whole bunch I’m gonna write me about some of that”, and so I did. I just kind of assumed a whole bunch of stuff would happen eventually, and so I kept putting it off until eventually rolled around. But it never does. It’s now or never, because there is only the present. So I never actually thought about how I’d want to write this part of the book, because I had relegated it to the “never” pile. I was never going to actually write it.

On the other hand, it’s not like there aren’t other things to write. Including my as-of-yet undiscovered “adult” story, which I might actually have a crack at today. In the meantime I shall shift this final remaining werewolf chapter into the “now” pile and hope that my subconscious can gestate me a decent chapter by the time I’m done foraying into the unknown.

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I now have one chapter left of my shitty YA werewolf novel to write, and I will have completed my second novel – the first draft of a novel anyway – in the last 4 years. Which is not much when compared to people who write for a living, but considering that this has been my life-consuming hobby for the past 16 years, this is pretty damn groundbreaking.

Or it will be once it’s finished.

This chapter is going to be the hardest one, because it’s the one I feel the least enthusiastic about. I just have no ideas for how to write it in an interesting way; in my head it’s just a “stand around and exposit shit” chapter, and while I am perfectly capable of writing such a chapter, I just really don’t want to. It drains me just to contemplate it. I need to think of something else, and something that makes sense for the story. I know I said I was going to just write whatever the hell I wanted and the story could go fuck itself, but that’s equally unappealing right now. I want to do this right. And I know that’s how I always get stuck …

I guess I’m just stuck, then. But I’m also one step closer to finishing this story that grew out of a writing exercise that I started on a whim last year, and I know it will feel great once I do finish it. The other thing holding me back from finishing is that there’s a ton of loose ends that I haven’t tried to tie up, and honestly I would prefer to just write this next chapter as though those loose ends didn’t exist. If I do come back and try to turn this into a “proper” story, that will be probably the first thing I take care of. But maybe I just need to suspend my disbelief and judgment, and just write something that I enjoy. Write for the manuscript I want, not the draft I have. Something like that.

Either way, it feels good to be making progress and be close to finishing. Whether or not I do decide to revise after this, I’ll have to just wait and see. For now, the prospect of closing another chapter on a successful writing project is more than enough.

And maybe once it’s done, I’ll finally figure out what I want to do next, how to leave my old stories behind, at least for now. I’m definitely looking forward to that next chapter.

Too Early To Tell

So last night I finished writing as much as I could manage with my latest MA chapter, sent it off to my supervisor, and then went into autopilot. For some reason, my autopilot decided that, for the first time ever, instead of waiting a day before going to see my supervisor like I’ve done every single other time I’ve sent them a chapter update, I assumed that the next obvious step was to go see them the next day. So I went and saw them today, and they were a little surprised. Afterwards, I was as well.

It was good though; they hadn’t read my chapter because I had given them literally zero time to do it in, but we arranged to stop using deadlines for me submitting chapter updates and instead to meet up for supervision more frequently. As it stands we’re going to be meeting up once a fortnight, and I think this will help a lot with this final stretch of the project, seeing as I have no idea when I’ll be able to turn in chapters due to sertraline-induced bizarreness.

It is also too early to tell whether the sertraline is working. For those of you who do not follow my other blog that I’m not entirely sure I want to cross-promote just yet, I started taking sertraline for anxiety two weeks ago. The side-effects got really bad one day and I almost called it quits, but after talking to a couple of friends who have had more experience than I with medication of this kind as well as my doctor, I have decided to wait until I see them on Friday before I decide one way or the other. Because for one thing, the side-effects have stopped (perhaps because I’ve gone back to half a tablet per day instead of a full one), and for another it’s supposed to take anywhere between 2-4 weeks before I start seeing any benefits. Which, on the one hand, sucks. But on the other hand, I think it’s worth waiting for, because if it works … I mean, I have wanted a magical cure for anxiety for what feels like my entire life. This won’t be a cure even if it does work, but it could help tremendously, and that is worth playing the waiting game to find out. Worst-case scenario is that it doesn’t work and I stop taking it, and I’m back to square one. And honestly, while square one could be better, it also is a lot better than it used to be, and continued to improve. So overall, I’m not in a bad spot right now.

I’m still trying to get a handle on my whole “let go of old stories” thing, and right now it’s just not taking. I think that’s okay, because dredging up my old projects to mull over in my spare time is such an ingrained habit of mine that I’ll have to do more than write myself an inspiring blog post at 1 in the morning to break it. At the same time, I would do well to start doing more than just wait for it to kick in, because otherwise, experience tells me, it won’t. I’m just not sure where to start.

I was thinking about going back to my witch novel, because seriously I love the idea of the opening sequence, and just focusing on that. But every time I think about it I just end up falling into the same traps that I did with Camp Nano. It ends up being too dark, too heavy, too serious. I’m fine with all of those things in a general sense, but they feel wrong for this story. Really the main reason I even tried to make this story all of these things was because I thought it could fit. But it doesn’t have to, and I think I need to explore what else might work. Like the ideas I’ve already had about it and have not put into writing. One of the most difficult things for me to do, as I’ve said before, is writing things down exactly as they are in my head. It’s a skill I want to get better at, and maybe this is the optimal time to try that.

Then again, considering that I want to explore writing adult characters and moving away from my stomping-ground of angsty teenage protagonists – all of whom seem to be carbon copies of each other to begin with – maybe I need to try something more overtly adult to ease into it. I do remember being a young 20-something and writing this incredibly … I don’t even know the word for it, but basically a bunch of character-studies that were all in the same continuity and were basically writing exercises for me to get into different characters’ heads and try to write experiences that were not my own. And it’s one of the few non-genre projects I’ve ever undertaken, which seems particularly adult. Also boring. But adult. And the characters were adults anyway, so that’s some work already done for me.

The only issue there is that it’s another older project, and looking back at what I actually wrote … I mean it’s not exactly bad, but I also don’t see it going anywhere. So instead, I think I’m going to consider doing something I was considering at the beginning of this year, or maybe the end of last year, which is to write my Garden State. Because horrifying as it is, I think I have one in me just screaming for release.

Here’s the thing about Garden State: I used to like it. Or appreciate it anyway. Sad, lonely, atypical young dude finds the meaning of life and gets an incredibly supportive girlfriend who literally does everything for him. All of that is why I hate it now; but there is still some kernel of unresolved adolescent yearning for what turns out to be utter bullshit in real life, and I think it’s going to haunt me like a ghost with unfinished business – unless I finish that business.

The only issue is that I just feel utterly spent. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to experiment. But a big part of that is because whenever I think of writing something, it’s something old. Something I’ve already been working on. No new ideas are really coming to mind to inspire me. So somehow I’m going to have to get that mojo working. Starting tomorrow, hopefully. Or later today, as it’s just passed midnight. For now, though, I guess I’ll try and sleep or something, drug-gods willing.

I might just need a break, too. It’s been a weird couple of weeks. Maybe I just need some time to recover from medical side-effects and stressing about not working on my MA because of them.

But that’s a lot of maybes, and nothing I do now will answer them. Definitely time to sleep.

 

 

That’s Better

I was not sure whether to put up that last post, but I guess it’s fine either way. Better out than in, as they say. They just never mentioned whether that involved publishing what came out to the internet, but shut up.

Also I have finally gotten around to forcing myself to resume work on my horrible, hateful MA chapter, and it’s so liberating to just write absolute bullshit, to just allow myself to produce weak, tepid, lukewarm, thin, insubstantial waffle that is not intended to be anything else. And it reminds me that, not too long ago, that was my entire strategy for working on my MA: the same strategy as I had for working on my shitty YA werewolf novel. If all I’ve got to offer is shit, then just write that. Because once I’ve done it, I realise that it’s perfectly fine. The worst part is getting started; after that, so long as I keep going, it more or less fixes itself.

As for the New Stories I am so excited to come up with – I’m still waiting. I do think I need to perform some kind of ceremony for certain of my old projects, if not for the internet then just for myself. What could have been is hard to let go of, but what could be is exciting to look forward to, and I could seriously do with some more looking forward in my life. A lot more.

I do have a starting-point, too: I want to write about adult characters now. Teenagers – I had my shot. I still have a couple of stories I want to tell about teenagers that are insisting that I tell them, and I’m going to listen. But moving forward, I’m not going to keep trying to “get it”. It takes so much energy to try and both recall my own teen experience for the sake of writing “authentically” and put up enough of an emotional barrier so that it doesn’t suck me back in. It doesn’t really work. I have some autobiographical stuff to write, I have Tallulah, and I have one about genetically modified animal-human warriors who can shoot lasers. Apart from that, I think I owe it to myself to explore adulthood a little bit more.

And the thing is, even just thinking that, I’m starting to become aware of how mainstream my thinking has become with relation to age-brackets and their associated identities. I said in the last post that I didn’t put much stake in cultural narratives about what life is like when you’re a certain age, but the truth is that ever since becoming an adult and trying to “fit in” I’ve just gravitated more and more towards that way of thinking. It’s gross. And it’s probably a big part of why I find it so hard to tell stories that feel authentic to me. The fact that my characters are a certain age doesn’t really matter beyond a certain point; what matters is the narrative assumptions that I bring into the project with me. It’s the biggest issue I have with Tallulah, honestly; when I first started writing it I was mostly worried that I would not be able to write credible female characters. Whether or not I solved that issue, my big worry now is whether the characters feel like credible teenagers. They work as characters, but teenagers? I wonder. And also received some feedback in the early stages about them not seeming very teenager-y.

One more reason to move on to adult characters.

Honestly, my shitty YA werewolf novel could just as easily have been a shitty “New Adult” werewolf novel. And after seeing The Huntsman: Winter’s War about a month ago, it has become a little mission of mine to fight back against what seems to be the incredible dearth of imagination and cohesive storytelling in media targeted at adults. I think that’s mainly because I was comparing The Huntsman to Frozen, and much like how when I saw Brave and Snow White and the Huntsman on the same day, the children’s film comes out on top in terms of having a clear narrative and feeling like a satisfying story (and considering how patchy Brave is, that’s saying something where Snow White and the Huntsman is concerned).

At the same time, I want to get away from my “critic stories” as well. If I’m going to bring imaginative, coherent storytelling to my fellow adults, I’m going to do it by reaching out rather than digging in. This is a much of a pragmatic solution as an idealistic one, because as much as I love the idea of telling certain deconstructivist stories, the fact of the matter is that, most of the time, I just don’t feel inspired to work on them.

Except for one, which is also one about adults; it’s also an older one so I’m a bit iffy about it, but it could work. It could definitely work as an extension of my “write it fast” experimentation. But the other side of my deconstructivist stories is that they also tend to be really dark, and this particular project is the darkest one I think I’ve ever come up with. It’s part of why I stopped writing my witch novel, too: too dark and requiring too much finesse for me to trust myself with handling well, or feel remotely excited about attempting. Dark stories are great and often important, but I think maybe I’ve spent enough time in the darkness for now. I can try something a bit brighter going forward. I still don’t know what that is, but I’ve got some time. I can work it out as I go.

Meanwhile, I have yet to finish my shitty YA werewolf novel, and the more I think about it the less I like it. Like I said a little while ago, I feel like it’s outlived its usefulness; it was meant to be written really fast, an ideal Nanowrimo project – which is perhaps why I got so much of it written during Nano last year – and now that it’s been around this long I’ve started treating it like I’d treat one of my “real” stories, and it simply doesn’t hold up. But on the plus side, it has well and truly convinced me that I hate werewolf stories where the werewolves are just superheroes by any other name. The whole point of werewolves is that they disrupt the normal; they introduce danger, unpredictability (once a month like clockwork) and threaten to expose that our identities are not as solid as we like to think they are. Once they become part of the landscape of normality, they’re not werewolves anymore. It’s why the first season of Teen Wolf is kind of my favourite, even though in general terms season 3 is probably the best. The first season is all about Scott having to deal with being a werewolf; all the seasons after that are Scott having to deal with external problems. Basically, the first season of Teen Wolf is the only season when Scott is actually a werewolf. The whole trend we have now of werewolves learning to control their transformation misses the point of what makes werewolves so compelling, which is the fact that you can’t control it. Lycanthropy is not a superpower; it’s a curse. And maybe that’s why they just don’t capture the public imagination in the way that vampires do: because werewolves are only really suited to telling stories that end, whereas vampires can go on forever.

I might play with that a bit.

For Old Times’ Sake

Today, as I was going for a walk in order to try and continue the fitness kickstart I began yesterday – itself kickstarted by needing to counteract the horrible body-weird caused by my first ever anti-anxiety medication – something dawned on me. I have so many old stories I’m trying to tell, and hardly any new ones.

Most of the books I try to push myself to work on are ideas that I came up with half a lifetime ago. Realm of the Myth is the most obvious one, because while it’s not my oldest story it’s definitely the oldest one that I’ve consistently tried to bring to realisation. My mind is still playing with it, loath to let it out of its grasp, like a videogame you’ve lost interest in but feel like there’s so much potential enjoyment you never got out of it – or that there just aren’t any other options, and it’s this or nothing.

And all the other stories are old, too. Tallulah, my ripoff of The Mortal Instruments and my shitty YA werewolf thing are the most recent, and aside from Tallulah they’re just very … well, I mean, it’s right there. One of them is a ripoff of a series that uses material from a Harry Potter fanfic (and a plagiarism-heavy fanfic at that). There are a couple of ideas I came up with while I was at uni, but I’ve been at uni for 8 years now.

So what dawned on me today was that most of the stories I’m trying to make myself work on are stories that I came up with when I was a different person. I wonder if that’s why they’re not working. And I also felt, for the first time possibly ever, that in continuing to hold onto these ideas and trying to bring them to the life I wish I’d been able to give them when I came up with them, I’m holding myself back from having new ideas. Maybe better ones. But regardless, ideas that come from me as I am now.

I think a big part of this is because I don’t like who I am now – or, rather, because I have such an ingrained habit of trying to disavow myself. Growing up with depression, anxiety and general self-loathing has fantastic synergy with nostalgia, and my nostalgia goggles are pretty damn powerful. I’ve learnt that I’m a worthless piece of shit of a human being, and anything I can do to escape that reality is something I should invest in. The thing is, though, that I don’t really believe that anymore. It’s taken a while, and it’s an ongoing process, but it’s definitely happening. I’m moving on. And I’m starting to want my storytelling to move with me.

The other thing I thought while on my walk was how much of an escape my stories are. Not just the stories themselves, but the fantasy of what my life would be like after writing them. Being a well-known, well-regarded author, doing panels at Comic-Con, rubbing shoulders with my favourite celebrities – I just looked at all of that today and, while I’ve never seriously thought that any of this would happen to me, today it occurred to me that serious or not, it’s what I’ve been spending most of my time and energy on thinking about since I was in my mid-teens. The impact I would have on the wider world.

I was thinking about escaping.

And I looked over my life while I was thinking this, and there is so much that I want to escape from. Unresolved conflicts that I have not even started to try and resolve, confront or even acknowledge in some cases. Awkward tensions that cannot be solved painlessly or cleanly, tensions that could force something to break so badly that it could never be repaired. Things that I just don’t know what to do about, what the right thing to do is or where I’d even begin to look for the answer. Which is why I hate thinking about them. And whether or not I did it consciously, at the end of the day escaping into my World-Famous Author daydreams has allowed me to ignore it.

It makes sense that this started happening when I was a teenager, because my teen years were the time in my life when I had the most shit to deal with that I wanted to escape from. My friendship with Wickham that made me feel dense, repulsive and invisible; real tragedies happening to people my age that I couldn’t do anything to help them with; my seeming inability to form any kind of meaningful connection to other human beings unless they were as lonely as I was – daydreams or not, I could not escape from this reality. University was the escape, which is funny in a way because it was also where I got my biggest reality-checks. But also, in a sense, where I started to do that horrible, stereotypical adult thing where you get stuck in your ways and cling to convenient beliefs that erase the parts of reality that you don’t want to think about. And I didn’t want to think about myself.

University tends to be where people go to discover themselves, or so all the stories say. For me, it was where I finally had the chance to cover myself up. So I did. A lot. I would probably say that my undergraduate life was my most impressive act of storytelling ever, because I’ve managed to almost convince myself that I’m not certain things, that I fit comfortably into certain, well-established categories that other people invest in as well, and invested in before I even knew they existed. I found out what other people’s beliefs and attitudes were and used those ideas to plug the ugly, gaping holes in my own identity; I didn’t have to believe in them. I just had to use them to make other people believe them about me. I just had to make it look like I fitted in.

I felt powerless as a teenager. But I have never felt as spineless as I do now, as an adult.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. I did find some things to like about myself, things that I didn’t want to cover up or disguise. And one of those things I found last year: the fact that I love to borrow ideas and make up stories about them. Hence the shitty YA werewolf novel. But that’s also something old about me; and hey, it’s a good old thing. I’m happy to have been reacquainted with it.

But today, I just thought how much of a shame it is that I’ve spent all of this time trying to escape my present, simultaneously looking with longing to the past and into the future with fear and resentment. All time I could have been spending just living in my own goddamn reality.

And I wondered – and I still wonder – what kind of stories I would want to tell if I was doing that instead.

The witch novel I tried to write for Camp Nano was another new story, but it’s also a much older kind of story, the kind of story I would have expected to think up when I was in the Dark Ages. For me, that was between 16 and 18. 19 sucked pretty bad too and 20 was no walk in the park, but 16-18 stands out in my memory as the worst time of my life. It was also where I had the most determined stories. They were dark, but they were battles I was trying to fight. They made me angry, because they felt important. I had to fight. I had to do something.

The witch novel is like that, only the fight’s gone out of me. I have no stakes in that battle anymore. I can’t. Because I’m not a teenager anymore, and my problems are different. Not as different as conventional wisdom might suggest, but different enough. And I realised a couple of days ago, meeting up with a friend for coffee, that almost every single story I have is not just old, but is also about children or teenagers. I have almost no stories about people my age.

I wanted to escape my teen years; I’ve spent so much of my adult life having achieved that escape. And now I want to find my way back.

I want to be done with these old ideas. They’re great. I’m not saying I want to take all the work I’ve done on them up to this point and destroy it. I’m saying I want to move on. I need to. Because there is no going back; there is no Old Me about to resurface. I found it, once: I found myself again after breaking up with Wickham, and it set a precedent. At the time it was liberating and healing and like having a loved one come back from the dead. But after that I kept comparing my happiness to that moment, and nothing has ever matched up. And I think that’s part of why I cling to the past so much: because that moment of absolute happiness and relief only exists in my past. I have wanted so badly to find the secret to feeling that way again. I have thought that if I couldn’t do it, then I would never be able to be fully, totally honest with myself, to express myself truthfully or even understand myself. But maybe if I had been able to let that fantasy go, I would have found that I didn’t need to try in the first place.

My 20s have been … turbulent. My teenage years were far more unpleasant to live through, but at least they were consistent. Being an adult has been the most confusing thing that’s ever happened to me; no wonder I keep looking for the certainty of nostalgia. But I think 9 years is more than enough time to sacrifice in vain pursuits. I want some new material. And I think I’m only going to get that by letting some of the old material go. Maybe all of it.

There’s that saying about how if you love something you have to let it go, and if it comes back to you then you know … something. It’ll work out or whatever. The thing is, I don’t even love the ideas I’m holding on to. I’m just afraid about what will happen if I let them go. Because without these stories, and without the fantasies about what my life could be like because of them, there’s just a void. I’d have to come up with all new ideas to take their place, to feel whole again.

Unless, of course, it’s not about trying to find something to take their place at all. Maybe what I really need is just some new places.

There doesn’t have to be a void at all. Just a past.

It can suck to have a past. All sorts of unresolved crap is in there, things it’s so easy to wish you’d found a way to solve. Things you can convince yourself you can find the solution to now, if you just keep the issue alive for long enough. But it means you have to keep the issue alive. You have to stretch it out, pull it out of the past with you so that you can keep holding onto it.

But you can’t have a past without a future – or vice versa.

And what I’m finding out about adulthood is that it’s all future. Being a teenager ends. But being an adult? That’s it. Once it starts, it goes on forever. I’m not one to put much stake in the pseudo-spiritual cultural superstition we have around certain age categories, but I am a sucker for narratives. And what I’m finding about being an adult is that there is no fucking narrative, even if you want one. It’s scary.

And it’s an opportunity.

One that I really need to take.

I don’t know what to do now. Hold a funeral for my old ideas? Just try and let myself drift away from them naturally and painlessly? Make a big announcement about it to try and make it stick, or try and let it happen organically and keep it to myself so that it’s not forced?

I don’t know. Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe knowing what I want is enough. The stuff I don’t want … maybe I can just leave it alone.

Well, I do know what I want. I want to move on.

All any story needs is a beginning that makes you want to know how the rest turns out.