Write Here, Right Now

So today was kinda shitty. Things just felt like they were piling up beyond my control, and bestowed as I am with the power of crippling anxiety my natural response was to let it do that forever while wishing there was something I could do about it. Eventually I did, though only reluctantly – it’s amazing how clear solutions to problems, or at least clear actions that can be taken to make them less problematic, seem so offensive somehow when you’re in the grip of a particularly aggressive wave of anxiety – and also wrote a huge rant on my other blog about both feeling like shit and why World of Warcraft is the worst thing ever because it doesn’t live up to its generic potential.

At the end of it all I did feel better – still not where I’d like to be, but definitely better than I was for most of the day – and the one thing that stood out to me was how sad I was that I didn’t have anything that I wanted to write to cheer me up.

I guess this is natural. I mean I’ve been drifting away from writing as My Thing for some time now – which is what I want – and looking to other avenues for fulfillment. It’s no surprise that those other avenues have not yet become as familiar and friendly to me as the prospect of writing for comfort, for inspiration, for recreation, whatever. The place that writing has had in my life has not yet been taken up by something else. I don’t really want it to, however much I do appreciate that it is no longer the be-all and end-all of my very existence. I just want more places I can go to for fulfillment, I want writing to stop being my crutch, and to become something that I can enjoy again. I just don’t know how to get to that point, and today in particular it stood out to me just how much I really do miss writing when I’m not doing it, and when I don’t have something really compelling to sink my teeth into to make me want to write.

I think it’s also just the build-up of residual bad habits from lack of pushing myself, or something. I’ve been having some really entertaining ideas for the past couple of days, and I just kind of dismiss them as entertaining distractions rather than something I could work with. I’m definitely not throwing myself into it like I used to; I feel hesitant to even start. And I know that starting is the hardest and most difficult and vital part of writing, from experience, I know that once you get started you build momentum, etc. … I know all of this stuff.

I really hate reading myself write about this stuff. It’s exactly the same, every goddamn time. I know X works but I’m not doing it because anxiety. Rinse and repeat. The only thing that seems to change is that over time these blog posts that are all exactly the same have slowly shifted to having more constructive, optimistic conclusions. Yes it’s all the same, but since I’m aware of it I can do something about it.

It’s all just worrying. If I do X then it’s time I’m not spending on Y, where Y = some random shit that I literally cannot put into words because it’s completely nebulous and unclear, because that’s how anxiety works. You literally worry about nothing, and you worry about it hard.

Fuck it’s annoying.

And maybe that’s why I miss writing right now, because writing, thinking of what to write, committing myself to a project – that’s something else that I can do with my brain. Something just as intensive and energy-consuming and, in many ways, repetitive as anxiety, but productive and enjoyable and self-affirming rather than negative and toxic and etc. Writing obviously comes with its own problems, but at least it’s multifaceted. Anxiety has no upsides. It’s just worry. Shit is happening the way it’s happening one way or another, and worrying doesn’t change that. Of course that’s not a compelling argument for somebody with anxiety, because anxiety just goes “so I’m so useless that I can’t even think the rational thoughts that I am literally thinking right the fuck now”, devolves into more negative self-talk, etc. Writing is a way out of that. Well, a way through it. Or around it, maybe. But it hasn’t been for me lately. The werewolf thing was like that while I was writing it, while I cared. I don’t care anymore. I don’t want to make myself care, either. I’m getting really hung up on the prospect of forcing myself to do anything that I don’t know will definitely 100% work, even if it comes with the prospect of shaking me out of this insufferable, nerve-straining stupor. It’s all about feelings, is anxiety. I don’t feel like doing X. I don’t feel like X will work. I feel like X is pointless so why bother.

Writing is also about feelings.

Writing for me is trying to take my feelings and put them into understandable words. English is a pretty bad language for emotions, I have to say. I think that’s why “show don’t tell” exists, really: it’s to compensate for the fact that this language is so fucking abysmal and inadequate that we have to resort to using it in strange, sometimes unintuitive ways in order to convey our messages in the most impactful way. And it’s fucking frustrating to grapple with the language, to feel it barricading you out of your own feelings and experiences, knowing that whatever it is you say, it won’t get the message across properly. And yet that’s also fun, in a way, the challenge of trying to find the right words – or make them up, or take wrong words and make them the right ones because you never thought about them in this context before, and maybe nobody else has either. That’s why my journals are so flowery. Like, fucking jesus, those things are painful. Prose so purple it could be rain. I never got that metaphor. Good song, though.

And that’s kind of the thing – not like Purple Rain specifically, but it’s the general principle: “purple rain” could be anything, but what it ends up being is the emotion that Prince puts into it when he sings the song. That’s what the phrase comes to mean: the feelings that go along with it. And there’s a lot of feelings in that song. A lot of telling, actually. The “showing” is in the delivery: his voice, his instrumentation, the rhythm, all of it “shows” us what he means. That kind of writing is appealing to me.

The thing is, bluntly telling is also appealing to me, because it can be fucking hilarious. Clunky writing can be really funny, and I used to do it a lot, and I used to have fun doing it. Not so much these days. I’ve been much more focused on the deep, cutting, visceral language of raw human experience, and that’s great as well. It’s just different. And honestly, having anxiety and a history of depression, getting really into that kind of writing can be as much of a bad thing as a good one. On the other hand, the funny clunky writing often isn’t meaty enough to really do anything for me. But part of that is because I dismiss it as not being enough before even trying it.

So basically, I have to try it and find out. Well, I don’t have to. That’s stupid.

I just really, really should, because it might work, and oh my god I would love to write something for fun again. It feels like it’s been so long. I know the werewolf thing was on my plate only a month or two ago, but let’s be real that was only really fulfilling right at the start, and I always knew that. And it’s fine for the novelty to wear off. That happened with Tallulah, and the reason it worked as well as it did was because I persisted after it did, committed to it and found that the commitment was what made it work after the novelty no longer could. The werewolf book just doesn’t have enough going for it for me to want to commit. I don’t feel it’s worth it.

But I dunno. I’m also tired of tethering myself to my feelings. I don’t know how much of it I can control, but I know that I can experiment. I can push. I can test out the tensile strength of its hold over me.

What I really want is to think of writing as though I’m writing, rather than as a preparation for writing. Preparation, hesitation, avoidance – procrastination. Same old, same old.

I need something new.

Like, really need something new. And it still feels like it’s coming. I just want it to be here now.

But maybe it is, and I just have to get up and let it in the door.

I don’t know how to end this post now. Let’s see what happens tomorrow? Swear some kind impassioned, impulsive oath to improve myself in the morning, several hours from now in a place and time that doesn’t actually exist and that I don’t have to confront in any way whatsoever?

You know what I really miss? Looking forward to writing. I miss the immediacy of looking forward to something, because the only time you can look forward to anything is right now. Not in the morning. Not when you’ve calmed down. Not when you’ve sorted out your schedule or gotten enough sleep. Right now. It doesn’t mean those other things aren’t important. It just means that looking forward to something is different to trying to plan to do something in the future. And that’s because looking forward to doing something is actually …

Well, it’s doing it, actually. Not pen-to-paper, fingers-to-keyboard doing it, but it’s not preparing to do it, either. It’s work. It’s progress. It’s engagement.

I miss being engaged. And I’m so tired of trying to get myself to engage with my old projects, just because I think it would be responsible or whatever to give them a solid shot before giving up on them completely.

Fuck it. I give up. I need something new, and I need it right the fuck now.

Let’s see what I can come up with.

I’m giving myself until right now.

I mean I’m going to bed, but I’m going to think while I’m there. Two birds, one stone, all that …

 

 

In Preparation

Since the last post, with its huge declarations of shit I’m going to do totally for serious you guys don’t even worry about it, I have been spending my time exercising, gaming, cooking, writing my thesis, and pre-writing my Camp Nano July project. Pre-writing is totally not the same thing as not writing; it’s pre-writing. It uses different words and grammar and everything.

Okay, you know what, whatever. The truth is that I don’t have the energy to write anything creative right now, not anything narrative anyway.

The truth is also that I don’t mind this at all. I’m starting to get back into my thesis; I’m also currently preparing myself to write up an application for an extension that I most definitely need – and I’ve got the medical certificate to prove it – and all of that just amounts to not a hell of a lot of time, energy or desire to get started on one of my Nano-worthy projects.

That may be part of the problem, though. I have about 3 designated “Nano-worthy” projects, and the thing that they all have in common is an attitude of “let’s just get this out of the way”. I think if it wasn’t for the context of Nano, the time pressure and everything, I might actually look at them as stories I legitimately want to tell – or be things that I’m totally disinterested in. My point is that there just isn’t anything that screams “write me” right now.  I want new stories, but they’re not coming to me; I want ideas to revitalise my passion for writing, but I can’t find them. I don’t know how to do it anymore. Though I think I’m probably going about it the wrong way, because the idea itself isn’t so much the point for something I’m passionate about – the passion is the point. I feel very distant from my creative writing right now in terms of passion. Everything I’m feeling passionate about right now is located in other territories.

And I’m excited about that.

Because ever since I decided that I Wasn’t A Writer Anymore, I’ve been waiting for something to actually do that wasn’t writing, to get invested in it and explore that kind of life – one where writing is not my be-all-and-end-all. I think I’m close to that now, and I definitely don’t want to force myself out of it.

And in the meantime, I do feel something slowly developing in the back of my mind, some kind of story that I like. I don’t want to look at it too closely, in case I jinx it or whatever. I do get pretty superstitious about this stuff. But more importantly, I’d rather look closely at other things I’m doing right now.

In the end, I think even if I do end up taking that hiatus from writing that I was toying with around the end of last year – I think it was the end of last year; I still can’t believe we’re halfway through this one already – it will only make my writing better when I eventually do come back to it.

So I don’t know if I’m doing Camp Nano July. It’s pretty soon, and I’ve got a whole ton of other stuff on my plate that I want to dig into. I do secretly hope that this strange subconscious maybe-a-story idea blossoms into full realisation just in time for Nano, but mostly just because that would be a cool story in itself. Realistically speaking, I’m much more interested in finding out what I can get out of things that aren’t writing. Because I think it’s working out.

I’ll let you know how it goes, but if you don’t hear from me on this blog for a while, just assume it’s because it’s going well.

Indecision, Redux, Cont’d

God I don’t make decisions well. Like my brain just seems to be a decision-resistant surface, where they glide off with absolutely no traction if I just tilt a little in any direction.

Basically, my pipe dream of turning my shitty YA werewolf novel in to a shitty YA werewolf 5-part series – and writing all 5 parts this year – is just looking kind of unlikely. Not because I can’t do it. Not even because I’ve decided not to do it. But another obvious possibility has come to mind.

Realm of the Myth.

The reason for this is because RoTM is the story I have taken the most too-seriously for the longest time. In contrast, the plan with writing 5 novels in one year requires a mindset of not taking the story itself very seriously, more just the writing aspect. How fast can I do it, how coherently story-ish can I make it while writing at top speed – it’s basically an improvised story. And I love that idea. I love that it’s allowed me to get a shitload of writing done in a very short space of time, both times I’ve gone full-on with it. The focus on storytelling in a broad sense rather than the specific story I am telling is so liberating. And after it was so successful, I predictably started thinking about how I could use this technique to get some of my other projects moving a little quicker – specifically, projects that I had more of an emotional investment in than my shitty YA werewolf novel.

This included Realm of the Myth, and the instant I thought of it I rejected the premise on principle, because it would have meant that I would not be taking the story seriously. It would be relegated to secondary importance in comparison to my writing experimentation; it would not be allowed to take centre stage and be as important and meaningful and important and significant and meaningful and important and … you get the idea. I couldn’t do that to my precious story. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that a few days ago my brain just decided to treat it as though it was dead and gone, without bothering to even go through the process of making the decision to give up on it.

Today, though, I was thinking about my plan to write 5 shitty YA werewolf novels this year, and as appealing as that idea is, I just don’t think I care about my shitty YA werewolves enough to sustain such a marathon effort, and definitely not enough to write it out over the course of a few years. If I’m going to do this kind of super-intense writing trial, I need a story that I care about.

And today, I think that Realm of the Myth might be that story.

Emphasis on might. I still haven’t even touched my shitty YA werewolf novel since I decided I was going to give it 4 siblings (and probably a 5th prequel sibling, I have thought way too much about this), so I have to allow for the possibility that, once I do get around to finishing the 1 that I have currently, I might enjoy it so much that it reignites my passion for writing the whole series. I also haven’t tried to make Realm of the Myth work in the sense of actually writing it for … a year? Two years? I think Nanowrimo 2014 was the last time I put any actual writing towards the project. And that petered out pretty quick. But the idea of just writing this for myself, not as a world-changing story, the next Harry Potter that it so clearly pays homage to, or anything for other people to care about – that’s kind of appealing. And what’s more appealing is just finally taking it as seriously as it deserves to be taken, which is about as seriously as my shitty YA werewolf novel.

Except it does deserve a little more than that, because it’s My Story. My werewolf writing-exercise doesn’t feel like it really belongs to me – the more I write it, the more it does feel that way, but compared to RoTM it’s going up against 15 years of commitment and familiarity. Also, I’m turning 30 next year, and I don’t want to go into 30 with this kind of unfinished business remaining unfinished. Framed more positively, I want to get Realm of the Myth off my chest before I turn 30.

So I think it’s time to take it seriously enough to write it, the way it was intended to be written. It will be so unreadable, so undeniably awful, and I will write the fuck out of it.

Maybe.

But I’m liking this idea the more I think about it. I may try writing some today; I may put it off – I do have a chapter turn-in on Wednesday that I need to work on. Thankfully this one has a lot of usable material waiting for me to take advantage of, so it’s not going to be the soul-shredding grind that the last chapter was. Regardless, I think this Camp Nanowrimo – which I’m going to jump into at least 11 days late – is going to be the beginning of the end of this era for me. At long last, the sendoff it deserves: to be written in the form I originally conceived of it in. Or as close to as I can manage without literally getting sick.

I want to get to the new good stuff, and I think the way I do that is to get the old stuff out of the way. Give it its due. We’ve been together for so long, I’ve had such lofty aspirations for this story, but it’s never held up to my own standards. And I think that’s actually a good thing. I’m still learning how to write, how to tell stories, feeling my way through it all. That’s the place that this story came from, the ambitions of a teenager who wanted to do things he didn’t know how to do. Which is a beautiful thing. And as much as I truly think Realm of the Myth is a pretty awful story, it’s an awful story that I deserve, because through writing it I think it will teach me how to tell the stories that I really want to tell. And that’s worth a lot to me.

Also it allows me to turn 30 into a milestone and give it a narrative so that I can wrap my puny human brain around it, infusing it with value and perpetuating the age-fetishism of our neoliberal consumer society.

To telling old stories.

Maybe.

Started From The Bottom

I played too many computer games today and wrote exactly nothing. Well, except for a meandering, thoughtless post that I just scrapped in order to write this one instead.

Here’s the lowdown: I have some serious writerly cravings right now, but I just don’t have anything on my plate right now that feels like it clicks. I’m in a rut. I wonder if it might have something to do with my coming off my meds, which I am doing because after 2 months all I had to show for them were very minor side-effects and zero benefits. I might try another kind at a later date, but for now I’m pretty happy to go back to my usual fare of self-motivated whatever it is that I do to cope with my anxiety.

Anyway. Today I got the writing munchies, but the only thing I could think of was old projects of the kind I wrote that post about wanting to leave behind, and a sort of murky bubble that has popped up after my brain apparently decided to finally, finally donate Realm of the Myth to the graveyard. Again. The last time I did that, I got a nice, juicy creative bubble that burst all over the place and filled my head with awesome ideas that I did actually try out for a while, and still have some material left over from that I’m holding in reserve. This time there’s been another bubble, but it’s not as shiny and inspiring. The ideas are there, I quite like the look of some of them, but it’s nothing I feel any particularly strong pull towards. And that’s the kind of thing that I think I need to feed this craving I have. It’s such a frustrating craving, because you have to look to yourself to fill it. That’s how writing works, after all.

Only no, it’s not, and holy shit I’ve spent the last half hour thinking that it is when it’s so obviously not. I really must be in the grip of some kind of hormonal upheaval. The reason my shitty YA werewolf novel worked so well was because I looked outside and only outside, honestly, for material. Once I had taken it in I put my personal spin on it, which is inevitable, but I wasn’t trying to probe the depths of my soul for ideas. I was stealing them from other places.

But there’s something else, too, and that’s characters. I have so many characters from Realm of the Myth who I am fond of – not least because I’ve been thinking about them for over half my life – and it feels like in order to populate this new potential story with characters, I’d have to start all over again. And, I mean, yeah. I don’t want to just recycle my characters and stick them somewhere new just because I feel attached to them. They should fit. Right now I have a glittery morass of concepts that could be shaped into a world in which a story might take place. I just … I don’t know. It feels like if it’s not going to be the RoTM crew, it’s not going to be anyone. I’ve got a kernel of inspiration ready to be planted in fertile soil, but it’s like the new world I’ve found in this murky bubble is made of earth that comes ready salted.

I mean, with lines like that, I should be a writer or something.

It’s like my body won’t allow me to come up with other characters or stories in this space, this designated high fantasy story space that RoTM has ruled over for the past decade and a half. My brain is fucking elitist. Honestly, I do like those characters, and they’ll probably find other homes pretty easily. But I do want something new. And I do think I want it to be high fantasy, because the reason I have complained about high fantasy so much is because I see the potential for what it could be and get frustrated that that’s not what high fantasy writers – or readers – seem interested in. I mean I’ve already said this, other people have already said this, but it bears repeating: the genre is called high FANTASY. Are the options just too limitless? Is that why it’s so generic, because aside from market forces dictating what publishers will actually consider for publishing, writers just need a set of guidelines to abide by to have any structure whatsoever, and the more generic the easier it is to find a structure? Much like what I found while writing my shitty YA werewolf novel?

The imaginative territory has been taken up in my mind, and it’s frustrating. But after writing all of this, I feel a little fired up now. I feel compelled to fight through the barriers I’ve built up around this space, to actually inject it with fresh ideas, to get some fucking characters in there and make it official that, yes, Realm of the Myth is finally dead.

There was no ceremony, and I kind of wanted one, but on the other hand this is also how I wanted it to die: quietly. To just disappear. Maybe part of the reason I can’t think of any characters is because I’m still kind of in shock that this is what I want.

Well, I scrapped one ranty post just to replace it with another, but at least this rant feels a little more accurate to what’s going on with me and writing at the minute. Tomorrow I have other things to do, which makes it the perfect time to get a lot of work done – restrictions foster creativity. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been writing very much lately either, because after exercising early in the day and just feeling relaxed and pleasant from that point on, there really isn’t anything else I need to satisfy myself with.

Well, there wasn’t until today. I think I will actually start tinkering with something tonight, so that I can continue tomorrow. I may not have any characters in mind yet, but we’ll see if I can’t stark making inroads towards that goal. New life for a new world. And hopefully, for the first time in what feels like a long time, a new story. Not just a writing exercise that grew into a much larger project than it was supposed to be, or a repurposed old project that I just can’t let go of: an honest-to-metaphysical-concepts new story. I haven’t done that in what feels like far too long. And I know I’ve come up with new stories fairly recently, so the fact that this feels like The Real Thing and they haven’t – I don’t know what thaty says, but it says something.

I’m going to try and find out what.

 

 

Camp Nanowrimo July 2016

Holy crap I haven’t posted for 2 and a half weeks …

Well, the past 2 and a half weeks have been great. It’s been 2 and a half weeks of “personal days”, bascially, and boy do I feel personified. I’ve started exercising a crapton, and after 3-4 weeks of walking every other day-ish I feel fitter and more healthy and relaxed and cleansed and all of that good endorphine-generating shit than I did spending almost all of last year doing every other-nightly workouts. I’ve started feeling more comfortable with myself, just being in my own company and not seeking to escape from it, not feeling lonely or lacking just being by myself. I’ve started feeling veeeeery midly less anxious on a day-to-day basis. In general, I’m just doing pretty damn well.

And so, it’s time to keep the ball rolling and get some serious fucking writing done.

I have danced around the idea of turning writing in to a daily routine for about the past decade. From the days when I was a naive little adolescent counter-culture acolyte to the present, it has felt like something that I don’t need to do in order to get shit done. And now I realise that, actually, that’s true – I have other shit to get done besides writing. But on the other hand, I have other shit to do besides do exercise every day, and I’ve gotten myself into a pretty solid routine after only a month, maybe even less – I haven’t been keeping exact records or anything, but it hasn’t been long and already I’m feeling the benefits. I mean it’s already at the point where I can walk up hills now. I’m sure some of you can appreciate the gravity of that achievement.

The point I’m trying to make is that getting shit done is no longer the point for me. It’s about enjoying myself. And I enjoy getting into habits of productivity. I have finally finished my painful, laborious slough through the second chapter of my thesis, and have 2 more to go not counting the intro, conclusion and bibliography. I’m getting an extension, which will hopefully be taken care of by next week, so I’ll have enough time to get it done. Aiding me in my quest to blast this shit out as fast as possible will be developing a stronger writing muscle, a deeper reserve of writing stamina, just as I have cultivated the stamina and tolerance to lactic acid require to walk up hills. I’m still not over that. My life has changed completely.

So, what better way to get into the habit of writing a whole shitload, all the time, than to write a whole shitload all the time?

Enter Camp Nanowrimo, July Edition. Yes it’s a month away, but why not get started right now? Here’s the thing: the silly 5-part plan I devised for my shitty YA werewolf novel is actually a fantastic fucking plan. I need to write. The whole point with the shitty YA werewolf novel in the first place was to write as fast as possible in order to stress-test my storytelling capabilities, to see how well I can steer when going at top speed – to see how well I can craft a story while not giving myself any time to really think or reflect on what it is I’m writing. It kind of worked. The speed part worked for the two big chunks of time I worked on it, to be fair, it’s just that there was another huge chunk of time in between them where I wasn’t working on it at all. This time, I’m going all the way through.

This year, I am writing a five-part series of shitty YA werewolf novels.

Bring it the fuck on.

This year is also the year where I’m trying to sort out my life, because this is a turning-point. I am no longer convinced that the best thing for me to do is leave academia – not because I’ve suddenly realised it’s my life’s calling, but because it would allow me to do certain things that a more conventional job would not, or at least that’s my understanding. The time-management aspect is what I’m mainly thinking of; obviously there’s a lot of work involved, but at least at the level I’d be entering into right off the bat – as a tutor and PhD student – it comes and goes in waves, where a lot of the time you just have to attend lectures for your assigned papers and then teach the tutorials. And then the essays come in and you have to work through those – which sounds pretty grueling, to be fair – but my point is that at least some of the time your schedule is fairly flexible. It’s definitely not a decision I’m thinking about lightly, but I’m certainly weighing the pros and cons. It’s actually because I haven’t been writing very much of late that this has started to become a concern of mine: it’s all the other stuff – the exercise, the Me Time, the sense of fulfillment that I have being able to dictate the pace of my own life. That’s the stuff that’s important to me, and wanting to get back into writing is because the rest of my life has become much more fulfilling. It’s like the better my life is, the better I want to make it. Kind of like how the more time you spend, the more time it feels like you have.

And I think that’s the main thing: for the first time in a very long time, I actually want to write. I haven’t felt this excited about writing since I first started doing it “seriously” when I was 13. I feel like bouncing around a few projects and seeing what sticks. The only thing I need to do for certain is write, every day. Just to get into the habit. What I use it for is up to me.

And then, in July, I’ll get started on … something. For now, I’m just going to write. And I’m looking forward to enjoying it all over again.