Doing is believing

Last night was pretty rough for me. Having anxiety involves a lot of lying awake in bed and ruminating over all of your moral shortcomings and mortal shames. Thankfully, at this point in my recovery – it’s odd to think of it as a recovery, but it is, an ongoing one – I wake up from those bad nights feeling cleansed and unburdened, and even with a few solutions to deal with the various grievances aired, vented and exorcised in the night.

One of these is writing. I have lamented so many times about letting opportunities to dive headlong into a writing project pass me by, about intentionally keeping myself from taking opportunities to enjoy writing because, I dunno, toxic habits die hard, and a particularly toxic one is the “but it’ll take effort” excuse. It’s not a rational excuse, which is why I keep making it. Mental illness will do that to you.

But no more. The Ubermensch has spoken!

Because this year, I’m going to finish my god-awful fucking YA werewolf novel, and then I’m going to go back to my Christmas story. I’m going to read over it and make notes, and I’m going to read over it again and make different notes, and then I’m going to discover that I have a plan and fucking execute it.

I’m going to do this because I do have good ideas, and they deserve to be worked on – but more than that, because this morning I’m feeling optimistic and life-affirming: because deserve to work on them. To have awesome ideas and stories to be responsible for developing. It’s a good feeling.

And it won’t get done unless I do it, so I’m going to make myself do it.

It’s the same obstacle as it always is: getting started is the hardest part. I still want to finish Tallulah as well, and it’s much closer to being completed than my Christmas story, but I want to get started on this Christmas story first because, well, I wrote it first, and it’s been way too long. I’m fed up with letting good stories go stagnant; I want to get into the habit of obsessive working when it comes to stories of mine that I really like, which I keep myself from doing these days.

Of course, while I’m reading this Christmas story I can also tinker with other books I’m writing. I need to get better at setting limits on my self-directed work; I started at the end of my MA, and I can see that it needs to continue going forward, as opposed to almost every other thing I’ve learnt or experienced as an academic that has pretty much fallen out of my head. My limit with this Christmas story is reading. Writing – that’s not even something I want to think about right now. Just reading. Getting out of the fantasy of writing something or how it’s going to be when it is eventually one day written, and focusing on the actual writing process, which is always more fun.

And goddammit, it’s been too long. The werewolf thing didn’t even feel like part of the writing process; I hate to say it but, as much fun as I’ve had writing it, I can’t even remember the fun times. But working on something over a long period of time like I did with Tallulah, or the Christmas story before it – that I remember. It feels awesome. And I like feeling awesome.

It feels awesome to be doing shit, and yesterday I realised, for what is surely at least the hundredth time by now, that the reason I’ve been feeling kinda “meh” not just recently but for what is now the majority of my entire life, is due to not doing shit. So I’m going to do some shit. Reading and writing, in particular. I have an actual book to read as well: Succubus on Top by Richelle Mead, which I think I may finally be in the correct mindset to read without getting pedantic about realism in this book about a fucking Succubus was the pun intended I’ll let you decide it’s going to be a good time.

And then all the Christmas books I bought myself last year and haven’t touched since they arrived. I have a goddamn Wonder Woman omnibus, the George Perez stuff when he rebooted her in 1987, which was when I was born, that explains a few things if you buy into superstition when it’s convenient to your self-narrative, which I totally do. I have Neil Gaiman’s latest collection of short stories: Trigger Warning, which I haven’t read partly because as somebody who understands the need for trigger warnings the title just feels very exploitative, but don’t judge a book by its exploitative title or whatever. I have Clariel by Garth Nix, which I tried to read when I got it and then couldn’t because I remembered that I fucking hate high fantasy, even when it’s Garth Nix apparently. I have The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, which I got because werewolves. I have Kindred by Octavia Butler, because for some reason I decided not to buy The Parable of the Sower on the day I made these purchases, but it’s Octavia Butler and I feel morally obligated to read one of her books. I might actually buy Parable today, or at least get it out from the library again. I have the first Dragonriders of Pern book by Anne McAffrey, and the first book in the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce, and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, because aside from Harry Potter and literally 4 other books in my entire life I have read zero high fantasy written by women and that shit needs to change.

Speaking of which, I also have the Earthsea Quartet to finish, which I’ve had since 2011. I finished the first 2 stories and liked them a hell of a lot, despite obvious problematic elements, particularly in the first one. Also the rest of the P.C. Hodgell omnibus I have; the first story was very enjoyable, and it’s high fantasy written by a woman and starring a woman, and it is the last high fantasy book I’ve read that I actually enjoyed because it was about character and story – episodic though that story might be, but I like episodic – set in a rich, well-developed world, rather than about a rich, well-developed world infested with sentient life-forms that the writer feels forced to spend some time on to fill a quota, which is what a lot of high fantasy feels like to me. I also have The Swan Maiden, which is a retelling of an old Irish fairytale – a really fucking depressing one, because Ireland – and the only thing I can remember about it is that I opened the exact middle of the book when I bought it from the library and read the phrase “he hefted her pale globe in his hand”. I’m not sure why this was a selling-point for me, but I did buy it, along with Grimm Tales by Phillip Pullman. I respect Phillip Pullman quite a lot, but really did not like The Amber Spyglass and find his writing style … well, it might work a lot better with fairytale retellings than it does with child psychology.

Man, I actually have a lot of shit I could be doing.

The Ubermensch approves!

 

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All right. Got some shit done.

That word-count is spread across 2 different books, both of which I have the intention of finishing, but one of which is much closer to completion than the other. The shitty YA werewolf novel, to be exact; that was 908 words out of that total. The other thing I was writing is also shit, in case you were wondering. Probably even more shit than the shitty YA werewolf novel, if I think about it. Or maybe just equally shitty in a different way.

It’s been interesting today, actually, just absorbing how very bad a lot of my writing is. And by “a lot” I literally mean “these two specific books out of the 50+ I have lying around the place”. Not as in the language, but the stories, the framing, the shit I let my characters get away with and make excuses for on their behalf. It struck me today in the second project I did some writing on that despite the fact that it’s a project intended to be a bunch of stupid, giddy fun, it’s not something that I would ever actually enjoy reading. I think part of that is obviously just down to the fact that it’s a first draft and first drafts are too full of shit to judge the quality of a story by to begin with, but there’s also the fact that I just don’t think when I’m writing. I don’t like it. I want to think when I’m writing, and I feel like at one point or another I did actually know how to do that. I want to get back to that.

I suppose it could also be because I’m breaking the rule of writing that says NEVER FUCKING LOOK AT WHAT YOU’RE WRITING UNTIL YOU’RE FINISHED FUCKING WRITING, which exists for exactly this reason – because if you get so disheartened that you stop writing altogether, that’s worse than any problematic prose you could ever commit to the page. I’m not sure that I agree with that rule, but there’s enough merit that I’m willing to at least go along with part of it.

In any case, I did get some writing done, quite a lot in fact, and at the end of the day that really is all that matters. I can always fix it in revisions.

More of the same

I didn’t do Nanowrimo, and I don’t regret it. I just hope I am in a place to take advantage of the next one when it rolls around; I really was not this November. I submitted my MA, finished my contract as a tutor at uni, and am now watching my bank account grow steadily smaller with each passing week while settling in to live out the prologue of The Hunger Games with the rest of the Western world.

No, I’m not going to talk about that – I was going to write a huge ranty piece about how liberal media is all a doom-and-gloom circle-jerk that has nothing of substance to offer the people it supposedly represents, and how Dungeons & Dragons is the answer to all of our affirmative action problems in this age of “slacktivism” and “keyboard warriors”, but after trying and failing to write that piece multiple times I just ran out of steam, and I take that as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. I would have made it happen if I really wanted to. Just like I would have made Nanowrimo work if I really wanted to.

All of this means, writing-wise, that I haven’t been doing very much of it – well, not much Writing, at any rate. Producing words is a different story. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with D&D 5e – I’m still picking it up, but the main issue I immediately took with it is how much Rangers suck. They suuuck. And being me, I spent literally a week revising the Ranger to a point where it seemed playable and fun. I have way too many words devoted to that practice, but at least I finally came to the sobering conclusion that until I actually run a game as DM where I can inflict my homebrew class variants upon other people or become a lead designed for D&D, all of this is just a distraction, and I’ve been feeling it hard. I’ve been really bad about exercise lately, been feeling really shitty – more shitty than usual, which is saying something – and just ultimately finding it difficult to focus on anything that I want to do. Distraction is a buzzword nowadays within certain groups, most of them with a technophobic bent that I am not at all fond of, but there’s something to the whole boredom vs distraction dichotomy that keeps popping up. I’ve been distracting myself for the past month, and it’s had the same result as it’s always had: absolutely none. It’s like trying to pause your life, but we don’t have that mechanic.

I do need to get good and bored, but I also need to have something to do with it.

Thus, I have finally returned to my shitty YA werewolf thing after a month of distractions and lamentations. It’s as shitty as ever, perhaps even shittier now that my brain is so overstuffed with random garbage after not letting myself think clearly for a full month that it’s all coming out when I write. I’m looking at this story I’ve written and … I mean in a sense it’s perfect. It’s really shitty. It’s practically textbook in terms of the way in which it’s shitty, the kind of shitty that snarky internet book reviewers rely upon for their livelihood. I love snarky internet book reviewers for that reason, but I’m including them as part of the formula here because it’s kind of my hope now, that I will achieve critical Toxic YA Novel mass by the time everything is said and done. It’s a kind of achievement. It’s just taken so fucking long to complete, though, that any chance for a genuine sense of accomplishment I could have taken away from this enterprise has long since passed. I’m just forcing it through to completion because I told myself I would, and I have no ideas or plans to replace it. Rote follow-through for the win I guess.

There’s still the possibility of going back once all of this is done and writing the real werewolf novel I started out wanting to write last year, right at the start and height of my werewolf kick. It wouldn’t necessarily be a YA novel, not in the stereotypical way most people think of them at least, which is where most of my existential entertainment has come from in writing this book. It would actually just be kind of a straight-up gothic horror novel. I could get behind that.

I’ve also been finding ways to put off getting really invested in my D&D-inspired fantasy novel, which would have also benefited from more haste on my part; I missed the boat and the momentum is gone now. I keep fucking letting that happen and it’s infuriating. Part of it is that so many of the ideas that I have for that particular story come from other stories I’d like to tell someday, and the overlap bothers me. I’m learning more and more how anal I am about this stuff recently, and beginning to think that there might be more to it than just being anal. I wonder if maybe I have incredibly mild OCD, because while it doesn’t necessarily stop me from functioning, it certainly keeps popping up, and has been this way since I was very young. Hence spending a fucking week revising a class that I will probably never play, even in its official form.

But that’s something I’d like to do: actually find a D&D game to join, or even start one myself. The main issue there is having access to the core rulebooks, which are fucking expensive; yes there are basic versions you can get for free as PDFs and trust me I have those, but I want something more than a trial account, especially if I’m going to be bringing other people into a game that I’m running. But it could be a lot of fun, with the right people. I don’t know who those are, partly because I just generally don’t know a lot of people, or at least don’t know them very well. But it’s an idea that I like a lot, and hopefully will pursue in the near future.

As for the werewolf novel – and all other novels – I really do need to just get away from my distractions for a while. A long while. I’m on my third fucking rewatch of Critical Role, and much as I love it I’m also aware that I’m not really watching it so much for fun as for company, and that’s quite obviously a plan that is never going to work out. And part of why I’ve been putting off my writing projects, much as I enjoy the idea of them, is that they’re also not doing anything to improve my social life. Which is not in and of itself a reason to not write them, but it’s always what I end up thinking when I think about finally getting around to working on them: what they’re not.

Still, better something than nothing, right? I’m going to be trying to hold onto that thought going forward from here; there’s no sense in depriving myself of something I find fulfilling just because it’s not some other thing that I also find fulfilling, and much harder to come by. I’m really wishing my parents had gotten me a therapist when I was 15, when all of this social anxiety crap started. I doubt we could have actually afforded one, but if we could have it might have helped.

Well, too late for that now. This shitty novel is almost finished, and I need to go for a walk after at least a week of not going for walks. I do have some things to do. I should go do them. No more missing out.

So sayeth the Ubermensch! I need to get more mileage out of this stupid gimmick that only I care about. It’s kinda fun.