I finally started putting the finishing touches on my shitty YA werewolf novel; it felt wrong to leave it so blatantly unfinished before abandoning it forever.
As I was doing it, I discovered something.
Having another 82.6k words under my belt feels fucking awesome.
It’s funny how consistently I veer all over the emotional spectrum with my writing. “This sucks and I hate it and it means nothing to me because it is nothing I’m nothing everything is nothing” one day, “at least now I can move on and find something to do that I actually feel passionate about” the next, and then the other day “life is amazing you just have to look for the opportunities to be amazed all around you sometimes what you’re looking for is right under your nose the whole time it was your footprints I saw in the sand”.
This is writing for me; it’s a hobby. I don’t do it when I don’t want to do it, consistently, and when I do want to do it I binge hardcore. I keep hoping that if I finish enough projects, if I push enough of my incomplete drafts through to conclusion, perhaps something will rub off on me, I’ll catch some viral strain of self-discipline and never have problems with self-motivation again. But time and again, the only consistent triggers that get me to work on things consistently are 1) wanting to write, and 2) having some kind of external source of accountability. I am not a disciplined writer by trade; I am an incredibly self-motivated writer who does not write without motivation, unless it’s an MA and then I can fake some semblance of discipline because I’m accountable to somebody besides myself.
However, merely looking over that word document that now contains my almost-completed shitty YA werewolf novel has turned out to be quite inspiring. Not finishing it; not migrating it into a word document; but actually looking it over and taking that tally of 82.6k words that amounted to a finished product has given me a bit of a bug. I want to do it again. I want to experience this feeling of satisfaction again; I want to press my advantage, take this momentum and really go somewhere with it.
But even thinking about writing right now – as in writing something creative – is so draining, so either this momentum is doomed to go to waste, or I’ll have to use it for something else. Or somehow make myself write without thinking about it.
Funnily enough, I think the answer is that last one.
Because thinking, for me, tends to be synonymous with both “overthinking” and “procrastinating”. Rarely do I ever think clearly and intentionally in a, for lack of a better word, strategic way. I basically daydream rather than think, per se, and obsess over stupid shit because I’m stuck in my house all day and am permanently stir-crazy. So lately I’ve been trying to actively do things instead of think about them, particularly the things that I am over-thinking the most. It hasn’t exactly been hard work, in the typical sense of the term. The things I’ve been forcing myself to actually do rather than just think about are playing computer games – Pillars of Eternity and Divine Divinity, to be exact – and watching Stranger Things and Lost Girl. Now, without being facetious, this is actually important for me to do. I tend to spend the time when I’m not “being productive” feeling guilty about not being productive instead of, like, being productive, or failing that at least enjoying myself while I’m being a slacker. Doing these things has been enjoyable, and distinctly non-productive in terms of having a checklist of things that I should be doing and working through it, but very productive in terms of developing healthier recreation habits. Recreation is a skill, as I have come to learn; you need to learn how to relax and chill out, just like you need to learn how to kick your own ass into gear and get shit done.
On the other hand, though, I do still feel that twinge of dissatisfaction with my status as a spectator. I count playing games as being a spectator simply because, at the end of the day, it’s always somebody else’s playground. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s plenty awesome about that. But I do want to make my own as well.
So the next step is to start putting this strategy into practice with my “work”, as well as with my recreation. To pick a project that I’m over-thinking and feeling anxious about getting wrong or running out of steam for, and single it out for getting done. To actively cut off my over-thinking at the root; to intercept my own thoughts and shut them down before they ruin everything.
At the moment, I am feeling the idea of giving up on a whole bunch of non-starter projects that I have sitting around. I have so fucking many. It might actually be fun to jam a bunch of them together with no real plan and just see what I can puzzle together out of the mess. For one, it would be awesome to experience the same bursting bubble of creativity that I did when I gave up on Realm of the Myth, all the way back in 2012. But for another – they’re just things that attract my idle thoughts, perfect procrastination-magnets, and the fewer excuses that I have to remain wound-up in my own head, the better.
But perhaps most importantly: after watching Stranger Things – and really liking it, for the most part – I’ve finally had a nostalgia overload. I need something new. And if I can’t get it from the media around me, then I guess it’s gotta come from me directly. For the good of the world, goddammit. I’m sick of how obsessed people of my generation still seem to be with Harry Potter, not because Harry Potter doesn’t deserve to be remembered fondly, but because we need to believe that, amazing and formative of an emotional experience as it was, we can actually do better. We can make something new that is also good. We have to try. Everything good nowadays seems to be retro; everything that people are praising – and more importantly, making and marketing – reminds them of a simpler time. Stranger Things, Uptown Funk, every indie game made in the past 5 years … and obviously this reflects the things that I’m not aware of in the world as much as the things that I am aware of, but the fact remains that, in my personal experience, I’m getting nostalgic for the days when producing a perfectly authentic nostalgic experience was not the greatest achievement a creative person could attain, nor the best that people looking for creative works to enjoy could hope for.
And I’m starting to also recognise that a lot of what I’ve tried to do in terms of getting myself to write more frequently has also been an act of nostalgia. “Back when I first started writing, things were so much easier and I was so much more passionate”, blah blah blah. What worked about what I did “back in the day” was that everything was new, and I didn’t have eleven thousand unfinished projects to feel guilty about never finishing as an excuse to not write, or do anything else for that matter. What worked about what I did “back in the day” was that there was no “back in the day” to compare my current progress to. I just kept going forward, because everything was new.
Call it backlash, but I am really, really wanting something new right now. So I think that’s my next goal, writing-wise and everything else-wise, too. Destroying the cycle of anxiety-inducing overthinking by getting rid of clutter that keeps me anchored to the past, and just doing too many things to have time to over-think to begin with. It’s like facing your fears to overcome them, except instead of fear I’m confronting my overthinking and procrastination. Rather than walking into the dark basement that makes all the weird noises, I’m bum-rushing the seven hundredth mental replay of that conversation between those two characters, I don’t really know what they’re going to say yet but god it’s just going to be so good when I eventually get around to it. From this moment on, I’m on a mission to get my ideas out of my head as quickly and as often as possible so that I don’t have the opportunity to turn them into distractions.
I think that will feel good. But I’m going to try not to think about it too much.