Weekly Words 27/05-02/06/2018

27/05/18: 0 (but)

Today, I did not do any writing. It felt like the right thing to do. Or not do, as I literally just said.

Instead, I did some reading, specifically reading one of my old projects to see if it’s something I’m interested in returning to, tidying up, and preparing for submission by the end of the year (or having ready by the end of the year, because I hear end-of-year book submissions are not a great idea).

In short: yes it is.

Also it is fucking awful.

The project is Mark and Jessie’s Christmas, and I’ve documented a couple of previous attempts to re-read it and start taking notes, getting the revision process underway. The fact that it is awful is not new. It’s mostly the way I am able to identify the way in which it is awful. I met up with a friend the other day for a belated birthday dinner (hers), and we got around to talking about Harry Potter. She’s not a huge fan, and while I certainly used to be and the story will always hold a special place in my heart, I have to wonder if I would be quite as enthralled with them if I was introduced to the series, like, now. In particular, I wonder about The Goblet of Fire. When I went back to re-read the series in 2012 to see how it held up, I found that I liked the first 3 chapters of Philosopher’s Stone more than most whole books I’ve read, I liked Chamber of Secrets less overall but really appreciated how well it handled the super-dark theme of insecure, self-important adults threatening and preying on children, and The Prisoner of Azkaban was perfect until those fucking time-turners came in and ruined everything. Hermione being such a workaholic that she literally resorts to time-travel so that she can do more study is funny, but not so funny that it justifies ruining every speck of tension and consequence in the entire book.

But then I stopped, because the next book was The Goblet of Fire, and at the time I wrote it off as it being not interesting enough to make up for its length. I loved it when it first came out, because it felt like Harry and friends were heading into their teens in such a way that felt like my own teen experience – I believe I was also 14 at the time – but thinking back to it now …

It’s just so edgy.

And that’s when I realised why I couldn’t bear the prospect of reading it again: I hate edgy. I don’t think the film adaptation is very good, and I don’t think it’s very faithful in terms of tone, but it is in a sense the most faithful adaptation just because it is edgy as fuck. All that screaming, all that shouting, because everything’s so real, man, this is how people would really act in those situations, in the real world, for real.

It’s edgy.

And that is why Mark and Jessie is so painful for me to read: shit is edgier than a fucking Mobius strip. It could be hilarious in parts, if it was meant to be funny. But it’s not. It’s meant to be real, man, the real shit.

But from this, and from voicing some of my, uh, misgivings during the co-writing session today (during which I did not write, but we did read out our scenes written so far, splitting character voices between us, it was a lot of fun), I realised that, actually, a lot of it not only could be funny (and is already unintentionally funny) …

It should be funny.

And that’s funny to me, because just like Tallulah, which is not quite edgy but is definitely a very serious book in its current form, going back and re-reading it just makes me think of how much better it would be if it would just lighten up a bit. Not all the way. I don’t want everything I ever write to be peppy and goofy and fun – but at the same time, that is actually the spirit in which I feel most comfortable telling stories. Even my darker stuff, the angry stuff, the bitter stuff, there’s always a sense of humour in there somewhere – partly because it just makes the dark stuff stand out more. Gives it an edge, you might say. Just not that kind of edge.

Or that’s the idea anyway; and so for Mark and Jessie’s Christmas I am now re-committed to actually getting it done, and getting it done in such a way that is not utterly fucking insufferable to read. I am also finding points where the problems in narrative structure are making themselves known to me, which is a change from the last few attempts I’ve made, where I found it incredibly difficult to know what notes I should even be taking. I seem to have solved that problem by going in intending to take no notes, and then just letting myself vent. It works very well. These may not be the notes that I lean on for revision, but they’re the ones I need right now.

But probably the most important thing was having my friend to bounce ideas off, vent to, and get a different perspective from, so a huge thank-you to said friend who will remain nameless because I am weird and paranoid about naming people online. I’ve been waiting for a breakthrough with this project for nine years, a reason to believe I could actually go back and finish what I started, and it feels like I have that now.

28/05/18: 238

Last time I had marking to do, I got so much more writing done.

This is not last time.

Today, I took 2 hours to mark a single essay, and felt like a moron. It was not a good time. But all in all, today was a good day, and thinking about how it could have gone has actually kind of inspired me. I cooked dinner, which I’ve been meaning to do more of; that was another source of frustration, because I can never remember the order in which all the various seasonings and ingredients are meant to go on for roast pork, and it always takes so long to cook and it feels like I’m doing something wrong because I don’t remember how long it takes to cook – but it got done, and was rather tasty if I do say so myself. Just like the essay got done. I took a moment to ask myself what was really going wrong, and while the first thing I identified wasn’t the main issue, identifying it and being honest about the fact that it was upsetting me made it easier to get to the thing that was actually upsetting me. Definitely a validating example of honesty being the best policy, even if it doesn’t immediately get you the results you’re hoping for. It’s worth persevering.

And then I watched a bunch of youtube videos of a Dragon Ball FighterZ tournament, and that felt so rewarding it’s kind of silly – but I appreciate that. That’s good data; I can watch youtube and actually enjoy it, rather than just using it to distract myself. And because of all of these things, I have a new dream: to spend my days being busy with a mix of things, some basic everyday responsibilities, some things for my own satisfaction/indulgence, and just generally having a variety of things to bounce back and forth between. I like using my brain and being engaged, which tends to be the exact opposite of what my lifestyle affords me the opportunity to do, so recognising that today felt really important. Something to aspire to, starting tomorrow.

But this week, I’m not going to try and keep on top of my writing goals, simply because I have other shit to do. I am aiming to do some writing, and hopefully I will find myself being ultra-productive writing-wise – but if not, well, it’s not really the priority for this week. Despite some setbacks and emotional turmoil today, I feel like I learnt from the experience. And I think this new ideal of mine is worth aspiring to.

It’s worth persevering for.

29/05/18: 0

FUCK EVERYTHING.

Nah it’s fine. This week really does need to be de-prioritised writing-wise, and that’s fine. It is important to be able to maintain and honour your other priorities as a writer, because writing takes up so much time and energy and can so easily eclipse all other things, which can be very unhealthy. I just need to get through this week.

Although I also do want to use this week to test the limits of what I can get done when I’ve got tons of shit to do, so I’m not giving up entirely on writing this week. I’m committed to using this week as an experiment in time-management. Today’s experiment did not succeed as much as I would have liked, but I know what I did wrong, and that’s fine. In short: yes, having lots of things to bounce back and forth between is good, but I still need to deliberate about when I choose to bounce, instead of just doing it whenever.

30/05/18: 1075

Not bad for a day of marking.

I said yesterday that I was committed to figuring out how to balance all of my shit and practice good time-management skills, and today I did it, and it worked, and I am very glad that I now have it on record so that I can look back at it and acknowledge that I actually got this shit done, by crikey. I did choose when to bounce, and when to remain decidedly non-springy, and the results – well, I’ll put it like this: last night as I was dreading the mountain of marking I would have to climb today, I hoped for around 8, fantasised about 12, and in a perfect world where I had the powers of super-saiyan Neo, 15.

I got 15.

And all I had to do was have a system. I gave myself a time-limit for each essay (obviously I went over time when necessary, but also got to enjoy finishing sooner than I had planned for in several cases), and from that everything else just fell into place. Usually I go into … well, everything … with an attitude of “it takes as long as it takes”, and for the most part I believe that this is a very healthy way to do stuff, because so much of what we do we do in a rush, and the simple truth is that deadlines are not always realistic, and we have to take care of ourselves. But doing things this way, setting a hard time-limit for myself and striving to reach it, has shown me that, actually, I can make a time-crunch work for me, in a way that isn’t just riding the wave of get-it-done-the-night-before panic-adrenalin. This is a breakthrough, I dare say, a new chapter in my ever-expanding and persistently unwritten autobiography. I have learnt something about time-management that I never thought I would learn: that I can do it.

And that I can mark 15 goddamn essays and still get writing, and recreation, and if I could have been bothered some exercise as well, done. I can get a lot done in a day, as it turns out.

And, in keeping with the purpose of Weekly Words – here is the proof, the reminder, the perspective I can fall back on when I need to remind myself that my life is bigger than any one day in it. I realised yesterday that I treat every day as a kind of reset on my entire life, and with that realisation came a second realisation: I hate thinking of my life like that. I’d rather continue than stop and start, and this exercise of perspective-keeping is all part of that. It seems to be working too, kind of.

Here’s to things that work.

31/05/18: 2123

And a nice wrap-up to my writing week, with yet another pile of essays marked, actual exercise done … I know it’s only been 2 days, but I think it’s safe to say that I am the newly-anointed patron god of time-management, I will leave the details of your animal sacrifices to your discretion …

Weekly Total: 3436

Considering all the other shit I had going on this week, I hereby decree that this is a godly sum, and it is good.

Although also considering all the other shit I had going on this week, my writing experience has been a first-hand reminder that mindset is so important for getting things done. The first two days of marking this week were full of stress and self-doubt and self-critical self-talk – that’s a lot of self-related stuff – and I got basically no writing done, and found it really hard to do my work. But the next two days – today and yesterday – when I took stock of what I had to do, made some executive decisions about how to spend my time and what I was spending it on, and stuck to that plan, were two of the most productive days in my entire life, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, because my life is fucking easy, besides living with a mental illness and stuff.

I don’t know, realistically, how long I would be able to keep this up. I can safely say that I’m glad it’s going to be over – for a little while, and a very little while from the looks of things – after tomorrow, despite how rewarding these past few days have been. But the fact that I’ve been able to do this at all, as well as doing other things once I got into a good flow, indicates a huge shift in what I’m capable of handling. I honestly do not think I would have been able to do this, say, last year, and not just because last year I was recovering from finishing Masters, writing Wolf Gang, and generally trying to work out what the fuck I was going to do with my life from that point on.

Things are going well, basically. And they’re going well in a way that they have never been going well before. I’m liking it.

And I’m looking forward to being done with marking after tomorrow – at least until the next batch arrives, like, immediately afterwards.

No stopping. Only continuity.

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Weekly Words 20-26/05/2018

21/05/18: 5596

So. New plan.

The weeks of Weekly Words are currently Sunday through Friday with an optional day off. I’ve been thinking of changing it for a while now, and I am going to stick with that; Sunday is now the optional day off, because I can always write one word every day, and don’t really need one during the week. Friday and Saturday are now my “weekend”, because I do want two days in a row where I can focus on other things than writing, leaving Monday through Thursday as my “work week”. And the word-count goal is still the same at a nice, round 10k because it’s the ideal that drives me, not necessarily the literal results. I’m going to try it this week, see how it works out …

And that’s that – now, on the topic of results: co-writing is back in action, and while at first it was quite daunting to step back into it after finally starting to hit a kind of stride with my own projects, I finished a whole scene today and it felt great, and then I went on and finished a scene for one of my projects, the one I’ve been working on-and-off on for the past couple of weeks, and that felt great.

I am getting writing done, y’all.

No, the scene of mine that I finished is not exactly how I want it – but that’s what revision is for. My new resolution for writing my own stuff is to get used to revision, so this scene is getting revised. I keep saying that I need to get used to writing a whole story before I go back and revise it, and I do think that’s true. But I also think that this scene is a whole thing; I’m not really sure it actually belongs in the project I want it to belong to, because it’s so long and involved and is supposed to be the introduction to the characters and the world. Such a huge set-piece should be the climax of an act or something; I do like a big, bombastic opening, and I think some of it can definitely work as an intro – and perhaps the whole thing. But that’s not certain. What is certain is that this scene was honestly written to stand on its own, and given that, I can treat it as a stand-alone project – one that I have now finished, and am therefore free to go back and work on to my heart’s content.

Of course, I may choose to move on and do something else instead, which is honestly feeling like the better, healthier option. I’m not sure what that thing is, but I’m finding myself a bit more open to exploring my options after my ‘detox’ weekend, which I think I really need to incorporate into my regular weekly schedule. That’ll be the plan if me taking between 2-3 days off this week doesn’t pan out the way I want it to; I want to try it at least, see what giving myself the extra time off does for my perspective and self-awareness. I’m a little worried it’s too long of a break, but I can always go back to the regular schedule and just make more of an effort to work the other stuff into it. I just want to get myself used to using my ‘weekends’ in a satisfying way, because life skills are good to have I hear, and oftentimes life requires that you don’t have much free time outside of your weekends. Not my life, because mental illness is fun like that, but hey, gotta live your dreams right?

22/05/18: 1215

More brainstorming today, exposition “practice” – and starting to realise that I’ve been pushing myself in the wrong direction. Or maybe clinging to the progress that I’ve made in the wrong direction.

A while ago, I had a little rant about “million dollar ideas”. The Harry Potter ideas, the Pokemon and Star Wars and Twilight ideas. The game-changers, and how much I wanted one of those ideas.

The problem was that I actually did have some of those ideas, or at least they felt that way to me, and I guess I am perhaps very slightly biased. But I just didn’t want to work on them. I couldn’t be bothered. And it frustrated me that I couldn’t make myself care about them.

One of the ideas I returned to after my detox weekend was one such idea, and I still really like the idea. The reason I am allowing myself to work on it right now is partly because it’s just a way for me to practice my world-building prose, which I need to remind myself of, because I still feel that frustration of not having the desire to turn it into a book series or something that “actually matters”, instead of a self-soothing hobby. I have my inner voice admonishing me for not having the ambition or drive or discipline or whatever it is that would make me take this idea and turn it into “something more” – something “worth” doing.

What’s cool about it is taking ideas that I am familiar with that involve a lot of unquestioned norms – tropes and cliches – and asking those questions. It’s a very generative idea, the kind of idea that leads to epic speculation debates. It is nerdy as fuck, and it is a very nerdy kind of appeal that I take form it. Deconstruction.

I hate deconstruction.

As an arts major, I live and breathe deconstructing ideas, asking the obvious, unasked questions, challenging the status quo, inflicting critical analysis on any hapless media product that dares to cross my path. But that doesn’t mean that I like it. Yet I’m forcing myself to stick with it in this case, because I feel that sense of obligation to “do something with it”; it’s such a good idea, and I feel like if I don’t work on it and “do something with it”, it’ll go to waste, and it’ll be my fault for not taking advantage of it – especially if somebody else has the same idea and runs with it one day, and I end up kicking myself for being so unambitious.

But none of these are reasons to like this idea, or like it for reasons beyond the ones that I have. And that is why I feel I have been pushing myself in the wrong direction by pursuing this project, at least in the way that I’ve been doing it: because I’m trying to force myself to like it when I don’t. And that’s pretty gross.

I have an idea, though. While I don’t like deconstruction, I do like mashups, and while there is a mashup aspect to this project, I think it’s not the kind of mashup I’m really invested in. So I’m going to brainstorm a bit more this week, and see if I can find the mashup that I give a shit about.

And if not, I’ll just use this idea for writing practice, because honestly I get too hung up on “doing something” with my ideas (i.e. turning them into novels) instead of just enjoying them for what they are, and I want to get better at the latter. Enjoying things seems to be one of those things that requires practice, even though it seems really unintuitive, because why the hell would you need to learn to enjoy something? Don’t you just, like, do it?

Not if you stop yourself constantly because you’re a pedantic freak. So, let’s try to un-learn some deeply ingrained pedantry, and see if we can’t start having a bit more fun.

23/05/18: 1012

More co-writing fun tonight; I’m going to rewrite it tomorrow because I had an idea and forced myself not to follow it and well that’s not how you write a first draft now, is it?

It is if you’re sticking to a plan but the thing is the plan I have is thiiinnn and there’s basically nothing to stick to so I may as well play around and have fun.

Tonight, I decided to try something that I am a little surprised I didn’t think of before. I decided to go back and revisit Realm of the Myth – the old, old-ass documents of plans and ideas that I still have, gathering digital dust, in the spirit of revisiting old ideas of mine, because while I’ve been working on it for the past 17 years and in that sense it is always a “relevant” idea of mine … it’s an old fucking idea of mine. The third book idea I came up with after deciding at age 13 that it was my destiny to be the very best author like no-one ever was.

So I did. I went back and read through a few documents, and while I can remember some of my world-building stuff being kind of interesting, in terms of story, characters, and just the general purpose of the project …

It’s so fucking bad.

Like, yes, to be fair I was 14 at the time, but that’s no excuse; I came up with some dope fucking ideas when I was 14, and for that matter I came up with some dope fucking ideas while I was still in single digits.

Realm of the Myth is not one of them.

And discovering that has been quite liberating. I’ve wanted an excuse to just kill this fucking project, ever since it came back from the dead after I thought I killed it in 2012, and this feels like the nail in the coffin. Because the version that I came up with in 2013, that was the new version, the one that cast off its shackles and history of failure and pedantic, procrastinatory world-building and all the other toxic roundabout bullshit that had defined its existence since I was 14 years old. But it didn’t quite take. It’s still tied to that legacy, and I’ve come up with some pretty cool ideas while trying to resuscitate it, ideas that I now realise are much more my ideas than Realm of the Myth ever really was. Which is the main reason it was bad: it was just so … bland. Every single idea that I ever came up with for it was borrowed from somewhere else; I have sung the praises of the art of ripping shit off on this blog and I stand by those sentiments, but there’s a difference between ripping shit off because you get excited about an idea and want to make it your own, and ripping shit off because you have no ideas of your own because you don’t give a shit but have this nonsensical sense of obligation to do something with the pathetic excuse for inspiration that you do have and thus snatch at any ready-made idea you can find that might possibly be able to fit in with what you’ve got.

It’s a bad project, has always been a bad project, and what makes it a bad project is the fact that, as was the issue yesterday, I just do not give a single flying fuck, and never have. I’ve put in time; I’ve thought it would be cool if only I could make myself do it. I’ve enjoyed the fantasy of this book, this story, this marathon of creative one-man circle-jerking coming to fruition in the form of a series of novels, or films, or a videogame. To be fair, it could still totally work as a videogame.

But it’s bad. And while I’ve tried to convince myself of it over the years in the same way I’ve tried to convince myself to like it, there really is nothing quite like cold hard empirical evidence to sway an opinion at the end of the day, and I have been fucking swayed.

I’m done. I’m done with this legacy of trying to force my passion for projects that I am not passionate about; and while I absolutely think that being able to work based on discipline without passion is a completely valid and useful skill in so many different situations, spending my own free fucking time to write books that it is quite likely nobody else will every read is not one of those situations. I now see that the way I worked on this project, for almost two goddamn decades, has almost destroyed any good writing habits that I did cultivate in my youth, and still holds a deathly grip over my current writing habits, and I have had it.

I have had it!

So sayeth the Ubermensch; and so therefore, starting tonight – I need to plan a funeral. A funeral for this useless, toxic, awful fucking book that I was absolutely correct to give up on when I was 14 about a month after I came up with it, even though I just brought it back when I was 15 and made it about killing dragons and collecting their souls to make a super-dragon that, I shit you not, granted a wish to the person who gathered them.

Fuck Realm of the Myth. Never the fuck again. Only good ideas from now on.

Life is too short to read bad books, they say – and given how much longer it takes to write a book than it does to read one, I’m going to go ahead and say that it is definitely too short to write them.

Especially if they still aren’t written after 17 fucking years.

Jesus.

24/05/18: 1880

I can’t believe I was worried that it would be hard to get back into the swing of co-writing after a couple of weeks off. I just sit down, and an hour later it’s just … written.

And people say there’s no such thing as magic.

Well, maybe I’ll hold off on being quite that saccharine, but it feels good. What feels less good is learning that my next batch of assignments to mark came in today, instead of next week when I thought they were coming in for … some reason. I was wrong in any case. But, upon reflection, since they have to be done by the end of next week, it is actually quite nice to know that, one way or another, I’ll be done with this round of marking pretty quickly.

Also, the last assignment I had to mark was done after I started Weekly Words, and I got even more writing done while marking than I did without that extra restriction on my free time. Creative constraints, y’all. Obviously there’s a balance that needs to be struck and it is entirely possible that I might just call the next week a wash, depending on how things go, but for the moment at least I am quite optimistic.

And speaking of optimism …

Weekly Total: 9703

And that’s with my new, four-day writing week. Well, five-day writing week with an optional day off during those five days, which I did take this week, on Sunday. Writing was done, but it was planning for the co-writing project and thus does not count.

And still I hit almost 10k.

I’m still thinking about other writing things, and I may well do writing during my “weekend off”. I’m wondering whether it’s actually maybe a good idea to count that writing towards my weekly total, but the next week’s total – a bonus word-count goal that doesn’t “count”, in the sense that it was extra and not part of the routine I’m trying to establish and maintain for my writing, but that I can still count in terms of, hey, I did actually do a bunch of writing, even if it was outside of my routine.

My justification for not counting it is just because I want to get better at taking my time off seriously, instead of just using it to distract myself from … well, there doesn’t even have to be a thing that I’m trying to distract myself from; I just do things to distract myself out of habit, and it’s a habit I want to break. Want a bit more intentionality, as I keep saying.

So this weekend off, I’m going to continue with my project of going back over my old ideas and looking at things about them that did and didn’t work for me, in terms of my actually working on them – or getting what I wanted out of them, at least. I’m including ideas that aren’t books, or stories, or even projects; sometimes ideas are just good in and of themselves. And I’ve decided, after yesterday’s long-overdue realisation about how bad Realm of the Myth has been for my writing habits and probably other habits as well, that this continued self-excavation can’t be about trying to get myself to come up with new books to write, because when I have those ideas, I’ll know about them. This is about checking in with myself – and, in the spirit of Weekly Words, broadening my perspective by reminding myself of things I’ve achieved. Or just done. They don’t have to feel like achievements; it can just be stuff I’ve actually done, to remind myself that I do that sometimes.

Also, this week I’ve been quite keenly aware of how my self-image and identity as an adult is largely based on the fact that I have spent vast amounts of energy on repressing my teenage self, who I am thoroughly ashamed of. Not because I was awkward and embarrassing, but because I was ruled by fear and couldn’t help myself. Which I know now, as an adult, sometimes happens, and it’s shitty, and it’s part of life. I’m not there anymore, though, and however horrible it is that I used to be there, I think I need to make more of an effort to put away this coping strategy that doesn’t need to be used anymore. I think – I don’t know, but I think – that maybe my past actually can’t hurt me anymore. So it might be all right to start digging back into it.

And I’m not going to lie, I also think it’ll make me a better writer. I’ve always been curious about what makes people tick, and that’s part of why I started writing to begin with – but that curiosity sort of died with my disconnection from my past and its traumas. I want that curiosity back. And I think I have to do some retrospection in order to find it.

Only one way to find out.

 

Weekly Words 13-18/05/2018

14/05/18: 2636

I learnt a lot over the past couple of days, about myself, my creative inclinations and habits, and how I need to let myself use them instead of stifling them. It was a valuable learning experience.

What’s also a valuable learning experience is just sitting down and making yourself write, and finding that you can actually do it.

I was seriously considering not writing today, like I didn’t write yesterday. I am definitely going to draw up some new goals for Weekly Words that don’t involve a word-count; I want to be exploring and experimenting and testing things out, and that might involve things other than “real” writing – it might involve planning, of all things. It might involve me getting better at it.

But also writing, because writing is good, and while I went into today’s writing session with trepidation and not a little reluctance, by the time I was done I couldn’t even remember what I was so worked up about.

Oh right: character voice. One of the big things I discovered over my “detox” weekend was that the ideas of mine that I’ve made something of – some sort of manuscript or drafting attempt that doesn’t stop after a week of spontaneity-fueled enthusiasm – are character-driven pieces. Except for Wolf Gang, but that was never actually meant to be good to begin with. Everything else I’ve stuck with has characters that I love and adore, and what I’ve found recently – meaning the past few years – is how much angst I have around getting characters “right”. Even if I have whole scenes in mind, once I actually sit down to put it in writing, it all just starts to fall apart; I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, I completely lose grip of what drove me to write it in the first place, even though once I step away from the page the scene – and characters – return to me just as vividly as ever. It’s infuriating, feeling unable to match up the ideas in my head with the reality of how it translates through my writing of them.

Perhaps I need to treat it a bit more like transcribing than writing; I need to not “interpret” it, which I think I actually end up doing when I set out to Write. Mostly because interpretation is fun in its own regard, and not wrong – but it’s also muddying up perfectly good ideas and driving me away from them. So I think I’ll be working on that for the rest of this week/forever.

15/05/18: 3941

Well, today was a good start: I got up at 10:30 for one thing, which is about an hour earlier than I’ve been getting up for the past fortnight, so that was good; and immediately I felt like writing. Just my thoughts and feelings upon waking up, observing the place I was in, not to turn into anything else, just a sort of morning pages deal. Going to continue that. It’s a nice way to start off the day.

After that, I did a writing exercise; I had an idea, and I wrote it down, and while the idea was visual it felt like a direct translation – a transcription, even – when I put it down in words, so I’m calling that not just a success, but a precedent. My Weekly Words word-count is now going to include these sorts of writing exercise things, because while they are not directly connected to my projects, they are going towards honing my writing skills, and I do want to count that.

I did also write some more of my project that I’ve been finding hard to work on for the past couple of weeks, and it’s so much easier now. I think there really was a hump that I just had to write up to and get over, because last night and this afternoon it’s been smooth sailing, and I’ve been enjoying writing the different characters. I started off with a sort of omnipotent but snarky third-person narrator, and now I’m giving way to the characters and allowing them to colour the narration with their own voices. I guess I feel a bit more relaxed about it, now that I’ve written the difficult, kind of boring set-up stuff. It’s not going quite according to the plan that I had, but it’s getting written, I quite like what I’ve got, and there’s always revision. The point is that I am building something to revise, and I finally like what it is that I’m building.

I didn’t write on Sunday, except for some co-writing plotting with my friend and making “detox” notes, and I’m not going to count those here. But it does count. It helped tremendously, and I feel very confident that I’ll be writing for the rest of the week very happily indeed because of what I got done over the weekend. It’s a very nice feeling, looking forward to writing again, and writing lots of different kinds of things for different reasons.

More of this.

16/05/18: 28

Can’t write I’m busy writing other stuff that doesn’t count towards my weekly word-count goal.

Brainstorming, in particular terms. How can one measure brainstorming? I guess you just say you’re doing it. Maybe I could use a checkbox for that with Weekly Words, like have a bunch of “bonus objectives” that I can tick off every week, and brainstorming could be one of them.

… nah.

17/05/18: 3153

Started getting back to writing a … well, not new per se, but newer project that I’ve had in mind for a little while and wanted to explore more fully. Felt good. Also felt frustrating, because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but I got it done and feel like I’ve got some groundwork covered.

Then came back later this evening and did even more; the original word-count was 1203. It’s all exposition, and I’ve decided that the best way for me to work off the frustration of it “not being what I want it to be” is to take what I’ve written and turn it into a scene – make it character dialogue and/or action, showing rather than (just) telling. There has to be some telling when you’re making shit up, laying out rules of a fictional world and how it works, but it’s always better when characters are involved and it feels like the world not only makes mechanical sense, but feels lived-in.

As good of a foundation as this has been, it does still feel like, at least in the moment, I haven’t gotten a lot done by doing any of these writing exercises – I guess they don’t have to, either, but it is a feeling that I sense needs a counter-balance to it that isn’t just waiting things out. For that reason alone (although there are others), I really do want to go back and read over some of my old drafts, things that I’ve actually finished, especially the couple that I’ve identified as projects I’d like to continue with. Writing new stuff is all well and good, and in this case particularly good because wow it is hard to write this new thing, my ideas are so thin at the moment and I really hate that feeling. It’s good, I know, to just be getting down the ideas that I do have, no matter their quality, but it still pains me to do it when they’re this under-developed. So, to balance that out, I need to do some reconnecting with some of my better-developed stuff. And take notes. As I found over my “detox” weekend, just taking down my reactions to my own work and ideas really helps me clarify my thoughts and feelings about them, in a way I don’t get if I just go back and browse through them. I am already missing the clarity that came from the weekend and want to get it back again, probably to the detriment of focusing on the here and now, just the usual existential crap of a disorganised mind.

But anyway, got writing done. Gonna make another big push with this new/revisited project tomorrow. Feeling kind of excited about it, even. Always a nice feeling.

18/05/18: 1534

Not as big of a push word-count-wise as I was hoping for, but in terms of what I actually got done – well, I got both some plot-development and character-development done in those 1.5k words, and that’s worth a lot to me, especially with a new project.

New-ish. I threw some hooks in; the characters themselves I’ve always found a bit awkward to work with because they’re just kind of dull as cardboard, but now there’s some intrigue, and it ties in with the plot, and it just feels … promising. I did enough today, I’ll say that happily.

As for this week …

13-18/05/2018: 11292

I’m back in business, y’all.

And all of that for my own projects. Yes, lots of it is brainstorming, but it’s brainstorming that counts, because it’s serving two purposes: it’s developing my ideas, and it’s helping me to practice exposition. And turning that exposition into something more interesting.

Also proper writing; I’ve been working on two personal projects this week, and while one of them is in the brainstorming stage, the other one – the one I was writing last week and the week before, to varying degrees of success – I’m trying to do less thinking about. But I might do more of this … “active planning”, I guess, where the brainstorming is the writing, or is there to be turned into proper writing in a more direct way.

As in, tonight, I took the big world-building info-dump thing I wrote last night and turned it into a scene between the two main characters that also ended up exploring their relationship to each other and tying into the main plot – which I was making up on the spot as I wrote, and it was working and gelling and just … it was fun. It was satisfying. And most importantly, it made me want to keep doing it after today.

Which is going to be a little awkward, but also maybe quite good, when I take the weekend off to do other things. There’s a piece of writing advice that says to always stop when you’re in the middle of your flow, so that you want to come back and do it the next day, instead of using up all of your motivation in one sitting. That can backfire pretty hard if you just lose motivation because you cut off your own momentum, but I think my idea of taking two days off after five consecutive days of writing – and writing quite a bit, on the whole – plays to the strengths of that strategy. Besides, I do want time to decompress, to focus on doing other things without worrying about having a quota to fill, so that I can 1) do other shit, and 2) look forward to being able to fill the quota when I get back to it. Which I did not think would ever be a thing that I would want, but even just taking Saturdays off for Weekly Words has proven to me that it is, indeed, a thing.

Sadly this Saturday is not really going to be “off”; I have a Youthline thing from 10-4, which is sure to be intense and hopefully very rewarding, like the last one was, and I’m kind of dreading it because if there’s a point in this course where I realise I shouldn’t be here, this is probably going to be it, but also kind of looking forward to it because, conversely, if there’s a point where I finally feel certain that I’ve made the right choice in continuing with Youthline, this is also probably going to be it.

And then after 4 I’m free, but still, it’s not going to be much of a weekend. And also, I realise, according to my new plan, today should have been part of my “weekend”.

Oh well. Next week. Fridays and Saturdays off, and I’ll keep the optional day off during my week as well, though the way things are going I highly doubt it’ll get a lot of use. I think as long as I can keep my weekends sufficiently full of doing things that I actually want to do while simultaneously denying myself the opportunity to write (though writing down awesome ideas that I have in moments of inspiration is still allowed), that’s a balance I can maintain.

I think. Next week can be the trial run. Just gotta remember to do it. And I think, given the past week, that I can. This way of brainstorming that fulfills a second role as being the “zero draft” of scenes for books I want to work on – I had the idea, a while back, to write summaries of my potential novels and treat them as the “zero draft”, rather than as a plan that was separate to the “real” writing that I’d have to do to make the novel, like, exist. Brainstorms that can also serve as future word-count. That’s a keeper, I think.

And with it, I think I’ve found a new way to motivate myself to work on my own projects. Which is the eternal struggle with writing. So that’s cool.

And now I’m going to try to ignore my nerves and get some sleep. Until next week.

As in I’ll post something next week, not I’ll sleep until next week. Though I wouldn’t complain …

“Detox Day” 2/2

This was a very good, important idea.

I am going to need to think about this regarding Weekly Words. Obviously I really appreciate what Weekly Words has been doing for me, and I’d like to keep that up. But it’s clear to me that word-count alone is not what I need – or even want – to be focusing on right now. At least not for 10k words a week.

Part of that is because one of the conclusions I have come to over these two detox days is that I have a lot more than one kind of writing to do in order for my process to really work for me, and a lot of it is just being silly and having fun with my ideas. The other night, because it was about 4am and I wasn’t asleep because why would I be, I started coming up with stupid place names for the world in one of my projects, and iterated on the names for a good quarter of an hour just to make myself laugh. Now that seems kind of like “yeah, so what”, but I realised that not only did I do something that I enjoyed, but it also got me more invested in the project. And then I realised: this silly improvisational self-amusement is my natural mode; this is how I invest myself in my projects, the way I naturally express my enthusiasm, just throwing ideas around and workshopping them on the spot. And it’s something I’ve discouraged myself from doing, distracted myself from doing, for a very long time. I have internalised a lot of “writing advice” sort of logic regarding writing over the years, and I’m fairly sure I’ve made a lot of it up through a combination of only half paying attention to the actual advice I’ve been exposed to, and my own ingrained self-sabotaging habits that turn everything into an ever-escalating shame marathon. For all that I’ve written about having to make writing work for you and not pushing yourself to do things that just don’t work, it seems I have not been taking my own advice. I don’t let myself do things that I know work for me when I have some reason, however, flimsy, to think it’s “stupid” or “irrelevant”. It actually makes me pretty angry, seeing just how pointlessly pedantic I have gotten about my writing process over time, and how many opportunities I’ve missed because of these awful habits.

Yesterday, I identified the biggest issue for me – besides distraction, which these two days have been good for countering as well – which was self-sabotage through shifting my own goalposts and making it impossible for me to meet my own standards, because they keep changing. Inconsistency. Today, I identified one of my biggest strengths: letting myself do things my way. And that means taking time to give myself the opportunity to do that, which is what these past two days have done for me. In fact, I got pretty much everything I wanted out of these past two days: I revisited some old projects, identified what I liked about them, what got me to work on them or what held me back from doing so, found that I was actually still quite interested in some of them even after not working on them for so long, and got back in touch with what was going on with me and what I feel most drawn to. A chance to check in with myself. I now know I need to do that far more often.

And all of this thanks to pen and paper. Never will I be without it again. So sayeth the Ubermensch!

“Detox Day” 1/2

It went pretty well, actually.

I did not end up turning off my laptop, sadly, but there are just not many places in the house where I can both focus and have all my stuff ready to hand. Also didn’t get any drawing done, which is a shame.

However, I got a lot of important stuff done, so I don’t think it was a huge failure or anything. In fact, I’d call it a very well-needed and long overdue step in the right direction, and one that I do think I can keep up going forward. This is what I want my “day on” to look like when I take it, and I do think I need to actually have a proper weekend for it, not just one day. Make my weekends a little bit of a workshop for recreation and soul-searching.

Because I like soul-searching. I used to do a lot more of it, in my teen years; true, I also had a lot of horribly toxic habits in my teen years and the amount of introspection I did only served to make them more malignant in a lot of cases, but I’m past a lot of that shit now, and this is less introspection than it is data-collection and analysis. I identified some really key things, most of which I already “knew” but, let me tell ya, it makes a difference to actually sit down and work through it on paper:

  • I gravitate towards ideas that put a twist on some kind of established status quo, whether that is an external status quo like the tropes of a genre, or an internal status quo like my own tastes
  • I get excited when an idea answers an unasked but obvious question (for instance, in UF: why the “masquerade”?), generally in a way that does not reinforce the status quo (it is kind of stupid, how about we just get rid of it) (it’s not an original concept but you get the idea)
  • I get discouraged when things don’t immediately look/feel the way I want them to (often not having done enough research to make the world/characters/situations feel “authentic”)
  • Restrictions are great but also suck (can foster creativity, but can also make it feel like I’m obligated to include certain things that just don’t matter to me for the sake of things “making sense”)
  • I am a huge perfectionist and it needs to stop

Those are the main ones I’m taking away from my results so far; this will be an ongoing process because I can tell I’m only scratching the surface. It’s also ended up killing several birds with one stone, because in doing this I’ve (obviously) gone back and revisited some of my old ideas, like I wanted to a week or two ago, and lo and behold I actually do want to go back to them – especially after seeing that my reasons for not following through with them are almost unbelievably inane and pedantic. Pedantry, it seems, is my Achilles’ Heel.

And there are patterns, and that’s great. I am interested in what works, but also really interested in what doesn’t work, and what doesn’t work for me seems to be the aforementioned lack of immediate gratification, but the perfectionism thing – it’s just so weird. Like, I’ll have the idea, and it’ll be a pretty clear idea, and then once I start thinking about doing it “for real” my parameters shift suddenly, and instead of it being about me doing this cool thing I thought of it’s about “getting it right”, not for me but for some other consideration that comes up only after I’ve started, which sucks all the life out of it.

Basically, I shift my own goalposts, and if you’ve ever had that done to you by somebody else you know how shitty that is, so imagine how shitty it is to discover that you’ve been doing it to yourself for years as well. Of all the things I’ve identified about my process today, this is probably the most significant: I sabotage myself, constantly, by shifting the goalpost in terms of what I am trying to get done.

There’s obvious merit to the idea of adapting your plans if you have new information that changes the context of those plans, but for me there really hasn’t been that. It’s just been my own bad, unhealthy, self-hating habits, not allowing myself to follow through in the ways that I want once I get started, basically giving myself false advertising. “Hey, here’s a cool idea you can work on!” “really? yay, let me devote time to doing it!” “great, now that you’re here you’re actually going to do this other thing, because really the first thing was stupid don’t you think it was stupid, and also made you a bad person?” “I mean, I don’t want to be a bad person, but that really makes me not want to do this anymore” “that’s okay, it just means you’ll be a failure for life and never accomplish anything because of your lack of discipline and deserve to die of shame!”

It’s actually really gross, and I had no idea how gross it was, the way I’ve been treating myself all these years, until right now. So yes, today has been a good, valuable, health-improving day. In short, the lesson I have learnt is that I need to be aware of the way in which I kill my own momentum by insisting that what I do is dictated by some kind of arbitrary “need”, instead of the initial “want” that got me all excited to do it in the first place. And I need to stick with that “want”, commit to it, do right by it, in the hopes that, in time, my perfectionist goal-shifting inner demons will shrivel up and die from lack of sustenance – or that I’ll just get good at ignoring them.

And on that note, I have a few old projects that I want to start getting back to. As for drawing – that’s why I need a weekend, I have decided. I want a nice, cosy stretch of time to get all my shit done, and one day is not enough for that. A Weekend On. That sounds good. If it’s anything like today has been, it will be.

And it was enough of a detox to make me feel a lot better, rejuvenated and refreshed, even with the laptop. But I am looking forward to trying it without the laptop next weekend. It will be good.

So sayeth the Ubermensch! (yes, that is coming back)

Retroactive Perspective Disclaimer

You know what?

Maybe I’m just making too big of a deal out of this. I mean, writing is hard. It is universally hard. People always have trouble writing. And this whole “detox” thing tomorrow – well, this post certainly won’t date itself – is mostly concerned with what I write, and why.

Am I just overreacting?

I definitely think the co-writing experience has spoiled me. It has been so consistently rewarding, enjoyable and all-around positive that it’s hard to not compare it to my other writing experiences of late. I do think I need a proper day off, not just a day where I do the same shit I do every day only with no writing. I need a day to do things that I want to do; that’s the “detox”, really. And making lists of specific pieces of information related to my personal history. And draw. I really miss drawing.

But, as often happens, only after a lot of complaining and angst am I finally starting to realise that what I’m bothered about in this specific instance – that I’m not finding it as easy to write this thing I’m working in as a different thing I’ve been working on – might just not be a problem that even has a solution to begin with. In fact all evidence I have seen and experienced suggests that it just comes with the territory.

And as good as Weekly Words has been for the co-writing project, for everything else it’s been providing an excuse for me to try and force myself to do things that don’t need to be done. I mean, it has kept me consistently writing every day, save for the days off I have afforded myself, regardless of word-count. And I know the word-count isn’t the be-all and end-all of this enterprise. This smacks of my inner perfectionist as well. Maybe I’m just giving in to it. But I think I’ve forgotten, or just not acknowledged, that a massive part of why the co-writing project works – having somebody else involved to be accountable to/draw motivation from – is completely absent with my own writing. So my judgment about how hard or easy it should be to work on my own stuff, as opposed to the co-writing project, just may not be fair.

But that actually makes me think that I need this day off even more, because anything I can do to get the fuck away from my perfectionism, self-shaming, and general pedantic neurotic bulshit is extremely needed. This “detox day” might just be the first “day on” that actually does what it’s supposed to do. That would be totally awesome, honestly, and I do think I want my “days on” to be a proper break, not just an excuse to not write that day.

Overreacting about writing being hard? Quite possibly. But now that I’ve had my little freakout here and published in online for the entire world to see, I realise that I need this detox day/day on for reasons completely unrelated to writing. Which will, of course, ultimately lead back around to how I write, and why. Which is what I wanted to begin with.

… cool.

Weekly Word 06-12/05/2018

06/05/18: 1202

A solid start to the week. After my big freakout about not having passion or whatever last time, I found that today it actually came fairly easily to me. Mostly through humour. I tend to write to make myself laugh, at the end of the day, whether the humour is dark or silly or, occasionally, clever, but the main point is that humour gets me through. It’s an old habit of mine, and definitely set the tone of a lot of my older projects, but now I realise it’s another tool that I have for getting myself to write when I don’t really feel like it.

I also miss doing it, even though as a coping mechanism it has definitely dominated the tone of certain projects to an undue extent, and just making myself laugh is not always going to be helpful as a result – but on the other hand, I feel like a lot of my more recent projects have gone too far in the other direction, being too serious one way or another. Seriousness is not a bad thing, but like humour, it can outstay its welcome. Unlike humour, I don’t really find that it motivates me, so I’m not quite sure why it’s become sort of my go-to tone when coming up with new projects.

Lots to think about, then, for the rest of the week – but regardless, writing is getting done, and as long as that is true, everything else is just gravy.

07/05/18: 2284

I’m still leaving writing later than I’d like in the day, but it is getting done, and I daresay I’m actually enjoying it once it gets going.

I’ve been very aware of the “hump” with my project, the point in the writing where, once you’ve passed it, things get much easier. There’s a lot of setup with this piece I’m writing right now, and putting off the main action is frustrating the part of me that demands instant gratification, which is a rather large part of me. But I stuck to my guns, forced myself to write through the stiffness that always comes with working on a new project that isn’t driven by passion, which was all of last week’s writing besides the co-writing project – and while it’s not getting easier, I’m starting to believe that it could, at least. And it’s getting to the point in this project where the setup portion ends, and the main action begins, which I think I will enjoy.

I like a good introduction; I like procedure in stories, and I like it well-executed. I just don’t like writing it myself, when I want to jump straight to the action, but as I learnt in writing Wolf Gang, while jumping ahead to the interesting stuff can certainly work, it comes with its own drawbacks, because instead of working through the tough stuff that leads to the interesting stuff, which becomes a kind of reward, it’s skipping straight to the reward and then expecting yourself to go back to the boring crap you didn’t want to do in the first place, which is part of why that god-awful manuscript took me a year and a half to write instead of six months, tops. I have to learn this skill, the skill of writing without passion to get to the stuff that I’m passionate about, because I know that, when it’s all said and done, I will be glad that I did the “boring” stuff. It’s not even boring, just boring to write. And, of course, revision fixes everything if it is boring …

And that, more than anything, is what I want to get used to: getting to the revision process, getting to the point where I can fix things that need to be fixed. I don’t just have to get used to letting myself write badly; I have to get used to letting myself write boringly, which is a hell of a lot harder.

But I’m getting there. It’s getting there.

And I’m still writing my own stuff.

08/05/18: 26

Tuesdays return to their state of being unproductive this week, but hey, got something written.

This has to end, though. I felt so crap today, stressing out about having Youthline this evening, even though I had a good 6 hours beforehand – and would have had more if I had woken up earlier – and as a result spent the day trying to distract myself from this sense of impending doom, procrastinating like a champ, and generally not getting a ton of stuff important to me anywhere near done.

But I think this can become a good thing in retrospect. I mean today sucked, but it’s been an opportunity for me to pull together a few things I’ve been motivated to do in my life recently. One is to “write like shit” better – the whole thing of wanting to get to the revision process quickly so that I can make the thing that I wrote into the thing that I want to have written. The other is to make myself do things that I actually want to do – when I want to do them. I have fretted about not doing this for years; after tonight’s Youthline session I realise that this ties in with pretty much every neurosis I have, the fear of missing out or having already missed out that has dominated most of my life up to this point, and it’s time to put a positive spin on it and turn this frustration into a pro-active initiative.

Also figuring out what I actually want to do, which is where I get stuck again. But putting wheels in motion and all that. I want to get this thing I’m writing to get finished this week. That’s my goal. Sort of like the 10k-words-per-week goal; it’s an ideal, but one that I want to put in the effort to meet, even though not meeting it isn’t the end of the world. This thing that I’m writing – I’m enjoying it in retrospect, but I want to be writing something that I actually look forward to working on, not something that I have to force myself to work on. I mean I want to be able to do both, and so far I feel I’m doing a decent job of proving that I have that capacity, but I still think it’s worth chasing the dream.

10/05/18: 1497

It’s still hard to write my own stuff, but it is also still getting written.

I just really do want to write something else.

And you know, I think that could still be this project. I think my attitude is a big factor here; I’m insisting that this project be a certain way, and I think that’s ruining a lot of it for me. I’m trying to prescribe my writing to myself, instead of looking for ways to enjoy it.

At least until I start writing. It always gets easier once I start, but getting started is so difficult. Basic writer problems, I know, but I can’t help but compare this to the co-writing project – met up with my friend tonight to discuss the final two episodes, which was very motivating – which, ever since I started Weekly Words, has been easy to just sit down and put words into, and think that there must be a way for me to get that with my own personal projects.

So this Saturday, and a bit on Sunday, I’m going to be trying a bit of a mental detox and puzzle-solving session, where the puzzle is my brain. I have a lot of things that I try to make myself like or prioritise because they seem good for some reason, and I have gotten so used to doing it that I’ve kind of forgotten how to tell when I actually like something, especially writing-wise. So, in line with my mission to figure out what the fuck I actually want to do with my life, which writing is a part of, Saturday is a Day On. Pen and paper, because it’s harder to file away and forget all about than a digital document. I’m going to do drawing, y’all. I’m going to free-write some shit, take some of these ideas that I think are neat and just see where I naturally go with them before I start turning them into plans and agendas, because I think I’m really missing that immediacy in my writing, and life in general. I’m going to reflect on my life and shit, try to remember what was going on when I came up with the ideas and stories that really resonated with me, and see if there’s some common thread, something I can replicate. And also look at what was going on when I was most enjoying my writing. I think that I know, a lot of the time, but the answer is always too simplistic and hand-wavey. “I was a kid so everything was better/easier”. “I was doing it for self-therapy”. “I was on a sugar high”. Etc.

Saturday is about specifics, because I think the main reason why I find so many of my issues so difficult to deal with is not being specific about what it is that’s going on. I generalise, a lot, so I’m taking this opportunity to get better at that, to pin down exactly what works, what doesn’t, and why, as best as I can.

And that, hopefully, will put me on the path to doing things that I actually want to do, instead of things that distract me from not knowing what those things are.

As well as things that I need to do. But that’s another self-project, and will be blogged about another time.

11/05/18: 578

The font seems to have changed in the WordPress post-drafting window. Weird.

But that’s it for me this week. Looking forward to tomorrow, when I am going to attempt a detox-style day and try to work out what the hell it is that I actually want. Or maybe just take a detox day in general. That might sort things out pretty well for me, because my current routine is and has been for a long time now a string of distracting habits, and I have the suspicion that this is the underlying problem I’m facing in most areas of my life that I am facing problems in I am an English major I know how to construct sentences I got First Class Honours don’t step pleb.

I also really do need to work out a way to measure my non-word-count-related writing progress, even if it’s not on this blog, because so much important work is done regarding writing a thing into being that does not involve the words that it is made up of. But one thing at a time, and the more I think about it, the more I realise that this detox has been a long time coming.

Until next week.

Weekly Total: 5587