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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.