Weekly Words 24-30/06/2018

24/06/18: 361

It’s time for some changes.

I did actually write out that idea from the other night, in the end, and while first drafts really should not be judged on whether or not the writer “got it right”, I have to say that it certainly felt like I got it pretty right.

And this, I think, was due to the fact that I was having major angst about it.

Not the angst itself, obviously, but the reflections that came out of it: I realised that a huge issue for me for the past few years has been an issue of voice as a writer – namely, I don’t know what mine is. I don’t come up with an idea and think to myself: “oh, I know how I would write that”. I don’t have a set style; I just have ideas, and then clunk around trying to articulate them. I guess this is all just conjecture, but I imagine having confidence in one’s voice is feeling certain about your use of language, secure in your own tropes and idiosyncrasies, having certain turns of phrase you fall back on. I imagine it’s like having a set of tools that you are very familiar with, so familiar that you don’t even have to think about which one to use. And maybe this is completely and utterly wrong, but that’s what I imagine it’s like, and it’s not like that for me. When I say that I don’t know what words to use, I think it’s more that I don’t know what words I would use. I don’t have my go-to phrases, I don’t feel like I have a particular way with words. I feel very blank as a writer, like a really lazy chameleon.

But I guess that’s also good in a way. More room to experiment. I definitely don’t want to get so set in a certain way of writing that it means I can’t branch out with my ideas – I just want my writing to read like it comes from me. And I don’t know what that writing looks like.

So, going forward, the word-count goal is remaining, but the purpose is changing. This isn’t just publishable words, the way it used to be – because honestly, if we’re going by that logic, then I actually haven’t written nearly as much as I’ve recorded.

Going forward, this is counting all the writing that I do that is designed to improve or build upon my skill as a writer. My craft, I suppose. Because I realise now that it’s something I care about quite a lot, and I want to invest in it more.

And I also know that I do have a voice as a writer, but it’s a first-draft voice. It doesn’t come across as confident, comfortable, stable – it’s all over the place, uses too many words and doesn’t really care what any of them are. And I do think that’s useful for first drafts. But part of my semi-breakdown the other day over my writing style was recognising that, actually, this method of writing I’ve been trying to perfect doesn’t quite work for me. I can’t just churn out a first draft in a month and not care what’s going on the page while I’m writing it. I definitely want to get faster at writing, and I know that the reason I’ve been trying to re-train myself to write this way is because I have a very bad habit of writing first chapters over and over and over again, until I’m so stuck on the start of a story that I don’t even care about writing the rest of it anymore. I think trying to not do that anymore was a good idea, and I think it’s been fairly successful, too. But with that said, having to wait until I’m finished with a first draft before I start acting like I give a damn about what it is that I’m writing while I’m writing it – that’s not me. As yesterday’s existential crisis proved to me, I like caring in the moment; I take energy from caring in the moment, and I think that’s something I need to look at as a potential strength of mine, rather than a weakness.

Also, all of those stop-and-start first chapters?

They were almost all the first chapter of Realm of the Myth.

It is entirely possible that this was a problem with the source material, rather than me as a writer, is what I’m saying. Although I still could have handled it better – by ditching it the first time I decided to ditch it, and not spending the next 17 years agonising over how I just couldn’t get it to work. That is also a writer skill I wish to develop.

This also leads me to a great segue in to my final point of today’s rant: planning. I need to figure out what the difference is between plans that work for me and plans that don’t. Obviously, Weekly Words is a plan that works pretty damn well. But in terms of writing projects … well, in the case of Mark and Jessie being written without a plan – it shows. It shows very painfully. It’s hard to read not just because of typical first-draft filler, but because it doesn’t seem to have a clear direction that it’s heading in. Nothing that’s happening feels important, none of it feels like it has a purpose – none of it feels like it’s leading up to anything.

But Realm of the Myth, for all its 17 years of flaws, was the first and only draft of a novel that I have ever written using a plan, and I stuck to the plan. Yes, it turned out that once I finished it I was done with it, but again, that’s a problem with the source material, not the process I was using to write it. I’m almost tempted to go back and read it, just to see if it’s appreciably different to Mark and Jessie in terms of readability. Maybe it’s not. Maybe planning is not the answer …

But, there’s also the co-writing project. We have a plan for that; we concocted our plan before we even started writing. It took, like, a month of planning, maybe even two. And it was worth it. Even though we’re already making tweaks in anticipation of the revision process, it was worth having the plan to work from, and not just for the obvious reason of having to coordinate our storytelling efforts. It’s purpose. It’s getting the cool ideas down and making them attainable as goals. It’s giving ourselves things to look forward to.

And maybe that’s it. Having something to look forward to. Caring. I haven’t really cared about a lot of my story plans for the last … ever, honestly. Wolf Gang was so basic it didn’t need a plan; Tallulah definitely could have benefited from a plan, although it’s still in much better shape than Mark and Jessie, despite only being written 4 years after. But a lot of my plans are very … functional. They’re not fun. I don’t look at them and go: “yeah, can’t wait to write that”. They’re me trying to link events together in as practical a manner as possible, but practical only in the sense that it’s moving the story along the narrative track from point A to point B, and not only is that not motivating, it’s also not actually practical, because it’s not working. So what I want out of my plans going forward is motivation. If I’m going to plan something, it has to be a plan that I want to execute, heading towards a goal that I want to achieve, not just something that seems like it’d probably work if I did it.

Because this is my personal time and energy. I’m not getting paid for this shit, and nobody is waiting on me to finish. So it’s got to be for me.

And that is what Weekly Words is going to be here for, going forward – I still want to be writing a lot, but from here on out it’s about working on being a better writer, which absolutely includes actually making myself sit down and do some damn writing, the “functional” stuff – I still think it’s important – but it’s also writing exercises I might set myself just to experiment, to test my voice out on different material. Vocal exercises, I guess is what this metaphor is heading towards making me say.

Okay. That’s enough ranting for one day. There’s housekeeping stuff I want to do as well, format tweaks regarding Monthly Words in particular – calendar months are not neatly arranged into 4-week chunks, sadly, so it makes keeping track of my word-count over the months a tad annoying – but I’ll see how this Monthly Words goes. I like the big numbers at the end of each month for morale purposes, but maybe just shifting my expectations away from seeing my monthly word-count as a precise calculation and more just an indicator of general achievement will be enough.

In any case – I feel renewed in purpose. I have some old stuff to continue looking over, and some reflection on the origins of many of my writing habits to continue reflecting upon. I only just realised tonight, writing it out, that the entire reason I’m paranoid about my habit of lingering on first chapters and not progressing anywhere with projects is because of Realm of the Myth, and that’s gone now. Sadly, the same thing is happening with some new projects as well, so I’d better nip that in the bud – I will allow myself to edit on the fly, a bit. But I think it’s got to be editing past chapters while simultaneously writing new ones. I think that could work – it’s how I wrote my masters, and hey, that got written.

It feels like a plan is coming together. And I do love when that happens.

25/06/18: 0

Again, normally I don’t write on my days off, but today has just been shit. One thing happened that threw me off and upset me, and the entire rest of the day was ruined because of it. Feeling pretty pathetic right about now.

It’s life stuff, stuff that I feel completely unprepared to face – I’ve been going on about being prepared lately, but it’s been in the context of things that I actually feel capable of being prepared for. This stuff, for whatever reason, is not included in that stuff category. Ask whoever developed my brain, and programmed it for maximum anxiety and depression sensitivity. Then shoot them. For me. I would appreciate it.

As a result of this one tiny thing that threw me entirely off my game, I have been feeling particular animosity towards my writing today, because where has it gotten me? Am I making a living as an author? Have I taken any realistic steps towards doing so? Have I entered any writing competitions, taken any writing classes, submitted pieces of writing to magazines or journals or even blogs? Nope. Of course not. Because it’s my writing, and only I get to judge my writing, because I wrote it. What does your fucking opinion matter? It’s just an opinion, everyone has one, so keep it the fuck to yourself. This is mine. You don’t get a say.

And being 31 years old living at home with less work experience than most people half my fucking age, I can see the benefits that I have reaped of living with this attitude for, I dunno, my entire life. It’s great.

No, it’s not fucking great, but at least I have a bit of perspective now, seven and a half hours after the inciting incident.

For instance: writing doesn’t have to be how I make a living. That idea was naive and uninformed, and honestly not remotely serious. I just wanted to write because I wanted to write. I wanted to write books for friends and family to read in between Harry Potter installments. That’s the entire reason I got started. I had a fucking market cornered and everything; I was onto it when I was 13, dude, naive and uninformed or not.

But still, it wasn’t a commercial market, and I wasn’t submitting anything for publishing. These would have been printed out using either my friend’s printer or, I dunno, I would have worked out that I could go to some stationery store and get it done there; that was the extent of my ambition. I did want to be published, because I thought it would be cool to be published at 13, and when Christopher Paolini came out with Eragon – which I still haven’t read – that was the first hint I got that something wasn’t quite connecting between what I said I wanted and what I was doing about achieving it. But before then, it never bothered me. It was less a literal mission statement and more of a general sense of purpose: I was writing so that I could be read, accounted for, impact others in some way, not so that I could pay bills or feel a sense of financial independence. Because I was 13.

Also because writing is an unstable career choice I should have gone to med school well too late now guess I’d better find a nice patch of pavement to get real familiar with in the coming years …

Even to this day, thinking about making a living as an author, of having that be my job, I can’t actually imagine what it would look like, how it would feel, what kind of life that would actually be to live. It’s not real to me. How could it be? And tonight I’m wondering, not for the first time – why should it be?

Weekly Words was started in part so that I could make this year into a project, setting myself up to try and realise this dream. But now that I think about it, I don’t know if it’s something I’d even want if I got it. Maybe self-publishing is actually exactly what I need to be aiming for, the same goal that I had at 13, because honestly my aspirations have not actually evolved since I made that on-the-spot decision to Be A Writer at 13. I want people to see my work, read it, and have a reaction. And I have done a whole lot of nothing in terms of achieving even that simple goal.

At the beginning of this year, I had my epic wake-up call, and I really wish I was still in that headspace, because I was taking things very seriously. I had plans. I had goals. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity that this year would afford me in terms of actually having the time to focus on my writing, and see what I could make of it, and it’s so fucking hard. My own writing is so hard to do; my own ideas feel like shit, I don’t give a fuck about any of them, how the fuck did I think this was ever going to work.

It’s been one of those days.

But I think perhaps the solution is pretty simple.

I just need to write something that I want to share.

That was what got me started, but for so long now it’s just been about my ideas, my process, this insular little bubble containing my private workshop. I found that showing people my first drafts with Tallulah was not a good move in the long run, because it made me want to write to please my readers, rather than to please myself. And at the end of the day, it’s my story. But at the same time, storytelling is meant to be an interactive process, as far as I’m concerned. And I miss that aspect of my own process. I think that’s probably why the co-writing project has gone so well, and for me personally definitely the reason I’ve stuck with it for so long: it’s nice to have somebody to share ideas with, especially story ideas. It makes the ideas matter. And I think that is what’s been missing from my ideas lately, the reason they haven’t been doing it for me. I don’t want to just write for myself.

Or by myself.

I think I’m onto something here. Not a bad resolution to a garbage-ass mental health day.

26/06/18: 1858

Wow, I was in kind of a dark place yesterday, wasn’t I …

Today was much better, thankfully, and I am right back to being as unrealistic and short-sighted in my approach to life in general as ever. Ignorance is bliss, folks, don’t forget it. Or at least an effective short-term coping skill, and right now I need some of that.

I wasn’t going to write today, but I started at 11:59 am and finished an hour and a half later, with almost 2k words to show for it, and you know what? I’m calling that a win. A big win. Because this week I’m still feeling a little destabilised. It’s a better week than last week, and my marking access has finally been restored – I even got right back into marking today, and it was easier than it was last week! – but I took most of today to just play some games and recover emotionally from yesterday’s existential clusterfuck, and I needed that.

But I’m glad I also made myself write, and the ease with which I find myself continuing to commit to the co-writing project suggests to me that something in my huge life-upturning rant last night was on the money. Making a living out of writing – that can remain a fantasy that I’m not particularly realistic about, because why the hell not? There are so many published authors who can’t make their living from writing – but they’re still published, people still buy their books. So for me, that’s the part I want to focus on going forward. I just want my work out there, and I want it to be work that I’m proud of. As for making a living – well, I do have a kind of neat PhD topic I could look into pursuing, become one of those fabled rockstar academics, and bemoan the state of modern America like it’s going out of style. Not that you need a PhD to find problems with modern America …

But yes, today was a step back towards emotional equilibrium. And that’s all I wanted.

27/06/18: 23

This week is almost over, thank fuck. Not that it’s been a bad week; it’s been an average week with one shitty day and a few big personal revelations. I need a comprehensive life-plan, and that’s going into my weekly and monthly goals initiative.

As for writing – yeah, this month has been pretty shit all around in terms of productivity on my part. But I think it’s good that I’ve had this month – the first 3 were pretty good, after all, and reflecting back on everything I’ve had to deal with this month I’m happy enough with what I’ve managed to get done. No, this round of marking was not the identify-forging, habit-refining inferno I hoped it would be, but it has taught me that I need my down-time, I need to respect and appreciate my need for it, and I need to organise myself better so that I can take advantage of it when I have it, and get my shit done in a way that I can cope with healthily the rest of the time.

It’s also the last week I’ll be marking, if everything continues to go well – this week has been miles better in terms of marking than the first 2, and I’ve learnt some valuable lessons about how to do it better in the future.

This sounds like a wrap-up for the week, and honestly it kind of is. I might just do some writing tomorrow and not write about it, unless something noteworthy happens – I am seriously out of energy, and I think I need to put my lessons into practice for next week and participate in some hardcore fucking R&R. I also didn’t realise how much energy Youthline was taking out of me until I didn’t have it this week, and seriously it feels like I gained a whole extra day, even though it’s only four hours a week full told. I’m looking forward to it starting up again, but at the same time I am grateful as hell for this reprieve.

Next week, I might actually take a week off Weekly Words just to recover. I might still do some writing, but not with the goal of recording it or having something to blog about. I need to chill out. It will be bad for me not to. But we’ll see – maybe by the time next week rolls around, I’ll actually feel really energised and have tons of things to report writing-wise.

For now, I’m just thankful that the end is in sight.

28/06/18: 8

That did not go as intended but.

But.

It’s over.

The marking is over. The other shit that I have to do is over.

For the rest of the year, I get to write.

And also panic about having no plan for basic survival beyond next year, but hey, one thing at a time.

I feel very good right now, because I am free to do other things than what I have been doing lately. I know that I did not get the experience that I hoped for with this round of marking; my habits did not get better or stronger, and I did not come away from this round of marking feeling more confident, empowered, or capable.

But I think that’s because I’m in the moment right now, just basking in the relief of knowing that I don’t have to do anything anymore. And I think I can afford to do that for a bit. But I am also definitely going to do some reflectioning over the weekend, and put into perspective what I did get out of this rather stressful past couple of weeks. I know I had a whole bunch of life-changing revelations that didn’t really end up changing a hell of a lot, but such is stress for those who do not know how to handle it I guess. At least I did some writing every day, even if it was just to rant morbidly on this blog.

No point standing on ceremony; I did better than last week, so that’s something. This week’s grand total is:

Weekly Total: 2250

And, in fact, I have some plans, and they involve writing.

First of all, of course, I will continue the slog of reading Mark and Jessie, though I am starting to think that I need to skim-read it much more than I need to in-depth analyse it.

Second of all, I have one project in particular that I had a whole bunch of energy for a couple of years back, when I was really big into Critical Role (still pretty big into it), but it never took off like I wanted it to. I have identified a potential issue with my ability to plan stories: the plans work when I am planning stuff that I want to write, rather than trying to make it “work”. So, that’s the idea here: plan for fun, and work out the logistics in revision. Mostly, I just want to move past the point of writing and re-writing the first chapter over and over again. I need that.

And third of all – I had big plans for what I was going to do with myself this round of marking, and those things did not happen. But I also had big plans for what I was going to do with myself after marking finished, and those are the things I’m going to be focusing on this next week on, with some tempering from the past week’s experiences. I’m glad this is happening at the end of the month, feels like a good old-fashioned the-best-ending-is-a-new-beginning sort of situation. I’m down with those.

The plan going forward is to apply these two fundamental principles to everything that I do and plan for:

  1. Have a list of priorities to meet
  2. Take time out to recharge

And that’s it.

Though I feel that’s underselling the significance of this initiative a bit: these are the two things that I am historically the worst at out of all the things that I could potentially be graded on regarding my performance. I suck at meeting priorities once I set them (if I ever set them, definitely part of the problem), and I suck at self-care. And I think it’s because it’s just me handling these things – nobody else cares, so why should I care?

But I should care, and I think if I stop to think about it I do care – so, that is my strategy for making these two things happen: stopping, and thinking.

My “detox weekend” was life-changing, and ever since I have been trying to recapture the clarity of purpose and perspective that I found while committing to those two days of reflection – not just passively reminiscing, but actually taking stock of what I’ve been doing with myself up to this point, and why.

Weekly Words has been great for perspective – at the end of every month. I’m going to lean on it a bit harder for more timely perspective updates, but it’s still not enough. I know, as everyone in this day and age knows, that most of the things that we do with our time are distractions; social media is the popular culprit here, but I’m going to just say that it’s anything to which we have ease of access with no emotional commitment necessary. If you don’t have to commit, you don’t have to care, but then what I find is that not having to care often means that I don’t care – and as I discovered last week, I want to care. I want to care really badly.

I failed at my Ubermenschian goals of crafting a powerful, virile identity of an unstoppable one-man labour force during this last round of marking, but I know that there’s a lot to reflect on regardless – maybe in the moment it was too much for me, and maybe my goal-setting has not evolved that much from when I was 13 and more or less just doing it because it felt good to do in the moment, plus I had no idea what the fuck it even meant so it was just what it meant to me. And that’s fine – but I want something more, I dunno, consequential now. All of these things I’ve identified in myself over the past month or two – wanting to care, wanting to commit, wanting to get my shit done instead of just thinking about it, wanting to have a more structured routine – it feels like I’ve failed at doing them. But, stopping and thinking about it now – that’s just a problem in attitude. It’s the same problem that I have with approaching new writing projects, or even just writing projects in general: I always look at them in terms of “getting it done”.

When really, what I want is to get starting doing them.

Because when you’re done, you’re done, and some things are definitely good to be done with. 17-year-old passion projects that never seem to really get off the ground, for one. But I think I’m starting to understand now that it can’t be about that, and the words that we use do matter – even if they’re the words “I’m going to be an author”, uttered at age 13 when it doesn’t actually “matter” to you what it means, in a literal sense. It’s still shaped the person that I’ve become, entirely, and I honestly don’t like that.

But it’s what I’ve got to work with – and I can work towards other things, too. I had that revelation for the first time at age 24, that I didn’t have to be a writer, despite pushing myself and judging myself based on whether or not I felt like a writer up to that point. And I was right.

It’s just that now, I feel like I have laid some of the groundwork that I need to actually follow through with that, while also accounting for the fact that, as evidence by spending the next 7 years continuing to write, I actually like writing. I just don’t like it as much as I should, or could, and while some of that is because, to this day, I still lean on it way too heavily to find a sense of meaning for the entire scope of my existence, the rest of it is because I haven’t taken it that seriously.

I need a balance of 1) committing to my writing,  and 2) committing to doing other shit that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with writing. I want to have a revision of Mark and Jessie done by December 24th this year. But I also want to have more to show for this year than only having a revision of a book done – because I think I can do more, and more than that, I need to do more. Writing is important to me, but going forward I need to make room for other things that can also be important to me, that I haven’t been acknowledging or even recognising up to this point.

So, basically, this is the end of the second act where the protagonist gets their shit together and begins the arduous task of taking the consequences of their actions and turning them into a lesson for overcoming the final narrative obstacle. In this case, my obsession with Being A Writer. And as I’ve felt for the past several years, that’s not something that I want anymore.

But I do want to write, and I want to write well.

So, let’s do that.

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Distressful

So after a stressful week, I was hoping for a more chilled out weekend. Yesterday had ups and downs. The ups – well, there was one up: finally getting myself, sometime in the evening, to finally kick back and just play some Rise of the Tomb Raider, which was very satisfyingly blobtastic The downs, on the other hand, included thinking I would be able to get some marking done only to find that I couldn’t access any of the assignments online (lecturer is working on a solution) and that fucking up my plan for the day, feeling unable to relax until around 6pm when I started playing Tomb Raider, which was a monumental effort that made me write a huge ranty post that has now been deleted about the suffering I experienced just trying to figure out why the hell it was so hard for me to relax; feeling sick after playing Tomb Raider for about 3 hours (actually kind of a good thing as I did want to do something else but was forcing myself to stick with the game, listen to your bodies readers); and generally just not knowing what the fuck to do with myself all day.

Today has been some more of the same, but with less guilt-sickness. Still couldn’t access the assignments, still had no clue what to do with myself – and then, I had an Idea. A really powerful idea that I really liked, thought about for a good half hour just concocting this story around it that felt organic and natural and powerful …

And I just can’t fucking write.

Like, yes, this is perfectionism speaking. But it’s more than that. I actually feel like I have lost the ability to write. I can put words on a page, but I can’t write. I can’t find my way to the word that make sense, the important words, the ones that tell the story of this idea in its particulars. I have my ideas visually; I think in terms of movies in my head. They say a picture is worth a thousand words – well, right now that seems particularly true for all the wrong reasons, because there are a thousand ways I could take one of those images and put it into words, but there aren’t a thousand right ways to do it. There’s a tone, a feeling, an aura if you will to this idea, to every idea, and the wrong words will fail to convey it. And it feels like all I have are wrong words.

The solution that I can think of is just to write and not care about how it turns out. Practical, aspirational in a utilitarian sense, a skill that I have been desperate to develop for the past couple of years.

But the problem with that is that I already care about this idea. I care about it quite a lot, actually, not so much for the idea itself but what it represents to me, as a writer and just as a person.

I miss caring.

Reading Mark and Jessie has been a revelation, and a really upsetting one upon reflection. It’s been all the things a first draft can and probably should be: bad, sluggish, overwrought, over-written, under-developed, flat, morally abhorrent … it’s shit. And it’s the necessary kind of shit, the shit that fertilises the grounds upon which better storytelling can be done. I’m working very hard right now to bear this in mind.

Because I’m reading this 622 page monstrosity, thinking about returning to it as a project to start revisions on, and I can’t see my ideas anywhere in this manuscript. I can see the vague, basic premise of a setting and plot, and I recognise the characters’ names. That’s it. But that’s all. I can’t understand how I let myself write 622 fucking pages of this thing that isn’t my story. That is the part that is so upsetting to me; when I read back over Tallulah for the first time, it was frustrating, dense, inconsistent, embarrassing – but at least it seemed somewhat similar to the idea, the original concept, the story-seed that inspired me to spend 7 months writing it to life. Whereas this thing … I just don’t get it. I do not get it at all.

So when it comes to this new idea, this one that I find myself caring about, I am terrified to start writing it for fear of not just fucking it up like any normal writer does during a first draft (something I’m also trying to convince myself is perfectly normal right now), but of that being proof that I lack the ability to write my ideas down the way I have them in my head, beyond the normal difficulties of translating imagery into text. I am afraid that I will start writing, and discover that I do not have this skill that I have been exercising for the past 18 years. And what this tells me …

Is that I need to see a therapist, for the love of god I need that sweet sweet therapy, fucking hell just chill the fuck out for a second dude.

Because this is ridiculous. I care about an idea for a story, not even a very clear or developed idea, just one that I care about, and it’s scaring me to care about it. If that doesn’t scream unresolved emotional issues, I don’t know what does. It’s not even a person that I’m afraid of caring about or something; it’s an idea, it’s my idea, and I can’t even just fucking enjoy it, I can’t let myself even interact with it for fear of discovering that I am somehow inimical to it.

The one good thing that happened yesterday – this morning, to be precise – is that all of that stress brought me really close to the wall. As in the one you hit your head against sometimes when you’re out of options, hoping to stir a few nascent brain-cells into action from the impact, never mind how many others you destroy in the meantime. And I think I need to hit that wall hard. I remember writing Tallulah and finding that hitting my head against the wall, over and over, actually was a really good way to figure out what I was doing wrong, and how to go about finding a solution for it. I feel like I’m close to that breakthrough here, writing about this ridiculous existential fear.

And anyway, I wrote this thing like a goddamn decade ago; all of my recent writing has been, like, awesome. Maybe I just need to not write for a week or something and go back and read over some of my stuff. I did want to keep reading over my older stuff and just never got around to it; I think maybe it’s time I read some of my newer stuff again, and just give myself a bit of a morale boost. Yes, Mark and Jessie is dogshit in its current written state, but I haven’t touched it since 2008.

And actually, that’s not entirely true; I did read back over some of my newer stuff, it’s kind of crap but it’s a hell of a lot better than Mark and Jessie.

I need more perspective. That’s what I need.

So sayeth the Ubermensch!

And right now, the Ubermensch is going to do some fucking writing, because it’s been too fucking long since I fucking cared about an idea of my own this much. Fuck this inane neurosis. If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly, and if I’m destined to do it badly then hack powers fucking activate. Shit’s getting written tonight.

Weekly Words 17-23/06/2018

16/06/18: 367

This “week” starts on Saturday because of scheduling stuff, and there is no way I am getting my weekend off this week. Next week, though. The sun sun will come out next week.

However, this week I have clearer goals than I did last week, where I was scrambling to fill up my list of things I wanted to get done just for myself. This week, I didn’t have to scramble; with a little prompting, the answers became obvious. Following up on my theory that the “new project feeling” I’ve been chasing for the past couple of weeks actually might stem from a lack of commitment to my current projects, this week I am committing to those projects anew. I finished that big scene last month – I think it was last month, maybe it was early this month – for one of my projects and haven’t touched it since; I finished that difficult scene last week and haven’t returned to that project since; I have a few other ideas that I’ve been really motivated to work on over the past couple of years and just haven’t done it; I put the final nail in the coffin of a 17-year-old project and have all sorts of creative opportunities that I’m not taking – starting this week, I am taking these opportunities. I have a list of things to get done creatively this week; I am still working on my monthly goals, but honestly, all of these are projects that I want to persist with over the rest of the year, most likely.

And I am still re-reading Mark and Jessie, and persisting through the painful over-explaining of my 20-year-old self has proven fruitful in a couple of ways, the most validating being that, yes, I need to reboot this project to make it work. Reading what I’ve written, comparing it to the vision that I had to begin with, it doesn’t even remotely match. I don’t know how I didn’t pick up on it, except for the fact that that’s just what happens when you get that writing tunnel-vision. There is nothing better for a writing project than actually writing it, but sometimes it is the worst thing for your vision for your project.

I definitely think part of that is the fact that this was written entirely without a plan. This was pantsing of the highest degree; I was so driven by my emotional investment that it more than compensated for any insecurity I might have felt (but didn’t, that much I am sure of) over the fact that I had no plan going in. I’m quite proud of that accomplishment – but the actual result is … a first draft. It’s shit, but there are ideas worth keeping and expanding on; it’s hard to read, but it’s instructional; it’s hard work, but that’s because there’s a lot to take in – and a lot I would do well to completely abandon. So much filler. Like, it’s almost surreal how much filler there is in this manuscript.

But it’s going good. And it feels like things are going good this week. Today was good, perhaps that’s why. Hung out with my co-writing friend and mostly just chatted, then had lunch with her and her sister and sister’s husband, shared some entertaining and embarrassing family histories, and even got some marking done after all that. It’s been a long day, and tomorrow will be another long day – the final weekend session at Youthline for this course – and I was feeling fatigued tonight, thinking about it. But now, listing out my goals for the rest of the week, I’m actually feeling pretty energised. Motivated. This is all stuff that I want to get done – no, stuff I want to continue working on. And I am looking forward to spending my time working on it.

All while getting all of my marking done in a timely fashion.

Looking forward to it …

18/06/18: 313

I felt like shit today. At first I thought it was because the past week, especially the weekend, was super exhausting – enjoyable and rewarding, but exhausting. I thought that the answer would be to just chill, take the day off, let myself just blob out. Surely, I thought, that would give me the recuperation I so needed.

I learnt a valuable lesson from this, continuing to explore Tomb Raider 2 after starting on it last week after letting it sit on my shelf since around Christmas last year: no matter how exhausted your schedule makes you, going cold turkey on it will fuck you up. You’ve got to stick to it – unless it’s just an awful schedule that was unhealthy to begin with, which mine is not. But even in that case, it is really quite traumatic to suddenly stop doing something that you’ve been doing for long enough that it’s become a habit.

So that’s good, in the sense that I’m getting good at creating the kinds of habits that I want to create for myself. And also that I now know that sticking to the plans I make to sustain these habits is good to so – and important to do, for my own well-being. It took me about half the day to work this out, which was not ideal, but once I figured it out I was able to make up for some of it, doing some things I thought I had written off for the day. It did feel quite bad, because it meant I wasn’t taking care of these responsibilities when I had planned to initially, but that’s all the more reason to stick to your guns.

But also, I definitely should have planned to take today off. I should have realised that the weekend would have really taken it out of me. Because I do think that I needed a day off after the weekend – hell, I still feel like that – and managing my energy levels and acknowledging my limits is something I need to be more pro-active about.

This led to my choice of writing material for the evening. After all that talk of having so much energy for writing but marking getting in the way of actually doing it, today really messed me up energy-wise. But I still think that commitment is the key, more than any particular idea or project that I have going right now. That is one thing I felt very strongly over the weekend, and was sort of the theme for today: things work out for me when I stick to my guns. So today’s writing focused on one of my current projects, one that I’ve let sit for a while – I couldn’t do energy today, but I knew I could do commitment. Well, no, that’s not entirely true: in retrospect it was in keeping with my commitment to … commit … to my projects, but at the time it was just “oh hey it’s on my list for this week better make myself do it.”

Which is, really, the same principle. I made a plan, and I stuck to it. No, it doesn’t feel good, but that’s because today has been shitty in general. I still feel that it was the right thing for me to do, the helpful thing, and if it doesn’t fill me with existential glee right this minute that’s fine. It’s a process, and I believe it’s a good one.

20/16/1: 829

And now for something completely different …

Well, not completely different, just the exact opposite. I had a plan today, didn’t stick to it, and the end result was the sense that I wasted an entire goddamn day. Lesson learnt.

However, I did get some important stuff done. For starters, my marking speed on this assignment has finally started to improve, and quite substantially at that. I have also begun working on a screenplay version of one of my projects (and trying to find out how the fuck you format a screenplay), another idea that I never thought I would actually manage to make myself get to work on, so that’s a plus. That is also where the entirety of today’s word-count comes from, and I had so long to actually do it. Tomorrow can be a really damn big redemption story, because I have more things to do, which means that to maximise the use of my time I’m going to need to, well, maximise it. There is shit that I want to do, so I had better fucking do it.

And having started this screenplay, it turns out that this project is one of those things. I am quite glad to have discovered this. Actually, this week has been good for discovery in general, discovery through experimenting and pushing myself to do things I have promised myself I would do. The part that bothers me is that I just haven’t done very much of those things – but then again, it is the type of stuff that I never thought I would actually do at all, so I should acknowledge this as a win.

Also I’m still marking, which makes everything harder to do in general. At least I’m on top of that aspect of my time-management, even if it’s not as on top as I would like to be. But oh well. There’s still half the week to go, and that’s a lot of time I can use to make up for some of these personal disappointments.

I am really feeling the lack of the extra day in my writing week this month, since I added Fridays to my weekends. I’ll see how it all feels after the monthly wrap-up – gotta remember the big picture, the shot of pure perspective heading my way. I need it more often than just once a month. I think that’s what I can use my fridays for: a proper weekly recap, rather than the summaries I’ve been writing lately on my final day of writing. That might help a lot actually.

Today hasn’t been as bad as all that, but I really wanted it to be better, and had a plan to make it so. I just have to commit. Commitment is the key. That seems to be the theme for me recently. Time to get with the program.

21/06/18: 1

This week has been traaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaash.

Trash I tell you.

But you know what that’s okay. It’s okay because it’s also been a really big week, a big, distracting, disorienting week where I made some rather large life decisions and am still kind of sitting with their weight on my shoulders. It’s been an understandable week, and to be honest if this was anybody else’s week and I was hearing about it, I’d be pretty sympathetic to a little lack of focus/productivity.

Also, to be fair, it’s not like I’m behind on anything. I have plenty of time to get done the things I need to. The big, disheartening disappointment for me this week has been not getting done the stuff that I want to. It’s hard to break old habits, and it’s those old habits that are holding me back right now – primarily, self-distracting habits as a way of self-soothing during times of stress of exhaustion. And, like, some good old-fashioned blobbing as a recreational practice is fine by me, and I daresay even a healthy way to just reset every now and again. It’s just that it feels like an inevitability, not something under my control. A compulsion rather than me making the conscious decision of “I don’t really feel like doing anything today” and then following through. And that’s what needs to change.

The big issue behind that is that none of the things I’ve set up for myself to do … actually appeal to me very much. I honestly just don’t know what to do with myself that I enjoy. Oh shush, you know what I mean. Yes commitment blah blah blah it’s not enough.

Well, I’ve proven that I can do it, at least a bit. I have gotten some things started this week. I can feel myself falling off the wagon though; I have felt on the back foot for all of this week, and that’s only partly because of self-sabotaging behaviour. The rest of it is … well, the new things I tried out this week and last just don’t feel like things I am capable of continuing with. If I think about it, what I’m experiencing currently is a serious lack of faith in myself. Which is nothing new, mind you, and I guess the fact that I’m even aware of this is a step forward for me. But part of the fact that my planned, written-in-my-notebook activities to do in my down-time so that I feel like I’m using it in satisfying ways are not appealing to me is because I don’t think I’m good enough to do them well. It’s all work, for the most part, and if it’s not work I feel guilty for wanting to do it because I haven’t done any work.

How the hell did this happen? I used to indulge, man. I used to have nothing but free time. Maybe that’s the problem – I’ve gotten too used to compensating for all the years of a complete and utter lack of self-discipline or initiative to do anything productive or socially valuable. I feel like I have to make up for all the time I spent not giving a fuck about anything other than what I felt like concerning myself with.

Although having said that …

When is that ever not true?

I mean, the feeling part. Obviously we all have to do things that we don’t necessarily want to – but do we have to care about them? I think not. We don’t have thought-crime – though if a certain world leader gets a second term I could imagine that changing – and even if we did, who would be cowardly enough to go along with it? To not stand up and say that it was going too far? Why am I fixated on this extremely specific and completely hypothetical example? Because that’s who I am, goddammit; I fixate on shit, for better or worse, and for the past I can’t even put a number to the years I have been fixated on myself as a carrier of external expectations. A horribly cliche kind of identity crisis, one that I had a perfectly good solution to when I was younger – to not give a shit. And I don’t think going back to how I was at that age would be anything resembling a good idea, but that part of it? I think I was on the money.

I don’t know what to do with myself, because what I’m allowing myself to choose from in terms of things to do is so horribly, artificially, pedantically limited. And yes, a big part of that is fear, anxiety, lack of self-esteem, the usual suspects. But the rest of it is just me being fucking weird. And don’t get me wrong, I like weird, but there’s healthy weird and unhealthy weird, and this is unhealthy weird.

So, what was working? The schedule was working. I have been off-schedule all week, and that was because of decisions I made to go off-schedule. It did not work.

Solution 1) stick to the fucking plan. It’s not that hard to do. It feels hard, especially this week, but I know it’s not hard to do. So, yeah.

Solution 2) specifically for my free-time activities …

No more planning, for the rest of the month.

Instead, I am going to record it.

No, not as in twitch, because not only do I not have the equipment for it but also I do still suffer from social anxiety and this is me trying to de-stress myself rather than the opposite. As in something like Weekly Words, but for my free time doings. I really want something a bit easier to record these observations on than my laptop, and something a bit more convenient to navigate than a paper notebook. Maybe I’ll get a folder and make different sections that I can fill with exercise paper, instead of using a diary where all the pages and their order are set. Basically what I want is a physical notebook with digital tags and links. Get on that, science.

The plan with recording it is for me to not dictate my free time to myself, which is horribly … horrible … like seriously I don’t know why I thought this would or should work if I was trying to tell somebody else how to spend their free time by getting them to schedule it all I would hope they would tell me to fuck off – but anyway, the point is that if I instead leave myself a free slate but with the intention of keeping a record of it, then I will find things to do that I actually want to have a record of.

It’s a bit of an experiment, but the current experiment isn’t working, and hey, revision fixes everything. The problem is that I don’t know what I want to do – so, I should find out.

And then solution 3) I guess is to take the work things that I’ve been trying to force myself to do and use them as the replacement for marking, like I said I was going to do but feels less doable right now. I think I just need to rationalise it a bit – continuing reading Mark and Jessie is going to be the main thing for the foreseeable future, so I might just limit it to that, as well as probably re-committing to the 10k words per week goal that I started off with. I’m not mad about the lower word counts that have been happening lately – not anymore anyway – because there are good reasons for that and the important thing is that I’ve at least been writing regularly. But I do want the personal satisfaction of putting in a lot of work with my writing.

And instead of wrapping things up here, I’m going to save that for a proper wrap-up tomorrow, with a final word-count of …

22/06/18: 1510

Hahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahhaha …

It’s okay.

No, seriously, having actually read over this Weekly Words and seen what I was dealing with this week – it’s fine. It’s very fine that this is the outcome that I had. I had a week, personal-life-wise, and the lessons of planning down-time for myself after intense shit and keeping up with my habits even when taking that down-time are lessons that I did not realise how right I was about until just now, reading back over those realisations. I’m kind of amazed I got anything done this week. I was constantly drained, didn’t get enough recovery time in after a super-intense weekend (by my standards), didn’t realise how worse it would make me feel to not keep on top of my habits/plan for the sake of what recovery time I did manage to get – I didn’t commit, because I couldn’t commit, because I wasn’t prepared, and my frustration with this combined with not being able to identify what the problems were in a systematic kind of way, where I could provide a solution, led to me making decisions that resulted in me spiraling a bit out of control this week.

However, I also managed to improvise at points in good ways, making up for lost time on some days, and while yesterday was a wash, it was sort of inevitable. My goals is to put stuff in place to make sure it is less likely to happen again – not so that I’ll never crash, because that’s a ridiculous, kind of fascist goal, but so that I’ll have an easier time bouncing back when I inevitably do. So that I’ll be more able to identify my options.

As for all of my angst yesterday about not enjoying the stuff I had planned to do …

Here’s the thing.

Thinking about it, the entire reason I even made these things plans instead of just, like, doing them, is because these were things that I did want to do, but wouldn’t make myself do them. I wouldn’t commit to doing them, and yesterday’s little rant about low self-esteem and alluding to my ongoing struggle with perfectionism exposed the reasons for why. This is an instance of identifying a problem, coming up with a solution, and finding that solution to just be another kind of problem. I think it may be because the logic of this solution was, pretty much: “hey, you know that thing you feel like you can’t do? you should do it”. And there’s all sorts of implied benefits to doing this, but hey, I’m me, I can do a bit better than just imply shit to myself.

So what I’ve realised today, getting up at 8:15 am because obviously this is a blessed day of destiny that will dictate the rest of my life from this point forward, is that making plans to do things that I want to do is good, but when I started Weekly Words because I wanted to keep more perspective on my life and not get tunnel-vision, I had no idea how right I was, or how little perspective I have been able to keep on my life up to this point. Forgetting why I made decisions in the first place and dealing with their consequences without that context is annoying. So keeping perspective has to be part of the plan, more so than it has been for me already – I still want to keep records of the stuff that I do in my down-time for that reason, though I probably won’t make a whole goddamn folder for it.

What I will do is re-commit to doing the things that I want to do when I want to do them. That problem, leaving those things too long and losing my motivation, was the entire reason for why I started jotting those things down in my notebook and trying to push myself to get them done. Well, for one, “getting them done” is not helpful; doing them is what I’m aiming for, with the possibility of continuing to do them after I’ve gotten myself started. But these are also new things, of which I have tried a few this week and also need to acknowledge is a good thing, so I need to be open to that reality. New things are unpredictable – they’re hard to prepare for. But they’re also exciting, because there’s the element of discovery. I may have thought about doing something for, let’s be real, years sometimes, but until I actually get around to doing it I have no idea what it’s going to be like, how to fit it into my life, or whether I even want to. While I want to be better-prepared, I also need to be okay with the idea that I can’t possibly prepare for everything, and especially not things that I’ve never tried.

Openness. That’s the lesson for me here. Also that waking up at 8 and starting my day around this time actually feels pretty good. I’ve got time now, and there is stuff that I want to use it for.

So I will go and do that.

Weekly Words 10-16/06/2018

10/06/18: 3093

Wow, I wrote a lot more than I was expecting to.

I was just going to get started on a new scene for the co-writing project, and ended up writing the whole thing – all without noticing how long it had taken. That’s always a nice feeling. Then I finished that scene I’ve been agonising over, which was satisfying but also left me wanting more.

And I think that’s about as ideal of a writing session as I’ve had in a good while. Not bad for the first day of a week of marking to come!

11/06/18: 800

Good enough.

Today was pretty haphazard and I did not like it – however, despite not getting as much done as I would have liked, I did get some stuff done, and in doing so collected valuable data on how I want to manage my time going forward – particularly, how I want to manage the things that are slowing me down. The main reason that today was a bit of a wash getting-stuff-done-wise is because of how much I had to do that I wasn’t properly prepared for. Given that, I managed to improvise my schedule today and, well, it worked out pretty decently. Managed a balance of stuff I needed to do and stuff I wanted to do, and set a precedent for myself in the process.

I dunno. I feel a bit weird, framing everything so positively. That probably says something about me – but, it’s better than framing everything negatively. There’s more stuff I want to write, and I feel a bit lost on my way to finding “my” story to write, when I felt quite close to it a couple of weeks ago. Then again, I am having some interesting ideas that, while they don’t feel as gripping or exciting as I might like, are appealing enough that I want to do more with them than just think about them.

I also think I’m going to start revisiting Tallulah, as in re-writing it. Just for something to do, really. I’ve pretty much written off the current manuscript – I have a broad plan for a fresh start, and I am feeling comfortable enough with writing the things that I promise myself I’m going to write that it makes sense to give it a shot at least, and see where I get with it.

12/06/18: 1405

The marking has come in, and is going painfully slowly, but I know for sure now what’s tripping me up. Today was also less get-stuff-done productive, but that’s because Tuesdays are Youthline days, and that’s always a big chunk of time that I have to work around (and am happy to work around).

I am also really feeling the lack of a project that feels like it’s truly mine – the interesting ideas from yesterday are still interesting to me, but also making me feel kind of desperate to key into whatever it is that I feel like I’m missing out on right now. It’s just that I don’t know what that is. However, I have a theory that maybe it’s not any particular idea, but rather a way of doing things. Rather than chasing this fantasy of the next perfect idea that captures my imagination and inspires me to heights of creative passion I never could have imagined, I’m going to continue making the effort to commit to the ideas that I have right now. It could be that commitment is all I’m lacking – but if it’s the idea itself, I feel that being committed will lead me to that next great idea.

This slight sense of desperation has been brought on by me continuing to read Mark and Jessie’s Christmas today. It’s so fucking awful. Like, I’ve complained about it before, like I’ve complained about all of my writing that I’ve gone back to re-read before, but reading it today, I discovered new depths of shame for my past self. I remember how much writing this story meant to me, how real I wanted it to be, and it’s real in the same way that Superman vs Batman or anything written by Frank Miller is real – it’s edgy.

And here’s the thing: this story wasn’t meant to be edgy. It was meant to be heartfelt and sincere and, seriously, sweet. Bittersweet in many places, but still. It was not meant to be what it is. To the point where I’m wondering if it’s even worth me continuing to re-read it, or if I should just start over from scratch with as little engagement with what I’ve written already as possible, just to preserve the vision that I have for this story, which is the part that I do actually care about.

But I do think I’m getting some valuable ideas out of this process. It’s just a difficult process. A difficult, agonising, humiliating process. I have at least clarified some things for myself, vagueness in the vision that I have for this story, details that I’ve never actually pinned down – that seems to be a big issue for me actually. So even though most of the ideas I’m coming across are total write-offs, there are some that are legitimately valuable for the purposes of rebooting this thing. And I think that’s worth a bit of agony for.

I think. Ask me again in 500 pages.

13/06/18: 94

Today was pathetic.

I had a plan and everything; I just let myself do other stuff and throw myself off. I don’t feel too bad, though, because the stuff that I did get done felt quite satisfying, but I know it was also me falling into habits of distracting myself and not prioritising the things that are really important to me, whether because I have to do them or because I want to. Today was fine as a one-off.

Tomorrow – the rest of this week – has to be better.

And I feel confident that it will be. Today was a bit of a mess, but I don’t feel thrown off my game – I think all the effort I’ve been putting into being able to stay on my grind, as the kids say, is paying off. I certainly don’t want to just be testing how good I am at getting myself back on-track after a slip-up all the time, but knowing that I can do it is very encouraging.

But yes. Tomorrow will be better – I will be better – and get some important shit done to make up for today’s comparative frivolity.

14/06/18: 1354

And hey, today was better.

This week has felt really short. Not gonna lie, actually, ever since I decided that I was taking Fridays and Saturdays off writing, every week has felt short. But this week more so. I think that is definitely in part due to the marking, which is taking a lot out of me energy-wise (though I am finally getting quicker!), but I think it’s also because I don’t have the buffer of that extra day to play around with, so if I have a day like the 13th this week, it has a way bigger impact on my productivity writing-wise for the week.

But I still think this is the right direction for me to take this project in. I’m still writing regularly, for one; I’m managing to fit in my writing around other obligations for another. Overall, I’m just sort of evolving in general, and that feels worth keeping up.

But I am desperate for marking to be over so that I can get back to writing as my primary priority. I have a lot of energy for marking that is going into marking right now – I do need to be better about conditioning myself to do my writing, the writing that I care about, even when I’ve got other priorities to address, and that is the one particular area that I want to work on improving next week. Which will be a good time to do it, as it will be my final week of marking for this paper, and I will have to be doing more daily marking than I have this week due to late submissions.

I did want to test myself, didn’t I?

But that’s next week. This week, while it’s felt quite brief, and I’ll be honest I’ve missed having the time and energy to go into more detail about how my week has gone in this installment of Weekly Words, it’s been a good week. I got writing done, including some writing I wasn’t expecting I’d be able to make myself do; I tackled the problems that I encountered with marking last time and improved on them; and I did it all at the same time. Yes, there were a few rough edges, but I’ve learnt something from all of them. And the end result of all of this Ubermesnchful goodness is …

Weekly Total: 6746

Something else I’ve noticed since cutting Fridays from my Weekly Words schedule: my word-counts have dropped by, like 2 days’ worth. Which makes no sense, because not only was I often taking a day off when I had Fridays to play with anyway, but it’s just one day. I think it is the fact that I don’t have that extra day as a buffer; it does something to my mindset. I get a bit more fatalistic about low-productivity days because I have less time to make up for them with, which means I don’t take as much advantage of the time that I do have available.

Just one more thing for me to work on. Having problems is just part of life, but ever since I started Weekly Words, I’ve been identifying them more than I ever have before – and also breaking the curse of this blog, the curse of learning lessons and then forgetting them, re-learning them like a year later and then forgetting them again, over and over. It pays to look back on your progress, folks. That’s what I’m taking away from Weekly Words, every time I do it. And it keeps working.

Here’s to things that work.

Weekly Words 03-09/06/2018

03/06/18: 1318

A scene has been finished! It is not how I want it to be in specific detail, but that’s what revision is for. The important thing is that it’s done.

04/06/18: 512

Back to brainstorming – and that’s fine. I was set against it out of habit, telling myself “this doesn’t count, this isn’t real writing, you should go jump off a cliff for even thinking of doing such a thing when word-count is at stake” …

I could get used to not listening to myself when I get like that.

The need for a plan is less powerful now than it was when I wrote my monthly recap, and today was certainly not very well-planned. I did not get done most of the things I wanted to start getting done this week – but, then again, it’s only Monday. It’s just not that big of a deal, what I do or don’t get done in one day out of the tens of thousands I’m going to have over the course of my life. Especially not writing for my own satisfaction.

It’s just that it’s not only writing, and that’s where I start getting frustrated. I want the good habits, and I want them now.

Nooowww.

06/06/18: 1531

I was not going to write today, not this much at least, until my co-writing friend gave me some much-appreciated encouragement and reminded me to be kind to myself, and thus I did some writing.

This is the idea I’ve been sort of agonising over for the past couple of weeks, the idea that I’ve been interested in writing but haven’t actually gotten around to, and it’s all because of my perfectionist tendencies holding me back. I get so self-conscious thinking of how a piece of writing is going to turn out; I get stuck on thinking of how unsatisfactory it’ll be, how haphazard and unimpressive and unimaginative I will expose myself as being, etc. It’s rooted in experience, sadly, because a lot of the time the stuff that we write – that we don’t revise – is kind of shit.

But that’s fine. That’s normal. It’s even good. For one, the fact that we write it at all is good, because as writers that is something that is good for us. For another, if it’s bad enough that we notice, then it’s something that we can learn from and use to improve our skills. And third, because it’s a middle finger to the inner critic, the paralytic of perfectionism, flying in the face of our own self-doubt and self-shaming, an act of defiance. Which, even just writing that, feels way over-dramatic, but hey, writing is a pretty dramatic process.

And the thing is, now that I’ve written it, now that I’ve had somebody else tell me the things that I’ve been trying to convince myself of, I’m remembering that back in the day, I used to write a lot, used to think it was shit – and kept writing. It didn’t shut me down; it kept my head in the game, because I was engaged with the writing process. And it makes me painfully aware of how out of the game I have been, for so long – outside of my long-term projects. When I have a project, like a book, or a screenplay, to work on, it’s much easier for me to ignore the perfectionist – “easier” most definitely being a relative term. But when I’m trying new things out – which is how projects are made – it’s so much harder. It’s kind of like how I find one-on-one interaction to be much easier than dealing with groups and crowds; I can handle one project at a time, and really get invested in the intensity of it, to the point where it kind of insulates me from my own inner critic, at least enough so that I keep working on it. But when it’s multiple projects – which is what I’m trying to get better at being comfortable with working on, because I know I’m happier when I know I have options – that confidence evaporates, and it becomes a process of worrying about how badly I’m going to fuck it up.

Because you can fuck up a first draft. That’s totally a thing. First drafts always have to be perfect, and if they’re not you’re obviously doing it wrong.

Yeah nothing about any of my anxiety around writing new things is remotely logical; nothing about any of my anxiety period is logical. And I know that, objectively. I know it’s true. But only now, now that I’ve actually started writing this scene instead of just sitting on it and thinking of how badly it could go wrong because I don’t have a plan – that I’m not prepared for it – am I starting to feel that it’s true.

Being prepared is definitely a big part of why I find the co-writing project so easy to invest myself in; there’s a plan, it’s not all up to me, and I know it’s something that I’ve agreed to commit to with another person. But I was not prepared to write this scene, I am not prepared to write most of the scenes that I think of and then want to write but make myself not write, and as I have discovered, that sense of being unprepared is a huge problem for me.

And the only way to get prepared is to learn to prepare, learn by doing. And now that I’ve started writing this scene, I’m finding that I actually quite enjoy it, even if it might be bad when I look back on it. I’m even starting to have ideas about it working with a bunch of other ideas that I’ve been quite eager to write and been making myself sit on for a while.

And I’m not done yet.

07/06/18: 1222

Not bad for the final day of writing this week, bringing the weekly total to:

Weekly Total: 4583

Definitely not 10k, nor anywhere close to it – but that’s how it is sometimes, and that’s fine. This week I have definitely felt more distracted and disconnected from my Weekly Words habits – actually all of my habits – and I think that’s partly due to how much I’m trying to build upon them, the consideration I’m giving my habits, rather than just letting them play out. I need to be aware of that happening, and trust myself to let them work on their own.

However, I also need to acknowledge that, this week in particular, it’s been a good thing, if a little disruptive. This thing I’ve been writing for the last two days is something I didn’t think I’d ever actually get around to, but thanks to some encouragement and the fact that I have set myself up with a solid system for managing my writing, it’s getting done, and it’s proving to be rewarding. I’m glad I made this week a more conscious process, even if I do miss the comforting predictability of the autopilot I’ve established for myself. I just need to find a balance of autopilot and conscious consideration – perhaps that’s an area I can improve by developing my time-management skills further.

I think it’s also because the next round of marking hasn’t actually gotten around to me yet, and I’ve been expecting to get started on it all week. That’s definitely been distracting, trying to make sure I’m mentally and emotionally prepared to begin managing that. But oh well. I think the fact that this week has been less productive than I’d like in terms of word-count is because it’s been more productive than I hoped in terms of building my skills in various areas, and laying a foundation to be more productive going forward. So, overall, I call this a very good week in the history of Weekly Words.

Monthly Words: May 2018 + about a week of overlap between April and June

Monthly Total: 39993

There is an irony with these monthly recaps, I find, which is that the entire point of doing them is to give myself perspective, encourage me to think of my progress as something to measure over an extended period of time instead of just when I’m feeling particularly self-critical – and yet whenever I do one of these recaps, it’s kind of like I’ve never done one before. The sheer sense of accomplishment – yeah, the novelty I think has worn off, but that just leaves me with this clear sense of satisfaction for what I’ve gotten done, and the fact that I’m continuing this process of keeping track of it.

I did a lot last month. It should be this month, but honestly this past week was murderous, life happens, we’re doing the recap for last month this month.

Mostly, and I’m very grateful for this, I focused not just on my ability to write, but myself as a writer. Because speaking of perspective, I needed that “detox” weekend, I needed to reconnect, check in with myself, all the self-help tropes – I still need more, honestly, and I’m starting to get some ideas about how to continue with that work. But while I did get a bit melancholic about not being able to re-create the existential bliss of that weekend for the rest of the month, looking back on it now, I realise that I need to be focusing on moving forward. Having perspective on the past, acknowledging how I’ve spent my time and giving myself proof that I am not the living embodiment of the void and never get anything done – these are good, important things for me. I feel like with Weekly Words, I’ve got that part covered. But the forward-looking part is one that needs developing.

This is something I learnt from the last three days of intensive, almost traumatically so, marking that I did. It’s nothing that anybody who’s ever marked for a paper hasn’t experienced; honestly I’ve lived a charmed marking life. But in being forced to confront a tight schedule and make it work, I realised a couple of things.

  1. Fuck am I glad it didn’t go on any longer than it did.
  2. Fuck did I need to get my shit sorted long before this event forced me to do it.

Like, this hasn’t cured my anxiety and depression or anything, but it certainly gave me a new perspective on what I have the capacity to do. Here’s the thing: as difficult as the last three days of marking were, they were difficult partially because of how haphazardly I approached the first four – basically, I didn’t approach them at all, I just kind of winged it, and lo and behold it didn’t work. I was not prepared, and coming to that realisation has made me aware of how prevalent that theme is in all of the areas of my life where I feel the most anxious, the most helpless and clueless and weak. It is something that I need to address.

And, in this situation, it is also something that I did address. It is frustrating to not be able to pinpoint the moment where the change occurred between the paralytic self-disgust of the Tuesday where I got almost nothing done and the following Wednesday where suddenly I just had a plan somehow – but I did. I got a plan. And it fucking worked. I prepared myself, on the fly, and without going into too much detail it went exactly as well as I hoped, in my wildest dreams, it might go, in less-than-ideal circumstances that were not part of those wildest dreams.

What I’ve taken away from this is that I can actually deal with difficult situations that I’m not necessarily prepared for better than I give myself credit for. I can trust myself to get shit done, even in a bind. Which, obviously, is very nice to know about myself, and I’m still kind of still processing it and getting used to it.

The other thing is that I really like having a schedule to organise myself around, actually. I was totally consumed with just marking, but I worked breaks into that schedule to do my own thing, and after it was over I missed the clarity of that structure – and felt frustrated that I hadn’t taken better advantage of it to get more of my own shit done. I just watched a bunch of YouTube (not all bad though, I do want to get better at chilling out); I didn’t have much brain-power left over for writing (though I did get some done, as you will have seen from the last post), but I wanted to get some reading done, and more than that I wanted to do plenty of stuff that was purely recreational. I wanted to watch some shows; I wanted to mess around with some fun things, and it didn’t get done.

So when I realised that the next round of marking would be coming in less than a week after finishing this round …

I got pretty excited.

And I think that’s deeply messed-up, but I am owning it, sticking to it, and intending to use it to my advantage. I need to test this out more. I need to see how effective I can be at organising my time to get my shit done, both the stuff that I am obligated to do because I’m being paid to do it, and the stuff that I want to do because I fucking want to do it. I am too accustomed to putting off my own wants and curiosities – I need to break that habit. And I think now that committing to a schedule of some kind might be the best way to do it.

Because, after all, that’s what Weekly Words is all about, albeit in a quite flexible way. It’s not organsied down to the hour, which is why I think it works, and I don’t think I could ever make that work for an extended period of time without getting paid for it. But looking back on those three glorious days of intensive marking, and after talking to my co-writing friend (as in the friend who I happen to co-write with; she’s not just a co-writing friend) about it, she pointed out that, actually, that plan didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere. It felt that way to me, but I’ve been doing Weekly Words for 3 months now, and I’ve seen the results. I’ve proven that I can organise myself – I just haven’t really thought about applying the same principles to anything other than my personal writing projects.

But it’s clear to me now that that’s exactly how I can break out of my years-long rut of denying myself basic pleasures of being a living organism, like doing shit that I want to do because I want to fucking do it. So, as I’ve brought up a few times in Weekly Words, I am now giving myself other goals across the weeks and months besides writing – time-off goals, the “day off” idea re-imagined in more concrete detail. Just like I don’t judge myself (or try not to) for how much I do or don’t get written in one day, I’m going to be making goals for myself that don’t have to be done on X day, but rather sometime during a longer period – a week, as I have already established – because sometimes the day just runs away from you, or other obligations come up and you have to deal with them. This way, I can be committed to taking care of myself while avoiding being needlessly pedantic about when, exactly, it will happen – just that it needs to happen within a certain time-frame. It seems to be the system that best works for me, and what I can control, I find easiest to control with this method.

And these are all ideas that I’ve had and talked about before, but not until now did any of it really feel … well, real. I was unprepared, and then I was, and now I know that I can be, and that’s very new. So new I’ll probably have to talk to my therapist about it, when I eventually get one. I now have a clearer understanding of my capacity to do things, and how much my mindset affects that capacity. I went from panicking and self-loathing to a purely task-oriented mindset – again, not sure how that switch happened, but it did, and it worked. And it’s given me perspective, too. I know now, looking back, that as well as things ended up going, they could have gone so much better if I had been more prepared – I probably couldn’t have been, but I’ve had the experience now that gives me the opportunity to get it right next time. And I’m craving that.

But there’s another element to why I’m so excited to throw myself into the grinder again, test my capacity further and see how far I can push the principles I’ve learnt and the better habits I’m still developing through Weekly Words when the next batch of marking comes around. What I’ve got now with Weekly Words is good. It works. But it’s becoming too safe – it’s still effective, but I’m feeling myself settling into it, leaning back on it, and consequently not reaching out for anything else, not pushing myself to continued developing my capacity. I think there’s definitely something to be said for acknowledging and being content with what you have – but for me, that contentment often becomes a trap, a crutch that, if I’m being honest with myself, I know I don’t need.

Yet the fact that this ability to get my shit organised has become such a fast habit of mine – that makes me optimistic that I can build other good habits as well, with the same process. I am looking forward to the next round of marking because of what I think – what I hope – it will do for me, and what it will do to me. How it will change my habits into habits that I’m happy to have. So that when I’m done with marking, I get to benefit from having more focus and structure in my life. Because I have shit that I want to do, that I keep myself from doing, and I realise now based on those disastrous first four days of marking that it’s because of how unprepared I feel for it. I think that kind of sums up all of my various neuroses and anxieties in life: I don’t feel prepared for life in general. But I know now that a lot of that has to do with me not doing anything to try to prepare.

So I’m going to get used to preparing myself, whatever it takes – and I’m realising that, actually, it doesn’t take as much as I seem to think that it does.

But I still have to do it, and today as I write this, I reflect on that. I got almost nothing done today (the 4th) writing-wise, or anything else-wise for that matter; I just watched YouTube all day. It felt all right; maybe I still need to recover a bit from the intensity of marking. But it’s definitely not how I want to be spending every day. Not anymore. I want something more now, and that’s new too.

I definitely want to get used to it – and used to following through.