Monthly Words July 2018

Monthly Total: 15492

I try too hard.

No, but seriously. Looking over this past month, which has been an exercise in me having to confront my various bad habits, and pulling up a couple of key points of this month’s weekly summaries, one thing stands out to me above everything else: I overthink things to a self-defeating degree.

Now, I’ve always known this about myself, but I’ve only ever really been aware of it with regards to things going badly. Honestly, as much as I moaned about it, this month has been pretty good writing-wise. It’s about the habit, not the word-count, and I’m keeping in the habit of regularly writing. This past week in particular has felt really good in that regard. So becoming aware of this over-thinking during what has been a good, albeit very stressful, period, is a shock that I’m still processing. I thought that aspect of  my personality was nice and neatly compartmentalised, strictly limited to my moments of negative self-talk and aimless introspection. But apparently it’s just everywhere. Like sand. Or triggers for my social anxiety.

Sand is not a trigger for my social anxiety. Just to clarify.

So yes, a good month. The word-count is lower than some of my good weeks, but again, that’s not the main point – this has been a good month in terms of milestones in particular. I finished my read-through of Wolf Gang, my shitty YA werewolf novel, and even gave me some thoughts of how I could revise it if I so choose. I re-connected with my previous shitty YA novel, Mortal Foil, and I am currently still tinkering away at it, though I am finding that I really need to get out of my own way – connected to the whole over-thinking thing. My co-writing friend and I had a particularly awesome brainstorm over the weekend and have elevated our former fanfic project into something that is really starting to feel unique and distinct from its various inspirations.

But then there’s the other side of that. I made all sorts of outrageous claims – I was going to do “writing exercises” to “hone my craft”; I was going to “plan” my writing, “according to what I actually want to get written”; I discovered that my gaming was in fact “important” …

And, of course, the word-count.

Yeah, fuck it, I can’t help but feel disappointed in that word-count, I’m only human, and this weekly initiative is, in fact, called Weekly Words, so if there ain’t no words to show for it, then it’s just Weekly [insert something of value here], which to be fair could be rather entertaining if I had the spontaneity or passion to tackle such an ambitiously vague project. I don’t. I just want my life to work already, goddammit. I feel like an Urban Fantasy heroine right now, only without any cool powers, nor the thronging horde of alpha male douche bag suitors waiting to pounce on me if I dare set foot out of my house. The public sphere is for men, after all.

Anyway.

This month has been me looking back over my progress, or lack thereof in various areas, and while there have absolutely been things about this month that I’m very proud of and grateful for, overall I just can’t help but see my personal problems highlighted to me in a way that I haven’t experience … ever, maybe. It’s been a month’s worth of “I’ll do better I promise, look at how many ambitious-sounding, plan-like statements I can make in a single post, please don’t leave me”, I don’t know what the last part is there for but it is there. I look at how I’ve handled my various micro-dramas over this past month and it just seems like I’m trying to compensate for something, like I’m bargaining, wheedling, pleading – like I’m trying to make a deal. I’ve been trying to appease someone or something for my various personal failures so that, I dunno, they don’t make fun of me.

When I say that I ‘try too hard’, it’s trying too hard to live up to the perceived expectations of this strange, existential phenomenon that apparently has such influence over my self-image and sense of worth. The superego, as Freud would call it, some kind of conditioning that I have yet to successfully confront and learn healthier ways to cope with.

And ironically, it makes it so much harder for me to do the things that I keep saying – and sometimes genuinely want – to do.

I think, looking back on it, that I really did just need to say “this week has been shit I’m taking a break laterz” more often when I knew that I needed time off, rather than doing things to compensate for needing or wanting or, haven forbid, taking it.

Didn’t I tell you that Urban Fantasy heroines were relatable?

I don’t know if I get bored easily, but I have identified that every apologetic, over-compensating self-improvement ambition I have had over the course of this past month stems from being bored out of my goddamn mind. I kind of live in a state of perpetual suspended boredom, where I don’t look too closely at the state of my life and what it’s lacking because if I do, I know from experience it’ll lead me somewhere I don’t want to be. This isn’t healthy, at all, but it’s preferable to actively hating my life. But this month, the facade seems particularly transparent to me. I’m seeing behind my own veil, I guess.

So what’s the solution?

Well, besides genuinely wanting to stop making those apologetic, over-compensating statements of self-improvement, I don’t really know. But I do know that in the middle of this month, I felt very overwhelmed by my life, and while on the one hand it was … overwhelming … it was also exciting. Scary, yet enticing.

I think now it’s just because I knew that I couldn’t be bored while doing it.

So. I’m not allowed to make big proclamations of self-improvement. Well how the fuck am I supposed to close out this blog post, then? Tell me that why don’t ya?

I guess I can just talk about what I’ve been reading – I picked up Temeraire again last night, after reading the first chapter and then putting it aside to continue with my Urban Fantasy binge, and … it’s good. Like, it’s very good. This might be a new favourite. I was terrified about reading genres outside of Urban Fantasy, that I’d find it too hard, too challenging, too stimulating in too many ways I wasn’t prepared for. As it turns out, what I was really afraid of was the level of emotional investment, because basically as soon as I picked it up again last night I was in. It seems to be a fairly typical boy-and-his-dog story, except the “boy” in question is a grown-ass naval captain who initially doesn’t want the dog, and the dog is a talking dragon. An adorable talking dragon. The whole story is adorable. It’s so adorable that I’m now even more terrified than I was before, because this is a story set during the Napoleonic War, where dragons and dragon-riders are the elite soldiers – and weapons – of the world’s military forces, and while I’ve never actually seen Old Yeller I have had it spoiled for me by cultural osmosis, don’t do this to me Naomi Novik, you don’t know what I’ve been through, I do not need this shit

I am not bored reading Temeraire. 

And also, it’s very easy to read. I don’t know if it was the Austen-style prose, the subject matter, the size of the font, but something about the presentation of this book told me that it would be hard to read, dense, technical, dry. It’s not. It’s lush and crisp and adorable and I am up to page 77 out of over 300 and already I am recommending this book to literally everyone, thank-you co-writing buddy for giving me this book for my birthday, it is awesome …

It’s the start of doing exactly what I need to do to turn this sad state of affairs around.

So, no grand proclamations. No new resolutions to do better. I’m tired of being disappointed with not living up to them, and of feeling obligated to make them. Just some appreciation. (Particularly to my co-writing buddy for getting this for me for my birthday; thanks again!) I appreciate not being bored. I appreciated feeling stimulated by returning to books that aren’t Urban Fantasy – and honestly, probably ending my Urban Fantasy kick for good. It’s too samey, and while that is part of what’s great about it, ultimately it is what has brought on this full-blown existential crisis I’m in the middle of. There’s no comforting place to escape to now; there’s just everything I’ve been trying to escape from. And some of it isn’t boring.

Cool.

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Good Reads

Well, it’s happened. I have finished reading the latest book series I picked up: the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn, which is 14 books long, or 15 if you count the collection of assorted short stories set in the Kittyverse, which I did in fact read. This makes it a tie for first place in terms of the longest book series I’ve ever read, alongside the still-ongoing Dresden Files series.

And now, I am faced with the prospect of having Nothing To Read – which is a lie, a blatant falsehood that shall condemn my eternal soul to the burning depths of hell for my audacity to commit such base treachery to legible script; but that’s how it feels. And why? Why does it feel that way, when I still have about a dozen books that I bought during my undergrad days and never got around to even looking at, when I still have Presents of Christmas Past sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for their cue to play out, when I still have the lovely birthday present gifted to me by my co-writing buddy about the Napoleonic Wars but with dragons?

It’s because I don’t know what I’m in for with any of them. It’s the unknown. In short, it is because I am not prepared.

Preparedness has been a real theme for me this year – specifically, not having it, and learning to deal with it, or alternatively learning how many ways I can screw myself over by not dealing with it healthily. But I think when the prospect of reading a goddamn book is enough to get my anxiety up, it’s not just a theme: it’s a neurotic comedy. Or tragedy, if you happen to be the main character, which in this case I do. Tragicomedy, perhaps, because it is kind of funny how histrionic my reactions are to the circumstances of my own existence.

And yes, before you ask, I absolutely blame Urban Fantasy for this weakness of readerly fortitude. Before Urban Fantasy – and specifically YA Urban Fantasy, because my YA kick led pretty much directly into my current UF kick – I could read pretty much anything. I didn’t, because if there’s anything else I’ve learnt about myself this year it’s that I suck at doing things that I want to do because they terrify me, like reading fucking books … sigh. You get the point. I had a less sensitive palette; I was able to ingest various and sundry literature and not worry too much about what I was going to get out of it – in fact I daresay that was part of the fun.

But then YA came along, and to memory every single one of the books I picked up to read I found eminently readable, even and perhaps Beautiful Creatures, a problematic book for which I wrote a problematic review, many moons ago, but I can unambiguously state that it was one of the most grotesquely engaging reads I have ever had the displeasure of enjoying. I would say that actually the YA books I read were often more challenging reads than most of the Urban Fantasy I’ve come across. I’m particularly thinking of Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood (but not the sequel), Dia Reeves’s Bleeding Violet (which I wrote a review for and then deleted it because I was speeding way out of my lane), Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover (read before my YA kick, one of the few books I’m glad I was forced to read for university study), Cate Tiernan’s Sweep (I think it counts as Urban Fantasy?), and every single thing I have read by Holly Black. All of them tackle pretty complex issues and – as far as I can tell – handle them fairly maturely and respectfully (though again, I don’t really have the knowledge to comment on Bleeding Violet in that regard, as it deals with bipolar disorder), and all are written with skill. There were definitely others written with less skill and less, I dunno, quality? But they were all very readable, and I ended up reading some really powerful stories during that time.

When I made the jump to UF, it was mostly because I had read the first book in the Dresden Files series, been pretty skeeved out by a lot of it while simultaneously thoroughly entertained in a summer blockbuster kind of way, and decided I’d give it another chance. After reading several different authors in the genre, I can say two things.

1) The Dresden Files is not representative of the genre. It’s an odd duck. Anybody who says The Dresden Files is the gold standard of Urban Fantasy has no fucking idea what Urban Fantasy actually is – they’re extremely competent and engaging books, and I’d definitely recommend them (with a few reservations), but they are simply not representative of the genre. It’s sort of like if somebody says that Star Wars is the gold standard of science fiction – I certainly agree that it’s good, but if you know your sci-fi, you also know that Star Wars is very much an exception to the rule.

2) Urban Fantasy is, bar none, the easiest genre to read that I have ever come across. Part of that is, I have to say, a lack of surprises. I know exactly what I’m getting with Urban Fantasy: a tough-as-nails heroine with relatable quirks, such as a thing for bad boys and a serious martyr complex; alpha male creatures of the night who won’t take no for an answer because they know she really means yes please shoot me now; a dearth of supporting female characters who aren’t in some way antagonistic towards the heroine; a paranormal/supernatural kitchen sink; and most importantly – also the main reason for why The Dresden Files should not be considered representative of the genre – a primary focus on social politics, particularly with regards to gender, sexuality, and relationships, as well as different supernatural factions that tend to serve as metaphors for different cultures and ethnicities.

There are no surprises in Urban Fantasy, and this is ultimately the thing that is both the best about the genre, and the worst. It’s reliable, trustworthy – it’s safe. But that very sense of security and predictability that I get from Urban Fantasy is what has turned it into a crutch for me; it’s become too easy – and don’t get me wrong, I value that ease of access. But I am starting to feel that it has definitely gone too far, because it’s making me fucking afraid to pick up other genres.

And the reason I have come to this realisation is because, upon finishing the Kitty Norville series, I realised that I was out of Urban Fantasy that I actually wanted to read. I had backed myself into a corner; the seduction of how freaking effortless it’s been to read copious amounts of Urban Fantasy drove me there, and now I’m stuck trying to fight my way back out again, and it’s just … ludicrous. The only non-UF series I managed to read – and enjoy – was the Glamourist Histories series by Mary Robinette Kowal. I definitely recommend that one, and wish I had written reviews of the series while I was reading. It was thought-provoking and imaginative, and it was easy to ready – and that, really, is the main thing for me. The books that I have available to me are just not as easy to read. I’m terrified of the sheer amount of effort it will take for me to invest in these books. Yes, terrified, I am not joking, I am a fucking wreck, have you ever read this blog before.

But.

Just as a couple of weeks ago I was simultaneously terrified and excited to tackle a bunch of daunting life-admin stuff, I am starting to feel the same way about stepping out of the Urban Fantasy world – and frankly, I think I desperately need to. I can’t remain this … pudgy, I think is a good term; I can’t be a pudgy reader, except in the literal sense because hey I eat too much. I need to get back in shape as a reader; I have allowed my reading muscles to atrophy through a steady diet of low-fibre literature, and the dilution of my psyche is the price I have paid for my hedonistic excess. How dare I enjoy myself by doing things that are fun and easy? I have learnt my lesson.

No but seriously, I think Urban Fantasy needs to be a sometimes-food. This is going to mean a lot of big changes in my library borrowing practices, though. Generally I get out 2-4 books at a time, because they’re UF and I just burn through them. I literally read all of the final Kitty Norville book last night, save the first chapter, which I had read the night before. But now, if I’m going to get serious about my literary diet, it’s going to have to be 1 book at a time, unless I find a series that I really get into. However, for now it’s all water-testing, and I know my own limits – too much choice is overwhelming, so 1 at a time to start off feels correct.

And, of course, I still have all of these books that I actually, like, own to read, too. So while I wait for my latest library order to come through (and yes, I literally ordered it just before I wrote the previous paragraph), I can go through some of those. I don’t have to wait for something new to come in; I have resources. I can rely on my own means to get where I want to go.

And who knows? Perhaps this whole food metaphor will carry over into my actual eating habits. But in the meantime – well, I’ve talked up YA a lot in this post, and frankly, I’m starting to miss it. There was a lot of not-great YA that I read, but the stuff that stood out really stood out, and I’m definitely in the mood for more of that. I think it’s time for the YA kick to kick back off where it …

The kick to kick off where it last …

I think it’s off for me to kick the where it the time …

Why am I a writer again?

So asketh the Ubermensch …

Weekly Words 22-28/07/2018

23/07/18: 2464

I’ve had my first day off to start the week – usually co-writing happens on Sundays, but last week we moved it to Saturday, and I must say I rather enjoyed having Sunday off (plus a longer-than-usual, very epic D&D session on Saturday where I basically died 7 times, yay for being a tank). But all of today I was trying to motivate myself to start writing, and I just kept tripping up over my own organisation methods. I have all of these folders, full of writing, and it’s all just so … arbitrary. Different folders for different kinds of writing, not because they’re necessarily different projects, but because I was in a particular mood when I created the folders in question – the mood for something new and, lacking anything of substance, I just right-clicked a blank space and lo, there was folder. I need to rationalise this shit.

Especially because I have not organised a space for myself to just … write some shit.

Everything is organised into projects, books, random bits and pieces of writing that is hard to navigate through and things get lost easily – it’s the result of trying to store 18 years of writing in the same digital space. I seriously need to do some housekeeping.

And therefore it’s been a really depressing day for writing, because I didn’t get any done until after midnight, which I’m still counting as the 23rd because I haven’t gone to sleep yet/the sun isn’t out yet. Every time I tried to get myself to start, I hit a wall. I didn’t know what to write. I didn’t know where to put it, so that I could easily find it again. I don’t have a solution yet.

And then, I remembered that I wanted to continue looking back through some of my older projects and seeing if there was anything I was interesting in salvaging, and boy was there.

I have mentioned, a couple of times over the years, my experience of seeing City of Bones when it came out in theatres. It was the night of my 26th birthday, and I had just come out of Kick-Ass 2, desperate to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. I saw that City of Bones was on, mum was keen, and so we went together. And it was one of the single most inspiring moments of my life.

Let’s be clear: the film is shit. It has no heart, no tact, and no personality. But what it does have is a prime example of ripping shit off, and it reawoke within me my mimetic writing habits from being 13 years old and just wanting to play in the playground of awesome ideas that I had come across, to take those ideas and use them myself.

And the result of this was the precursor to Wolf Gang, a shitty YA urban fantasy novel called Mortal Foil, which was a complete and total ripoff of The Mortal Instruments.

I loved this project for all the same reasons as I loved Wolf Gang, and really it all boils down to one thing: it was liberating. I didn’t have to think, I didn’t have to plan, I didn’t have to try. This shit would write itself, and for 4 glorious chapters written across goddammit why are all of my files imported from Spideroak after having to replace my laptop four times in a row back in 2013 …well, as far as I can make out it only took about 2 months for all of those chapters to get written, so while it was not quite the frenzy of inspired hack writing that Wolf Gang was, it was pretty close. I was hyped. I was committed.

And then I hit a wall, over-thought it, and let it stall out and die.

But I took a look at it again tonight, partly because I was just desperate to find some project that already existed to keep me from fretting about not having a folder dedicated to new, random ideas that might not go anywhere that would also let me get some writing done, and 4 chapters is not, in fact, the whole book that I had “planned”. And I just … I can’t not write it. I can’t not finish what I started with this project. It’s too perfect. I would really like to write an urban fantasy novel, but I feel like I need to do so much more research first – but for some reason, I don’t feel that pressure with YA. Maybe because I’ve read a fair bit of it and ain’t nobody doing any fucking research in that genre, and they still get published. Besides, this is meant to be something to just get me writing, quality be damned. And I’ve always regretted not continuing with this story.

So I think I’m going to continue with this story.

I think I actually have a writing project again. Not a revision project, not a co-writing project (which is still going pretty well, we are finally starting to feel a bit of fatigue, but it’s taken us 8 months to get there, so I’m calling that a win) – a writing project that is all my own, and that I actually, unambiguously want to write. I have passion for this thing; it’s fun, it’s something of a parody, it’s a chance for me to play in the playground – and it’s two genres I’m very familiar with by now, in fact more familiar with than any other genres by far: YA and urban fantasy, and no I don’t think YA should be considered a genre but that’s the world we live in.

So I wrote some, picking up where I left off, but with enough distance now to feel confident about just writing what feels like the most obvious thing that needs to happen for the story – I have distance from all of the plans and plots and long-term goals that I concocted five years ago, the last time I worked on this thing, and while I do regret not pushing through, I see now that I probably couldn’t have. A bit of distance, I feel, has been exactly what this project needed.

And it just … flowed. It just worked. Exactly how I wanted it to work, too; only the most obvious answer to the narrative question of “what happens next?” no over-thinking, no planning, no plotting or scheming or thinking ahead – just getting it. I feel like I get this story, because it’s basically a dozen other stories that I already know.

God I’ve missed this.

And I’ve missed writing more than 500 words in a single session.

Goddamn but it is good to be back.

Also, all of that writing was in the last hour. Normally I get about 1k words done in an hour.

Just sayin’.

24/07/18: 1087

So tonight’s writing was weird – I have continued writing Mortal Foil, which I think is the correct decision because I’m enjoying it, even if it is a bit more effort than I had anticipated. That’s not a bad thing. I feel like I’m starting to explore my writing style, when I’m not trying to force myself to write in a particular way for a particular purpose, where I am somewhere between planning and pantsing – editing on the fly sometimes, as well as just sitting down and writing whatever shit I can dredge up. Learning to be more flexible, less … narrow, I guess, in terms of what strategies I use to write. That’s not the weird part.

The weird part is that when I did my writing tonight, and there was some on-the-fly editing involved, what I ended up writing felt … familiar. Like, really familiar. And no, not in the sense that I’m deliberately being dervitative with this particular writing project and it’s intentionally similar to other things that I’ve read.

Familiar like the black cat walking down the hallway twice in The Matrix.

Familiar like I had written this all before.

It’s a thing that tends to happen for me when I have a dream about a place, and then years later drive past that exact place, despite having never seen it before. I wonder if I had a dream about writing this scene years ago, and having written it now, that same sense of the uncanny, deja-vu, phasing over into an alternate reality, is because of that. But I don’t think this came from a dream. I am so, so sure that I actually did write this scene, years ago – maybe I wrote it and deleted it, and forgot all about it until I re-created the scene tonight, though I still can’t actually remember it; it just feels like a memory I’m reconstructing and putting myself through the experience of again without meaning to. Repeating myself, without being able to remember the thing I’m repeating, just knowing that it’s what I’m doing.

Weird.

But also cool. There’s all the usual fun stuff that comes from being creative: you’re occupying yourself with interesting stuff to do; you’re stimulating your mind and exploring ideas and concepts in ambitious ways; you’re developing discipline and building competency in a particular set of skills. But then there’s this stuff, the trippy shit that makes you question your definition of reality, destiny, coincidence, life, the universe, and everything …

It’s weird.

What’s also weird-in-a-not-bad-way was that I did some housekeeping – all of those folders that were depressing me the other day: I’ve reorganised a bunch of them, deleted others, merged some mental categories together and, while I definitely have a lot of clutter that I probably need to continue trimming away at, the result feels much healthier.

But what it made me realise was how fucking bored I used to be. I created folders to categories types of writing that I felt I needed because I was bored with the writing I already had – writing that, by and large, I was not following through with to see if it went anywhere, and instead writing it off as pointless, like all of my writing. I needed something new. Like writing. I did not understand at this stage of my life – probably around 16-17 years old – that the feelings of boredom and frustration that I was sitting with were not just caused by forcing myself to write instead of doing other things with my life, but by the fact that I thought I couldn’t do anything about it. Because, between the ages of, I dunno, 15 and well into my 20s  and still a bit now let’s be real – I was convinced that there was nothing I could do to change the things that were ruining my life. And I maintain that this was not my fault; young people – and people in general – do not have adequate resources for managing and maintaining their mental health, and that certainly included me in my teens. But still, even knowing I was just in kind of a shitty situation with no clear solutions, looking back on it now is just so sad, and sad because it could have been so easily avoided – the answer was right in front of me. Don’t just want to spend your life writing? Fine. Don’t. I wish I hadn’t.

But it was good to confront that part of my past; I had totally forgotten about it, and it gives me a sense of how far I’ve come since then, how much of a healthier balance I’ve developed. I still get too hung-up on my writing progress as a measure of personal worth, but it’s far less important to me than it used to be, much less of a guilt-crutch I use to provide myself with a sense of control over my life. Perspective is always welcome.

Like the perspective that I have on looking through my list of podcasts on itunes, remembering that one of them mentioned a book I was interested in reading and couldn’t remember the name of the author, and then finding a podcast whose title mentioned the name of an author who had an interesting name and deciding to look them up because I wanted that to be the name of the author who wrote this book I wanted to read. Which is, more specifically, perspective on the fact that it is 3:30 AM right now and I should probably wrap things up for the day.

But it’s been a good day for writing, and the existential quandaries that can sometimes arise from practicing this most sublime of arts.

25/17/18: 1144

Today was a bit of a shit-show emotionally, but it all worked out okay in the end. I just definitely need to remember to try not to make plans early in the day on Thursdays – the day after my Youthline session – and to work on getting more out of my Wednesdays before the session.

Anyway, like I say, it did all work out okay in the end. I am wary of this project not going quite the way I want it to, as in I don’t feel like I am writing just the most obvious thing I can think of to continue the story. Then again, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, either – at least I’m writing, and while I wouldn’t say this is the most exciting writing I’ve ever done, it’s pretty easy to make myself do, it’s reliable, and overall I’m definitely glad that I’m doing it.

But I definitely want to feel more like I’m playing in the playground. Tomorrow’s session is going to require a couple of quick edits to get me there, but that’s okay, too. Like I’ve been saying, I want to get more comfortable with my own style of writing, rather than forcing myself to write in ways I hear are good and keep reading and hearing advice about in terms of “you should write this way because of X reasonable-sounding argument”, and that’s fine. It’s something to bear in mind, and it’s definitely been helpful at times. But I know I tend to get really narrow-minded about this sort of thing, and can end up getting really stuck on just one way of doing things without acknowledging when it starts to become counter-productive, so like yesterday, letting myself edit – even if it’s not quite “on the fly” in this case – seems like a healthy adjustment for me to make. Mixing planning and pantsing.

I do actually have a vague plan for this book; I have some scenes that I want to happen; I know the general power dynamics between the major characters, what the broad outline of the plot is, and the ending. It’s just getting there that’s the chore at the moment, and because of the way I’ve written it, it really is a chore. So perhaps I just need to hit the tropes a bit more heavily than I’ve been doing. I might even re-read City of Bones – well, maybe re-watch. The book is … problematic. Probably better than the film, in terms of quality, and definitely passion, but not so much in terms of efficient use of one’s time for research purposes.

Ah. I have thought of a solution, and an obvious one at that. Research be damned!

Okay, now it’s starting to feel fun again. I think perhaps if I hadn’t felt like crap for most of the day and made myself do some writing instead of gaming to try and distract myself from feeling like crap – god, I really need to follow through with these insights into my dysfunctional coping habits – I would have come to this conclusion earlier and benefited from it. In a way, I actually wish Youthline was on earlier in the day – I feel like it would be so much easier to decompress afterwards if I had the rest of the day to do it, rather than doing it more or less as the last thing I do on Wednesdays.

But oh well. I might just have to designate Wednesday my official self-care day – and honestly, given how bad I am at self-care, that’s probably a decent enough idea. Next week on, then.

And as for tomorrow, I’m gonna write me some trooooooooopes …

27/07/18: 1517

The day after tomorrow, whatever.

Better. Definitely better. I think I’m still resisting the tropes a bit too much – but then again, this isn’t about copying tropes; it’s about playing with them. I just need to make sure I don’t do the smartass author thing and “subvert” them, making them grind to a halt along with the rest of the story just so that I can prove that I know how problematic some of these tropes – let’s be real, a lot of these tropes – are.

But then again again, I do actually think it would be fun to just recreate some of these tropes wholesale. Maybe with a different project, though – I am finding that I have a surprising amount of investment in Mortal Foil. Oh well. Let’s see if I can’t have my cake and eat it too – maybe there’s a way for me to let the classic tropes play out while still subverting them in some way. The main thing is that I just want the writing and story to flow, and to not think about it too much, ideally not at all, because this is not just the first draft, but something I’m doing for fun, and it’s just getting a bit too cerebral to be fun.

Regardless – I did writing this week, and more than I’ve been doing for the past little while. How much, exactly?

Weekly Total: 6212

I like it, both because it’s about twice as much as last week, and because you can take this total number and re-interpret it as the sentence: “6 x 2 = 12”. This has value. Do not question me.

I’m kind of dreading tallying up this month’s writing – honestly, reflecting on this month in general. I had so much that I wanted to do, and fell short in so many ways … but then again, I also got some of it done, and it was all stuff that felt very out of my control, beyond my capacity, and I proved myself wrong, so even just getting some of it done is absolutely worth acknowledging. I’m glad that I’ve come back to one of my old fun writing projects; I’m glad that I’ve been rereading some of my first drafts and finding value in them – in fact, just thinking about it now, this has been a pretty good month. I think the main reason I’ve been so disappointed in myself this month is because this month I was unusually ambitious. And think of it that way …

Well, there’s always next month to get it right. And I’m kind of looking forward to it.

 

Weekly Words 15-21/07/2018

15/07/18: 745

Finished a scene today, a difficult one that I felt super uncomfortable writing and kept tripping up over silly little technicalities, so I gave myself not just permission but a directive to write the most unrealistic things I could think of just to get it to end.

Surprising nobody, it worked really well.

This, of course, got me to thinking about my shitty YA werewolf novel, Wolf Gang, and I read another hundred pages today in what felt like half an hour. It was probably more like an hour and a half, but the point is that it was easy to read, and rewarding. The manuscript is trash, yes, but that’s just the specifics, the fine print details – with a bit of tweaking, I now see, it could actually be a perfectly adequate book with a functioning and coherent narrative. It still wouldn’t be good, and I doubt there’s much I can do in that department, which is also the main reason why I’m not sure if it would be worth it to revise it …

But I kinda want to.

And given that this book was a glorified writing experiment to begin with – well, why not continue the experiment?

Because to be perfectly honest, I think it’s the best writing I’ve done in, like, ever. Excluding my academic writing, which is measured along a different metric of quality than my creative writing. I could potentially see the value in putting more effort into it – beyond my personal satisfaction – if the premise was just a bit more original, because the premise at the moment is just “boy becomes werewolf and has to learn to deal with it also the pack leader is evil”. The main issue is not so much that I can’t think of a way to make it more original – which I can’t, but I know I could if I put some effort into it – but the fact that, in my heart of hearts, I just don’t want to make it more original. Ironically, the actual original premise of this book was more original – but I don’t want to write that version of this book anymore, either. This pretty much guarantees that this is never going to become a “real” project of mine.

But that’s fine with me. I like it for what it is, and for whatever reason I seem to not be overtaken with my usual neurotic crap at the prospect of just enjoying it for that and not trying to turn it into something else, something “proper”, something “worth” working on. I want to, and that’s the only reason I’m working on it right now – and as far as I’m concerned, it’s working out well.

But what’s even better is that the ongoing Mark and Jessie read-through is actually turning out to be very insightful and helpful and, my favourite writing-related word, generative as well. Normally I have a passion project and a heartless slog labour project, but in this case I just have two projects to work on that I find pretty fulfilling in their own different ways. I’m getting so many good ideas for rebooting Mark and Jessie from reading it and making notes; they’re much more in-depth than I was planning for them to be, but that feels right to me now – I am planning a full-on reboot, after all, so getting a comprehensive set of notes to build a future plan around seems like a very practical thing to do.

And I’m excited to reboot it. I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t even hoping for that. I used to, during undergrad, when I wanted to work on it but just didn’t have the focus or energy – or vision, honestly – to do so. After three years of getting nowhere with that, I sort of just resigned myself to not being able to make it work. But now it feels not just like I can, but I will, if I just keep at it.

So that needs to happen this year. Because this is the year, as I have said many times by now, that I have the opportunity to focus on my writing without having to worry about other shit. It turns out that I do have other shit to worry about, but I also know it’s not stuff that will get in the way of my writing. I have a clear shot, and I am taking it.

And also my friend and I made a deadline for finishing the first draft of our co-writing project, which is also exciting.

It’s excitement all around up in here, and I won’t lie, I could get used to it.

17/07/18: 488

Today was an important day. I got some necessary life stuff done, which included getting up at the ungodly hour of 8AM so that I could meet my supervisor and talk to him about potential PhD ideas – apparently he thinks I’m on to something, so that’s encouraging, and now it’s up to me to put in some legwork and see where my thesis proposal stands and oh god it’s all up to me I have to decide whether or not this is worth doing it’s my responsibility I am the one who has to make the decision why why dear god whyyy.

… as a result, today has been very much a self-care day, because while I am very glad that I did this (and got to hang out with my bestie for a bit afterwards, as she was also at uni) and it was not at all stressful once I actually got there, all of the lead-up to it did a number on my nerves, and was followed up by me coming home and getting in touch with WINZ just to double-check a few important details – including how exactly I am supposed to apply for the disability allowance, which will help me to cover the cost of seeing a psychologist, and it turns out I have to do a bunch of other stuff before I can even do that. Which is all good to know, definitely, and again actually taking care of this stuff was not that stressful once I got around to it, but the lead-up is what takes it out of me.

This brings me to a revelation that I had yesterday, which was another self-care day, for reasons I can’t actually remember very clearly but I know had a lot to do with the stuff I got done today – that, and the fact that WOW’s current expansion ended today, so yesterday and today I was catching up on some limited achievements that are tied specifically to this expansion before the next one hits, and I got all the ones I wanted to do done and then some, why am I still playing WOW, what is wrong with me, why am I such a sucker, why why dear god whyyy.

… But anyway, the revelation: gaming is important. It was the first time I had ever had this thought, and I still completely believe it the day after. But here’s the important part: it’s important – for the specific role that it serves in my life, which is to say, a part of my self-care routine. Some people have a favourite TV show they like to watch, some people have comfort food, some people like to read a book – I like to read books and eat too much, but TV doesn’t really do it for me as a go-to source of stress relief and self-soothing mechanism. For me, it’s gaming. The only issue is that, historically, I have used it as an escapist crutch, fallen into addictive habits with it …

And realising that it’s actually important for me to do, within a specific context, has actually helped me to confront a lot of those bad habits. Because it has a role to play in my life; it’s how I relax, decompress, wind down after being wound up. And I like that. Much like I spend a lot of time uselessly fretting about not being productive enough as a writer, I spend a lot of time uselessly fretting about being a bad adult for enjoying gaming. And now I know what’s behind it: a lack of purpose. Historically, it’s just been a habit – a bad habit, you could probably call it an addiction, certainly at some specific points in my life (like when I discovered Pokemon and WOW for the first time, respectively) – a compulsion, something that I’ve done without thinking about it, without choosing to do it. I mean, no, not literally, but that’s how I’ve seen it, felt it, and thought about it.

No more! It is now an integral part of my life, that I control, and saying it over and over again will absolutely make it true and immediately eradicate and replace years of unhealthy, unadulterated over-engagement with games, so there. So sayeth the Ubermensch!

No but seriously, this has been a huge revelation for me – an exciting one. I’m starting to feel like an actual, honest-to-fuck adult. A bold claim, to be sure, but hey, we all have to start somewhere.

As for the writing and reading – not a hell of a lot in that department this week, but it’s okay. Self-care has been needed, and it has been done, so that’s good. I do need to find a way of mixing it in with the stuff that I need to do – but then again, as I proved to myself today, I am very capable of doing it. Just gotta keep it up.

18-19/07/18: 0

Yes, there is a reason I am writing about days I didn’t write. Namely, because they are days I was supposed to have been writing – or at least working on my writing projects, not all of which involve writing at this stage in their respective processes.

So what was I doing? Games. Lots and lots of games.

“No but like dude it has a purpose it’s totally healthy and necessary for my self-care regime. It’s important.”

Shut the fuck up, brain.

Mind you, it hasn’t been just a case of games distracting me from my personal priorities; it’s been everything else that I’ve been doing – Youthline starting back up, talking to my masters supervisor about PhD stuff, getting my final job payment and disability allowance info sorted out with WINZ (spoilers it’s a lot of paperwork). I never really bounced back from marking, I don’t think, because even besides the writing not getting done, and before this week’s gaming binge, my shit has been on a consistent downhill trajectory ever since I started marking that final assignment. And it’s been downhill straight into a big pile of very important stuff that I have no experience or confidence in doing, requiring me to do such horrible things as make appointments, have something of a schedule for getting all of this shit done, learning a bunch of new bus routes so that I can sort out transport for getting this shit done …

I’ve never quite been in a situation like this. Unprepared doesn’t begin to cover it; these past two months have been basically the antithesis of the formative experiences of my entire existence. I’m not playing games to get away from doing this stuff, because I’ve been doing it. I’ve been playing games to recover from doing this stuff. Which would be fine, if it wasn’t for the fact that I still don’t feel recovered, don’t know how the fuck to get to that point, and in the meantime not only is nothing else getting done, but the good habits that I’ve built up around getting them done are atrophying from lack of use.

It’s bullshit, basically. My life is bullshit right now.

I don’t like it.

But, we work with what we’ve got, and right now I have some self-awareness and a Weekly Words installment that runs from the 15th to the 21st of this month. And while I’ve said that I want a full weekend to focus on doing fun things with, in practice this idea has never worked once since its inception. It’s a fantastic idea – but the problem with it is that it’s an idea that assumes I’m spending the rest of the week writing like a maniac and, consequently, need a couple of days off every week for sanity.

Which I do think would still work, if I was writing like a maniac every week. But I’m not.

So, in light of this – it’s time to improvise.

Starting this week, I am giving myself up to 3 days off per week. When I’ve got a nice solid rhythm and doing lots of writing that I will need time to recover from but also want to maintain momentum with as much as possible, I get a “weekend”, which is Friday and Saturday, or possibly Monday and Tuesday, plus an optional just-in-case day off. But during bullshit weeks like this week, those 3 days off can come at any point in the week. This is to allow for the fact that, well, I have a lot of growing to do, and I still want to be committed to my writing as a discipline, as well as a passion.

But it is also to allow for the fact that, sometimes, life gives you lemons, and you can’t make lemonade, so instead you need a bit of time to cope with the prospect of eating those suckers as nature intended. It is to acknowledge that this does happen – and that even when it does, you can still get your shit done. Some of it, anyway. And there is no way I can’t get some shit done this week, however disappointed I am with how the past four days have gone in that regard.

To be clear, I don’t regret the last four days in general. I just want to see myself succeeding in the ways that I’m setting out to. I want more evidence to show that, actually, I can commit to doing things, and my commitment means something. I need that knowledge. And to be fair, all of this other life shit that’s been causing me so much stress that it’s driven me to gaming in a way that I haven’t felt driven to it in quite a long time – and away from my personal-time priorities, more to the point – I have been relatively on top of said life shit. If I’m looking for evidence of being able to commit and get things done, even things I’m not prepared for, I have some. I’m doing okay. It’s not the romantic ideal, it’s not even what I think is realistically my best effort, but if it wasn’t for this weekly commitment to writing there wouldn’t be a problem.

But I do have that commitment, and I fucking want that commitment. It does mean something to me. And I do not want to see myself letting it slip just because I can, and just because I need some time to recover from other shit going on. Which I do. But the balance needs to be healthier. I don’t just want to recover from stress; I want to get better at handling it. Like increasing your weights at gym, I need to step up my game if I want my efforts with Weekly Words (which is basically now shorthand for “getting my life sorted out”) to build to something I can be proud of.

The week’s not through yet, and neither am I. All I need is a plan.

20/17/18: 1296

See? Nothing to worry about.

And yes, that statement is, in fact, for my sake, I need a bit of reassurance right now – and there it is. A glorious word-count, which even goes into quadruple digits. Go me.

And I was actually going to do even more writing, but today my Word subscription died and I am now waiting to coordinate with my family members and see if we want to get the 5-person Office deal between us, which is stupendously better value than the only slightly cheaper 1-person Office deal. So that was a bummer momentum-killing moment …

But on the flipside: we finally got fibre internet installed, and it’s … better? At the moment the most notable change is that we can watch Youtube videos in HD with no issue, and to be fair that’s very nice. Download speed doesn’t seem to be as phenomenal as it could be, but it is at the very least better than it was, the amount of betterness ranging from slightly to quite substantially, but nowhere near the stratospheric advancements we were all advertised at the beginning. I think the ultimate message here is not to get internet, period, because just like a cult it’s never all that it’s cracked up to be.

21/07/18: 785

Good. Much improved.

I’m getting very invested in my reading projects lately – I was invested on principle, but now it’s actual emotional investment, so that’s always nice. I foresee a few more weeks of less-than-10k words worth of writing done per week, at the very least, because I have lots of revision-related activities to undertake. However, I also have these writing exercises and scenes that I want to force myself to write – writing homework, I guess, that I really want to make sure that I make myself do, because it is very clear to me that I need to push myself comfort-wise. That whole “finding my voice” thing that I wanted to do so badly a couple of weeks ago. Still need to do that.

But this week was a good experience, a nice stress-test, for Weekly Words in the end. I messed myself up halfway through the week, but then brought it back around, and that feels a hell of a lot better than it would have been to just let it sit. I have this whole romantic idea about letting the consequences of your actions teach you important lessons and not making up for a messed-up schedule – mostly so that I can train myself to just let things go when I need to and not be constantly trying to catch up to my plans when things inevitably go wrong – and I do think that’s practical and good and healthy. But I now realise how ridiculous that is as a one-size-fits-all approach – because sometimes, I think, what the consequences of our actions teach us is that we can make up for lost time, often without very much effort on our part at all, and in the end if it’s something that we want to hold ourselves accountable for doing – well, we should do it.

Lots of learning this week, basically. Valuable learning.

And as for that less-than-10k word count …

Weekly Total: 3314

Honestly, I was expecting quite a bit less than that, so go me! And that seems like a good note to end this particular week on – so, let’s end it, and get ready for the next one …

Weekly Words 8-14/17/2018

08/07/18: 513

I have identified some Issues.

In my search for a story that feels like it’s “mine”, I often come up short. I have also had trouble identifying what it is, exactly, that is lacking. I have ideas that I like, but besides being anxious about possibly getting them wrong if I start writing them and then being somehow locked into that wrong direction because you can never change your mind about any decision you make ever, apparently … yes I need therapy why do you ask … I also just feel reluctant to invest in them. Like, they don’t feel worth my time. I can feel the failure before I even get started, and it’s not just low self-esteem. There is something in the premise itself that puts me off. And today, I feel like I’m one step closer to identifying what that something is.

This is due, in no small part, to going back to re-reading some of my older new stuff, ideas that I liked but didn’t stick with in terms of turning them into bigger projects – a sign, I think, that maybe a small, more focused project would have worked for me. One of them was Mark and Jessie, which I am still not done reading. I have finally gotten to the chapter where one of the major antagonists is introduced, and it’s taken so long to get to this point that it’s just frustrating to see it. But this is my perspective as the writer, not as a reader – I don’t think I really can have that perspective on my own work, but this stuck out to me as I was reading it. Why did it bother me so much? I can just shuffle that introduction around to have it come in earlier or something. It’s not a big deal if we’re talking revision, and with this project that is exactly what we’re talking.

The obvious answer was that, well, this is an important character who is meant to be pretty front-and-centre throughout the story, and they’re only showing up about at the start of the second third of this story. It feels like the focus is wrong. It feels like the pacing is wrong. It feels like this character actually doesn’t matter. Now to be fair, this is not a bad thing – this is a character I’m pretty ambivalent about the existence of to begin with, and not one I’m at all sure I will be keeping in subsequent versions of this book.

But what stuck with me was the fact that they were supposed to be relevant to the story all the way through, and instead here they are, making their first appearance – not even appearance; their first mention – 239 pages of the way through this 622 page book. And that’s when I realised what the problem was, and the problem I’ve been having with reading this manuscript since the beginning.

It means that I didn’t write what I set out to write.

I have been feeling really aimless with this read-through, not sure why I’m doing it, what I’m taking away from it – yeah, there are parts of it that I think are neat or interesting, but they’re not things that I actually necessarily think need to be in the story. They’re neat out of context, and that context has actually been lacking up to this point with my read-through. I haven’t had a context, a reason, to read this thing, except for the vague thought that, well, if you’re going to pick up an old project and try to revise it, it’s probably good to be somewhat familiar with it, and because it’s what I did with Tallulah when I was making revision notes.

But now, I have a context – I am reading this manuscript not to see “what works” or what I want to keep going forward. I am reading this manuscript to see where what I wrote diverges from what I wanted to write, from the vision that I had in mind.

And that changes everything, because now it’s about identifying my weaknesses as a big-picture writer, my ability to stick to my plans. The obvious issue with Mark and Jessie is that I had a vision, not a plan, and writing from a vision is writing from passion and conviction in the moment – it just so happened that this “moment” lasted for about a year and a half, judging by the “details” tab on the Word documents of the individual chapters. Mind you that’s slightly unreliable because the dates are screwed up by all of these files having been transferred from older computers and stuff – but it was at least a year, I’ll put it that way, I remember that much. A year-or-more-long passion project with no plan, no outline, no clearly-defined – or even vaguely-defined – plot-thread to follow, that has resulted in this chimeric monstrosity of a story that involves everything from fairytale creatures to genetically modified household pets with military application, and to be fair that doesn’t sound like a bad mash-up.

But it’s not what I was trying to write.

And that is the most disheartening thing about reading this manuscript: I know that it’s not what I wanted it to be – but it’s also proven to be the aspect of this project, as it currently stands, that has given me the most clarity and purpose to continuing this read-through. I’m not just reading it because I said I would, now: I have an agenda.

And it means I need to start taking better notes. I’m trying to find my story here, because while I know this isn’t what I wanted it to be, I also know that what I wanted was not a plan. It was not a robust enough foundation for me to begin writing from. I’m glad I wrote it anyway, don’t get  me wrong, but I wish I had identified that this was a weakness in my approach all those years ago …

Almost exactly 12 years ago, actually.

It’s a sign.

So sayeth the Ubermensch!

… anyway – the point is, while it’s not what I wanted, what I did want was not particularly well-define. I had a premise for the plot, which I still love, and I had a feeling. And I realised today that I need more for a story to feel like “mine”.

What this boils down to, for me, is that when I have my premise, the story and the characters and the world, all of these supposedly separate elements, have to feel like different aspects of the same whole for me. I used to want to write big books, long sagas; I used to start by planning to write X number of books, and then try to think up ideas to fill that quota. I can see now that this approach is leaking over into my more recent idea-generation process, where I’ll have what I call a “premise”, but it’s actually a setting, or a world-building feature, or something that is only one part of what, I now believe, a proper premise needs, which I then try to fill with the other features that this idea-seed did not come with – and it hasn’t been working. I realise that the reason I have been having issues coming up with ideas that feel like “mine” is because so many of the premises I am working with are not complete. So that is what I need to work on.

And also probably why the co-writing project has been going so well for the past almost-a-year, on top of all the other reasons it’s been going well. It’s a complete premise, and it fucking works. Also why Wolf Gang got written, which the other night I … realised? Seems like a long time coming, but yeah, I realised the other night that, fuck, I wrote that garbage zero draft, I put those ideas down in writing. I did that.

And I do want more of that feeling – only this time, with ideas I actually give a shit about.

So, on top of all of my other ambitions writing-wise, I am actually going to spend some time de-tangling my latest project, all of which have that quota-filling aspect to them, me trying to jam together new and old ideas to make something whole. Not a bad practice, on paper, but in practice it has not been helping me at all. I’ve blocked the progress of some really cool ideas that I’ve been really passionate about by doing that, and while it may be too late to salvage my momentum, I want to give it a try. I owe it to those ideas, and to myself, to give it a try.

10/17/18: 605

God I’ve been off these past couple of weeks, writing-wise.

I am just starting to realise how much shit I need to take care of this year – in fact, before the year is out – and I’m not going to lie, this and last week have suffered in terms of not just writing, but general life shit, as a result. I am losing focus on the things that I want to do and need to do; I am procrastinating and self-distracting to a very large degree; I am panicking, leaning on my back foot, excavating large portions of the sandbank so that I have multiple options for a head-hiding-spot – I’m not in a great space right now.

Which is fucking annoying, because on the other hand, I’m kind of excited by how much super-important shit I need to take care of. I’m a little bit hype about it, truth be told, which is strange and alien to me and perhaps that’s part of why I’m going so far off the rails. But I need to focus my efforts on those tasks. I need to think not of the tasks themselves, but how to do them, because if I think about the tasks themselves I’m going to freak out and not get any of it done.

And writing is not one of those things.

I was considering taking last week off, during the final sprint of the last round of marking, and while on the one hand I am kind of sad that I didn’t decided to do that, I am also glad that I have continued to force myself to continue writing every day. It does feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon, and I am disappointed in the level of commitment I am showing to writing – and other things – in general right now, but by the same token I have to acknowledge that, at the very least, in this week’s downward spiral of anti-productivity, I have still forced myself to write, and it got done. Not a lot, but it got done. And that’s a good thing, one that I can build on.

Which I really need to, because holy shit I have things to do. I’ve got a scene to finish for the co-writing project; I’ve got a psychologist to set up an appointment with; I’ve got morning walks to get back into the habit of because all of last month was, relatively speaking, a wash in that regard; I have writing projects to de-tangle and rationalise; I have Mark and Jessie to read and reflect upon with regards to my vision and passion for the project versus what I actually have written to work with; I have Youthline classes starting up again this week that will run from now through to November; I have asked my masters supervisor if I can have a chat with him about potential PhD topics; I have voice-developing exercises that I don’t want to do but have fantasies of making myself do for my own good; I have books to read about writing that I am really apprehensive about for some reason it feels like a big commitment; I have to figure out how to do self-care properly and without resorting to games and youtube all the time because it’s fine some of the time but gets really out of hand really easily; I have to figure out what the hell I’m going to do for money from December onwards …

Basically, I am going through my own personal Ragnarok right now, and I am not handling it as well as I would like to. But, at the same time, I do feel this weird, seemingly irrational excitement, and it’s not the challenge or anything like that; it’s the prospect of being able to give myself evidence of my ability to handle my shit.

The thing is, I feel like I can do it, so the fact that I am not doing it has been really contributing to how kind of unfocused and antsy and self-distracting I’ve been over the past few days. I think it’s a sign. I am craving this experience of being fucking competent at doing shit.

So I should give myself that experience.

And writing – I don’t want to think about it. I’m not giving up on it, but I’m just not going to worry about it. As I’ve said once or twice before: I can always write 1 word a day. I have in fact done that before. But this other stuff is just more important, and it’s as simple as that. I can write any time, but this stuff, not so much. It’s kind of a now or never thing. I would really love to be able to load up an older save-file of my life right about now, to stop things from getting this out of hand to begin with – but, time only moves one way, and like it or not we all move along with it. I’ll just have to try and use it to my advantage.

And the thing is, when everything else is going well, the writing ends up going well too. Without me having to think about it.

That is the plan for this week.

11/07/18: 451

12:07/18: 33

It’s always too late, goddammit.

But that’s fine. Learning things that you need to know too late – in this case, it’s just too late to put into practice for this week for writing. Writing is easy to make up for …

Or, in this case, not make up for, because this week I needed to be not writing, and I did not realise that until today. I needed to be reading.

And here’s the thing: I actually did a bit of writing, yesterday, that I have been wanting to make a start on for a while now, one of those new projects that I’m too anxious and self-conscious to make a start on because I don’t want to “get it wrong”. So there’s been some good stuff going on.

But what I realised tonight, sitting down and trying to make myself focus on writing, is that I wanted to read Mark and Jessie, not write, and all this week I have been agonising over when I would fit in my writing for the day and what I would write with it. I have said that I feel “aimless” with my writing, searching for an idea that feels like “mine” – but I’ve already got that project. It’s Mark and Jessie. And the issue with that is the fact that it’s already been written, so measuring my progress with the project with Weekly Words is … I mean, I can’t. End of story. Weekly Words is not set up for that.

And that’s okay, too.

What I realise now, too late to be ideal but definitely not too late to be useful, is that I should have addressed this issue way earlier, because it’s seriously not a big deal. All I had to do, honestly, is say that this week, I might not write at all, because I have this other important thing to focus on – which is still “writing”, in the sense that it is all in the service of getting to the end of a writing project. It’s just not putting words down on the page. I guess I could measure in terms of pages read or something – actually a very obvious solution – but it still doesn’t work for Weekly Words. Weekly Words is really here for me to have a way to motivate myself to power through writing, rather than keeping track of a writing project, which only really needs a consistent word-count schedule until the first draft is done. Once you move into the revision phase of things, words written per insert-time-measurement-here just doesn’t mean anything, unless you’re completely starting over from scratch or something – in which case it’s not part of the revision process anyway.

You get what I mean.

This week, I was very invested in my stories, but writing was not the best way for me to engage with them and follow through with that investment. But because I have this commitment to Weekly Words, I spent all of this week obsessed with fitting in writing so that I would be “onto it” and “responsible” and, of course, a “good writer”. This week, what has been an overwhelmingly positive and useful tool in my life turned into another way to facilitate one of my oldest bad writing habits: getting bogged down in guilt and negative self-talk, and judging my self-worth pretty much solely based on whether I did any writing that day.

I have completely lost perspective this week, in fact these past two weeks, where my writing is concerned, and it’s affected everything else.

But that’s fine.

Next week, while Weekly Words will continue as per normal, and while I still have a commitment to write every day, that daily writing commitment will be 1 word. No less, for sure, but no more either. If I do more then that then that’s fantastic and excellent and it’s not my priority right now. I’d like it to be. I’d like to be excited about writing right now. But, yeah, when I say I have other shit I need to do, in future I need to actually not just acknowledge that but act on it, manage my time around it. I need to get used to my own tells, I guess. Get those brain-hacks rolling.

Weekly Total: 1602

I wrote this week. I should have worried about it less, but I’m glad that I at least did it.

But next week, I want to be glad that I did what I needed to do, whether that involves any writing or not.

Weekly Words 1-7/07/2018

01/07/18: 529

A nice little start to the week, co-writing again, and looking to try my hand at writing Teen Drama.

I was considering just not writing this week at all, but I think instead I’m just going to shift my priority from writing in a general sense to focusing on a few specific writing exercises – and reading. I need to finish Mark and Jessie this month, and to move on to revision time. At the moment, it’s really seeming like I can’t take much away from this manuscript story-wise, at least not stuff that I want to keep. There’s plenty that I’d want to change, but even more that just shouldn’t be there to begin with. It’s also making me see, in quite graphic detail, how utterly wretched my two leads are, how insufferable my “cool” character is, and overall I’m astounded that I ever thought that what I was writing in any way matched up to the vision I had for the story. I went into this sort of vaguely intending to take a story away from the reading experience, one that I’d have to alter and refine but would generally work out to be something that I’d want to work on. I’m not sure that that’s what I have, and it mostly comes down to the characters. I have one character who I actually like, and I’m glad that I like them, but they’re not one of the two main characters, and that is a problem. And honestly, I don’t know how to fix my main characters, or if they even can be fixed. I wonder if maybe I should not even bother reading the rest of this manuscript and just start over from scratch.

But on the other hand, having something to work against kind of makes it easier for me to come up with a revision plan. Hating what I’ve got drives me towards identifying the things that I want but don’t have, and I want two new writing habits, which I am going to focus on this month: planning instead of pantsing, and planning based on things that I actually, actively want to write, instead of what I think is functional in a structural way. So, in that sense, I think continuing to read and make notes on this manuscript is a good idea.

This is also a way for me to meet my goal of having a more structured routine in general, the feeling of having work to do, only in this case work I set for myself. Writing I find I can’t really treat like work, because it’s a hobby. But a book project could be a bit different, and that’s because it doesn’t just involve writing. It also involves reading, revision, consideration, taking notes, making adjustments, doing research – and I think I can treat that as a job. At least the reading part anyway, to start with. It’s pretty easy, and I’m actually glad that this book is so long now, where I was complaining about it before – it’s long because I changed the margins and page size when I converted it to a PDF file, and while that means there’s a high total page count, it also means that when I sit down to do a reading session, I have a sense of getting a lot done, like 20 pages in a session or something, and somehow this distracts me from the potential discouragement that comes with looking at a page total of 622.

Related to this, I also want to spend some time this week reflecting on what I managed to accomplish, versus what my expectations were, going into this last round of marking. Setting goals is important, as is sticking to a plan, both of which I feel like I failed at in this case – however, the deciding factor, which I did not really consider until after the fact, was how realistic my expectations were. Or, as I’m starting to suspect, unrealistic. And as someone who historically has a lot of things they want to do and a bad track record of actually getting them done, these particular data categories are important to me.

So, I’ve got some goals for this week. The word-count is being de-prioritised – quality over quantity. And in terms of writing – there’s the writing exercises that I want to do, starting with taking that whole “show don’t tell” idea and just blatantly flipping it, making it so that I have to tell and force myself to do it in a way that is engaging and satisfying to read, but there’s also wanting to follow my natural inclination to edit my writing as I go, rather than forcing myself to “just write”. I do think I need to emphasise the “just write” part for, like, first drafts, but as I identified last week in the midst of an emotional dumpster fire, I need to care about what I’m writing, and tweaking it as I go so that it makes sense is part of that. I think this is probably just because I take everything way too literally, and “just write” to me is basically an instruction to freewrite all of my first drafts, which I do not think is a good or productive plan when I frame it like that. So yeah. Going to experiment a bit with that, too, just pull things back on track instead of letting them veer off into the distance just because it’s a first attempt – I don’t want to do so much on-the-fly revision that I get stuck, but I don’t want to stop myself from doing it just on principle either. Just like I want to find my voice as a writer, I want to find my style of writing, too, and I think this is part of it.

Or maybe just a shorter draft-revise cycle, like a couple of days – write a big piece, leave it for a bit, then come back and tuck it in a bit more snugly – maybe after getting started on the next part, if it’s part of a longer project.

Ideas. I have ideas, and that’s always a good space to be in.

Definitely a nice start to the week.

03/07/18: 1089

On the other hand …

For all my talk of experimenting, shaking up my established order, finding my voice, all of this new shit – and I do want to do it – I cannot overstate how comforting it is to know that on any given day, I can just hit up google docs and put some writing into me and my friend’s co-writing project. It’s just so gratifying to have that resource. In the same way that I value urban fantasy novels for the fact that they make reading easy when I just want to read, I value our co-writing project for the fact that I can always get some writing done when I want to write.

And yes, as has ever been the case, I wish I felt that sense of ease with my own personal projects – but at the same time, I just love how easy and enjoyable this one is.

On that note, I am actually very eager to get back to the established schedule that I had before this month – technically I’ve had it this month, I just let it slip. I want to get back on the wagon. I went for a walk today, which was my official starting-point, so it’s back to daily exercise and co-writing as my go-to, regular habits, but not the extent of those habits. I want new stuff, and I want to get used to it – but I also want the old stuff back. I’ll have to work on finding a balance between new and old, and also short-term and long-term. There are a couple of short-term things that I need to do this week, that I actually wanted to get done today and didn’t – part of that is just having the old habits to fall back on, letting myself go on autopilot and allowing the newer priorities to just kind of fade away. Gotta keep perspective. It’s all about perspective.

But right now, it’s about returning to form. That’s the most important thing, and today it felt like that was happening. A good start.

04/07/18: 203

Got some other stuff done today, stuff that needed to get done – well, got started on it at least.

But yeah, I wanted to do more writing than this. I have a lot of distracting habits that I need to cut down on. That is the lesson for today.

05/07/18: 2543

Now that’s a bit more like it.

Today was still more distraction-filled than I’d like, but I also took care of two important, priority tasks for me out of the three that I’ve set myself for this week, so that just leaves one to take care of tomorrow. Feels good.

And yes, the writing feels good, too. Yesterday, while I didn’t do very much writing, I did start writing something that was important for me to get started on – moving beyond the Chapter 1 doldrums that I historically get stuck on. As with Wolf Gang, I solved the issue of a clunky opening and not getting to the ideas that I actually care about by skipping ahead; I tried to keep the momentum going today but it scared me off. That’s okay, though. I have a clearer sense of what exactly has been scaring me about this writing process, which in turn is giving me insight into pretty much every new project I feel uncertain about, and it’s just the fact that, once I actually start writing, I start second-guessing myself. Not with the co-writing project, though, which is what I worked on tonight. I mean, there’s still some, but I find it so much easier to push through with. I wonder if that’s just because I’ve already written so much of it now – maybe that’s all it takes. Which, I mean, it’s kind of a catch 22, but at least it’s something.

But come Sunday I can put some more work into what I started yesterday – I feel more able to override the panic I feel at not knowing what to write, how to start, not having a “voice” to fall back on. I feel a bit more confident in my ability to just write and not care about the quality of that writing, and since that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to train myself into feeling for the past couple of years, I am eager to get started on that on Sunday …

While for now, I am looking forward to not having any self-imposed writing obligations for the next two days. I needed this week to re-establish a bit of equilibrium, and I’m still getting there, but I think it’s been a good start.

And as for what I have to show for it:

Weekly Total: 4364

Hey, it’s a start. And right now, that’s all I need.

Nah, No WriMo (this time)

One aspect of Weekly Words has been the opportunity for me to gauge my writing productivity. Obviously. I have a weekly-word count and everything. But the reason I thought this could be a good thing initially was doing Nanowrimo. Nanowrimo is, as far as I am concerned, a wonderful invention that any writer who wants to test their productivity and self-discipline – or just wants to get some damn writing done – should try at least once.

To be honest, though, it’s never really worked for me as a source of motivation. It’s worked for me as a tool for organising my motivation into achievable, measurable goals, but that’s assuming I am already motivated to do some writing in the first place. Nanowrimo itself has never instilled within me a sense of urgency or purpose – I’m not saying that it’s supposed to, or fails as an experiment because it doesn’t, just noting that, without that motivation, Nanowrimo has never helped me to be more productive than I would have been without it.

And yet.

Every time Nano or Camp Nano rolls around, I totally buy into the fantasy – this time, I’ll get my shit together, power through a month of hard-core, intensive, hyper-competent-author writing, and have something to show for it at the end. This time, I will get an entire first draft done in a month. And every time, what stops me from doing this boils down to one simple question.

An entire first draft of what?

I love the fantasy of having a project I’m so over the moon about that I can’t wait to write it every day. I’m pretty sure I’ve only had that experience five times in my life – I can literally count them all on one hand. It may be that this goal is far too idealistic. But even then, there’s nothing that I actually want to devote that much time to writing. I have no passion project, no burning curiosity to explore, no experiments just bursting to be conducted – I’m out of juice, and Nanowrimo seems like the kind of undertaking that requires a lot of juice, because that is a pretty tall order to fill.

And in fact, that’s probably the main issue – it’s not so much that I don’t have anything I’m interested in writing at all. It’s that I see the 50k word-count goal and think: I do not have the energy to hit that target. I may be perfectly wiling to try out certain projects that I’m less-than-certain about, but not with that level of commitment. The issue with Nanowrimo is that it’s very all or nothing, and if you decide that the project you’re working on isn’t working out halfway through the month you’ve just wasted however many thousands of words of effort in terms of hitting the Nanowrimo quota. I suppose the idea is that you make yourself commit to it anyway, which is not a bad thing, but it’s also not necessarily a realistic thing – for me, anyway, not in the place that I’m at with my projects. Again, if you have the motivation, I think Nano is a great way to channel your energy productively.

But without it, I think there are more productive things that can be done.

For me, that’s been Weekly Words. The weekly word-count goal was something I had to get used to easing up on, not be so pedantic about – it’s good to have the motivation and sense of urgency and I do think I will try harder to reach that 10k/week average going forward, but I’m also glad that I was able to take a step back and have it as an ideal, rather than a bare minimum standard of productivity or success. And the fact that it’s not any one project that can count towards those 10k words is also very liberating. I think, having opened it up so much, I should definitely take advantage of it – more so than I have been doing. I think that’s partly the week-to-week mentality being quite restrictive in its own way, and reminds me that setting longer-term goals – goals over a month, or even a year – is something I have said numerous times I would try to do more consistently, to alleviate some of the pressure and hopefully make it more likely that balls actually get started rolling.

But overall, lacking the motivation to commit to any one single project, Weekly Words has given me a way to measure my productivity and, importantly, commitment as a writer without having to put all of my eggs in one basket. I used to spend a lot of time agonising over the fact that I wasn’t writing – which I still do, though a bit less so since starting Weekly Words – but more than that, I now realise, I agonised over the fact that I wasn’t working on a specific project. I measured my success and progress as a writer in terms of whether or not project X was getting any attention, and Nanowrimo only exaccerbates that kind of judgmental tunnel-vision for me – there are so many other ways to measure one’s writing capacity than judging based on how much we work on any one single project. I mean, we’re writers. Most of us have a few irons in the fire at any given time, whether we want to admit it or not, and while I think Nanowrimo has many strengths, accounting for that reality is not one of them. And that is reality for me right now.

For anyone who is doing Camp Nano this July – best of luck! Write hard, practice good self-care and, above all, honour the promises that you make to yourself (as long as they are healthy and achievable). As for me, I will wait until the day that I do have that one perfect project that I can’t keep myself from writing to take advantage of what I think Nano has to offer. For now, though, I have too many options to play with right now for me to want to pick any one of them over any of the others – so, I won’t. I don’t need to. I’ve got time, and I’ve got a system that seems to work pretty well for how I want to spend it, even if I do constantly wish I took more advantage of it. But I think it’s going pretty well.

Although having said that, if I was in the position to be revising Mark and Jessie by now, my perspective might have been a little different, so come November this year … watch this space.