Weekly Words 18-24/02/2019

19/02/2019: shit I counted it as part of last week’s writing

So, technically, 4261, even though I won’t count it because it’s already been counted as part of last week’s count BUT!

This isn’t how we’re doing things for the next two weeks! I need a new format, and for the time being it will go a little something like this:

  • Project Progress (writing)
  • Project Progress (revision)
  • Other (writing)

It’s a bit clunky, but fuck it that’s how we’re rolling for the next couple of weeks. So today’s entry, if properly formatted due to me having planned this out before starting to write this down, would look something like this:

19/02/2019

  • Project Progress (writing): 0
  • Project progress (revision): [insert blog post shit here]
  • Other (writing): 4261

Yeah it’s clunky and I don’t really like it. Maybe …

19/02/2019 Writing

  • 0/4261

And then I’d write a bit about it here, summing up both the “real” writing and the “other” writing …

19/02/2019 Revision

… followed by more writing here, enshrining my experiences of revision progress in immortal blog prose for all time.

Ugh. It’s still really clunky.

But hell, this is my kind of fun.

I love developing systems; I have mentioned a few times how I have spent inordinate amounts of time developing magic systems for stories that will, honestly, probably never be told; messing around with the ranger class from D&D 5E was a big part of my downtime in 2017; and now that I have the opportunity to expand Weekly Words’ capacity to help me get and keep my shit together as a writer, trying to figure out what categories I need, how to present them, how to keep the clutter to a minimum …

This might have been a terrible idea. This blog will become a blog about how I run this blog.

Well fuck it, it’s my blog, it’ll be about whatever the fuck I want it to be about.

I do think having sections to break down what I’ve done over the week is a good idea, just maybe not the day – but then again, what happens in a day makes sense in context of everything else that happens that day, so it seems silly to not mush it all together.

I guess I do have an example to work with, so let’s try it out.

19/02/2019

Writing (0/4261)

It feels annoying to not have those 4k words “counted” this week, but oh well, that’s what you get for being hasty. I can still talk about them, because I wrote them this week.

The Witcher 3 is a game that has a lot of lessons for storytelling, and for writing – particularly in terms of characterisation and tone, and how they affect each other. I’ll just come out and say this now: The Witcher 3 has a tone problem. To be fair, it has a number of problems, but the issue of tone and characterisation affects every other issue that the game has. On the one hand, this is one of those “gritty realism” worlds that just so happens to be a high fantasy setting – it’s sort of “low fantasy”, but I’d say it’s more high fantasy than The Lord of the Rings just given how prevalent magic and supernatural beings are; it just has the general tone of a low-fantasy world, something more akin to Game of Thrones

Sometimes.

At other times, it has a tone more akin to a particularly amateurish Harlequin romance novel – specifically, when it comes to the romance. There is a term thrown around in some areas of the gamersphere, “hand-holding”, use to refer to a game that is perceived to treat its players like incompetent, mindless niusances who need to be guided every step of the way through their gameplay experience lest they make a wrong decision. I would like to introduce a new term based on this one to describe The Witcher 3 and its tone problem, which is also often a gender problem: cock-holding. Cock-holding is when a game treats its players like insecure, needy, life-inexperienced straight adolescent males who have never had a real romantic or sexual relationship in their lives and are turning to this game for compensation in the form of soothing emotional validation, delivered through the various “romance” options available over the course of the game.

Harsh? A little, maybe. I could and perhaps one day will write an essay/thesis chapter on the tonal dissonance throughout The Witcher 3, but this will not be that piece of writing. Without going into a ton of detail, this game is basically two different games depending on which aspect of the game you’re currently engaging with: action or romance. It’s jarring. It’s pretty sexist in a lot of places. And most of all, it just doesn’t make a ton of sense given how Geralt as a character is introduced and established: a stone-cold badass who has trouble connecting on an emotional level. It’s nothing deal-breaking; I’ve sunk over 170 hours into this freaking game, it’s a great game – but that’s despite its faults, and tone dissonance, I think, has to be the biggest fault of all.

And that’s what I spend over 4k words ranting about. I wonder what will come next?

20/02/2019

Project Work: 0

Other Writing: 1481

Turns out what’s next is me making sure to note down all the Places of Power locations on the world map for my inevitable The Witcher 3 New Game Plus playthrough … maybe sometime next year. I’ve played this game a lot, as I noted a couple of paragraphs ago – to be fair, it’s not boring yet; but I feel like treading through all of the quests I’ve already done, even if I do aim to change a lot of my decisions for them, will dive me insane at this point. At the very least, it’s time to find a new recreational pasttime.

Also I think my panic over not doing much writing for the past couple of months is maybe a bit of an overreaction, because people need breaks. And I did a lot of writing last year. Like, probably well over half a million words fully told; I’m just counting the writing that “counted”. And I did a lot of that writing too, over 300k words’ worth. I think I’m entitled to a little burnout.

But with that said, I do still want to move on from the time-vampire that has been my gaming habit. Part of the weekly word count thing was not just to make sure I was staying on-task with my writing habits; it was also to push me to actually try writing things that I’m afraid of fucking up by not “getting it right” when I make the attempt. That’s always been valuable when I’ve done it in the past, and I need to keep doing it, even if it’s 1 word a day. I mean I’d like to think I can manage better than that, but as it stands 1 word a day is a bar I have not yet been able to clear this year, so, baby steps.

22/02/2019

Writing (894/632)

I had an idea today: a Writing Wheel. I don’t have an actual wheel so I’m using a d6 instead, assigning myself a writing project to each number and then writing that project for up to 30 minutes – at which point that’s all folks, show’s over, and the writing will cease.

I didn’t time it this time, because I’m lazy, but hey, got some writing done. I like this method; I think I’ll keep it in reserve. Good for a shake-up when I need it. The “wheel” landed me on my “high urban fantasy” project that I keep having thoughts about, and the world-building is the part that keeps holding me back – I keep wanting things to happen, but every time I get started I have to think “wait would this actually work in this world”, and get so easily distracted by logistics that the actual writing more often than not comes to a grinding halt. I guess this is one reason why urban fantasy sticks so close to reality and often doesn’t have a super complicated magic system: it allows the writers to actually fucking get their shit written.

Though it’s not so much having a complex magic system in this case; it’s just that I don’t actually know what it is, and haven’t really thought about it. But a lot of this stuff can be done on the fly – in fact, after tonight’s little writing session, I think the best way for me to go about it is to write it first and make it make sense later. I mean, I’m the one making this shit up, right? I can make it work however the hell I want it to. And the most important thing is just to get it written.

Revision

So, co-writing revision notes are going … well, they’re going. I’m up to page 16 out of 75 so far, and this has taken me two weeks. The issue, as I have mentioned before, is that I keep having too many goddamn ideas about how things could be changed, in ways that, in the moment at least, I feel would make things better. This slows me down considerably. This is the same issue I’ve been having with my Mark and Jessie read-through (except in this case I don’t also hate the project and wish it would die every time I read it), and if there’s a lesson to be learnt here I don’t know what it is, it’s just fucking annoying. Maybe that’s the lesson: it’s just fucking annoying, all you can do is persevere and manage your expectations.

I do think it’s good to note down your thoughts at this stage, even if they are distracting you. I may be wrong, but it’s what I’m doing, and that’s where the other 632 words came from. No, I’m not counting the words that I wrote as revision notes; I did say I would count everything for this week and next, but no, that’s just silly. Not to mention awkward. I don’t think there’s even a function to count the words written as comments on a Google document, so I’m going to save myself some grief and say that revision words do not count.

My co-writing friend has a much more sensible approach: she is looking at our screenplay assuming that this is pretty much what we want it to be, and given that just looking at what could be tidied up, fleshed out, made clearer, etc. This is the approach that I took with Tallulah when I revised it, and it worked – well, it worked as well as it could with a story as indecisive as Tallulah. And having said that, it actually highlighted the core issues with the story anyway, so yeah, it worked. I know it works.

I just don’t wanna.

But I do also want to actually get my goddamn revision notes done – and here’s a new dynamic for me to get to grips with: making revision notes on a co-writing project. We’re each making our own set of notes for this first pass, and will come back together when we’ve made notes on everything and see where we stand. I don’t know if this is a good or horrible idea, but it was my decision and it’s what we’ve agreed to, so if it fucks things up it is entirely my fault.

I have to wonder, too, if part of the reason why I feel so, I dunno, safe writing my big blathering “what if” notes (separate from my revision notes) is because I’m only one half of the writing team, and I feel like I have a lot more room to just spread out and take up imaginative space, because these are my notes. On the other hand – I mean, I want to pull my weight. So I’ll have to keep thinking about how I want to approach this revision-note-making process, what it is that I actually want to get out of it by the end … and I guess just hope that I don’t get swallowed by my own hypothetical conjecturing along the way.

24/02/2019

Writing (0/1878)

More revision rant word-count plussage to artificially increase my already meaningless weekly word-count total. There are times in life where everything seems unbearably shallow and meaningless, the scope of possibilities mind-crushingly limited and predictable, and you realise that there is no point in even going on, because you’re never going to get what you want, because it doesn’t exist.

But hey, I guess I did some writing.

Weekly Total (12079)

Wow I was jaded the other day. I guess I can’t say my weeks don’t have variety.

The “writing wheel” strategy working so nicely the one time I did it ever has given me a newfound perspective that makes me want to write a huge long post about how my entire life’s philosophy is going to change, starting right now, things are going to be better, yes we can, and then I didn’t post it right away and instead got bored and did something else for a while and here I am now, thinking about how nice life is when you don’t make huge impassioned mission statements based on a short sequence of emotional highs and lows.

Writing is just hard sometimes. The discipline of it, the habit, the commitment; sometimes it’s just fucking unappetising and, more importantly, unfulfilling. You want to be doing something else – and at these times, I think you should. I also think that building a strong writing habit is essential for anyone who wants to Be A Writer, for self-explanatory reasons – but seriously, do anything for long enough without any variance and you’ll get sick of it, and even if you do keep hammering away it’ll suffer, and so will you. We need to take breaks. We need to stay on our grind. We need to find a balance that works for us, and right now that’s my rut. I’m trying to find a balance that I feel proud of or at least content with, and I haven’t.

Well, perhaps I actually just need to try harder. So along with documenting every trivial piece of writing for this next final week of February, I will be brainstorming some potential strategies for balancing my goal of having lots of writing done regularly and writing books through to conclusion and shit with my other desires that come with being a human being who needs to be doing more than just one goddamn thing all the goddamn time. I do think I have too many ready-to-hand distractions in my life that carry me away from my priorities and plans; I think distractions are a useful tool, but very easily over-indulged in. And if I learnt anything from my traumatic-yet-life-affirming experience marking the comics paper last year, it’s that when you have a whole bunch of shit to do, you just gotta pick one piece from the pile and get to work.

So, it’s distractions for me this week. How to manage them, when I’m most likely to fall back on them, what I can do to make it a better habit that helps me get where I want to go. And I’ll try to do some writing-writing, too.

Wish me luck!

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Weekly Words 11-17/02/2019

12/02/2019: 0 (+4611)

That additional 4611 is if you count the gaming journal entry that I did for my playthrough experience of The Witcher 3 … I’m thinking of making a gaming blog. I mean, it’s a big part of how I spend my downtime; I already blog about the books I read and the movies I see (less the latter nowadays, because this blog is kind of it in terms of my blog presence and this blog is about writing), so why not the games I play, too?

Also, that’s like 2k words per hour. Clearly, when I have thoughts about something, I can get a whole ton of writing done. I might refine this into a script or something; I still have the odd fantasy about starting a YouTube channel where I critique various media things because that’s what you do with a YouTube channel in my brain, and The Witcher 3 has given me a lot to think about in that regard. Though I’d probably need a better computer and a ton of gear that I don’t have to even get started with that.

Weekly Total: 1172 (+ 8872 = 10044)

This was inevitable.

When I started this whole Weekly Words thing, the goal was not to write any particular project through to completion. It was just to keep in the habit of regular writing. That easily slipped into keeping track of the writing projects I was working on, because last year I was really into the things that I was writing – in particular, the co-writing project. I was full of vim and vigour, and even more importantly I was co-writing with someone who felt the same way … and, I mean, that’s always been the dream: to be constantly at work on some project or another, writing it into existence.

The issue, though, as I quickly discovered, is that what “counts” is kind of vitally important while being simultaneously utterly meaningless – according to the original purpose of Weekly Words. It was supposed to just be a regular check-in to see if I had been doing writing period, and while I had projects in mind, they were not to be the sole focus of this check-in. Blog post word-count counted; at one point morning pages counted. I wasn’t going to count my copious amount of note-taking or random rants that I needed to indulge in to vent about something or other on occasion, because “writing” meant something specific to me: the furthering of my goal to be a career writer.

Now I’m here looking at these 8k+ words written this week solely concerning my playthrough of a triple-A videogame that came out four years ago, and all I can think is: “but none of it matters“. Because yes, I can just count writing in the most literal sense of the word, in the sense of “did I produce writing this week and if so how much”, and if I were to do that, honestly, my word count from last year would have been significantly larger. I write a lot. And that is something I have never really taken the time to acknowledge: I use writing as a tool very regularly, to express myself, to solve problems, to chronicle events, to pose queries, to reflect, to rant, to try and get my thoughts organised. It’s my best-honed skill besides being a socially anxious hermit.

But I don’t want just anything to count, and herein lies the problem I’ve been facing over the past, what, eight weeks? Because of all the things I could be Writing, absolutely none of them take my interest in the slightest …

And the things that I am interested in Writing are at the point where word-count actually doesn’t count for very much. It’s all revision at this stage; it’s revision and note-taking and brainstorming. Weekly Words is not set up to “count” this part of the writing process, and this is a big issue for me, because Weekly Words has become the one surefire method I have to keep myself on track, to have a sense of focus and continuity and accountability, and right now I’m at a point where loopholes are leaking the vital essence from the endeavour, rendering it redundant. I can’t be bothered to write, therefore I have nothing to update on this blog, therefore I have lost my main method of maintaining my sanity and emotional equilibrium.

This is not good.

But.

It does open up some possibilities that I have not had the opportunity to consider in this light until now.

For example – revision. That’s a huge part of the writing process. It needs to count. No, I can’t stick a word-count in front of it and summarise the experience of having written those words and call it a day, but I can count it in some way. I can keep a revision-note diary or something. I can create more parameters of keeping track of my “writing” than just what I’ve literally written.

In a sense, I also think that it might be good for me to actually just count everything, at least for a while. This is because when I did my January wrap-up a couple of weeks ago, it was so helpful to have that retrospective to put things into perspective for me going forward. “But Jason”, you say, “then how come it didn’t result in a more productive following month?” To which I say that I definitely need to monitor my habits much better going forward, because perspective alone isn’t enough – but it’s something. And I think it would be useful to have that perspective on my writing as a whole, rather than just the writing that “counts” in terms of my end goal of writing for a living. It might get me into gear; it might give me some new ideas on how I can manage my progress. So, for the final 2 weeks of February, I will be experimenting a bit with the format of Weekly Words, and we’ll just see how it goes. All writing counts; and things that are part of the writing process even if they are not actual word-producing writing (or none that needs to count, like note-taking) will also be counted … somehow. Probably qualitatively, rather than quantitatively; I’ll just write about the experience and say “yes I did some of that today/this week” and that’ll have to do until I think of something a bit more elegant.

Ultimately, this blog was created to chronicle my experience of being a writer – and, as those of you who have stuck with me through the years will know, there is a lot of not-writing that goes on when you’re a writer.

Weekly Words has helped me so much it’s not even possible for me to articulate it, and now I can see that it does have its limits – but those limits don’t have to be a permanent fixture. I can switch things up; I can keep making this work for me. I just need to figure out how.

And I finally beat The Witcher 3, so, no time like the present …

Weekly Words 04-10/02/2019

09/02/2019: 495

Holy shit I wrote something this week.

I don’t really re-read my posts after I write them, and I often can’t really remember them, either. It is entirely possible that I made some sort of huge, grandiose declaration of my intentions in my last post to do something or other, which I’m sure I felt very convicted in declaring at the time. Or maybe I wrote it and then deleted it because it took away the feeling that it had any kind of consequence if I externalised the idea, probably because it exposed it as an impulsive whim rather than an actual plan.

In any case, the pit of despair that I have written myself into through tinkering and re-tinkering with my Wolf Gang sequel is now a little less despairful – and, as always, the solution to writer’s block is to just do some fucking writing. It’s painfully, embarrassingly easy, yet I have not found it any easier to actually make myself do after years of proving this point to myself. But I suppose, after all this time, I should also know that I do just need to wallow in self-pity for a while sometimes. The point is that it always comes out all right in the end, and that’s what really matters.

Also I’m not writing my stupid goddamn Wolf Gang sequel for a good, long while. There, that’s my impulsive whimsical declaration of intention for today. I look forward to seeing how quickly I change my mind on it.

I think the passion that I get for making these big, totalising statements comes from the overflow of energy that I get when I put my mind to writing; just working on my self-assigned projects isn’t enough to adequately channel my energy, so I have to disperse it into other expressions – like saying I’ll never work on X project again, because at the time that’s where my emotional barometer is at. I’m writing zero draft ideas, so it only makes sense that I’ll also make zero draft mission statements. It’s all part of the process …

And it’s a glorious fucking process, and holy shit how have I gone for a whole month letting myself not keep up with it? I love my brain on writing. I want no other brain.

Weekly Total: 495

I have no idea what I want.

Last year I had a lot of things going on. I basically rebooted this blog, which was great for a sense of personal continuity and purpose; I was doing Youthline, which made me re-define my comfort zone; I started playing D&D for the first time, which has made for easily the busiest social life I’ve had in a long time; I was reading a ton, which was just something nice to do for my brain, and given the kind of stuff I was reading also another step out of my comfort zone; I was writing a ton, and in particular the co-writing with my friend was just a reliable endorphin-generator I could fall back on, while my own projects also ticked along enjoyably on the back burner … it was a good time. Too much sometimes, not enough at others, but pretty good overall.

Oh also marking for the comics paper, where I transformed from a blubbering mess into a human probability calculator in the span of nine hours. That was fun.

Interestingly, none of that stuff is what I’d say I Want To Do With My Life. None of that was my Purpose In Life. And it’s also become the new standard to which I hold my expectations of what my day-to-day existence can be. Yet all throughout January, I’ve been torn between just kicking back and playing the shit out of The Witcher 3, which seriously I should be keeping notes on because it is one thought-provoking experience for someone who likes to politicise things as much as I do (though that’s less of a compulsion than it used to be), and trying to force myself “back” to a point where I had a core, underlying purpose to what I was doing, some end-goal to be working towards, an unspecified but totally critical quota of “productivity” to hit on a regular basis.

I thought that holiday mode was what got me stuck in this rut. But really, when I think about it, it’s more the fact that I still have this ridiculous idea that there’s something I Should Be Doing, some thing that all the other things I’m doing instead are detracting from and making me a worse person in the process – an attitude that Weekly Words was pretty much specifically designed to counter.

I need to get back on the wagon. But it’s not the wagon I’ve been thinking it was for the past month.

I started this recap portion of this post lamenting my lack of purpose, trying to push myself towards re-committing to the drive and focus that I had last year, but only after I started writing it out did I realise that all the positive vibes I had from last year didn’t come from having an overarching purpose, or even knowing what it is that I want out of life. It just came from doing shit. That’s literally it. Just doing things, whatever they were, some old, some new, some intense, some chill. The only constant was the fact that I was doing them.

Not getting them done. Not wrapping them up. Not locking it in.

Just doing them.

That is what I now realise I need to get back to. I’m just not doing enough. That’s what holiday mode did to me, not knock me out of my purpose-orbit; it just gave me an excuse to narrow my field of Things To Do down to, like, one. And one is not enough.

Okay has it been enough words yet to bump my weekly total up to over 1k … yes, perfect.

The grind continues.

Actual Weekly Total: 1486

Monthly Words January 2019

Monthly Total: 31845

I’m actually quite astonished. I thought it would have been quite a bit less than that, given how much I complained about stalling and not having momentum and hating myselfImeanmywriting.

Go me!

Well, that and the fact that I counted 5 weeks in “January”, because there was a bit of overlap with the end of December and the start February, plus the fact that I’m counting blog writing in the total weekly word-count, plusthe word-count for this recap – but whatever, it’s what I’m counting so it counts.

There’s a lot of self-examination in my posts for this month. I felt very removed from them while reading them, and I should actually take a moment here to just say, again, how incredibly grateful I am for having Weekly Words as a life-tool in my kit, because this entire month I felt very lost and aimless and kind of hopeless. And then I remembered that I had to write the monthly recap, and just by doing that I got my sense of life-continuity back, I saw that, hey, I actually did some shit this past month, I had some ideas, I worked some things through and identified other things that I am still looking for ways to work through – I had a month. A month happened, and I was there for it, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.

Perspective. It’s important.

And speaking of perspective: at several points throughout January I expressed the concern of getting stuck in experimentation with my writing – and lo and behold, that’s exactly where I’m at now. I’ve been tinkering away at this Wolf Gang sequel for pretty much all of January; I’ve had some ideas that I’ve really liked and I got started writing them, and I must say actually that, unlike most of my cool ideas, I actually wrote enough of these ones to feel like I’d actually done something with them. I’m used to just letting them flit by, in one synapse and out the other (that’s how synapses work right), and then regretting not hitching a ride with them while they’re here. In that sense, I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished this week.

But I’m still very, very stuck. My solution in week 3 or 4 was to suggest to myself that what I needed was a break. I don’t know if this was before or after I also decided that, hey, I’ve had The Witcher 3 installed for like a year and never actually played it, maybe I should have a look, but basically while I quit WOW in order to give myself more of a chance to focus on getting the writing done that I want to get done, The Witcher 3 has taken its place as an attention-vampire with interest, because it not only has all of the recreational distraction an escapist gamer could possibly want, but also unlike WOW it is actually fun to play on top of that.

Though it’s not entirely irrelevant to my interests as a storyteller. The game is good – the gameplay loop is fun, the quests are pretty fun, the story is – well, it’s there, but because this is a game the “story” consists not just of scripted events but also the experiences you make for yourself as you play the game, and there’s a lot of that to be had here. Though the scripted story itself … gotta say, it’s not as bad as The Dresden Files when it pisses me off, but some parts of it are pretty close. It actually reminds me way more of an urban fantasy story than a high fantasy, or dark fantasy, or just your standard set-in-faux-medieval-europe fantasy in general. Part of that is because cities and towns are a big part of the playable world, but also because of the tone – it’s gritty and merciless in places, but then also very silly and tongue-in-cheek in others, and it centers on a grumpy-with-a-heart-of-gold protagonist who’s just trying to make a buck while hunting/coexisting with supernatural creatures that share the world with humanity.

Also, sex. Not as much as in some urban fantasy titles, but easily enough to qualify.

For my purposes of soul-searching, though, The Witcher 3 brings me to an infuriating conclusion: if I need a break from writing in order to pull myself out of a hole, then I can’t take a break and do something else that I want to sink as much time and energy into as The Witcher 3, because that’s just another hole to get stuck in. Sure, maybe if I was going to take, like two months off or something, but I’m not trying to do that. I’m just trying to reset my mind, make it easier for myself to be creative and excited about my ideas and enthusiastic – or at least willing and able – to follow through with and develop them a bit, see if any of them encourage me to stick with them beyond the initial experimental stage. If the goal is to just not write for a while, The Witcher 3 is serving its purpose perfectly. But if the goal is to take a break with the intention of coming back from that break, then I need a different downtime activity …

Or just not a downtime activity at all. Not something else that takes energy and focus to maintain, when I want to be saving my energy and focus for writing. Something a bit more limited in terms of what it offers, so that I’ll get bored eventually and naturally want to move on.

Maybe something like the screenplay I spent the past year co-writing and am supposed to be reading through and making revision notes on …

Yes, something just like that. Something that is not a distraction, that actually takes some mental faculty to engage with, but also lets me step away from the writing projects that I feel stuck on at the moment.

It’s felt like a rough first month of 2019 in terms of keeping up my good habits, but now looking back over it I can see that I’m also just sort of in a rough spot. It happens. I just have to work a bit harder than I have been at getting back to something smoother.

Weekly Words 28/01-03/02/2019

28/01/2019: 914

Good good, words are being put together in ways that, honestly, have probably been done before because the entire point of what I’m writing these days is to just do the first and most obvious thing that comes to mind. I can make a career out of this, surely.

The mystique of “coming up with ideas” is possibly the biggest conceptual divide between those of us who perceive ourselves as creative, and those of us who do not. Full disclosure: I believe everyone is creative, and creativity is more than just about coming up with ideas and premises that might work for a piece of fiction writing, lyrics, illustration, sculpture, etc. Creativity is just … creating shit. Making something where before there was not a thing, whether that thing be a book, a dance, a building, an answer to a question, a solution to a problem, a distinguishing mark on a blank surface, and so on. Creativity is, to me, an absurdly broad concept and should be thought of as such, because to narrow down the definition to be intrinsically linked to the realm of “art” misses the point, and often comes with really judgy attitudes and elitism. We are all creative, end of story, this is my blog and my word is law.

Having said that, feeling uncreative is a big issue for me lately. It’s partly tied in with the issue of having a lot of “old ideas” that I’m still stuck on in one way or another, whether it’s because I want it to work and have plans to one day make it happen, or because I wish I had capitalised on it when I first had the idea and, while the time has passed for that, I can’t bring myself to give up on the dream, or some other third thing to make a list of three because three is some kind of magical human psychology number and if I don’t use it I’m a bad writer.

But a big part of it is to do with living up to promises. I can’t remember the last time I talked about this, but I remember the concept being brought to my attention through the Writing Excuses podcast, which I have not been keeping up with and should really find an excuse – ha – to get back into. I have a few podcasts that fall into that category actually … my point is that, in a story, there are “promises” that the book, or author, or whatever agent you want to single out as the responsible party makes to the reader. It’s Chekov’s Gun, basically, the idea that if, as a storyteller, you draw particular attention to some aspect of the story you are telling, there is a good reason for it – namely, payoff. If you show a loaded gun at the start of a story, by the end of the story the gun has to be fired. Obviously that’s a very dry example, but the reason it’s important is that, to put it bluntly, us storytellers should not be wasting our readers’ time, and there are few better ways to waste time than by filling our stories with shit that, in the grand scheme of the story we are telling, do not matter …

Or do not matter as much as we imply, through the telling of our story, that they should.

This is where things get fuzzy, both as a reader and a writer. My idea at the end of last year to borrow a bunch of werewolf YA novels from the library resulted in a great many examples of this second issue of “promise-keeping” in storytelling – specifically, how it is so easy for readers to feel like a story has not kept its promises. And on the flipside, it is so easy as a writer to not even realise that you’ve made a promise in the first place.

This second issue is where a lot of my creative anxiety comes from, the fear that I will have set up something interesting in my story but failed to follow through with it or develop the concept in a satisfying, rewarding manner for my readers. I mean, on the one hand, I don’t actually have any readers for my books, but I’ve felt like that with a lot of my blog posts over the years, too. Part of why Weekly Words feels like such a comfortable format for me: it’s pretty hard to not follow through with the promise of recording my experience of meeting (or not) my self-imposed weekly writing quota. Which, yes, is at 5k. I am not keeping that promise very well currently.

But on the other hand, I myself am a reader, and also someone who likes stories where everything feels connected, and where cool ideas are developed in cool ways resulting in a coolness gestalt that pervades the story entire. A lot of the time when I get stuck on a story, whether it’s character motivation or plot direction or even an action scene, I don’t even consider looking at the story that I’ve set up so far and seeing what I’ve got to work with that could help to solve the issue.

Which seems weird, right? Like, that should be such a basic part of storytelling that it’s actually kind of weird to even state it explicitly. How could you tell a story and not do this, just automatically as part of the storytelling process? How could this even be an option? But the other issue is that my interests may lie in a different direction to what seems like the obvious solution, if I’m looking at the world I’ve set up, the events I’ve put in motion, the motivations I’ve given, etc. I may be looking for an answer that can’t come from any of those, or makes them kind of redundant or irrelevant. I have come across my fair share of stories where this seems to have been the writer’s thought process; this is hardly restricted to the world of YA werewolf novels. A big part of the reason why I so enjoy the The Dresden Files series is because, for all of its faults, it is a series built on a bedrock of solid goddamn storytelling, and in 15 books I can’t recall a single instance of a promise being made and not then kept. This is a series that I’ve almost given up on several times because of some pretty troubling gender dynamics within the story, but what can I say, I love it when a story gets the basics right, and I will put up with some problematic shit content-wise for the sake of good execution.

This doesn’t mean that all promises are worth keeping, though. For instance, in The Wereling, which I have still not finished my review/rant about three months later, the title of the book being what it is promises that whatever this “wereling” is, it’s so important to the story that it defines its core identity. On the one hand, the main character is the titular wereling, so in that technical sense the book keeps its promise. The problem, however, is that the story itself is not really about the main character at all, and his relevance to the plot that actually plays out feels coincidental at best. It’s part of the story, actually: he gets dragged into this seriously fucked-up, ultra-misogynist rape culture werewolf drama that serves as the plot, which actually centres on another character, who the story is about, but she’s not the main character because I dunno girls are gross or something. I was going to go into a mini-rant about The Wereling right here, but then decided I may as well sate my curiosity and wait until I’ve read the entire series – hopefully this just means my eventual review will be better-informed. And I can also see if being the wereling ever actually matters in any way whatsoever.

My main takeaway from unfaithful books like The Wereling is that I do want to keep my promises – and if nothing else, all of the shitty stories I’ve put myself through in the hopes of being entertained or, dare I say, even inspired can serve as important lessons in keeping promises … and deciding what promises to make in the first place. As I go forward with my writing projects this year, I think I most want to focus on how I can get better at it, and feel like I’m making the most of my ideas. Because besides everything else, I might even have fun while I’m at it.

02/02/2019: 5354

Binge-writing is not my favourite habit. I don’t like yo-yo-ing between doing hardly any writing for days at a time only to dump my entire weekly word goal in one sitting.

Having said that, though: I got my entire week’s word goal done in one sitting, with interest. The habit feels unhealthy, but the accomplishment itself I don’t hate.

Today has been work on the Wolf Gang sequel, and a shiny new idea took my fancy today – a shiny new story hook, to be precise. Yes, this book is going to have themes and meaning and other shit that the first book in the series enjoyed not being bothered with – but, this time around, I’m finding it quite inspiring, so I’m running with it. I think it’s probably wise to not try to re-capture the lightning in a bottle that was the first Wolf Gang writing process (for the first six months at least); that process worked for that book, but that doesn’t mean a different process can’t or shouldn’t work for this one.

Also I never throw away my writing, so all the work I’ve done on this sequel up to this point is still right there to be returned to or recycled at my pleasure. If I want.

I think having this book as an experimental playground for growing ideas and working them into my writing process is also not a bad idea – the idea that I had today was so shiny to me because of all of that shit about building on what I’ve already got; it leapt out at me, something so obvious that I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before, only to realise that I had thought of it before, and just dismissed it out of hand because, well, it was so obvious. It’s always risky, building on your own ideas instead of those you’ve seen work before – mind you, that doesn’t mean your own ideas don’t fall into that category, but in the heat of the writing moment, perspective often narrows to focus on just what is being written, not how similar or even exactly identical it might be to something else that’s already been done before. Building on established, proven ideas is having fun with legos. Don’t pass it up if you don’t have to – but it does come with a lot of safety, and while limitations foster creativity, they are still, at the end of the day, limitations. Building on your own ideas is going exploring without a map, and trusting that you’ll be able to chart a course that makes sense for those who follow after you. It’s daunting, and it doesn’t always produce good results – a lot of promises can go unkept this way, specifically because you can lose sight of the wider context of the storytelling devices you’re drawing on or writing in parallel to. By all means do your own thing, of course. But for me, I like to know the promises that I’m making, so that I can make an informed decision about whether or not I even want to keep them – and if I don’t, I can decide to not make them in the first place through the magic of revision.

So having this sequel novel to write and play with in this way is really valuable. It also frees me up to be more structured and deliberate with some of my other projects, ones that I have particular promises that I want to keep through the telling of them – but maybe just have some conflicting promises I feel like making, and haven’t found a way to resolve that conflict just yet. But this shitty YA werewolf novel has given me at least one effective answer: just write what you’ve got and see how it plays. A lot of work, yes. Nerve-wracking work. But it’s an option I want to get better at taking, because in the end it will make me a better writer, because I will write more.

It could also be that, through this experimentation and seeming backtracking of the Wolf Gang sequel, I’m actually starting to grow an honest-to-Hera story that I’m actually, like, invested in and shit.

That would be interesting indeed.

Weekly Total: 8543

Not bad at all, word-count-wise.

Habits-wise, though, I want to do better. I definitely need to get out of my room to write; I thought it would be fine, and I’ve thought that for years, and yet inevitably it just isn’t. I think I treat my room as an extension of my headspace, and sometimes I definitely need to get out of it in order to be productive in a way that I can be happy with. And I’ve got things I want to be doing, and they’re not getting done at the moment, and the longer it takes me to get around to doing them the less confidence I have in myself and my ability to actually get them done. It’s time to break the cycle. Or at least nudge it a bit.

To nudging things a bit!