Weekly Words was really good for me last year, but this year it’s Monthly Words that’s doing the heavy lifting.
I wasn’t going to write this Monthly Words installment today (well, yesterday, by the time it’ll actually get published). I was instead going to write this big, depressive rant about how this week has been awful and my brain is awful and my life is awful and everything’s awful and there’s nothing I will ever choose to do about it because I’m awful, etc. I wrote most of it, in fact.
And then I went back and read over the last 5 Weekly Words, and realised, as I always-except-for-that-one-month do, that I’m actually doing pretty well.
I fucking needed that today.
Not just to cheer me up, in fact not even mostly to cheer me up, but just to get some fucking perspective – which, fittingly enough, is the entire premise behind Weekly Words. Yes, the quantity of Words has lessened from week to week compared to last year, but the consistency and, not to get mushy, but the intent that I see in my posts is quite …
I swear this isn’t me finding an excuse to blow my own horn.
I don’t need an excuse to blow my own horn holy shit have you met me?
I’m sometimes amused by how I can turn on a dime from thinking I’m the residual scum of all the useless elements of the universe one moment, to thinking I’m what God wants to be when He grows up the next. But the less-amusing part of it is that in order for that switch to happen, I have to actually do something to make it happen. And I very almost didn’t today. I almost ended today, this week, on a sour, flat, sad note. There’s what goes on in my head when I’m in the moment and have no external influences, and there’s what happens when I expose myself to, say, evidence of things that I’ve done. Things that I beat myself up for when I’m brooding over my failure of an existence become things that I feel compelled to be forgiving about when I read them in my Weekly Words posts. It’s so fucking stupid.
But it also fucking works, and it always-except-for-that-one-month does. So it’s just as well that I did it today.
However, this week – because this is going to be my Weekly Words post for 03-09/06/2019, too – has been … I won’t say shit, but that was how I evaluated it before I made myself get perspective just now. And that’s because I did 1) no writing, 2) lots of gaming, and 3) didn’t follow up on a bunch of things that I had thoughts about following up on last week. And over last month as a whole, actually. Like writing “short stories”, really just one-and-done writing exercises if you pressed me to be specific/honest about it; like writing Mark and Jessie as a new book and pretending the current manuscript doesn’t even exist for the most part; like writing some fucking High Fantasy after my Dragonlance reunion (I’ve now read the second book, too, and I must have read that one without realising it as well because I recognised a whole bunch of scenes and events while I was reading it); like exploring options other than writing in terms of giving myself meaningful stuff to do – it’s the age-old problem for me, of not having follow-through.
And actually, I think that’s connected to why I feel so un-motivated to do any writing at the moment. Yes, the psychologist appointment I had put some shit into perspective and that shunted writing down to below the bottom of my priorities list for a bit, but as I’ve repeatedly come to realise (and then not so much forget as fail to fight off my unhealthy habit of forcing myself to only ever be thinking about writing and whether I’m doing enough of it), a huge part of my writing burnout comes from the fact that I keep forcing myself to only ever be thinking about writing and whether I’m doing enough of it.
And that comes from this weird thing I started doing … you know, I can’t quite remember when it started, but at some point between now and when I started university back in 2008, I decided that what I really needed was to Get Organised, and ever since then I’ve had these same stupid ideas and initiative, making myself focus on doing X because it’ll be good for me or productive of me or some inane propaganda-sounding shit like that. And that’s my fucking life right now. I don’t stick to schedules well, but I keep fucking making them, some diseased part of my brain insisting that, yes, really, this is what’s going to solve all of my problems.
When I tried to take a week off this May in preparation for making a psychologist appointment, foreseeing my need for a big old cushion of self-care to fall back on when the bottom inevitably fell out as a consequence of undertaking such an intense task, I ended up just spending the week doing nothing – and yes, I did make the psychologist appointment. But not because I was successfully looking after myself. I did it because I realised that I wasn’t looking after myself, just distracting myself, and didn’t even have my intended goal to show for it by that Friday, so that Friday was when I made the appointment. You could argue that my plan for self-care was sorely in need of some structure – but I think my problem in general, when it comes to how I not only spend my time but how I think of spending my time, is that it’s too structured of an approach. Never mind that I work best with broad organisation systems, like Weekly Words, as opposed to the kinds of rigid time-management I kept trying to impose on myself throughout university and then … well, now … but even that isn’t easy for me to keep up. But I keep telling myself that it’s necessary, and when I ask myself why, the answer is a really vague “it’ll be good for you”.
Well, you know what, it hasn’t been so far. Weekly Words is the one that’s worked; meeting my friend to work on our co-writing project and then playing D&D on Sundays has worked. Youthline worked last year, and that was tough sometimes, even just being once a week (and eventually once a fortnight). Having implied structure works for me, too, like having a new library book to read – gotta put time aside to read it “at some point”, and you know what, I fucking do that. I read my library books. I goddamn devour them. Unless they’re unbearable, and then I don’t bother myself with them.
And thinking about my life right now, the way that I’m sick of writing while also pining for the good old days when writing came so naturally and I was excited to do it, the way I “don’t have anything to do” except for writing, the way I keep trying to convince myself, on the one hand, that a rigid structured plan is what’s going to save me from getting the mental illness that I already fucking have, and on the other, the way that taking an entire week off the one thing that I do try to commit to doing with myself for “self care” is definitely a plan that will work and not fail for miserably predictable reasons …
And I think all of this planning shit, this fretting over being good at time management, this justification that I use for it being that it’s “good for me” in some nebulous way, is what’s really fucking me up.
If this is the way that I try to look after myself, then I need to look after myself less.
Which, of course, is another way of saying that I need to actually look after myself, because this has never worked and has perpetually never worked for as long as I’ve tried to force it to be the thing that I need to work for me or I’ll never get better.
And that means that, actually, I do need to do some planning and time-management – but only for things that actually need it. The rest of the time, I need to start trusting myself to actually be all right if left to my own devices. The state of my life right now is such that I simply don’t have much need for a schedule of any kind, and yet I’ve been trying to live it as though that need is dire and pressing and never-ending, because I dunno it’s good preparation for when I eventually get a job like a normal person.
Because jobs in the modern age are totally predictable and are based on good time-management as opposed to living in a constant state of uncertainty as to whether or not you’ll actually get any work this week, let alone when this week, being unable to plan around it at all and probably having even more stress and anxiety than I am currently seeking professional help for the dealing of with of, I’m an English major go fuck yourself.
Basically what I’m saying is that, going forward, Weekly Words might be a bit less Weekly. Now, to be real, I do actually think that it’s a good discipline for me to maintain, and being able to commit to a writing project is a good thing, and if I am ever going to end up with a writing career then consistency is going to be a big part of what gets me there. But, at the same time – enough is enough, and it’s way past that now. I can’t just write. I can’t organise my whole life around writing. I do think that I have to organise my writing, but the way I do it needs to change; and that includes how highly I prioritise it.
Which leads me to my experiment for this month: figuring out how to best work writing into my life, because what I’ve been doing up until now has been unreliable at best. Weekly Words helped last year, but that was last year. This year I need something different if I’m going to get my writing done; this year’s end-goal of having a manuscript ready to submit to publishers … well, that’s included in what I’m experimenting with this month. I am going to start off by *gasp* planning out a novel and then *even more gasp* seeing how I go with actually writing it …
And I will also do Other Stuff, and this is the important part. My plan for the novel? That’s my plan for the novel. It’s not my plan for my entire goddamn month, as it would have been in Weekly Words past. The rest of this month, the rest of my time – I know too much freedom disrupts my shit something fierce, just as too much structure does, so I’m going to be focusing on taking initiative this month. Seizing the moment and, sometimes (but not all the time), pressing the issue if no opportunities present themselves organically. To just follow through with something I’m interested in, even if I’m only mildly interested in it.
And I’m thinking, with all of this, that Weekly Words might cease to be a self-contained series of blog posts and might instead become a section of my blog posts. I’m not saying this is going to happen; I’m saying that I’m open to something like that.
This is a writing blog, but I think when you decide that you’re going to live your life in such a way that you have things to blog about, you need to fucking stop.
I have lots of fancies and hypothetical “that would be so cool” scenarios regarding my writing, and they are not goals or plans. This month is going to be starting the process of finding a method of goal-setting that actually works for me – and I’m starting with motive. What good is a goal if I have no reason to reach it? I need to get real about why I write, what I write for, because lately it’s not myself, and the only thing I can think of besides that is, like, a publishing deal. And I ain’t got none of those.
Let’s see how it goes.