Last week was more “interesting” for me than the past few have been, but part of that was getting a sty in my lower eyelid, part of it was re-installing WOW as I tend to do when I get into a bad headspace …
And part of it was actually doing some shit to change this bad headspace into a better one, so I’ll start there.
First of all, my co-writing friend taking the initiative and asking if she and I could get an invite to a Camp Nanowrimo cabin gave me a much-needed kick of energy, and now I’m currently trying to decide whether I want to go with my shitty High Fantasy going-to-try-and-rip-off-Dragonlance project, or the slightly more ambitious dark fantasy satire project, Bad Guys (working title but honestly I probably won’t change it). I’ve ended up deferring this decision to how good of a synopsis I can write for either of these projects, and so today I’m going to be focusing on doing that.
Second of all, on either Friday or Saturday night I decided that I needed to start keeping an idea-journal again. I did this for a bit when I was in my late teens, and it led to my huge burst of inspired ideas that culminated in the most me-feeling story ideas I’ve ever conceived of to date, or such is my feeling on the subject. When I’ve lamented in the past that my story ideas don’t feel like they “come from me”, in some regard I am mentally comparing those ideas to the ones that I came up with almost ten years ago. Also, one of those ideas was a D&D-inspired High Fantasy story, and I do have the one episodic chapter that I wrote for that kicking around, so I will have a look at that and see if that’s the kick I need to get started on this shitty High Fantasy novel. To be fair, my idea-bubble also had other factors, such as partaking of my first ever alcoholic beverage which was also probably spiked with something because I was very quickly aware of the inhibition-blocker coming up – thankfully nothing bad happened, and in fact only good things happened, because I was chattier than I normally am and the next day is when the idea-bubble burst, and I reveled in my genius.
But the idea-journal thing is what I’m going to start with, and it’s a very simple concept that works very well: when you have an idea that you like, write it down.
What ends up happening is that you get really good ideas after a while; even if you normally have good ideas, your ideas will get even gooder, and if you don’t have what you consider to be good ideas, you’ll start liking what you come up with more. The important part here (I think) is that you just write the idea down; you don’t try to build on it or speculate on where it might lead, just write it down and move on. That way, you get used to 1) being able to have ideas without judgement or pressure on them to fulfill some sort of agenda or obligation to “do something” with them, and 2) you build a repository of ideas that you can mine for inspiration in the future. Also 3) you learn to be able to manage your time and energy and to let things go, and all of these things are things that I want to develop some more proficiency with.
Now I just need to give myself the opportunity to have ideas, which brings me to third of all: time-management. It’s schedule-time, and while I hate schedules I need one for this initiative, at least right now. As time goes on I may be able to take the training-wheels off and self-regulate, yes I said I need to stop trying to “manage” myself but no seriously I need it for this.
Starting today, I’m going to employ my tried-and-I-have-nothing-better-at-my-disposal “windows method” once again. Until 6 PM, I am not doing anything except for working on the synopses for my potential Nanowrimo projects. Because that will probably not take two and a half hours, I will also fit in a revisiting of that D&D-inspired story to see what, if anything, I can take away from it. If I still have some free time after that, I will continue to chip away at episode 5 of the co-writing project’s revision notes (and keep time so that I can quantify) – or, if I’m feeling particularly inspired after revisiting my old writing, I will start doing some pre-writing in preparation for Nanowrimo and get the ideas flowing.
And after 6, I will be free to indulge in my horrible WOW habit, because surprisingly I have actually found some fun to be had in the game this time around, and fun is acceptable. I will, however, also keep a notepad handy so that I can start identifying what it is that I keep coming back to with WOW that I can start looking for elsewhere – and not just in the form of games. Not that there is anything wrong with games, but with my history of using games as an escapist, self-distraction tactic, I feel that I should put some effort into broadening my horizons.
So, that’s today. Tomorrow will be the finishing touches on my Wolf Gang revision notes, and my god I will actually have revision notes for Wolf Gang, that’s an interesting thought. I have also dictated to myself that I have to watch one episode of a Netflix show every day during the week. Somehow, surely, this will make me better at not only taking downtime, but get me to thinking about what I actually want to do with it – to look forward to having it.
And then, goals! Goals are good, right? I have goals so that makes me a good person; my goals for this week are to 1) finish Wolf Gang‘s revision notes, 2) have decided on what my Nanowrimo project is going to be/get in touch with our potential cabin leader to let them know what that project is, 3) watch dat Netflix and start building up a “portfolio” of self-care options and needs, 4) give myself time/space/opportunity to have ideas through time-management (starting with windows today, but aiming to move on on to something a bit less rigid going forward) and keep that idea-journal handy to jot them down, 5) in the same vein keep a note of my mental health, noting context and triggers, and then separately keeping a note of how I coped with these instances (or didn’t), 6) re-commit to regular exercise and healthy eating habits, and 7) be able to look back on the week and see that I have done all of this. How much of it that I did is not important, I just want to see that I did it at all, because that’s how you start anything.
I’m feeling a bit ambitious, but also this part of this blog post has taken like forty minutes to write – so, on to those synopses.
Some Time Later …
It is now almost 6:20 and, holy shit, writing synopses is hard. But I think I’ve got it; I still want to trim it down but the general idea is there – and, holy shit, it actually helped me finally settle on an overarching plot for this story that I actually like. That’s been the problem for the past year and a half, because while the general premise has always seemed fun and alluring to me, coming up with any kind of actual structure that meant I had to make a decision has never gone well. I guess this goes back to that old bit of writing advice about pitching your story: if you can’t pitch your story in less than two sentences, your story needs work. I definitely took longer than two sentences (and like I said, I still want to trim it down), but there are different kinds of pitches, and a synopsis isn’t really a pitch – I’m just sort of making it one because that’s where my brain goes, and I’m all about catchy back-of-the-book blurbs.
And, I mean, a year and a half’s suffering resolved – in large part, if not total – over the course of two hours and change. If nothing else I want to achieve this week ends up happening, I think this victory is still going to taste pretty sweet.
Now to do literally anything except write for the rest of the day, just as soon as I hurriedly write down this one last idea seriously I will go play WOW right after this I promise I can take time off I am an adult …
Revision: oh wait I’m supposed to be timing myself now
Well, there’s always tomorrow.
In any event: I now have a full set of revision notes for Wolf Gang! And just like the last time I read it through, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it holds together, on the whole, as a coherent story, and little bits and pieces here and there that could be shifted around or developed to flesh it out some more. The issue of whether or not to abandon the “pulpy” feel of the story for the sake of making it “actually good”, or if not good then at least something I wouldn’t mind people knowing that I was responsible for putting out into the world, has yet to be resolved – but whatever. I’ve accomplished a thing, and it feels pretty good.
It also feels pretty easy, I have to say. This was actually a pretty smooth experience; the actual revision itself, if and when that ever takes place, is another matter, but just reading and making notes was, honestly, quite enjoyable.
Now if I can just tighten up my synopsis/pitch for Bad Guys and finally get back to the potential Nanowrimo cabinmaster, I will consider this a day well-spent and totter off to do things that don’t involve writing for the rest of it. I think I do want to go with Bad Guys rather than a shitty High Fantasy novel, at least for Nanowrimo – and for the sake of just getting back to the cabinmaster in a relatively timely manner. I can always change my mind, but I don’t want to keep them hanging.
Man, look at me, being all pro-active and shit, relatively speaking at least. This week is already much more fulfilling to live through than the past … well, they are just that: past. Onward and … onward.
Co-Writing Project Revision: 60-ish minutes
Rounding it up to an hour-ish, because only after I started did I realise that I was supposed to be timing myself, but it’s probably more like 55 minutes. Anyway, revision! I’m halfway through episode 5 now so will probably be able to wrap up on Sunday, and considering that I started last Sunday I am pleased at this prospect.
Yesterday was a day off, and tomorrow will be one as well, so today I’m keen to get some stuff done. Gonna have a go at writing a synopsis for my D&D-inspired high fantasy novel; I’ve settled on the Nano project, but writing that synopsis was a very productive exercise for me and I’d like to repeat it today – or see if it can be repeated at least.
Also, the more “flexible” schedule that I want to move on to – yesterday was just WOW all day, pretty much, and it got me thinking about what it is that I actually get out of the game. In a nutshell: self-set goals. No, that’s not the whole game, and in fact when you’re thinking of the “main” gameplay of WOW a lot of it isn’t that at all – but it is there. So, when my month’s subscription runs out, I’m looking for something/s that meet that need for me, because not only is it something I like doing in games, but it’s also something that I think could help me work out a more flexible schedule for writing (which is also a self-set goals-based activity). I don’t really like the whole “only write between the hours of X and Y, then do anything but write after that for the rest of the day” approach that I took over Tuesday and Wednesday – not for the whole week, at least. I like having set tasks to complete, and think I work much better under those conditions, rather than arbitrary time-limits.
Thus, I will do some experimenting today; I’ve done (roughly) an hour of revision and gotten halfway through episode 5’s revision notes, and that was not a clear goal but it was vaguely what I had in mind. I’ve got some WOW-related stuff that I want to get done, and I also want to get onto those synopses – and I also want to do a bit of character-writing for this D&D-inspired high fantasy project. I did go back yesterday and read that short story/episode that I wrote, and it actually did give me a bit of inspiration, so I’m keen to keep that momentum. But, after an hour of revision notes, I think I need a break from writing for a little bit.
And goals. Clear, specific, achievable goals. SMART goals or whatever. What does it stand for again? Specific, Manageable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely; well something like that is what I need right now. Where’s that notepad at …
Revision: more than 60 minutes-ish
Doing things is hard.
Or maybe just annoying; but in any case, this week is over, and it wasn’t a bad one. Now for Camp nano and writing five days a week. I haven’t changed my goal from the default 50k words, but I’m thinking I might go for a goal of X hours across the month, like an hour a day or something. I like the idea of the Stephen King method of writing 5k words every day, but I really am not “there yet”.
But, regardless, I know that the important thing is just to get into a routine. This idea has been kicking around in my head for the past year and a half, and it is way past time that I just dove in. It’s not particularly well-developed or clear-cut in terms of what my writing process should be for this project, and I haven’t come up with a plan yet, like I kept saying I would. But I think that’s fine. I think I have what I need; I just need to trust myself a bit more. I can do this. I can tell this story. Or, rather, I can tell a story with this idea, and I can make it up as I go along.
And I miss doing that, honestly. I complain a lot about how I don’t have any story ideas and how trying to force random little ideas that I have into full-blown stories never works out, but this time I’m just going to focus on having some fun. I have a fun idea; I’m going to take it and run with it and see where I end up. I’m going to take what I learnt from writing Wolf Gang, which is 1) allow myself to write badly (but not insist on writing badly, because that doesn’t work), and 2) get it done quick. I tend to get my best ideas when I’m looking at a story told all the way through and can see how it could be improved as a whole package, rather than trying to make some kind of clear-cut plan from the start – which is a lot of long-term work. But that makes Nanowrimo a great opportunity to get into the habit of a writing process that might work better for me than what I’ve been doing up to this point.
Or maybe I’m full of shit and just making up meaningful-sounding excuses for not making a plan and sticking to it because it’s boring/scary. One of the two.
My plan to try a more “flexible” schedule, weaving in and out between writing-related goals and recreation-related goals … well, it went more in favour of recreation, let’s put it that way. I think it’s definitely a tool that I can use in terms of organising my time, but not a blanket approach that I’d want to have as my “default”, because quite frankly it doesn’t work very well in the long-term. But short-term, I think it’s not bad.
And for this July, I think I’m going to need a lot of strategies like that to come through the month with my goal of completing a manuscript achieved. I don’t think I can use a one-size-fits-all approach; I think I need to have some options to fall back on, to get the engine running again when it inevitably stalls. I think this is pretty common writing (and just general) advice for getting things done, so I do feel a bit silly for only starting to realise that it makes sense now. I’ve been very pig-headed about doing things a certain way and no other way for a very long time, and it hasn’t gotten me where I want to get to. It’s when I’ve been able to adapt and be flexible that I’ve found the most success.
So, on top of the writing-done goal that I have for July, my other goal is to be more flexible – and that means being prepared. I have a bunch of strategies that, while not long-term life-organising principles on their own, make for a robust collection of resources that I can draw on in different situations, and Camp Nano seems like a good opportunity to try them out. I foresee a lot of note-taking in my future, and I have to be honest, I’m sort of looking forward to it.
Forward we go!