Lack of Progress Report 9,002

I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I’ve been gripped with the burning desire to play a ton of World of Warcraft for the past 2 weeks, my general lack of time-management skills or my ongoing battle with intense social anxiety (I lied I do know it’s all of these things), but things have not been going too well on the “getting shit done” front of late. I finally forced myself to watch Mockingjay Part 1 yesterday for my thesis, and I now know that 1) films I find really unappealing when I think about them are not always that bad when I actually watch them, especially if I have a theoretical angle to analyse them from, and 2) unpleasant business should be done as early in the day as possible so that you can end on at least one high note.

So starting tomorrow I am going to be devoting my mornings and early afternoons to Getting Shit Done. I tend to work out in the evenings; that will now be moved to the afternoon or perhaps morning. I will lunge at top speed into brain-seizure-inducing academic research as soon as I wake up. And then probably at 2 or 3 PM I will stop all of that and just chill.

Except I won’t “just chill” because I also have books to write.

And I’m not just going to focus on one, oh no! I’m going to continue with my plan to work through Realm of the Myth and also complete my shitty YA werewolf novel, this time making it as truly shitty as I possibly can instead of trying to make it “work” because it’s a first draft and also “making it work” was not my original plan and I have no idea how that suddenly became my priority but it’s been holding me up and I just need to get it done.

I’m also going to go back and start rereading the first draft of the Christmas-themed novel I was working on before I started writing Tallulah, because it’s a story that means a lot to me and that deserves to be told, and also because I have finally gotten around to accepting that if there are things that I genuinely feel passionate about I should try and make them happen if I can, and let’s be honest I at least have the time to try and make it work. Using mornings and afternoons for doing serious work frees me up, leaves me a few hours of pre-evening time to indulge in, and will hopefully encourage me to take advantage of this abundance of free time where I don’t feel guilty for not having done anything that day.

I don’t know how well Camp Nanowrimo is suited to revising a novel because word-count really isn’t a helpful metric, but given that the Christmas novel is around 180k words it could probably do with some downsizing, and it might end up being a rewrite. I guess I’ll know once I start rereading it. If a rewrite seems the best option, then it will be a rewrite. Otherwise …

Well, in any case, I haven’t been doing anything for a while and that’s why I haven’t updated, though I’m sure if you’ve been following me for a while you’re pretty used to this pattern. I wonder how predictable it is, like maybe if it happens during certain parts of the year or something. But this is the plan going forward, and I know that I can do it, and I want to do it, so I’d better get started.

I want every resolution to work. They tend not to last. And I’m pretty tired of that.

 

 

Reading Skills

One of the many things they teach you in arts is how to “read” a text. This is the same “read” you would use if you are suggesting that somebody is “reading into things too much”: you get taught to do this in arts. You pay to get taught to do this, with money you don’t have. And then have to rely on the degree in “reading” you got into debt to achieve by trying to get an academic job, a narrowness of choice that you might not have had if you had studied anything other than arts. Which is part of arts’ grand conspiracy to make sure that they don’t have to suffer alone in their lack of worldly experience and life skills.

Maybe I’m reading into this too much.

What I’m not reading into too much, or at all, is the pile of books I bought myself for Christmas and am still paying off. I picked them to be both stimulating and easily readable, but I think I made a bad decision by allowing myself to buy a High Fantasy book. Specifically, The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s that it’s High Fantasy and holy shit do I not have the patience to wait for things to start fucking happening. I’m up to page 20 and everything has been in flashbacks. Not even that; it’s been one long flashback, one that starts in chapter 2 and has continued up to this point, which is somewhere in the early stages of chapter 4. Which begs the question of why this book didn’t just start with the events of chapter 2 and go from there.

Fuck High Fantasy.

But it’s Robin McKinley, and I feel that I am obligated to read something by her. I think that once I get out of the pointless continuity bullshit I’l probably enjoy it, but I don’t know when that will be, especially since I’m probably going to put it down and read something else instead.

What that probably won’t be is Clariel by Garth Nix, the long-awaited fourth installment (fifth if you count the short story) in the Abhorsen saga, and oh my god was I excited to get my hands on it last year, and oh my god could I not bear to read past the opening pages of chapter 1 when I actually did. High Fantasy, man. I can’t take it anymore.

Happily I have some other things to focus on instead. Aside from writing the next chapter of my MA (fucking finally), finishing my shitty YA werewolf novel two months after Nano ended, that sort of things. I still have Kindred by Octavia Butler, Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (not sure how I feel about that title), Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, and The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I’m probably looking forward to The Bloody Chamber the most (after seeing The Company of Wolves and loving it), dreading (in a kind good way) Kindred, and I might flip a coin for the other two.

And after I flip that coin and decide which order I’m going to read them in I’m instead going to pick up Succubus On Top by Richelle Mead, which I was hmm-ing and haa-ing over whether to buy or not and then found it for fifty cents at the library and decided it was a sign. I like pulp. It’s probably why I liked Storm Front a lot more than Boneshaker when I reviewed them both. I think I was both too hard on and too generous to Storm Front when I reviewed it; I got caught-up in trying to viscerally render my truest emotional self instead of just saying what I thought about it. I’d read more. I’d have trepidations re the casual, predictable and weirdly self-conscious sexism, but the thing is that it’s pulpy and fast-paced (for the most part) and fuck it I enjoy pulpy and fast-paced, “hooky” reads. Books that were written fast to be read fast, which is supposedly what this shitty YA werewolf novel of mine was going to be, but it seems I can’t do anything quickly. Not even read my own books.

And that’s annoying, and it feels like a failed experiment, and goddammit I want my fast book. I want it real bad. I want to write it and finish it and then sling it off into the publishing world in, like, four months tops. I want that.

This post came to an uncomfortable end so I’m just going to leave it here.

Oh god Netflix

Not even real Netflix, just NZ Netflix, which only has one season of The 100 and hasn’t updated from season 4 of Teen Wolf, what do you mean it also has Mad Men and Sense 8 and Orange is the New Black motherfucker you think I want to watch GOOD television who do you think I am begone from this place foul demon

… so I spent all of today watching that one season of The 100, and it is the most wonderfully awful thing ever. The characters, almost without exception, are petty, selfish, short-sighted fuckwits; the conflicts boil down to “I feel hurt so I’m going to do stupid things that will make everything else worse and my reward shall be momentary vindication”; there is SO MUCH YA BULLSHIT, from teenage girls being the scourge of humanity to bad boys being all nice and soft and mushy inside to the really atrociously tone-deaf and “invisible” racial politics – it’s horrendous. It’s fucking gross, actually.

I love it.

And I love that I spent a whole day just watching TV. I spent the last week reading 2 academic texts for my MA – they were actually really interested and quite easy to read, and are making me look forward to doing more research.

I also am starting to feel a little more motivated to write, because after watching The 100 I think the world needs a bit of The 100 fix-fic.

And wouldn’t you know it, next month is Nanowrimo!

No, I don’t think I could quite bring myself to devote Nanowrimo to a fanfic, but I could devote it to an original story that directly rips off all the most irritating parts of The 100 so that I can fix them. Because. Oh my god. Oh my god. They need to be fucking fixed.

And actually I have a fantastic solution: put in Earl from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I’ve only seen the film, but from seeing the film I know that he should have been the main character. Earl would get shit done. Earl for president. I do not condone his casually sexist language and yeah he had absolutely nothing to fucking do in that film but RJ Cyler sold that shit I hope he goes on to do big things.

Anyway.

As for my own stuff – I’m starting to make myself admit that a lot of my ideas just aren’t “marketable”, but they’re the shit that I care passionately about, and I hope I am able to convince myself that that’s actually a pretty fucking decent way to go. Yes, it would be fantastic if I happened to be deeply passionate about ideas that were very commercially viable, but part of the problem is that I read and watch so much YA stuff that it’s destroying my capacity to imagine what is actually “marketable”. I mean fuck, one of the biggest shows around right now is Adventure Time. Who would have predicted that? Fuck predicting shit, man. Just do what you love.

And, like, make money so you can live and shit. They don’t have to be the same thing, however nice it would be.

So what I’m saying is that, while this month I have my first MA chapter due on the 29th, I will be using November to get something creative up and running. Might be Tallulah in its newer, shorter form; might be something else. Might even finish that werewolf thing. Who knows.

What I do know is that I have not updated this blog in about 20 days and I’m just gonna have to eat it. I have so many power-trip fantasies: I wanna be the next American Idol; I wanna win debates against certain problematic fave YouTubers I used to follow and turn them into feminist allies; I want to train with the SIS and learn how to kill people in under 3 seconds and use my powers for good and become a superhero; I want to learn how to draw really well – I want to be a Successful Blogger. But it’s not happening, it hasn’t happened, and whether or not it ever will, I don’t think it’s really what I’m aiming for. I’m not really aiming for anything. I’m trying to change that, but “mild depression” (my semi-official diagnosis) kinda takes the sting out of everything, and not necessarily in a good way. Sometimes you need a bit of a sting to get the blood pumping.

So I’m going to look for a sting, and pick a project for Nanowrimo, and get this chapter written.

And I honestly think it’s going to be pretty fun.

Bool Hauk

Apparently “hauls” are a thing? So obviously, as a zeitgeist-chasing millennial, it is my genetic prerogative to haul my ass onto this moving bandwagon.

So today I went to the library to get out more books I won’t read out of guilt for not working on my masters thesis instead, but I also bought some. I bought 3, to be exact, for $1 at my local library, and even The Book Depository can’t top that.

The culprits are:

English Grammar Essentials for Dummies, by Wendy M Anderson, Geraldine Woods and Lesley J Ward. It may shock you to know this, but I, a physically mature human person with a major in English and who has spent half of his life deluding himself into trying to Be A Writer, do not know jack fuck about grammar. This book has 1 rating on Goodreads – 2 stars – but given that there are no issues of gender representation to complain about or abusive male love-interests to swoon over I’m surprised it has a Goodreads rating at all. And since they didn’t have “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”, this will just have to do.

The Swan Maiden, by Jules Watson. Swan maiden? Check. Irish folklore? Check. Less that 34 cents? Ch-fucking-eck. (Honestly I think grammar may be the least of my worries.) I randomly flipped to a page while I was looking it over and landed on this passage: “The woman’s skin was dove-soft, the man’s faintly tanned. Young and unlined. The hand reverently hefted the pale globe, the thumb brushing its dark centre. A scattering of gooseflesh rose in its wake and the nipple stood up, swollen …” (51) So … pretty much what I was expecting. Though maybe not “reverently hefted the pale globe”; that sounds like a Thesaurus moment. But in any case, seeing as I’m interested in Irish folklore and swan maidens – thematic cousins of the seal maidens; the Irish sure do like their shape-shifting ladies – I can at least try to tolerate some awkward prose.

(Also why is the woman’s soft skin compared to the colour of the man’s? Other than, y’know, racism.)

Grimm Tales for Young and Old, by Philip Pullman. I saw “Grimm Tales” and “Philip Pullman” and thought “while I have some tonal issues with the His Dark Materials trilogy – namely how the third book ruined everything I liked about the story – I respect Philip Pullman a lot as a writer and storyteller, and it is always fascinating to see what good writers have to say about the stories that form the conceptual bedrock that informs our storytelling culture”, and after I caught my breath I bought it. There’s 50 stories in here apparently, and at the end there’s all this information like “tale type”, “source”, “similar stories”, and then a little summary by Pullman of what he thinks of the story and what adjustments he’s made in his retelling of it. Looking forward to breaking into it.

I also meant to write a review of The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle, because that was the last library book that I actually read and really enjoyed. It’s good. I like my High Fantasy either focused on characters over lore and world-building, or written like a fairytale, where the story, rather than realism, justifies everything – The Last Unicorn happens to be both of these, so yeah, I liked it. Surprisingly good on the gender representation front as well, actually, considering this is both High Fantasy written by a dude and written in 1968. You should check it out sometime.

Currently I’m sitting on the library book I was not-reading before I went out and got another three today: Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac, a YA sci-fi dystopian novel featuring an Apache heroine, written by an Abenaki Native American author (though he’s also Slovakian and English, apparently). I read 2 pages and couldn’t be fucked, but that’s guilt-fatigue talking. From tomorrow onwards I am working towards doing All The Things, because I’d like that to become a habit of mine. So it’ll be article-reading to build up my annotated bibliography, plus reading books for pleasure, plus probably going to see a bunch of movies, plus doing whatever my own stuff is … you know the drill. Any and all of The Things will be done in this the fourth age of this world the age of men as in humans not men specifically although considering how LoTR panned out it may as well have been amirite –

Yes, well, I also have:

Who Fears Death and Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor. It’s fantasy, or possibly sci-fi, or possibly both, and its not written by a white guy. I got one chapter in Lagoon either earlier this year or late last year and really regretted not finishing it, so this is my redemption lap; and Who Fears Death just sounds like the kind of Hero’s Journey archetypal awesome that I adore, only with Nigerian mythology to inform it rather than … well, to be fair, the Hero’s Journeys I like often use a lot of Eastern philosophy, but I know absolutely nothing about African mythology or folklore so I’m really looking forward to getting a glimpse at it.

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. The closest thing to steampunk I’ve ever read was Perdido St. Station by China Mieville, which took me 6 months to finish, and during those 6 months I also finished 3 other, better books. Though saying a book is better than Perdido St. Station is not saying much. Not for me anyway; it was tedious, long-winded, pretentious, transparently Marxist (I have no problem with Marxism but if you’re going to slip it into your fiction writing then at least get a fucking imagination), and half of the book – I am pretty sure I’m not actually exaggerating – was taken up with exposition about the fucking city that the story took place in. And don’t get me wrong, if you’re somebody who wants worldbuilding and nothing but, give this one a go. But you’d better be very fucking serious about the “nothing but” part; there are some very cool ideas in this book and it was just so sterile and dry that I couldn’t bring myself to care about any of them. I need story; I need characters. Not my cup of tea.

On the other hand, Boneshaker – don’t read Goodreads for a consensus on any given book, but it sounds like it could be enjoyable if not brilliant. And, again, steampunk. Always wanted to see what the fuss was all about, and this one has something that I’ve wanted to see ever since Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t give it to me: the Adventure Mom, the mother character who, instead of dying off-screen or waiting at home for the hero to return, actually takes part in the grand adventure. So I hope that part of it is satisfying. And if it’s not I’ll just rip it off and make it better anyway. Either way, something to look forward to.

My own writing has not gone spectacularly well today, in fact it’s gone absolutely nowhere. But hey, it happens. Might force myself to write those 200 words per day after this post; might count this post as my daily writing, because it’s over 1k words, even though that goes against my rules. But maybe my rules are stupid. In fact, yes, they are stupid. I can write whatever I want, whenever I want.

I just want this fucking novel to be finished oh my god why why can’t it be over and done with maybe I should actually just move on to the next thing this is taking so fucking long and I just maybe I don’t have the experience necessary to make this particular story work so maybe it’d be better to go on to the next thing and apply what I’ve learnt to something that has a better chance of succeeding from the outset however much I would like Tallulah to be my first published book ARGH so infuriating. It is really infuriating to not have a thing done, just sitting there open and unfinished. Kind of like most of the books I get out of the library these days.

Ah well. I’ll work something out. In the meantime, just gotta do all the things. Life is so much easier when you just force yourself to do all the things.

I think I will write those 200 words after all.

Boredom ritual

I have nothing to follow that up with, except to say that I really need to get me one of those.

And that’s pretty much it. I tried to write something today but all that came out were notes; there’s still plenty of daylight left (okay maybe not plenty it is winter here), and I’m going to try and devote the next however many minutes it takes to getting really fucking bored. No music – I’m realising that I use music to keep myself “engaged” in the same way that I use World of Warcraft to feel “engaged” – no videogames, no little notepad to scribble shit down in, no phone, even though it is totally blowing up and I will be letting literally millions of people down by not immediately responding to their textual communications. Just go and sit somewhere and just sit somewhere. I need to get incredibly fucking bored.

I mean do I need to feel like doing something to do it? No, I don’t, but …

This is getting too deep; boredom now, thinking later. If it works I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

I just wanna draw bears

I mean have you seen bears? They’re just so interesting. They’re kind of composite animals, when you think about the “basic” animals that we all kind of gravitate to as kids: they have snouts like pigs; they have a long muzzle and fangs like a wolf; they have sharp claws and roar like a lion; they’re chunky and fuzzy like gorillas – they’re like a real-life Chimera if you ignore the existence of monotremes.

Why do I want to draw bears? Because it’s 1) something I can’t do to my liking and 2) is not all the other stuff I’ve made plans to do, failed to follow through with and am now wallowing in guilt for being so slack about.

I said that I’d be updating regularly about my writing, because I was going to force myself to work on my novel and finally get it finished this year. Neither of those things have happened since I made that commitment, and wanting to draw bears may just become my new euphemism for “I should be doing something else, but I don’t wanna”.

Wanting to draw bears also has another motive, however: recently I’ve come to accept that so many of my really vivid, gripping ideas just don’t sit well in written language alone. They need illustrations – or, more accurately, they are illustrations. And I’ve just been so down on myself and my drawing ability (among ten zillion other things) for so long that the idea of even trying to draw these ideas that are, in fact, drawings has only been something I’ve dabbled with, tentatively and with predictable results – I don’t feel like I can draw, so I don’t try, so I don’t get practice, so I don’t think I can draw, so I don’t try, so I don’t get practice, repeat ad nauseam.

Well, both my writing “hiatus” and self-loathing of my drawing capabilities are going to stop tonight. I am currently at university, waiting for 4:25 so that I can head to my supervisor’s office and get some feedback on my research proposal draft. And once that’s done I’m going to go home, not play videogames, and 1) make a start on putting the plan of attack I have for Tallulah into action, and 2) draw a fucking bear.

And here’s the thing: I have drawn bears before. One of them was very cartoony, which was what I wanted and that went well. The other one was actually pretty realistic and impressive, the result of my copying from stock images I found on Google. I was pretty damn happy with the result, and I think that’s what I’ll do again tonight. I also have a couple of books on drawing which I think it’s high time I cracked into.

So, some goals: by the end of this year, I want at least a third edition of Tallulah in my hands, preferably with notes and feedback, but at least ready to be sent out to test readers for said feedback. By the end of this year, I want to be able to play a fucking F-chord on my guitar. By the end of this year, I want to have been working out consistently every week for the remainder of the year. By the end of the year, I want to be able to ride my bike around the block at least three times without getting winded. (It’s not a big block.) And by the end of the year, I want to draw something very specific, a drawing that I’ve wanted to draw for a couple of years now. It’s not even a difficult drawing; it’s Disney characters, and you’d think those would be easy, because they’re already designed to be easy for any artist to copy and then draw seven trillion times, because that’s how animation studios work. I want to be able to draw this thing, and I want to be able to draw it without a reference.

And finally, I want to draw a lineup of characters from my various stories and other projects that have characters in them, find some way to scan it if I can’t make it a digital drawing, and make it my new banner. As proof. Hell, maybe I’ll actually start using my Deviantart account (or, more likely, make a new one).

It’s the same old story: I haven’t been writing because I’ve been stuck with literally every goddamn thing in my life. But every time that happens, and every time I take the time to write it out and process it, I find a more effective way of moving past it. In the end, all that matters is that you learn something. And today I’ve learnt that I want to draw bears. So I guess I’ll go do that.

It begins (at the end of 2014)

I have handed in my final essay of the year. I am this close to actually finishing the Vampire Academy review/critique I started over a year ago. And I just created my Nanowrimo novel.

Things are getting done around here. What even the hell is this.

… no seriously this is nice. It’s 3:34 a.m. and I’m more productive and intentional than I’ve been almost all this year, at least without the addition of an unhealthy and self-inflicted metric fuckton of stress to go along with it. I am actually looking forward to the end-of-year break from study because I know I’m going to take advantage of it, because I’ve got something to do with it. Something that I want to do, at that.

It’s almost like I’m slowly developing as a person or something. I guess stranger things have happened.