6512

That is my current Nanowrimo word-count. I’m pretty pleased with it; and I’m even more pleased that it’s 1027 words more than it would have been if I hadn’t forced myself to do some writing just now. Which I did. And it felt good. The voice isn’t quite what I want it to be, but that’s just a distraction at this point; the first draft is just there to get written, not to be good, or even decent. It’s not about worth. It’s about existing. And now it exists 1027 words more than it would have if not for my following through with my resolution to write something every day during Nanowrimo.

Which I actually have managed to do, since starting on the 4th. The first two days were my Hero’s Journey Deconstruction/Metacritique projects; tonight – well, last night as of 6 minutes ago – was my NZ Urban Fantasy project. Like I say, the voice is off, because I want to go for that dry Kiwi humour that everyone seems to love so much and really doesn’t come naturally to me, further cementing my sense of being an outsider in my own country, not that I really mind. But the point is that it’s getting written.

What is not getting written is the weird flash of inspiration I had earlier today, which came to me in the form of the sentence: “an Urban Fantasy version of Garden State“. I had spent the previous night thinking of all the things I wished ST2 had done differently – including how the showrunners treated Sadie Sink, which makes me pretty fucking reluctant to watch season 3, TW for what might not be sexual coercion of a minor but sure seems a lot like it and for the love of god don’t read the comments – and came to the realisation that, actually, I have amazing ideas and deserve worldwide recognition for them. Then I thought of Garden State in a remotely positive light, and consequently felt that I may have to retract that praise.

I mean, it kind of already exists. It’s called The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which after reading 15 books of The Dresden Files I have finally realised is nothing special. I should go back and re-read those books, though, because after suffering through the bad aftertaste of The Magician’s Land it’s hard for me to remember that I actually liked the first two. Though upon reflection I’m not at all sure that I should have liked the first two.

Speaking of not liking things upon reflection – yes, I have read all currently-published The Dresden Files books, and yes, I have enjoyed them immensely (with one or two nearly-fatal exceptions), but after coming to the end of Skin Game I realised I needed to find something else to fill the void. I tried Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia, and gave up when I uncovered this gem: “It was strange to hear a black man shout a Confederate battle-cry. Hey, whatever worked” (138).

Yeah no. Really no.

Oh wait this is the guy who started the Sad Puppies bullshitREALLY no.

And that kind of leads into my point here: up until this sentence, I was happy to suspend my disbelief, my dread, my general sense that Larry Correia was not one of My People (it is really quite scary to me that I did not know about his being responsible for the Sad Puppies until I googled him just now). The pacing was night and speedy; the tone was very similar to the blockbuster tough-guy-telling-it-like-it-is vibe of The Dresden Files, and its treatment of women (or woman, I should say) was about on-par, if not actually a little better. Or maybe just different.

And then that line happened and I discovered that Larry Correia is a festering pile of regressive dogshit, and it made me reflect on my time with The Dresden Files, and …

I mean, here’s the thing. I know that I’ve been suspending my disbelief and critical faculties with the series. Deliberately. It’s part of the joy I take in reading it. It’s a fun series if you can get into it.

But those similarities got me thinking about … other things.

Like how Susan died.

Like Molly’s role in the series, namely the fact that her role in the series revolves entirely around her relationship to (and decade-long crush on) Harry.

Like the fact that pretty much every woman who isn’t Karrin, Charity, or Harry’s geriatric landlady is characterised first and foremost in terms of their relationship to sex and sexuality, generally with regards to how Harry feels about it. Yeah, you can say “that’s because Harry’s a chauvinist it’s supposed to be a character flaw”, but it keeps happening and it’s gross. It doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be bad, because it is bad, and it is bad repeatedly, and that outweighs whatever intention is behind it because, spoilers, that “character flaw” never actually gets treated like one. (Though aside from Harry’s POV, the series does improve on its depiction of women, as I have stated previously.)

Like the fact that there is a First Nations character in the series who is affectionately referred to as “Injun Joe”. By people who respect him.

Like the fact that Thomas is overtly framed as a good guy.

Like the fact that Harry always, always finds a way to not be responsible for the catastrophic trail of damage he leaves behind him.

I was not unaware of these things; they just didn’t matter to me. And you know, I’m actually glad that they didn’t matter to me. I enjoyed myself. I’m grateful to this series, because goddamn I have not had that much fun reading a book series in, like, maybe ever.

But now that it’s actually been a couple of weeks since finishing that book, I think I’m done. I don’t actually want to suspend my critical faculties for the sake of fun anymore. Not when the parallels between it and the writing of a racist, homophobic, misogynist bigot are so very similar. That was the last straw.

And it’s kind of a shame. I have definitely learnt the value of suspending judgement for the sake of just having some fucking fun, and I don’t regret any of the time I spent with The Dresden Files. But I also feel justified in feeling that nothing I want to spend a great deal of time and emotional investment in should remind me so much of something I abhor and detest. Right? Not just me?

I’ll admit, I was enjoying MHI up until that one line, and it probably only convinced me to stop because, unlike The Dresden FilesMHI had not established enough of a rapport with me for me to give it the benefit of the doubt that it would make up for it, at least in terms of being broadly entertaining. But even if it had, I wouldn’t want to be entertained by it after that. And I figure that if I have this much of a problem with MHI, it would be a tad hypocritical of me to not also finally start getting my critic on with The Dresden Files.

Although to be fair at least The Dresden Files doesn’t try to redeem the fucking Confederacy. Perhaps I’m overreacting.

Ironically, I feel decidedly less stressed out in terms of being exposed as Problematic for writing my own UF novel. I think that’s definitely a good place to suspend critical thinking: your own writing. At least for the first draft. Bring it back for revisions, though. It could also be the fact that I’m just reminding myself that making myself write actually feels good. It’s a bodily reaction; I feel more relaxed, more energised – more intent. I feel ready and eager to progress. And just yesterday, I felt so stuck. I couldn’t have foreseen this; in fact I’ve never been able to look into my future and find myself caught up in the flow of writing. It’s a really hard emotion to recall. I think it’s because it’s not just an emotion; it’s a whole network of states of being, including emotion, but also thought, physical stamina, balance, location, and feeling your progress without being conscious of it.

It’s made me think about that shitty YA werewolf novel I finally finished this year. I did that. I got that shit done. And I got it done mostly while working on my MA. I’ve been trying so hard for so long to prove to myself that I have what it takes to write a book while fulfilling my academic obligations, or whatever other obligations that I had, and it dawned on me today that, actually, I have proven that. I’ve proven it – and just didn’t count it, for some reason. Maybe because it wasn’t a “serious” writing project of mine, never mind that I devoted one and a half years of my life to writing the first draft, the bulk of which was written while I was also working on my MA. I did it.

It should be proof.

And I realised, then, that it actually is proof. It doesn’t matter if I don’t believe in it; it’s still proof. Incontrovertible proof, in fact. I can write a full novel while working/studying. I have done it.

My job now is to start treating it like proof, and stop waiting to feel like I can do it – I’ve done it already, for fuck’s sake. What do I need to feel anything for?

Further support for my intentions to get myself used to doing things because I want to, rather than because I feel like doing them in the moment – or feel like I can do them. There’s more to it than that, and more to me. And it’s time for me to start acting like it.

Also I have read almost 50 books this year holy shit. I know that’s not a lot for some people, but that’s more books than I’ve read in some decades. And I’ve only had 3 of those.

I feel good. I knew that I would. I just didn’t feel like I would, but it seems like I’m slowly learning to put less stock in what I feel like I can or can’t do when I’m on a mission.

On a mission. I like the sound of that.

So sayeth the Ubermensch!

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One Step Closer

(TW: suicide, self-harm, depression, anxiety)

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I last made revision notes on Tallulah, and about a month since the last post I made here. I see the semblance of a pattern.

This chapter is one that I originally expected to cut completely, for its utter irrelevance to the story. Having gone back through it – I’m still not finished, and have given myself one hour a day to revise exactly so that I get used to doing it systematically rather than just on a whim – I have found that there’s actually so much key information about the characters and the overarching themes of the story that I’m very relieved I didn’t just write it off without even looking at it first. Not that I was planning to do that, but I feel like in another life I would have just scrapped it based on memory and started my revision using a manuscript that didn’t have it included and accounted for.

This book needs so much work before it’s ready to be submitted. I wanted to submit it at the end of this year, but I think I’m going to have to set my sights on maybe around this time next year – and, thinking a bit about it, that’s actually probably a better plan. Not so much because it gives me more time to revise (I certainly don’t want to over-revise, and a shorter deadline could help with that), but because from what I hear the end of the year is a really busy time for publishers and agents, being flooded with manuscripts. So if I wait for next year, after the rush, I might have a better chance of getting noticed and picked up. I’ll definitely need to do more research about this stuff along the way, too.

There is actually a reason I decided to go back to revision today. Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, died on the 20th from suicide by hanging. That kicked me right in the guts. I know people like to talk shit on Linkin Park for being melodramatic, angst-ridden, and weirdly sanitised despite their subject matter, especially in their early songs. I got less and less involved with them as a band as I grew older and discovered other forms of emotional catharsis through music other than the anger of metal, but I had always been hugely emotionally invested in the band, even when I wasn’t a huge fan. I didn’t realise just how much I still cared about them until I heard the news, and I have no shame in telling you all that I am absolutely going to go out and buy those two albums of theirs that I didn’t really like. I’m a sentimental mushball and proud of it.

It hit me like no other celebrity death has – maybe Carrie Fisher. They were both such huge parts of my life, especially my childhood and adolescence, but I felt more familiar with Chester, just because I kept up with the band ever since they released “One Step Closer” and made me the happiest little angry kid on the planet, along with all the millions of other angry kids exactly like me. Carrie Fisher I knew as Princess Leia, and that was about it until quite recently. I definitely wish I’d kept up with her as well in hindsight.

But the point of all of this is that Chester’s death was a wake-up call to me. People talk about this sort of thing all the time, and there have been times when I’ve felt like I should have felt it but didn’t. Somebody famous and influential dies, and people get motivated to get their shit together. I hate that I’m getting motivation from somebody’s death, especially one as horrible as this. There’s something morbid about taking inspiration to live your life better just because somebody else’s has ended. But it’s because it’s pretty relevant to me. I lived with depression for a long time; I still get depressed every now and then. The bigger issue for me is social anxiety, but both of them come with a lot of feeling stuck and unable to do anything about it. I realised when the news broke that I needed to fucking move. I’ve known that doing things is the best solution to the problem of feeling stuck, yet I just consistently don’t take that solution because, well, I don’t feel like I can when I’m in a rut, which I usually am. Anxiety and depression are paralytics, and they’re hard to fight against.

But I have to. I have to get this shit done. I don’t even know what book I want to work on, if I even do, or what my other options would be, but goddammit I need to figure it out, and the only way I’m going to do that is if I actually do it. It’s basic logic; it’s nothing I didn’t already know. But that could have been me, and for all I know it still might be one day. I hope not, and I feel like I’m in a much better place than I have been for a long time, better enough that it is probably quite unlikely. But I also know that I have a history of suicidal thoughts, and that this sort of thing can come back sometimes. It’s just life. I’m not feeling grim about my prospects; I actually feel better about them than I ever have, however much of a slog this year has been in terms of motivation.

What I’m saying is that I have some now, and for the first time possibly ever I am determined to jump on it and make the most of it, turn it into a routine while I have the energy to support my initiative. I don’t know what I want to write, I don’t know if it’s anything I’m currently writing or if I need to find something else. So I’m going to write what I’ve got and see what comes of it. Every day. I have alarms on my clock set to remind me to revise, write, and even look at my CV throughout the week. I haven’t been using them, really, but I’m going to start. I have already started. I made some revision notes, and it turned out to be a very fruitful endeavour. But I need more than rewards. I need habits. I need to get into a whole bunch of new habits, and to stick to them as hard as possible, to keep going even when it’s not immediately rewarding because there’s a long game to play as well, a big picture that will make all the little, momentary frustrations worth it.

I’m also putting in forced breaks. That’s why I didn’t finish making revision notes on the chapter I was looking at today: my alarm went off and told me to stop, so I stopped. I need to get good at getting work done regardless of motivation, but the same goes for taking time for myself to just do whatever, including absolutely nothing. And from experience, arbitrary time constraints work pretty damn well for that.

I feel like I’ve taken a step today, towards the way I want my life to turn out. One step closer to something I’ve only ever fantasised about, occasionally following a burst of inspiration to move towards it for as long as the motivation lasts and giving up as soon as it gives out. No more. Motivation can kiss my ass. From here on, I’m here to work. I’m here to do better by myself.

So here’s to doing better. It would feel very wrong to link “One Step Closer” here, not just because I made the pun already. This song is one whose meaning has changed for me, and not just because of Chester’s death. I’m just in a different place now. Back when this first came out, I sort of dismissed it because it wasn’t the same tense, viscerally angry music that I loved LP for. Now that I come back to it, it’s basically a really corny, really earnest motivational track, and I am so happy to see it in this new light. I never thought I’d appreciate LP for being corny, but I really, really do. And I can only see it this way because I’m in a different place to when I was when I first came across it. Just like leaving Tallulah to sit for 2 years, I can see that part of my past with a new perspective, and see the path forward. And to walk it, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

(There is always a burst of discussion around mental health awareness when a celebrity figure commits suicide, which is kind of insulting to me, because it reminds me that this is still kind of the only time the discussion enters into mainstream consciousness. The fact that this discussion is still so stigmatised is hugely symptomatic of why mental illness is so much more difficult for people to seek help for than other kinds of illness. So to anyone who needs someone to talk to – please talk to someone. It doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant or irrational of a reason you might think it is, and you probably do, if you’re anything like me. Treat it like a strange lump that suddenly turned up on your body: get it checked out, because it might be nothing, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Treat it as a practical, personal responsibility that you have, like paying rent. Look up hotlines you can call for free; look up options for counselling that you might be able to afford. If you have friends or family you know you can trust, take advantage of a shoulder to lean on. Look after yourselves. I’m not just putting my latest life-changing plan into action because I want to write more. I want to take care of myself, because for the longest time I just haven’t, and I’m only recently starting to learn how. I want to learn how to do it better, and the best way to do it is to, well, do it.)

Libraria

I don’t think I’ve used my local library this much in over 20 years. I also haven’t read this many books in quick succession in over 20 years. I definitely don’t feel like a kid again, partly given the kind of books I’m reading these days, but still, not complaining. I thought maybe university had ruined recreational reading for me, but apparently all I needed was to discover the world of pulpy paperback novels. Also probably to not be at university while reading them. That probably helps.

I’ve finished reading 7 Dresden Files novels at this point, and thanks to other people existing in the world and borrowing the books that I want to read I can’t actually continue with the series for probably another month or so. It’s pretty frustrating. And now, anxiety-inducing, because I have to read *deep breath* other books in order to fill the time. I’m sticking with Urban Fantasy just to make sure I don’t pop a vein or something.

I need help.

And also I only picked up 3 books, and I’ve put in requests for the next parts in these series already so that, with any luck, I’ll have more books to pick up by the time I’m done with them. Gonna give that Iron Druid book another chance; I hated it the first time I tried reading it (also there was a pubic hair on one of the pages, which I found pretty fitting given the rest of the content of said pages), but having seen just how much problematic content I am able to stomach perhaps I’ll have a different reaction the second time around.

It’s so … weird. I’ve never read books in this manner before; I’m binge-reading, and while it’s amazingly fun it’s also kind of … unsatisfying. It’s like a constant stream of snacks that can’t ever make you sick, but I can definitely imagine myself getting sick of them, and fairly quickly. The little bits and pieces I’ve read online about this genre is that you can encounter some pretty lethal burnout, mostly concerning the kinds of leads that tend to crop up again and again: tough, no-nonsense, leather-pants-wearing badasses who snark at everyone they meet and never quite seem to find a challenge that actually, like, challenges them. I think I may indeed get tired of that pretty quick.

But we’ll see. For now it’s enjoyable, and I do think writing something in this genre is something I’m interested in trying out in the fairly near future.

I haven’t worked on Tallulah since the last time I wrote about working on it. I think I need to set an alarm for myself or something. I think if I can just get past this second chapter – it’s always been a difficult one to deal with, for whatever reason – the note-making process will get easier. I think the issue is that this chapter is just boring as hell, which it probably shouldn’t be, seeing as it’s where we get the Inciting Incident – or it was, anyway. Now that I’m re-evaluating what this story is about and what I feel needs to be focused on for this second revision, this chapter is starting to seem really superfluous, maybe better-suited to being chopped up and having its various parts distributed across other chapters …

But, that’s easy to say before I’ve actually finished making notes, and I’m going to make an effort to stop making these kinds of blanket predictions/assumptions about the conclusions I’m going to come to for work I haven’t even done yet. It’s a very weird habit of mine, one I’m fairly sure is born out of years and years of acclimation to utter boredom and stir-craziness. I should probably stop it.

And the books are helping in that regard. They annoy me, so much, but they’re so freaking fun to read. Kind of like Game of Thrones; the show itself is not what I’d call fantastic, especially in the more recent seasons, but by Frigg is it fun to watch. It’s got a killer hook, and these books have that as well. Maybe if I turn my brain on a little more I’ll be able to work out what it is. This power must be mine. So sayeth the Ubermensch!

In the morning, though. I doubt I’m going to get to sleep anytime soon – another thing I need to work on – but at the very least I can stop staring at my gigantic glowing plasma screen that has given me these weird involuntary facial tics for the past month.

Old Bugs Can Still Bite

Ah, the joys of trying to write something that you have outgrown. Or have you? It’s always possible that you haven’t; it might just be that you’re not trying hard enough, not committing enough, lack the discipline, just need to find that spark of creativity that you once had but have lost to the ravages of time … the “what if” is what keeps you coming back, even though you know, in an objective, intellectual sense that you will never, ever get it done because 1) you haven’t done it yet despite having ample time, and 2) it’s been such a long time that the original idea no longer exists anymore, and if it did you would not even want to write it because you are now a totally different person.

But what if you could just find a way to tap back into that inspiration, that time, that taste? What if all you need to do is give in to that old indulgence; what if all you have to do is just let yourself be embarrassed for the sake of having fun?

What if?

Yeah, what? I don’t have the fucking answer; I’ve been trying to provide it for 16 years. But it still hasn’t stopped me from thinking, fantasising about and planning out this story in various forms for all that time. It’s an addiction. It’s a problem.

It’s a passion project.

My version of this “passion” project, as I’ve mentioned a few times by now, is called Realm of the Myth, a self-insert fanfiction about myself, mixed up with various formative media that I have consumed over the course of my life such as Harry PotterFinal FantasyThe MatrixPokemonThe Lord of the Rings, and, of course, Dragon Ball Z. I was 14 years old when I came up with this thing, and reading over this now I think that this is perhaps the most 14-year-old thing in the history of ever. 14-year-old so hard motherfuckers wanna fine me.

I have been trying to write Realm of the Myth for around about 16 years now, in one form or another. I’ve “given up” on it at least 3 times during those 16 years, and most recently I supposedly gave up on it less than a month ago. It felt good for a few days. I reminded myself that it wasn’t real anymore, because I said so, and I enjoyed a brief period of creative bubble-bursting, spurring me on towards newer projects, stories that felt more relevant to me as I am now, and a sense of finally leaving this 16-year-old anchor stuck in the abyss where it can just rust into nothingness, and I won’t have to know about it.

And I’ve always known on some level that it was never going to work, though it has never stopped me. I probably should have taken the hint that this wasn’t going to work out when, even when I was 14 years old, I gave up on it as unwriteable because there was absolutely nothing interesting that could actually possibly happen in this clusterfuck of a creative cul-de-sac. But it’s like eating too much on your birthday; your stomach is full, but your mouth wants more, and in the moment the mouth almost always wins. I guess Realm of the Myth is something that my … mouth? … wants to write, even though my … fucking whatever; you get the point. I know it’s bad for me, but it doesn’t seem like it’s bad, because I still have the urge to write it.

Until a couple of nights ago, when I opened up a Word document and started making some notes about what keeps drawing me back to RoTM. It’s pretty basic fanfic stuff; the term “power fantasy” would be just as appropriate as “self-insert fantasy”, and I wrote out the list of things that kept drawing me back to this outdated, unworkable project, thinking that maybe, just maybe, if I just let myself enjoy these adolescent power trips once again, I might actually find enough enjoyment to finally write this fucking thing so that I can stop yo-yoing back and forth with it and get it the hell out of my system, once and for all.

But the exact opposite happened. The more I identified the things that I did still get out of RoTM, the more I realised that they actually didn’t do very much for me – in RoTM. It was the characters, interestingly enough, or perhaps not remotely interesting considering that they’re characters designed to fit a self-insert power fantasy fanfic about myself. I found myself yearning for other, better characters – newer characters. And that realisation brought an empty feeling with it, and while it was a bit of a downer, I thought that perhaps this was it, that I might finally be able to move on. That emptiness was the disconnect between who I was when I first came up with this story and felt the appeal of the ideas that I put into it, and who I am now, the tastes, standards and storytelling needs that have developed in the 16 years since then. It was the disconnect between me as an adolescent and me as an adult. It really put me off, but though it was sad, it also felt right.

At least, it did. But now I’ve flip-flopped; the adolescent void has sucked me into it. It is as though disturbing the corpse of this story has brought the old bug out of hiding, and it’s bitten me again.

Everybody has to learn sometime. But apparently, that time is not now for me.

I want to find a way to make this work, whether that’s by finding whatever flash of brilliance that I need to finally get this ball rolling, or by finding whatever resolve I need to drive a stake through this vampire’s heart once and for all. There’s the part of me, the rational part, the part that’s already experienced a “successful” giving-up-upon of this project, urging me to do it again, and do it properly, because I’ll save myself so much time and totally avoidable mental anguish. There’s also another part of me, the idealist, the perfectionist, the hoarder, that insists that there must be something here, since I keep on coming back to it even though I supposedly know better, which means that surely, if I can just clear my head, I will be able to find that something and make it work, at long last.

I’m pretty sure that’s not true. I mean, I made my list of things that I still liked about it, and even added up together they still didn’t amount to enough of a motive for me to try to tell this story again. But I do keep coming back to it. Is it just habit, or something more? How am I supposed to tell? Do I just live with this infuriating, first-world problems dilemma and accept the fact that my brain is far less efficient than I’d like it to be?

How do I squash this fucking bug?

I don’t know. All I know is that I’m stuck on this project, just like I’ve been stuck on it for the past 16 years – there’s not enough here to make me want to actually write it, but there’s too much there for me to want to give up on it. It’s disgusting. It’s unhealthy. It’s clutter. But there is something about that clutter that comforts me – and I guess that’s the main thing. This slightly panicky feeling of my younger self, panicky but eager and even optimistic – adventurous, in a sense – is seductive. And the prospect of not having to give up on this project is perhaps too seductive. It certainly is easy not to fight it, even if it doesn’t actually lead me anywhere.

But – perhaps it’s not for RoTM. Perhaps it’s just in response to my efforts to more clearly identify the parts of it that I like. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to give up on the parts of this project that don’t work, take the parts that do and give them a new home – or use them as the foundation of something entirely new.

I mean, that would certainly be the most mature option, where I get to finally move the fuck on from this fucking fan fiction about my fucking self. I’m so ashamed.

should be so ashamed.

Oh who am I kidding it’s awesome. Narcissist so hard …

You get the picture.

Baby Steps

It’s happening. Ish.

I’ve actually sat down and done some writing today – not proper writing, mind you, but reading over a few older projects and coming up with some new insights and ideas that are getting me excited to actually get around to proper writing. That whole D&D-inspired thing has shifted to being more of a reboot of an old premise of mine, because for one I can’t actually write a D&D-inspired story set in a D&D-inspired world without running up against copyright issues, and for two I don’t actually want to write D&D. But it was a good launching-pad, and that’s really all I need right now: momentum. And slowly but surely, I am getting some of it back.

I’m considering changing my strategy for waking up earlier by incrementally conditioning myself to wake up slightly earlier every morning until I’m ideally waking up really early. I might just set my alarm for 7:30 and see what happens. Though I predict that what will happen is that I’ll go right back to sleep, so maybe not.

But I am craving a bit of a writing marathon right now, and while I can do a lot of writing in the evenings I much prefer the idea of starting off the day with writing. I might look into getting 2 lots of writing done, one in the morning and another later in the day, if things go well with this experiment.

In any case … I really haven’t done very much writing this year, and it feels like a very long time since I’ve put writing off for this long. And things have changed. I don’t feel like I have to write anymore, but I do feel like I’m missing out on something by not choosing to do it. I want to write. Not necessarily because the ideas that I have are filling me with passion, but more because they are ideas that I have and I want to express and work with them. It’s not so much about what I have to say as it is that I have the opportunity to say it. It’s a big change to how things used to be. A lot less pressure, for one.

It’s going somewhere.

I think I will set my alarm earlier. I’m in the mood to dive in.

Statement of Intent

Oh my GOD I need to start getting things done again.

Around the end of last year, I was getting close to having panic attacks around the very idea of going out into the world and looking for a job. Thanks again, social anxiety. Thus I have been on a sickness benefit for the past few months, and while anxiety has definitely been easier to manage as a result, shit gets pretty stagnant when you don’t have to do anything. I’d also love to not be on a sickness benefit and actually be able to have the capacity to deal with reality on a daily basis, something that my unschooling background didn’t exactly prepare me for. Unfortunately, getting help dealing with these lifelong issue means a lot of paperwork and emails and phone calls, all of which are kind of hard to do when you have social anxiety. Funny old world. What I’m saying is that, while I more or less know what the process of getting out of this slump should be, it doesn’t make it any easier to actually do it.

But it’s okay. I have a plan. Sort of a belated New Year’s Resolution, but it’s still a good plan. And my plans always work. So sayeth the Ubermensch!

While working towards getting financial and contractual stuff regarding finding a therapist over and done with, which is my main short-term goal, I have some long-term goals that need taking care of as well, and those are what I’m planning to work on. For starters, I’ve been waking up later and later for the past couple of months, and that needs to change. The last time I successfully changed my waking-up point was by gradually setting my alarm clock earlier and earlier until I reached my limit of earliness, which was around 10 a.m. I’d like to push that up to 7:30 a.m. so that I can eat and shower and then settle in to write for a long-ass time, like until 3 or 4 p.m. There will be an hour-long-ish break in there on most days for exercise around noon, which I haven’t exactly been slacking on in big-picture terms but has definitely dropped off a bit specifically for the past two weeks. And I need to get back into walking regularly, because I’ve been substituting it with going to the gym and, while gym is definitely good, they’re different kinds of exercise and I think I need both. Also exercise helps with sleeping better and holy shit I need to sleep better.

This is the long-term goal: better sleeping habits, getting back on-track with exercise, and starting to treat writing like a job in lieu of actually having a job, while I have the opportunity. And who knows, it might one day turn into something. I know what I’m writing, and it’s my D&D-inspired high fantasy thing that doesn’t quite work yet but is still a fun enough premise that I want to do something with it. I think I need to indulge in a little high fantasy of my own, rather than reading the stuff other people write that I generally don’t like. But another part of this plan is to get shit done that is not just working, and I have a massive backlog of books and computer games that I haven’t even started, let alone finished. I’m thinking about keeping journals for each, because I miss journal-keeping, and I think it would be good to write about things that I’ve actually done, rather than writing about all the things I feel like I’m missing out on. But regardless of said journals, reading and gaming is going to get done.

And World of Warcraft is not going to be one of them.

My subscription runs out in 2 days, the day before my birthday, and that’s too conspicuous for me to pass up – and even if it wasn’t, I think sticking with it for three years is about enough. I came back at a weird time in the game’s history, and while Legion is supposedly a sorely-needed return to form, at the end of the day it’s grindy as hell, and there’s the more general issue of WOW being, at its core, a social game, and having social anxiety keeps me from really getting into it the way it’s meant to be enjoyed: with other people. Also, I’ve gotten to the point with WOW where I’ll actually feel anxious about playing other games. I don’t think I need a therapist to tell me that shit isn’t healthy. So yes, definitely time to kick the habit. Again. I don’t need more of this experience, and I could probably have done with quite a bit less.

Also, WOW is very much the kind of high fantasy that I’m not really into. If it were a book series, I would not have stayed with it for as long as I have. Although I may well have made it up myself, and enjoyed it just because it was mine. That’s something else I’m finding recently, most notably after having written my shitty YA werewolf novel: I’m quite content, and even excited, to write things that I would never actually choose to read, just because I’m the one writing them. I wonder how much of a universal mindset this is for writers, because if it’s not just me then it explains a few things.

Indulging in my own high fantasy world is only one part of my writing plan, however. That’s just to get used to writing my ideas while I have them, even if in this case I’ve been holding onto them for a little too long already. The other part of my writing plan is that whole get-a-book-ready-for-publishing thing I talked about a little while ago. And it’s Tallulah, and I’ve finally worked out the super-obvious solution that was staring me in the face since before I even started writing it, and I just need to fucking finish something. Like, properly finish, the way I’ve been fantasising about for the past 17 years, my god I have been trying to Be A Writer for a long time. I don’t know if it’ll result in Tallulah actually getting published, but going through the process, I imagine, will be valuable experience for its own sake. As for working this into my new-year-new-me plan as outlined thus far … weekends? And it’ll just be reading to start off with anyway, reading and note-making as opposed to actually writing, so it should be easy enough to work in.

Okay. It’s written down, which means … I don’t know. Sometimes it means it’s more likely I’m going to do something; sometimes it means I’ll never get it done. But I’ve set my alarm, I’m uninstalling WOW tomorrow, and I have the manuscript for Tallulah sitting beside my bed. I’m about as ready as I’m ever going to be.

I say it’s getting done. Ubermensch out.

Doing is believing

Last night was pretty rough for me. Having anxiety involves a lot of lying awake in bed and ruminating over all of your moral shortcomings and mortal shames. Thankfully, at this point in my recovery – it’s odd to think of it as a recovery, but it is, an ongoing one – I wake up from those bad nights feeling cleansed and unburdened, and even with a few solutions to deal with the various grievances aired, vented and exorcised in the night.

One of these is writing. I have lamented so many times about letting opportunities to dive headlong into a writing project pass me by, about intentionally keeping myself from taking opportunities to enjoy writing because, I dunno, toxic habits die hard, and a particularly toxic one is the “but it’ll take effort” excuse. It’s not a rational excuse, which is why I keep making it. Mental illness will do that to you.

But no more. The Ubermensch has spoken!

Because this year, I’m going to finish my god-awful fucking YA werewolf novel, and then I’m going to go back to my Christmas story. I’m going to read over it and make notes, and I’m going to read over it again and make different notes, and then I’m going to discover that I have a plan and fucking execute it.

I’m going to do this because I do have good ideas, and they deserve to be worked on – but more than that, because this morning I’m feeling optimistic and life-affirming: because deserve to work on them. To have awesome ideas and stories to be responsible for developing. It’s a good feeling.

And it won’t get done unless I do it, so I’m going to make myself do it.

It’s the same obstacle as it always is: getting started is the hardest part. I still want to finish Tallulah as well, and it’s much closer to being completed than my Christmas story, but I want to get started on this Christmas story first because, well, I wrote it first, and it’s been way too long. I’m fed up with letting good stories go stagnant; I want to get into the habit of obsessive working when it comes to stories of mine that I really like, which I keep myself from doing these days.

Of course, while I’m reading this Christmas story I can also tinker with other books I’m writing. I need to get better at setting limits on my self-directed work; I started at the end of my MA, and I can see that it needs to continue going forward, as opposed to almost every other thing I’ve learnt or experienced as an academic that has pretty much fallen out of my head. My limit with this Christmas story is reading. Writing – that’s not even something I want to think about right now. Just reading. Getting out of the fantasy of writing something or how it’s going to be when it is eventually one day written, and focusing on the actual writing process, which is always more fun.

And goddammit, it’s been too long. The werewolf thing didn’t even feel like part of the writing process; I hate to say it but, as much fun as I’ve had writing it, I can’t even remember the fun times. But working on something over a long period of time like I did with Tallulah, or the Christmas story before it – that I remember. It feels awesome. And I like feeling awesome.

It feels awesome to be doing shit, and yesterday I realised, for what is surely at least the hundredth time by now, that the reason I’ve been feeling kinda “meh” not just recently but for what is now the majority of my entire life, is due to not doing shit. So I’m going to do some shit. Reading and writing, in particular. I have an actual book to read as well: Succubus on Top by Richelle Mead, which I think I may finally be in the correct mindset to read without getting pedantic about realism in this book about a fucking Succubus was the pun intended I’ll let you decide it’s going to be a good time.

And then all the Christmas books I bought myself last year and haven’t touched since they arrived. I have a goddamn Wonder Woman omnibus, the George Perez stuff when he rebooted her in 1987, which was when I was born, that explains a few things if you buy into superstition when it’s convenient to your self-narrative, which I totally do. I have Neil Gaiman’s latest collection of short stories: Trigger Warning, which I haven’t read partly because as somebody who understands the need for trigger warnings the title just feels very exploitative, but don’t judge a book by its exploitative title or whatever. I have Clariel by Garth Nix, which I tried to read when I got it and then couldn’t because I remembered that I fucking hate high fantasy, even when it’s Garth Nix apparently. I have The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, which I got because werewolves. I have Kindred by Octavia Butler, because for some reason I decided not to buy The Parable of the Sower on the day I made these purchases, but it’s Octavia Butler and I feel morally obligated to read one of her books. I might actually buy Parable today, or at least get it out from the library again. I have the first Dragonriders of Pern book by Anne McAffrey, and the first book in the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce, and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, because aside from Harry Potter and literally 4 other books in my entire life I have read zero high fantasy written by women and that shit needs to change.

Speaking of which, I also have the Earthsea Quartet to finish, which I’ve had since 2011. I finished the first 2 stories and liked them a hell of a lot, despite obvious problematic elements, particularly in the first one. Also the rest of the P.C. Hodgell omnibus I have; the first story was very enjoyable, and it’s high fantasy written by a woman and starring a woman, and it is the last high fantasy book I’ve read that I actually enjoyed because it was about character and story – episodic though that story might be, but I like episodic – set in a rich, well-developed world, rather than about a rich, well-developed world infested with sentient life-forms that the writer feels forced to spend some time on to fill a quota, which is what a lot of high fantasy feels like to me. I also have The Swan Maiden, which is a retelling of an old Irish fairytale – a really fucking depressing one, because Ireland – and the only thing I can remember about it is that I opened the exact middle of the book when I bought it from the library and read the phrase “he hefted her pale globe in his hand”. I’m not sure why this was a selling-point for me, but I did buy it, along with Grimm Tales by Phillip Pullman. I respect Phillip Pullman quite a lot, but really did not like The Amber Spyglass and find his writing style … well, it might work a lot better with fairytale retellings than it does with child psychology.

Man, I actually have a lot of shit I could be doing.

The Ubermensch approves!