Two Years Well Spent

Yesterday, I met up with a friend of mine, and did some writing.

Is it 2012 again? This is a strange feeling. I … like this. I feel good about this thing that happened that I did.

Weird.

Not just writing; Writing. And by Writing, I really do mean that capital “W”; this was Writing in the purest sense of the word, where I spent the majority of the time reading in order to make notes, said notes intended to be minimal but quickly swelling into miniature rants about whatever trivial detail I inevitably fixated on every few paragraphs, and then completely switched to making notes about a new project that I had come up with on the spur of the moment.

It was awesome.

And the best part?

The thing I was Writing was Tallulah.

It was important to me – and still is – it was serious work that I wanted to get done, and I just couldn’t help it. I had to be a Writer.

It was glorious.

And it feels great to get back into the zone, which is not only where all the things happen, but where all the things happen. Work will get done; work will be put off. Procrastination will happen, get overcome and happen again. Progress will build momentum, and to celebrate said momentum every single distraction that could possibly take place will, in fact, take place.

It’s a thing of beauty. I have said, over and over again, that I am no longer a Writer. But that was then, and this is now, and I realise that either of those extremes is, well, too extreme. I am and am not a Writer, because while that’s not all I am, it’s definitely something that I am, and it is an all-consuming something – until it’s not.

It’s like that one cardinal rule of writing, the one that I have held to from the start of this blog and continue to hold after so many of my beliefs, habits and attitudes have been challenged and changed over the past five years: you have to commit absolutely to your plan, and you have to reserve the right to completely change your mind about it at a moment’s notice. It’s both. There is no middle-ground; there is no synthesis. It’s both, at once, all the time. And that, I now realise, is how I feel about being a writer – I am until I’m not, and I’m not until I am.

Also I’m really kind of excited about this random new project; it’s more werewolves, but because I’ve been reading all those urban fantasy books, this is a shitty urban fantasy werewolf novel, as opposed to my shitty YA werewolf novel, which technically was also urban fantasy but whatever. What I’m most excited about was simply how easily and quickly ideas for books came to mind almost the second I came up with the premise; there was almost nothing to think about. The only issue that, honestly, I will never write it because I don’t have the energy to put into it – whereas I’m starting to backtrack on my stance on my shitty YA werewolf novel, which might actually become a Thing now. It would be started over from scratch, my main character would either be pretty heavily altered or just removed altogether because he’s an insufferable piece of shit, and … I dunno. I think I might actually shift it a little more towards what I’ve heard referred to as “mid-grade” books, like young adult books – Animorphs comes to mind most readily, and Tomorrow When the War Began. Even though I wasn’t the biggest advocate of that second book, I did like the dynamic of having a relatively large cast of core characters who all go through the Inciting Incident together, as opposed to what generally happens in heroic narratives where it’s just one orphan farmboy who receives the Call to Adventure. I’m feeling an ensemble, in other words, and I think this werewolf thing could work really well in that regard. Much better than this random urban fantasy thing that I like thinking about and planning but feel absolutely no passion to actually write.

Also – I do actually want to continue working on Tallulah, now that I’ve finally picked it up again after 2 years. I made not very much progress the other day, but it was a start, and a start is all I need to get going. I think the best way to go about this is to not think, at all, about what comes next. I’m just going to make a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, because that’s what I’m currently doing – and then, we’ll see.

Either way, I do think that I needed those 2 years for other things. Something wasn’t working, and now – well, something is. I don’t know what; I don’t think it’s the thing I was hoping would start working when I decided to take the break initially, but it’s enough. I’ll take it.

And I’ve also realised that, if I’m going to make mistakes and learn from them, I would actually rather do it with things that I care about, instead of “safe” options – Tallulah is something that I care about a lot, and part of the initial reasoning behind writing my shitty YA werewolf novel was the idea that I could use it as my “test” book, the one I’d actually shop around and go through the process of finding an agent, writing query letters, all that stuff. But it’s not the thing that I care about, and if everything does go well, it’s not the kind of work I want to be known for – not at first, anyway. I’m honestly not sure that Tallulah is that work either, but I do care more about it, and out of the two projects it is the one that I would most like to be published. I could fail with either of them, and it would be kind of heartbreaking either way. But if I succeeded, there’s only one of them that I really want to make that journey with. So I’m going to give that my best shot.

And the next time I decide to take a 2 year break from something I really care about, I at least know that I can have a lot of fun doing something that I don’t really care about in the interim, which I might end up caring about after all. I feel that’s a valuable lesson.

2 years well spent indeed.

Changes here and there

I have been “off” facebook for, I think, about 6 months now. It feels exactly the same as being “on” facebook, from an emotional standpoint, except for the fact that I no longer feel that clingy addiction-buzz that I used to get when I was a user. I like how the word “user” has a double-meaning here. Convenient.

I have also quit WOW relatively recently; it hasn’t even been a full month yet, and again, it feels emotionally around about the same.

It’s not the same, though, and that’s good.

To make up for these pasttimes, I have been picking up others – not new ones, not really, but they feel pretty new. Specifically, I’ve been reading.

Even more specifically, I’ve been reading The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and the Dark Swan series by Richelle Mead. Do I have problems with them? Fuck yes. I could – and maybe will – write several long, ranty-ass opinion pieces about them when I’m through, or when my problems become so intense that I can’t keep myself from venting any longer.

But goddamn, I need this. I need so badly to be reading, a lot, and without any designs to write revies about them. I enjoyed my YA kick a few years ago, but at least part of that was motivated by an urge to gather material for this blog. This blog really hasn’t seen much use from me lately – or it feels like that at least. Mostly because I’m not writing as much. Maybe writing a whole book plus a whole MA manuscript has taken it out of me more than I realise. Whatever the reason, I no longer feel that urge to create content for this blog, which means that it’s inevitably growing stagnant and stale. And I’m okay with that, but it’s not exactly a winning formula for running a blog. I’m okay with that too, though.

Mostly because I’m enjoying what I’m doing currently, more than I’ve been enjoying much of anything for quite a while. It’s nice to just read, and these books especially facilitate that activity – problematic content abound, but fuck are these things easy to get through. It’s a similar feeling to binge-watching, only with less of an effort on my part. No need for an internet connection or to even sit upright to enjoy this media; all I have to do is just lie there and let it happen.

Speaking of which – yeah, I think I will have to at least give an overview of these books at some point. Particularly the Dark Swan series with regard to my above innuendo.

Fuck it I’ll do it now SPOILER WARNING.

While reading Storm Born today, I literally asked myself out loud how this could possibly be the premise of a book, and wondered much earlier how this was even possibly published. Not because it’s badly-written, obviously; this shit is not high literature but it’s designed to be readable, and that is a form of good writing. No, it’s because I have never come across a book – or any media product – so obsessed with rape, and handling the topic with all the thoughtfulness and tact of a comments section. And yes, that is hyperbole, but if you’ve read it you may be able to appreciate my use of it here.

Then there’s The Dresden Files, and while the issue there is more general, insidious, “no that’s just how the character thinks it’s totally not really actually sexism actually” sexism, it’s bad enough by book 3 – Grave Peril, for those interested – that it’s almost enough to make me stop reading.

Almost.

Because both of these series, again, are remarkably readable. It’s kind of hilarious, in a depressing way, what I will actually tolerate content-wise if it’s delivered in comfortable enough prose. Like Harry Dresden in Grave Peril, for instance: by the end of the book he’s basically a full-on mass murderer, and all that happens is that he feels bad about it, kinda, for a little bit, a pain that is quickly superseded by that of his girlfriend – who has been bitten by and is on the verge of turning into a vampire and suffering the psychological, physical and emotional consequences of it – breaking up with him. Man, poor Harry. He has it so hard.

It’s gross.

It’s also gross in Storm Born how main character Eugene becomes the target of every male Otherworld entity because of a prophecy concerning her child reigning in the Otherworld’s conquest of the human world. You know how in typical urban fantasy novels, the action sequences generally revolve around trying to get information out of supernatural beings or avoiding being killed by them? Here, the action sequences are all sexual assaults. Every single fucking one.

And then, Eugene enters into a weird contract-based relationship with Fae lord Dorian, wherein she will make out with him in public and make all the other Fae think she’s sleeping with him in exchange for 1) him teaching her how to use her latent Fae powers (she’s half Fae, specifically half-the-most-powerful-fae-to-ever-live), and 2) getting all – or at least most – of her would-be rapists off her back for fear of reprisal from Dorian. During his training, he ties her up to chairs a lot, for the purposes of forcing her to focus her thoughts to control her powers. Of course, she finds this secretly really hot, while being put off by the fact that he’s Fae and she’s been raised to see his kind as marauding rapist monsters that she’s trained to kill. They make out a couple of times, and both times she feels an instinctual urge to stop, and blames herself for feeling like she wants to stop. Literally, she asks herself why she can’t just force herself to fuck him despite her instinctual urge to not do so, in the same way you might ask yourself why you never really appreciated your ex while you were still together.

Because, you see, she finds him tying her up to be quite exciting, and even though she doesn’t trust him while they’re making out, she does trust him when he ties her up, and this is conflicting for her.

And then they do actually fuck, and the way she gets herself to do it is by telling him to tie her up. Her inner monologue informs us that this is because she wants the decision taken out of her hands. Dorian, to his credit – or something like credit anyway – does ask her to tell him what to do and not do, they have pretty vanilla kinky bondage sex, she likes it.

AND THEN she next day she feels bad, because after all of these other Fae dudes trying to rape her, she “gave in” and “submitted” and “what does this say about me” and, like, yeah that’s actually a nice bit of character-work and I appreciate it. It works, it makes sense, it feels real. I always appreciate that.

What I do NOT appreciate is that fucking DORIAN is the one to then go on a big rant about what does and does not constitute rape. And that’s where I’m up to, because whatever kind of deal I need to make with myself in order to read beyond this point, I have yet to make it.

The bit that really gets me is when he says this: “rape is brutal.” The general patronising tone is bad enough, but this?

It’s just untrue.

Rape is horrific, but it’s not always brutal. Sometimes it’s soft and gentle. Doesn’t make it any less horrific; probably makes it more horrific in some cases. But it does make it fall outside of the narrative parameters that we have set up around rape, particulary what does and doesn’t count. And look, I’ve become a lot more tolerant of problematic shit just from reading these 3 books; I don’t have any less of a problem with it on a moral level, but I can get through it for the sake of enjoying myself overall. Hell, even Storm Born falls into that category. And at the very least, Dorian wraps up with an important point: if there’s consent, it’s not rape, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of having the kind of sex you like as long as there is consent.

I might be able to appreciate this more if it wasn’t … I mean, Richelle Mead is a woman, so this maybe doesn’t count as mansplaining in a literal sense, but … no. This is mansplaining. And not just mansplaining; it’s mansplaining rape, to a woman, who spends the entire fucking book fighting off potential rapists. And this dude is the main love interest.

Even so, I’ll take him over Kiyo, the red-herring love interest. At least he doesn’t mansplain rape; but he is a whingy, jealous, manipulative liar. There’s actually a serious level of Edward/Jacob mirroring going on here; Kiyo is not only the Ethnic One (Japanese), and therefore obviously not the proper love-interest, but he turns into a giant fox. Bigger than normal foxes. And he’s primal and aggressive and made of sex, whereas Dorian is refined and elegant and pretty and has pale fucking skin and OH MY GOD HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS UNTIL NOW, UNCLEAN, UNCLEEEAAANNN …

I have said that I prefer Jacob to Edward multiple times, but not to the point where I’d rather Bella had ended up with him instead. Neither of them deserved her; and while she’s a pretty shitty person, she’s at least a shitty person who could potentially amount to something better if given the chance, like some decent friends or role-models. I feel similarly about Jacob, but not Edward. He’s a lost cause, and it’s the lost cause part that makes me prefer Dorian to Kiyo. Kiyo reminds me of Clayton from Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, which I also wrote a sort-of review about a while back. Not because he’s a literal rapist, which Clayton is, but because he’s played up to be sexy based on the fact that he’s so primal and animalistic. But that same animalistic nature is what also makes him feel extremely “set”, unable to change. Dorian, I feel, could learn to stop fucking mansplaining and become a better charming asshole. But Kiyo would surprise me if he proved capable of learning a sex position other than missionary or, of course, doggy-style. (How Richelle Mead kept herself from making that joke after 4 sex scenes between Eugene and Kiyo, I do not know.) And in the end, even a character who fucks me off tremendously will escape the full extent of my ire if I feel there is any potential for redemption, and Kiyo doesn’t have that potential.

Having said all of this, I am still going to finish not just this book, but the whole series – it’s a four-parter, so it’s not that much to get through, and I have to admit I’m just kind of morbidly curious. Not to see the ending; thanks to goodreads I’ve had that spoiled and, well, I’m hardly surprised. But just to see how it plays out.

And because, at the end of the day, readability is the most important aspect of these books for me. I fucking read Beautiful Creatures in one fucking day, and that’s not a short book, nor is it written even half as well as Dark Swan or The Dresden Files. But it was utterly captivating, and right now I just want to be captivated. Perhaps there is higher-quality captivating media that I could be consuming – but honestly, I don’t care if there is. Not yet, anyway. I can feel my internal reserve of tolerance for this shit waning, but until it’s gone completely I’m sticking it out, because it is fun. I am having a good time. And that’s more important to me than critical thinking right now.

Just hopefully not forever.

But what’s really important to me is that, while the specifics will always have issues, on the whole I can feel a shift in my life and how I feel about it – something has changed within me; something is not the same. And I’m down with that.

 

Options

I finished reading my shitty YA werewolf novel last night, and have come to a pretty solid conclusion: no way in the hell am I ever, ever going to try and make something out of this thing.

It began life as a glorious writing exercise passion project, and that is how it should end its life as well. Especially having read it. There’s so much that’s set up and then never paid off, so many unfulfilled promises, and it’s not like they’re even good promises to begin with but it just hurts. The ridiculous awfulness of those first early chapters was pretty great, and throughout the manuscript there’s a few moments here and there that I legitimately think have potential to be part of something actually pretty decent. But once I got to the chapters that I wrote during Nanowrimo 2015 – the ones I skipped ahead to write instead of slogging through the info-dump chapters I didn’t feel like writing at the time – it all just kind of descends into garbage.

And it’s salvageable. I just don’t want to salvage it. Not for any reason, really, other than that I simply don’t want to. I mean specifically it’s because the central conflict is so weak and ever-shifting, the central relationship between the main character and his best friend so indecisive and self-contradictory, that it is both very simple to fix and incredibly annoying to fix. It’s a lot of pedantic busy-work, hopping between chapters and trying to match up two different continuities so that it all gels together. If I actually gave a shit about this thing, it would be easy enough.

But I really, really don’t – other than as what it currently is, which is a testament to a year and a half of my life being spent in the pursuit of starting and finishing a book, proof that even after the passion is gone, I can get the work done (and in this case, done better than when the passion was actually there). It’s proof that if I just write, no matter how I feel about that writing at the time of writing it, I can actually produce something pretty decent.

Having said that I don’t want to salvage this thing – there are some ideas that I’m actually pretty into, lore and shit that I came up with for this world that I’m a little bit sad to let go of. Not that it was particularly good lore, but still, I did put some time and energy into it. I liked how it all fit together. I liked the overarching plot that I had for the next 4 books, and I’m also kind of sad to let that go.

On the other hand, now that this is done and dusted, I now have the opportunity to write the original idea that I had for this werewolf passion project, which was very different to this – the core premise (werewolves) was the same, and the broad plot points were as well, but it was a very different story. Most notably it was not a YA story. I’m honestly not sure I’m cut out for YA. But maybe that’s something for revisions to take care of.

On the other other hand … I did what I set out to do. The book is finished; the writing exercise is completed. I think it’s time, at last, to get back to business. I needed this reprieve from serious work, and a more frivolous counterweight to my MA, and it served both of those purposes well for a long time.

But in the end, it was a distraction from the work I’ve been putting off for 2 years now: finishing Tallulah. I was going insane trying to wrap my head around the second revision; I think now is at least a good time to test the water and see if I’ve had enough time away from it to come back with a fresh perspective. I have a solution to the biggest plot issue I’ve been having with Tallulah from day 1 as well, and I would really like to put that into action.

It’s just that it’s so much work. It was enough work to put me off for 2 years, to start an entirely new book just to take my mind off it. I’m kind of dreading starting it up again.

So, actually, maybe I could just go and fix a couple of typos in this shitty YA werewolf thing first.

And I guess, really, those continuity errors wouldn’t be too hard to sort out. A day’s work, maybe, once I have a solid idea of which continuity I actually want to pursue.

And I guess I could add in a couple of scenes that feel like they’re missing. I mean there is potential here. It could be something relatively solid. It would just take time. And if there’s one thing I definitely have these days, it’s time.

So maybe I’ll do that. Maybe I’ll just touch it up a bit, and then get started on Tallulah again.

In fact, why the rush? I wanted something to submit for publishing by the end of this year, but it doesn’t have to be Tallulah, does it? I mean maybe I can put Tallulah off for another year, get this thing out the door and then use the time to polish Tallulah to the standard I’ve always wanted it to meet.

And hey, maybe I’ll start another new book too. I mean, you can never have too many things going on at once creatively, right? Hell, maybe Tallulah was just a writing exercise too, I mean the entire reason I was motivated to write it was because it was unlike anything I’d ever written or even thought about writing before; that’s weird enough to count as a writing project instead of an actual book project in retrospect, right?

I don’t actually have to go back and get started on the third draft that I don’t know where to start with, right?

Right. I can just write about werewolves some more. Werewolves today, werewolves tomorrow; werewolves forever.

I DON’T WANNA WRITE A THIRD FUCKING DRAFT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND IT’S SO FUCKING HARD IT’S LIKE I’VE FIXED ALL THE BIG OBVIOUS PROBLEMS AND NOW IT’S ALL TINY SUBTLE PROBLEMS THAT ARE HARD TO IDENTIFY AND FIND SOLUTIONS TO AND JUST ALL THE OTHER THINGS I COULD BE DOING WITH MY TIME I CAN’T FUCKING TAKE IT I CAN’T GO BACK THERE DON’T MAKE ME GO BACK THERE PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME

So Bright, So Beautiful

So I’ve decided to continue reading over my shitty YA werewolf novel manuscript. The description holds. Oh boy, does it hold.

But because of the order in which I wrote the chapters, two of the earlier ones are also two of the newest ones, and the change in tone and style shows quite strongly – the writing is better, the focus is clearer, and while I wrote these chapters in a real creative slump when I had no particular passion left for this project, these are, so far anyway, the best chapters in the book.

Especially the one I’m reading now, the Diagon Alley chapter, if you like, where our hero learns about the new world he’s stumbled into. It makes me really proud of this festering mound of refuse I have shat out of my brain, because it reads almost exactly like every other bad YA paranormal novel I’ve ever read …

Because I’m rooting for the bad guy.

And it’s exactly the same as actual published books I’ve read; this is of publishable quality, in that sense, and yes that is a real moral concern. But it’s also genuinely beautiful to behold, and for the first time makes me really feel proud of what I’ve accomplished here. In particular, I adore the fact that the bad guy, who is supposed to come across as domineering, arrogant and bullying, instead comes across as completely in the right for doing everything he’s done up to this point. Specifically, everything he’s done that has upset the main character, who is a whinging little shitstain that I want to see run over by a car and smeared across the highway like a tub of paint. Sure, the bad guy could probably do with some honest feedback about some of his behaviour, but all in all he’s not the one coming off as the problem. And that includes him shooting the main character with a gun at point-blank range.

I am that fucking good.

It’s awful; it’s despicable; and it’s the best fucking thing I’ve ever done in my life. I am so, so happy. I can’t even.

I might actually consider revising this book and, like, doing something with it, turning it into an actual writing project instead of just a writing exercise that got way out of hand. There’s something here. Passionless though I may have been during the second half of the time it took me to finish this thing, I think my writing might actually have improved because of it. And that seems like a valuable lesson that I shall strive to actually remember for future reference.

In the meantime, back to reading. I genuinely hope that it gets worse from here.

 

An endless cycle

About an hour and a half ago, I was settling in to write a big ranty post complaining about how there was all this shit I hadn’t gotten done that I’d said I was going to get done. In there would be some kind of resolution to get it done as soon as I’d finished said rant, but even the thought of that felt like another failure, an excuse on top of excuses removing me from the sense of obligation I have been trying to instill within myself.

So instead, I didn’t write it. I deleted it, and went and did the things that I was going to complain about not having done. Making a doctor’s appointment and writing, to be specific.

It feels a lot better than writing that post would have felt.

I mean the doctor’s appointment isn’t until next Monday, and the writing I’ve done is bad writing at a time when I’ve fallen out of touch with whatever magical, utopian psychology I was operating under while writing my shitty YA werewolf novel that let me embrace and even enjoy writing badly – but still. It got done.

And finally, it feels like I’ve started the year.

Not a moment too soon, either, because it’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m turning 30 and holy FUCK I’M GOING TO BE 30 YEARS OLD HOW DO YOU EVEN DO THAT WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL.

Like, I’m supposed to have a couple of kids as part of an unsatisfying marriage, secretly but predictably engaged in an office affair equal parts sordid and banal, trying to get a promotion so that I can use a bigger paycheck to compensate for my untenable desire to live a life that I actually choose to live rather than being forced to adhere to societal expectations just to pay rent and be accepted as a real person. That’s 30 to me. I’m pretty unimaginative when it comes to 30. Probably because that is nothing like what any part of my life had been like, let alone 30.

I mean I’m glad that isn’t going to be 30 for me, but at least it’s intelligible. What I’m doing right now … it just isn’t. It doesn’t feel real to me. Or maybe the better word is “official”. I don’t feel like an official human being; I haven’t quite filled out the form yet.

But hey, there’s opportunity in that, right? I can still be a real person without wedging myself into a cultural stereotype that, I mean fuck, just read that shit. I should be over the moon that that isn’t my life, that nothing up to this point has set me up to live anything remotely like that life.

Grass is always greener, I guess.

And anyway, I guess I am actually enjoying what I’m doing right now – now that I’ve started actually doing it. It’s been a shitty couple of days in particular. After trying to set up my alarm to wake me up super-early so that I could fulfill the spontaneous, romantic promise that I made to myself a couple of posts ago about writing for seven hours every morning, I actually ended up waking up around 1pm both today and yesterday. Which was very demoralising; and then my back went out, and it’s better today but still not great, and it’s happened twice in quick succession and it’s been 11 years with this fucking injury and, yeah, a shitty past couple of days overall.

Until just now. Because something as simple as making a phone call to take responsibitlity for my own well-being, and doing some writing for the sake of breaking out of a rut, can make such a ridiculously huge difference that it’s almost embarrassing. In fact, it is embarrassing, but only if I look at it from the outside. From the inside, I’m reaping the benefits of having gotten some momentum back, and everything before this point just doesn’t matter anymore.

And this is the perpetual cycle of life, I think: you complain about shit you haven’t gotten done and feel really down and hard on yourself, until you actually take steps to start getting it done, at which point it’s almost like you were never even upset about it to begin with. It’s pathetic, even despicable, from a certain moral vantage-point. But it also works. And while there will always be problems that take a little more effort to deal with – or a lot more, often more than you can manage on your own – there will also always be these little, niggling problems that always feel insurmountable because of how guilty you feel for not having confronted them, until you actually confront them, and all of that guilt and angst and shame just rolls off your back, like water off a duck’s wing.

It’s oil, you guys. Oil is the solution to all life’s problems.

And the thing that I wrote is bad, and I like it, and it’s so bad that I’ve left myself a note in the document itself to rewrite it as part of a conversation rather than an info-dump, and I’m actually looking forward to spending some time tonight or tomorrow making the last thousand words I wrote utterly redundant, because that’s also bad writing. And I’m excited about it.

In every endless cycle, there is always an upswing, and right now I’m in the middle of one.

 

8145

Okay.

NOW my shitty YA werewolf novel is finished.

And no, this was not the writing that I was excited to get done that I mentioned in the last post; this was just gruntwork. I’m glad that I did it, though. It gave me some ideas about what I might do if I ever decide to revise this thing – stranger things have happened, and I did after all devote a year and a half of my life to writing it, dear Christ I had better things to do – and there’s nothing quite like the underwhelming satisfaction of actually being done-done with a writing project.

And it’s only ever underwhelming, at least in the moment. The fact that I’ve finished a first draft. The fact that I’ve finished another first draft. The fact that, once again, I have proven to myself that I do have what it takes to at least get this far in the writing process, and even with a project that I burnt out of passion for fairly early on in the process. But eventually it sinks in. And after a lot of consideration over the past week or so, I have decided that I am in it for the long game.

NOW for the next thing.

No More Nostalgia

I finally started putting the finishing touches on my shitty YA werewolf novel; it felt wrong to leave it so blatantly unfinished before abandoning it forever.

As I was doing it, I discovered something.

Having another 82.6k words under my belt feels fucking awesome.

It’s funny how consistently I veer all over the emotional spectrum with my writing. “This sucks and I hate it and it means nothing to me because it is nothing I’m nothing everything is nothing” one day, “at least now I can move on and find something to do that I actually feel passionate about” the next, and then the other day “life is amazing you just have to look for the opportunities to be amazed all around you sometimes what you’re looking for is right under your nose the whole time it was your footprints I saw in the sand”.

This is writing for me; it’s a hobby. I don’t do it when I don’t want to do it, consistently, and when I do want to do it I binge hardcore. I keep hoping that if I finish enough projects, if I push enough of my incomplete drafts through to conclusion, perhaps something will rub off on me, I’ll catch some viral strain of self-discipline and never have problems with self-motivation again. But time and again, the only consistent triggers that get me to work on things consistently are 1) wanting to write, and 2) having some kind of external source of accountability. I am not a disciplined writer by trade; I am an incredibly self-motivated writer who does not write without motivation, unless it’s an MA and then I can fake some semblance of discipline because I’m accountable to somebody besides myself.

However, merely looking over that word document that now contains my almost-completed shitty YA werewolf novel has turned out to be quite inspiring. Not finishing it; not migrating it into a word document; but actually looking it over and taking that tally of 82.6k words that amounted to a finished product has given me a bit of a bug. I want to do it again. I want to experience this feeling of satisfaction again; I want to press my advantage, take this momentum and really go somewhere with it.

But even thinking about writing right now – as in writing something creative – is so draining, so either this momentum is doomed to go to waste, or I’ll have to use it for something else. Or somehow make myself write without thinking about it.

Funnily enough, I think the answer is that last one.

Because thinking, for me, tends to be synonymous with both “overthinking” and “procrastinating”. Rarely do I ever think clearly and intentionally in a, for lack of a better word, strategic way. I basically daydream rather than think, per se, and obsess over stupid shit because I’m stuck in my house all day and am permanently stir-crazy. So lately I’ve been trying to actively do things instead of think about them, particularly the things that I am over-thinking the most. It hasn’t exactly been hard work, in the typical sense of the term. The things I’ve been forcing myself to actually do rather than just think about are playing computer games – Pillars of Eternity and Divine Divinity, to be exact – and watching Stranger Things and Lost Girl. Now, without being facetious, this is actually important for me to do. I tend to spend the time when I’m not “being productive” feeling guilty about not being productive instead of, like, being productive, or failing that at least enjoying myself while I’m being a slacker. Doing these things has been enjoyable, and distinctly non-productive in terms of having a checklist of things that I should be doing and working through it, but very productive in terms of developing healthier recreation habits. Recreation is a skill, as I have come to learn; you need to learn how to relax and chill out, just like you need to learn how to kick your own ass into gear and get shit done.

On the other hand, though, I do still feel that twinge of dissatisfaction with my status as a spectator. I count playing games as being a spectator simply because, at the end of the day, it’s always somebody else’s playground. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s plenty awesome about that. But I do want to make my own as well.

So the next step is to start putting this strategy into practice with my “work”, as well as with my recreation. To pick a project that I’m over-thinking and feeling anxious about getting wrong or running out of steam for, and single it out for getting done. To actively cut off my over-thinking at the root; to intercept my own thoughts and shut them down before they ruin everything.

At the moment, I am feeling the idea of giving up on a whole bunch of non-starter projects that I have sitting around. I have so fucking many. It might actually be fun to jam a bunch of them together with no real plan and just see what I can puzzle together out of the mess. For one, it would be awesome to experience the same bursting bubble of creativity that I did when I gave up on Realm of the Myth, all the way back in 2012. But for another – they’re just things that attract my idle thoughts, perfect procrastination-magnets, and the fewer excuses that I have to remain wound-up in my own head, the better.

But perhaps most importantly: after watching Stranger Things – and really liking it, for the most part – I’ve finally had a nostalgia overload. I need something new. And if I can’t get it from the media around me, then I guess it’s gotta come from me directly. For the good of the world, goddammit. I’m sick of how obsessed people of my generation still seem to be with Harry Potter, not because Harry Potter doesn’t deserve to be remembered fondly, but because we need to believe that, amazing and formative of an emotional experience as it was, we can actually do better. We can make something new that is also good. We have to try. Everything good nowadays seems to be retro; everything that people are praising – and more importantly, making and marketing – reminds them of a simpler time. Stranger ThingsUptown Funk, every indie game made in the past 5 years … and obviously this reflects the things that I’m not aware of in the world as much as the things that I am aware of, but the fact remains that, in my personal experience, I’m getting nostalgic for the days when producing a perfectly authentic nostalgic experience was not the greatest achievement a creative person could attain, nor the best that people looking for creative works to enjoy could hope for.

And I’m starting to also recognise that a lot of what I’ve tried to do in terms of getting myself to write more frequently has also been an act of nostalgia. “Back when I first started writing, things were so much easier and I was so much more passionate”, blah blah blah. What worked about what I did “back in the day” was that everything was new, and I didn’t have eleven thousand unfinished projects to feel guilty about never finishing as an excuse to not write, or do anything else for that matter. What worked about what I did “back in the day” was that there was no “back in the day” to compare my current progress to. I just kept going forward, because everything was new.

Call it backlash, but I am really, really wanting something new right now. So I think that’s my next goal, writing-wise and everything else-wise, too. Destroying the cycle of anxiety-inducing overthinking by getting rid of clutter that keeps me anchored to the past, and just doing too many things to have time to over-think to begin with. It’s like facing your fears to overcome them, except instead of fear I’m confronting my overthinking and procrastination. Rather than walking into the dark basement that makes all the weird noises, I’m bum-rushing the seven hundredth mental replay of that conversation between those two characters, I don’t really know what they’re going to say yet but god it’s just going to be so good when I eventually get around to it. From this moment on, I’m on a mission to get my ideas out of my head as quickly and as often as possible so that I don’t have the opportunity to turn them into distractions.

I think that will feel good. But I’m going to try not to think about it too much.