Consistency

Me in 2012:

  • I’m learning so much by writing a novel, teaching myself how to do it by actually doing it instead of sitting around and thinking about it and keeping myself on-track with a wall planner that holds me accountable to my own self-directed goals as well as recording my progress and success rate as a source of instant encouragement! I never knew I could be this productive; Mum was right, I just needed some structure and discipline, it’s like fucking magic!
  • I’m really excited to see what the end product is like and I don’t care that it’s not a well-structured narrative because I’m just writing it as it comes to me and I’ll look at it later and make up my mind once it’s all put together! And maybe I’ll write three different endings just because I can! Anything goes and creativity is awesome!

Me in 2013:

  • This story is so fucking shitty the main character is literally just me with a girl’s name there is no story just copy-pasted angst from my real life it’s a fucking LiveJournal blog I’ve never even had a LiveJournal blog and I know that that’s exactly what this fucking is how did I physically endure the process of writing this how did my shame not devour me from the inside-out as I vomited this garbage from my brain-space into legible documents and how did I then SEND IT TO OTHER PEOPLE TO READ how did I not DIE FROM HUMILIATION AT MY OWN INADEQUACY WHY WAS I ALLOWED TO DO THIS
  • Fuck this shit I obviously need to stop writing and stop myself from making an even bigger mess of this big shitty fucking messfuck also I need to go and walk for 40 minutes every day because I’m fat and worthless hey that song is catchy how about I let my feelings about it dictate every single plot point of this new version of my novel which will be better and more coherent and have better structure it’s so obvious thank god I’m going to start writing again and make everything better
  • OH MY GOD I CAN’T WRITE ANYTHING I AM FAILURE INCARNATE HOW DARE I CALL MYSELF A WRITER WHERE IS MY DISCIPLINE WHY DIDN’T I HAVE STRICTER PARENTS OBVIOUSLY THIS IS ALL THEIR FAULT THAT MY IDEAS ALL SUCK AND I CAN’T FOCUS OR PLAN ANYTHING WHERE IS THAT SONG IT COMFORTS ME TIME TO FACECLAIM SOME ACTORS FOR MY CHARACTERS
  • Buuuuuut now that I actually sit down and read it through it’s really obvious what all of the problems are and holy shit that would solve everything perfectly if I just change this thing and move this bit over here and well look at that I actually have a solid plan that turns this pool of fetid precum into a somewhat coherent narrative good work me it’s only three quarters of the way through the year there’s still time to put some shit together good job
  • … wow, I actually did it. I was actually right. This did work better; this story does hold together better; sure there are still problems but, like, holy crap I just had to read it a few times and make basic summaries of what happened in each chapters and then copy-and-paste a whole bunch and it was just so easy, seriously maybe I can do this maybe I can actually be a writer! And the further along I get with this book the more excited I am to write my other books eventually, committing to a project and sticking to it literally just makes everything better and teaches you that your limits are actually way higher than you ever imagined; this is so great I love writing!

Me in 2014:

  • Now I’ll just read this manuscript a bunch of times to get nice and familiar with the structure and prepare for the next revision – and I have all of these exciting new scenes that could really bring it to life and add some extra dimension and depth; I’ll just write them down in documents so that I have them recorded but don’t commit myself to anything before I know the whole situation. Awesome! Also I like this Scrivener programme maybe I’ll use it to trace every single character’s character-arc through the story and isolate them and treat them each like stories of their own with proper character progression and three-act structure and Hero’s Journey this shit right the hell up. I guess I’ll have to take it easy once semester starts but this is great I’m feeling great, a little worried that I don’t know exactly what to focus on for this next revision but I’ll work it out, I’ve done it before I can do it again!
  • moving house is kinda exciting but also I’m useless and can’t turn in assignments on time but also I’m awesome and get stupidly high marks for these absurdly late assignments and therefore it all balances out guess I’m doing Honours but I feel really shitty because these were actually really interesting papers and I just didn’t care about anything oh well I was moving house and am also depressed and lonely so it’s not my fault though maybe I should go see a counselor as for working on that novel I’ve been trying to write for the last 2 years hahAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhAhhaaHAAHHAHAHAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaA
  • I hate this story. I hate it. It is literally the exact fucking story I didn’t want to write when I first started out; I wrote fucking documents dedicated to how much I did not want the story to go this way and then it FUCKING WENT THIS WAY what’s the fucking point, if I can’t even write my own goddamn story my own goddamn way, what is the point if I’ve spent all this time writing something I hate, I could reshuffle the events of this manuscript and keep working at it until it flows properly and yes a lot of it works better and the characters are evolving but I never actually experimented like I wanted to with the first draft, never explored all of my options and instead ended up with this mess and decided to work with it because at least it was written and therefore physically available to work with and now I just can’t fucking stand it even if I did polish it up and made it the most coherent narrative to ever exist I would still hate it because I hate this story, I hate that I wrote it, I hate that it’s not what I wanted to write, I hate the fact that I never had a clear plan for this story to begin with and I let myself try to write it anyway, I hate that that was the correct decision and it just turned out badly and that I spent all that fucking time and energy on something I HATE and I don’t know what to do anymore
  • I have never realised how angry writing makes me until now. How much I rely on it to solve all of my problems when it actually just makes those problems worse. How there are all of these things that I want to do with my life that I haven’t been letting myself try because I’m A Writer and also because I have no inherent worth as a human being and, just, wow I have problems, I need a break.
  • Shit. I need to stop writing. I need to stop writing. I need to stop doing the thing I’ve been making myself do for the past 15 years, because the only reason I did it was that I decided at age 13 that I was going to Be A Writer and let myself be ruled by that ever since. I need to take a break from Tallulah. A proper break, where I don’t even think about it much less write notes or try to continue revising it. I need to take a break from writing altogether. I need to stop, and find myself in whatever’s left.
  • … I’m not a writer. I’m just a person. And I’m finally letting myself be just a person. I’ve never felt this free, this liberated, this – I know this is shallow, but this young; I’ve spent so much of my life waiting to have an ephphany that would solve anything, so much time thinking about how when it finally happens it’ll be too late to fix so many things that went wrong, but now that it’s happened I’m not disappointed, I’m just happy, because I’ll have this knowledge for the rest of my life. I can’t go back now. I can’t fall back into the sad patterns of denial and desperation that I once lived in exclusively; I have learnt something, and that’s for life. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Me in 2015:

  • God I don’t want to write my novel again
  • God I want to write my novel again
  • God I want to do other things with my life than write
  • God I wish this blog were a little better-maintained and professional and actually about writing like it was supposed to be
  • God I need to stop playing fucking World of Warcraft there was a reason I quit in the first place try learning something for once brain for fuck’s sake
  • I’m gonna write a satirical political thriller with vampires
  • I’M GONNA WRITE MAGICAL PORN

*

That’s the best summary I can come up with of my writer’s journey over the course of this blog, up to the present date. I have no idea why so many of you still follow me. But thanks. I do appreciate it.

I predict that my violent swinging back and forth from one agenda to the next on a near-daily basis are not going to stop either, and I do apologise for that. I feel uncomfortable in the way I have turned my very understandable uncertainty into an exercise in polemics, the way I seem to be politicising my own inconsistency and making it seem worse than it really is. But the truth is that this is the strangest, most turbulent rut I’ve ever been stuck in, in life and in writing; I can’t seem to see ahead with anything I do or want to do, only the murky present moment, and as such it’s hard to try and make plans or lay down foundations for better things to come. Everything’s so up in the air and I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going to end up. Every time I change my mind lately, especially concerning writing, it’s a massive, extreme, paradigm-shifting upheaval, which I think is because I’m really kinda lost without having the objective of Being A Writer to guide me. I think that’s also why I’ve let myself fall back on it so much in the past week or so, because it’s always been a crutch when I needed it.

I guess what I can learn from this is that learning is a slow, repetitive, frustrating process, but you’ve still gotta do it. And it does work. And I did get some writing done today, and it did make me feel a bit more open and relaxed. I did feel more productive today than I have in a long time, and I’d like that to continue. I just have to learn that I don’t have to instantly channel it into writing. That can’t be the answer anymore.

I want to use it to plan, to be smart, to lay down some solid groundwork and start building up some resources I need. This blog is one of them; I want to use this as a planning-gym, only posting things that I’ve thought about and laid-out in order beforehand as much as possible. And my stories are another. I do still want to work on them and push them forward, and Tallulah is back at the top of the list, at least for now. I want a plan for it, and I know I can make one. I just have to not try and force it like I’m used to doing. I’ve got other things to do as well.

Like the reading response for tomorrow, which I also need to print out to bring to class. So I guess that’s my immediate plan.

One day. I’ll get there one day. And then keep on going.

The boys are back

NeW THING BEING WRITTEN OMG FLAKINESS MIND-CHANGING HYPOCRISy

And for the first time in a very long time, this story has a main character and supporting cast that is all-male.

Let me explain.

Not that this is a crime or anything but … anyway.

Once upon a time, I decided I was going to be a writer. So I wrote some shit.

Stories, to be exact.

And all the stories I wrote had male main characters, or a shared main character slot with both a male and female lead. Supporting characters tended to be mostly male, however, and this was for one very simple, very common reason: I felt incredibly anxious about my ability to write credible female characters – or, more accurately, my lack of said ability. After all, I am not and was not a female-identifying person; what did I, typical straight cisgender dude that I was/am, know about the experience of being a typical straight cisgender lady? (This was before I stopped being a homophobe and learnt about the gender binary and how it, much like the cake, is a lie. Now I have a whole spectrum of lived gender experience I feel too incompetent to write about well, and I suspect I am correct.)

It was this anxiety combined with a strange, uncharacteristic story-seed I cooked up one night, in my early 20’s, a story about a teenage half-selkie girl named Tallulah, that got me to challenge myself, push my limits and see just how much I was capable of doing beyond my comfort zone. It turned out to be the first novel I’ve ever gotten beyond the first draft stage with, getting all the way through a first revision. And while I spent all of last year trying and failing to build up steam again, I will come back to Tallulah, because goddammit I want it to work.

It took me two years to get that first draft and first revision written, and during that time my anxiety abated – not necessarily because I got any better at writing credible female characters (though feedback has been mostly very affirming, thank you test-readers), but because writing a novel for two fucking years gives you a lot to worry about. Yes, I was still anxious and self-conscious, and still am, but the fact is that the more you do something, the better you get at it. I got better at it. I got quite comfortable. Again, I’m not trying to suggest that this is a good thing, because I can only see this from my perspective and, well, I’m a dude. I’m just saying that my gender-perspective-writing panic pretty much flattened out, and I now have the confidence to write female characters and just trust that they’ll be okay. Not stellar, not insightful – acceptable. Tolerable. I can live with that; I want to get better but, let’s face it, tolerable is a step up from many male writers.

During that process, most of the stories I came up with featured female main characters. Perhaps it was my newfound confidence/lack of anxiety spurring me on; perhaps it was simply getting fed up with not seeing main characters in the media I was exposed to who were not men. Perhaps (most likely) both. But I veered away from male characters, sometimes intentionally changing the gender of established characters in story ideas that weren’t particularly well-developed and thus could stand the change, or that were stuck and needed something to get them moving again. And I liked those stories; I still like them, though they really do need work if they’re ever going to work as stories.

And during that process, when I started actively taking note of this new trend in my main character design preferences, I realised something startling.

I had lost whatever confidence I once had in my ability to write credible male characters.

I don’t think this is because I’ve lost touch with my masculinity or whatever; I’m already fairly deviant in terms of the hegemonic masculine ideal, but not enough to say I’m not, I dunno, “manly”. I’m somewhere on the Andrew Largeman side of the masculine divide. And no, I’m not happy about sharing any identity-space with Andrew Largeman, but that’s a story for another time.

What I think happened was that I stopped seeing “male” as “normal” – or, rather, I started seeing masculinity and “maleness”. I realised that masculine is a gender, really fully internalised that through forcing myself to explore my own assumptions about identity and normativity by writing female characters. Where once I found male characters easy to write, simply because there was so much variety already for me to choose from, I now realise that that very variety is kinda …

Wrong.

There are plenty of interesting male characters in media, but so many of them are compromised by dodgy (patriarchal) ideology in their design, their narrative themes, their character-arcs, and there is wish-fulfillment for a lot of these characters that ends up being disingenuous because it’s either a) unrealistic or b) presented as righteous and well-deserved when it really, really isn’t. That is the pool of “male experience” that I was drawing from, and I can’t go back to it now with a clear conscience, because fuck Andrew Largeman. It’s polluted and biased, and it’s taken me so long to realise just how bad it was.

And so in a sense I’m glad that I’m uncomfortable and uncertain to write male characters credibly, because it comes from realising that I’ve been fed bullshit my whole life – or, rather, that I’ve finally realised that I was unwittingly buying into the bullshit. Everybody thinks they’re above stereotypes and cliches; they’re unrealistic for a reason. But it’s one thing to see yourself as different, and another to see the world through a different lens than that of a stereotype that’s been drilled into you your whole life. I can’t see men as “people” anymore; now they’re men. And that’s fucking fantastic.

And gives me a really existential crisis when it comes to writing male characters – hence this current story I’m getting quite inspired to work on. I do absolutely feel the mugginess of the media atmosphere when all the leads and most of the support are dudes; it’s stifling and infuriating because it’s boring and iterative and just really uninteresting. It’s not something I want to contribute to. But for my own peace of mind, I want to know that I can write this thing. And I’m more than a little interested to see what I’ve learnt about what it means to be “a guy”. Hopefully more than Garden State had to offer.

I mean last semester I wrote a 6k-word essay on how horrible Garden State and its gender politics were, one would hope I took something away from that …

Buzzfed (inspired by the creepy mechanical buzzing noise coming from somewhere in the ceiling of the library while I try to study)

Surround sound, at the library’s topmost plateau, imperfectly-sealed windowpanes causing splitting and spraying to enclose me closely in the afterbirth of an onslaught of tidal soundwaves.

Wind … buzzing.

Buzzing?

That doesn’t sound right. Wind doesn’t buzz.

Buzzzzzzz

Okay, maybe it does.

But no. There must be a mechanical malfunction lending its voice to the discussion this afternoon. Some wind –

Buzzz …

… some wind must have been diverted through a broken fan or something. But why put fans on the outside of the building? Where would they blow to? Doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole purpose?

buzzzZZZZZzzzz …

Then again, if instead it is some sort of primal proto-windchime stuck in the guttering, through which the wind is so hideously fluttering – or tangled leaves muttering; a chainsaw spluttering.

A chainsaw in the roof of the library.

I mean I wouldn’t be surprised. Libraries are so good at containing; it makes sense that books would soon find tangential company for keeps.

Perhaps it’s a warning.

Not for me. Not for us.

There’s quite a few of us here.

What warning are we not receiving or meant to heed?

BUZZZZZZZzzz …

The suspense is killing me.

What’s out the window? Other than this noisome wind.

Trees, buildings, rooftops – the ocean past the quay, and heavy, misty clouds drooping above, on the very edge of spilling their guts back down into the murky green water that they were plucked from …

What’s that shadow?

buzZZZZ …

Not the clouds; it’s too cloudy for clouds to cast a shadow …

… it’s below the surface.

Perhaps it’s just a trench beneath the surface. Though I’m sure I would have noticed that before –

It’s moving.

BUZZZZZ –

Towards …

BING BONG

“Attention: the library will be closing in five minutes. A legion of Deep Ones will soon be arriving to assault the premises, devouring every living being inside for the glory of R’lyeh, where dead Cthulhu waits dreaming, and reducing what few survivors remain to gibbering imbeciles. Please check out any books you want to borrow at the main desk, and exit the building. Cthulhu fhtagn; have a nice day.”

… bummer.

I was so close to being ahead with readings.

Nah, I’ve got time to finish this tutorial worksheet …