Writing Reflex

In one of our earlier sessions, my therapist introduced me to the term “righting reflex”, which pertains to the urge some of us have (often coded as a “male” urge) to solve problems. A reflex that spurs us on to try and “right” a situation that we see as “wrong”. This is where you get those conversations where, to be super stereotypical, a woman is telling a man about something that’s been bothering her, and his response is to immediately start running through a “have you tried this” checklist. It’s great in situations where the problem is, uh, the problem – less so where the problem is that the person presenting it hasn’t had anyone to just hear them. And often they have tried X, Y and Z, too, so the checklist can become patronising as well as dismissive.

I bring this up because I finally finished Everything Is F*cked by Mark Manson, and while I think I got what I needed from it just slightly after the halfway point, it was a thought-provoking read all the way through. His thesis that treating people as ends in and of themselves, never just as means to an end – well, that’s the concept that ruined my Bad Guys momentum at the start of November, but right now it might just be the concept that helps me get back on-track.

Because it has helped me to more clearly recognise that my “righting reflex”, when it comes to my writing, tends to be treating myself as a means to the end of “getting writing done”. And this dynamic is at the heart of everything that is wrong and ineffective about my attempts to get myself to write, in all their various incarnations. I’ve said before that I feel uneasy trying to manipulate myself into writing, and now I better understand why.

But the key question is, now that I do know this: does this actually improve my writing habits?

Well, I don’t know. On the one hand, I do think that not being a manipulative asshole to myself is a better writing habit than being a manipulative asshole to myself. On the other hand, just being nicer to myself doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be doing more writing. But, that’s not the point, is it? If I’m only being nice to myself in order to make myself write more, that’s just more manipulation, treating myself as a means to an end, and that’s defeating the purpose of this whole taking-therapy-seriously thing. I’m supposed to be nice to myself for its own sake.

And therein lies this potential solution! Because what’s behind this drive to always be writing? Well, it’s to produce the stories that I care about telling, to get them out of my head and into the world. The problem is that, when I set out to write these ideas, often I end up “tripping up” – I’ve recently identified this as being the inevitable result of working with ideas that I haven’t tried out yet and having to wing a lot of it, which is fair enough; but when it comes to having an awesome idea that you want to get down in writing, there is nothing more hype-killing than watching said writing go completely wrong as you write it. It’s not just that it’s going wrong: it’s that you’re the one making it go wrong. Hope turns to despair, and it becomes very easy to not only give up on yourself in that moment, but in future moments when the writing-bug bites you and demands that you scratch the itch it leaves you with.

This, I now realise, is what’s behind every regret I’ve ever had at feeling inspired to write but “sitting on it” and not following through with the feeling: the assumption that I’ll mess it up. I’ve assumed in turn that, in order to counter this regret, I need to develop a habit of pouncing on these moments of inspiration when they come and throw caution and fear to the wind. I think I’ve been right to assume that … to a point. Because there’s another side to the fear that keeps me from following through, and that is the hope that I have for what I’m going to achieve by doing the writing I feel like doing. And, very frustratingly, it is hope, even more than fear, that has been letting me down.

Or that’s my thesis at the moment and here’s why:

Hope is sort of the cornerstone of Mark Manson’s thesis in Everything Is F*cked, specifically how, according to him, the things in which we often invest our hope are doomed to failure. He has many things to say on the subject and I’m not going to try to cover them all here, so instead I’ll try to sum it up in a context-specific example: in these moments of inspiration, I’m hoping that when I sit down to write out an awesome idea I’ve had, I’ll be achieving the feeling of satisfaction and gratification that comes from having the idea itself. In short, what I’m hoping for is not really that I’ll get the idea “right”, it’s that I’ll receive instant gratification as a reward for doing this writing. I’ll be rewarded for my writing with something that isn’t the writing itself, but a feeling about the writing.

In essence, I’m hoping that my writing will be the means by which the ends of instant gratification are met.

And for those of you who are fellow writers, you know as well as if not better than I do that, by and large, writing is a terrible method for achieving instant gratification.

So what has been happening to me all this time is that 1) I’ve been doing less writing than I might have been if I knew all of this before now, and 2) I’ve been doing less writing for the wrong reasons. If it was just that I was bad at words or something, then that would be a straightforward (if infuriating) problem that I could address. But because it’s a bunch of psychoemotional crap that I couldn’t parse on my own, well, it didn’t get addressed.

Until now! I hope. And speaking of hope: look, I’m not trying to sell this book to you or anything, but while I am certainly wary of being too excited about the solutions it offers, I would be lying if I said they didn’t make sense – at least enough sense to try out with something relatively “safe”, such as writing.

On the subject of hope, Manson basically argues that hope is what causes us to treat people – both ourselves and others – as means to ends. We are nice to certain people, do things for them, put ourselves at their disposal, in the hope that they will reciprocate in a way that we want. Classic stereotypical example: the “nice guy” who makes himself friendly and available to a girl he’s interested in in the hopes that, eventually, she’s going to realise that what she’s looking for has been here the whole time and will want to “upgrade” their relationship status from platonic to romantic/sexual. It’s not just that this manipulative, deceptive behaviour is despicable because of the emotional harm it can cause (which is plenty good enough of a reason to condemn such behaviour, to be sure), but is also despicable in and of itself because it is a way of reducing another person to a means to an end, rather than treating them always as an end in and of themselves. And while this isn’t a specific example that Manson uses (he does give a fairly similar one involving a married couple), the gist of his message with Everything Is F*cked is that it is not fear, but hope that serves as the justification for people to treat each other – and themselves – in such manipulative ways. Obviously there’s more than one way to interpret this: you could say that it’s fear and wanting to keep other people at a safe emotional distance from us that leads us to treat them like objects rather than subjects; maybe hope-bashing just isn’t your thing and, hey, fair enough – bur for my purposes, this way of thinking about hope has helped me to get a grip on this specific problem of mine: what I hope to get out of writing, and why I never seem to actually get it.

Well, not never, but nowhere near as much as I set myself up to expect. And that’s the problem, because every time I set up those hopes only to see them dashed by my own efforts to achieve it, it perpetuates a pattern – and expectation – of failure that I associate with my efforts to write. And, as a self-proclaimed writer, this is not ideal.

So you can see what the solution is, right?

Rather than hoping that my writing will prove the successful means to some tangentially-related end …

I have to place my hope in writing for its own sake.

And “have to” is very harsh wording, and I’ve also had this brainwave about being hard on myself (the most common observation that my therapist makes about me during our sessions) and how I really don’t have to be such a harsh taskmaster and, hey, it’s all connected. But one step at a time – and this step I’m quite excited to take.

Hopeful, you could say.

Which is actually very scary, and now that I have a new insight into the “mechanics” of hope – or hoping, I guess, is a more accurate way to talk about it – I’m very wary and skittish about all of this … but I also think this makes sense. Writing for its own sake. Not as in “don’t ever feel excited about what I could achieve with my writing”, but as in as far as my hopes are concerned, keeping them focused on the writing itself.

Because, like, I like writing. It’s enjoyable. It’s an awesome feeling to be In The Zone with writing, regardless whatever it is that I’m actually writing – the proof of that is in the fact that both Wolf Gang and Bad Guys were really satisfying to be writing, even though when I went back and read them they were not, content-wise, particularly “good”. And no, it’s not always a natural high, but that’s fine – my hope is for writing, not good writing, or even fun writing. Not to exclude those things, but to include the possibility for really shit writing, dull writing, writing that is an absolute slog to get through – because that’s all real. That’s all part of the process. It really just depends, and if there’s a way to predict what experience of writing I’m going to have in any given session, it’s a skill I don’t have. Though thinking about it, I don’t know that I’d actually want that skill if I could have it.

So, that’s that. I’ve spelled out my thoughts about how I’m going to make future writing attempts. Rather than trying to “correct” my “bad” writing habits, my “lack” of motivation or whatever, I’m going to try placing my hopes somewhere not just “practical”, in terms of “not getting my hopes up” or whatever – but exactly where all the rest of my attention is going anyway. It just makes sense.

And hey – if this transforms me into the Ubermensch, all the better. But that’s not the point. The point is that, as far as I can figure, it’s the right thing to do, something worth doing for its own sake. So I guess there’s only one question left …

Is writing the right thing to do?

And answering that question – that’s writing. The process, the discipline the way of life; answering that question, differently in different situations, is writing. Is this new, enlightened, means-in-and-of-themselves way of thinking to to cause me to suddenly become more productive than I’ve ever been? Well, if I’m right about all of these assumptions and theories, then it’ll at the very least eliminate a lot of the toxic garbage habits that stop me from writing a lot of the time, and therefore it stands to reason that I will get more writing done. But how much writing?

The thing is, again, it’s not the point. And this is still pretty shaky for me, because this is a very radical break from the mentality about writing that I’ve sustained and maintained faithfully for almost two decades – and not just about writing.

But if it works with writing?

Well, let’s find out. I haven’t written anything besides this blog post this week, but I’ve got a writing session with my co-writing friend in the morning, and I plan to stress-test this theory then. I have some stuff that I’m excited to write, that I hope I’ll “get right”. I’m going to try taking that enthusiasm and keeping it to serve as a compass to direct my writing, to take it as the sign that, yes, writing is the Right Thing To Do (in this instance), while fueling the writing with … well, writing. For its own sake, whether what I end up writing is “right” or not. Will it work? Will my “righting reflex” be “cured” with this revolutionary new treatment that I found in a totally-not-a-self-help-book that I paid actual money for and am therefore statistically likely to have an unwarranted level of emotional investment in? Will I go even further beyond and become the uberest mensch to ever transcend humanity’s need for emotional validation?

Here’s hoping.

Flex Zone

Today is the first day of Camp Nanowrimo for July 2019, and I am already way behind where I want to be with my writing.

Still, writing block happens, and sometimes it’s not a lack of enthusiasm but the interruptions that come just from living life, little bumps and hiccups, twists and turns that we’re not expecting that throw us off-course regardless of our plans or intentions, yeah something weird happened today and I don’t feel as hyped up to write as I did about an hour ago – but, that’s life, and I’m here to write.

As I have said and experienced multiple times, a one-size-fits-all strategy for getting writing done simply doesn’t work for me, and I’m beginning to see how maybe I’m not even a little bit alone in that regard. Having options is good; being flexible increases one’s resilience, and resilience is definitely something I’m going to need to achieve my Camp Nano goals. So, here is a list of the strategies I have currently identified as being potentially helpful, based on past experience, in getting me through writer’s block, whatever it’s source. I hope you find them helpful, and to that end I may as well start with the best one I’ve found so far.

Writing Buddies

I thought I came up with this idea all on my own – and to be fair, I did, but I’m not the only person who got the bright idea to write in company. And, I mean, that’s basically it: find another person or a couple of people who are looking to get some words down in writing, make a time to meet up, and then write your stuff together. It’s not a critique group, it’s not a competition; it’s moral support and company for an undertaking that can be very isolating and lonely. Do it. It works. End of story.

Well, sort of. Like anything where other people are involved, it can be very easy to get sidetracked, even with the best of intentions and most steadfast self-control (which I don’t have). Therefore, it’s good to have something – or things – to fall back on when it looks like you’re getting off-track.

Windows Method

The Windows Method is one that I’ve talked about a bit before on this blog, and while I’m not at all sure that I’ve coined this phrase I haven’t heard it used anywhere else, so I’m definitely all right with taking the credit.

The general idea is very simple: you give yourself a window of opportunity in which X thing can be done – and outside of that window, it can’t. In terms of writing, this goes something like “Between 2 and 6 PM I can work on X writing project; before and after that window of time I must not work on X writing project”. This does two things: it establishes clear boundaries on your time and how you spend it, and it it gives you a time-crunch.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Windows Method is, at best, what scientists like to call “iffy”. But as time goes on I have kept working on it, and recently I’ve realised that it’s the length of time I’m giving myself that’s the problem. Hours-long windows are too long; it’s too easy to fall into the trap of procrastinating for the majority of your window so that, when it comes down to the last little bit, you tell yourself “well there’s basically no point now, I might as well not even bother”, and nothing gets done. So, for Camp Nanowrimo, I’m going to be putting a very strict, very short limit on the size of my windows, as in no longer than 15 minutes at a time (and probably much shorter than that anyway).

This brings me to the second method, which requires a partner but also sounds quite fun:

Word Sprinting

This is definitely not an original method of my own creation, and in fact I had to look it up to understand exactly what it means, after seeing the phrase used a few times (usually in connection to Nanowrimo events). The idea is similar to the Windows Method in that you set out to write for a set amount of time – however, in a Word Sprint, you are competing against another writer, or even competing in a group of writers, to see who can write the most words within the time-limit. I’m sort of a competitive person, but I have definitely had some not-great experiences with people who take competition a little too seriously. Nevertheless, with the right group of people any kind of activity can be fun and fulfilling, and this sounds like something I’d be keen to try out this Nano.

Everything’s Fine Method

I don’t know that this deserves to be called a “method”, per say, but the idea is what it says on the tin: when the going gets tough, sweep that shit under the rug (for now). For me, this pragmatic tactic became part of my repertoire while writing Wolf Gang, when I got to a part of the story that I found dull, boring, necessary but utterly uninspiring.

So I skipped it, and wrote the rest of the story first.

For anyone who’s been following this blog since those days, you will know that this did not come without downsides: it took me another year to finish that dull, boring, necessary but uninspiring part of the book, and it almost killed the project dead. But in terms of keeping up the momentum that I had, it was crucial to keeping the project going. This is a strategy to definitely use with caution, but a valuable one nonetheless – just remember, you will have to deal with all of that unpleasant writing at some point if you want your project to, like, exist in a completed form. But it could be that taking the easy way out is exactly what your project needs in the moment, and we should not be afraid to do just that.

As for the stuff we’re sweeping under the rug: take notes. Why is it unpleasant? What’s difficult/confronting/irritating about it that is causing such aversion to writing it? Make honest notes about these things, and put them aside somewhere that you can easily access them. It gives you the opportunity to come back to the problem when you’ve gotten some distance and have a fresh perspective – and it could well be that, through allowing yourself to just stick to the stuff that you like, you might come up with a solution to whatever the problem is. Positivity begets positivity.

Turn-About Method

Here’s one that’s definitely a work in progress for me in terms of practice, but the idea is one that appeals to me deeply: set a (manageable) number of specific, manageable, achievable, realistic, and timely goals, some of which are writing-related, and some of which are not. Then, alternate between them throughout the day.

This is definitely one to keep in the back pocket as far as I’m concerned, not something I’d use as a solid foundation for a daily routine – but certainly useful in those situations where I want but don’t necessarily need a break from writing. It’s basically a compromise system, where you get to make sure you’re sticking to your writing commitments while also getting what you need and want out of life beyond just sitting in front of a computer and typing for hours on end. And on a macro scale, that’s how writing should be anyway – this is just taking that guiding principle of work-life balance and condensing it into the activities of a single day.

All In Method

On the other hand, sometimes the way you get things done is to go to the extreme. This isn’t really a “method” so much as a fairly common tactic that people just intuitively employ, which is just to devote yourself to Getting Shit Done.

In this case, I have the most experience with this “method” from my academic life, both last year as a way of coping with the massive almost-panic-attack I had when I fell way behind with marking the comics paper, and during my masters degree when I had a lot of shit to get done. And it’s incredibly simple: you aren’t doing anything else today except for X thing – in this case, writing my goddamn book.

This is also why it often doesn’t work: it’s bleak. On the face of it, this is a horrible experience to put yourself through, especially if you’re at a low point in your writing enthusiasm and nothing could be more off-putting than the prospect of losing an entire day to running around in circles getting nowhere with your project while feeling increasingly guilty as time goes by and writing continues to not get done. It’s another back-pocket strategy, an emergency button that I’ve found most useful in periods of extreme enthusiasm (in which case I want to make the most of that enthusiasm), or periods of extreme reluctance (in which case I want to kick my ass into gear and get out of whatever rut I’m stuck in). It works because, as soon as you make the decision to sacrifice every other want and desire you could potentially follow through on that day, it’s incredibly freeing, even empowering, to have a single, clear goal to put all of your energy towards – for today.

And to be real, this isn’t a strict thing like the Windows Method or a word sprint; this is all about attitude. If we’re talking about SMART goals, this one is pretty much the antithesis of it; you’re going to burn out, especially if you try to do it over a prolonged period of time. Never mind that people might sometimes need to take breaks, eat, sleep, maybe experience human contact, that sort of thing. And that’s good. That’s healthy. This “method” doesn’t “fail” if you do any of those things; it succeeds when you get the kick that you need out of clearing the path before you, making the sacrifice of your free time for the sake of achieving an ambition of yours, and making a commitment to yourself that you care about keeping. It’s actually not about being hard on yourself, nor is it about literally doing nothing but writing for a whole day; it’s about giving yourself the benefit of the doubt, being your own cheerleader, and embracing your own willingness to make some sacrifices in the short-term to achieve your long-term goals. It’s about building a good-faith relationship with yourself that you can fall back on when times get tough, and build on with more good, self-empowering habits.


And, at the other extreme: sometimes you just have to call it a day and do something other than write.

This is a hard one for a lot of writers, myself definitely included, because of the guilt that comes from not writing or being in a constant state of concern over whether or not writing is getting done. But we need breaks; we need to look after ourselves, and taking breaks is part of doing that successfully.

There is always the issue of taking too long of a break, and that’s what these other methods are here to try and counter – at least that’s my plan. I know I tend to take whatever I can get when it comes to avoidant behaviour, and that it’s definitely not good for me. But that doesn’t mean that taking breaks is wrong; it just means that I need to get better at taking meaningful time out that actually benefits me, lets me regroup and recharge so that I can come back to writing feeling refreshed and eager. And I think a big part of that is just making sure that you have a surefire way to get back on the wagon, because once you’re off it can be very tempting to stay off. And sometimes that is the right decision, but I think we all know when we’ve gone from recuperating to procrastinating – and that’s when strategies for getting yourself to write come into play.

That’s All (for now)

These are the ways of managing my writing time and energy that I’ve come up with over the past 19 years. Yeah, I thought I might have a few more by now, too. But hey, gotta start somewhere; and I’m looking forward to putting them to the test this Camp Nano, and finding more useful methods for staying on-target going forward.

How about you? What are some writing strategies that you’ve found useful? What makes them work? What are their shortcomings? I think the last time I explicitly asked for any kind of response to a blog post of mine was like a year ago because I am definitely not a Blogger, but I would genuinely be interested to hear other perspectives on this topic. It’s the bread and butter of how us writers do what we do, and having or not having the motivation to write is such a weird, existential, neurotic process sometimes, and I think keeping it to ourselves can make it even more difficult to deal with than it already is.

In any case, I hope something here has been helpful or made you think; good writing to you all – and for those of you participating in Camp Nano this year: good luck!

Weekly Words 11-17/03/2019



Having impulsively decided that I am now going to arrange my weekly activities through process of alliteration, this day became my first Mark and Jessie Monday.

My outrage continues.

However, reading back over my outraged revision notes has been quite hilarious and uplifting, and the one character in the manuscript who actually – kind of – works continues to give me hope that this project can be more than just salvaged. It’s important to be kind to ourselves when referring back to our earlier works, and I do think that perhaps I have been a tad harsh on my younger self – not only could I stand to be nicer to myself in general, but I realise now that it is actually the main reason for why these revision notes have down-spiraled into rage-ranting and are becoming increasingly unhelpful for the revision process. So I’m going to try. I do care about this story, I do want it to be written one day, and I think it can be done. For the sake of all these hopes that I have, I need to have a revision process that actually works, and currently that’s not what I’ve got. Better late than never, right?

Also tomorrow is Tallulah Tuesday, so looking forward to seeing how I react to that experience.



“Experience” is maybe a strong word …

I mean, I looked at the PDF document of the latest manuscript, which I created back in 2017. I actually have a revision plan written down that I can just follow. This project is kind of ready to roll.

But it’s making me think of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which is 1) a fantastic book, and 2) an idea that he’d had for over 20 years before he finally put it out into the world. According to an interview that I can’t find, he explained it as having the idea but wanting/having to work on other things first, and this turning into waiting until he was a good enough writer to do the book justice, and then 20 years passed and he felt like he wasn’t getting any better so he might as well just write the damn thing.

That 20 years hasn’t happened for me with Tallulah, but it’s how I’m feeling about it: I don’t think I’m a good enough writer to tell the story properly. More to the point, I don’t think I’m an experienced enough person to tell this story properly. But I also know that I have a bad habit of looking for excuses to avoid things that confront me, and I know that this is probably one of those excuses.

There is also the less-excusey factor of feeling like I’ve outgrown this particular version of the story, which I talked about during my last round of attempted revisions. Similarly to Mark and Jessie, I wrote Tallulah when I was basically a different person – or, if not basically a different person, a very different writer. My style has changed; my tastes have changed. I still like the story hook and the general feeling that comes to me when I envision it, and Tallulah herself. But this isn’t a story I would try to tell now, and while I’m remembering that this was actually part of the appeal when I set out to write it in 2012, it seems like a sort of unnecessary challenge to try and meet now. I think it did me a lot of good, pushing myself to try something I wasn’t at all comfortable with, and I learnt so many valuable lessons about who I am as a writer and what I’m capable of …

But yeah, any version of this story that gets told has to be told by me as I am when I tell it. I’ve told the version of Tallulah that I could when I was 25 years old. I’m 32 now. Well, this April. Dear god why. My point is that even if I wanted to (and I don’t), I couldn’t re-create the mindset or re-invest in the specific intrigue or excitement that I had when faced with the prospect of telling this story the first time. I can’t re-create the same working conditions, and while I could just take the manuscript and do the whole workhorse thing and work with what I’ve got, in terms of having something to submit to agents by the start of next year, I would honestly rather submit something else. It doesn’t feel like it represents me as a writer anymore; even if it did get picked up and was really successful or whatever – like, no, I wouldn’t complain about it if it made me a ton of money, obviously, but there would be the regret that this story would be what people expect of me for the next one.

Which sort of brings me to Werewolf Wednesday, which is actually meant to be me reading through the various and sundry werewolf-related books I got myself last Christmas in anticipation of submitting a PhD proposal – but I should probably actually read them first and see if this is a PhD topic I actually want to commit to. Also, my alliteration-themed weekly schedule has left me no place to fit in my own werewolf project, a zero draft of which is currently in existence, just waiting to be worked on, so that’s something I need to fix. I’ll try and do both, I think.

I mean I guess I’ll just have to try and do both. It’s not like I have anything else that I want to do tomorrow. And I have to return a library book, so that actually gives me a natural break between one and the other …


Writing (48)

I did say I wanted to make myself write 1 word every day in one of my projects, and I’m glad that I’ve stuck to that; I’m am annoyed that today it meant I had to break my “no media after 10pm” self-imposed curfew, but hey, 10:30 isn’t too bad.

I definitely need to start writing earlier in the day, though, if I’m going to do it. I used to be great at night-writing; honestly without this self-imposed curfew I still could be, but I think going screen-less after 10pm has been good for me – as long as I actually stick to it, which I did not last night and I felt it this morning when I woke up, because it was the afternoon, not the morning.


So not a lot of writing done today, except for writing that does not count. I almost want to put it in brackets or something, because it is what I spent the majority of today doing, soothing my persistently frayed geek-nerves.

I also did some geeky reading of werewolf academia, and it’s pretty intriguing, I must admit – though much more interesting to me as a storyteller than an academic as the moment. I might have to go back and watch the entirety of Teen Wolf for the, what, fourth time? But with these new ideas kicking around I should see if there’s any new spark of scholarly intrigue waiting to ignite.

Otherwise I guess I just have some inspiration for my shitty YA werewolf book series, it’s a series now, and hey, I do want to have a submission-ready manuscript by December 24 this year …

Though not quite enough to actually do any work on it today. I guess I’m still allowed to work on my various projects during the days when it’s not alliteration-based … well, regardless, I think I could chew through this werewolf book pretty quickly if I wanted to. I kind of do.

And I think this plan of mine, for the three days that it’s been put into practice, is actually working pretty well for what I want to accomplish: a nice, slow, low-impact easing-back-in to my habit of regular writing, and writing-related activity.


Writing (1534)

Holy Prequel Cash-In Batman!

I have decided 2 things today. The first: I need to finally write the chapter 0.5 novella tie-in for my shitty YA werewolf novel. I hate it when other authors do it, so naturally I feel indecent with excitement at the prospect of doing it myself. Also in this case it’s the sort of novella I’d actually be interested in reading if I was a fan of this series, which honestly I don’t think I would be – not yet, anyway.

Which brings me to decision the second, sort of: Wolf Gang is, indeed, going to be Worked On this year. I have also subsequently decided that my alliterative weekly writing plan is ingenious but imperfect, and will be implementing the first revision of the formula starting next week: Werewolf Wednesdays will be devoted to Wolf Gang revision stuff, while Theory Thursdays will be devoted to poring through my tomes of lycanthropic lore, potentially in preparation for submitting a PhD proposal at some stage, but first and foremost because I am a werewolf geek and yet do not know literally all the things about my chosen cultural fetish, and this must be rectified.

What was Thursday going to be originally, you ask?


“Thirsty Thursdays”, if you must know.

I mean, hey, it’s part of the writer’s craft, being able to write a sex/makeout scene here or there; it’s certainly not important for every story to have such a scene or scenes, but when it’s called for … well, I’d like to think that I know at least a bit of what to do and how to do it in those situations, and then it was Thursday and I chickened out and also legitimately realised that I actually do kind of want to see if Wolf Gang will go somewhere but yes it totally served as a very convenient and timely excuse to just not have to make myself try and write things that I feel extraordinarily underqualified to write.

But, then again, pushing myself out of my writing comfort zone has, to memory, always worked out well for me. So …

Whatever, two days a week I will be a werewolf geek, that sounds like a plan to me.


I went for a walk today, because I thought I should. I saw something on the news about a shooting in Christchurch. I put it out of my mind, because in the moment I was intent on going for a walk, after agonising about not doing enough exercise, enough life management, enough anything that I say I want to get done with my life.

Only when I got home from the walk and saw that it was still on the news, only when my parents drew my attention to it by asking “have you seen this” did I realise that something had actually happened. I remembered that I have friends and family in Christchurch (safe, thankfully), and I realised that something horrific had happened in the country where I live. I don’t feel terrified. I don’t feel panicked. I feel a little bit sick, and sad, and angry. And yes, a bit scared, because somebody just killed 40 people in broad daylight in the middle of the third-largest city in the country. But mostly I just feel numb. I can feel myself shutting down, shutting everything out. Looking for distractions I still haven’t fixed the 5E ranger. I started a Critical Role re-watch the other night; I might as well continue. Hey, Arkham Knight might be fun, I did buy it so I may as well get my money’s worth. I have so much that I want to get off my chest, and so much of it delves into topics that I feel strongly about and yet also feel sorely uneducated about. But more than that, I can feel so vividly the fact that I don’t own any of my beliefs and convictions. I don’t own what I know. I don’t own what I care about. I want the world to be better. I want the people who survived this horror to be cared for and welcomed and helped to find the peace and justice that they deserve. I want to know that something is going to shift in the world, and that it will start getting better and not stop. But I don’t know what to do to help, and I’m too scared to think of a solution. I feel so spent every moment of my life; I feel like I barely have anything for myself, let alone anyone else. And I feel nobody would want it from me if I knew what to offer, either.

I think that it’s time to try to find a way to stop thinking and feeling and acting like a victim.

We are all victims of something. It may be relatively mild; it may be a trauma that shakes our identity to its core and comes to define us in ways that makes us unable to stand ourselves. It may be both, and more. We can’t undo what has been done. But we can make what is to come better than it has been. And yes, that does mean that we have to give something of ourselves to make it happen.

This is what I expect, morally from the rest of the world. This is what I demand.

I feel it’s time that I learnt how to do it myself.


I saw Captain Marvel today. I liked it. I like Brie Larson a lot; I feel like I’ve seen her in something before, but I haven’t seen Room and I honestly haven’t seen many non-superhero movies in the past couple of years so I can’t think of what it would be. But she killed it. To be honest I think she’s probably the best female superhero we’ve had so far, in terms of writing as well as the performance. Don’t get me wrong, Wondy is still my #1 – but the movie, which I also enjoyed, definitely left some things to be desired. Captain Marvel isn’t a brilliant film by any means, but it’s pretty solid, has more energy and verve than I’ve had the heart to hope for in a superhero film in a long time, and again, Larson kills it, takes what she has to work with (which, while certainly not bad, isn’t exactly ground-breaking) and infuses it with natural charisma and commitment. If she is Marvel’s replacement for Iron Man when the time inevitably comes for the Avengers to elect a new face, I’m all for it.

Also, by the way, the rest of the cast was great too; I very much appreciated that there was no generic, distracting love-interest subplot to drag things down – it’s fine in Wonder Woman, and it’s a tribute to the original blah blah blah, but they also had Ares from a decidedly post-Marston era of the character, in which Wondy was not even in a relationship with Steve Rogers – I mean Trevor – I’m saying the picked the wrong cherry in that regard. Perhaps because Carol Danvers is comparatively unknown to a wider filmgoing audience, the filmmakers felt like they had the opportunity to take a bit more of an original approach to telling her origin story. She has a very enjoyable buddy-cop dynamic with Nick Fury, in which there is no underlying sexual tension or anything romantic at all and, like, yes, it can be fucking done, remember this Hollywood; her humanising influence is her best buddy Maria, a fellow airforce pilot, and Maria’s daugher, who Carol lovingly refers to as “Lieutenant Trouble”, and while I think Maria definitely could have had a bigger and better-developed role, it was still very welcome seeing that Carol’s central emotional bond was with another woman instead of a dude (I mean arguably Fury, they’re definitely tight by the end of the film, but I’m leaning towards Maria). Also, Ben Mendelsohn and Annette Bening in the same film. This pleases me.

However – I am really over action scenes right now. It’s a shame, too, because good action scenes are … well, they’re good. As my brother put it as we were coming out of the theatre, there’s just no narrative to the fight scenes. Nothing feels like it’s at stake; you’re not really following any kind of emotional thread; it’s just two or more semi-CGI’d figures trading blows with flashy yet often lazy choreography. It’s either a curbstomp or a glorified arm-wrestling match. This wasn’t always the case, either; true, Marvel films have been criticised many times over the years for dropping the ball with their climactic hero-villain fight scenes, and I’m definitely one of the critics. But ever since The Winter Soldier, they seem to have put more effort into making the fights “cooler” – but to be honest, that was never really the problem. Okay, to be fair, that was part of the problem, but the part of the problem that remains unsolved is that, again, they just don’t feel like they matter. It’s a fight, someone wins, the end. Star Wars

No, okay, this rant has gone on long enough. Go see Captain Marvel if you haven’t, enjoy it’s great ’90s classic soundtrack among its list of other good features …

And be safe. For yourself, and others.

Weekly Total

Writing (4566)

It’s been a week.

As a wise man once said, I have things I must see to. They are things that have needed seeing to for a very long time, too long. And, well, I feel like I’m out of excuses. Not in a guilt-trip kind of way, though: I just … need to get this shit done. And I feel like I’m on the verge of becoming a better writer than I ever have before.

Take care of yourselves, and let’s take care of each other, too. I’m fucking sick of apathy and “it’s just a joke” and all this other hate-enabling cowardice, especially when it comes from myself. It’s clear that I need help in learning to overcome it. So, I’d better go get it.

Nah, No WriMo (this time)

One aspect of Weekly Words has been the opportunity for me to gauge my writing productivity. Obviously. I have a weekly-word count and everything. But the reason I thought this could be a good thing initially was doing Nanowrimo. Nanowrimo is, as far as I am concerned, a wonderful invention that any writer who wants to test their productivity and self-discipline – or just wants to get some damn writing done – should try at least once.

To be honest, though, it’s never really worked for me as a source of motivation. It’s worked for me as a tool for organising my motivation into achievable, measurable goals, but that’s assuming I am already motivated to do some writing in the first place. Nanowrimo itself has never instilled within me a sense of urgency or purpose – I’m not saying that it’s supposed to, or fails as an experiment because it doesn’t, just noting that, without that motivation, Nanowrimo has never helped me to be more productive than I would have been without it.

And yet.

Every time Nano or Camp Nano rolls around, I totally buy into the fantasy – this time, I’ll get my shit together, power through a month of hard-core, intensive, hyper-competent-author writing, and have something to show for it at the end. This time, I will get an entire first draft done in a month. And every time, what stops me from doing this boils down to one simple question.

An entire first draft of what?

I love the fantasy of having a project I’m so over the moon about that I can’t wait to write it every day. I’m pretty sure I’ve only had that experience five times in my life – I can literally count them all on one hand. It may be that this goal is far too idealistic. But even then, there’s nothing that I actually want to devote that much time to writing. I have no passion project, no burning curiosity to explore, no experiments just bursting to be conducted – I’m out of juice, and Nanowrimo seems like the kind of undertaking that requires a lot of juice, because that is a pretty tall order to fill.

And in fact, that’s probably the main issue – it’s not so much that I don’t have anything I’m interested in writing at all. It’s that I see the 50k word-count goal and think: I do not have the energy to hit that target. I may be perfectly wiling to try out certain projects that I’m less-than-certain about, but not with that level of commitment. The issue with Nanowrimo is that it’s very all or nothing, and if you decide that the project you’re working on isn’t working out halfway through the month you’ve just wasted however many thousands of words of effort in terms of hitting the Nanowrimo quota. I suppose the idea is that you make yourself commit to it anyway, which is not a bad thing, but it’s also not necessarily a realistic thing – for me, anyway, not in the place that I’m at with my projects. Again, if you have the motivation, I think Nano is a great way to channel your energy productively.

But without it, I think there are more productive things that can be done.

For me, that’s been Weekly Words. The weekly word-count goal was something I had to get used to easing up on, not be so pedantic about – it’s good to have the motivation and sense of urgency and I do think I will try harder to reach that 10k/week average going forward, but I’m also glad that I was able to take a step back and have it as an ideal, rather than a bare minimum standard of productivity or success. And the fact that it’s not any one project that can count towards those 10k words is also very liberating. I think, having opened it up so much, I should definitely take advantage of it – more so than I have been doing. I think that’s partly the week-to-week mentality being quite restrictive in its own way, and reminds me that setting longer-term goals – goals over a month, or even a year – is something I have said numerous times I would try to do more consistently, to alleviate some of the pressure and hopefully make it more likely that balls actually get started rolling.

But overall, lacking the motivation to commit to any one single project, Weekly Words has given me a way to measure my productivity and, importantly, commitment as a writer without having to put all of my eggs in one basket. I used to spend a lot of time agonising over the fact that I wasn’t writing – which I still do, though a bit less so since starting Weekly Words – but more than that, I now realise, I agonised over the fact that I wasn’t working on a specific project. I measured my success and progress as a writer in terms of whether or not project X was getting any attention, and Nanowrimo only exaccerbates that kind of judgmental tunnel-vision for me – there are so many other ways to measure one’s writing capacity than judging based on how much we work on any one single project. I mean, we’re writers. Most of us have a few irons in the fire at any given time, whether we want to admit it or not, and while I think Nanowrimo has many strengths, accounting for that reality is not one of them. And that is reality for me right now.

For anyone who is doing Camp Nano this July – best of luck! Write hard, practice good self-care and, above all, honour the promises that you make to yourself (as long as they are healthy and achievable). As for me, I will wait until the day that I do have that one perfect project that I can’t keep myself from writing to take advantage of what I think Nano has to offer. For now, though, I have too many options to play with right now for me to want to pick any one of them over any of the others – so, I won’t. I don’t need to. I’ve got time, and I’ve got a system that seems to work pretty well for how I want to spend it, even if I do constantly wish I took more advantage of it. But I think it’s going pretty well.

Although having said that, if I was in the position to be revising Mark and Jessie by now, my perspective might have been a little different, so come November this year … watch this space.


I’m calling it.

I already called it, last time, but there was still about a week to go at that point. Now there’s today and tomorrow, and ain’t nothing happening in either of those two cases.

I have finished Nanowrimo 2017 having written 16232 words out of 50000. And that’s fine.

What I think I’m going to do, though, is actually look at everything I’ve written during this month, even the stuff that “doesn’t count”. Just as an experiment. I feel that differentiating between writing that “counts” and writing that doesn’t is in some ways important; it’s a kind of accountability, distinguishing between the writing that gets you to where you’ve made plans to go, and the writing that gives you an excuse to circle the block one more time. But lately, I’m starting to think that this distinction has not always done me a lot of good. Because writing is writing, and if we’re just talking writing – if we’re just talking about how much I’ve done, regardless of what that “much” consists of, specifically – I think I’ve done quite a bit.

Let’s have a look.

  • Game Notes

Every now and then, I like to indulge in the making of games. Well, “making” is perhaps a strong word, but making notes and rules and mechanics for games that I would like to exist. Since I have recently given myself permission to write things that are not just books or essays, but also include things like screenplays and panel treatments, I’ve decided to include games in this new phase of my writing career as well.

Good thing too, because it amounts to (approximately) 26185 words.

I say approximately because there’s a lot of copy-and-pasting of words that have to do with categories of things – characters, abilities, etc. – that I have been working on and modifying over the course of this month. I went over them once briefly in each instance, and reduced my word-count in those documents by an approximate figure. Even so, I reckon that total number is somewhere closer to 24000 words – but that’s still 24k words, on top of my existing 16k words. Already, I’m at over 40k words written this month.

Off to a good start, then …

  • Experiments

There’s some stuff that I write just for myself, stuff that is not meant to be shared with anybody else. Nevertheless, these are earnest writing exercises, and I would normally count them, even if they’re only ever meant to be private. Another 5257 words there.

  • Book Planning

My most detested writing habit, the main reason why I even bother to differentiate between what writing “counts” and what doesn’t. But I’m going to count it now, because it takes time and energy and is, ultimately, in service of creating a story, even if it often does more harm than good. I’m also counting here because I want it to do good, so perhaps if I account for it, I will shift my attitude in that direction. Add another 5687 words.

That alone is more than 50k words written in November. Hah!

But I’m still not done.

I am not going to count my academic writing, because that’s writing I had to do – I’m only counting writing that I elected to do. That may change in the future, but for now I’m sticking to it. Also it would take forever to count.

So instead, let’s talk co-writing …

  • Co-writing project

I never counted this one towards my Nano goals because it was a co-writing venture, and I wanted to keep it separate from my own personal goals. Also, screenplays take up fewer words, generally speaking. But it’s all still writing that I did, so …

Make it another 2510 right there. That’s just the screenwriting itself, not the planning notes – mostly because I wrote those notes with my co-writing partner (who honestly did most of that writing anyway, as well as most of the writing that has been done full-stop on this project), and I am not prepared to try and figure out which words exactly were mine and which were hers right now. And again, I’m not the only one responsible for that writing, and it seems silly to try and extract my portion of it just to add towards this total (especially since it’s now past 52k words, yeeeeeeeeah boiiiiiiii)

And no, I’m still not done. There is one more category of writing that I must add to the tally, and I’m pretty sure you know what it is.

No, it’s not my revision notes for Tallulah, because I just don’t think it’s useful to count words written in the service of revision, because it’s not about the number of words produced, but the purpose of those words. And that’s something you can’t really measure quantitatively, or if you can I don’t know how.

No, the final category is …

  • Blogging

11994. Not including this post. Also not including drafts I wrote but didn’t complete this month.

My point is …

I’ve actually written way more than 50k words this month.

In fact, judging by this, it’s safe to say that I write way more than 50k words every month. And that’s something to think about as well.

Okay, let’s be all officious and shit with this; my grand total is: 67865, holy fuck have I written more than 50k words this month. And that’s cherry-picking, too. Hell, take away the game notes and that’s still just over 40k words. I didn’t do too badly at all.

And I think I’m going to use this as an exercise in rethinking my priorities in terms of what writing “counts” and what doesn’t. Yes, there is the point that all of this is being very generous to myself (I am totally updating my word-count to include it though because I’m an adult), and that part of the reason we count words is to identify progress on one specific project. But this Nano, it was about a bunch of projects anyway. It was about getting myself to write. And again, even without the game notes, I did a lot of writing this month. A lot of writing. And it was writing with a point.

Writers are great at undermining themselves, particularly in terms of how productive they are, how much effort they’ve put in, how much of what they’ve done with their time is “productive” or “real writing”, etc. And there’s good reasons for that. But just in terms of writing itself, regardless of what project it’s in service of, I think it’s good to keep track of that every now and again, just to remind ourselves that, actually, we writers are very goddamn productive. As in we produce vast quantities of words – and as everyone who has ever given writing advice has said, more than once: at the end of the day, the only thing that matters, and the only thing that works, is actually sitting the fuck down and writing something.

And apparently, I have done that. A lot. Just this month.

So all in all, I think there are worse ways to end Nanowrimo.


Starting Today

  1. Always commit absolutely
  2. Always reserve the right to change your mind, at any time, for any reason, with no judgment
  3. Always keep everything you write

I said when I started this blog that I didn’t want it to be an advice blog – well, that’s only mostly true. There are three pieces of advice I will always give, always stress the invaluable importance of, because they’re the kind of advice that I need, and I know a lot of other people do as well. And I definitely need them right now.

I have not been following rules 1 and 2 for a very long time, and when I do that, I find that I very naturally fall into the “hypothetical writing” trap, where all my writing is “what if this happened” or “you know, I could do this“. And I even found a counter to it: turn it into a conversation instead of just a huge rant – but I haven’t been doing that, either. I’ve just let myself keep writing in the hypothetical, not committed, not torn myself away from my myriad distractions so that I can actually write effectively, and it’s taken its toll. I need to stop.

I wrote nothing (nothing that counted) yesterday and it didn’t feel good, but mind you not much of anything yesterday felt good, it was just kind of a shitty flat day where I wrote a bunch of crap that didn’t count because it was all hypothetical writing and let’s just say that this is why I am Starting Today. I am pulling out that old cliche because right now – starting today, in fact – it’s exactly what I need to get back on track.

So Starting Today, it’s all for real. No hypotheticals. Aaalll the stress of “getting it right” the first time, so that I have the perfect excuse to get back to actually following my own cardinal rules of writing. I tend to not write because of my stupid perfectionist streak that ruins everything in my life. One of the reasons I keep coming back to those three rules – and in particular the first two; the third one is easy enough to follow, though no less important – is because it seems to be a brain-hack of sorts, a way to trick my inner perfectionist into thinking it’s getting what it wants – which is to criticise, not to make things better – while at the same time completely undermining its efforts. Rule 1 – to commit absolutely – means that whatever it is I’m doing, I’m doing. I am writing that shit, I am sticking to the plan, I am doing it the way I said I would do it, even if it doesn’t work.

And this is vitally important, because Rule 2 – to reserve the right to change your mind at any time for any reason – means that when it doesn’t work, you can immediately fix it. Immediately. None of this “wait for revision” shit; you just get in there and make it work right now. Do these two things seem completely at odds with each other? Yes, they do. But it’s much less about taking those rules literally, as instructions, than it is about taking them on as mindsets. As attitudes. Doing most things in life is about your attitude when you attempt them. Thinking “I can’t do this because I’m not good enough for X and Y reasons” will get you nowhere in a hurry. Thinking “this is the plan and I’m sticking to the plan no matter what because it’s the plan” will give you drive, determination, a sense of purpose to your endeavour; and thinking “this is shit I can do better than this and I’m going to do it now” will give you a sense of mastery, of flair, of showing off how brilliant you are and basking in the afterglory. We human beings are complex, and we are capable of thinking and believing seemingly contradictory things simultaneously.

Might as well use it to our advantage.


Part of the commitment I’ve been feeling the lack of ties back to these two principles. I have been permitting myself to just take it easy, and I did need that. I’m going to keep needing that every now and again, because everyone needs a break, and in one form or another we take that break, whether it’s by doing sloppy work because you resent still having to do it, procrastinating until the last minute because you’re so used to working non-stop that you don’t know how to regulate your time in a healthy way, or having a nervous breakdown because you’ve pushed yourself too hard for too long, refusing to look at the reasons why you thought you had to prove that you could.

I might be projecting slightly here.

And that’s an area where my three rules don’t help me out, or not in an obvious way at least. I guess a fourth rule, which was birthed when I let – and made – myself watch Stranger Things last year because I realised I was distracting myself when I literally had nothing to distract myself from, and not even enjoying it. That rule doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s also about being conscientious – just not about work and work alone. I guess it’s Rule 1, just applied to recreation – if you’re not working, then you’re not fucking working. Enjoy it, because now that’s the plan. You aren’t allowed to work when you’re Not Working, so don’t even think about it.

And, of course, Rule 2 still applies, or so I would think – it didn’t have to apply when I was watching Stranger Things, though, because I really enjoyed that show and am very glad, even grateful, that I made myself take the time to indulge myself in watching it.

So I guess maybe I’ve been a bit better about following these rules than I thought – just not with writing. I applied Rule 1 very hard to reading The Dresden Files this year, for instance, and other assorted Urban Fantasy pastries (I’m up to book 5 in the Kate Daniels series and have finally made myself begin the Anita Blake series), and did not let guilt stop me from said indulgence, and I genuinely feel that I’ve become a slightly better human being for it. So that’s good.

But I need to re-apply it to writing. And, I think, take something else away from this: when it’s not being applied to work, Rule 1 will very easily overrule Rule 2 if you let it, because if you’re doing shit you enjoy, you’re not going to want to change very much.

Or maybe I just need a Rule 4: take reasonable time off and have some fucking fun, dumbass. That seems much easier.

But I need the rules, whatever the number, because I actually am starting to miss writing. Yes, I did say recently that I hated writing, but sometimes you just need to say something, get it off your chest, and once you do it loses its power, because it’s no longer relevant. I said back when I discovered I was Not A Writer Anymore that I still wanted to act like I was a Writer, because it worked for getting writing done, and writing – rather than Writing – was something that I still wanted to do with my life. It still is. And I see now that one of the reasons it hasn’t been working so well for me is this lack of commitment, and lack of conscientiousness around my writing habits. I have some good ones. I committed to those good habits while I was working on Tallulah the first time, and again when I was working on the revision. It fought off the “hypothetical writing” trap. I haven’t been able to make myself do it for anything less “serious” than Tallulah yet, but I want to work out the trick to it. I think it’s just commitment.

So, coming back to Nanowrimo commitments – they’re still on. It just might not be 50k words by the end of the month, but it’ll be something. And more importantly, it will be something every day. Because what I’m starting to realise is that I’m actually much more disciplined than I think I am – not because my habits reflect it, but because what I miss right now is the discipline. Because that’s what commitment is: the foundation upon which discipline is based. Discipline, when I think of the word, is just what happens when you turn your commitment into a habit.

Which – I can hardly believe I’m saying this – I think I’ve actually done. Because I feel a distinct urge to get back to it. I’ve re-wired myself to want discipline – not so that I never fall off the wagon, but so that I notice when I do.

want to keep doing it. If that’s not a sign, I’m not a writer.

Which I guess I am.

But not because I have nothing else going on. Not anymore.

Speaking of which look forward to a totally off-topic Justice League rant coming up next time because sometimes when you get something off your chest you realise how much more you had left to say and boy do I have some Things To Say about this movie …



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!