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!

 

One weird trick to get any task done

No okay seriously I keep seeing these fucking “one weird trick” articles at the bottom of other articles that I read; the fact that I see those articles at all may clue you in to the kind of shit I read on the internet, but that’s besides the point. “One weird trick to make women obsess over you” seems to be the most common, with two different versions showing up right next to each other at the end of the last article I was reading (about the Justice League movie; trash begets trash I guess). I mean, guys, “obsess” is a very broad term. I’m sure you can get any woman to obsess over you by shaking her hand with one of those buzzer things they used to use in movies to establish a throwaway comic relief character, or by never showering ever. This would work because it would make anybody obsess over you, regardless of sex or gender, because they would find you repugnant. “One weird trick to continue your already rampant objectification of women” doesn’t sell as well I guess. Small miracles?

Seriously though, getting shit done: you just fucking do it. I’ve been on this particular ride before, veering between two philosophical poles in an attempt to establish some kind of solid foundation upon which I can build a functional, reliable and predictable work ethic: finding motivation on the one hand, and ignoring it on the other. Right now, I’m on the other hand, because motivation is like any feeling: it comes and goes. But I, on the other hand, am always here. I may as well take advantage of it.

I don’t know what it says about me that I have adopted popular Twitch streamer and YouTuber Day[9] as my unofficial life guru, but he does give some pretty fucking solid advice when it comes to getting shit done, and the best part is that it lines up with stuff I already believe. “You just show up” is the condensed version of his personal philosophy for getting shit done, but you don’t really need the extended version to get the point. Come hell or high water, whether or not you are motivated to do so in the moment, you turn up to do the thing that you are supposed to be doing, whether that is a task set for you by an employer or something, or a goal that you have made for yourself. That way it becomes a habit, and as somebody who has lived with moderate anxiety and probably mild depression for the majority of my life, I can tell you first-hand that force of habit is the most powerful force in human existence. Habit makes us do things all the time that we would rather not, like clockwork. That’s not a bad thing; that’s a cheat code, if you approach it the right way. Turning a weakness into a strength is always a good move, so if like me you are somebody with deeply ingrained bad, unhealthy habits, the good news is that the power behind those habits can be yours and mine for the taking, enabling us to do whatever we want, whether in the moment we want to or not. It just takes practice.

This is the strategy that I’ve been trying to employ since last year, focusing in my case on regular exercise – and although I still feel like I’m not doing enough or not progressing as fast as I want, when I step back and look at it I see that, very clearly, I have established a new, enduring habit. I even took 3 months off between the end of last year and the start of this one, and that wasn’t enough to put me off. Yes, it did take me a whole year to get to a “fire and forget” point with this habit, but that’s a year I’ll never have to spend again trying to make it stick.

And technically, writing is already a habit that I have, an even longer-lasting habit than my bouts of anxious, depressive self-loathing, which is good to remember every now and then. Of course the two are linked as well, as one of the main ways I tried to escape/cope with my issues as a teenager was to channel it into writing, which changed the way that I wrote. With my shitty YA werewolf thing, I have started to test the strength of those habits, and it turns out they’re pretty strong – but not unbreakable. I want to have a habit of writing regularly and with an aim to entertain, myself primarily for now as I don’t actually have an audience (certainly not a paying one), which is part of a bigger habit that will have to include reading and thinking. The shitty YA werewolf novel has worked as well as it has because of my copying, stealing and appropriating ideas from other works just as a way to get it done – and have fun in the process, sure, but in the end the enjoyment that I get out of it and the ease with which this strategy allows me to throw a story together are just two sides of the same coin: the job gets done as a result. As for when I am not having fun? Like right now? Or for the past several months seriously how the hell did I let this stupid writing exercise drag on for a fucking year and a half?

Well, that brings me to habit-breaking again. I just put another dent in my habit of pathological procrastinating right now by finishing marking the second assignment for this paper I’m tutoring on; there are still a few late assignments, but there always are – mentally, I’m finished. I showed up and the job got done, and that means that I now get to be done. It feels good. True, I could have done it earlier in the day, but that’s nitpicking that I don’t need and isn’t going to actually help. If the aim is to make a habit of getting shit done, then things are looking good. I just made myself stop watching YouTube, forced myself to open up the assignments, and from there it was like rolling downhill. Not necessarily fun, but definitely easy – so long as you make a start. It is as simple, and as infuriating, as that: you just get started on the thing that you want to get done and, if you keep doing it, it will get done. No motivation, or even enjoyment, necessary.

Although I will concede that there is something about marking assignments that makes it particularly well-suited for this kind of strategy, treating motivation as completely optional. For one, it’s my fucking job and I have to do it, no matter how I feel about it. For another, I was never going to really “enjoy” marking to begin with, so that possibility is a moot point anyway – I do enjoy it at times, and it is satisfying to do, but it’s not like how it was with the shitty YA werewolf novel, the giddy high of appropriation and starting something new, though at the same time rekindling something I had thought I lost – an old habit, and a good one, the one I’m trying to bring back to replace my shitty writing habits that have largely taken over from it.

And that’s a bit different. And in my case also kind of counter-productive, because back in the day my habit was enjoyment. If I enjoyed writing, I would fucking write, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t. That was the habit. In my current mode, that’s not a sustainable habit – or at least not one I’m interested in sustaining. I certainly do want to enjoy my creative writing, but I also want to fucking get it done – there’s writing, and then there’s the satisfaction of having completed a project, plus the new opportunities to develop that project once the zero draft is complete. I don’t get that without finishing; and I don’t finish without showing up.

I resent the fact that, for this part of the story, I can’t find anything to steal for my shitty YA werewolf novel. I’m coming up blank; and surely there has to be something. Having said that I did have a brainwave the other day, or maybe today – it’s been a long day; on top of finishing marking my sister and I also trimmed the hedges, a long-overdue project (she did all the trimming; I held the ladder) – but on the whole this section of the project has been difficult to deal with precisely because the process I was using to get it done just stopped working when it got to writing these two final chapters. I only managed to force my way through the one I just finished by showing up, over and over again, over the span of 2 months. I would like a higher turnaround than that; to be fair I do have a ton of other things that I’m working on as well, though – but that’s all the more reason to throw motivation to the wind as a productivity strategy, and stick with “just show up”. The more shit I get done, the more shit I can get done. And how do we get shit done?

By showing up and fucking doing it.

I am all written-out for the night, but tomorrow I will attack this final chapter with a purely utilitarian fervour, minus the fact that the one idea that I do have for it is one that I actually like quite a bit. There’s also the pesky issue of finding little bits of this story that could lend themselves to something much more substantial; I was hoping for pulp, and there’s all sorts of stuff that could lend itself to pulp, don’t get me wrong – but still. It’s tempting, and temptation is always an obstacle.

One that I will deal with tomorrow, when I will show up and get shit done – until then, though, I reserve the right to remain exactly where I am. When you’re done, you should be able to enjoy it.

13259

Follow your interests, they tell you.

Not bad advice.

I’m not going to talk about what interests I’ve been following lately, but they’ve been resulting in a lot of writing getting done, and that’s what matters to me. This is the kind of writing that I tell myself doesn’t “count”, but when I’ve written this much of it, it fucking counts.

And it should count the rest of the time, too.

The thing with this project – one I’ve been working on, on and off, for almost 2 years now – is that it’s not one I ever pushed myself to finish; it exists mostly so that I can just write it whenever the mood strikes me, and today – and for the past few days, actually – the mood has struck hard. It’s the kind of writing that doesn’t “count” because it’s not something I’d ever want to publish or show to anybody; it’s just for me.

But it should still count, because a) it’s writing, and b) the more writing I do, the better I get at it …

And the more I write things that I actually enjoy writing, the more I remember that, actually, I do enjoy writing. I just don’t always enjoy writing what I’m telling myself I should be writing, and I think it’s about time I started learning that lesson.

Werewolf thing – fuck it. For now anyway. It’s just not doing it for me. And even if I’m never going to publish this particular story, it might still come in handy later down the line. I might be able to use parts of it somewhere else. But right now, having it just for me is absolutely what I want, and probably part of why I’m enjoying it so much.

I used to want to be a writer for a career. I think now I want to learn how to write for a hobby. Because if the past few days are any indication, it’s a fucking awesome hobby.

Wasted or Spent

It’s interesting that those two words can be kind of interchangeable. When you’re exhausted, for example: using either of those two words means the exact same thing. When it comes to your time, however, the meaning shifts; Wasted time is time not used “properly”, whereas Spent time has been employed with efficiency, productivity, responsibility.

Either way, it’s gone.

Last night, I used my time in bed not sleeping. It was my own decision; I thought this morning that it might have been the sertraline – I have gone back up to a full tablet per day – but now I’m pretty sure that it was all just me. I had reasons for staying up, so I did.

Said reasons I will not go into, but it involves something that I wrote before I went to bed. I was so invested in it that I couldn’t put it down, even after I turned off my computer and the lights. Was the night wasted, or spent? Well I got about 3 hours sleep, and only after around 8 am, but I woke up feeling pretty awesome. Then today I went for an unusually brisk walk, forcing myself to push on when I was ready to give up and finding that, actually, I wanted to keep going after all, and when I got back home I was fucking wasted. Or spent. I still did some bicycle crunches, push-ups and one of the exercises my physio gave me to do for my knee. I was well and truly wasted/spent by then. In fact I’d say wasted specifically, because it connotes a more intense state or effect. I was wasted.

And it felt like the most productive thing I’ve done in a very long time.

I have been feeling weird every since I started taking sertraline. I’ve been feeling kind of empty today. Insatiable. It’s not that I’m hungry – and I’m actively trying to watch what I eat this year – it’s more that there’s so many things that I haven’t done, or tried to do, and the wasted potential is eating me up from the inside.

Spent potential? I guess it is; I spent it on avoidance, panic, anxiety. Not by choice with those second two. The decision to not do something is still a decision. I have spent my life avoiding things so that I don’t run up against the wall of my anxiety. That’s something I’ve done. It’s why I keep doing it. If I’d wasted my life, then I wouldn’t do anything at all. I’d be dead or something.

Right now, I’m trying to write. It’s not happening, because nothing feels quite satisfying. Is this time being wasted, or spent? What on?

I don’t know that I can come up with the answer. But I do know that words matter. It’s why I write. It’s why I get frustrated with my writing, because the words often aren’t what I want them to be. It’s why I love writing, because words make things matter, no matter what they are.

Words are too powerful to be taken for granted.

So when you’re thinking that you’re wasting your time, try to think of how you’ve been spending it instead. It might change a few things for the better.

For Old Times’ Sake

Today, as I was going for a walk in order to try and continue the fitness kickstart I began yesterday – itself kickstarted by needing to counteract the horrible body-weird caused by my first ever anti-anxiety medication – something dawned on me. I have so many old stories I’m trying to tell, and hardly any new ones.

Most of the books I try to push myself to work on are ideas that I came up with half a lifetime ago. Realm of the Myth is the most obvious one, because while it’s not my oldest story it’s definitely the oldest one that I’ve consistently tried to bring to realisation. My mind is still playing with it, loath to let it out of its grasp, like a videogame you’ve lost interest in but feel like there’s so much potential enjoyment you never got out of it – or that there just aren’t any other options, and it’s this or nothing.

And all the other stories are old, too. Tallulah, my ripoff of The Mortal Instruments and my shitty YA werewolf thing are the most recent, and aside from Tallulah they’re just very … well, I mean, it’s right there. One of them is a ripoff of a series that uses material from a Harry Potter fanfic (and a plagiarism-heavy fanfic at that). There are a couple of ideas I came up with while I was at uni, but I’ve been at uni for 8 years now.

So what dawned on me today was that most of the stories I’m trying to make myself work on are stories that I came up with when I was a different person. I wonder if that’s why they’re not working. And I also felt, for the first time possibly ever, that in continuing to hold onto these ideas and trying to bring them to the life I wish I’d been able to give them when I came up with them, I’m holding myself back from having new ideas. Maybe better ones. But regardless, ideas that come from me as I am now.

I think a big part of this is because I don’t like who I am now – or, rather, because I have such an ingrained habit of trying to disavow myself. Growing up with depression, anxiety and general self-loathing has fantastic synergy with nostalgia, and my nostalgia goggles are pretty damn powerful. I’ve learnt that I’m a worthless piece of shit of a human being, and anything I can do to escape that reality is something I should invest in. The thing is, though, that I don’t really believe that anymore. It’s taken a while, and it’s an ongoing process, but it’s definitely happening. I’m moving on. And I’m starting to want my storytelling to move with me.

The other thing I thought while on my walk was how much of an escape my stories are. Not just the stories themselves, but the fantasy of what my life would be like after writing them. Being a well-known, well-regarded author, doing panels at Comic-Con, rubbing shoulders with my favourite celebrities – I just looked at all of that today and, while I’ve never seriously thought that any of this would happen to me, today it occurred to me that serious or not, it’s what I’ve been spending most of my time and energy on thinking about since I was in my mid-teens. The impact I would have on the wider world.

I was thinking about escaping.

And I looked over my life while I was thinking this, and there is so much that I want to escape from. Unresolved conflicts that I have not even started to try and resolve, confront or even acknowledge in some cases. Awkward tensions that cannot be solved painlessly or cleanly, tensions that could force something to break so badly that it could never be repaired. Things that I just don’t know what to do about, what the right thing to do is or where I’d even begin to look for the answer. Which is why I hate thinking about them. And whether or not I did it consciously, at the end of the day escaping into my World-Famous Author daydreams has allowed me to ignore it.

It makes sense that this started happening when I was a teenager, because my teen years were the time in my life when I had the most shit to deal with that I wanted to escape from. My friendship with Wickham that made me feel dense, repulsive and invisible; real tragedies happening to people my age that I couldn’t do anything to help them with; my seeming inability to form any kind of meaningful connection to other human beings unless they were as lonely as I was – daydreams or not, I could not escape from this reality. University was the escape, which is funny in a way because it was also where I got my biggest reality-checks. But also, in a sense, where I started to do that horrible, stereotypical adult thing where you get stuck in your ways and cling to convenient beliefs that erase the parts of reality that you don’t want to think about. And I didn’t want to think about myself.

University tends to be where people go to discover themselves, or so all the stories say. For me, it was where I finally had the chance to cover myself up. So I did. A lot. I would probably say that my undergraduate life was my most impressive act of storytelling ever, because I’ve managed to almost convince myself that I’m not certain things, that I fit comfortably into certain, well-established categories that other people invest in as well, and invested in before I even knew they existed. I found out what other people’s beliefs and attitudes were and used those ideas to plug the ugly, gaping holes in my own identity; I didn’t have to believe in them. I just had to use them to make other people believe them about me. I just had to make it look like I fitted in.

I felt powerless as a teenager. But I have never felt as spineless as I do now, as an adult.

It wasn’t all bad, of course. I did find some things to like about myself, things that I didn’t want to cover up or disguise. And one of those things I found last year: the fact that I love to borrow ideas and make up stories about them. Hence the shitty YA werewolf novel. But that’s also something old about me; and hey, it’s a good old thing. I’m happy to have been reacquainted with it.

But today, I just thought how much of a shame it is that I’ve spent all of this time trying to escape my present, simultaneously looking with longing to the past and into the future with fear and resentment. All time I could have been spending just living in my own goddamn reality.

And I wondered – and I still wonder – what kind of stories I would want to tell if I was doing that instead.

The witch novel I tried to write for Camp Nano was another new story, but it’s also a much older kind of story, the kind of story I would have expected to think up when I was in the Dark Ages. For me, that was between 16 and 18. 19 sucked pretty bad too and 20 was no walk in the park, but 16-18 stands out in my memory as the worst time of my life. It was also where I had the most determined stories. They were dark, but they were battles I was trying to fight. They made me angry, because they felt important. I had to fight. I had to do something.

The witch novel is like that, only the fight’s gone out of me. I have no stakes in that battle anymore. I can’t. Because I’m not a teenager anymore, and my problems are different. Not as different as conventional wisdom might suggest, but different enough. And I realised a couple of days ago, meeting up with a friend for coffee, that almost every single story I have is not just old, but is also about children or teenagers. I have almost no stories about people my age.

I wanted to escape my teen years; I’ve spent so much of my adult life having achieved that escape. And now I want to find my way back.

I want to be done with these old ideas. They’re great. I’m not saying I want to take all the work I’ve done on them up to this point and destroy it. I’m saying I want to move on. I need to. Because there is no going back; there is no Old Me about to resurface. I found it, once: I found myself again after breaking up with Wickham, and it set a precedent. At the time it was liberating and healing and like having a loved one come back from the dead. But after that I kept comparing my happiness to that moment, and nothing has ever matched up. And I think that’s part of why I cling to the past so much: because that moment of absolute happiness and relief only exists in my past. I have wanted so badly to find the secret to feeling that way again. I have thought that if I couldn’t do it, then I would never be able to be fully, totally honest with myself, to express myself truthfully or even understand myself. But maybe if I had been able to let that fantasy go, I would have found that I didn’t need to try in the first place.

My 20s have been … turbulent. My teenage years were far more unpleasant to live through, but at least they were consistent. Being an adult has been the most confusing thing that’s ever happened to me; no wonder I keep looking for the certainty of nostalgia. But I think 9 years is more than enough time to sacrifice in vain pursuits. I want some new material. And I think I’m only going to get that by letting some of the old material go. Maybe all of it.

There’s that saying about how if you love something you have to let it go, and if it comes back to you then you know … something. It’ll work out or whatever. The thing is, I don’t even love the ideas I’m holding on to. I’m just afraid about what will happen if I let them go. Because without these stories, and without the fantasies about what my life could be like because of them, there’s just a void. I’d have to come up with all new ideas to take their place, to feel whole again.

Unless, of course, it’s not about trying to find something to take their place at all. Maybe what I really need is just some new places.

There doesn’t have to be a void at all. Just a past.

It can suck to have a past. All sorts of unresolved crap is in there, things it’s so easy to wish you’d found a way to solve. Things you can convince yourself you can find the solution to now, if you just keep the issue alive for long enough. But it means you have to keep the issue alive. You have to stretch it out, pull it out of the past with you so that you can keep holding onto it.

But you can’t have a past without a future – or vice versa.

And what I’m finding out about adulthood is that it’s all future. Being a teenager ends. But being an adult? That’s it. Once it starts, it goes on forever. I’m not one to put much stake in the pseudo-spiritual cultural superstition we have around certain age categories, but I am a sucker for narratives. And what I’m finding about being an adult is that there is no fucking narrative, even if you want one. It’s scary.

And it’s an opportunity.

One that I really need to take.

I don’t know what to do now. Hold a funeral for my old ideas? Just try and let myself drift away from them naturally and painlessly? Make a big announcement about it to try and make it stick, or try and let it happen organically and keep it to myself so that it’s not forced?

I don’t know. Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe knowing what I want is enough. The stuff I don’t want … maybe I can just leave it alone.

Well, I do know what I want. I want to move on.

All any story needs is a beginning that makes you want to know how the rest turns out.

The last last time

I was going to write here that this, this would be the absolute really for serious last time EVER that I would pull an all-nighter to get something finished by a deadline. I was going to emphatically state this, inscribe it into the mythology of the universe and force myself to adhere to the formula henceforth and forevermore.

The thing is, I already did that. I did it last time I had a submission deadline that I’d left too late to get a good headstart on.

And the time before that.

And the time before that.

And I’m pretty damn sure the time before that, too.

And yet, here I am again, and I have finally learnt a valuable lesson: stop saying shit is the last time. Just stop.

But not because it doesn’t work, because sometimes it does. Stop because it doesn’t matter.

Yeah, sometimes you need that little moral push, the put-my-foot-down moment that makes things concrete and gives you a measure against which you can hold yourself accountable, and that’s good. But this hasn’t worked for me. I’ve tried it so many times, and just as many times it hasn’t worked. Putting my foot down when it comes to my bad academic habits just doesn’t seem to be a thing that I have the capacity to do. It’s disappointing, let me tell you. But if that’s what it is, then that’s what it is.

And yes, it sucks to think that this chapter is going to be half-formed and shitty and turn the next several hours into an agonizing, sleep-deprived mess. It’s frustrating to know that I already learnt all the reasons why an all-nighter sucks ass the last time I pulled an all-nighter, not to mention every single all-nighter before that, and yet it still hasn’t been enough to motivate me to avoid this one. It makes me feel useless and weak and like I have no control over myself, like I’m a failure and I’ll never stop being a failure, because despite all the things that should be enough motivation for me to change my ways, I still haven’t.

So I think, therefore, the problem is that these things that I think should be enough …

They just aren’t.

I need something else, and I know what it is. It’s to keep going.

“This is the last time” implies a stopping-point, a new chapter, or episode, or full-on franchise reboot. It implies starting over. But even if it hasn’t been a particularly smooth journey, I’ve come a long goddamn way already. Why the fuck would I want to start over? I’ve put all of this work into it, and the thing is that, even if only incrementally, it is getting smoother. It is evening out. This isn’t like my ridiculous, overblown, over-thought, under-written, 15-year-old self-fanfic passion project that, for the third time, I really need to extinguish from existence. That doesn’t need to start over, though: that just needs to die and, this time, not fucking come back. I’ve already tried restarting and rebooting that, dozens of times, and it still doesn’t work. Just like every time I insist on saying to myself “never again” every time I’m staring down the barrel of another all-nighter, it doesn’t stick. Because starting all over again is bullshit. Just quit.

Or keep going.

So I’m going to keep going. Is this the last all-nighter I’ll ever pull? I don’t fucking know; I can’t fucking know. I don’t know how life is going to turn out, what compromises I’m going to have to make with my schedule, and on the flipside I do know that I’m still struggling with a fuckton of anxiety and self-loathing, sprinkled with the odd depressive episode, so insisting that I have some kind of moral obligation to maintain a flawless time-keeping schedule is masochistic at best. In fact it actually directly feeds into and perpetuates the kinds of negative, toxic things that I tell myself over and over again, the same kinds of things that get me into the all-nighter situation to begin with, the “but I don’t know where to start”, the “but I can’t write it well in this amount of time”, the “but it’s too late now anyway I left it too long I’m such an idiot why don’t I ever learn”. It’s two sides of the same coin, not some kind of counter-balance, when I drill myself for not getting it right.

And it goes without saying that there will also probably be more of that in my future. But it is getting better. Incrementally, the shit is subsiding, and my pace is picking up. Maybe not this time. Maybe not the time after this time. Maybe not even the time after that. But at some point, it will even out.

If I keep going. And only if I keep going.

So let’s write this fucker.

 

 

All-Nighters Round 2

God Fucking Dammit.

I had over a month, over a month to write this fucking MA chapter and yet somehow I now only have 4 days. 4 fucking days. And about 2 days ago, I had 10 days. What the fuck is going on.

Well, it’s not all bad in the sense that broadly speaking I know what my argument is, I’m sure I can pick out a few choice scenes here and there to meet my needs, and the actual chapter-writing itself probably won’t take a very long time. But still. I actually did get a headstart on this chapter, the way I keep trying to get myself to do, and yet here we are again, again.

Again.

HOW THE FUCK DOES so I know that a big part of this issue was the fact that I have selected the film adaptation of Ender’s Game to write about for this chapter, and I dreaded watching that movie so much that I put it off for about 2 weeks too long. Moral of the story being to either pick texts that I’m not going to avoid like the plague to write about, or find some way to force myself to engage with them in a timely manner so that I don’t end up in bullshit situations like this.

hate this. I wanted a nice, comfortable flow from one chapter to the next, no all-nighters ever again, sensible time-management, getting an early start on the next piece of work …

I mean I guess I still did that. And I can feel myself learning, physically feel it, like a change in the weather that you only feel through the texture of your skin and the balance of your hormones rather than in the atmosphere around you. I can feel myself caught up in the Flow, as psychologists and game theorists both call it. It is happening. It is working. It’s just not quite there yet.

Thus, for the next four nights, including tonight: all-nighter city. I assume I’ll be going straight on to revisions for this chapter after I hand it in, I fucking hope I’m going straight into revisions because I’ll almost certainly need them, and just … fuck this fucking thesis. Fuck it. I have been getting all excited at the prospect of doing a PhD but if it’s just going to be 4 more years of this shit?

And the thing is, when I’m in the zone, when I’m all engaged and shit, I love this work. I love the intellectual stimulation and all that good stuff; I love wrestling with concepts and ideas and pinning them down in the shape of a solid argument. But I’m not giving myself the opportunity to enjoy it. I keep putting it off. I have to not only grapple with the theories and arguments and possible counter-arguments but also the toxic self-sabotaging habits I’ve built up over half a lifetime of anxiety, guilt and self-loathing. It’s kind of amazing I’ve got this far, in a way. I want more time with this chapter. 4 days can’t do it justice. There are so many cool things I want to think about the information I have to play with, and there just isn’t time, and goddammit there could have been enough time. That’s the most infuriating part. That’s always the most infuriating part.

But the one very, very good thing about this whole experience is the back-to-back deadlines, for an entire year. Like, yeah, right now it sucks ass to be stuck in a corner of my own making, but overall this is exactly the kind of environment I need to learn the skills I need to learn if I want to write for a living, academically or otherwise. Finished the thing? Great job; on to the next one. Finished that thing? Then you can pick up another one now. On and on and on, and basically at some point the habit will break, the bottom will fall out and I will be forced to get my shit together. As much as this very moment sucks, and sucks hard, overall this is possibly the best thing that has ever happened to me in my life as a writer, and as a student.

I mean this is the fantasy every depressive, anxious, dysfunctional person who is aware of their dysfunctionality dreams of: being forced to change. I gave up on that fantasy ages ago because it kept not happening, but now it is happening. And I don’t have time for the fantasy anymore. It just is.

And this chapter isn’t going to write itself.