Weekly Words 10-16/06/2018

10/06/18: 3093

Wow, I wrote a lot more than I was expecting to.

I was just going to get started on a new scene for the co-writing project, and ended up writing the whole thing – all without noticing how long it had taken. That’s always a nice feeling. Then I finished that scene I’ve been agonising over, which was satisfying but also left me wanting more.

And I think that’s about as ideal of a writing session as I’ve had in a good while. Not bad for the first day of a week of marking to come!

11/06/18: 800

Good enough.

Today was pretty haphazard and I did not like it – however, despite not getting as much done as I would have liked, I did get some stuff done, and in doing so collected valuable data on how I want to manage my time going forward – particularly, how I want to manage the things that are slowing me down. The main reason that today was a bit of a wash getting-stuff-done-wise is because of how much I had to do that I wasn’t properly prepared for. Given that, I managed to improvise my schedule today and, well, it worked out pretty decently. Managed a balance of stuff I needed to do and stuff I wanted to do, and set a precedent for myself in the process.

I dunno. I feel a bit weird, framing everything so positively. That probably says something about me – but, it’s better than framing everything negatively. There’s more stuff I want to write, and I feel a bit lost on my way to finding “my” story to write, when I felt quite close to it a couple of weeks ago. Then again, I am having some interesting ideas that, while they don’t feel as gripping or exciting as I might like, are appealing enough that I want to do more with them than just think about them.

I also think I’m going to start revisiting Tallulah, as in re-writing it. Just for something to do, really. I’ve pretty much written off the current manuscript – I have a broad plan for a fresh start, and I am feeling comfortable enough with writing the things that I promise myself I’m going to write that it makes sense to give it a shot at least, and see where I get with it.

12/06/18: 1405

The marking has come in, and is going painfully slowly, but I know for sure now what’s tripping me up. Today was also less get-stuff-done productive, but that’s because Tuesdays are Youthline days, and that’s always a big chunk of time that I have to work around (and am happy to work around).

I am also really feeling the lack of a project that feels like it’s truly mine – the interesting ideas from yesterday are still interesting to me, but also making me feel kind of desperate to key into whatever it is that I feel like I’m missing out on right now. It’s just that I don’t know what that is. However, I have a theory that maybe it’s not any particular idea, but rather a way of doing things. Rather than chasing this fantasy of the next perfect idea that captures my imagination and inspires me to heights of creative passion I never could have imagined, I’m going to continue making the effort to commit to the ideas that I have right now. It could be that commitment is all I’m lacking – but if it’s the idea itself, I feel that being committed will lead me to that next great idea.

This slight sense of desperation has been brought on by me continuing to read Mark and Jessie’s Christmas today. It’s so fucking awful. Like, I’ve complained about it before, like I’ve complained about all of my writing that I’ve gone back to re-read before, but reading it today, I discovered new depths of shame for my past self. I remember how much writing this story meant to me, how real I wanted it to be, and it’s real in the same way that Superman vs Batman or anything written by Frank Miller is real – it’s edgy.

And here’s the thing: this story wasn’t meant to be edgy. It was meant to be heartfelt and sincere and, seriously, sweet. Bittersweet in many places, but still. It was not meant to be what it is. To the point where I’m wondering if it’s even worth me continuing to re-read it, or if I should just start over from scratch with as little engagement with what I’ve written already as possible, just to preserve the vision that I have for this story, which is the part that I do actually care about.

But I do think I’m getting some valuable ideas out of this process. It’s just a difficult process. A difficult, agonising, humiliating process. I have at least clarified some things for myself, vagueness in the vision that I have for this story, details that I’ve never actually pinned down – that seems to be a big issue for me actually. So even though most of the ideas I’m coming across are total write-offs, there are some that are legitimately valuable for the purposes of rebooting this thing. And I think that’s worth a bit of agony for.

I think. Ask me again in 500 pages.

13/06/18: 94

Today was pathetic.

I had a plan and everything; I just let myself do other stuff and throw myself off. I don’t feel too bad, though, because the stuff that I did get done felt quite satisfying, but I know it was also me falling into habits of distracting myself and not prioritising the things that are really important to me, whether because I have to do them or because I want to. Today was fine as a one-off.

Tomorrow – the rest of this week – has to be better.

And I feel confident that it will be. Today was a bit of a mess, but I don’t feel thrown off my game – I think all the effort I’ve been putting into being able to stay on my grind, as the kids say, is paying off. I certainly don’t want to just be testing how good I am at getting myself back on-track after a slip-up all the time, but knowing that I can do it is very encouraging.

But yes. Tomorrow will be better – I will be better – and get some important shit done to make up for today’s comparative frivolity.

14/06/18: 1354

And hey, today was better.

This week has felt really short. Not gonna lie, actually, ever since I decided that I was taking Fridays and Saturdays off writing, every week has felt short. But this week more so. I think that is definitely in part due to the marking, which is taking a lot out of me energy-wise (though I am finally getting quicker!), but I think it’s also because I don’t have the buffer of that extra day to play around with, so if I have a day like the 13th this week, it has a way bigger impact on my productivity writing-wise for the week.

But I still think this is the right direction for me to take this project in. I’m still writing regularly, for one; I’m managing to fit in my writing around other obligations for another. Overall, I’m just sort of evolving in general, and that feels worth keeping up.

But I am desperate for marking to be over so that I can get back to writing as my primary priority. I have a lot of energy for marking that is going into marking right now – I do need to be better about conditioning myself to do my writing, the writing that I care about, even when I’ve got other priorities to address, and that is the one particular area that I want to work on improving next week. Which will be a good time to do it, as it will be my final week of marking for this paper, and I will have to be doing more daily marking than I have this week due to late submissions.

I did want to test myself, didn’t I?

But that’s next week. This week, while it’s felt quite brief, and I’ll be honest I’ve missed having the time and energy to go into more detail about how my week has gone in this installment of Weekly Words, it’s been a good week. I got writing done, including some writing I wasn’t expecting I’d be able to make myself do; I tackled the problems that I encountered with marking last time and improved on them; and I did it all at the same time. Yes, there were a few rough edges, but I’ve learnt something from all of them. And the end result of all of this Ubermesnchful goodness is …

Weekly Total: 6746

Something else I’ve noticed since cutting Fridays from my Weekly Words schedule: my word-counts have dropped by, like 2 days’ worth. Which makes no sense, because not only was I often taking a day off when I had Fridays to play with anyway, but it’s just one day. I think it is the fact that I don’t have that extra day as a buffer; it does something to my mindset. I get a bit more fatalistic about low-productivity days because I have less time to make up for them with, which means I don’t take as much advantage of the time that I do have available.

Just one more thing for me to work on. Having problems is just part of life, but ever since I started Weekly Words, I’ve been identifying them more than I ever have before – and also breaking the curse of this blog, the curse of learning lessons and then forgetting them, re-learning them like a year later and then forgetting them again, over and over. It pays to look back on your progress, folks. That’s what I’m taking away from Weekly Words, every time I do it. And it keeps working.

Here’s to things that work.

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Weekly Words 03-09/06/2018

03/06/18: 1318

A scene has been finished! It is not how I want it to be in specific detail, but that’s what revision is for. The important thing is that it’s done.

04/06/18: 512

Back to brainstorming – and that’s fine. I was set against it out of habit, telling myself “this doesn’t count, this isn’t real writing, you should go jump off a cliff for even thinking of doing such a thing when word-count is at stake” …

I could get used to not listening to myself when I get like that.

The need for a plan is less powerful now than it was when I wrote my monthly recap, and today was certainly not very well-planned. I did not get done most of the things I wanted to start getting done this week – but, then again, it’s only Monday. It’s just not that big of a deal, what I do or don’t get done in one day out of the tens of thousands I’m going to have over the course of my life. Especially not writing for my own satisfaction.

It’s just that it’s not only writing, and that’s where I start getting frustrated. I want the good habits, and I want them now.

Nooowww.

06/06/18: 1531

I was not going to write today, not this much at least, until my co-writing friend gave me some much-appreciated encouragement and reminded me to be kind to myself, and thus I did some writing.

This is the idea I’ve been sort of agonising over for the past couple of weeks, the idea that I’ve been interested in writing but haven’t actually gotten around to, and it’s all because of my perfectionist tendencies holding me back. I get so self-conscious thinking of how a piece of writing is going to turn out; I get stuck on thinking of how unsatisfactory it’ll be, how haphazard and unimpressive and unimaginative I will expose myself as being, etc. It’s rooted in experience, sadly, because a lot of the time the stuff that we write – that we don’t revise – is kind of shit.

But that’s fine. That’s normal. It’s even good. For one, the fact that we write it at all is good, because as writers that is something that is good for us. For another, if it’s bad enough that we notice, then it’s something that we can learn from and use to improve our skills. And third, because it’s a middle finger to the inner critic, the paralytic of perfectionism, flying in the face of our own self-doubt and self-shaming, an act of defiance. Which, even just writing that, feels way over-dramatic, but hey, writing is a pretty dramatic process.

And the thing is, now that I’ve written it, now that I’ve had somebody else tell me the things that I’ve been trying to convince myself of, I’m remembering that back in the day, I used to write a lot, used to think it was shit – and kept writing. It didn’t shut me down; it kept my head in the game, because I was engaged with the writing process. And it makes me painfully aware of how out of the game I have been, for so long – outside of my long-term projects. When I have a project, like a book, or a screenplay, to work on, it’s much easier for me to ignore the perfectionist – “easier” most definitely being a relative term. But when I’m trying new things out – which is how projects are made – it’s so much harder. It’s kind of like how I find one-on-one interaction to be much easier than dealing with groups and crowds; I can handle one project at a time, and really get invested in the intensity of it, to the point where it kind of insulates me from my own inner critic, at least enough so that I keep working on it. But when it’s multiple projects – which is what I’m trying to get better at being comfortable with working on, because I know I’m happier when I know I have options – that confidence evaporates, and it becomes a process of worrying about how badly I’m going to fuck it up.

Because you can fuck up a first draft. That’s totally a thing. First drafts always have to be perfect, and if they’re not you’re obviously doing it wrong.

Yeah nothing about any of my anxiety around writing new things is remotely logical; nothing about any of my anxiety period is logical. And I know that, objectively. I know it’s true. But only now, now that I’ve actually started writing this scene instead of just sitting on it and thinking of how badly it could go wrong because I don’t have a plan – that I’m not prepared for it – am I starting to feel that it’s true.

Being prepared is definitely a big part of why I find the co-writing project so easy to invest myself in; there’s a plan, it’s not all up to me, and I know it’s something that I’ve agreed to commit to with another person. But I was not prepared to write this scene, I am not prepared to write most of the scenes that I think of and then want to write but make myself not write, and as I have discovered, that sense of being unprepared is a huge problem for me.

And the only way to get prepared is to learn to prepare, learn by doing. And now that I’ve started writing this scene, I’m finding that I actually quite enjoy it, even if it might be bad when I look back on it. I’m even starting to have ideas about it working with a bunch of other ideas that I’ve been quite eager to write and been making myself sit on for a while.

And I’m not done yet.

07/06/18: 1222

Not bad for the final day of writing this week, bringing the weekly total to:

Weekly Total: 4583

Definitely not 10k, nor anywhere close to it – but that’s how it is sometimes, and that’s fine. This week I have definitely felt more distracted and disconnected from my Weekly Words habits – actually all of my habits – and I think that’s partly due to how much I’m trying to build upon them, the consideration I’m giving my habits, rather than just letting them play out. I need to be aware of that happening, and trust myself to let them work on their own.

However, I also need to acknowledge that, this week in particular, it’s been a good thing, if a little disruptive. This thing I’ve been writing for the last two days is something I didn’t think I’d ever actually get around to, but thanks to some encouragement and the fact that I have set myself up with a solid system for managing my writing, it’s getting done, and it’s proving to be rewarding. I’m glad I made this week a more conscious process, even if I do miss the comforting predictability of the autopilot I’ve established for myself. I just need to find a balance of autopilot and conscious consideration – perhaps that’s an area I can improve by developing my time-management skills further.

I think it’s also because the next round of marking hasn’t actually gotten around to me yet, and I’ve been expecting to get started on it all week. That’s definitely been distracting, trying to make sure I’m mentally and emotionally prepared to begin managing that. But oh well. I think the fact that this week has been less productive than I’d like in terms of word-count is because it’s been more productive than I hoped in terms of building my skills in various areas, and laying a foundation to be more productive going forward. So, overall, I call this a very good week in the history of Weekly Words.

Monthly Words: May 2018 + about a week of overlap between April and June

Monthly Total: 39993

There is an irony with these monthly recaps, I find, which is that the entire point of doing them is to give myself perspective, encourage me to think of my progress as something to measure over an extended period of time instead of just when I’m feeling particularly self-critical – and yet whenever I do one of these recaps, it’s kind of like I’ve never done one before. The sheer sense of accomplishment – yeah, the novelty I think has worn off, but that just leaves me with this clear sense of satisfaction for what I’ve gotten done, and the fact that I’m continuing this process of keeping track of it.

I did a lot last month. It should be this month, but honestly this past week was murderous, life happens, we’re doing the recap for last month this month.

Mostly, and I’m very grateful for this, I focused not just on my ability to write, but myself as a writer. Because speaking of perspective, I needed that “detox” weekend, I needed to reconnect, check in with myself, all the self-help tropes – I still need more, honestly, and I’m starting to get some ideas about how to continue with that work. But while I did get a bit melancholic about not being able to re-create the existential bliss of that weekend for the rest of the month, looking back on it now, I realise that I need to be focusing on moving forward. Having perspective on the past, acknowledging how I’ve spent my time and giving myself proof that I am not the living embodiment of the void and never get anything done – these are good, important things for me. I feel like with Weekly Words, I’ve got that part covered. But the forward-looking part is one that needs developing.

This is something I learnt from the last three days of intensive, almost traumatically so, marking that I did. It’s nothing that anybody who’s ever marked for a paper hasn’t experienced; honestly I’ve lived a charmed marking life. But in being forced to confront a tight schedule and make it work, I realised a couple of things.

  1. Fuck am I glad it didn’t go on any longer than it did.
  2. Fuck did I need to get my shit sorted long before this event forced me to do it.

Like, this hasn’t cured my anxiety and depression or anything, but it certainly gave me a new perspective on what I have the capacity to do. Here’s the thing: as difficult as the last three days of marking were, they were difficult partially because of how haphazardly I approached the first four – basically, I didn’t approach them at all, I just kind of winged it, and lo and behold it didn’t work. I was not prepared, and coming to that realisation has made me aware of how prevalent that theme is in all of the areas of my life where I feel the most anxious, the most helpless and clueless and weak. It is something that I need to address.

And, in this situation, it is also something that I did address. It is frustrating to not be able to pinpoint the moment where the change occurred between the paralytic self-disgust of the Tuesday where I got almost nothing done and the following Wednesday where suddenly I just had a plan somehow – but I did. I got a plan. And it fucking worked. I prepared myself, on the fly, and without going into too much detail it went exactly as well as I hoped, in my wildest dreams, it might go, in less-than-ideal circumstances that were not part of those wildest dreams.

What I’ve taken away from this is that I can actually deal with difficult situations that I’m not necessarily prepared for better than I give myself credit for. I can trust myself to get shit done, even in a bind. Which, obviously, is very nice to know about myself, and I’m still kind of still processing it and getting used to it.

The other thing is that I really like having a schedule to organise myself around, actually. I was totally consumed with just marking, but I worked breaks into that schedule to do my own thing, and after it was over I missed the clarity of that structure – and felt frustrated that I hadn’t taken better advantage of it to get more of my own shit done. I just watched a bunch of YouTube (not all bad though, I do want to get better at chilling out); I didn’t have much brain-power left over for writing (though I did get some done, as you will have seen from the last post), but I wanted to get some reading done, and more than that I wanted to do plenty of stuff that was purely recreational. I wanted to watch some shows; I wanted to mess around with some fun things, and it didn’t get done.

So when I realised that the next round of marking would be coming in less than a week after finishing this round …

I got pretty excited.

And I think that’s deeply messed-up, but I am owning it, sticking to it, and intending to use it to my advantage. I need to test this out more. I need to see how effective I can be at organising my time to get my shit done, both the stuff that I am obligated to do because I’m being paid to do it, and the stuff that I want to do because I fucking want to do it. I am too accustomed to putting off my own wants and curiosities – I need to break that habit. And I think now that committing to a schedule of some kind might be the best way to do it.

Because, after all, that’s what Weekly Words is all about, albeit in a quite flexible way. It’s not organsied down to the hour, which is why I think it works, and I don’t think I could ever make that work for an extended period of time without getting paid for it. But looking back on those three glorious days of intensive marking, and after talking to my co-writing friend (as in the friend who I happen to co-write with; she’s not just a co-writing friend) about it, she pointed out that, actually, that plan didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere. It felt that way to me, but I’ve been doing Weekly Words for 3 months now, and I’ve seen the results. I’ve proven that I can organise myself – I just haven’t really thought about applying the same principles to anything other than my personal writing projects.

But it’s clear to me now that that’s exactly how I can break out of my years-long rut of denying myself basic pleasures of being a living organism, like doing shit that I want to do because I want to fucking do it. So, as I’ve brought up a few times in Weekly Words, I am now giving myself other goals across the weeks and months besides writing – time-off goals, the “day off” idea re-imagined in more concrete detail. Just like I don’t judge myself (or try not to) for how much I do or don’t get written in one day, I’m going to be making goals for myself that don’t have to be done on X day, but rather sometime during a longer period – a week, as I have already established – because sometimes the day just runs away from you, or other obligations come up and you have to deal with them. This way, I can be committed to taking care of myself while avoiding being needlessly pedantic about when, exactly, it will happen – just that it needs to happen within a certain time-frame. It seems to be the system that best works for me, and what I can control, I find easiest to control with this method.

And these are all ideas that I’ve had and talked about before, but not until now did any of it really feel … well, real. I was unprepared, and then I was, and now I know that I can be, and that’s very new. So new I’ll probably have to talk to my therapist about it, when I eventually get one. I now have a clearer understanding of my capacity to do things, and how much my mindset affects that capacity. I went from panicking and self-loathing to a purely task-oriented mindset – again, not sure how that switch happened, but it did, and it worked. And it’s given me perspective, too. I know now, looking back, that as well as things ended up going, they could have gone so much better if I had been more prepared – I probably couldn’t have been, but I’ve had the experience now that gives me the opportunity to get it right next time. And I’m craving that.

But there’s another element to why I’m so excited to throw myself into the grinder again, test my capacity further and see how far I can push the principles I’ve learnt and the better habits I’m still developing through Weekly Words when the next batch of marking comes around. What I’ve got now with Weekly Words is good. It works. But it’s becoming too safe – it’s still effective, but I’m feeling myself settling into it, leaning back on it, and consequently not reaching out for anything else, not pushing myself to continued developing my capacity. I think there’s definitely something to be said for acknowledging and being content with what you have – but for me, that contentment often becomes a trap, a crutch that, if I’m being honest with myself, I know I don’t need.

Yet the fact that this ability to get my shit organised has become such a fast habit of mine – that makes me optimistic that I can build other good habits as well, with the same process. I am looking forward to the next round of marking because of what I think – what I hope – it will do for me, and what it will do to me. How it will change my habits into habits that I’m happy to have. So that when I’m done with marking, I get to benefit from having more focus and structure in my life. Because I have shit that I want to do, that I keep myself from doing, and I realise now based on those disastrous first four days of marking that it’s because of how unprepared I feel for it. I think that kind of sums up all of my various neuroses and anxieties in life: I don’t feel prepared for life in general. But I know now that a lot of that has to do with me not doing anything to try to prepare.

So I’m going to get used to preparing myself, whatever it takes – and I’m realising that, actually, it doesn’t take as much as I seem to think that it does.

But I still have to do it, and today as I write this, I reflect on that. I got almost nothing done today (the 4th) writing-wise, or anything else-wise for that matter; I just watched YouTube all day. It felt all right; maybe I still need to recover a bit from the intensity of marking. But it’s definitely not how I want to be spending every day. Not anymore. I want something more now, and that’s new too.

I definitely want to get used to it – and used to following through.

Weekly Words 27/05-02/06/2018

27/05/18: 0 (but)

Today, I did not do any writing. It felt like the right thing to do. Or not do, as I literally just said.

Instead, I did some reading, specifically reading one of my old projects to see if it’s something I’m interested in returning to, tidying up, and preparing for submission by the end of the year (or having ready by the end of the year, because I hear end-of-year book submissions are not a great idea).

In short: yes it is.

Also it is fucking awful.

The project is Mark and Jessie’s Christmas, and I’ve documented a couple of previous attempts to re-read it and start taking notes, getting the revision process underway. The fact that it is awful is not new. It’s mostly the way I am able to identify the way in which it is awful. I met up with a friend the other day for a belated birthday dinner (hers), and we got around to talking about Harry Potter. She’s not a huge fan, and while I certainly used to be and the story will always hold a special place in my heart, I have to wonder if I would be quite as enthralled with them if I was introduced to the series, like, now. In particular, I wonder about The Goblet of Fire. When I went back to re-read the series in 2012 to see how it held up, I found that I liked the first 3 chapters of Philosopher’s Stone more than most whole books I’ve read, I liked Chamber of Secrets less overall but really appreciated how well it handled the super-dark theme of insecure, self-important adults threatening and preying on children, and The Prisoner of Azkaban was perfect until those fucking time-turners came in and ruined everything. Hermione being such a workaholic that she literally resorts to time-travel so that she can do more study is funny, but not so funny that it justifies ruining every speck of tension and consequence in the entire book.

But then I stopped, because the next book was The Goblet of Fire, and at the time I wrote it off as it being not interesting enough to make up for its length. I loved it when it first came out, because it felt like Harry and friends were heading into their teens in such a way that felt like my own teen experience – I believe I was also 14 at the time – but thinking back to it now …

It’s just so edgy.

And that’s when I realised why I couldn’t bear the prospect of reading it again: I hate edgy. I don’t think the film adaptation is very good, and I don’t think it’s very faithful in terms of tone, but it is in a sense the most faithful adaptation just because it is edgy as fuck. All that screaming, all that shouting, because everything’s so real, man, this is how people would really act in those situations, in the real world, for real.

It’s edgy.

And that is why Mark and Jessie is so painful for me to read: shit is edgier than a fucking Mobius strip. It could be hilarious in parts, if it was meant to be funny. But it’s not. It’s meant to be real, man, the real shit.

But from this, and from voicing some of my, uh, misgivings during the co-writing session today (during which I did not write, but we did read out our scenes written so far, splitting character voices between us, it was a lot of fun), I realised that, actually, a lot of it not only could be funny (and is already unintentionally funny) …

It should be funny.

And that’s funny to me, because just like Tallulah, which is not quite edgy but is definitely a very serious book in its current form, going back and re-reading it just makes me think of how much better it would be if it would just lighten up a bit. Not all the way. I don’t want everything I ever write to be peppy and goofy and fun – but at the same time, that is actually the spirit in which I feel most comfortable telling stories. Even my darker stuff, the angry stuff, the bitter stuff, there’s always a sense of humour in there somewhere – partly because it just makes the dark stuff stand out more. Gives it an edge, you might say. Just not that kind of edge.

Or that’s the idea anyway; and so for Mark and Jessie’s Christmas I am now re-committed to actually getting it done, and getting it done in such a way that is not utterly fucking insufferable to read. I am also finding points where the problems in narrative structure are making themselves known to me, which is a change from the last few attempts I’ve made, where I found it incredibly difficult to know what notes I should even be taking. I seem to have solved that problem by going in intending to take no notes, and then just letting myself vent. It works very well. These may not be the notes that I lean on for revision, but they’re the ones I need right now.

But probably the most important thing was having my friend to bounce ideas off, vent to, and get a different perspective from, so a huge thank-you to said friend who will remain nameless because I am weird and paranoid about naming people online. I’ve been waiting for a breakthrough with this project for nine years, a reason to believe I could actually go back and finish what I started, and it feels like I have that now.

28/05/18: 238

Last time I had marking to do, I got so much more writing done.

This is not last time.

Today, I took 2 hours to mark a single essay, and felt like a moron. It was not a good time. But all in all, today was a good day, and thinking about how it could have gone has actually kind of inspired me. I cooked dinner, which I’ve been meaning to do more of; that was another source of frustration, because I can never remember the order in which all the various seasonings and ingredients are meant to go on for roast pork, and it always takes so long to cook and it feels like I’m doing something wrong because I don’t remember how long it takes to cook – but it got done, and was rather tasty if I do say so myself. Just like the essay got done. I took a moment to ask myself what was really going wrong, and while the first thing I identified wasn’t the main issue, identifying it and being honest about the fact that it was upsetting me made it easier to get to the thing that was actually upsetting me. Definitely a validating example of honesty being the best policy, even if it doesn’t immediately get you the results you’re hoping for. It’s worth persevering.

And then I watched a bunch of youtube videos of a Dragon Ball FighterZ tournament, and that felt so rewarding it’s kind of silly – but I appreciate that. That’s good data; I can watch youtube and actually enjoy it, rather than just using it to distract myself. And because of all of these things, I have a new dream: to spend my days being busy with a mix of things, some basic everyday responsibilities, some things for my own satisfaction/indulgence, and just generally having a variety of things to bounce back and forth between. I like using my brain and being engaged, which tends to be the exact opposite of what my lifestyle affords me the opportunity to do, so recognising that today felt really important. Something to aspire to, starting tomorrow.

But this week, I’m not going to try and keep on top of my writing goals, simply because I have other shit to do. I am aiming to do some writing, and hopefully I will find myself being ultra-productive writing-wise – but if not, well, it’s not really the priority for this week. Despite some setbacks and emotional turmoil today, I feel like I learnt from the experience. And I think this new ideal of mine is worth aspiring to.

It’s worth persevering for.

29/05/18: 0

FUCK EVERYTHING.

Nah it’s fine. This week really does need to be de-prioritised writing-wise, and that’s fine. It is important to be able to maintain and honour your other priorities as a writer, because writing takes up so much time and energy and can so easily eclipse all other things, which can be very unhealthy. I just need to get through this week.

Although I also do want to use this week to test the limits of what I can get done when I’ve got tons of shit to do, so I’m not giving up entirely on writing this week. I’m committed to using this week as an experiment in time-management. Today’s experiment did not succeed as much as I would have liked, but I know what I did wrong, and that’s fine. In short: yes, having lots of things to bounce back and forth between is good, but I still need to deliberate about when I choose to bounce, instead of just doing it whenever.

30/05/18: 1075

Not bad for a day of marking.

I said yesterday that I was committed to figuring out how to balance all of my shit and practice good time-management skills, and today I did it, and it worked, and I am very glad that I now have it on record so that I can look back at it and acknowledge that I actually got this shit done, by crikey. I did choose when to bounce, and when to remain decidedly non-springy, and the results – well, I’ll put it like this: last night as I was dreading the mountain of marking I would have to climb today, I hoped for around 8, fantasised about 12, and in a perfect world where I had the powers of super-saiyan Neo, 15.

I got 15.

And all I had to do was have a system. I gave myself a time-limit for each essay (obviously I went over time when necessary, but also got to enjoy finishing sooner than I had planned for in several cases), and from that everything else just fell into place. Usually I go into … well, everything … with an attitude of “it takes as long as it takes”, and for the most part I believe that this is a very healthy way to do stuff, because so much of what we do we do in a rush, and the simple truth is that deadlines are not always realistic, and we have to take care of ourselves. But doing things this way, setting a hard time-limit for myself and striving to reach it, has shown me that, actually, I can make a time-crunch work for me, in a way that isn’t just riding the wave of get-it-done-the-night-before panic-adrenalin. This is a breakthrough, I dare say, a new chapter in my ever-expanding and persistently unwritten autobiography. I have learnt something about time-management that I never thought I would learn: that I can do it.

And that I can mark 15 goddamn essays and still get writing, and recreation, and if I could have been bothered some exercise as well, done. I can get a lot done in a day, as it turns out.

And, in keeping with the purpose of Weekly Words – here is the proof, the reminder, the perspective I can fall back on when I need to remind myself that my life is bigger than any one day in it. I realised yesterday that I treat every day as a kind of reset on my entire life, and with that realisation came a second realisation: I hate thinking of my life like that. I’d rather continue than stop and start, and this exercise of perspective-keeping is all part of that. It seems to be working too, kind of.

Here’s to things that work.

31/05/18: 2123

And a nice wrap-up to my writing week, with yet another pile of essays marked, actual exercise done … I know it’s only been 2 days, but I think it’s safe to say that I am the newly-anointed patron god of time-management, I will leave the details of your animal sacrifices to your discretion …

Weekly Total: 3436

Considering all the other shit I had going on this week, I hereby decree that this is a godly sum, and it is good.

Although also considering all the other shit I had going on this week, my writing experience has been a first-hand reminder that mindset is so important for getting things done. The first two days of marking this week were full of stress and self-doubt and self-critical self-talk – that’s a lot of self-related stuff – and I got basically no writing done, and found it really hard to do my work. But the next two days – today and yesterday – when I took stock of what I had to do, made some executive decisions about how to spend my time and what I was spending it on, and stuck to that plan, were two of the most productive days in my entire life, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, because my life is fucking easy, besides living with a mental illness and stuff.

I don’t know, realistically, how long I would be able to keep this up. I can safely say that I’m glad it’s going to be over – for a little while, and a very little while from the looks of things – after tomorrow, despite how rewarding these past few days have been. But the fact that I’ve been able to do this at all, as well as doing other things once I got into a good flow, indicates a huge shift in what I’m capable of handling. I honestly do not think I would have been able to do this, say, last year, and not just because last year I was recovering from finishing Masters, writing Wolf Gang, and generally trying to work out what the fuck I was going to do with my life from that point on.

Things are going well, basically. And they’re going well in a way that they have never been going well before. I’m liking it.

And I’m looking forward to being done with marking after tomorrow – at least until the next batch arrives, like, immediately afterwards.

No stopping. Only continuity.

Weekly Words 20-26/05/2018

21/05/18: 5596

So. New plan.

The weeks of Weekly Words are currently Sunday through Friday with an optional day off. I’ve been thinking of changing it for a while now, and I am going to stick with that; Sunday is now the optional day off, because I can always write one word every day, and don’t really need one during the week. Friday and Saturday are now my “weekend”, because I do want two days in a row where I can focus on other things than writing, leaving Monday through Thursday as my “work week”. And the word-count goal is still the same at a nice, round 10k because it’s the ideal that drives me, not necessarily the literal results. I’m going to try it this week, see how it works out …

And that’s that – now, on the topic of results: co-writing is back in action, and while at first it was quite daunting to step back into it after finally starting to hit a kind of stride with my own projects, I finished a whole scene today and it felt great, and then I went on and finished a scene for one of my projects, the one I’ve been working on-and-off on for the past couple of weeks, and that felt great.

I am getting writing done, y’all.

No, the scene of mine that I finished is not exactly how I want it – but that’s what revision is for. My new resolution for writing my own stuff is to get used to revision, so this scene is getting revised. I keep saying that I need to get used to writing a whole story before I go back and revise it, and I do think that’s true. But I also think that this scene is a whole thing; I’m not really sure it actually belongs in the project I want it to belong to, because it’s so long and involved and is supposed to be the introduction to the characters and the world. Such a huge set-piece should be the climax of an act or something; I do like a big, bombastic opening, and I think some of it can definitely work as an intro – and perhaps the whole thing. But that’s not certain. What is certain is that this scene was honestly written to stand on its own, and given that, I can treat it as a stand-alone project – one that I have now finished, and am therefore free to go back and work on to my heart’s content.

Of course, I may choose to move on and do something else instead, which is honestly feeling like the better, healthier option. I’m not sure what that thing is, but I’m finding myself a bit more open to exploring my options after my ‘detox’ weekend, which I think I really need to incorporate into my regular weekly schedule. That’ll be the plan if me taking between 2-3 days off this week doesn’t pan out the way I want it to; I want to try it at least, see what giving myself the extra time off does for my perspective and self-awareness. I’m a little worried it’s too long of a break, but I can always go back to the regular schedule and just make more of an effort to work the other stuff into it. I just want to get myself used to using my ‘weekends’ in a satisfying way, because life skills are good to have I hear, and oftentimes life requires that you don’t have much free time outside of your weekends. Not my life, because mental illness is fun like that, but hey, gotta live your dreams right?

22/05/18: 1215

More brainstorming today, exposition “practice” – and starting to realise that I’ve been pushing myself in the wrong direction. Or maybe clinging to the progress that I’ve made in the wrong direction.

A while ago, I had a little rant about “million dollar ideas”. The Harry Potter ideas, the Pokemon and Star Wars and Twilight ideas. The game-changers, and how much I wanted one of those ideas.

The problem was that I actually did have some of those ideas, or at least they felt that way to me, and I guess I am perhaps very slightly biased. But I just didn’t want to work on them. I couldn’t be bothered. And it frustrated me that I couldn’t make myself care about them.

One of the ideas I returned to after my detox weekend was one such idea, and I still really like the idea. The reason I am allowing myself to work on it right now is partly because it’s just a way for me to practice my world-building prose, which I need to remind myself of, because I still feel that frustration of not having the desire to turn it into a book series or something that “actually matters”, instead of a self-soothing hobby. I have my inner voice admonishing me for not having the ambition or drive or discipline or whatever it is that would make me take this idea and turn it into “something more” – something “worth” doing.

What’s cool about it is taking ideas that I am familiar with that involve a lot of unquestioned norms – tropes and cliches – and asking those questions. It’s a very generative idea, the kind of idea that leads to epic speculation debates. It is nerdy as fuck, and it is a very nerdy kind of appeal that I take form it. Deconstruction.

I hate deconstruction.

As an arts major, I live and breathe deconstructing ideas, asking the obvious, unasked questions, challenging the status quo, inflicting critical analysis on any hapless media product that dares to cross my path. But that doesn’t mean that I like it. Yet I’m forcing myself to stick with it in this case, because I feel that sense of obligation to “do something with it”; it’s such a good idea, and I feel like if I don’t work on it and “do something with it”, it’ll go to waste, and it’ll be my fault for not taking advantage of it – especially if somebody else has the same idea and runs with it one day, and I end up kicking myself for being so unambitious.

But none of these are reasons to like this idea, or like it for reasons beyond the ones that I have. And that is why I feel I have been pushing myself in the wrong direction by pursuing this project, at least in the way that I’ve been doing it: because I’m trying to force myself to like it when I don’t. And that’s pretty gross.

I have an idea, though. While I don’t like deconstruction, I do like mashups, and while there is a mashup aspect to this project, I think it’s not the kind of mashup I’m really invested in. So I’m going to brainstorm a bit more this week, and see if I can find the mashup that I give a shit about.

And if not, I’ll just use this idea for writing practice, because honestly I get too hung up on “doing something” with my ideas (i.e. turning them into novels) instead of just enjoying them for what they are, and I want to get better at the latter. Enjoying things seems to be one of those things that requires practice, even though it seems really unintuitive, because why the hell would you need to learn to enjoy something? Don’t you just, like, do it?

Not if you stop yourself constantly because you’re a pedantic freak. So, let’s try to un-learn some deeply ingrained pedantry, and see if we can’t start having a bit more fun.

23/05/18: 1012

More co-writing fun tonight; I’m going to rewrite it tomorrow because I had an idea and forced myself not to follow it and well that’s not how you write a first draft now, is it?

It is if you’re sticking to a plan but the thing is the plan I have is thiiinnn and there’s basically nothing to stick to so I may as well play around and have fun.

Tonight, I decided to try something that I am a little surprised I didn’t think of before. I decided to go back and revisit Realm of the Myth – the old, old-ass documents of plans and ideas that I still have, gathering digital dust, in the spirit of revisiting old ideas of mine, because while I’ve been working on it for the past 17 years and in that sense it is always a “relevant” idea of mine … it’s an old fucking idea of mine. The third book idea I came up with after deciding at age 13 that it was my destiny to be the very best author like no-one ever was.

So I did. I went back and read through a few documents, and while I can remember some of my world-building stuff being kind of interesting, in terms of story, characters, and just the general purpose of the project …

It’s so fucking bad.

Like, yes, to be fair I was 14 at the time, but that’s no excuse; I came up with some dope fucking ideas when I was 14, and for that matter I came up with some dope fucking ideas while I was still in single digits.

Realm of the Myth is not one of them.

And discovering that has been quite liberating. I’ve wanted an excuse to just kill this fucking project, ever since it came back from the dead after I thought I killed it in 2012, and this feels like the nail in the coffin. Because the version that I came up with in 2013, that was the new version, the one that cast off its shackles and history of failure and pedantic, procrastinatory world-building and all the other toxic roundabout bullshit that had defined its existence since I was 14 years old. But it didn’t quite take. It’s still tied to that legacy, and I’ve come up with some pretty cool ideas while trying to resuscitate it, ideas that I now realise are much more my ideas than Realm of the Myth ever really was. Which is the main reason it was bad: it was just so … bland. Every single idea that I ever came up with for it was borrowed from somewhere else; I have sung the praises of the art of ripping shit off on this blog and I stand by those sentiments, but there’s a difference between ripping shit off because you get excited about an idea and want to make it your own, and ripping shit off because you have no ideas of your own because you don’t give a shit but have this nonsensical sense of obligation to do something with the pathetic excuse for inspiration that you do have and thus snatch at any ready-made idea you can find that might possibly be able to fit in with what you’ve got.

It’s a bad project, has always been a bad project, and what makes it a bad project is the fact that, as was the issue yesterday, I just do not give a single flying fuck, and never have. I’ve put in time; I’ve thought it would be cool if only I could make myself do it. I’ve enjoyed the fantasy of this book, this story, this marathon of creative one-man circle-jerking coming to fruition in the form of a series of novels, or films, or a videogame. To be fair, it could still totally work as a videogame.

But it’s bad. And while I’ve tried to convince myself of it over the years in the same way I’ve tried to convince myself to like it, there really is nothing quite like cold hard empirical evidence to sway an opinion at the end of the day, and I have been fucking swayed.

I’m done. I’m done with this legacy of trying to force my passion for projects that I am not passionate about; and while I absolutely think that being able to work based on discipline without passion is a completely valid and useful skill in so many different situations, spending my own free fucking time to write books that it is quite likely nobody else will every read is not one of those situations. I now see that the way I worked on this project, for almost two goddamn decades, has almost destroyed any good writing habits that I did cultivate in my youth, and still holds a deathly grip over my current writing habits, and I have had it.

I have had it!

So sayeth the Ubermensch; and so therefore, starting tonight – I need to plan a funeral. A funeral for this useless, toxic, awful fucking book that I was absolutely correct to give up on when I was 14 about a month after I came up with it, even though I just brought it back when I was 15 and made it about killing dragons and collecting their souls to make a super-dragon that, I shit you not, granted a wish to the person who gathered them.

Fuck Realm of the Myth. Never the fuck again. Only good ideas from now on.

Life is too short to read bad books, they say – and given how much longer it takes to write a book than it does to read one, I’m going to go ahead and say that it is definitely too short to write them.

Especially if they still aren’t written after 17 fucking years.

Jesus.

24/05/18: 1880

I can’t believe I was worried that it would be hard to get back into the swing of co-writing after a couple of weeks off. I just sit down, and an hour later it’s just … written.

And people say there’s no such thing as magic.

Well, maybe I’ll hold off on being quite that saccharine, but it feels good. What feels less good is learning that my next batch of assignments to mark came in today, instead of next week when I thought they were coming in for … some reason. I was wrong in any case. But, upon reflection, since they have to be done by the end of next week, it is actually quite nice to know that, one way or another, I’ll be done with this round of marking pretty quickly.

Also, the last assignment I had to mark was done after I started Weekly Words, and I got even more writing done while marking than I did without that extra restriction on my free time. Creative constraints, y’all. Obviously there’s a balance that needs to be struck and it is entirely possible that I might just call the next week a wash, depending on how things go, but for the moment at least I am quite optimistic.

And speaking of optimism …

Weekly Total: 9703

And that’s with my new, four-day writing week. Well, five-day writing week with an optional day off during those five days, which I did take this week, on Sunday. Writing was done, but it was planning for the co-writing project and thus does not count.

And still I hit almost 10k.

I’m still thinking about other writing things, and I may well do writing during my “weekend off”. I’m wondering whether it’s actually maybe a good idea to count that writing towards my weekly total, but the next week’s total – a bonus word-count goal that doesn’t “count”, in the sense that it was extra and not part of the routine I’m trying to establish and maintain for my writing, but that I can still count in terms of, hey, I did actually do a bunch of writing, even if it was outside of my routine.

My justification for not counting it is just because I want to get better at taking my time off seriously, instead of just using it to distract myself from … well, there doesn’t even have to be a thing that I’m trying to distract myself from; I just do things to distract myself out of habit, and it’s a habit I want to break. Want a bit more intentionality, as I keep saying.

So this weekend off, I’m going to continue with my project of going back over my old ideas and looking at things about them that did and didn’t work for me, in terms of my actually working on them – or getting what I wanted out of them, at least. I’m including ideas that aren’t books, or stories, or even projects; sometimes ideas are just good in and of themselves. And I’ve decided, after yesterday’s long-overdue realisation about how bad Realm of the Myth has been for my writing habits and probably other habits as well, that this continued self-excavation can’t be about trying to get myself to come up with new books to write, because when I have those ideas, I’ll know about them. This is about checking in with myself – and, in the spirit of Weekly Words, broadening my perspective by reminding myself of things I’ve achieved. Or just done. They don’t have to feel like achievements; it can just be stuff I’ve actually done, to remind myself that I do that sometimes.

Also, this week I’ve been quite keenly aware of how my self-image and identity as an adult is largely based on the fact that I have spent vast amounts of energy on repressing my teenage self, who I am thoroughly ashamed of. Not because I was awkward and embarrassing, but because I was ruled by fear and couldn’t help myself. Which I know now, as an adult, sometimes happens, and it’s shitty, and it’s part of life. I’m not there anymore, though, and however horrible it is that I used to be there, I think I need to make more of an effort to put away this coping strategy that doesn’t need to be used anymore. I think – I don’t know, but I think – that maybe my past actually can’t hurt me anymore. So it might be all right to start digging back into it.

And I’m not going to lie, I also think it’ll make me a better writer. I’ve always been curious about what makes people tick, and that’s part of why I started writing to begin with – but that curiosity sort of died with my disconnection from my past and its traumas. I want that curiosity back. And I think I have to do some retrospection in order to find it.

Only one way to find out.

 

Weekly Words 13-18/05/2018

14/05/18: 2636

I learnt a lot over the past couple of days, about myself, my creative inclinations and habits, and how I need to let myself use them instead of stifling them. It was a valuable learning experience.

What’s also a valuable learning experience is just sitting down and making yourself write, and finding that you can actually do it.

I was seriously considering not writing today, like I didn’t write yesterday. I am definitely going to draw up some new goals for Weekly Words that don’t involve a word-count; I want to be exploring and experimenting and testing things out, and that might involve things other than “real” writing – it might involve planning, of all things. It might involve me getting better at it.

But also writing, because writing is good, and while I went into today’s writing session with trepidation and not a little reluctance, by the time I was done I couldn’t even remember what I was so worked up about.

Oh right: character voice. One of the big things I discovered over my “detox” weekend was that the ideas of mine that I’ve made something of – some sort of manuscript or drafting attempt that doesn’t stop after a week of spontaneity-fueled enthusiasm – are character-driven pieces. Except for Wolf Gang, but that was never actually meant to be good to begin with. Everything else I’ve stuck with has characters that I love and adore, and what I’ve found recently – meaning the past few years – is how much angst I have around getting characters “right”. Even if I have whole scenes in mind, once I actually sit down to put it in writing, it all just starts to fall apart; I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, I completely lose grip of what drove me to write it in the first place, even though once I step away from the page the scene – and characters – return to me just as vividly as ever. It’s infuriating, feeling unable to match up the ideas in my head with the reality of how it translates through my writing of them.

Perhaps I need to treat it a bit more like transcribing than writing; I need to not “interpret” it, which I think I actually end up doing when I set out to Write. Mostly because interpretation is fun in its own regard, and not wrong – but it’s also muddying up perfectly good ideas and driving me away from them. So I think I’ll be working on that for the rest of this week/forever.

15/05/18: 3941

Well, today was a good start: I got up at 10:30 for one thing, which is about an hour earlier than I’ve been getting up for the past fortnight, so that was good; and immediately I felt like writing. Just my thoughts and feelings upon waking up, observing the place I was in, not to turn into anything else, just a sort of morning pages deal. Going to continue that. It’s a nice way to start off the day.

After that, I did a writing exercise; I had an idea, and I wrote it down, and while the idea was visual it felt like a direct translation – a transcription, even – when I put it down in words, so I’m calling that not just a success, but a precedent. My Weekly Words word-count is now going to include these sorts of writing exercise things, because while they are not directly connected to my projects, they are going towards honing my writing skills, and I do want to count that.

I did also write some more of my project that I’ve been finding hard to work on for the past couple of weeks, and it’s so much easier now. I think there really was a hump that I just had to write up to and get over, because last night and this afternoon it’s been smooth sailing, and I’ve been enjoying writing the different characters. I started off with a sort of omnipotent but snarky third-person narrator, and now I’m giving way to the characters and allowing them to colour the narration with their own voices. I guess I feel a bit more relaxed about it, now that I’ve written the difficult, kind of boring set-up stuff. It’s not going quite according to the plan that I had, but it’s getting written, I quite like what I’ve got, and there’s always revision. The point is that I am building something to revise, and I finally like what it is that I’m building.

I didn’t write on Sunday, except for some co-writing plotting with my friend and making “detox” notes, and I’m not going to count those here. But it does count. It helped tremendously, and I feel very confident that I’ll be writing for the rest of the week very happily indeed because of what I got done over the weekend. It’s a very nice feeling, looking forward to writing again, and writing lots of different kinds of things for different reasons.

More of this.

16/05/18: 28

Can’t write I’m busy writing other stuff that doesn’t count towards my weekly word-count goal.

Brainstorming, in particular terms. How can one measure brainstorming? I guess you just say you’re doing it. Maybe I could use a checkbox for that with Weekly Words, like have a bunch of “bonus objectives” that I can tick off every week, and brainstorming could be one of them.

… nah.

17/05/18: 3153

Started getting back to writing a … well, not new per se, but newer project that I’ve had in mind for a little while and wanted to explore more fully. Felt good. Also felt frustrating, because it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, but I got it done and feel like I’ve got some groundwork covered.

Then came back later this evening and did even more; the original word-count was 1203. It’s all exposition, and I’ve decided that the best way for me to work off the frustration of it “not being what I want it to be” is to take what I’ve written and turn it into a scene – make it character dialogue and/or action, showing rather than (just) telling. There has to be some telling when you’re making shit up, laying out rules of a fictional world and how it works, but it’s always better when characters are involved and it feels like the world not only makes mechanical sense, but feels lived-in.

As good of a foundation as this has been, it does still feel like, at least in the moment, I haven’t gotten a lot done by doing any of these writing exercises – I guess they don’t have to, either, but it is a feeling that I sense needs a counter-balance to it that isn’t just waiting things out. For that reason alone (although there are others), I really do want to go back and read over some of my old drafts, things that I’ve actually finished, especially the couple that I’ve identified as projects I’d like to continue with. Writing new stuff is all well and good, and in this case particularly good because wow it is hard to write this new thing, my ideas are so thin at the moment and I really hate that feeling. It’s good, I know, to just be getting down the ideas that I do have, no matter their quality, but it still pains me to do it when they’re this under-developed. So, to balance that out, I need to do some reconnecting with some of my better-developed stuff. And take notes. As I found over my “detox” weekend, just taking down my reactions to my own work and ideas really helps me clarify my thoughts and feelings about them, in a way I don’t get if I just go back and browse through them. I am already missing the clarity that came from the weekend and want to get it back again, probably to the detriment of focusing on the here and now, just the usual existential crap of a disorganised mind.

But anyway, got writing done. Gonna make another big push with this new/revisited project tomorrow. Feeling kind of excited about it, even. Always a nice feeling.

18/05/18: 1534

Not as big of a push word-count-wise as I was hoping for, but in terms of what I actually got done – well, I got both some plot-development and character-development done in those 1.5k words, and that’s worth a lot to me, especially with a new project.

New-ish. I threw some hooks in; the characters themselves I’ve always found a bit awkward to work with because they’re just kind of dull as cardboard, but now there’s some intrigue, and it ties in with the plot, and it just feels … promising. I did enough today, I’ll say that happily.

As for this week …

13-18/05/2018: 11292

I’m back in business, y’all.

And all of that for my own projects. Yes, lots of it is brainstorming, but it’s brainstorming that counts, because it’s serving two purposes: it’s developing my ideas, and it’s helping me to practice exposition. And turning that exposition into something more interesting.

Also proper writing; I’ve been working on two personal projects this week, and while one of them is in the brainstorming stage, the other one – the one I was writing last week and the week before, to varying degrees of success – I’m trying to do less thinking about. But I might do more of this … “active planning”, I guess, where the brainstorming is the writing, or is there to be turned into proper writing in a more direct way.

As in, tonight, I took the big world-building info-dump thing I wrote last night and turned it into a scene between the two main characters that also ended up exploring their relationship to each other and tying into the main plot – which I was making up on the spot as I wrote, and it was working and gelling and just … it was fun. It was satisfying. And most importantly, it made me want to keep doing it after today.

Which is going to be a little awkward, but also maybe quite good, when I take the weekend off to do other things. There’s a piece of writing advice that says to always stop when you’re in the middle of your flow, so that you want to come back and do it the next day, instead of using up all of your motivation in one sitting. That can backfire pretty hard if you just lose motivation because you cut off your own momentum, but I think my idea of taking two days off after five consecutive days of writing – and writing quite a bit, on the whole – plays to the strengths of that strategy. Besides, I do want time to decompress, to focus on doing other things without worrying about having a quota to fill, so that I can 1) do other shit, and 2) look forward to being able to fill the quota when I get back to it. Which I did not think would ever be a thing that I would want, but even just taking Saturdays off for Weekly Words has proven to me that it is, indeed, a thing.

Sadly this Saturday is not really going to be “off”; I have a Youthline thing from 10-4, which is sure to be intense and hopefully very rewarding, like the last one was, and I’m kind of dreading it because if there’s a point in this course where I realise I shouldn’t be here, this is probably going to be it, but also kind of looking forward to it because, conversely, if there’s a point where I finally feel certain that I’ve made the right choice in continuing with Youthline, this is also probably going to be it.

And then after 4 I’m free, but still, it’s not going to be much of a weekend. And also, I realise, according to my new plan, today should have been part of my “weekend”.

Oh well. Next week. Fridays and Saturdays off, and I’ll keep the optional day off during my week as well, though the way things are going I highly doubt it’ll get a lot of use. I think as long as I can keep my weekends sufficiently full of doing things that I actually want to do while simultaneously denying myself the opportunity to write (though writing down awesome ideas that I have in moments of inspiration is still allowed), that’s a balance I can maintain.

I think. Next week can be the trial run. Just gotta remember to do it. And I think, given the past week, that I can. This way of brainstorming that fulfills a second role as being the “zero draft” of scenes for books I want to work on – I had the idea, a while back, to write summaries of my potential novels and treat them as the “zero draft”, rather than as a plan that was separate to the “real” writing that I’d have to do to make the novel, like, exist. Brainstorms that can also serve as future word-count. That’s a keeper, I think.

And with it, I think I’ve found a new way to motivate myself to work on my own projects. Which is the eternal struggle with writing. So that’s cool.

And now I’m going to try to ignore my nerves and get some sleep. Until next week.

As in I’ll post something next week, not I’ll sleep until next week. Though I wouldn’t complain …

“Detox Day” 2/2

This was a very good, important idea.

I am going to need to think about this regarding Weekly Words. Obviously I really appreciate what Weekly Words has been doing for me, and I’d like to keep that up. But it’s clear to me that word-count alone is not what I need – or even want – to be focusing on right now. At least not for 10k words a week.

Part of that is because one of the conclusions I have come to over these two detox days is that I have a lot more than one kind of writing to do in order for my process to really work for me, and a lot of it is just being silly and having fun with my ideas. The other night, because it was about 4am and I wasn’t asleep because why would I be, I started coming up with stupid place names for the world in one of my projects, and iterated on the names for a good quarter of an hour just to make myself laugh. Now that seems kind of like “yeah, so what”, but I realised that not only did I do something that I enjoyed, but it also got me more invested in the project. And then I realised: this silly improvisational self-amusement is my natural mode; this is how I invest myself in my projects, the way I naturally express my enthusiasm, just throwing ideas around and workshopping them on the spot. And it’s something I’ve discouraged myself from doing, distracted myself from doing, for a very long time. I have internalised a lot of “writing advice” sort of logic regarding writing over the years, and I’m fairly sure I’ve made a lot of it up through a combination of only half paying attention to the actual advice I’ve been exposed to, and my own ingrained self-sabotaging habits that turn everything into an ever-escalating shame marathon. For all that I’ve written about having to make writing work for you and not pushing yourself to do things that just don’t work, it seems I have not been taking my own advice. I don’t let myself do things that I know work for me when I have some reason, however, flimsy, to think it’s “stupid” or “irrelevant”. It actually makes me pretty angry, seeing just how pointlessly pedantic I have gotten about my writing process over time, and how many opportunities I’ve missed because of these awful habits.

Yesterday, I identified the biggest issue for me – besides distraction, which these two days have been good for countering as well – which was self-sabotage through shifting my own goalposts and making it impossible for me to meet my own standards, because they keep changing. Inconsistency. Today, I identified one of my biggest strengths: letting myself do things my way. And that means taking time to give myself the opportunity to do that, which is what these past two days have done for me. In fact, I got pretty much everything I wanted out of these past two days: I revisited some old projects, identified what I liked about them, what got me to work on them or what held me back from doing so, found that I was actually still quite interested in some of them even after not working on them for so long, and got back in touch with what was going on with me and what I feel most drawn to. A chance to check in with myself. I now know I need to do that far more often.

And all of this thanks to pen and paper. Never will I be without it again. So sayeth the Ubermensch!