Monthly Words July 2018

Monthly Total: 15492

I try too hard.

No, but seriously. Looking over this past month, which has been an exercise in me having to confront my various bad habits, and pulling up a couple of key points of this month’s weekly summaries, one thing stands out to me above everything else: I overthink things to a self-defeating degree.

Now, I’ve always known this about myself, but I’ve only ever really been aware of it with regards to things going badly. Honestly, as much as I moaned about it, this month has been pretty good writing-wise. It’s about the habit, not the word-count, and I’m keeping in the habit of regularly writing. This past week in particular has felt really good in that regard. So becoming aware of this over-thinking during what has been a good, albeit very stressful, period, is a shock that I’m still processing. I thought that aspect of  my personality was nice and neatly compartmentalised, strictly limited to my moments of negative self-talk and aimless introspection. But apparently it’s just everywhere. Like sand. Or triggers for my social anxiety.

Sand is not a trigger for my social anxiety. Just to clarify.

So yes, a good month. The word-count is lower than some of my good weeks, but again, that’s not the main point – this has been a good month in terms of milestones in particular. I finished my read-through of Wolf Gang, my shitty YA werewolf novel, and even gave me some thoughts of how I could revise it if I so choose. I re-connected with my previous shitty YA novel, Mortal Foil, and I am currently still tinkering away at it, though I am finding that I really need to get out of my own way – connected to the whole over-thinking thing. My co-writing friend and I had a particularly awesome brainstorm over the weekend and have elevated our former fanfic project into something that is really starting to feel unique and distinct from its various inspirations.

But then there’s the other side of that. I made all sorts of outrageous claims – I was going to do “writing exercises” to “hone my craft”; I was going to “plan” my writing, “according to what I actually want to get written”; I discovered that my gaming was in fact “important” …

And, of course, the word-count.

Yeah, fuck it, I can’t help but feel disappointed in that word-count, I’m only human, and this weekly initiative is, in fact, called Weekly Words, so if there ain’t no words to show for it, then it’s just Weekly [insert something of value here], which to be fair could be rather entertaining if I had the spontaneity or passion to tackle such an ambitiously vague project. I don’t. I just want my life to work already, goddammit. I feel like an Urban Fantasy heroine right now, only without any cool powers, nor the thronging horde of alpha male douche bag suitors waiting to pounce on me if I dare set foot out of my house. The public sphere is for men, after all.

Anyway.

This month has been me looking back over my progress, or lack thereof in various areas, and while there have absolutely been things about this month that I’m very proud of and grateful for, overall I just can’t help but see my personal problems highlighted to me in a way that I haven’t experience … ever, maybe. It’s been a month’s worth of “I’ll do better I promise, look at how many ambitious-sounding, plan-like statements I can make in a single post, please don’t leave me”, I don’t know what the last part is there for but it is there. I look at how I’ve handled my various micro-dramas over this past month and it just seems like I’m trying to compensate for something, like I’m bargaining, wheedling, pleading – like I’m trying to make a deal. I’ve been trying to appease someone or something for my various personal failures so that, I dunno, they don’t make fun of me.

When I say that I ‘try too hard’, it’s trying too hard to live up to the perceived expectations of this strange, existential phenomenon that apparently has such influence over my self-image and sense of worth. The superego, as Freud would call it, some kind of conditioning that I have yet to successfully confront and learn healthier ways to cope with.

And ironically, it makes it so much harder for me to do the things that I keep saying – and sometimes genuinely want – to do.

I think, looking back on it, that I really did just need to say “this week has been shit I’m taking a break laterz” more often when I knew that I needed time off, rather than doing things to compensate for needing or wanting or, haven forbid, taking it.

Didn’t I tell you that Urban Fantasy heroines were relatable?

I don’t know if I get bored easily, but I have identified that every apologetic, over-compensating self-improvement ambition I have had over the course of this past month stems from being bored out of my goddamn mind. I kind of live in a state of perpetual suspended boredom, where I don’t look too closely at the state of my life and what it’s lacking because if I do, I know from experience it’ll lead me somewhere I don’t want to be. This isn’t healthy, at all, but it’s preferable to actively hating my life. But this month, the facade seems particularly transparent to me. I’m seeing behind my own veil, I guess.

So what’s the solution?

Well, besides genuinely wanting to stop making those apologetic, over-compensating statements of self-improvement, I don’t really know. But I do know that in the middle of this month, I felt very overwhelmed by my life, and while on the one hand it was … overwhelming … it was also exciting. Scary, yet enticing.

I think now it’s just because I knew that I couldn’t be bored while doing it.

So. I’m not allowed to make big proclamations of self-improvement. Well how the fuck am I supposed to close out this blog post, then? Tell me that why don’t ya?

I guess I can just talk about what I’ve been reading – I picked up Temeraire again last night, after reading the first chapter and then putting it aside to continue with my Urban Fantasy binge, and … it’s good. Like, it’s very good. This might be a new favourite. I was terrified about reading genres outside of Urban Fantasy, that I’d find it too hard, too challenging, too stimulating in too many ways I wasn’t prepared for. As it turns out, what I was really afraid of was the level of emotional investment, because basically as soon as I picked it up again last night I was in. It seems to be a fairly typical boy-and-his-dog story, except the “boy” in question is a grown-ass naval captain who initially doesn’t want the dog, and the dog is a talking dragon. An adorable talking dragon. The whole story is adorable. It’s so adorable that I’m now even more terrified than I was before, because this is a story set during the Napoleonic War, where dragons and dragon-riders are the elite soldiers – and weapons – of the world’s military forces, and while I’ve never actually seen Old Yeller I have had it spoiled for me by cultural osmosis, don’t do this to me Naomi Novik, you don’t know what I’ve been through, I do not need this shit

I am not bored reading Temeraire. 

And also, it’s very easy to read. I don’t know if it was the Austen-style prose, the subject matter, the size of the font, but something about the presentation of this book told me that it would be hard to read, dense, technical, dry. It’s not. It’s lush and crisp and adorable and I am up to page 77 out of over 300 and already I am recommending this book to literally everyone, thank-you co-writing buddy for giving me this book for my birthday, it is awesome …

It’s the start of doing exactly what I need to do to turn this sad state of affairs around.

So, no grand proclamations. No new resolutions to do better. I’m tired of being disappointed with not living up to them, and of feeling obligated to make them. Just some appreciation. (Particularly to my co-writing buddy for getting this for me for my birthday; thanks again!) I appreciate not being bored. I appreciated feeling stimulated by returning to books that aren’t Urban Fantasy – and honestly, probably ending my Urban Fantasy kick for good. It’s too samey, and while that is part of what’s great about it, ultimately it is what has brought on this full-blown existential crisis I’m in the middle of. There’s no comforting place to escape to now; there’s just everything I’ve been trying to escape from. And some of it isn’t boring.

Cool.

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Boredom ritual

I have nothing to follow that up with, except to say that I really need to get me one of those.

And that’s pretty much it. I tried to write something today but all that came out were notes; there’s still plenty of daylight left (okay maybe not plenty it is winter here), and I’m going to try and devote the next however many minutes it takes to getting really fucking bored. No music – I’m realising that I use music to keep myself “engaged” in the same way that I use World of Warcraft to feel “engaged” – no videogames, no little notepad to scribble shit down in, no phone, even though it is totally blowing up and I will be letting literally millions of people down by not immediately responding to their textual communications. Just go and sit somewhere and just sit somewhere. I need to get incredibly fucking bored.

I mean do I need to feel like doing something to do it? No, I don’t, but …

This is getting too deep; boredom now, thinking later. If it works I’m sure you’ll hear about it.

Other things

So I’ve been doing writing lately. Writing what? Notes, mostly, though also incrementally advancing a couple of stories. None of them have gripped me enough to make me want to carry on through with them, and I think there’s something in that. I have gotten pretty good at developing nice, solid premises in a very short amount of time, but what I’ve recently learnt is that I don’t want to follow through. It’s just … too easy. This from the guy who keeps saying how much he loves convention; look, I do love convention, but thus fat I don’t love writing it through to completion. And I think it’s simply because the ideas that make me want to write are the ideas that only come afterwards, the ones that come after you start writing the damn thing and getting a feel for it in practice. So notes and incremental advancements in several projects is fine with me.

Also writing statistics and abilities for units in a real-time-strategy game I will possibly turn into a board game because I have no connections, money or technical know-how to turn it into a videogame.

It’s all writing. It all counts.

I have been in a slump though; not a writing slump, just a general slump that affects my writing as well, because that’s what slumps do. Thankfully I had a Neil Gaiman article pop up on facebook and tell me that he recommends getting bored in order to get inspired and, like, yeah, it works really well. I know this from experience. I need to go do that. It’s so easy to keep ourselves interested nowadays, with umpteen social media platforms always accessible so long as we have internet access, mobile gaming, music, texting … it’s so hard to get bored. And boredom is vital for creativity, for motivation. It lets you tap into your most urgent motives, in ways you may never have considered – including the most direct way. Some people don’t consider that.

So in the interests of getting away from social media dependence, I’m making a concerted effort to get through all of the books from The Book Depository that I have not yet read. I want to have them all read before semester starts; hell, I want to have them all read before February. And I’m going to write about them as well. I don’t know if the word “review” is going to be relevant; I guess I’ll see when I get around to it.

Plans are good.

The books are, in order of my seeing them on my bookshelf (not in the order I will read them, because I don’t know what order that will be):

  • P.C. Hodgell, The God Stalker Chronicles
  • Garth Nix, Clariel
  • Kristen Cashore, Graceling
  • Tamora Pierce, Alanna
  • Kelley Armstrong, Bitten
  • Lev Grossman, The Magician’s Land

I’m a little surprised there aren’t more …

Hodgell gets done first simply because I’m already reading it. It’s still good, and it’s making me want to know what happens next, not because I’m “hooked” but because I actually care. It’s been a while since I felt this way for a story, and I’m grateful for it.

Part of me also wants to finally get around to writing that Vampire Academy review, but … it’s just been so long, and my opinions have changed since I finished the series. I feel like I’d have to talk about the whole series. Which I could well do. But not anytime soon.

So yeah. That’s my tentative plan to get back to boredom, weaning myself off social media by reading books that I paid money to own instead of being a smart person and getting them from the library. And I’ll keep writing my stuff and see where it goes, if anywhere.

Onwards.