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?
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.
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.
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.