Weekly Words 18-24/03/2018

18/03/18: 1558. Not a ton of writing done volume-wise, but had a fantastic brainstorming session with my friend with whom the co-writing is being done; she really helped me with a few key things I was really stuck with character-wise, and gave me a fantastic idea to work with in my current episode. I’m weirdly paranoid about using people’s actual names on this blog, but to said friend: thanks again, you are epic.

And then we played D&D, which I have not played since I was 18 and my useless at-the-time-best-friend was DMing and totally put me off for the next however many years. This time it was my co-writing partner’s boyfriend DMing, and the whole process was incredibly fun and engaging, even though most of it was just creating characters – I really do enjoy creating characters, in writing, acting and gaming, and D&D mixes all of that together. I’m pretty sure my character is nothing close to optimised, and as somebody who has spent a not inconsiderable length of time filling Word documents with homebrew revisions to the 5E ranger class over the past two years, I am pleased to find that I am very, very happy about this. It’s a great bunch of people, our characters already have pretty awesome chemistry, and there’s another player yet to join us. Looking forward to seeing how it all plays out! I might even go back to my D&D-inspired project off the back of this wave of enthusiasm.

19/03/18: 1594. A bit slower this week – however, to be fair, last week was very full-on, as I was striving to make up for lost time. It’s not the kind of performance I expect myself to put out every week, or even for one week every month. It was just a very nice bonus.

20/03/18: 1011. Finished up a difficult scene with the co-writing project that I’m still not happy with, but I reminded myself that it’s not about being happy with it at this stage, just about getting it done. I was going to do some writing of my own projects today, which did not happen, but I haven’t written anything on Tuesdays since I started this Weekly Words thing until today, so I’m going to focus on the progress that I have made instead of dwelling on things I wanted to do but didn’t.

21/03/18: 141. Hey, I wrote this Tuesday, so slumming it today feels fair. And it was even one of my own projects.

Here’s the reason why I didn’t write more: I realised that everything that was happening up to this point seemed more like a second book than a first. The main character is losing all of their stuff, which we haven’t seen them gain, so there’s no sense of significance – that needs to change. And a lot of things need to change in general. Yesterday I made myself embrace just writing the goddamn thing and not caring about it being good; today I’m realising that one of the reasons the co-writing thing is working so well is because my friend and I actually spent about a month plotting the entire season out before we started writing. Yes, we have certainly deviated from that plan in some quite major ways, but that’s not a testament to the quality of the plan. For me, it’s the fact that there is a plan, not what the plan is specifically, that helps. That and having someone else for accountability, which honestly is the big thing – but yes. I need to make a plan, break it down into manageable chunks, and then write it. I’m finding that, with regards to the whole planner/pantser thing, I can do either, but at this point in my life I am leaning hard towards planning, and I think I just need to do some of that for this book, and my other unfinished projects that I still haven’t gotten started on since I said I was going to recently. It could be that it doesn’t actually make a difference and I’m just overreacting to a lack of inspiration tonight, but I do know that the co-writing project is so much easier to write because there is a plan for me to follow whenever I sit down to write it, so I’m theorising that it will make things easier for me with my own projects if I also have a plan for them.

23/03/18: 2494. Well, I guess this balances out last week’s marathon effort; this week I’ve just felt pretty lacklustre in general. But hey, I wrote on a Tuesday for a change, and I had the same number of writing sessions this week as I have for all the others so far, so I’m not worried. I think my word-count goal of 10k words per week is a nice ambitious one, and one that I am going to hope for – but I also think that cramming in a bunch of extra words just for the sake of making up numbers is not as important as establishing a persistent, regular habit, and writing almost every day every week is that, regardless of how much is actually written during those sessions.

24/03/18: 6798. Wow, good thing I just said all that stuff disavowing the importance of actually meeting my weekly word-count goals, huh.

I’m not bothered. It’s been a pretty decent week in other areas; last week was very good for me, both in terms of writing and in terms of exercise, two areas that I’m really trying to focus on improving my consistency with this year. I can feel the threat of a slump coming, the low to last week’s high, but everything resets tomorrow, and that’s all right. I actually wonder if part of it had to do with playing that D&D session – it put me in a totally different headspace, and while I think that was a good thing, it definitely took my focus away from keeping up the writing.

But I also think it’s just a sign that I need to adjust to not having emotional fuel to rely on. Last week I was very motivated and energised; this week, not so much. Sat on my laurels a bit, let my indecision and lack of clear, appealing options lead me, and generally let my feelings – or lack thereof – take the reins. Well, that’s an important lesson. I do need a plan. Not just for each individual project I want to work on, but on what I’m going to write every day. I actually did have a plan yesterday and didn’t follow through with it, so that’s going to be my plan for Monday, or perhaps after the co-writing meetup tomorrow.

And no, last week’s more-than-60%-of-my-word-goal doesn’t “carry over”. Each week is a reset; I want to hit that word-count goal every week. I’m not going to agonise over it if I don’t, but I am going to try and see what I need to do in order to change it the next week. And I’m sure there will come a time where there’s nothing I can do, because life happens, and I do just need to write off a week. But last week wasn’t a write-off. It was a series of decisions to make things easy for myself. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that I do have a goal that I want to keep hitting, and a promise that I made to myself at the start of this year, even if it doesn’t feel as immediate and crucial as it did in the moment. I need to get one of my books written this year. I need it. This co-writing project is not one of my books. I’m still enjoying it and looking forward to the revision process when it comes, but I have been neglecting my own work because it’s been so easy to work on. Well, this week it wasn’t as easy, and I think I needed a plan for leaning on my own work to pick up the slack.

I think it needs to be an open plan, too. Something clear and precise, but not rigid and overly specific – I don’t think “I will work on project X today” is good enough, because that shit is going to bore me to death long before those projects ever get written that way. I need something like a daily writing challenge to myself, and to use my existing projects to meet it. Any of them. A “write a scene where X happens” sort of deal. Or even looking at writing prompts in preparation. And I do think that I need to make plans for my projects as well. I work better with a plan. I can use them for self-generated writing-prompts, like “write the plot-twist” or “introduce the main antagonist” or something like that.

On the other hand that does sound like a lot of work – but hey, this is all about getting used to doing regular work. And I did at least write regularly this week, so that’s part of why I don’t feel too broken up about the word-count. That’s a realistic goal, regular writing. Perhaps 10k per week is not realistic for me; I had some great momentum and excitement to begin with, but that’s the same as any new project, and inevitably the novelty wears off. Going forward, commitment and creativity are going to have to be my batteries.

But for now, the time to reflect has ended. The time to continue is about to begin. And in the meantime, I just wanna chill. That’s what Saturdays are for, right?

That’s not a rhetorical question; I don’t really integrate with society so I actually have no clue what most people do on Saturdays. Comments welcome.

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Weekly Words (04-10/03/2018)

04/03/18: 2818. Had some hiccups with scheduling for today’s co-writing meetup, but it all worked out in the end. The internet is a very useful tool sometimes! Not only did I write almost 3k words today but I even finished the first act of the episode I’m currently writing, only a couple of days after starting it, which I feel very good about. The last episode took me about 3 months to write; granted I had a pretty good start with that one as well, but it still feels good to have some momentum again, and prove to myself that I can get stuff done. It definitely helps to have someone to write with for accountability purposes, even if you’re just writing at the same time online, rather than in person.

05/03/18: 2786. I wrote some of my project, and it was pretty fun. I feel the importance of keeping up with a project right now, mostly because of how hard it was to get started again. I’ve got to make a habit of this, keeping in touch with my various projects if I’m at all interested in progressing them, even if I’m not sure how much I’m willing to commit to them. I am already thinking of the first revision pass, and I think I need to write down my ideas so that I’m not forced to put them aside while writing the current draft, which just needs to get written. Got to keep reminding myself of these basic useful things that I know work. Writing is always more than just making words appear.

07/03/18: 67. Had dinner with friends tonight after a bit of a hiatus catch-up wise, which was good, but was so tired afterwards. Made myself do some writing just so that it got done. Will put in actual effort tomorrow, especially now that my latest WOW subscription has run out. There’s a new expansion due in September, and I think until then I have well and truly had my fill of that game. Also been thinking about my own project, re-thinking the start and introduction and especially the main character. They’re a transplant from Realm of the Myth, the anti-hero/foil character who I am very emotionally attached to but have not actually had a ton of experience writing, and I have to be honest, they don’t feel like they suit a leading role. I will ponder this. It might be best to re-write what little I have, just to reduce the amount of reworking I’ll have to do later in terms of the actual story … but then again, revision is supposed to be a process of reworking anyway. I think the better thing for me to do is treat this like a rough proposal, and rather than worrying about having to undo all of my hard work later down the line, just get it written really quickly so it doesn’t feel like as much of a setback. Really want to get used to just writing and not worrying about making it “good” during the first pass, get into the habit of giving myself something to work with and building up momentum for a long-term project that might transform quite drastically over the course of revision. I want to embrace that level of potential change. But at the same time, I want to start from a place of clarity, and I don’t really have that right now with this story. Not quite sure what the best way to proceed is – but I think that’s probably not helpful right now, either. I just need to get it done, in whatever shape it turns out to be, and just accept the fact that this might be a lot of damn work, and embrace that.

08/03/18: 819. I very almost didn’t write today either; I have been getting back to my library books – volumes 2 and 3 of the Kitty Norville series by Carrie Vaughn, which I am enjoying immensely and is making me very keen to return to writing werewolves in some form or another, no pun intended – but I’m glad I did some writing. It’s a scene I’ve been dreading writing, not because it’s particularly long or anything, but because it’s a complicated character interaction and I had to think of what to express through dialogue, what to leave unsaid, and what would suit the characters in that regards. I’m not sure I made the right decisions, but I also think that I really do need to force myself to get used to this whole “leave it until revision” philosophy of writing stuff, so I’m taking that as a positive – a challenge to my inner perfectionist, and an opportunity for me to gain better control over it. Also, I rediscovered the song “Bootylicious” today, and can’t really fathom how teenage me didn’t really like it when it was originally released. That song is amazing.

09/03/18: 4505. This co-writing episode is coming together much, much faster than the last one, and I am very happy about that. I had a lecture to attend as part of my marking job for uni this morning, so it’s been a long day, but I think that was actually good for my writing today in a way – did a bunch early in the afternoon after I got back, took a long break, and did the rest later this evening. I ended up enjoying a lot of the ideas that I had for the scenes that I wrote, which is nice; normally I’m just stressing about trying to “get it right”, but I felt more inspired and energised about it today. I think it’s one way I can control and redirect my inner perfectionist, letting myself indulge in ideas that I really like as opposed to criticising the ideas that I have for not being good enough. I did want to write some more of my own stuff this week, but at the same time I really like most of what I’ve been able to do with this co-writing project, and regardless of how much I liked writing it it’s getting written, which is the important part.

10/03/18: 10995. Totally forgot to update on time, but hey, writing!

At this rate I would not have finished Nanowrimo by the end of the month; but by the end of the year … that’s a lot of words.

I’ve been doing this for two weeks, and I think it’s great. I am finding myself looking at my progress over a period of time as opposed to just in the moment (especially when I’m feeling like I’m not doing anything with my life), which was the whole point, and it feels good, which was the other whole point. I’ve actually noticed that I don’t really have to push myself too hard to meet the 10k word goal each week, or not so far anyway. I have certainly gotten myself up out of bed or torn myself away from YouTube or gaming to do writing instead, but it hasn’t felt like the monumental, torturous task that it often does. I always say that habits are powerful, but living the proof of it is still quite eye-opening.

More writing today, as it is Sunday. I’ve been feeling a bit of overlap between my current project and another one that’s been on the back-burner for a little while, which has actually turned out to be good, because now I’m determined to differentiate them from each other more. And I have been on a roll with my parts of the co-writing project since starting this initiative. I have also found that my “sick day” idea, plus designating Saturday as the “weekend” for this semi-work-week schedule I’m trying to stick to, is a very useful one in practice, because sometimes the days I think are going to knock me out end up energising me, and the ones I think will be a cakewalk with regards to getting some writing done turn out to be write-offs. And I do need Saturday off. This is self-directed work in the midst of copious amounts of free time, with no fixed schedule to stick to, just a weekly word-count and a vague “write something every day 5 days a week” goal, and already I’m starting to appreciate why most of the working world lives for the weekend.

And I even did exercise this week. Don’t know if that’s related to this new, burgeoning habit of self-regulation or not, but hey a plus is a plus.

Long story short: it’s going good. Gives me hope for getting other self-directed initiatives up and running – but one step at a time. And this is a big step for me.

Weekly Words

A new challenge has arrived.

Starting this week, I have a new initiative for myself and for this blog: Weekly Words. Basically, every week I have a word-goal that I aim to meet, and at the end of that week – Saturdays, which will be my day off – I post up a summary and rant a bit about it.

From Sunday through to Friday, I write. I am giving myself a “sick day” every week, which is just a day where I don’t have to write towards my word-goal, which is flexible because stuff happens. The Saturday is fixed because it’s the end of the working week, so it’s a nice easy way to cap off my week’s efforts, and because structure is important when you’re trying to learn a new habit, which is exactly what I’m doing here. My word-goal every week is going to be 10k words, and I’m going to count all writing that I do, just to start with, to gauge my capacity to write in terms of volume, in a very general sense. I’ll keep doing that until probably March 12th, unless I stop before that, at which point I’ll narrow it down to only include writing done for projects that I have at least some intention of submitting for publishing.

There are a few reasons for me doing this, but the biggest one is that this year feels like my absolute last chance to make of myself the things that I want to, to put in motion the wheels I want turning. Last year was a year off for mental well-being. This year is a year on, for mental well-being.

This year is the last opportunity like this I’m likely to ever get, where I have a ton of free time and thus ample opportunity to try and see what I can do with myself when I’m not obligated to spend my time doing other things, like working, or studying, or whatever the future may bring. I said at the start of the year that I needed to finish a book this year, and this is how I’m going to do it. I need to finish a book this year because from this year on, I need to finish a book every year. I need to be working at my writing like a job.

I have said in the past that, since I’m not getting paid for the writing I’m doing, I may as well just write to my own schedule. That was fine until this year, when I was seized by a sense of urgency that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. I saw my life up until this point and weighed it against the goals I’ve set for myself, and I felt angry. In a good way, though. A motivating anger, and without bitterness or spite or regret. I just recognise now that I can’t sustain this kind of attitude, where I say I want to do X or Y and then don’t push myself at all to follow through. I’ve had to deal with anxiety and depression for years, and I am not going to say that I could have tried harder to push through and reach my goals, because honestly I’m amazed I’ve been as productive as I have in all the time these conditions have affected me.

Which is the other main reason for doing this. I am doing a weekly word-goal instead of daily, and the reason for this is because the other day, I realised that one of the reasons I feel so stuck in life so often is because I don’t allow myself to look back far enough, with a broad enough scope of all the things I’ve actually done. I tend to focus on the moment too much when I’m looking for a sense of purpose in my life, and evidence for it, which I now realise is why I have these feelings of being unproductive, hopeless, aimless, etc. I have to broaden my perspective, and looking back at a week’s worth of work instead of just what I did on X day is a good way to do that.

I’ll probably also do a Monthly Words on the first Saturday of each month, tallying up the past month’s word-count and progress made, to further facilitate this initiative of expanding my perspective. I feel that this is the kind of perspective that would have allowed me to more appreciate how much I accomplished by finishing my masters, or even my shitty YA werewolf novel. I need to feel it when I accomplish something, to believe it, and I think that by setting myself up to be judging my progress over a length of time longer than a day, I’ve got a better chance of getting to that point than I am doing what I’m doing right now.

This is all stuff I’ve thought of doing, and tried to do, in the past, but I’ve got to make it work this time. Life is finite. This hit me the other day, going back to campus to meet my bestie for lunch; I get one life, and it gets filled with the things it gets filled with, nothing more. So I need to fill it with things that I want to see in it. Basic generic wisdom nuggets, yes, but they only matter if you understand them, and only now am I beginning to.

She was the one who suggested to me that I treat writing like a job, something else I’ve thought about and half-heartedly tried to do. But I haven’t had this sense of finality before to fuel it. This year is it. I don’t get another opportunity like this, most likely. This kind of pressure would have made me despair in the past, but I think because it does feel so final, it’s actually invigorating me. I have to use this opportunity, yes, but I also feel that I can use it. And that’s something new for me.

And the reason I’m doing this on my blog is because, well, I have this blog, I may as well use it for something. Also, accountability works for me, specifically external accountability. I don’t hold myself accountable very well; that’s why I will always swear by the value of having a writing-buddy, whether you’re co-writing or just writing together, because it’s free accountability and support when you need it – and us writers definitely need it.

I don’t want to be a Writer anymore, but I do want to write, and it occurs to me that, however naive it may have been for me to make it my life’s purpose at age 13 to become an author for a living, that’s actually the thing I’ve set myself up to do more than anything else. So this is kind of my last golden opportunity to make it work.

After this year, if it hasn’t worked out – well, let me back up. I do not expect to end this year as a published and successful author. I expect to end this year with a manuscript that I am prepared to either submit to agents, or revise in preparation for submitting to agents. That’s it “working out” for me. After that, I’ll have to deal with either going back to uni and spending a lot of time on my PhD, tutoring and writing articles for publication in academic journals when I can, or venturing into the fabled Real World and getting a Job. Either way, my time will be spoken for in a way that it isn’t right now, and I can’t stand the thought of letting this opportunity go to waste. That’s new for me, too. I tend to take a lot of my opportunities and privileges for granted. This is a strange kind of privilege, not having to work, because it’s due to the fact that I’m sick and unable to. So perhaps it’s not really a privilege. But it is an opportunity, and I need to take it. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself if I don’t.

So, Weekly Words it is. 10k a week, one day off, one sick day. Monthly reports, and probably annual reports as well. Not sure if I’m going to post much outside of that anymore. I’ve had very few ideas for this blog lately, and I think I’m happy to just let that stand, and use this blog for what I need it for – which, at the moment, is a form of accountability, as much as if not more than a way to track my progress and keep my head in the game.

This needs to work. It may work in ways I can’t predict; it may work exactly as intended, but it needs to work. I need to make it work.

I guess it’s time to get writing.

Holy Christ I Hate This Book

I don’t know now, looking back, how I let myself live after having the gall to write this goddamn book. I don’t know why, in particular, these ideas convinced me that they were good enough to commit to written language, let alone show other people – for those who have been here since the beginning or checked the archives, I did in fact show off my chapters to a select few readers/friends as they were written. Never mind that I got almost universally positive feedback; it’s a bad idea, because you start writing for your readers instead of for yourself, and while that seems like a good thing in a way, it’s really not. You are the one making the offer; your readers are the ones who decide if they can or cannot refuse.

I can’t quite wrap my brain around what in the pulsating green fuck motivated me to make this particular offer. I mean … nothing’s fucking happening. At all. Oh sure, plenty of “character stuff”, lots of delicious, mouth-watering “relationship drama”, and once upon a time I got the biggest fucking hard-on for this shit, and I just do not understand it anymore. It’s that simple. I don’t get my own fucking book, my fucking passion project. I can’t understand why I ever wanted to write any of the words that I am currently reading.

I have no “in” to something I’ve already fucking written.

But, as per usual with anything having to do with reading your own writing, this is a valuable learning exercise. Yesterday it was just my taste in prose; now it’s my taste in details to linger over and emphasise by giving them privileged space on the page. It’s just so fucking juvenile; I don’t know how else to describe this writing other than some thesaurus-derived variant of immature. I can’t fucking believe that I wrote this; I can’t stand it.

And what I’m learning from this is that the focus of this story needs to change, and it needs to change very fucking hard.

I can remember what was motivating me at the time: I wanted this story, so unlike any other I had ever envisioned writing, let alone actually bothering to write, to be more character-focused and specifically to move away from my general focus on action. I had become sick of my continued infatuation with Dragon Ball Z for a little while by the time Tallulah came to mind, and was bothered by how much that one piece of media dominated my creative palette. Tallulah was more than just a breath of fresh air; it was almost like a new identity, because in writing it I became somebody I never thought I would or could ever be. Just to be the kind of person who would commit to writing a story like Tallulah changed everything I thought about myself, and as I stuck with it over the course of the next 3 years, I continued to change. And for the better, I will say.

But what I see now is that those changes for the better were not remotely matched by better writing, because fuck my knees with a King James Bible this is bad. Yesterday I thought it was just words that were the problem; today I see that it’s both words and the content of those words, the scenes they create, the events that they encapsulate and draw attention to. The story, in short, is what is bad, because it focuses on this inane fucking bullshit where nothing fucking happens. It’s 88k words worth of filler masquerading as a story.

How. How could I permit this. Somebody tell me.

I’ll tell me: I was distracted, obviously, by the sensation of doing something different, breaking out of my comfort zone and creating something that I never would have imagined I would even think to create. Which was a great idea, and I’m glad that I did it, but Jesus Christ could I have learnt to fucking write first? Or had any sort of grasp of the meaning of staying on-point? Or just understood what in the algae-coated fuck my story was even about? This tells me that my big revelation about what I needed to change about the end of this book isn’t just right; it’s not right enough. I need to change … like … everything. I need to write a new fucking book is what I fucking need.

I can’t believe I’m saying this and meaning it, but I hate Tallulah. I hate it so fucking hard.

I can’t believe it.

I wonder how much of this is tied to the fact that I did in fact spend almost 2 years writing one of the more pulptastic things I’ve ever been possessed to write. Dear god, I actually wrote that shitty YA werewolf novel. Like, that’s a thing that I did. It’s finally starting to sink in; took long enough … but it’s action-focused, it’s pulpy and fast-paced; the character stuff does matter but it’s also inconsistent and distracting because, as I’m discovering pretty hard right now, I have a really hard time staying on-point or clearly understanding and sticking to my vision for what a story is when I have that vision. Probably has something to do with the fact that it took 2 goddamn years to write; Tallulah, festering mound of refuse that it apparently is, only took around 7 months once I started writing it “properly”, which is to say according to a daily routine that I checked off on my wall-planner. And for all the filler, at least the focus was fairly clear.

Here’s the thing, though: Tallulah feels salvageable. It would be a lot of work, but it would eventually work if I committed to it. My shitty YA werewolf novel, on the other hand – it could, but I wouldn’t see the benefit to doing so, and I do with Tallulah. This wrong-headed focus on trivial bullshit that doesn’t matter, introducing things at weird, irrelevant times and putting the emphasis on seemingly significant things that either don’t go anywhere or are only significant if you can read my mind and know all the invisible backstory that I have for these characters and their motives – if I got rid of that and re-focused on stuff that actually mattered (or, rather, actually included things that mattered to be focused on in the first place), then certain aspects of the style I’m finding here could work. It’s just … misdirected, I guess. The hard part is going to be the rewriting. I’m foreseeing that I’m going to have to do a lot of it. I’m not looking forward to it.

Actually, I’m really not looking forward to it. When I decided that I was going to commit to getting Tallulah ready for submission to agents by the end of the year, I had not yet begun to re-read it. I feel like if I had done that first, I wouldn’t have made that commitment, because I don’t think that I have the energy or discipline to meet that goal. I can’t help but feel like I could put my efforts into something else more rewarding instead of trying to salvage this unreadable train wreck of a manuscript.

I’m starting to wonder if Tallulah was doomed to just be another writing exercise, in retrospect. Because in retrospect, it actually has some pretty important things in common with my shitty YA werewolf novel, which was always intended to be a writing exercise. Mainly, they both came about from me getting excited about trying out something that I never had before, something that seemed very out-of-the-ordinary for me to even do to begin with. The specifics – tone, theme, pace, etc. – are completely different. But that’s just semantics. The driving force behind both of them was that they were experiments. Things that I didn’t know if I could do, and that’s why I wanted to do them. And I did.

And perhaps that’s where I should leave both of them. Perhaps this is me realising that, actually, I’ve been done with Tallulah from the moment I decided to take my hiatus. I can’t help but wonder if that would be for the best.

But I also can’t help but wonder what it would be like to continue as planned. I mean, I’ve been through rough patches with this book before. Lots of them. None of them were quite as off-putting as this one, but then I’ve had a whole 4 years of changing tastes to go through between then and now. I probably should have anticipated that I wouldn’t like what I found when I eventually came back to this fetid swamp of un-killed Darlings. That’s what the problem is, I think. Last time I read it, I remember thinking that there was still way too much filler – this is just compounding on that observation; it’s nothing but filler so far.

Maybe it gets better in later chapters. Maybe I just have to include something in my notes about, I dunno, how I feel about the chapter, or what I wish was happening instead, or some other way of recording the changes I feel need to be made or pointing out the problems that I have with the chapters. I’m not sure if those belong with my notes or not. I really don’t know what to do when it comes to revision, even though I’ve done it once already.

Promises, maybe. It does seem like a good thing to focus on, having finally gotten around to listening to the Writing Excuses podcast: identifying what promises I’m making to the reader, and then identifying where I keep and break those promises. I remember telling a friend, sometime during the hiatus, that the thing I was most concerned with about Tallulah was that I wasn’t keeping my promises. Now I think I just need to identify what those promises are, and whether or not I keep them – or want to keep them. Seems like a decent way to go.

God I hate this book – but I’m not giving up on it yet. Not until I know for sure why I hate it, and what I could do to change that, if anything. I want to be able to make an informed decision about this book, one way or another. I feel like I owe it that much, at least.

And also, seeing as I do kinda still like the idea of writing for a living, I suppose I had better get used to the idea that I might not always be totally head-over-heels in love with everything I ever write, and that I might have to put in a bit of effort – or more than a bit – to make it work in the long-run.

Commitment. Tallulah taught me a lot about that. Time to see if I learnt anything.

Hmm. Hmmmmmm.

It’s been 13 months and my shitty YA werewolf novel still isn’t finished. But it does stand at 69k words, which is an accomplishment in and of itself.

More to the point for my sense of accomplishment, though, is the fact that it really hasn’t registered at all just how much work I got done with this thing. This completely impulsive, relatively shallow writing experiment that, while I’ve been “working on it” for 13 months, that’s really been 2 periods of intensive writing with huge, months-long gaps between them. Basically, I wrote 69k words in 3 months. And considering that I’ve been doing my Masters for all of that time …

I mean seriously, that’s a pretty fucking big achievement.

I am going to try and acknowledge it.

And also, given some rather exciting – and slightly terrifying – news that I got today (yesterday whatever fuck you am/pm threshold), I’m going to really try and believe in my capacity to multitask. To believe that I can do my MA, and write a novel, and do this other thing that I’m going to be doing that I will say more about when things are more finalised and official and shit … all at once.

The shitty YA werewolf thing – the reason I keep calling it that is because it is shit. It’s bad. It’s un-good. But the process of writing it has been awesome, even after the novelty wore off. It’s the process that I fell in love with, and as much as I’m on the edge of being very anxious about this new life-event stuff, it’s also an opportunity to dive head-first into another process, just this time a much more complicated and consequential one, because it doesn’t only affect me. This is an opportunity for me to push myself, to see how far I can take my dedication to process for the sake of process, and to really start to enjoy it. I think I will. I am just worried that I’ll hold myself back and lose momentum and … well, all the usual crap one thinks when one has anxiety.

But I’m still excited. I’m so excited that I’m considering going back to Tallulah, just because I want to get it written, I want it to work, I might be able to make it work idea-wise now – so all that’s left is the process. And if I’m going ham on process for the rest of the year – discipline, I guess, is the word I’m really looking for – then I would love it if Tallulah could benefit from it.

A lot could go wrong here, but that’s also kind of why I’m excited, because this is a chance to get it right instead. Put one on the map for my self-initiated anti-anxiety treatment. And to be honest, I have wanted for so, so long to just go really full-on with something challenging. Too long, maybe. But I guess so long as you get there eventually …

In the meantime, I’m going to try and start off with my current writing project and see if I want to stick with it – if not, welcome back Tallulah. And hell, maybe welcome back Tallulah regardless. Because I think I’ve got it as well worked-out as it will ever be without it turning into another ROTM, and much as I want to get it right, I also want to get it done. The process is what I’m going to take with me – at some point, I’m going to have to leave every single one of my stories behind. I’m going to have to be done with them. And I think I’m finally getting okay with the idea that Tallulah might not be as good as I fantasise about it being. It could just be done. And that would be brilliant in and of itself.

So yeah. Excited. Doubtful, hesitant, but that’s to be expected at this point. Comes with the territory. And it doesn’t stop me from feeling excited …

Almost like being a teenager again, when I still cared about things, much as it pained me. Only in a good way this time, because I’m not actually a teenager. Silver linings.

4016

I swear, these word-count numbers are spooky. That’s this year plus 2,000.

Spooky.

Tonight’s semi-marathon writing session was not devoted to my Camp Nano project, as you can probably infer from the title of this post not carrying the “Camp Nanowrimo 2016” prefix. That is because I have pretty much given up on my Camp Nano project, and I’m switching back to the one I was intending to write originally: the weird semi-parody high fantasy erotica story. So far it is fairly indefensible from a moral standpoint, but also rather enjoyable to write because I can switch my brain off, more or less, and let my fingers do all the work. And that’s what I want. I want a story that I can just write, that I can finish and revel in the satisfaction of having finished it, and not spend months and months and months agonising over making it actually any good at the expense of speed. That’s what revision is for.

Having said that, I am not completely giving up on my Camp Nano project – I’m just giving up on Camp Nano. I have gotten more writing done this month than I have for the past few, so I’m certainly not complaining about that, but as far as progressing with a single project goes – not so much. I just want to flit around right now, give a few things a try and see if anything sticks. And to that end, I have an idea for how to spend the remainder of Camp Nano: forget the project and just have a word-count goal. Just see how much I can write in a month, no matter what it is I’m writing (so long as it’s a novel). And if anything comes from that, great, but if not then at least I’ve got some general momentum going, and a lot of writing done.

So, assuming that this is my plan for the rest of the month, I have managed to write … 15,848 words. I’m going to set a word count goal of 40k, seeing as I’m making some progress right now. See how this goes.

But more and more I’m coming around to the idea that I just really want to do something that isn’t writing, something that I can throw myself into. Which I can do with writing, but not right now. I had all these plans about being disciplined and writing my witch novel for the sake of developing that discipline … it’s just miserable to do. Really miserable. And I don’t know if that’s a mindset thing that I should try to push through or if I need to listen to it and take the break that I’m currently taking – but, seeing as I’m taking that break anyway, I guess I’ve made that decision already.

But I suppose this new plan is still about discipline. I mean I’ve got 7 days left to write 25k words, which is, what, 3.2k words per day or something? 3.5. That’s doable, but will definitely take some discipline. My task now, I guess, is to make sure that I’m writing that every day, rather than just blatting it all out in the last few days of the month and probably not meeting my goal.

Or I guess I could just not write for a while.

I guess this comes back to a piece of advice I used to give myself a lot on this blog: that there are only two rules of writing that you really need. The first one is to commit, completely and totally, to whatever it is that you’re working on. The second one is to be able to change your mind, whenever you want, for whatever reason. And it can’t just be one or the other; it has to be both. Otherwise it doesn’t work.

So, I tried committing. I got somewhere with it. Now I’m changing my mind, because in all honesty it’s just not worth it to me right now. I feel, as I write that, that if I just pushed a little harder I could end up finding out that it is worth it to me. And I might do that.

And I might not.

Either way, it felt good to write something else today that just clicked, in a way that my witch book just isn’t doing. And generally for me, if it doesn’t click then it’s because there’s something very important missing. Maybe if I find out what that is I can make the witch book work. But for now, I think I’m more interested in finding something that gives me a little bit more to work with, even if that’s giving writing in general a break. I can always come back to it later. That is the great thing about writing: no matter what happens, it’s all exactly where you left it.

As long as you remember to back everything up. Rule 3 of writing.

Nanowrimo 2015: You Can Do It

It’s been … a week.

What?

Seriously, I have no idea how this happened. A whole week since I last worked on my Nano project. I don’t know what to make of that. I mean it’s not surprising, given my track record for writing, but …

I mean is it just the weather? We’ve been having really shitty, soul-draining weather recently and, well, it’s kinda drained my soul in a really shitty way. As opposed to the non-shitty way. Apparently that’s a thing I’m implying.

So okay, I actually do know how this happened.

It’s because I feel like I’m failing.

It’s not just Nano: it’s my MA, it’s my social life, it’s my mental and emotional state, it’s the fact that I haven’t done my nightly workouts for the past three weeks because I’m pretty sure I’ve torn a ligament or something and I really don’t want to tear it any further – everything just kind of blows right now. In my head at least. I know it’s actually going okay in the external world; I did some work on my MA the other day and it was actually pretty clarifying, but that was after two weeks of doing NOTHING. If this month is my test to see if I can handle the pressures of my academic work at the same time as working on a novel, never mind all the other things one might conceivably do with a normal life, then it’s a test I’m not passing. I feel like my MA is broken beyond repair; I feel like I lack the discipline to write badly and that writing badly is not only an important discipline but should be a really fucking easy and achievable one as well which makes it even worse; I feel like the reason I’m so miserable yet apathetic is because I’m always in my head and have no outside perspectives to draw on or use to break my cycle of depressive inner monologuing …

It’s just a generally sucky time for me right now.

But I know what the answer is. There’s a void, a really dull, grey, beige, flat, flaccid, absolutely un-terrifying void that surrounds me when I’m Not Doing Anything, and I know that the only way to break out of it is to, like, Do Something. Anything, in fact. The only reason I don’t – I assume – is because I get stuck on the question of why I aren’t doing something when I know that’s the answer? Why do I wallow and procrastinate and feel guilty for not having the automatic response of “hey I’ll just fucking DO SOMETHING problem solved” when it is so goddamn easy to just do something?

The only answer I have is that it’s because I have a fucking mental illness, that I have experienced recurring depressive episodes for the past 16 years of my goddamn life, and it’s not actually easy for me to Just Do Something, even though it feels like it should be. I don’t know where that feeling comes from. There are so many instances I can point to of where I’ve trained myself to feel guilty for my inaction and lack of initiative – mostly having to do with what other people have told me – that there’s no one “where” from which this sense I have can have originated. It’s so many things, and they’re not all in my past. They all set me up to disbelieve in myself, over and over again, and it’s really obviously, transparently sick and maladaptive and wrong, and yet I just won’t believe it. I don’t know why I won’t believe it. No matter how many times I prove myself wrong, it just doesn’t stick. And that’s the reason, I think, that I don’t push myself to do things as often as would help: because I know I don’t believe it, and that means that it’s not worth doing.

It’s so …

I hate it.

I hate the thought that I’ll never get past it, and that I’ll never just have the drive to do things when I feel like shit that will break me out of my feeling-like-shit-ness. That it’ll always be an effort, that it’ll never come naturally to me.

But goddammit, it works. I know it works. I may not believe that it works, but I know that it has worked. Maybe that’s the specific thing my brain can’t seem to grasp, or just refuses to: trusting that since it’s worked every single fucking time I’ve done it, it will almost certainly work this time as well. I think I just sort of write off all the other times it’s worked and focus instead on how I’m feeling right now, when I’m not doing it, when I’m feeling like shit.

I think, for all that I complain to myself about over-thinking, that my feeling-shit-ness actually has nothing to do with thinking. It’s just feeling. I just feel like shit; it doesn’t matter what kind of logic or reasoning I can throw at it, because clearly I have plenty of that. Clearly I understand that the solution is not only simple, but one that I have performed with perfect effectiveness multiple times. It is a repeatable, predictable experiment. It’s fucking science that in order to feel better all I have to do is make myself do something. And none of that entices me to believe it’s true.

And because all of this clear evidence isn’t enough to force me to believe it’s true, that the solution rests with me and is really fucking easy to get to, I feel even more worthless for not being able to even make this miniscule effort to employ a (so far) 100% effective solution to my recurring, predictable problem. Instead, apparently, what I’d rather do is mope and complain and feel shitty about not doing things.

Which I can very, very easily do.

But I’m not doing them, I’m so useless, blah blah blah FUCKING DO SOMETHING.

Nope, nothing.

Guys, depression fucking sucks. If you haven’t picked up on that so far, just take it from me: it fucking sucks. Depression combined with being pretty damn spoilt as a kid? I’m surprised I have the discipline to get out of bed AT ALL, let alone what it took to train myself to wake up in the MORNING.

But I did do that. And if I can do that, then I know, objectively, that I can train myself to do other shit as well.

Like write my fucking novel before the month is up, finish my MA chapter revision by the time it’s due – and let it suck if it sucks – and still get some fresh air and vitamin D by physically leaving my room.

Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you believe you can do it or not.

It just matters that you do it.

I have 20k words left before I win Nano, which is a little over 2k words a day from now until the end of November. Can I do it?

Yep.

See? Simple. I can do it. Fuck it, I wrote almost 10k words in just over 5 hours a week ago. I could finish Nanowrimo twice if I wanted to.

In fact …

Even if I didn’t want to.

And that’s the key. That’s the secret to discipline, and to believe that you can do something you don’t feel like you can do.

It’s realising that you can actually do things you don’t feel you’re capable of. You can do things in spite of your feelings about them. If what you’re worried about is whether you can get something done – you can. Whether you’re going to feel like it or not is a different question, and no less important. But it’s a different question.

Can I do it?

Yes.

So let’s do it.

And not just for one fucking month.