Yearly Words 2018

I had the idea that this post was going to be a full-on recap of the entire year. I was going to document and narrativise my ups and downs, wins and losses, and the learning that I did along the way. But reading back over my Monthly Words recaps, I realise that, actually, the whole point of Weekly Words has always been looking back on what I’ve done to get perspective on what I can do. And if I’m just going to recap everything, maybe that gets in the way of actually bothering to look back.

So instead, let’s just get to the part that really matters: my gigantic powerlevel.

Yearly Total: 317911

Um …

Holy shit.

I mean, I knew it would be a lot of words; I even thought it probably would be around this many words. But …

Fuck me that’s a lot of writing.

This is with a non-Weekly Words-accounted-for writing total of 20669 words between the 1st of January and the 24th of February, which is the pre-Weekly Words period. I’ve been doing this for longer than I thought; I seemed to remember that I started at some point in April.

But I started in February – just a week before March, so let’s say March, which is still 10 months out of 12. That’s a lot.



… etc.

Amazing. I couldn’t sum up this year any clearer than just that fucking number; in 2018 I wrote three hundred and seventeen thousand, nine hundred and eleven words that I counted towards my writing goals. I wrote more than that, tooling around with my various game projects and planning documents and whatever; writing is the tool that I use for everything, and this year I used it a lot.

SHIT I rock.

And okay a little recap. Weekly Words has been a huge undertaking, and through it I feel that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do with it: get perspective on my actual writing process, not leaving it all up to the inebriated swirl of paranoid self-doubt that generally has served as my barometer for progress and success in my life. Weekly Words helped me to push back against that ridiculous, self-defeating, toxic habit, and while it’s not quite broken yet, the Weekly Words habit is definitely overpowering it more often than not. It’s winning. I’m winning.

And that is because, while perspective is what I set out to accomplish (and did), the more important accomplishment that Weekly Words also facilitated was just being fucking nice to myself. This year is by far the year where I was the most appreciative, supportive, and generally positive towards myself than I think I’ve ever been. And that’s not because I was faking it to make it; it was because I could actually see what the fuck was going on, instead of going with the delusional, self-destructive narrative that I have historically defaulted to believing is true about myself. And what I saw was that, actually, I try really hard, and I’m pretty resilient, and even when things don’t go exactly the way I’d like or I fall short of the goals that I set for myself, I still learn from the experience. And when they do go my way, I need to acknowledge that, accept it, internalise it – and this past year, I’ve gotten into the habit of doing that. It is difficult; it does take some kind of external accountability, which is what Weekly Words is here for, to keep on-task with that for me. It’s a very recent practice, and one that I want to keep building on. I do pretty damn well, I’ve realised, and that includes realising that even when things don’t go the way I’d planned, it’s not that I learn from it and can try again better next time, but I can generally turn a disappointing experience into something fulfilling on its own terms, just by changing my perspective.

Because at the end of the day, I set goals because I want to get writing done, and I’ve realised that that system actually doesn’t really work for me. Setting goals is something that is always bundled up with guilt and shame for me, the anticipation that I’m going to fail at whatever I set out to do. 2018 was when I confronted that habit out in the open, and I’ve become more comfortable with not setting goals for the sake of setting goals – and realised that that’s what most of my goals were. This year, maybe I can actually learn what a real goal is and what it means to work towards it with a clearer, healthier mind and mindset.

I also changed so much about the way Weekly Words worked. I totally forgot that I started out with a 10k words-per-week goal! That’s crazy. I also had to deal with a lot of life stuff this year that affected my day-to-day writing focus; Youthline was the biggest life thing of that nature, but there was also marking – I say 2018 felt short, but that marking feels like it was way more than a year ago – that forced me to confront some of my worst habits and answer them with a resilience and ability to adapt that I didn’t realise I had, and something I was really delighted to re-discover while reading over my Monthly Words recaps. I learnt that I could trust myself to pull through. And while that moment of revelation has certainly faded, and the excitement and badassness has passed, just looking back on how I’ve been doing things this year I think I’ve actually taken that lesson and run with it. For the latter half of this year I didn’t have A Project to work on – I had a bunch of things that I was exploring, tinkering with, playing around with, and it’s worked really well. It gave me a chance not just to clear my head of junk, of the headspace I get into where I MUST turn X idea into a story project, but to also get back in touch with my ideas as they are, which has led to me starting to feel like I do have some ideas that I want to build up.

I just learnt a lot about myself last year. Like, a lot. And I’m still the same in most ways, still have the same hang-ups and shortcomings and so on, but its all shifted a bit in a better direction. I feel like I’m starting to come out of it all, rather than remaining entrenched in it. Which is a better thing than I could have hoped for when I decided to start blogging about my weekly writing routines.

And also I got a horrible stomach ulcer and had to change my eating habits and as a result I lost 7 kgs over the course of 2018, in the span of 4 months. The holidays are over now so it’s back on the bandwagon for me, and while I’m still getting back into it, I feel better already. Now for exercise …

And looking into getting a therapist …

And finding out about my PhD options, and other study routes I could take …

And continuing to just do things that work for me in general. It’s the New Year, and that is my one resolution: to continue the way I intend to continue. 2015 was my year of risk-taking; I feel like 2018 sort of was as well. My hope for 2019 is something a bit more … grown-up, I guess, than risk-taking: trusting that I’ve got this. I’m scared of a lot of things that I often feel bad for being scared of, things I feel I shouldn’t be scared of. But I’ve learnt this past year that fear really isn’t the be all and end all of whether or not I can do something. It’s definitely a new lesson, and one that I don’t fully trust yet – but that’s part of the lesson, I guess.

And therapy, when I get that, which I definitely will because seriously this shit needs to go away.

I hope this year is good to us all – and even if it’s not, I know we can be good to ourselves and each other.



Seriously though that’s, what, 6 Nanowrimos? 6 YA novels I’ve written in a year? The whole Wolf Gang series could have been finished by now, man …

Belaboured Fruits

I have written the first draft of an MA and almost a full novel in the space of 13 months.

I was made aware that this was, in fact, something that I had done when I went out to dinner with a friend. It still hasn’t sunk in; I still don’t feel like “that guy”, the guy who can Do Everything At Once without breaking a sweat. I still see myself as the WOW-playing procrastination champion of the world, where the world is my bedroom and it may as well be to me because I hardly ever leave it; I don’t Get Things Done. But apparently this self-deprecating perception I have of myself is, if not wrong, at least incomplete. Because while I certainly do play WOW and procrastinate, apparently I have also written the first draft of an MA and almost a full novel in the space of 13 months.

That’s … I should be appreciating that fact more.

A lot more.

I hate these kinds of revelations. They come with the kinds of angst that #firstworldproblems are made of, such as “the only reason I’m doing an MA is because I just don’t know what to do with my life and have no sense of purpose, is there anyone in the whole world more pathetic than me, yeah I didn’t think so either”.

In order to be doing an MA you need pretty fucking good grades; you get pretty fucking good grades by demonstrating a pretty fucking good understanding of relevant knowledge within your field of study; and you demonstrate a pretty fucking good understanding of relevant knowledge in your field by DOING WORK.

Also, you need to BE AT UNIVERSITY.


No but I know what’s wrong with my brain, and that’s the really frustrating part for me. I’m hard-wired to focus exclusively on the negative, to the point where recognition of positive experiences instantly evaporates upon making contact with my cerebral cortex, the data fried by the energy it takes to create synaptic links that would, in a less poorly-constructed cerebrum, create a memory. Not only can I not remember positive things that I’ve done or that have happened to me, but I over-remember bad things, which are sometimes events that I actually have reason to feel shitty about, but are also equally random self-hating mind-rants that have no basis in reality yet still manage to take memorisation priority over actual events in my life.

Basically, not only am I super fucking privileged, but I’m also so psychologically damaged that I can’t even enjoy the fun stuff that comes with it. I can, however, feel guilty about it and continue to hate myself, thus perpetuating the problem that I am currently facing, so that’s something.

But no! The Ubermensch does not fall prey to such petty things as basic psychology and brain patterns. The Ubermensch will Ubercome!

That sounds wrong! I mean like overcome, because “uber” means “over”! I think!

The Ubermensch has spoken!

So what I’m going to do in order to drill out this mental plaque that is preventing me from feeling like the badass I apparently am: finish that fucking shitty YA werewolf novel, because goddammit it has long outlived its usefulness as a fun, frivolous writing exercise and it’s time for me to get with the times – the project has changed, and I need to change with it. I will give it a second purpose: to be the second novel I’ve finished in the past 3 years. Obviously this isn’t counting revisions – but, on the note of completing novels …

November isn’t too far away.

It’s kind of scary how fast this year has gone by. I think the same thing every year, but this one seems to have been especially brief.

I don’t want to still be writing this shitty YA werewolf novel come Nanowrimo.

I want something new to work on. And I think that something new is only going to come to me once I have put this shitty YA werewolf novel to bed. I might do a brief revision, but this isn’t going to be a Serious Project, because it was never meant to be. Although having said that, it has taught me a lot just by virtue of it taking so damn long to write. The obvious lesson, which I learnt very early on, is that novelty wears off really fast, and that this kind of writing exercise is awesome if you can get it done quickly. The second lesson comes from the fact that, despite allowing myself to use whatever ideas worked, no matter how problematic or cliche (which are often virtually synonymous), so long as it made the story “feel like a story” … half the time I have spent writing this novel has been putting off these last 2 chapters, because they suck. They don’t even have the twistedly seductive allure of being problematic-yet-effective-from-a-formalist-perspective storytelling; they’re flat and dull and just fucking blow. The lesson is that “cliche” is not, in fact, a synonym for “easy” when it comes to writing, and I’m glad I learnt it. As Jim Carrey once said, you can still fail at something you hate, so you may as well try to succeed at something you love. He also said that vaccines cause autism, or probably has since he’s an anti-vaxxer, goddammit Jim why.

Anyway. I gotta do this just to put more evidence on the board; my plan of gauging my personal achievements/progress in my self-project on a week-by-week basis rather than moment-by-moment is actually kinda working as well, so this seems like a good next point to put on the board. I sometimes wonder what this blog would be like if it wasn’t for my mental health, or lack thereof, colouring my attempts to get shit done. And my conclusion is that I would really rather like to find out.

Here goes.


Once more, with feelings

That interview I linked to yesterday has been a bit of a revelation.

No, it hasn’t translated into any actual writing just yet, but I was doing other things. Such as … I mean okay I did actually do some writing, essay-writing even. Which is better in a sense because it’s writing that I am obligated to do. And actually, if I manage things properly, it will also take advantage of the lesson I got from the interview: to write not only because I have something to say, but because I have felt like I’ve been prevented from saying it, or even that everyone has been prevented from saying it. Something that tells the censor, whatever or whoever that may be, to go fuck themselves for daring to silence us.

It’s actually a bit analogous to the Hero’s Journey. Quite late in the Journey, the hero comes to the Innermost Cave, where they will undergo a transformation that serves as a symbolic death and rebirth and, upon so doing, discover the Elixir. The key thing about this Elixir is that it does more than just tell you to return to the quest-giver in exchange for some XP and a shitty item you’ll throw away in the next zone; it is imperative to the Journey that the Elixir be returned to the ordinary world, for the betterment not only of the hero but all mankind (or the village he comes from, whatever). Jack brings back the goose that lays golden eggs so that he can bring not only himself but also his mother out of poverty. Luke goes to confront the Emperor, not only to defeat him but also to redeem his father and, in so doing, save the galaxy. Frodo sacrifices everything in his quest to destroy the One Ring, and brings peace to Middle-Earth. Harry sacrifices himself to Voldemort and returns from the afterlife with the knowledge of how he can be defeated, saving not only himself but the entire world, plus he got the Elder Wand which lets him do awesome magic that he could use to help people like maybe learn some healing spells and go fix up everybody in St Mungo’s only he didn’t because that would have been a whole other book and then it wouldn’t be seven books it would have been eight haha can you imagine if they’d stretched that series into eight parts that would have been so fucking awful really glad that didn’t happen.

My point is that Yoda was wrong – but also right: anger, fear and aggression do lead to the Dark Side, and once you start down that path, it will forever dominate your destiny. But that is because allowing yourself to tap into your own darkness is a transformative act. You are changed by it, and by going through it you are able to find parts of yourself that have been hidden away, repressed – silenced. Sometimes we need to keep things in the dark, at least for the time being. But other things we can find power in accessing, not just for ourselves but for others as well.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about after reflecting on that quote. And I’m starting to consider returning to a couple of projects I’ve put off for a while, because what I realise now is that they are projects that only really work if they’re angry, if they are written in order to give voice to certain things that have happened in my life and how they’ve affected me that I have felt unable to express, for fear of not being taken seriously, through my own self-censoring out of shame and embarrassment and inadequacy. I’ve been afraid I’ll be an unreliable narrator, and therefore whatever I have to say will be invalid. But they’re stories. It doesn’t matter if it’s historically accurate. It matters that it’s true. And truth is about more than just events that did or did not take place.

It might even help me out with Tallulah. Funnily enough, it’s steering me away from the werewolf project. Ah well. It was a fun little fling; maybe I will pick it up later. But right now it’s just not something I need; it’s not addressing something that I need addressed anymore. At the time, I needed to indulge, copy, steal ideas and re-present them as my own. Then it changed into something else, and it’s stagnated as a result. Maybe I can find something in it that feeds a part of me that has been starved, but right not it’s not doing that.

Either way, I think I’m waking up again, and I appreciate it. This year I re-discovered what it was to write for pleasure, and I’m grateful for that. But I put aside writing out of not just anger but outrage, because I wasn’t ready to do that again.

I think I’m ready now.

My life’s purpose

I’m about to try and make myself work on Tallulah. And I will succeed, because it’s really easy to do. I will also simultaneously try to remind myself that writing is no longer my life’s purpose, and that not only are there other things I can do but that I want to do. I haven’t done my workouts for the past two nights and it’s taking a toll on my mood and motivation; I no longer feel like I’m progressing, and instead feel aimless and disheartened. My default setting, for some reason.

It’s not like I don’t have shit to do. In fact it’s not like I don’t have urgent shit to do. I have to write two research essays which are due in about 5 weeks; I have to read things so that I have research to write about; I have to write and then deliver an oral presentation on Friday that sums up my research so far. It’s all overwhelming and feels like it’ll never get done, which makes me feel like there’s no point in even starting. I don’t know why the experience of literally 5 years of proving the opposite true has yet to culminate in a change in my attitude, and yet that’s exactly the case.  Just like with forcing myself to work on my novel: I know I can do it, I know it’s easy, and I know that once I get started I’ll feel better. I just want to know why I can’t have excitement about this stuff instead of flat, heavy apprehension. And while I think things have only gotten better for me since I decided that I was no longer going to define myself as a writer, I keep coming back to it, because without that idea of myself, I don’t know what my purpose is.

And then I think: maybe I’ve been so used to having a purpose – “a” as in “one” – that I don’t even know how to function without it.

How do I make decisions now? How do I prioritise? I could invest in postgrad study and get more qualifications, but it takes time and energy away from writing – only now it doesn’t, because writing is no longer the thing I’m worried about. On good days, anyway. I no longer have the justification of having to prioritise my writing to inform my other decisions. I am currently without a clear set of priorities.

And then I think: well … actually …

Isn’t that kind of awesome?

I’m not talking about moral priorities; I’m talking about a schedule. The last time I felt anything like this was when I graduated from undergrad. I thought that I could only feel that way again if I was done with study. But I’m right in the middle of study now, and yet still have this feeling of possibility, of limitless potential. Well maybe not limitless, but only because I have a very specific set of limits to imagine. In terms of them: yes, limitless.

So writing it is. And then study as well. Fuck man, what is going on? I mean if you trace the trajectory of this post it’s like: “I wish I could feel excited about things” “man I really feel excited about things” “the end”.

I guess this is yet one more reason why writing is good. And, yet again, one of the things I never seem to be able to remember about it.

And I think that could be my current purpose – not my life’s purpose, but my 7:44pm on a Sunday night’s purpose: to continue with that intentionality I found with my world-building and apply it to feeling excited. Because, not to get all Scientologist on you guys, but it is a decision. To a point. It doesn’t change your circumstances, of course. But it can change how you feel in the moment, and sometimes that’s all you need to get going again when you’re feeling run-down.

What’s my plan for Tallulah? I can barely fucking remember. Doesn’t matter. I’m just gonna do it, because I can, because it will make me feel better – or it will make me feel better and then I’ll reflect on what I did, decide to do something else, and feel better again. I can remember these things. I just need to get better at having faith in them being true, something that I can rely on.

Which is really just a way of saying that I need to learn how to rely on myself. Which will be a good thing to do, I think. Even without a life’s purpose.

There we go

You know what I love? I love spending months, months of my life devoted to the angst of writing, trying to identify every source of my motivation – or lack thereof – in order to better master myself and manipulate my inner workings to more efficiently operate along my chosen trajectory. I rant about what the Problem is in the hopes that, by the time my words are spent, I will be some the wiser as to what that Problem is, and I rant about it again, and again, and again, because it keeps changing. I’m trying to write something that I don’t want to write. No; I’m not writing enough, letting my mood dictate my work ethic. No, wait: I’m not listening to myself honestly. Or maybe I am and what I honestly feel is apathy. And so on and so on.

What I love is, after all of that shit, after trying to see through the mire of my own confusion and lack of motivation, all it took to get me interested in writing my post-Nano story again after giving up not just on it but on writing altogether – not forever, but for a while – was having somebody else to write with.

It’s seriously that simple: I like writing with somebody else. It helps. I can’t even describe how much it helps. It gives me the motivation to write things I would otherwise be riddled with brain-twisting anxiety about; it gets my focus out of my head and onto the page. And I’m not talking about having somebody there who is coaching me through it or checking on my progress every half hour or whatever (mostly because that would be fucking horrible and patronising if I wasn’t asking for it explicitly). I’m talking about a person I get on with – my best friend in this case – and who is also writing their own thing. It’s about being with somebody who is doing the same thing as you. It’s about the energy that comes around when you’re with somebody working through their own process of self-motivation; and no, when you get together with somebody to write, you don’t always write a lot, and sometimes you don’t even write at all. Sometimes you get distracted, distract each other, etc. – and that’s fine. Why wouldn’t that be fine? It’s about the energy. If you come together with the intention of working on your project, though, chances are that’s exactly what will happen. It is a very rare occurrence for me that I actually get no writing done when I have a writing buddy – for that matter, it is also a very rare occurrence that my writing buddy gets nothing done. We who write know that sometimes you just can’t get the words out, can’t find the motivation. That doesn’t change. What changes is your context: you’re no longer struggling by yourself and trying to spur yourself on to work; you’re no longer left to wallow when you can’t. You have somebody else there. You can see them working and try to motivate yourself again; you can commiserate with them in your mutual inability to reach your own goals.

And then you write, and my god, nothing compares to the writing environment of another person writing.

It’s such a simple thing, and it’s changed everything, my plans for this year. I’m going to write. I’m going to finish something. And I may well finish it soon. That’s the big thing. No, I don’t know how reliable having a writing buddy is, simply because life gets in the way. But what I do know is that, actually, I had the right idea in taking a break, because I did need to do things differently; and I did have the right idea when I realised that I’m not just a writer, because I need other people. So now I’m writing with other people. It’s a complete sea-change for me; and I spent most of 2012 writing with a friend, but not until this year did I realise just how vital it is to my process.

I am a writer who just does not want to write by myself, and I am proudly unashamed of that fact. Because why bother? I’m not making money out of it, it’s not like this is a guaranteed career for me or anything; I may as well do it when I feel the most productive and motivated, and it seems that’s when I’ve got somebody else to bounce off. And it’s the most enjoyable writing experience I’ve ever had. And has always been, actually; when I was younger and just starting out, experimenting with and forming my writing habits, I was much less sensitive to “noise” and therefore wrote in the living-room, full of distractions – and loved it. It was the most productive period in my writing career. I think all that’s happened is that I’ve come full circle, and done what I hoped I’d do: I’ve reconnected with the enthusiasm for writing that I had when I was younger. It’s a different kind of enthusiasm, but it comes from the same place. I always wanted to share my stories first and foremost, and sharing the writing process is just another way to do that, to make my stories more social – which is how they were always meant to be.

I wrote just over 1800 words yesterday and just over 1400 today. I’m working on something that feels like it works; it feels like I’m getting a little closer to the Great Story I felt welling up inside me while simultaneously not having to give up on what was looking like an overly-complicated story. And it’s not that the complications have gone away; it’s just that now I have the energy required to meet those problems and see what I can manage.

I guess what ended up happening is that, as soon as I decided I needed a sea change, I got one.

I suspect I am incredibly luck for that.

And so I am grateful for it as well. This is exciting. This is empowering.

This is the best start to the year I could ever have asked for.

To writing, and beyond!

I’m On A Break

Last year was a pretty big one for me personally, mostly in good ways, and always in ways that made me grow as a person. My writing, specifically coming to finally really consider why I write and how that shapes who I am and have become, was definitely included in that: I went from trying and failing to come up with clever plans that would get me working on my revision consistently and reliably, to re-reading the whole draft again without taking notes, twice, to taking a break from the project altogether to give myself some space, to taking a break from writing altogether to give myself the options I’d been holding myself back from all this time. It seems that all my personal growth where writing is concerned has to do with doing less of it, or at least less of how I’m used to doing it.

As usually happens, I missed my big euphoric window of opportunity when it came; there was a period of 2-3 days where I was really excited about how things were going to change, and all I had to do was get started on trying out these new things, just let me play another few hours of WOW and I’ll get right on that … so naturally that didn’t work out so well. I’m in a slump now and it’s nobody’s fault but mine. And I’m not saying that if I’d gone on to try these exciting new things I would have felt any better; we all get stuck in ruts no matter what we do, and what was once new and exciting inevitably becomes familiar and uninspiring if given enough time. But I still should have taken my chance when it was there waiting for me. Now if I want the same chance, I have to make it for myself.

So I’m going to stop posting here. Definitely not a permanent thing; I’ll be back, and if things go according to plan I’ll be back very soon. But I’m going to stop posting stuff here until I’ve actually got something to write about – specifically, writing.

When I started this blog to escape my shame at owning my tumblr blog, it was with the intention of recording the daily life of a writer, including the boring stuff, the repetition, the going around in circles and re-learning lessons that didn’t stick the first time. I wanted authenticity. But now I want to get shit done. And it would be absolute denial if I were to suggest that what I put on this blog is in no way self-aware; I can’t just record my day-to-day life as a writer on this blog, because in maintaining this blog it becomes part of that day-to-day life. It is a part that has certainly been useful, but has also been an easy and ready excuse for procrastinating, and the fewer of those I have, the better. Mostly I procrastinate from writing by maintaining this blog lately, which is basically the exact antithesis of the intended purpose of this blog’s existence in the first place. And I’m all for sharing my personal, non-writer experiences with people; that’s been mostly what I’ve been doing lately, and lately this blog has gotten a LOT more traffic, so, I mean, I’m taking notice of that. I don’t mind that at all. In fact it’s rather dope.

But I still want to write, and do all this other stuff too, and I know that the more ready excuses I have to not do them, the more of my time will be spent on those excuses. Therefore I need to take them away. I am considering uninstalling WOW, or limiting myself to only playing in the evenings or something. I remember it getting to that point during my first year of being subscribed, actually; I put parental controls on myself so that I could only play after 6 every evening. That combined with only having a month left of my subscription and, hopefully, I’m in business – I do actually work better during the day, despite the fact that I keep expecting myself to enter the Magic Time once it hits about 1am. I don’t think that’s personal growth; I think that’s not being a teenager anymore.

I want a lot out of this year, and this is the first year where I feel, even despite letting several opportunities pass me by, that what I want out of the year is actually going to happen – if I put some effort into it. It feels like a task rather than a wish, and it’s a task I want to apply myself to. I owe it to myself. And it means that I have to stop doing a whole bunch of things, some for a little while, and others for good. This blog is one of those “for a little while” stops. I want it to become the place where I come to report on something that I just really, really need to share about my writing, about what I think or feeling about writing/reading/storytelling in general – I want this blog to be used in times of urgency, so that everything on it from here on out is there because I want it to be, not because I want to either escape from something I intend to be working on, or because I want something to happen when it’s not.

I want this blog to be inspirational, and the only way that’s going to happen is if I save it for occasions upon which I am inspired to use it.

Again, I am not quitting or leaving WordPress or anything like that. I just really need a break from what I’m doing the way I’m doing it, because for the longest time it’s felt like I’m endlessly stumbling my way forward, never allowing myself to stop and find my footing. I need to find my footing, find a destination I’d like to get to, and make my way there with intention. I’m sick of scurrying through my own thoughts, haphazardly noting down the procession of frantic, distracted notions that come to me in a blur and flit away just as quickly. It’d probably be informative for me to go back and read the last few months’ worth of posts I’ve made, see what was happening with me and where I was heading. But for the time being anyway, no more posts, not until it’s because I have something to share that I’m excited about, or proud of, or some kind of crisis that I can’t untangle in the confines of my imagination.

The big risk I’m taking here is that if I stick to my plan, things will work the way I want them to, and if I don’t, they won’t. That doesn’t sound like a risk, but I don’t feel at all certain that I will stick to the plan. I have such a bad track record of doing that; it only makes sense that I’d continue to fail at it. But that’s all assumption, and I know that, objectively. There is no reason why I have to keep repeating myself. And if I prove to myself that I can break that cycle of repetition, it’ll be that much harder for me to fall back into my unhelpful habits.

So here goes. On a break. Be back when it matters.


Man, I missed out on that blog award I was nominated for that only gets offered to blogs with under 200 followers. I feel bad about that; it was very cool of the person to nominate me and I just never got around to it. I guess with the year I’ve had that’s pretty reasonable, but I still wish I’d found the time.

And now I have 202 followers and that window of opportunity has closed forever.


Thanks guys. This is amazing. I don’t think I’ve had 202 people paying attention to me at the same time outside of the theatre, so seriously, thank you. Aside from the “how to improve your web business model” blogs that are all exactly the same, never like comment or reblog anything I do and are just pumping up my follower count to an artificially high level. You guys can suck it. But the rest of you are awesome and dope simultaneously, and I am deeply grateful for your patronage. Even though it doesn’t involve any money for me. I mean, if you wanted to give me money I wouldn’t say no, I am a starving university student after all …

No seriously, thank you all (the above exception does stand, but seeing as they never read this blog anyway it’s kind of a moot point). This is a fantastic way to close out a year where I’ve had a lot of ups and downs but have also been going from strength to strength, discovering my limits and then discovering not only how much farther I’m able to go, but how rewarding it is. And at the same time it’s been a year where I’ve gotten comfortable with my limits, accepted them for what they are and eased up on selling myself short or criticising myself for not being able to do things I, like, can’t do. All around, a pretty good year.

And despite the relative lack of work done on creative projects, I do think this has been one of the best years in my writing career. I’m slowly rediscovering how to write things for fun rather than as critical essays on social issues; don’t get me wrong, I still want to write critical essays on social issues, but I am also excited to feel the permeation in the boundary between them starting to solidify, feeling the spillover from my academic habits into my creative processes beginning to leak back into its proper channel. I don’t think you can be moral without being critical, but I don’t think you can be healthy without having fun. And while being critical can be very fun, when it’s not, you’ve got to admit that it’s not and seek something else. Honesty is the best policy and all that.

It really is.

And I am honestly looking forward to 2015. I felt like a lot of seeds got sown this year, not just in my life but in our culture as well. I am anxious, hopeful and neutrally excited to see what will have happened by this time next year.

But whatever happens – I may no longer be a Writer, but next year I am gonna finish a fucking book. Because why the hell not.

Safe home.


A couple of days ago, in preparation for a counselling session, I read a poem I wrote when I was 19 years old. It’s not like a “proper” poem or anything; it doesn’t have a metre, it doesn’t rhyme, so on and so forth. It’s stream-of-consciousness thematic rambling. And it’s one of my proudest achievements, because it’s the product of a time in my life when I was not just uncertain of who I was and where I was going, but doing something about it. I was trying things out, feeling out my limits, and it was the first time I got a really solid foothold against the suction of depression and anxiety. It’s a testament to the fact that I’m actually capable of taking the initiative and actively seeking ways out of my problems rather than passively wallowing in them and waiting for some external impetus to drive me to make a change.

Reading it reminded me that there was that other side to my teen years; along with all the horrible mental, emotional and social turmoil I was generally failing to cope with, on a daily basis, there was also this serious, powerful drive to get somewhere – and it didn’t matter where, really, just that I was going. I was very clear about my need to journey, and committed to following through, and it was fine that I was unclear about the destination. I was growing.

It’s a feeling I most definitely lost during my study. I briefly got something like it back when I finished my bachelors and took a year off, and felt overwhelmed by the feeling of not being able to remember what my future was, the end of schedules and plans and a confirmed layout. And then I went back to study, because security is a thing people need.

It’s not like I don’t enjoy study, and I could possibly pursue a career in academia. Which is kind of what I’m here to talk about. I’ve been writing off that possibility ever since I came back to study because it would take away from my writing; I’ve never lived up to my expectations when it comes to balancing study with Writing, even though every time I try I do get better at it, how shocking. I’ve just assumed that I can’t do both with the passion and dedicated time and effort that they each require to be done well. And while I’ve resolved before to always be a writer, even if not for a living, it still doesn’t answer the question of what else I might be doing.

I remember asking myself what I wanted to do with my life a couple of years ago. I think a friend prompted me, but I’m not sure. The point is that I took this more seriously than usual, and after the first response – Writer, obviously – I started coming up with some very interesting other options:

  • Take over from David Attenborough
  • Pursue professional acting
  • Learn computer science and make video games
  • Be a YouTuber
  • Make movies
  • Become a musician singer thing
  • Settle down and have a family

That last one came to me in the first couple of months after Wickham and I parted ways; I was washing the dishes and glanced over to the cupboard where we had a wicker picnic basket, and this image of me in ten years’ time, in the kitchen making sandwiches to take on a picnic with my family, just spontaneously formed in my mind, and it just felt … right. They all felt right, in different ways. And the one thing that they all had in common was that, in some way or another, they took me out of myself and put me in contact with other people.

And I’d always be writing. After that picnic, or before, I’d be in my study sitting at the window, gazing pensively into the distance as rain poured down the glass and bathed the rich green grass of the rolling meadows of my cosy red-brick cottage while stewing ideas in the cauldron of my mind. As the heir to the Attenborough legacy, I’d be writing scripts, planning destinations and researching the places and animals I was going to educate the world about. As a game designer I’d be writing scripts, creating characters and lore as well as designing levels and combat systems. And so on and so forth. Writing was just there, unconsciously included in every possible scenario I could think of for a fulfilling life. But it was never the be-all and end-all.

And I’ve realised that, actually, I’m not a writer at all.

It’s not because I haven’t been Writing lately – I write every day, but I don’t Write every day, which also means I decide that only certain writing “counts”, which is sometimes helpful but mostly just unnecessarily harsh.

It’s not because I’ve lost some of the passion and enthusiasm for the writing projects I’ve laid out for myself to work on, even though that is most certainly true. There are hills and valleys in the writing process; there will always be low points, and at some point high points will always follow them. That’s just how it is; this is nothing I haven’t gone through before or won’t go through again.

It’s because I realise that I don’t want to be a writer. And I never did.

When I first decided that I was going to Be A Writer, I was thirteen fucking years old and infatuated with Harry Potter. This creative, inclusive world of magical aptitude, clever friends and people who could be my peers fighting the ultimate forces of darkness was something I felt compelled to re-created in my own image, and so I decided: Let There Be Writing! And it was good. It really was. I soared on creativity, cherry-picking and shoplifting my way through alleys of ideas to reach my own conclusions with reckless, gleeful abandon. That was what I thought writing was, and it fucking worked.

Naturally, there were other elements at play; being thirteen years old I didn’t have a family to support or any other need to get a job, thus giving up over half of my day committing to labour I probably didn’t want to do for a necessary but unexciting reward. I was not yet the socially anxious, chronically depressed lump of self-hate and bitterness I would turn into over the next three years, and as such I had no shame in what my ideas were, where they came from or why I liked them. They were my ideas, and that was not just enough; there was nothing else that could possibly matter. And then as I grew older it was all too easy to apply my self-loathing and internal criticism to my creative ideas, and ideas I actually liked didn’t really come to me until I was 19, when I wrote that poem. I mean yeah, I was moved to write things, but I’d always sink under the weight of asking myself why I thought this was worth writing about, why I thought I was qualified to write about it. When I was 19 I was still having those thoughts, but there was something else there – I guess that external impetus finally arrived, only it was internal. And I don’t know where it came from exactly, other than that it was somewhere within myself.

I had more purpose and direction at 19 than I have at 27, and that disappoints me. But it shouldn’t. I’ve done my thing and adapted accordingly. What I’ve realised is that I need to change things so that I have to adapt in a new way. I’ve been trying to force myself to be only a writer for the past 14 years when I’ve always wanted to be everything. I can’t help but wonder if I hadn’t, if instead I’d allowed myself to explore and experiment and follow my gut – which I did sometimes do, and it always worked out well – would I have been happier, more fulfilled, confident, eager, ambitious? I guess it’s a moot point now.

But then I also wonder what will happen if I start that now. I can’t take back the last 14 years – but I’m only 27. I’ve been feeling how old that is ever since my birthday, but now I’m starting to finally understand that 27 is nothing. It’s fucking nothing. When I was 19 I was adjusting to the onset of adulthood; my transition gave me a purpose. Now that I’m in the transition I’ve felt aimless, and that’s because I feel like I should already be somewhere, someone. But I am. And it’s dawning on me that that’s what I haven’t adjusted to, the fact that I am already somewhere, and that I’m not leaving anytime soon. I’m an adult. It’s happened. This really is all there is to it.

I can’t just be a writer anymore, not because it’s the adult thing to do but because adults are just big kids with more social responsibilities and, hopefully, a more powerful and fully-formed cerebral cortex. 27 is nothing, and freaking out about how I haven’t done anything with my life yet suggests that it’s going to be over soon or something. And I mean, hey, the 27 club is a thing, but hopefully it won’t be that way for me. Statistically speaking it almost certainly won’t be. So no. I have a long fucking trip ahead of me, and I’d better find some in-flight entertainment stat.

And it can’t just be writing. It’s not enough. It’s so, so important to me, but it is not and never was enough. And even if I’m only realising that now, as opposed to 14 years ago …

Well, I think of it this way. Yes, it would be awesome to have something published sooner rather than later, because everything is a competition, right? And your successes all add up to your karmic social value or some shit; and focusing on one thing and getting good at that is how you get ahead in life. And you prove that by doing it, and honing that one thing you’ve decided you’re going to be good at until you can win prizes for it, like social status and achievement unlocks and people who also specialise in your one chosen skill chanting a rousing chorus of One Of Us.

But it is all just “some shit”. Why do something you can do just because you can? What are you proving, when there are other things that you’re keeping yourself from doing, sacrificing them to get over one finish line quicker than – who? For what prize? What recognition is worth that kind of concession, when what you’re conceding is everything?

I can’t just be a writer. I am always going to be a writer. But there are so many other things that I could be, that I need to be, that I haven’t made time for. I can’t keep doing that. And again, this isn’t one of those “if only I’d realised this sooner” sorts of things, really, because 27 is nothing. In fact 27 is pretty damn good, in the grand scheme of things, for a realisation like this.

But okay. What does that actually mean? Do I stop writing this post-Nano project, put Tallulah on indefinite hiatus and quit study? The advantage of having a thing you decided to pursue single-mindedly to the exclusion of all else is that at least it keeps up some kind of impetus to keep doing it; limits foster creativity after all. Options can be paralysing.

I think, though, that right now this realisation is not the kind that stops you from doing anything. And like I say, it’s not like I haven’t already basically stopped myself; I haven’t worked on my post-Nano project for a week now. It can’t fill the void. I need something, and that book ain’t it. So what is it?

I suppose I’ll have to try a bit of everything.

All right

Nanowrimo: didn’t happen.

Reading library books: didn’t happen.

Getting serious about exercise: did happen, but due to some serious stupidity on my part has stopped again so that my back doesn’t split in half.

Using my free time to draw/practice guitar/make that YouTube series: not happening yet. There is still time.

Finishing Vampire Academy: getting there. Currently on the sixth and final book.

Getting my shit together: getting there. Went to see a counselor for the first time in three or four years (one I’ve seen before) and had some serious perspective-shifting just from one session. It’s one thing to tell yourself something over and over again in the half-hearted but desperate hope that, eventually, you’ll start to believe it. It’s quite another for a mental health professional to say it to you without being prompted. Looking good.

Writing: like I said, Nano didn’t happen – but arrangements have been made with my best friend to do the whole writing-buddy thing AND due to her mishearing something I said to her and inadvertently giving us an awesome story title we are now co-writing a book/podcast/webseries/something. So that’s also looking good. I may not finish my Nano project by the end of this month, but I will definitely finish it, and having that commitment set in stone now feels good.

Improving study habits: it did happen. Not to the extent I would have liked, but it did happen. And I also got back stunning, stupendously good grades that I am still unable to quite fully believe are actually mine. And yet they are. I guess I’m pretty good at the whole academia thing when I want to be (and when I’m focusing on two interesting papers instead of a mixed bag of four). Honours study first semester went off with quite the bang.

And a lot of playing World of Warcraft also happened, as did two sleepless nights followed by getting to sleep the following noon. Which is not fantastic, but at least it got my ass into gear for trying to rectify it.

It’s interesting to be playing WOW again after swearing I’d never go back to it. I have a much less addictive personality now, and that’s a relief. Even so, I’m wary. I’m glad I only have another three-ish months of freedom to play it at all, and I’m predicting that I’ll be fairly bored of it by then. But for now it’s fun, and that’s the main thing. Also inspiring; it’s been a while since a videogame has been a creative aid rather than a creative detraction, but it’s gotten me quite invested in some of my old high fantasy ideas and I’m enjoying exploring them again. So it’s not all bad at all. As long as I’m sleeping and doing other things besides just mindlessly gaming, which is the next step in the end-of-year karmic cleanup plan.

The biggest part of that: waking up in the mornings. There’s a huge difference between stretching out your day into the early a.m. hours because you feel like you haven’t gotten enough done, and going to bed in anticipation of all the awesome shit you’ll get to do tomorrow with an early morning start to get the ball rolling.

I used to work better in the evenings (by “work” I mean “write” obviously); I genuinely used to get inspired and motivated during the magical theater hours that come after midnight. But I think that may have been because I was a teenager and my hormones were doing weird things to my internal feedback systems. Or something. The point is that now I actually work better in the daylight, and the more of it that I have to play with, the more motivated I am to actually use it. Also I hear waking up in the morning is actually healthy for you. I’ll have to investigate that claim at some point, but for now it’s just something I heard somewhere that I can use as further motivation to get me to do the thing.

And I’m just feeling pretty good, despite the sore back and frustrating lack of being able to get to sleep (I was so close last night and then it just kept not happening until about 8 a.m.). I take this to mean that whatever it is that I’m doing, it’s the right thing to do. Some areas can stand a bit of improvement, but in the end it’ll just allow me to do the same stuff better. So that’s good.

I haven’t thought about Tallulah for a little while now, and when I have thought about it it’s in a very casual, non-serious way. What strikes me is that these are the same thoughts I was having when I was super serious about it, which says to me that taking this break from writing it is definitely a good move. Something’s gotta give, needs to be dislodged or to click into place, and I think that can only happen if I leave it alone for a good long while. I do know that I definitely want to write it and get it published if I can, but I also know now that it might be a long way off. I might get something else published first. I’m not going to hold off on working on something else just out of principle; if something else really works for me I’m going to pursue it. We’ll see.

This year has been hectic as fuck for me, and yet right now at the end of it all it’s starting to feel like a really damn good one. It’s been resolving on a high note, and I’ve never had a year quite like this before, so full of chaos and uncertainty to start with, getting murky and difficult in the middle (moving house right when four final research essays are due will do that), and then ending with a bunch of failed experiments, unexpected affirmations and enticing new beginnings. It was quite the plot twist, and at the same time really reinforces how life does not follow a narrative structure. Sometimes things just get better on their own – or it’s because of the efforts you’ve put in, and you just don’t realise it until the very end, or even after the fact. Or because something totally out of the blue comes along to shake things up for the better. Or whatever. It’s probably all easy enough to explain if you know what to look for, but it doesn’t feel that way. There’s no sense of a three-act-structure coming to a satisfying resolution. But there is closure, and it doesn’t matter where it comes from. What matters is that it comes. And while it’s frustrating to hear “things get better” when things are currently shitty … sometimes they do get better. Not always. But sometimes. And then generalities go from annoying to empowering, from wondering how could this happen to me and how I’m not okay, to reflecting on the fact that life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up in your face …

It’s all right. And I’m liking it.

I do now have the slight problem of differentiating my various fantasy worlds from each other, but what’s life without some ongoing self-imposed dilemmas …


Time for another draft touch-up. This time it’s a draft from back in June, just after we moved house and I was angsting about not getting anything (essays) done because I had no energy. Fun times. And now, edited to account for the temporal jump.

Also my neck and shoulders have been really sore for the past few days, to the point where I can’t even lie down in bed comfortably. I don’t know if I even slept last night. It really sucks.



Sometimes all you can do is leak it out slowly until it’s empty.

That sounds gross, and since I’m thinking of my essays that still aren’t written it is gross, but that’s writing. It’s a process that is bundled up with all of these other processes – mental state, habits, life priorities, moral values, confidence, self-esteem – writing can be sectioned-off as “just writing”, as in just producing words, and sometimes that’s necessary and helpful. But Writing is something a person does with their life, and for the purposes of my argument I want you to think of the phrase “with your life” in the same way as you think of the phrase “with a baseball bat”. You take the entire thing and swing it at a narrow, specific objective. You don’t just write with the writing part of you; you write with your entire being. It sounds kind of spiritual or metaphysical or whatever, but the truth is that it’s just reality. You can’t avoid doing it. “Write with your whole being” is not an option, and that’s why artists are so tortured and shit.

That’s my perspective anyway.

There’s a huge problem with this: when you’re using your whole life to perform one single, specific, closed-off task, the strain is incredible, because you’re narrowing yourself in order to do it as well; you take every priority in your life, every commitment and impulse and goal and objective, and try to streamline the whole bundle into a single unified clump so that you can move in one direction, just because you want to get one task done. You have to take the rest with you, and that makes it clunky, and it means that you’re trying to pack all of your belongings into one single bag because you need to take a flight. It’s very space-inefficient.

As a result, you can get so tightly-packed that instead of issuing forth a narrow but powerful torrent of intention and action, all you get is a drip.

The only strategy I’ve learnt works to counter this is to do more than one thing at a time. It’s really counter-intuitive when you’re in a task-oriented mindset, but focusing all of your attentions on one task, especially if that one task is not one you especially want to perform, actually makes it harder to get that task done – if the only thing you’ve got going for you is not something you want, then there’s not a hell of a lot of motivation to do it, or anything else for that matter. To get corny on you for a second: people need happiness. We work better and we work more when we’re happy. When our lives are rewarding and varied and there is an overall sense of contentment with what we’ve got, because what we’ve got gives us options rather than just restrictions. This is what’s behind the mentality of the 4-hour work day, the 4-day work week: do more with less, but also do more with more. The fuller your plate is – with things you want and need – the more you’re going to want to eat.

Sadly, this often goes the other way for me, in which I just avoid doing the task I’m obliged to do altogether. It’s a mental thing more than anything; avoidance is a mindset as much as it is a behaviour, specifically avoidance of a task.

Take the essays I had to write back in June. Just when I got some momentum for … the second one, I think – once I had it I totally fucked things up by playing videogames for, I dunno, 8 hours or something. That was a bad move. That was an atrocious move. I did it because it felt like I had made progress in my slough through the process of essay-writing and task-completion and I wanted to mark it with something “enjoyable”, something that had the label “enjoyable” stamped over it, as opposed to the thing that I was actually enjoying, which was the momentum. I took it and transferred it to something else because I made a bad judgment call, because I mis-identified what was going on: I was doing something and I was enjoying doing it. I mistook the content of what I was doing (essay-writing) for the process (applying myself to a task) as the source of where my sense of fulfillment came from.

Doing something can make you want to get it done; it can also make you want to get other things done, because it is the process of doing itself that gives you energy. Obviously the content does matter; if you’re doing some boring, menial task or struggling with a complicated one – doing readings on psychoanalytic theory for example – then the process will only get you so far. You do need both. But if it’s something you’re able to do competently, the momentum you build from getting it done generates excess energy, firing off synapses in your brain or whatever that activate the whole schema of other things you wish you had the time or energy to get done and you find yourself invigorated.

In the end, my mistake with trading essay-writing for playing videogames was that I could have been doing both, rather than swapping one for the other. Not at the same time (well, maybe at the same time, but I tried that and it didn’t work so well in terms of doing both at the same time), but within the same process. I took the avoidance route of “instead of X I’ll do Y”, when I could have taken the path of inclusion: “X is great; and when I’m finished I’ll do Y, which is also great”.

However, sometimes that’s not really possible, and it’s important to accept that.

Going back to those essays again – the only one of the four I’d written and sent off was one I thought I had a really clear idea for, and then moving house happened, and during the move I was too busy with moving to do anything else. That’s not a literal fact, of course; I could have spent 10 minutes every day chipping away at these essays and perhaps that would have helped. But I didn’t do that, because I was Moving. It’s one of those “with your life/baseball bat” deals, and I think it would be unhealthy to think of it in any other way. It is all-fucking-consuming, and it’s not fair to chide yourself or anybody else for not being able to handle both that and whatever other shit is going on.

But somewhere along the line, probably after my tutor had a little talk with me and told me I was “intelligent but lazy” and I agreed with her because I’m still stuck in routines of self-deprecation (and also because I thought it was true at the time), I had it in mind that these essays were, somehow, just as important  of a priority as the move.

They were not.

Priorities are important. They are important to have, so that you can focus your efforts. But they are also important to control, so that you don’t end up like me, thinking that moving house and handing in essays are worth the same thing. Priorities need a hierarchy in order to get any of them done; if everything’s equally important then where do you even begin? Pick one at random? That still doesn’t change the fact that, unless these priorities are all exactly equivalent to one another in terms of what it’ll take to get them done and how urgently they need to be done, some tasks just matter more than others, depending on your situation. Moving house trumps writing essays. I know I’ve said that you have to “do it all now”, because there’s no such thing as free time for many of us, but this is the important flipside – sometimes you can’t do it all now. Sometimes you not only have no free time, but no fucking energy either.

Or, rather, sometimes the “all” in question is a different “all” to the one we’ve got in mind. When I think of “doing it all now”, I think of writing essays, keeping up with readings, working on my novel, getting into an exercise routine, working on eating healthy, learning to draw and play guitar, and being less of a hermit. When I was moving house, those were still my priorities, and I didn’t get control over them, and suffered as a result of my list of priorities not matching my actual needs, which were things like emotional stability, physical and mental rest, pacing myself, getting settled in my new surroundings, etc. That was the “all” I needed to be doing; and thankfully I just ended up doing most of that despite my list of priorities screaming at me to pay attention to it and making me feel guilty. Prioritization is a life skill, and part of that skill is being able to acknowledge when your priorities have shifted, whether you wanted them to or not.

I mean it was also the social pressure of having my tutor tell me, basically, that moving house was not enough of an excuse to not have my essays handed in on time, which is pretty bullshit. I understand if there’s nothing they can do to push back the deadline for me (they did give me an extension), but that’s very different to saying that one of the most stressful life events that exists is insufficient grounds for not typing up words on a computer. So prioritization also becomes the ability to define what your own priorities are and not let anybody else’s requirements get in your way.

Within reason of course. Otherwise you end up telling people that their circumstances don’t matter, and that’s just shitty. Being considerate should always be a priority.

Finally, the reason that priorities and having more than one thing to look forward to doing are important also has to do with the fact that, without a healthy hierarchy of priorities and some diversity in your life, you can end up resenting the things that you enjoy, because you’ve given yourself too narrow a window of opportunity. The essay I was working on and had been working on for the past 5 days after the move is one that I was really looking forward to writing, but because it became this thing that I “had” to do, meaning that I’d have to treat all the other shit going on in my life as not being important or consequential as they were, it turned into a sluggish nightmare crawl on my knees and elbows in the dark across some kind of organic sludge that occasionally feels like there’s something swimming through it, far faster than I could crawl. I resented that deeply. I liked the topic I’d chosen, and I liked the texts I wanted to focus on. But I hated having to prioritize that essay when it shouldn’t have been a priority, and as a result all I could get out of myself was a drip. I needed more than a drip. I wanted more than a drip. And perhaps if I’d had a better handle on sorting my priorities and accepting things for what they were, instead of trying to live up to somebody else’s expectations that were formed with no understanding of my situation to begin with (for all I know at least), things would have gone a lot better. I doubt they could have gone any worse.

Which is why, this week, I’m going to try and finally get that bike I want.

I knew I’d put it off if I didn’t get it during the break – but that’s okay. I have other priorities now. But I really want that bike; I want the freedom of movement it promises, and I want the incentive to actually get out of the house and do shit that it provides. Most of all, I want the option. I want more than one thing to swing at, more than one thing to do with my whole life at once.

And I’ve still got all those library books to read. I just renewed them all, so I’d better make the most of it.

But I guess it’s not really a priority right now.

Learning. It’s happening.